Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.
2 And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. 3 And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
“Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations!
4 Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
5 After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, 6 and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. 7 And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, 8 and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished. –Revelation 15:1-8 [ESV]
The list of adjectives in this hymn point us toward a majestic, holy, righteous, mighty, and in the context of this chapter, vengeful God. We don’t tend toward that picture of God these days. We’ve learned to get along with the ways of the world. We are seldom in direct danger of attack or threat of bodily harm or grave injustice. Once in a while we may be poked by the wokeness of the world. Occasionally we may want to lash out at those who insult our God. But I don’t know anyone who is ready to take up arms or make a “here I stand” confession in our enemy’s direct line of fire.
To be sure we must take our stand. And there are plenty of challenges to faith and faithfulness. Most of the time, however, these are handled on a low-key basis. We simply refuse to watch certain programs, read certain books or visit certain establishments. Even I seldom take up a direct argument to someone’s off-hand comment or challenge. I tend toward the soft answer that turns away wrath approach (Proverbs 15:1).
But we don’t live under the same degree of persecution and grave physical danger as those in John’s day did. Christians were persecuted horrifically. Some died. Others, like John, were exiled. Still others saw their loved-ones subjected to terrible injustice. It was a constant real and present danger. With that awareness we can better understand the yearning for vengeance. We can see why they called out for justice and the ultimate and uncontested reign of the holy, just, true, and righteous God.
While our yearning may not be as urgent, it is certainly well-founded when we desire God’s ultimate rule and reign in our lives. When he reigns we are able to rise above the tumult of this fallen world. When he rules we are able to find joy even in our sufferings. When his justice and righteousness prevails, schisms, divisions, and scandals are healed.
All that happens when we embrace God’s justice, truth, holiness and righteousness by faith. We look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, redeemed us, forgave us, and justified us before God. For his sake we are declared righteous, just, holy, and pure. Whenever we express that in our interactions with others, we reflect the true nature of God, and give evidence of the grace and truth of his ways.