The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. 5 And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say,
“Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was,
for you brought these judgments.
6 For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
and you have given them blood to drink.
It is what they deserve!”
7 And I heard the altar saying,
“Yes, Lord God the Almighty,
true and just are your judgments!”
8 The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. 9 They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.
10 The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish 11 and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds. –Revelation 16:4-11 [ESV]
These two hymns remind me of the imprecatory psalms, though they are not as extreme as some of the imprecatory psalms.
An imprecation is a curse that invokes misfortune upon someone. Imprecatory psalms are those in which the author imprecates; that is, he calls down calamity, destruction, and God’s anger and judgment on his enemies. This type of psalm is found throughout the book. The major imprecatory psalms are Psalms 5, 10, 17, 35, 58, 59, 69, 70, 79, 83, 109, 129, 137, and 140 (GotQuestions.com).
Some of the imprecations of those psalms are brutal. All of them are expressions of moral high ground and complete confidence of being in the right, and their enemies in the wrong. I’m sure there are those who have such a strong sense of moral superiority. And you might second-guess such self-righteousness.
But there can be no question about this judgment. These hymns of Revelation 16 are in response to a complete end to all evil. That is what this chapter celebrates. It celebrates in unabashed joy the demise of those who had persecuted and killed believers and so dishonored God. It expresses unimaginable relief at the end of torment, trouble, and tumult. This is the unleashing of God’s judgment on all who hate him and his ways.
That may seem harsh. It is no soft and gentle moment. But it is a vindication for all who put their trust in God’s ways and his salvation. This hymn makes the point that God’s judgements are completely just. That’s the point of the second of these two hymns of praise. “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!” Amen.
But let us never forget that the judgment of God was unleashed 2000 years ago…on his Son. Jesus bore the sin of the world. And no one need endure the kinds of eternal doom that is described here. God’s will, in fact, is quite the opposite. His will is that all would repent and believe. That is made clear even in the condemnation: People gnawed their tongues in anguish and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.
Jesus’ first sermon was, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” This a daily practice for the believer. In the face of such grave punishment, certainly we will heed his call!