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]
Imagine walking into work one day and seeing the HR person walking around the offices with a stack of pink slips. Who are those for? You hope one of them does not have your name on it!
Or it’s the end of the year and your company has done very well. You’ve done your share, but you’re not certain anyone has noticed your work. An all-company meeting is called, and as you walk in you see some very interesting boxes on the table at the front of the meeting room. They look like they might contain the “good things come in small packages” items. You wonder who are those for, as you hope one of them is for you…a Rolex watch, perhaps? Diamond earrings?
John is given a vision of bowls of God’s judgment being poured out here in Revelation 16. The impact of those bowls’ contents is horrifically cataclysmic. Not good. Gnashing of teeth bad. Something no one wants to experience. Belittled by modern sophisticates, caricatured by people who can not imagine such judgment, and denied even by some people who call themselves Christians, hell and God’s judgment is no caricature. It is a terrible and fearful experience of judgment and doom.
God takes no delight in sending people there. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11). Jesus himself speaks of hell as being prepared for Satan and his angels (Matthew 25:41). God’s word is clear: He wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4). But this chapter is a stark reminder of our need for salvation. There will come a day of reckoning. There will be a judgment on those who do not repent, do not honor God, do grave harm to God’s people, and set aside justice for their own pleasure and purposes.
God’s judgments are just. And as we reflect on his holiness and purity, his justice and righteousness, it is good to realize that there will be a day of judgment. That day will be cataclysmically horrific. But we take comfort in the end in two things: Jesus has satisfied God’s justice for all who believe. And God’s greater delight is to forgive and save. Save us, O God! Have mercy and save us! Amen.