The Comforting/Terrifying Judgment of God

revelation.pngAn exposition of Revelation 8:1-9:21. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning September 7, 2008.

Without a doubt it is the best known and least understood of the biblical writings. People are fascinated and drawn to it while frightened and driven from it. Thanks to Hollywood, numerous books, seminars and self-styled experts its images are some of the most recognizable. Who isn’t familiar with the number “666”? This highly symbolic book has been the source of endless debate for centuries. At various times different views has been prominent. No one interpretation has been the dominant view throughout the history of the church. Just how are we to understand the book of Revelation? I’m convinced that the key to the book is in understanding the nature of “apocalyptic literature” and the historical context in which it is written. Apocalyptic literature is written during times of great distress and tribulation. Its intent is to encourage and inspire faithfulness against overwhelming odds. The church was under severe attack. As far as the believers in Asia Minor were concerned they were on the brink of annihilation. Caesar claimed to be god and it seemed as if perhaps he was right! Rome seemed invincible. Nothing or no one seemed to be able to resists Rome’s advancement. John the beloved apostle was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day when he was given this incredible vision. At the heart of the vision is a throne fixed or settled in heaven. There is a throne and there is someone seated on that throne. The message was, “Caesar is not god. Caesar is not in control. Rome is not invincible and the church is not on the verge of annihilation. The fact is the Kingdom of God is advancing and Rome cannot stop it! Does such a message eliminate fear and doubt? No. The people of God still cry out, “How long O Sovereign Lord, holy and true before you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” In their struggle who were they addressing – the Sovereign Lord who is holy and true. They were trusting in Him in spite of their confusion and yes doubt. This is the struggle of faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. In times of great stress and trial faith is difficult. Believing while your knees are buckling is serious business.

Text: Revelation 8:1-9:21

Thesis: With the opening of the 7th seal we experience the comforting and terrifying
judgment of the Living God.

It is a fearful thing to full into the hands of the living God for our God is a consuming fire. And yet there is comfort in understanding that God’s judgment is righteous and true. Vengeance is His and the righteous will be vindicated by the judgment of God. There are three things I want to point out as we walk through this text.

  1. God’s judgment is, to some degree, in response to the prayers of His people. (8:1-5)
    From that moment in the Garden when the blood of Able cried out from the ground to the cries of Israel held captive in Egypt to the cry of the repentant sinner – God has always responded to the cries of His people. Back in chapter 6 the souls under the altar cried out, “How long O Sovereign Lord…” and in some respect the 7 trumpets are in response to those cries as evidenced by the opening verses of chapter 8.
  2. God’s judgment is swift and terrifying. (8:6-19)
    Again the message is clear – there is coming a horrifying judgment. Who are they who will be destroyed in this coming judgment? Those who do not have the mark of God – 9:4. Are you sealed with God’s grace? Have you His mark upon you? Do you know Him? A terrible judgment awaits those who face the Lamb and the One seated upon the throne on the merit of their own goodness. Flee to Christ while there is time.
  3. God’s judgment is just, righteous and merciful. (9:20-21)
    “Hold on pastor, I’m not sure we are reading the same passage!” Let me close by focusing on this last consolation. The fact that God warns us of the judgment to come, that He would warn of the murderous intent of Satan and his minions, the fact that God restrains His judgment should cause all of us to flee to His grace. But note how our text ends – even after all the devastation the unrighteous cling to their sin. Does that describe you? Have you spurned God’s many overtures of mercy and grace?

Have you turned a deaf ear the Gospel? God’s kindness has been extended to you today in that you have been warned of the judgment that is to come. You’ve been told of the gift of His mercy. All that remains is how will you respond to His infinite kindness?

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