THE RIGHT KIND OF FEAR
“The nations raged, but your wrath came” (v. 18a).
“The nations were filled with wrath, but now the time of your wrath has come” (NLT).
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (v. 15b).
The book of Revelation was written to Christians who were being persecuted.
Fear God, not man.
“But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men’” (Acts 5:29).
“[The temple] is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months” (v. 2b).
And when [the two witnesses] have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them (v. 7).
What is the temple (vv. 1-2)? Two interpretations:
- A rebuilt temple in Jerusalem
- The church—we have God’s presence
Who are the two witnesses (vv. 3-13)? Two interpretations:
- Two individuals similar to Moses and Elijah
- The church—we are God’s prophets
“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth” (vv. 17-18; cf. Psalm 2).
The Bible repeatedly declares that God is filled with wrath because of the sin of man:
- “But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation” (Jeremiah 10:10).
- “The LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: ‘Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it’” (Jeremiah 25:15).
- “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. [...] Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him” (Nahum 1:2, 6).
- “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).
- “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18).
- “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Romans 2:5).
This song of worship reveals five truths about God’s wrath:
First, God’s wrath is personal.
“But your wrath came” (v. 17).
God’s wrath is not merely an impersonal “cause and effect” wrath (e.g., you punch a wall and you break your hand).
Second, God’s wrath is certain.
“But your wrath came” (v. 17).
“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6). “On account of these [sins] the wrath of God is coming” (Colossians 3:6). “The great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Revelation 6:17). “[God] has fixed a day on which he will judge the world” (Acts 17:31). The greatest miracle in the world is God’s patience.
Third, God’s wrath is horrible.
“But your wrath came” (v. 17).
The book of Revelation reveals the awfulness of God’s wrath. “He [who worships the beast] also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb” (Revelation 14:10). “So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and the blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia” (Revelation 14:19-20). “The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath” (Revelation 16:19). “From [Christ’s] mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty” (Revelation 19:15).
Fourth, God’s wrath is right.
“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty” (v. 17).
The twenty-four elders praise God for His wrath and judgment of sin. “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25, KJV).
Fifth, God’s wrath is avoidable.
“Those who fear your name” (v. 18).
“In wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2). Though God hates our sin, He has made a way to show us mercy. We “were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy....” (Ephesians 2:3-4). (The ark of the covenant, which appears in verse 19, is a symbol of God’s mercy.)
What do we mean when talk about being “saved”? From what are we saved? We are saved from the wrath of God. “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by [Christ’s] blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9). We “wait for [God’s] Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
In Scripture, the wrath of God is often described as a cup. “[Jesus] fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’ [...] Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, you will be done’” (Matthew 26:39, 42). The cup of the Lord’s Supper is a reminder that Jesus faced the wrath of God in our place.
We can never understand the love of God until we understand the wrath of God.
(This section was adapted from a sermon by Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church.)