Revelation 16:9 They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.
The sixteenth chapter of Revelation always scares me. It’s a part of the Bible that I don’t want to read and I sometimes wish that the Apostle John had never received such a vision. It reveals the wrath of God in a terrifying way, as well as the rebellious spirit of man. On one side, you have God meting out punishments on a sinful world; on the other, you have sinful man remaining defiant to the end. It’s a war of wills; the sadness is that humanity has no chance of ever winning.
Some people reject this imagery and refuse to believe in a God who would cause such pain, distress, and torment upon humanity. They do not wish to worship such a wicked, tyrannical deity. They think that this is noble and worthy of humankind, however they are falling into the very position of stubbornness and defiance that is actually described here! Those who suffer the terrible wrath of God defiantly refuse to repent or glorify God. Isn't that the very same thing?
This is why this particular chapter scares me. John was being very candid and absolutely clear about God’s power, judgment, and wrath. We post-modern Christians discard his descriptions far too easily; we cast aside these images as religious science fiction with no place in the real world. That’s exactly the point of this frightening chapter – as long as we remain sinful, we are separated from God; so long as we remain defiant, we are in danger of being damned.
Maybe you wanted to read a light, heart-warming, and cozy devotional today. There are plenty of them to be found all over the internet. Truth, however, is a rare commodity. When I read the scriptures, I ask myself “What does this mean?” I try not to fall into the self-serving trap of asking, “What can I make it mean for me today?” God’s Word is meant to challenge our human delusions by confronting us with Divine Truth. Being a Christian is never easy, which is why the symbol of our faith is a cross and not a couch.
Questions for personal reflection
Where are my delusions confronted by God’s reality? Am I willing to accept His Truth in order to repent and glorify God?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we want to live faithful lives but sometimes our misguided ways and misperceptions of Your reality differ from Your will. Help us to be more in tune with Your understanding about our lives and keep us from becoming obstinate or defiant. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you have any comments or questions about today’s message, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.
Today’s image is one of John’s Christ icons. It’s based on an ancient Syriac drawing of Jesus. You can view a larger version here: Christ Icon.