"I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. 2 And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God 3 and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb:
“Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name?
For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
This morning I would like to focus on that first verse
"I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed."
We’ve had the Seven Seals, the Seven Trumpets, and now we have the Seven Bowls. I believe the choice of Bowls is no accident-a bowl is a larger version of a vessel to hold liquid, like a cup on steroids. The cup of God’s wrath is a common scriptural image, and this, I believe, is the image we should see stirred up in our imaginations as we view the Bowls in the hands of the seven angels. With these vessels God pours out His wrath on the earth for the final time.
His wrath has been poured out before.
“Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” Genesis 15:13-16
THE MEASURING CUP
In most kitchens there are various measuring cups and bowls. There is a measuring cup for small amounts and measuring cups for large amounts, and measuring cups for amounts in between-teaspoon size to gallon size and cup size. God has a measuring cup for the sins of each individual, and nation, and for this world. When that measure is full it is time for God’s judgment to be poured out.
"In the hand of the LORD is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices;
he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs". Psalm 75:8
What is frightful about this teaching is it seems as though the cup of God’s wrath-the measure of human iniquity-reaches a tipping point, after which the wrath begins to overflow. Once the overflow of God’s wrath begins to trickle from the brim of human iniquity it starts s a chain of events which cannot be prevented. God’s wrath is poured out on the children of disobedience.
What is comforting about this is twofold:
1. The cup of God’s wrath has already been poured out on Jesus
Jesus said “if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. But if not, not my will but Thine be done”. Jesus received the cup of God’s wrath on Himself, and, therefore, that cup need not be drunk by us.
There is, therefore, another cup which we are invited to drink
"I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord." Psalm 116:13
Since Jesus took the cup of God’s wrath on Himself, God is able to offer to us the cup of salvation.
It’s a much better cup to receive.
2. God’s wrath has an end. Once the judgment is complete there will be no more need for punishment for all eternity. God’s justice will have been appeased, the debt paid, the account closed. God takes no pleasure in punishment. God said to Ezekiel "
Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’"
Once sin has been cleansed from the world and God can start over with a clean universe-heaven-there will be no need for any further judgment or wrath. God is love. Where there is no sin there will be no more wrath of God, and only His love will remain.
But this comfort does not extend to everyone. There is no covering for those who reject the free gift of Jesus substitutionary death on the cross.
And that brings us to a set of questions:
Why does sin make God angry? Why is there a threat of punishment? Why did Jesus have to pay such a horrible price?
In the Bible sin is described like a disease-it’s related to leprosy.
I think the world, in general, is guilty of misdiagnosing its problems.
You may not have heard the name of Gillian Lynne, but you’ve enjoyed some of her work. She was born in 1927 in Bromley, England. By the age of 8 she displayed some problematic behavior. Her teachers called her mother for consultation and told her Gillian was disruptive, turned in assignments late, and not only did not pay attention in class, but was distracting the other students from their studies. They felt there was something wrong with her, that she may have some mental illness and asked if she could be taken in for counseling. So, the mother took Gillian to the doctor. After a few hours of listening to her mother pouring out her heart to the doctor the doctor said “Gillian, I’ve listened to your mother describe some of the problems you’ve been having. I need to speak with her privately. Do you mind waiting here while we go and talk? Gillian was happy with this. The doctor turned on a radio which was sitting on his desk and he and Gillian’s mother exited the room to a place they could see Gillian, but Gillian could not see them. As soon as they walked out, she was out of her chair and dancing to the music. The doctor said “Madame, your daughter is not sick. She is a dancer. Why not put her in dance class.
Gillian’s mother did, indeed take her to dance class, where she felt quite at home, finding a collection of people who were like her, who “could think without moving”. She excelled in dance, was accepted to the Royal Academy of Dance, became a member of the Royal Ballet, and, later, became a choreographer, opened her own studio, and now has her own production company. She has done the choreography for such shows as the Muppets, Cats, and Phantom of the Opera. She is a millionaire many times over. (from Ken Robinson's speech "How to Escape Education's Death Valley" and Wikipedia)
-Gillian was misdiagnosed by her teachers.
I think most of us have been. God wants us to dance, and the world teaches us the opposite of the truth-The world teaches that sin is a pleasure God desires to keep from us. The truth is that sin prevents us from becoming and doing all of the beautiful and pleasurable things God has designed us for and designed for us.
He wants us to sing.
I think it’s no accident we see this multitude standing around the glassy sea given harps. I would guess they must also be given a heavenly musical capacity as well. There is no use giving a monkey a guitar, unless you want to destroy the guitar. There is no use giving people harps if they can’t play them. God has designed us to sing and dance with spiritual power, fulfilling God’s plan for us, but we are in a world which tells us such behavior looks like a sickness.
Sin stifles our ability to flourish and grow and become all God has designed us to be. In some cases it destroys the lives He created for good and fulfillment and fruitfulness. Therefore, He is angry.
He calls on us this morning as he did to the people of Israel
Turn! Turn from your evil ways!
God calls us all to repent, and turn to Him, that He might give us the instrument to play and the voice to sing.