Summary: We are embarrassed and uncomfortable about the concept of the "wrath of God." However, Revelation is good news for those victims who long for an end to evil’s reign and pray, "Come quickly, Lord."
I love this passage of Revelation -- I can’t read it without laughing outloud at one of the best memories of my ministry. Let us now hear the word of God from Revelation 16, beginning with verse 1.
(Read Revelation 16:1-21)
I suppose I should explain why I find this so uplifting.
It all started several years ago when I moved to a church in Miami. At about the same time the church called me, they also hired a new youth director. The women of the church had a special Tea to welcome our wives.
During the Tea, the Youth Director called the church and said he had an emergency and that his wife had to come home right away.
Very distressed, she left right away, leaving a room full of ladies worried about what had happened. After all, they had a new baby who was just a few weeks old. Had something happened to little Grady?
A half hour later the wife of the Youth Director returned with a smile on her face and a great story.
By the way, this is the difference between being the wife of a Youth Director and the wife of a Senior Pastor.
MY wife would never have told what had happened, but would have simply reassured everyone that all had been taken care of.
So this is what happened to our new Youth Director, James Smith.
James was at home in his new apartment. Gradye was asleep in his room and James was taking a shower.
The doorbell rang, or so James thought.
He was expecting a delivery, so he got out of the shower, soaking wet and with a towel wrapped around his waist, he went to the door. Looking out of the peep hole, he didn’t see anyone.
Afraid the delivery truck was about to drive away, he opened the door, stepped out, and looked around the corner.
Sure enough, there was no delivery and the doorbell had been in his imagination.
But the closing of the door was real.
James reached for the door knob only to find the door was locked!
So, what to do?
I would have found a loose brick or rock and found a way to open a window or door, but not James.
He walked next door and when a little old lady opened the door and saw this stranger standing at her door, wearing nothing but a smile and a towel.
He asked if he could come in and use the telephone to call his wife, and believe it or not, she let him in. He called his wife at the church and told her that there was an emergency at home.
As James told the story, as he was leaving his neighbor’s house he thanked her and she said, "Son, you just come back any time."
The next day I gathered the staff together for an emergency staff meeting. I told the staff that sometimes things happen in the church and we just have to look to the Lord in prayer, but that before I explain what happened, and before we had prayer, we needed to hear the Word of the Lord.
I turned to the new Youth Director and said, "James, would you help us focus our hearts and souls by reading Revelation 16:15?
James opened his Bible and read these words:
"Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed."
The light bulb suddenly came on and James knew he had been had.
We would much rather read Revelation 16 and get a laugh, than to concentrate on the real message of this chapter, which is the very real and depressing topic of the WRATH OF GOD.
Wrath of God? How backward. How yesterday. How embarrasing.
We would much rather think about the more enduring themes of the Christian faith: a God who is merciful and gracious, abounding in steadfast love; a Christ in whom all the promises of God’s love are fulfilled, and a Holy Spirit who is the true Comforter of humanity.
There may have been times in the past when people, fearful and guilt-ridden, felt that they had to join the Church of God’s Wrath, but fortunately our understanding of God’s grace has grown and matured, and we spend our Sundays in happy thoughts.
The Wrath of God? We find it out of style and embarrassing.
How then can we make sense of the 16th chapter of Revelation?
Tom Long of Candler Theological Seminary here in Atlanta says of these two chapters of Revelation, “It is an account of the wrath of God in all of its sea-boiling, thunder-rolling, earthquake-rattling fury. Here we see the very kitchens of heaven serving up brimming bowlfuls of God’s wrath to be poured by angels upon the face of the earth. And what we read is not just a description of the wrath of God; it is a hand-clapping, hallelujah-shouting celebration of its coming.”