Reflections on Revelation #277

‘Day 277

16 Then I heard a loud voice from the sanctuary, saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.” So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth; and a harmful and painful sore afflicted the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshipped his image.” Revelation 16:1-2 (NASB)

Literal or figurative? It is difficult to know. In the Book of Revelation, a figurative reading is normally preferred (Revelation 1:1). Most of the book, particularly the seals and trumpets, makes sense only in a symbolic way. On the basis of this it would be consistent to say the plagues talk about something literal in a symbolic/figurative way. Because they are future we can’t be dogmatic.

Figuratively, the plagues could represent the consequences that come as a result of sin. In the OT these are called the curses of the covenant. The boils of the first plague resemble leprosy, a symbol of the putrefying effects of sin on the soul. But in the end, the plagues may simply be a fairly literal outline of the terrible experience of the wicked in the last generation. They will suffer sores and diseases, extreme pollution and weather that is completely out of control. Everything that is designed to make life worth living is taken away.

People today don’t want to talk about God’s judgment. They feel that judgment is not what a god is for. But Santa Claus theology cannot cope with the reality of evil or seemingly senseless suffering. To make God kind but never firm is to deny His Lordship over a world that is full of suffering. Facing hardship without some sense that God has a purpose in it can only lead to a fatalistic resignation. A God who never inflicts corporate judgments on the world is not the God of Scripture, He is an idol of our own making.

This is not to say that any time someone suffers it is a judgment from God of some sort. Some may experience suffering as a judgment, others may experience the same suffering as a test of faith. Suffering is the Devils tool of torment. Pain and suffering from illness or genetics are simply a result of our broken world. God did not cause my first son to be still born, it was the course of nature defiled by sin. Suffering rarely reveals its purpose to us, but it always summons our attention to the God who can help us understand the purpose in our suffering. With all the wrongs that happen in this world, we should not find it hard to believe that God’s judgments are needed to bring about justice in this world; especially on the one that initiated it in the beginning.

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