"They Deserve It"
by Tim Haile
March 01, 2001
The sixteenth chapter of the Apocalypse tells us of the 7 "bowls of wrath" representing God's judgment against those, who blasphemed against him and persecuted His saints. The contents of two of these "bowls" affected the earth's water supplies. The reader may recall that these are not the first of the book's judgments to affect the earth's waters. The second and third trumpets were said to have harmed one third of the seas and rivers (Rev. 8:8-11). We are reminded of the repetitious and cyclical nature of John's judgment symbols.
Given the necessity of water for human survival it is not surprising to see it used as the basis of apocalyptic symbolism. Water is essential to life. This fact is so readily recognized by humans that God used the element of water to represent eternal life itself. Revelation 22:17 encourages men and women to take "the water of life without cost." During His public ministry Jesus told the Samaritan woman, "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life" (John 4:14). God used water to save Noah and condemn the world (1 Pet. 3:20-21; Heb. 11:7). God used the waters of the Red Sea to save Israel and destroy their pursuers (Ex. 14:30). And God uses the water of baptism to save men today (1 Pet. 3:21; Acts 10:47-48; Jn. 3:5; Tit. 3:5).
The emptying of the second angel's bowl had already turned the seas into blood, but this left the earth's fresh water supplies untainted (Rev. 16:3). These reserves, however, would not last long. It was the very next angel whose bowl would contaminate the fresh waters of the rivers and springs. With this accomplished, death is near.
The Third Angel's Proclamation
In his praise to God for His "true and right judgments," the third angel commented upon God's reason for condemning these people. He said,
"For they have poured out the blood of the saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink. They deserve it!" (Rev. 16:6)
According to verse two, these were men who had received the "mark of the beast and who worshipped his image." The identity of these people is no mystery. Those who had this "mark of the beast" were simply described as those who refused to "keep the commandments of God," who refused to "hold the testimony of Jesus," and whose names were not in the Lamb's "book of life" (Rev. 12:17; 13:8). So that the reader understands the ceaseless and severe consequences of this judgment, I will remind you of the words of Revelation 14:11. There it was said of these beast worshippers that "the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest day or night..."
But wait a minute! We just read a Bible passage about an angelic being praising God for giving sinners what they deserved! We further saw that their recompense involved not just excruciating pain and agonizing misery, but eternal pain and misery! Were the angel's praises properly directed? Could the God of heaven and earth be responsible for implementing such punishments against men? The answer to both questions is yes. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11), yet He is fully prepared to punish those who deserve punishment. This fact raises a very important question.
Who has the "Mark of the Beast?"
Whoever they are, they "deserve" to be punished severely and eternally for their crimes against God and man. One should remember that John's writings distinguish two entirely different groups of people from each other by their respective marks. Those with the mark of the beast on their foreheads are opposed to God, while those with the seal of God on their foreheads are in His service (Rev. 7:3-4; 13:16; 14:9-11). Those having the "seal of God" will be eternally comforted (Rev. 21:4). Those having the "mark of the beast" will be eternally punished, and their punishment will be "extremely severe" (Rev. 16:21). Let us consider John's Revelation for a contextual description of who these marked people are.
fThose who do not keep the commandments of God (Rev. 12:17). According to this verse, the sealed of God are those who keep his commandments (Rev. 14:12). Obedience is frequently discussed in this book. The book opens with an appeal to people to read, accept, and obey the book's instructions (Rev. 1:3), and it closes the same way (Rev. 22:7,9,14). Refusal to obey the Lord reflects one's distrust and disrespect for the Lord. Christ is "the author of eternal salvation" only to those who "obey Him" (Heb. 5:9). Just saying, "Lord, Lord" will not suffice. We must do the will of the Father in order to be saved (Matt. 7:21).
fThose who do not hold the testimony of Jesus (Rev. 12:17). The servants of the beast actually "make war" against those who preach "the everlasting gospel" (Rev. 11:7; 14:6). In fact, they are literally "tormented" by the teaching of God's word, and they rejoice any time that they succeed in stifling this teaching (Rev. 11:10). Christians may sometimes forget just how hated the gospel is by some! Jesus spoke of this hatred on several occasions. He said, "For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed" (Jn. 3:20). This hatred is then transferred to truth's messengers, and they too, become hated (Jn. 15:24-25). This hatred led to our Lord's crucifixion, John's beheading, Stephen's stoning, and many other murders being committed as a result of extreme prejudice. No faithful child of God is immune to this treatment. Jesus warned, "You shall be hated by all on account of my name" (Matt. 10:22). Fortunately, He also offered a ray of hope. He also promised salvation to those that "endure to the end."
Let us remember that "holding to truth" involves more than just holding to our "favorite" passages. We must accept and proclaim "the whole council of God" (Acts 20:26-27). Truth must be taught and defended whether it is comforting or not. God entrusted us, not with the arbitration of truth, but with the administration of truth! Jude made this quite clear when he exhorted saints to "earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jud. 3). "The faith" in this verse is the system of faith that is comprised in the gospel (Rom. 1:16-17).
fThose who oppose and persecute God's people (Rev. 12:17). They are described as making war against God's "offspring." Persecution is another major theme of the book of Revelation. Each of the addresses to the seven churches of chapters 2 and 3 close with the words, "He who overcomes..." Passages like Revelation 2:10 make specific reference to times of persecution. However, this theme especially takes off in chapter 6 with the opening of "the fifth seal." This seal pertained to the martyrdom of faithful saints. God's intentions were made very clear. Though the future may have appeared bleak, yet God was in control, and eventually the persecutors would pay dearly for their crimes. God would "trouble those" who troubled His saints (2 Thess. 1:6).
Other sins are addressed in the book of Revelation, including blasphemy, demonology, idolatry, murder, sorcery, immorality, theft, lying, cowardice and unbelief (Rev. 9:20-21; 13:6; 21:8), but their first and main offense was in their rejection of God. This rejection then becomes the origination point for overall moral digression (see this illustrated in Rom. 1:18-32). As we noted before, such men have little or no tolerance for the message of the truth, so they will make every effort to eliminate that message. Of course, the message only affects them when its messengers are active. This is what motivates evil men to eliminate the messenger. They will sometimes do this by direct assault (Acts 14:5; 17:5), but more often, by misrepresentation and character assassination (Rom. 3:8; 2 Cor. 10:10). This attack against God's servants has its consequences. Jesus assured the disciples that rejection of their words amounted to a rejection of God Himself (Lk. 10:16).
Regardless of how shocking this notion may be to some people, God's word tells us that wicked men will get what they deserve when God punishes them with everlasting destruction (Rev. 16:6; Matt. 25:46). Who then "deserves" God's punishment? Those who reject His word, rebel against His commands, and persecute those who refuse to go along with them. God's wrath will be "revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom. 1:18). Furthermore, hard-hearted, impenitent, self-seeking, disobedient men and women are "treasuring up" this wrath against themselves every day they continue to resist God (Rom. 2:5,8). Be not deceived. Judgment is coming! And the very secrets of the heart will be judged by the gospel standard (Rom. 2:16; Jn. 12:48). Are you ready? What do you deserve?
by Tim Haile
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