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Revelation 16:1-21



Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say:

“You are just in these judgements,

you who are and who were, the Holy One,

because you have so judged;

for they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets,

and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.”


And I heard the altar respond:


“Yes, Lord God Almighty,

true and just are your judgements.”

(verses 5-7)

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This chapter is filled with plague after plague of God’s judgement, poured out on the earth and its people, plagues of bodily sores and water turned to blood and blistering heat and unnatural darkness and devastating drought and earthquake. Such is the pain-filled intensity in the fury of God’s wrath that people look up and curse his name. Indeed, as we read, we find ourselves also recoiling.


Yet the angel cries out, “You are just in these judgements.” And the very altar of heaven itself is given voice, declaring, “True and just are your judgements.” The severity is undeniable, but so is the justice. This is heaven’s declaration.


The further implication is that if these judgements are indeed just and true, then it would be a travesty were they not poured out. The judgement is necessary.


We know this truth.


North America in recent years has been churning with numerous protests regarding unjust treatment of racial minorities, highlighted especially by the physically oppressive police handling of George Floyd which resulted in his death. The public outcry that ensued, in the US and across North America, indeed around the world, was fuelled by outrage over injustice and by an intense desire for wrongs to be righted, with those responsible being punished. Although some of the protests themselves spilled over into criminal acts of violence and vandalism, sparking their own outrage, in it all the foundational issue was justice. We seem to have an inborn need to see what is right prevail. To press the issue further, we need simply think of the trials of war criminals or of those who have abused children – our hearts cry out for justice to be served.


What this chapter declares is that the rebellion of humanity against God falls into this same category. The sin is black. Justice must be done. Indeed, the plagues of God’s wrath are indications of the severity of the crimes. “True and just are your judgements,” O God. Judgement cannot be held back.


With all this in view, I want to step back and put it into context. To do so, we need to turn back to Revelation 5, where we encountered the Lamb who was slain. The four living creatures and twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, singing out: “You are worthy … and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe …” (5:9). Now, in this chapter, we see the severity of humanity’s crime reflected in the judgement poured out, and in that severity we apprehend the immensity of the cost of the Lamb’s purchase, wrath being turned aside in order to provide us salvation. The magnitude of judgement lets us see the vastness of God’s love. It was poured out at the cross. The Lamb was slain at the intersection of God’s justice and his love.


We tremble at the gravity of his wrath. We marvel at the immensity of his love. Praise be to our God.

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Lord God Almighty. We affirm the assessment of heaven: just and true are your judgements. We stand in awe of your righteous justice. Equally, we stand in awe at the magnitude of your sacrificial love. It was poured out for us. Thank you. Praise your name.

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Reflect:

Consider God’s righteous judgements. Even if you cannot understand it fully, praise him. Consider the immensity of his love. Even though you cannot apprehend it completely, thank him. Meditate on the Lamb who has embraced both.

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Photo by Kalea Morgan on Unsplash


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