The Bowls of Wrath

The Bowls of Wrath

Rev. 15:7 … “Then one of the four Living Creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever.”

The colonial preachers in New England emphasized to their audiences that God is characterized by an overwhelming spirit of wrath, which He directs at all who sin and resist His will. The prevailing emphasis in the preaching of today, however, is that God is filled with love, mercy, and patient kindness toward erring mankind. It is obvious that from the seventeenth century to the twenty-first a great change has occurred in the way Americans perceive God.

Actually, God is both a God of wrath and a God of merciful lovingkindness. Paul by inspiration wrote, “Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off,” (Rom. 11:22). If a person is living in rebellion against God, he has every reason to conceive of Him as a God of wrath and vengeance. If a person has humbly submitted to God in love, he has every reason to conceive of God as being merciful, kind, and loving. The way that a person responds to what God has done for him determines the nature of God’s countenance toward that person. God loves us all, for He made us in His own image (Gen. 1:27) and has declared that He wants every one of us to be saved (II Pet. 3:9). But He will not compromise with sin to admit its presence (in the lives of those who cling to it) into His home in heaven, (Rev. 21:27).

The featured text above is one of those statements in Scripture which call attention to God’s wrath upon those who will not repent but continue defiantly in their sin. In a vision, John saw “the temple of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven.” Its door was standing open, and as he watched, seven angels emerged from it. Unto each was given a golden bowl which was filled with the wrath of God. We may be reminded here of the statement in Rom. 2:5, “Because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” This statement suggests that the hardened persistence in sin and the refusal by people to repent results in increasing wrath in God. This wrath is being “stored up” in God’s Spirit. It is as though it were a terribly potent liquid being held in a great vessel.

At last that divine container will be filled to capacity. God then will permit His accumulated wrath toward the sin abounding on earth to be held in reserve no longer. Summoning the seven angels into His presence, He shall pour that great reservoir of wrath into seven large bowls and place one in the hands of each angel. This will be at the time chosen by God to recompense man for the sins in which he has so callously walked for so long. And so we read further, “Then I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels, ‘Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God,’ (16:1). The rest of the chapter then describes what will happen when each angel pours out his bowl of wrath upon the earth and the people living there.

The lesson to be learned here is that God’s will must always be taken seriously. God is certainly full of mercy, love, and kindness toward us, and He wishes most fervently to save us and bless us forever in His presence. But God is equally full of justice. When His will is disregarded, and those who flaunt it refuse to repent, He will take vengeance upon the transgressor. God’s delay in pouring out His wrath upon the impenitent must not be taken as a sign that His wrath has been dissolved in His lovingkindness, (II Pet. 3:7-10). Wisdom begs us to respond contritely to God’s will each day, so that when the angels pour out the bowls of wrath, the fury will not fall upon our heads. We can be assured that God will protect His people in that awful day of divine retribution.

-Burton Whited


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