How do we worship God in His wrath?
This is a question that has been continuously in my mind as I have studied, prepared, and preached through the book of Revelation with my senior high students each Sunday. As I have taught the last few weeks on the wrath of God being poured out on earth, it has been challenging to find a light in the darkness. Revelation 6-18 are not the most heart-warming, rejuvenating portions of Scripture. So how have I seen the light in the midst of the calamity that will one day come to earth? Well, this is what has made Revelation so exciting to me. There are these moments where John steps back to reveal the worship of Jesus. We are ushered into the throne room of God and get a glimpse of what the worship of God will be like during these moments. We see quickly that Christ is the key to unlocking the bright light of Revelation.
As one reads Revelation, they must remember that Revelation is a series of apocalyptic visions filled with prophetic pronouncements written as a church letter. There is an ultimate, historical message that has been proclaimed. That message is to give hope to suffering Christians, to challenge them to avoid false teaching, and to live with an eternally emboldened faith. This is the encouragement of Revelation.
But how do we answer the question? How do we worship God in His wrath?
Throughout Revelation we see worship and we see this worship taking place as the wrath of God is being poured out onto those who refuse to repent and turn to Christ (Revelation 16:5-7; 19:1-5). There is a stark reality here that on one hand you have those who are infinitely filled with joy in their worship and another group who is infinitely in torment as they face the wrath of God. This question of worship is a difficult one, but not one without an answer.
We must have a high view of God.
God is infinitely worth our worship. In Revelation 15-16 we see several reasons as to His worthiness. God is sovereign (15:3), He is to be feared (15:4), He is to be glorified (15:4; 16:9; 19:1, 5-6), He is holy (15:4), His ways are righteous and just (15:4; 16:5-7), and He is loving (seen in the many opportunities He gives man to repent). In these attributes found in Revelation, we see the reason for the worship. God is worthy of our worship!
But, we must also have a humbling view of ourselves.
We are deserving of the wrath of God. Throughout Revelation the response of mankind to the righteous judgment of God is one of cursing, mocking and hard hearts. Think back to Pharoah who ignored the hand of God multiple times to have his way. Our selfishness can cause us to become so exclusive that nothing we see or hear from God will be accepted. Even as the earth around them is falling apart and it has been made clear as to who the one is that has unleashed the torment, there is little to no humility seen in the judgements of Revelation. Humanity has mocked God’s glory, dishonored His holiness, hated righteousness, and denied the pure love of God. We are deserving of the eternal wrath of God.
We are left with an immense problem.
One sin flies in the face of this eternal God, and the punishment is an eternal one. “The measure of sin is determined by the magnitude of the one who is sinned against.” This statement by David Platt helps us see the weight of our sin. But if that is not clear enough let me share with you an illustration the David used to clarify his statement:
Azeem is an Arab follower of Jesus in the Middle East, and he was sharing the gospel recently with a taxi driver in his Muslim country. The driver believed that he would pay for his sin for a little while in hell, but then he would surely go to heaven after that. After all, he hadn’t done too many bad things.
So Azeem said to him, “If I slapped you in the face, what would you do to me?” The driver replied, “I would throw you out of my taxi.” Azeem continued, “If I went up to a random guy on the street and slapped him in the face, what would he do to me?” The driver said, “He would probably call his friends and beat you up.” Azeem asked, “What if I went up to a policeman and slapped him in the face? What would he do to me?” The driver replied, “You would be beat up for sure, and then thrown into jail.”
Finally, Azeem posed this question: “What if I went to the king of this country, and I slapped him in the face? What would happen to me then?” The driver looked at Azeem and awkwardly laughed. He told Azeem, “You would die.” To this Azeem said, “So you see that the severity of sin’s punishment is always a reflection of the position of the person who is sinned against.” And the driver realized that he had been severely underestimating the seriousness of his sin against God.
Are we also severely underestimating the seriousness of our sin against God?
But there is hope!
God has provided a way. He has given to us His son, Jesus. Jesus took the wrath of God, the wrath that is meant entirely for you and I. Wrath that is rightly and justly ours to take. But Jesus became the salvation for us sinners. God made a way. We do not have to depend on our strengths, our good works, to attempt to be good enough. Because even on our best day, we slap the face of an infinitely holy God.
Praise the Lord for Jesus! And if you have not done so, repent and rest in the mercy of God. There will be a day where it will be too late.
God, even in His wrath, is worthy of praise.
See, without wrath, the love of God would be meaningless. His love for us drives his hatred of that which tries to destroy us. And sin is a destroyer. Without wrath, justice is pointless. What point is it to have a judge if there are no laws to enforce?
God loves, is just, and pours out His wrath because He is an infinitely holy, righteous, and sovereign God and we are not. But He has not left us hopeless. He is worthy because He has given us a rescue plan that does not ignore our sin, but pays for it entirely. Jesus made a way that pays for our sin and yet unites us in a family relationship with God.
God, even in His wrath, is worthy of our worship!