Three Angels Messages Part 70

Thanks for staying with us as we continue to study the Three Angel’s Messages! In our last segments we have been studying “marks” and “seals” as revealed in Scripture, since the third angel warns against receiving the mark of the beast, and the book of Revelation describes God’s people at the end as receiving the seal of God. We reviewed the wonderful lessons brought to light by the usage of seals in ancient times, such as how they functioned as one’s signature, employing the concepts of authorship, ownership, approval and authority. Each of these has deep meaning in the spiritual realm.

In addition, we saw that the term “seal” conveyed the concept of preservation and protection, and we saw how that can be understood both in a spiritual sense, as the saints will be living victorious lives through the grace of Christ when they are sealed, and in a physical sense, as God’s sealed ones will be preserved from martyrdom once probation has closed for the entire world.

It is time now to look at some of the other important features of the third angel’s message. “Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.” Revelation 14:9, 10.

We see a contrast between the cup of the wine of the wrath of the beast, which is featured also in Revelation 17 and describes the penalty for violation of the religious dogma enforced by the state, and the cup of God’s wrath. Babylon will have its cup of wrath. It will cost something to stand up for God and disobey the law of the land. It’s not going to be easy as the saga of sin draws to a close. The choice will be between something that is visible and obvious; receiving temporal punishment for disobeying the law put forth by the beast; or, seeing by the eye of faith the punishment that befalls one who disobeys the law of the invisible God. Which ever side you choose to be on will involve “wrath.”

Let's focus for a moment on the wrath of the beast. The beast will establish laws that contain punishments inflicted on those who disobey, including economic boycott and a death decree. Revelation 13:15, 17. Back in the days of King Nebuchadnezzar, those who refused to “bow” to his “image” were told they would be cast into a burning fiery furnace, heated seven times hotter than normally. In this chapter we are told of Babylon's wrath against those who chose to dissent against her laws.

The Israelites Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael, Hebrew children of the captivity, knowing that to worship the image of Nebuchadnezzar would be to violate God’s holy law, stood boldly and defied the king’s commandment. “Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring” them forward. Daniel 3:13. His wrath grew to even greater intensity later, when the king gave them another chance to bow to his image and they refused. At that time he “was full of fury and the expression on his face changed” toward them. Daniel 3:19. God's people experienced the wrath poured out by ancient Babylon, but the Lord honored their obedience by rescuing them in the flames.

Later, Daniel faced a similar choice and similar “wrath” as his enemies plotted against him and seduced King Darius to issue a decree prohibiting the free exercise of religion, on pain of being thrown into the lions’ den. Daniel defied the decree and with his window open prayed toward Jerusalem three times a day, as was his custom, but he incurred the penalty attached to the law of the kingdom by do doing. God likewise spared the life of this saint, shutting the mouths of the lions.

Take a short detour from our subject for just a moment and notice that Daniel wasn’t spared from the den, but in the den. The three Hebrews weren’t spared from the flames but in the flames. Israel wasn’t escorted from Egypt before the plagues, but was protected during her seven last plagues; then deliverance came.  God’s people will not be raptured away and be exempted from the last great trial, but will be preserved within the trial.

At the end of time there will be a choice given to every human being, whether to receive the wrath of the beast, or the wrath of God. Everyone will experience one or the other. When the choice has to be made, before the falling of the seven last plagues, one wrath will be seen by the visible eye, the other the eye of faith. For the true Christian, the one who loves God supremely and would rather die than break the heart of the Father by committing sin, the choice will not be difficult. Like the three Hebrew worthies who refused to bow to the image, their answer will be, “We don’t have to re-think this.” They will know where they stand. They will put their entire trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

What is the “wrath of God”? What is the “cup of His indignation”? How can we reconcile God’s wrath with His character of love and benevolence? Will God really punish men and women? Isn’t this contrary to His nature?

The modern “feel-good” world has no appetite to hear the aspect of God’s character that involves justice. Modern man says, “Tell us about grace, mercy, forgiveness, but tell us not of justice and retribution.” If you read the Bible, the whole Bible, you will see that both are components of God’s character. They cannot be separated. Read the second commandment if you have any doubts about that. There’s love and justice, and it’s weighted toward love. But it would be a foolish mistake to ignore the part of God’s character that deals with sin. “For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” Exodus 20:5,6.

Sometimes when we take a walk I find myself on a street called Thunder Drive, and I let my mind reflect on its meaning. Interestingly, that road, Thunder Drive, is intersected by another street called Serenidad Place, meaning “Serenity Place.” Thunder Drive meets Serenity Place. Interesting! In the same way there is an aspect of God’s character that deals with judgment and justice; Thunder Drive, if you please. But His character also is one of love and mercy; Serenity Place, if you can see it that way. These two intersect. Yes, God’s character is one of love and benevolence. But to ignore the aspect of God’s character that deals with judgment and justice would be a gross mistake.

This is because sin must be dealt with. Sin is the grit in the gears of relationships. God’s holy nature cannot coexist with sin. “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness.” Habakkuk 1:13. His nature is as a consuming fire, the Bible says in Hebrews 12:29. That leaves us with a choice. We can either allow Him to consume sin within our lives and be cleansed from it, or we can cling to evil and be consumed in our lives of sin. Either way, God must destroy sin. No, we are not Jonathan Edwards, and this study is not “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” That sermon was a gross misrepresentation of God’s character in relation to His disposition of sin and sinners. Jesus wants to cleanse us, purify us of all sin so that we can enter the joy of the Lord and be free from the entanglements of iniquity.

It is absolutely true that our God is a God of love. The way that the Bible expresses it is emphatic. There are many places in Scripture where we are told that “God loves.” One of the most familiar is, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. But it goes beyond this. Love is not merely an act that God performs. Love isn't something that God merely does. It is who He is. Not only does “God love,” but “God is love.” I John 4:8. He is the very essence and epitome of agape love.

At the same time, He values freedom of choice supremely. He could have made us as robots, but instead He conferred on His subjects the opportunity to evaluate and choose. We were made free moral agents. Because God refuses to force anyone He allows us to make up our own minds. Because there is only one way in which the universe can exist in harmony, and that is by adhering to the principle of self-less love, a conclusion made undeniably clear by this world’s sad history, this means that God must take radical and severe action in order to preserve the equanimity and safety of the universe. He must deal with sin.

He gives the power to choose to everyone, just as He did to Adam and Eve in the garden. But ultimately, only upon those who subscribe to the principle of agape love and allow that principle to be written in their hearts, will He confer the gift of eternal life. Sin produces nothing but misery, and God will not force sinners to live out an eternity of misery. It is in mercy to the sinner that life is temporary. Neither the universe as a whole, nor the individual sinner would benefit from his miserable life being perpetuated throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. In mercy and love unparalleled, God has given to mankind a second opportunity; no, a million and more opportunities to choose His way. But there are limits even to divine mercy. God cannot allow sin to continue forever. He must take final and climactic action.

The act of destruction is “foreign” to the heart of the Life giver. It goes “against His nature.” It is His “unusual act.” Isaiah 28:21. But like a surgeon, God must excise the cancer of iniquity for the safety of the universe. We can allow that surgery to take place in our hearts right now, and He will remove sin from us, or if we cling to sin, we will suffer the consequences of our choice as He will forever remove sin and sinners from the universe. Praise God that He is such a loving and wise Ruler! Let us allow Him to remove from our lives anything that would tarnish the reflection of His image in us. Please join us next time, as we will continue to explore the truth of God’s “wrath.” There’s actually a gospel message in that phrase!