November 24, 1998, PALM HARBOR, Florida (CNN)
James Currens, 77, said he believes he was asleep when he wandered out of his home and stumbled down an embankment into an alligator-infested pond. The frail man with a reconstructed knee awoke to find his legs stuck in the mud and his eyes staring into the faces of several alligators.
Currens said he kept the reptiles, some longer than 3 feet, at bay by poking at them with his cane. A neighbor heard him hollering for help and called police at about 5 a.m.
A Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department spokesman said, at first glance, the officers saw only a crowd of alligators in the water. Currens had to yell to direct their attention toward him.
Police used bright lights to scare off some of the gators, but when Cpl. James Cooper worked his way through mud and brush, he saw eight to 10 alligators just a few feet away from Currens.
Currens held out his cane to the officer and Cooper pulled him to safety. The retired maintenance supervisor was taken to a hospital for treatment of minor cuts and bruises on his arms and legs that he suffered during his fall.
Millions of people in today’s world are sleep-walking, going through life without any consideration for next life. Act as though tomorrow always comes, not much different from today. Will be rudely awakened to face far worse than alligators. When time comes, will have absolutely no means of defense.
As we approach conclusion of Revelation, cameras move from position near beginning of age to vantage point much nearer end. What primarily fills view is detail about final triumph of King of kings and Lord of lords over all his enemies, then what comes after… for both saved.. and lost.
A. the plagues
last chapter: inspired author made clear bad things yet to come are from God, are response of holy and righteous God to sin/evil
voice of command initiates outpouring of final bowls of wrath comes from the temple, place “filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power” (Rev. 15:8)
as horrific as plagues sound, and in reality will be, to say they are overkill, excessive is to bring charge against God – injustice
bowls are merely symbols – God in justice directing his righteous anger against evildoers… those who would dethrone God and kill his people given opportunity
not an overstatement – each day seeing more of evil that lurks in hearts of men, women, boys, girls in world made livable only by God’s common grace and restraining hand
is important to remember: these are visions / signs / symbols – have reference to reality, not necessarily exactly as we think
will not be some kind of zombie apocalypse, gross and disgusting and destructive things happening like portrayed in movies
reality will be far worse than can imagine – have no frame of reference for these events, only something like what happened in Egypt but worldwide in scope and awful
given what is described, bowls probably poured out in fairly quick succession – estimated duration of Egypt plagues: 3-6 weeks
1 – on the land, sores like boils in 6th plague – described as disease both destructive and painful, causing inescapable intense discomfort and suffering
medical community doesn’t stand chance – overwhelmed by numbers, afflicted themselves, no training to guide treatment
2 – on sea – turns to blood, like first plague of Egypt – major source of food destroyed, transportation disrupted, climate change
3 – on fresh water – same thing, major supply of drinking water unusable; two together bring water cycle nearly to halt
fewer options for alleviating discomfort brought on by judgment as pain and suffering increases, affecting more parts of life
4 – on the sun – not darkening (4th trumpet), an intensifying… of sun’s heat, how much reaches earth (see #3)
reasonable to think bowl 2 & 3 significantly altered water cycle, changing cloud cover / absorbent properties of atmosphere… plus God’s direct action to increase heating effect of sun
5 – darkness – darkness, covering all earth, adding fear and uncertainty to already present discomfort – not simple darkness of night, something far more profound and frightening
Matt 27:45-50 “Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.” – no eclipse of sun, impossible when full moon
6 – on the Euphrates, dried up – boundary between civilized / uncivilized, restraint holding heathen back from overrunning Church
removing the boundary/hindrance no guarantee of their success – remember who is defending/protecting his Church from harm
does mean number and violence of attempts to overthrow and silence anything connected with God ramp up significantly
7 – on the air – thunder, lightning, roaring, earthquake, hail – 7th plague plus Calvary (Matt. 27:51, 54)
hail mixed with fire fell on Egypt, earthquake that split rocks at time of Jesus’ death – just as hail unprecedented in Egypt, so this final bowl like nothing earth has ever experienced before
why link to Calvary?
same action on God’s part – his just punishment for sin; difference… a Substitute at Calvary, responsible individuals at the end
as have said before, can expect no less from God at end than what he made his Son endure on the cross
B. the targets
“the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.” (2)
God not indiscriminate in how he treats his creatures – ones affected by final judgment are allies of dragon, beast, false prophet
have showed their alliance by how they worship – actively demonstrated loyalty by worshiping “not God” – iow, the ungodly
“they have shed the blood of saints and prophets” (6)
have also shown loyalty by treatment of God’s people – persecuted, harassed, even to point of giving lives because they represent Lord Jesus
Lord Jesus takes it personally – Saul, Damascus Road… Jesus is so united with his people, oneness is such that harm to saints received as assault on Christ himself
commentary from angel: ungodly are receiving no more and no less than what they deserve for their actions – lex talionis
C. the justification
“true and righteous are Your judgments” (7)
not that God needs justification for his actions, but… clear declaration from heaven’s perspective: God is just, doing what is perfectly right and proper
comes from those who had experience: Rev. 6:9-10 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
D. their response
“they blasphemed the name of God… they did not repent and give Him glory” (9)
do we need any clearer depiction of hardness of fallen man’s heart? as intensity of judgment climbs, so does intensity of response… raging against only One who could save them
should also correct mistaken views about hell – no repentance after this experience, will certainly be none later
also makes pretty clear – this punishment is real, physical, terrible
“They blasphemed the God of heaven… and did not repent of their deeds” (11)
only one option – attack the One responsible for their pain, like cornered animals – is exactly what Dragon incites them to do
sends out his demonic henchmen – persuade allies and worshipers… now is the time, you can become gods if you seize opportunity overthrow God Almighty
“Men blasphemed God” (21)
even when is absolutely certain – no hope, this is the end – response to curse God, blame God, make God responsible for plight
E. the people of God
not harmed by plagues – Rev. 9:4 “They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.”
division between people – Ex. 8:22-23“And in that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, in which My people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there, in order that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the land.I will make a difference between My people and your people.”
same holds true for bowl judgments – obvious from description of those impacted by judgment
identified specifically – have the mark, worship the image, shed blood of the prophets; blasphemed, did not repent
none of these apply to God’s people – they are shielded from God’s wrath… yet are present: hence caution to keep watching
furthermore: God’s wrath that his people deserve already poured out on Christ, their substitute
must be watchful, will be blessed for watchfulness (15)
no way of knowing for certain when Lord Jesus will return – requires that we be living every moment so as not to be ashamed
iow, blessing promised for those who live so is obvious they are clothed with Christ’s righteousness – “who washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Rev. 7:14
will be praising God for answered prayer – Rev. 6:10; 8:3-5
those martyred for their faith had asked “Lord, how long before you will judge?” – they have their answer, as God moves into action
F. God himself
“it is done” (7); cf. Rev. 15:1 – God’s wrath on sin on earth is finished, the end… of sin and evil on earth, suffering for God’s people
Christ has fully and finally conquered all enemies, fully and finally delivered his people from sin and suffering
What if that Great Day were to begin in few moments – what would your experience be? Would you be among those blessed for watchfulness? or those shaking their fist at God because of the fury of his wrath? And what about friends and family?
Good news of Gospel still in force: “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” Answer the call to fear God and worship your Creator while still time; then will be in company of blessed.