I have said more than once over the past five years I’ve been writing this blog that God is patient, but that his patience will not last forever.
And here in this passage, I think we see that patience just about to run out.
Here we see an angel flying out, proclaiming the gospel to every nation, tribe, language, and people one last time. And he shouted,
Fear God, and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and the springs of water. (7)
I wonder if this is a real angel or if it’s merely symbolic of the gospel going out to the whole world. (Matthew 24:14)
Or perhaps it’s both. Either way, the gospel goes out one last time. And with it comes warning. “Now is the time to turn to God. His patience has run out and the time for judgment has come. Fear him. Give him glory. And worship him. Before it’s too late.”
The warnings are intensified by the next two angels.
Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries. (8)
This is a preview to what we will see later. Babylon had once been a great empire, but it was totally pagan, a people who had turned their backs on God and were committing adultery with the world.
John no doubt saw Babylon as a symbol of Rome. And for us today, Babylon and Rome are symbols of a godless society, a society in which antichrist will arise. But this angel cries out, not only that Babylon will fall, but that it has already fallen. It is dead while it yet lives. It’s only a matter of time before all will see it.
Then the third angel cries out a final warning.
If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. (9-11)
In short, there is no middle ground. You have to choose sides. Either you worship God or you worship the beast. And if you choose to worship the beast, all of God’s wrath will be poured upon you.
A lot of people hate the idea of hell. They can’t believe that a loving God would punish someone forever in conscious torment. But it can’t be any clearer here. There will never be rest, day or night for them. Rather, they will face torment for all eternity.
Why does this have to be so?
Number one, we were created eternal beings. The question is not whether we will live forever. The question is where.
Number two, if people will not receive God as king, they must be separated from him, if for no other reason that they don’t want to near him. But the thing is, life without God is hell.
If you don’t believe me, look at the world around you. We have tried to live in a world where God is not king. What’s the result? Murder. Rape. Terrorism. All manner of atrocities.
The experiment has failed.
And this is a world where God is still here, working in the lives of people. What will a world completely devoid of God be like?
But it doesn’t have to be that way. On the cross, Jesus drank the wine of God’s wrath for us. He experienced the full strength of God’s anger so that you don’t have to.
But if you reject him, then you’ll have to drink it yourself.
What will you choose?