“The twenty-four elders sitting on their thrones before God fell with their faces to the ground and worshipped him. And they said, “We give thanks to you, Lord God, the Almighty, the one who is and who always was, for now you have assumed your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were filled with wrath, but now the time of your wrath has come. It is time to judge the dead and reward your servants the prophets, as well as your holy people, and all who fear your name, from the least to the greatest. It is time to destroy all who have caused destruction on the earth.””
Revelation 11:16-18 NLT
The last trumpet has sounded. Loud voices are heard shouting in Heaven. At last, the Messiah’s rule and reign over His Kingdom will be established for ever. No more sinful world under the devil’s jurisdiction. No more curses striking mankind. No wonder that the twenty-four elders fall on their faces before God. And they offer Him a prayer of thankfulness. Their prayer is full of relief, full of “at-last” sentiments, as though all mankind’s pent up frustrations are finally going to be dealt with.
The elders’ prayer is in five parts. The first acknowledges who God is and always has been. There is a fashionable phrase that goes something like “live for the moment”. But such a sentiment has no roots. It floats in a hedonistic haze, soon to return to reality with a bump. We pilgrims always keep in mind that our loving Heavenly Father has always been around. We live in His design, in a world full of His created wonders. A moment in God’s presence extends on and on and …
The second part expresses the elders’ gratitude that, after a lifetime of grieving over a fallen, devil-controlled, world, God is finally calling time and is about to adopt His rightful place as Ruler over all He has made. The elders refer to God finally being about to use His “great power”, all that is needed to reign over His Kingdom.
The third part of the elders’ prayer thanks God for exchanging the world’s wrath for His wrath. No longer will mankind’s anger, stoked up by the devil, have any place. Instead God’s wrath will prevail. Sometimes I wonder, when speaking to people, about their propensity to angrily wave their fists in God’s face. As though their puny efforts will matter. I’m reminded of Psalm 2, where we read, “Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans? But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them.” (Psalms 2:1, 4). And it is not as though mankind has had no warning about what is to come – Psalm 2:5-6 continues, “Then in anger he rebukes them, terrifying them with his fierce fury. For the Lord declares, “I have placed my chosen king on the throne in Jerusalem, on my holy mountain.””
The fourth part of the prayer contains the ominous phrase “it is time to judge the dead”. One day everyone who has ever lived will have to face into the reality that mankind will face a time of judgement. The grave will in no way be a place where God’s wrath can be avoided. All those who have declined God’s invitation to join His family will soon realise what that means. If they don’t want to live in Heaven, there is only one other place where eternity can be spent. And the elders’ prayer ends with the ominous statement that “It is time to destroy all who have caused destruction on the earth”.
Thankfully there is a fifth part to the elder’s prayer. A time of reward is coming for God’s prophets, holy people and those who fear His name. The elders must have been ecstatic. No wonder they were on their faces before God.
Where do we pilgrims find ourselves this morning? On our faces before God or biting our nails in fearful anticipation of what is to come? While there is still time we must embrace God’s Son, Jesus. He warned His generation and, because of God’s grace, the warning still stands today. We read His words in John 12:35-36, “Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.” After saying these things, Jesus went away and was hidden from them.”
While there is time, while we can, we pilgrims must extend Jesus’ invitation, to trust in His light, to the generation in which we live. A brief examination of the news on the media soon exposes the fact that that there is an awful lot going on that has no eternal consequence at all. The psalmist was certainly right in Psalm 2 when he said, “Why do they waste their time with futile plans?” I summed it up recently, when discussing the pros and cons of Scottish independence, by saying that Scotland needs revival not independence. The adherents to worldly plans will find that they have no value at all, compared with a life to be spent in eternity. So we pilgrims have an opportunity, during this season of God’s grace, to reset the agenda, to remind those around us, while we still can, that “now the time of [God’s] wrath has come“.
Father God. With the elders we fall on our faces before You, giving thanks for who You are, and for the coming period of Your rule and reign on earth. Please help us to get ready. Amen.