“Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, causing it to scorch everyone with its fire. Everyone was burned by this blast of heat, and they cursed the name of God, who had control over all these plagues. They did not repent of their sins and turn to God and give him glory.”
Revelation 16:8-9 NLT
The fourth angel appears in John’s vision. And his bowl contains a substance that causes the sun to generate more heat than it would normally, with devastating consequences affecting the remaining people present on Planet Earth. We occasionally experience solar flares from the sun, but this will be far greater. It will be as though someone has poured a flammable substance on a fire that is already burning, causing an immediate increase in flames and heat. Mankind experienced scorching and burning, and responded in an interesting way – “they cursed the name of God”. In the outpouring of this plague of burning, people acknowledge God as the initiator of all the plagues and suffering they were experiencing. And they cursed Him. But then the thought occurred to me this morning – people are very good at acknowledging and cursing God in today’s society as well. They blaspheme Him. Insurance companies refer to natural disasters as “Acts of God”. But a repentant response to a natural disaster is not the norm. A more usual response is anger and defiance, or just a plain lack of concern. And things haven’t changed in these times of John’s vision.
We have here an enigma. God’s judgements are being meted out on the world. People everywhere know God is the Initiator. And yet they fail to make the connection between God’s judgement for wickedness and sin, and their culpability. They fail to realise, or choose to ignore the fact, that if they repented, they would assure themselves a place in Heaven, secure in God’s presence.
Here in the UK, the purchase of cigarettes involves a cardboard container printed with images of what will happen to a smoker’s body, if they continue with their habit. Graphic pictures of dirty teeth and receding gums. Illustrations showing what a smoker’s lungs look like. Yet, such warnings seem to have little effect on most smokers, who continue to puff away. Is there a mindset here that is convinced that the events described by the pictures will not happen to them? Or is there a “can’t be bothered” attitude prevailing? Perhaps in these End Times, people know who God is, they know why the judgements are being dispensed, they know what they can do to assure their post-first death future, and yet they refuse, instead responding with anger and defiance. They prefer to live their lives of sin.
But before we pilgrims adopt the moral high ground, we should pause. Are we not just the same? Don’t we still behave in similar ways? Just one more glass won’t hurt. Nobody will know if I’m speeding. It won’t really matter if I visit that website. It’s called sin. Pure and simple. When we compromise our behaviour, there can then be a “slippery slope effect” where what we do and think starts off in small ways but then leads to stuff that’s way bigger. Before we get caught in this trap, we must soften our hearts and ask ourselves the time-honoured question – “What Would Jesus Do”? And fall to our knees once again, before our merciful and loving Heavenly Father.
Father God. We thank You for Your forgiveness and love. Such grace is freely available to those who turn to You. Amen.