REVELATION 15: Standing on the Shoreline
Yesterday is history, tomorrow’s a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present. [Bil Keane]
As I’ve looked back at the past through this Christmas season, and as I look forward now to the future in this next New Year, there’s something more to today – the gift of the present – than just learning from the past.
If something happened before, it most certainly can happen again. That being true, we should take warning today if we’re to have HOPE for tomorrow. So when I read John’s vision of the future – that includes countless people standing by a sea [v2-3] – I can’t help but noticed how it holds a striking resemblance with what happened in the past.
In the past, the Creator God collected for Himself a people group who were displaced and living in a country not their own. After God’s people left their “land of slavery” in the Book of Exodus, and made it safely to the other side of the Red Sea, they stood on the shoreline looking at the judgement that came upon their oppressors.[a] With a barrier now between them and all things horrible in their past, they sang a new song to God. He’d rescued them in the famous story of Moses and the Red Sea, and brought them safely to the shoreline of their new future.[b]
Looking back at that part of the Creator’s epic storyline, I could sense their feeling of relief and great joy that the sea was a physical separation between them and their past, forever! At the same time, I also sensed a solemn quiver run through my soul – as they no doubt felt – looking at the judgement that they’d been rescued from. First they were spared from the plagues that fell upon Egypt when God made a distinction between His people and the Egyptians.[c] Then Father God saved His people when the entire Egyptian Army was drowned in the sea.[d]
But what has any of this to do with people living in the 21st Century? Well, these points become important as we continue to look at John’s Revelation of our future:
“Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished.” [v1]
The good news is, they’re the last – in all of eternity – that the Creator will ever display His judgement through! The bad news: they are still ahead of us. So the first question is – why is this God of Love so angry? The chapter seems to show an almost schizophrenic side to the Creator God. One minute there’s a countless number of people singing: “…Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways…” [v3], but the rest of the chapter is talking about bowls full of unthinkable plagues. These will be sprinkled out on all the earth, just as they were over the land of Egypt in ancient times.[e]
The two faces of God – His Righteousness and His Justice vs. His Grace and His Mercy – aren’t in conflict. His incredible grace and love for the world – in sending Jesus at Christmas so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life[f] – is seen in the fact that He’s given us 2000+ years warning since John wrote down this vision.
In addition, we need to remember that the distinction that Father God has made, separates His people from those who refuse to change their ways even under great pressure.[g]
“Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.”[h]
This isn’t to say that we’ll skip it completely – the Children of Israel stayed in Egypt watching the plagues until all were poured out – but the Good Shepherd will protect His sheep through the storm.[i] Just as the livestock were brought into the barns before the plague of hail hit Egypt, in the story of the Exodus[j], so too Father God will gather in, cover and protect His people when His judgements fall.
Some may wonder if this isn’t a fragment from Greek Mythology. So, for one thing, John sees God’s “sanctuary” filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power. [v8] This was something that happened twice in the past with God’s “sanctuary” here on Earth.[k]
Sometimes I read Revelation and think that it’s a graphical portrayal of human history from beginning to end. It’s what God could see from His side from Genesis to Revelation. After all, the Letters to the Churches in the first chapters of John’s vision, have clearly happened – those churches in Turkey and Asia Minor don’t exist today. If this book is the creative/spiritual version of the whole storyline since the beginning, rather than a prophecy about something in our future, then today’s world could be positioned right now in one of the last chapters of this book – right at the end of human history and the start of Eternity!
Although John’s Revelation is a book that’s shrouded in symbolism and mystery, making it difficult to figure out a time or date when these things will begin or unfold, there’s no question in any scholar’s mind that divine judgement is a real part of the Creator’s story. We may not know every detail of these graphical pictures, or how they may affect us, but we can choose simply today which shoreline to stand on. At the end of the day, when everything has taken place just as the Creator God said it would, who’s side am I on and what am I doing today to prove that choice?
When life begins to fall apart, who’s name will I call out for?
“Great and marvellous are Your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are Your ways, King of the nations. Who will not fear You, Lord, and bring glory to Your name? For You alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed.” [v3-4]
CLICK to return to today’s “Daily Breadcrumbs”
[a] Deuteronomy 11:4
[b] Exodus 14:21 – 15:21
[c] Exodus 8:22-23
[d] Exodus 14:26-31
[e] Exodus c7-c11
[f] John 3:16
[g] Jeremiah 5:3 and Revelation 16:9,11&21
[h] Revelation 3:10
[i] John 10:11&14
[j] Exodus 9:13-35 (with reference to v17-21)
[k] Exodus 40:34-35 and 2 Chronicles 5:11-14 (See also: Isaiah 6:1-4)