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The Kindness and Severity of God - The Book of Revelation
Week 3, 2018
This week we will cover :
And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, "Write, 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'" "Yes," says the Spirit, "so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them."
Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand.
And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, "Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe."
Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.
And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle.
Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, "Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe."
So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God.
And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses' bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.
This text begins with how blessed those are who die in the Lord from this time on. The Spirit confirms this because they will be able to rest from their labors, and their deeds will follow them. To those who are earthly minded, it is hard to see death as a blessing, but to those who know the Lord, this life is but “a vapor” that quickly passes. To pass out of this life to the next is their great hope. Those who have truly come to know the Lord and trust in His salvation do not fear death.
We also see that this is the time when the harvest of the earth has come. It comes in two ways: The Lord reaps those who have followed Him, and then an angel reaps those who are destined for the wrath of God. The harvest is when all the seeds, both the good and the evil, sown in man comes to full maturity.
Some of the most destructive false doctrines and heresies have come from those who could not “behold now the kindness and the severity of God” (see Romans 11:22). If we cannot see both of these, then we do not know God as He is and are worshipping a God we have made, which is an idol. He is more kind and gracious than any human will ever be, but He is also severe. Drawing His wrath should be the greatest fear of every human being.
As we are told in Romans 2:4, it is “the kindness of God” that leads us repentance. Who can truly see His kindness and grace and not worship Him? We will be worshiping and thanking Him forever for His mercy and grace. The fear of His wrath may not draw men to Him, but it has certainly driven many to Him. The first Great Awakening was ignited by a sermon by Jonathan Edwards entitled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Many other great revivals were sparked by preaching on the severity of God. It may be better to be drawn than driven, but it is better to be driven than to not come at all.
That being understood, those drawn to Him because of His kindness often tend to think that His kindness is all there is to know about Him. If we do not mature beyond that in our knowledge of Him, we will be prone to embrace “hyper-grace” deceptions. These are in need of studying His judgments and His wrath, which are abundant in both the Old and New Testaments.
Likewise, those who have been driven to the Lord by fear of His severity can also be deceived about Him, thinking that He is only a harsh curmudgeon with no humor and no tolerance for sinners. He loves sinners—all of them—and desires for them to be saved. He had much more grace for sinners than He did the self-righteous. He is full of grace and mercy, and He prefers mercy over judgment. However, He has limits, and when those limits are reached, it is a fearful thing to behold.
To see Him as He is, we must see Him as utterly kind and utterly severe at the same time. He is severe because He loves us. Love is His nature, but it is a severe love. Think about this: Jesus walked the earth as an exact representation of the Father. He called some of the roughest men that could probably be found to be His disciples. Even after living with Him for three and a half years, these tough characters were still afraid to ask Him a question on the night before He was crucified! He was obviously intimidating, but He could also be so gentle and merciful to children and to sinners.
To know God as He is, and to not distort the Scriptures, we must reconcile both God’s kindness and His severity in our hearts, seeing Him as He is and not as we may want Him to be. As we mature, we will come to understand that He is perfect, and so are His judgments.
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