Many churches today want to give people a good experience. They want visitors to feel at home. The music is catchy and the sermon upbeat. This is understandable—we want visitors to return and members to stay involved. But if this is all we care about, we will rarely talk about God’s wrath.
Today’s text offers a glimpse of the measure of God’s wrath. Seven angels appear with the last seven plagues that precede the coming of Christ. This is the judgment of the seventh trumpet and the culmination of the seventh seal. It may help to think of the relationship between the seventh seal, the seven trumpets, and the seven plagues as nested. Like Russian dolls, the seventh seal contains the seven trumpets, and the seventh trumpet contains the angels with the seven bowls of wrath.
The appearance of the seven angels prompts those who have gained victory over the beast by following the Lamb to the point of death to break into song. Notice that those who are protected by the blood of Christ are not horrified at the thought that God’s wrath is about to be completed.
The plagues contained in the seven bowls are more extensive versions of those from the seven trumpets. (They also echo the plagues visited on Egypt in the Exodus.) The beast counters with warfare led by three demonic spirits who perform signs to persuade the kings of the earth to take up arms against the Messiah.
When they gather together at Armageddon, the stage is set for the final war against the Lamb. It will not last long: it involves a shout, an earthquake, and a plague of 100-pound hailstones (vv. 17–21). Instead of repenting, those afflicted by this last judgment will curse God.
The Bible makes no apologies for God’s wrath (see 16:7). It is the just and holy response to those who oppose His outpouring of grace and mercy and choose instead to follow the lies of Satan. Notice how the angels and martyrs praise God even in the midst of His judgment, for He remains holy, just, and true (16:5–7).