Sunday, 21 February 2021
The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come,
And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints,
And those who fear Your name, small and great,
And should destroy those who destroy the earth. Revelation 11:18
The doxology of the twenty-four elders continues in this verse. It is a doxology of authority to rule, and because it is, it is a doxology that reveals the exercise of that rule, and that is revealed in several descriptive ways. The first is judgment, and is stated with the words, “The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come.”
The thought here is very well reflected in the 2nd Psalm. In the first verse, the raging of the nations is mentioned. From there, the authority of the Son, the Lord’s Anointed, is spoken of. From there, judgment and wrath are noted until the end of the psalm. This is then connected to Jesus’ words in John 3 which confirm that there is only one avenue to avoid the wrath of God –
“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 3:36
The immediate context that preceded this heavenly scene was that the two witnesses testified to the world. They were rejected and killed. Along with their being slain, the world rejoiced and sent gifts to one another. They acted as if they had gained the victory over God because they had gained victory over His witnesses. Because of the rejection of their message, a new phase in history is about to come into focus. This is revealed in the next words, “And the time of the dead, that they should be judged.”
This is the second aspect of Christ’s authority to rule: judgment. Due to the coming words, it appears that this is an overall judgment of humanity. Therefore, it is probably referring to the judgment recorded in Revelation 20:4-6 which precedes the millennium, and Revelation 20:11-15 which follows it. If this is so, then stating that the time for these things to come to pass means the sequence of events leading to them has allowed for them to occur, and they will happen in due time as prophesied. John next records, “And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints.”
This would be the resurrection promised in Daniel 12:1-3 (and elsewhere), and then which is explicitly stated to Daniel in Daniel 12:13 –
“But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days.”
This judgment is known in Revelation 20:5 as “the first resurrection.” It is a resurrection of reward and for the granting of eternal life. John next notes it also speaks of the prophets and saints in another way, saying, “And those who fear Your name, small and great.”
These are surely not separate categories from the “prophets and saints,” but are rather descriptors of them. There are true prophets who fear the Lord’s name, and there are false prophets who do not. There are both small (average) people and great people who fear His name (His saints), and there are those who do not. These will receive their reward and inheritance. And then there are others who will be dealt with differently, as John next notes, “And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”
This is the third aspect of Christ’s authority to rule: punishment. Peter speaks of the “wages of unrighteousness” in 2 Peter 2:13. People earn punishment through their conduct. This is how a properly functioning society works, and it is how the heavenly court will be run. The details for this judgment are found in Revelation 20:11-15 (also noted above). This will be the “second death” referred to in Revelation 20:6 and 20:14. The result of that judgment is summed up in verse 20:15 –
“And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Life application: As noted above, the anger of the nations is spoken of in the 2nd Psalm. Peter then quotes this psalm in Acts 4 indicating that Jesus and His work are the fulfillment of what David prophesied. However, the cross and the resurrection are not something that was fought against at only one point in history. Instead, the nations have continued to rage against the work of Christ since that time. This will come to its final state during the tribulation period.
As the world rejects what Jesus has done, God’s wrath is being stored up and will be poured out in great judgments. After this period of tribulation, there will come a 1000-year reign of Christ on earth. At both ends of this reign, there will be resurrections. Those prophets and saints who have gone before the time of the cross and those who died during the tribulation period will be a part of the first resurrection. This will include those who fear the Lord’s name, small and great. In other words, God looks for faith in His unfaithful creatures, so just a little bit will do.
Each will receive his rest and reward based on the faith he exercised in his walk of life. And in contrast to the saved, there will be judgment and destruction for those who destroy the earth.
This is probably not just speaking of the physical earth, but of the people of the earth as well. At times in the Bible, the term “the earth” is used in this way, speaking of the earth’s inhabitants. Those who destroy the lives and souls of people are striking out at God’s image-bearers, and their judgment will be harsh.
Jesus tells us of this in Matthew 18:6 – “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
Let us take heed to the words of Scripture and let us think soberly on what is being conveyed. All people are heading to one of only two possible ends – restoration with God and eternity in His presence, or dying apart from God’s pardon that has been offered through Christ Jesus. In the case of the latter, it means an eternal swim in the Lake of Fire. Let us do our best to get the word out. Let us be sure to tell all of the marvel of what God has done in the giving of His Son for our sins. Let us also be sure to never miss the chance to sing out praises and thanks to Him for the giving of JESUS!
Holy, just, true, and righteous are Your judgments, O God. You have given us every chance and opportunity to turn to You through the giving of Your Son. And You have not made it hard. Instead, all You ask is that we live by faith, even faith as small as a mustard seed. Help us to think rightly and to use our time wisely that we may be saved from the Day which is surely coming. Amen.