Revelation 16:11

Friday, 7 May 2021

They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds. Revelation 16:11

The fifth bowl has been poured out, resulting in darkness in the kingdom of the beast. Along with that, we saw that “they gnawed their tongues because of the pain.” Normally, when tragedy occurs, the instinct is to cry out, “Oh God!” as a petition for relief. This happens to saint and sinner alike. Even avowed atheists will say this. The deepest understanding instilled in the human psyche is that there is a God and that He is merciful when petitioned.

However, the Bible also refers to the searing of the conscience in people. This comes out in varying degrees, but there is a point where the conscience is so seared that even the most fundamental part of who we are is obliterated. The connection to God is so damaged that this deep-seated knowledge that He may relent from His wrath is gone. This is seen to be the case now in the pouring out of the fifth bowl. Instead of crying out to God for relief and/or giving Him glory (see Revelation 11:13), it now says, “They blasphemed the God of heaven.”

This is similar to what was just said in verse 16:9 –

“And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.”

The title, God of heaven, however, intensifies the crime. In verse 16:9, it acknowledged that God has power over these plagues, but in the minds of the people it could be a lesser “god.” However, here that idea is extinguished. There is the understanding that One God resides in heaven and that He is the force behind the events. Instead of giving Him glory, they blaspheme Him. It is an astonishing thought to consider.

These people are aware of God’s existence, they are receiving His judgments, and yet they are so depraved in their thinking that instead of acknowledging His right to judge them and calling out for mercy, they only provoke Him further “because of their pains and their sores.”

If a person were to place his hand on a hot stove, the reaction would be to withdraw it quickly and not venture to do so again. In connection with that, they may shout out, “Stupid, stupid, stupid. I can’t believe I did that.” The people here respond in exactly the opposite manner. They have done wrong; they have been plagued because of their wrongdoing; and yet they return to their same depraved thinking. Peter speaks of the mental state of such people –

But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, 13 and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime.” 2 Peter 2:12, 13

The Source of the pains and sores is attacked as if the depraved people are begging for more. And just to make sure that they have completely departed from any chance of His mercy, the verse finishes with, “and did not repent of their deeds.”

The conduct that brought them the agonies in the first place is not rejected. Instead, they continue down the same brutal path to perdition.

Life application: In 16:9, during the fourth bowl judgment, the sun scorched the people with great heat. At that time, the people are said to have “blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues.” Now, when the kingdom became “full of darkness,” the people have again “blasphemed the God of heaven.”

Whether in light or darkness, the heart of these people remains hard and defiant against God. The very fact that they blaspheme His name indicates an acknowledgment that He exists. No one blasphemes Godzilla because, despite being a scary movie monster, we all know he is not real. The agony and pain the people feel is returned to God in angry comments about Him and vulgar language toward Him.

What a vast difference from righteous Job who suffered in a similar fashion and yet made the acknowledgment that God is still deserving of praise –

“And he said:
‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.’
22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.” Job 1:21

After His beautiful and heartfelt utterance, the Bible records the appropriateness of Job’s words and actions by acknowledging that he did not charge God with wrong. The pattern has been given to us for holy living and right thought in the presence of God. It is laid out in the pages of the Bible, and it is available to all people. And yet, because of the deception of the antichrist and the blinding of the people’s eyes to the truth of God, they have rejected His word and thus God Himself.

Now only pain and suffering, with added condemnation for an ungodly response, is forthcoming. It should be noted that these verses are given in the aorist tense, and yet they are future to us even now. The entire book of Revelation is a testimony to the transcendence of God over what has been created, even into the future, and into the responses of each and every person who has lived or ever will live.

This in no way contradicts free will in man though. Just because God knows the choices we will make, it doesn’t mean that our responsibility is negated. Rather, it shows the just nature of God when He judges. It is man’s responsibility to act. And the main action that man can take to be reconciled to God is to call out to Him as He has decided is right. He has given the way, and He has made the path available. He has done everything for restoration to come about. He has given us JESUS.

Lord, one of the most common sights in the world is to see people blame You when disaster strikes – “How could God let this happen?” But it is our response to Your actions that demonstrate faith or faithlessness. Help us to be like Job where, even in affliction, we respond to You with words that will please You and bring You the honor You are due. Amen.