When I start talking about the fact that God is not the Judge any more, that all that God’s justice does is subsumed by love and God’s work of justice in the world is to lay all our sin on Christ so that we can now be made as just, as righteous as He is, soon enough someone will ask a question about end-times.
The traditionally taught picture of God in the end-times, in Daniel’s 70th week, in the great tribulation, makes God out to be a vicious smiter. To the point where some grace teachers are now teaching that there will not be an end-times, some are going so far as to teach that Jesus has already come back and everything in Revelation is a past event. That is just foolisness. Jesus Christ did not return in AD70 and you have to mangle His words to teach that. But that does not mean we do not need to re-examine select passages in Revelation in the light of the love and goodness of God, and so that is what we will do in this post, and we will find out that plagues – in Revelation as well as Exodus – come from satan not Jesus.
Now there is a lot to teach on in the book of Revelation, but my heart here is just to show that God is not the smiter.
Now the main verse that is used to show God is the destroyer in Revelation is found in Revelation 11.18:
And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. (Rev. 11.18 KJV)
Now we know God loves planet earth and takes seriously anyone who is trying to destroy it, but can we take this verse at face value that God destroys anyone who destroys the earth? Now the Greek word here does not mean “destroy” but more literally corrupt and ruin, but it is the same word both times: those who destroy will be destroyed. You realize that the Bible has a thread of sowing and reaping inside it, you understand the Hebrew thought of John, and you realize that God is not destroying those who destroy the earth, their destroying seed has reaped a destroying harvest. This ties straight into Galatians 6.8, using the same concept and the same Greek word: those who follow their sinful nature will reap destruction. When we destroy things or people, we will reap a harvest of destruction upon ourselves.
Most of us do not really consider that because of the cross of Jesus and the care of the Holy Spirit and the continual prayers of the church, many seeds of destruction do not bring an appropriate harvest of destruction on the sower. However, in the last days, all those harvests are coming in. Not because God is actively smiting but because He is backing off from the world, and allowing those harvests in. God did not plant and God is not the source of the harvest! We planted, and the harvest is the harvest of our destruction. Romans 1.28 explains clearly how God judges – “God gave them over to a reprobate mind to do things that are not convenient”. That Greek word gave them over is didomi, which means to grant what is asked, to permit or to allow. If you consistently choose death, God will let you walk into death. He is not the source of death, but He will never force you into life if you do not choose it.
In his commentary on Rev. 16.5-6, John Hinds lets us know that God allowed those who persecuted the church to suffer terrible bloodshed, realizing that God is not the one actively punishing. What is happening in Revelation is the end of a long sowing and reaping issue – Rev. 13.10 concurs with this telling us that “He that leads others captive will be taken captive, he that kills with the sword will be killed with the sword”. Revelation is the harvest that Jesus tells us in Matthew 13 is the end of the age.
As we have said several times over in this series, the wicked are destroyed because they push God’s grace and glory out of their lives, and God withdraws rather than force Himself on people, and the harvest of their wickedness smacks them in the face. It is the principle running throughout the whole Bible, and God does not suddenly change after 65 books of being love, and then in the last book become the Almighty Smiter!
Israel suffered when they booted God out of their religion and replaced Him with statues of pagan deities. Job suffered because God’s protecting hand was pushed away by fear. The enemy is our destroyer and although he cannot get through the shield of faith, when fear and sin abound, he has found someone he can devour!
Scripture is utterly consistent: God is good and satan is bad. And one day, this planet will reject God so powerfully, that satan will be permitted to reign. A planet under satan’s rule leads to death, sin, and tragedy. God created a paradise for Adam and Eve, Heaven on earth. Humanity turned the planet over to satan who is trying his hardest to turn it into hell on earth.
Right now, due to grace and mercy, you are not facing the full effects of your sin. No one on the planet is. God would love to stop all evil, but humanity – who has dominion over the planet – is inviting satan and evil into this planet faster than the people of God are standing against it and being salt and light in the earth. But the day will come where there is no restraining at all, and that is why we can say God “will destroy them which destroy the earth” and also say strongly that God is not the destroyer. He is ultimately responsible, but only in that He has stepped aside rather than force Himself on people. He is not destroying anyone actively, and never has and never will.
In Revelation 7.1 the angels were holding the four winds of the earth that they would not blow. In other words, God in His grace and goodness was holding back tragedy, storms, earhquakes, storms, violence. They could not step out of the way and let the harvest of sin flow until the saints were sealed. How did these angels “hurt” the earth – they merely moved aside and let people face the consequences of their sinful actions. They let the winds go.
Angels did not smite, they just stopped protecting. Sin brought on the winds of destruction, not the wrath of God.
Ah, someone will say now – what about the wrath of the lamb? Well, we will discuss that in our next post.