Knowing that a divine reckoning is coming should encourage all believers:
Anyone who loves God and his holiness and righteousness is heartbroken, grieved, and shattered by the evil, wickedness, sin and rebellion they see all around them. They long for the day when all this is no more, and when those who continue to shake their fists at their Creator will get their final recompense.
And for all those who love the Lord and have suffered so heavily for it, whether by actually losing their lives or by other means of persecution and opposition, the cry for God to finally bring ultimate justice is always on the lips of God’s people. And rightly so.
We long to see justice. We long to see vindication. We long to see the end to evil and those who have declared war on God and his people. Indeed, with so much wickedness and injustice and cruelty and evil, it can be overwhelming for believers to just hang in there.
The other day I posted this on the social media: “Between Victoria being destroyed by Dandemic Dan and America being destroyed by Dangerous Democrats, it is very easy to be greatly grieved and discouraged. But God… He is the reason we can still continue, still fight evil, and still have hope for a better future.”
If I were not a Christian, I do not know how I would cope in such dark and diabolical days. But having the knowledge that God is not asleep and is intimately concerned about what is happening on planet earth, and will one day set everything right is a great comfort for me and all true Christians.
What we see happening now will not always be the case. Payday is coming. A reckoning is coming. Scripture tells us this in so many places, not least of which in the book of Revelation. Plenty of passages from this book can be appealed to here. But let me focus on just one: Revelation 14:14-20. There we read about the harvest of the earth in which justice is meted out.
Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped. Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.
While acknowledging the lavish use of figurative language and imagery, this vision is one of a divine payday in which those who continued to reject God and his offers of mercy are finally dealt with. And evil will be no more. That should give all believers great hope and comfort.
Let me draw upon some commentary here. J. Scott Duvall says this:
Gentle Jesus, meek and mild? Not always. This is one of several passages in Revelation reminding us that Jesus is Judge as well as Savior (e.g., Rev 1:13–18; 2:12, 18, 23; 6:16; 19:11–27; 22:12), a truth affirmed throughout the New Testament (e.g., Matt. 10:32–33; 25:31–32; Mark 8:38; John 5:22; Acts 17:31; 2 Thess. 1:7–10; 2 Tim. 4:1, 8). Jesus is the Lamb of God who was slain but also the Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes, symbolic of his perfect strength and penetrating insight (5:6). He is both the sacrificial Lamb and the conquering Ram (17:14).
He goes on to say this:
God will vindicate his people by judging the unrighteous. Those who seem to have the most difficult time with God’s condemnation of the wicked are those who have suffered very little injustice and persecution. “Everyone just needs to be nice,” they seem to believe. But those who have been cruelly oppressed and violated by evil cry out for God to set things right. This passage reinforces God’s promise to judge evil and to vindicate his children, and Revelation as a whole affirms God’s justice. God will not allow evil to go unpunished. He will call for the blood of those who have shed the blood of his people (14:20; 16:6; 17:6; 18:24). Many people attending church today have suffered abuse, violence, and injustice. They need to know that God is not going to sweep everything under the cosmic rug and pretend that nothing bad really happened. They need to know that God is holy and righteous and will not allow evil to win. We are not to take our own revenge, but the monsters will not get away with it. The terrible images of judgment burn into our imaginations the reality that judgment is coming. God will make things right.
Joel Beeke also reminds us of this full and biblical picture of Christ:
What an awesome thought! The One who is going to judge us and the world is the One in whose breast beats the heart of true love for mankind. The One who is going to judge you, unbeliever, is the One who loves sinners. However, that makes the prospect of judgment frightful. If it were someone else, if He didn’t care, or if it were a mere stranger, it wouldn’t matter so much. But precisely because Christ is so gentle, tender, and loving, His anger is even more fierce. Sometimes the most sensitive people can be the most indignant when it comes to injustice. So there is no more frightful verse for the unsaved in the Bible than this one, speaking of the wrath of the Lamb.
That is what many are going to face. To be judged by a Savior is an awful, frightful prospect. This is One who is gentle, yet terrible. He is absolutely fair and yet full of righteous indignation and wrath. That is how He is coming; that is how John sees Him here, seated upon a cloud of glory with the crown of victory upon His head, but also with a sickle of judgment in His hand.
All this should serve as comfort and solace for suffering and persecuted believers. As Craig Keener comments:
The purpose of recording this announcement is to assure oppressed Christians of their coming vindication (14:12). For those of us who generally face a much lesser level of oppression, the image may not strike us as cause for celebration. To fully capture the spirit of the text, we need to enter into the sufferings of our oppressed brothers and sisters elsewhere in the world. If God chooses an angel by the altar as an agent of judgment (14:18) because of the prayers of the saints (6:9–11; 8:3–5), this text may remind us that judgment often comes as vindication of those who have been wronged.
John’s image of God’s winepress (14:19-20) is from the Old Testament, but he does not tone it down. He is not afraid of scaring away mildly interested inquirers concerning the Christian faith; he intends to scare anyone sitting on the fence of indecision into radical obedience to Christ. The lines are drawn; the wicked will be destroyed, and those are wise must make their choice for Christ now.
Indeed, every day that does not see Christ return is another day of mercy. But that mercy will not last forever. Eventually all mankind will lose their chance to repent and get right with God. Then nothing will remain but judgment. As Buist Fanning reminds us in his new commentary:
This chapter makes one of life’s choices crystal clear and unavoidable. It makes it obvious, just as the rest of the Bible does, that God’s offer of grace in Christ confronts us with a stark choice. Jesus Christ himself represents an unavoidable fork in the road amid human life. Some New Testament texts, drawing from Isaiah 8 and 28, picture Christ as a “stone” that looms in our pathway. We can either stumble over him and fall to destruction or build our lives on him as our unshakable foundation (Rom. 9:32-33; 1 Pet. 2:6-8), but neutrality is not an option. Likewise, Revelation 14 shows that we cannot avoid choosing sides in the cosmic conflict between God and evil: we can follow the Lamb or worship the beast (vv. 4, 9), but being too busy to pay attention is a choice in itself.
Yes indeed. Please choose wisely.