Revelation has some pretty hectic images going on; beasts, dragon, prostitutes and lakes of burning sulfur. Locusts that act like scorpions, torturing people. Stars that, at the will of God, just decide to get real acquainted with the earth, or even just vanish completely. God’s judgement is executed in a bunch of ways; he sends out his horsemen, his angels play trumpets and pour out bowls with plagues in them. Several times it speaks of peals of thunder, earthquakes, flashes of lightning and massive hailstorms. Seriously, imagine a 45 kilo chunk of ice.
And now think about this; all through it people are seeing the power of God. Instead of quaking in their boots, recognising God, and deciding to follow him, they turn away. They try to run to the mountains, and hope for some form of death to end it. The funny thing is, the mountains aren’t much use because when God comes in his glory, the Islands flee and the mountains just stop being there. Nothing in nature can stand up to it’s creator.
These images scary as heck. You don’t want anyone to suffer that, it just seems so harsh for that family member or friend to be punished so severely, just because they don’t recognise God.
A lot of this stuff that follows comes out of John Piper’ 2-part series on “The Echo and Insufficiency of Hell”. Get into it, he is much more eloquent and emotive than I.
If this terror and an eternity of torment are the “just desserts” of sin, then sin must be a huge offence. The ONLY way it can be such an offence is if God is INFINITELY and ETERNALLY holy and righteous. And that’s just one person. Now imagine all of God’s kingdom. We’re talking every Israelite and Christian who ever has lived, or ever will live. If you put together the cumulative punishment for their sinfulness, you end up with one HUGE amount of infinities that NEED to be payed off if God is Just.
Now think about Jesus; in his death, he took all that sin. ALL OF IT. In the single gospel event, Jesus took ALL of that, and payed it. That means that death, taking on the sin of the elect, was a big enough punishment for Jesus to be worth all those eternities.
Are you aware of what Jesus has done? Do you get how big that is? And how Holy must he be, for his single death to be able to pay off so many debts, that would earn anyone else an eternity of suffering.
If you get that, then you are left with a God who is infinitely holy, a God who is infinitely gracious, and these things work together allowing God also to be perfectly Just.
So when you think about all that Judgement going on, and how harsh it may seem, do you realise how offensive your behaviour is to God? And how awesome it is that he is who he is? When that friend or family member is not recognising God, do you see how offensive that is to God.
It’s doubly offensive as well; not only do they sin, but they flaunt God’s offer; God’s own offer to step down from infinite holiness and take the infinite punishment they deserve.
It’s difficult to get your head around, but on that day, anyone who has the Holy Spirit in them will see God’s judgement. And how will they respond?
“You are just in these judgments, O Holy One,
you who are and who were; …“Yes, Lord God Almighty,
true and just are your judgments.”