The Beginning of the End
2 Peter 3:9 tells us: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” This verse reminds us of our longsuffering Lord who is great in mercy. But verse ten follows hard on the heels: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” Thus, we are reminded that there is an end to our Lord’s patience, and even to His grace, at least as it is extended to sinful men. Judgment comes!
Now the drama reaches its peak and matters move quickly. The “one like a son of man” is our Lord himself. He is the judge (John 5:22), and here he is the reaper. Some have wondered if this first harvest is of the righteous, since another angel appears to reap after our Lord, the result of which leads to the winepress of the wrath of God. Regardless, the emphasis is on the judgment that awaits the wicked as God’s patience is at an end and the appointed time has arrived. The amount of blood spilled by the winepress is extraordinary to say the least and some think it hyperbole. Let us leave matters as they are, understanding simply that the vision of judgment upon the wicked is one truly horrible.
Chapter fifteen finds the last group of seven angels ready to finish God’s wrath with the pouring of the bowls. The saints are standing by a flaming sea of glass, singing the song of Moses and of the Lamb. What song of Moses? Exodus 15 records that song. It is a song of triumph that the redeemed sing over the wicked: “I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.” It spares no mercy for the wicked, for God did not. But it exalts the majesty and glory of God, just as the song of the Lamb does in verses three and four. This is hard for us because our Lord taught us to love our enemies – and we should – and we will be disciplined if we do not. But we are speaking here from God’s perspective. He is the Judge, and He will do what is right (Genesis 18:25). And we must rejoice when we consider that His just and dreadful judgments are the source of our salvation. The drowning of Pharaoh’s army saved the Israelites, and the destruction of the wicked at the end of time saves the righteous from further persecution. Are we more merciful than God? “Thus, let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).