God’s commandment is love.
But you can’t just read a book about love, or sing a song about love and expect to love . . . that helps, but still, something is missing.
So, often, we pastors resort to threats, and the Revelation seems like a good place to find them.
About 150 years ago some folks came up with the ideas of the Pre-tribulation Rapture: “If you do what we suggest, you will be raptured and leave the rest of humanity behind to suffer the Lake of Fire and the Seven Bowls of Wrath, which are the Seven Plagues.”
If the Seven Bowls are a threat, it’s a strange sort of threat. Not only do the bowls contain the blood of the Lamb, which is the Mercy of God, but these Seven Plagues, which are literally seven wounds, or “stripes,” come from the eternal temple in heaven, which is the Body of Christ, the Slaughtered Lamb standing on the throne.
As the Seven Angels pour the contents of the Seven Bowls upon the seven days of time, the wounds from the eternal sanctuary that is the Body of Christ become wounds on earth and on the Body that is humanity in space and time.
Common sense would tell us that we’re responsible for Christ’s wounds.
And yet, the vision seems to reveal that Christ’s wounds are responsible for us.
Make no mistake, our sins in space and time crucified Christ, and yet you and I were predestined to see Christ crucified and to live to the praise of His Glory—a Glory that flows from His wounds: the River of Life.
“The Life is in the blood.” “I am the Life,” said Jesus.
At the first bowl, painful sores appear on all who have worshipped the beast and its image. We all get sores. Sores eat our flesh, and flesh cannot inherit the kingdom of God. This is what circumcision is all about in the Old Testament and what baptism is all about in the New—it symbolizes the destruction of human flesh, fashioned by us, into the image of the beast.
At the second bowl, every “living psyche” dies in the sea. We don’t need to fear death in the sea if we’ve already been baptized in the sea of glass and fire. Jesus taught, “You must lose your psyche to find it.” It’s our body of flesh, “our old psyche,” that keeps us from experiencing intimate communion with God, who is Love, and our neighbors, in whom He dwells. We are baptized into one body—the Body of Christ.
At the third bowl, rivers and fountains become blood, and an angel cries, “They have shed blood and you have given them blood to drink.”
We worship the Lamb on the throne because He has given us blood to drink. The River of Blood, flows through all the members of Christ’s Body and returns to the throne as praise.
We took His blood—that’s sin. And He constantly gives His blood—that’s Grace. That’s His Judgment: The first of all becomes last of all—If One is “left behind,” He is left behind.
At the fourth bowl, the sun scorches people with fire. Jesus just appeared to John as the sun and the Man of Fire. “This is the judgment,” wrote John, “The light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than the light for their deeds were evil . . . all who come to the light, come that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done by God.” The Revelation of Jesus is the death of the human ego—the old psyche.
At the fifth bowl, the kingdom of the beast is plunged into darkness. Worshipers of the beast hide from the Light in darkness. The Light is a threat to darkness; it’s a threat to our sinful flesh, the illusion in which we all trap ourselves, and the prison in which each of us hides from God and our neighbor.
The Seven Bowls and the Lake of Fire are a threat to Hell (Hades, see 20:14).
At the sixth bowl, all the kings of the earth gather to battle the Lamb on His throne. If you worship yourself, you’ve made yourself king and are the image of the beast. The kings gather on a mountain where people will weep as the ancients wept on the plain of Megiddo (Zech. 12:10). They gather at Mt. Calvary, on Mt. Zion, just outside the walls of Jerusalem. It is here that the Lamb is enthroned (John 12:31-33).
At the seventh bowl, a voice comes out of the temple and cries from the throne, “It is done.”
At the seventh bowl, the wrath of God is finished (15:1) and we enter the temple (15:8), according to John.
At the seventh bowl, the earth shakes, the city splits, the exalted are humbled and the humble are exalted, and as the veil in the temple rips from the top to the bottom, Jesus lifts His head and cries, “It is finished” and delivers up His Spirit.
His Body broken is the veil ripped in the temple (Hebrews 10:20).
We enter God’s rest through the wounds of Christ.
His blood, shed, is the River of Life.
It flows from His wounds and throughout His Body, as vessels of wrath become vessels of mercy—vessels of blood, blood vessels.
He once showed me that my wounds were His wounds.
A body is joined at the wounds.
Don’t hide your wounds.
What would I be without my wounds?
I would be nothing but a beast, consuming life and creating death.
I would be nothing but a tired old harlot, trying to purchase love, and having no clue
as to what it is.
Read books about Love, sing songs of Love, and know that your Father is taking you on a journey on which you’ll be wounded.
It’s not a threat; it’s the revelation of how you are made in the image of God.
It’s the revelation of Jesus.
Surrender your wounds, then bless those wounds, and soon you will see that they have been transformed into glory—the Glory of God (Rev. 21:11).
*Sermon discussion questions are available here: Discussion Questions “Seven Wounds and One Blessing”