Last night at our church's Bible study on the Book of Romans, we talked for a long time about the idea of God's wrath.
Today when I got into my car, I found on my seat a torn page from an old devotional--it must have fallen out of my Bible last night, though insofar as I can remember, I neither opened my Bible to that page nor dropped my Bible (my Bible is stuffed with many articles, cartoons, etc. that I have found spiritually useful). This is what the page says:
"Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one seated on the throne and from the wrath of the lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" Rev. 6:1-17
Yes, God forgives all sin. But he also requires holiness. The wrath of God isn't anger; it is active love. It changes things. So, in the great day when he comes he cleanses those he loves. And that cleansing is not without pain and suffering. We rely on our character defects to defend us in a hostile world. We use slander and dishonesty, and murder each other through character assasination to make our way through the world. When the bridegrooom comes, he removes our defenses, he purifies our minds and souls, he makes us like him, completely, wholly trusting in God's love.
The four horsemen of the apocalypse are not released all at once; they are released gradually. The cleansing doesn't happen instantly--it is a process. Layer by layer the dross is removed and the gold is refined.
God, keep me aware, as I am awake to Christ's coming, that growing into Christ's stature requires purification, and that willingness to be purified through the fire of his love is his invitation to us.
Come, Lord Jesus.
"Among the elders a lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered..." Rev. 5: 6-14
Here is another image of Jesus in Revelation. This image isn't the powerful one of blazing eyes and burnished feet, but this image is also the image of Christ; and if we are truly his, it is our own image as well. As we grow into the full stature of Christ, the slain lamb must also be who we are.
The slain lamb needs nothing, not even to defend himself. The slain lamb is the one who forgives the offenses of others through its defenselessness. The slain lamb never accuses. The lamb never condemns. The lamb covers the multitude of sin with love. In the eyes of the lamb, there is no sin.
God, make me into the image of the lamb, grow me into the full stature of your Christ; give me grace through the power of his love to forgive sin in my neighbors, that I may receive forgiveness for my own sins.
Come, Lord Jesus.