Blessed Is He Who Stays Awake
Key Verse 16:15
“Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.”
The bowl judgments are God’s final and complete judgments on the earth. Here we can actually say “the end has come”. According to verse 17, a voice from the throne says: “It is done!” So far in the book of Revelation the prophecies tell us that the “time is near”. But no longer! Now the prophesy tells us that we have come to the end time and of all things, such that the time is finally “here”. In this chapter we witness the last of the judgments and they are final. As some say it is
also the end of great tribulation period where nothing but suffering has been inflicted so far on the earth and its wayward people. Whatever previous judgments there had been, they had been terrible but incomplete. They had been incomplete because God still wanted to show mercy. It is amazing how many times God’s judgments had been dealt with a small window of relief. Generally people hear about God’s judgment without even flinching because all prophesies seem almost vague and distant. It is as if people’s minds are numbed to the impending danger— as if the danger looming over the earth and its people is not real enough to grasp. But God still left a window of mercy for those who would reconsider. Like a door to safety that must be shut at any moment yet still being held ajar in case anyone should come to their senses before it closes completely before the final destruction comes. In great mercy God still held hope for those who were cut off from God to realize the price they would have to pay if they were to die without God, outside of him. With great mercy, God hoping that they would turn their hearts away from the world and run to Christ the Savior who stands at the door and is bidding them to come away from he destruction into the safety of his grace and mercy. It had been like this with the last judgments— incomplete judgments with a door of mercy still open. But not any more! Chapter 16 tells of the end, for it has come. The door is closed for good. It breaks our heart to witness what awaits the world in the end. Like the times of Noah, when the Ark door was sealed, and the floods came, no one was able to escape that judgment. In this chapter, we see the outpouring of the bowls of judgment on the earth. They tell of what is expected to happen, perhaps so that people who read the words of the prophesy yesterday, today and every day until its fulfillment may reconsider where they are going in life, for we are still living in the age of grace. Our key verse gives us an anchor to hold to while we read the words of the prophecy and take shelter in its words.
In a generation of tolerance— a generation that tolerates anything and everything because according to general consensus, we are living in the age of enlightenment where God is near dead and humanity has never been so alive and free— in this age of tolerance, we fear that the Biblical warnings about the righteousness of God and his awesome justice and intolerance to sin are taken but lightly. In this age of openness and freedom, we fear that a more popular teaching that God is a kindly grandfather who cannot possibly discipline nor judge anyone is a teaching that prevails over all others. But the children of God must not be fooled by the general and popular consensus. God’s children must adhere to the truth of the Bible which teaches us that God is a loving God but he is also a righteous and just God, and that his words are absolute and final— such that when God warns us against life, or lifestyle, sin or practice, we should not interpret in our own way but humbly accept his teachings upon which he has founded the universe and the earth, and upon which we build our very lives. What I am saying is that we must heed the warnings God gives us and learn to live within their boundaries.
Look at verses 1-4. The judgments are poured out on the land and on the sea, on the rivers and the springs. The judgments described here are terrible and real judgments— not some bed time story with a moral to consider. The judgments described here are so severe and final that somehow an explanation seems to be expected— to give just cause or reason for the severity of these judgments. So if we look at verses 5-7, we see that an angel finds it necessary to speak and to testifies to God’s righteousness and justice in dealing these judgments. In other words, heavens wants to confirm that these judgments were not at all overly sever, nor randomly dealt, not given without good reason. The angel testifies that God is just in his judgments. Actually in dealing these final judgments, God is avenging his saints and prophets who have been tortured and killed by the people of the earth.
When we look at the way things are happening in the world, there seems to be no justice, or justice seems to be lacking. Moreover evil seems to prevail and prosper while all that is good seem to be silenced. But not from God’s perspective, it is not! The author of Revelation wants to teach us an old but solid and true lesson. He wants to teach us that God’s justice exists today in all things, and will also prevail in the end. It is never easy to watch evil prosper while good is continuously being snuffed out right before our very eyes. It is not easy to continue living by the standard of the gospel, turning the other cheek while those who strike the cheek go on doing well without any seeming consequence to what they do. It is not easy to walk the narrow path, and enter through the narrow door, while everyone else around us is walking the broad way and entering through the wide door. Living by the gospel teaching in modern times 2000 years after the gospel was written also seems ridiculous. The world is changing, and standards are evolving, and morality is taking a back seat while unnatural freedoms and the practice of such freedoms is growing. In an ever changing world, to remain faithful to the outdated teachings of the gospel is difficult to do. Furthermore, there seems to be no tangible reward for living by the gospel way of life. In fact some rewards seem to be very unpleasant. Christians living by the teachings of Jesus, often experience alienation from the world around them. We sacrifice and no one seems to notice the pains we go through as we sacrifice. When we lose things for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of those we love in Jesus, we are often expected to lose some more. Where is the justice in giving of oneself and in return receiving criticism or contempt! In the end times, the Bible tells us that what we suffer now is small compared to what his people will suffer then— when much violence will be dealt to them for the sake of his name.
In the previous chapters not a few times the prophesy tells that this calls for “patient endurance” from the saints. And God knows how difficult it is to endure and to be patient in living in a world that does not recognize nor appreciate the Christian— a world that hates Christians— a world in which we are asked to teach our children that instead of fending for themselves to rather pray for their enemies, and bless those who curse them! how difficult to teach them to be gentle and loving, prayerful and kind hearted! God knows how hard it is to live in a world where we work hard for the Lord and his gospel and in return find that we have nothing we can leave our children ad our loved ones except debts and stale bread. God knows that it is hard for us to not wonder why we should not follow the example of worldly churches who seem to prosper even more and more while they give priority to personal luxuries and comforts for them and their loved ones, while all the time giving their leftovers to the gospel and its need in the world. “Why can’t we be like them” is a question on the hearts of many, why can’t we simply worship God on Sunday and then live normal lives like the rest of Christendom during the weekdays— a life without sacrifice without commitment! Certainly those who are living such lives seem well enough— as good Christians as any! In all these things God knows how difficult it is for his children to be patient and to endure. How and why must we? We must because our lives do not belong to us but to him, and he has called us to give our lives as living sacrifices to his gospel and its work in the world. We must remember such words as: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” (Mtt 19:29-30) We must remember such words as: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ ‘Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mtt 25: 5-40) We must never forget that our duty before the living God is to sacrifice and to give, to lose on his behalf, to trust his word, and to put our faith in him— to forgive, and to give to the needs of others, and the Lord himself will reward us in the end. And God help those who have abused us and given us grief because we have taught the life of sacrifice and self denial and have dared to pass it on to our children as well. It is good therefore to be patient and to endure, for that is what the Lord would expect of us. And it is not necessary that any of us receive justice here and now, nor should we doubt the Lord and his justice when evil continues to prosper while the good continues to be trampled on. All heaven testifies that the day will come when all of God’s justice will be fulfilled in time.
The angel in charge of the water who witnessed such great devastation to the world testifies that God is just, that his judgment is just, that God’s own time has come for justice to be given to those who have waited for justice all their lives without fail. Not only the angel in charge of the water testifies to God’s justice, but look at verse 7— the altar itself responded to the testimony of the angel with affirmation that God is true and just and so are his judgments. We must burn these words on our hearts so that we may not be discouraged as we live gospel lives, without expectation, ready for anything, and let God himself be the judge for those who cannot appreciate what the Christian does and would hinder him or her as they live their lives before God.
Look at verses 8-9. The judgment in verse 8 was poured out on the sun. And when the judgment came, how did the people respond? They cursed God. It is remarkable that they cursed God “who had control over these plagues”. These words lend insight into people’s inner thoughts and the beliefs of their hearts. In spite of what they may have said on the outside, it seems that these people think differently on the inside. Those who cursed God for their sufferings, knew things for certain. First, they knew that the plagues were from God. Remarkably they knew that the plagues were no accident or a result of nature gone mad. But they knew that the plagues were the handiwork of God. Second, they also knew that the plagues were the judgment of God as a result of their sinful lives. These truths are remarkable and mind boggling. In the final analysis people do believe in God. They do believe that God is directly involved in the world and its affairs. And they know when judgment from God is upon them! When we read this particular revelation in verse 8 regarding the suffering of those who are scorched by the sun as a direct result of God’s judgment, we also realize that people have not changed all that much from the beginning of time until today, even until the day this prophesy will be fulfilled. It seems that people share the same rebellion against God and an aversion for honoring God and serving his purpose. It seems that in any given generation, they live their lives in direct rebellion against God, and when they suffer as a result of their sins, they curse God for their suffering. That hasn’t changed much at all. People like to sin. They know they will suffer the consequences of sin when they do sin. Yet they keep on sinning. And when they finally suffer on account of their sins, what do they do? They blame God for their suffering and curse his name. We must still pray for them, because as long as they know these truths, there is hope they would turn to God in their suffering and call on his name.
Look at verses 10-11. As much as God punishes the world for its sins, and as much as God holds each man or woman accountable for their own sins such that each man or woman must bear the consequences of his or her own sins, so God also judges those who cause the world to sin as well. In this case, God holds the antichrist and his godless world system to blame. In his teachings Jesus once had said: “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two
eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” (Matthew 18:7-9) The reality of hell is true as true as the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening. And so the day must come when all the
warnings about hell and will come true. Men hearts will be sifted like sand, and those who have warred against sin and received redemption through the blood of the Lamb will be spared hell.
But those who have enjoyed sin without thought to their influence on other men and the damage they have caused to others, will not be spared! They will be escorted to the gates of Hades where
they will gnaw their tongues in eternal darkness. They were held accountable for the sins they committed and for their refusal to come to the Christ for deliverance. According to verses 10-11,
God will also hold the Antichrist— that ungodly system that facilitated the pleasures of sin in the world and made an environment for sin to grow and to prosper— he will hold them to account.
God will rain his wrath on the mighty antichrist and his system, and plunge that godless world into eternal darkness. As for us we must be careful not to cause even one little one to sin. We
must live such lives as to bring others to the throne of God’s grace while there still is a time of grace.
Look at verses 12-21. It is the picture of the end. Where God will pour his bowl of wrath on the Euphrates river and dry it up so that he may gather all the kings of the earth together to cross the dry river and advance on the holy city to make war with it. This is the famous day of Armageddon— a day when the world would band together and march on the holy city in order to wage war on God. Demons will lead this army of unrepentant sinful people from around the
world as they band together to stand against the Holy God. But the prophesy tells us that the will be destroyed right there. Look at verse l7. Just at the time that the world thinks it will finally remove God from the world, God from his temple will pour his wrath on them. As he says, “It is done!” It is finished. And it will be finished.
Let us read our key verse, 15. “Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.” What a glorious blessing to be given to those who are in Christ Jesus, for all Christians of all time who labor for the Lord and whose hope rests on him. The book of Revelation has 7 such blessings— 7 beatitudes, one of which is this: “Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him.” When Jesus will finally come, he will come like a thief, but to his people. For his people he will come and they will know it as the Apostle Paul tells us. He comes as a thief to those who are not watching and not clothed properly in Jesus’ own righteousness. For those who are not watching, nor wearing the garments that will mark his people as faithful, for them, Jesus is like a thief. People do not like thieves. They never welcome them into their homes. They shut them out. Likewise, they had shut Jesus out and had not welcomed him into their hearts and homes. For this reason his coming will be a surprise. He will come like a thief and will bring his judgment on the earth. What about us? There is this glorious blessing that we should be always watching, always dressed with Jesus and his words. Paul says it best when he exhorts the Thessalonians to watch out for that day. He tells them these words, which we will do well to heed. ”Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11) God bless you.