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THE FOURTH BOWL OF GOD'S WRATH

 

 

Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory. Revelation 16:8–9

 

 

The first three bowls of wrath were poured out on misconceptions of the church.  The fourth bowl of wrath is poured out on the fundamental basis upon which Jesus built His church.

We now find the everlasting gospel poured out on the sun, which we have learned is the New Testament. Is God angry with the New Testament? No, His judgment is poured out on mankind’s misuse of the New Testament to promote his own causes and further his own religious will. The New Testament is a book that, when not used under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, people can selectively interpret and form their own doctrines to support their particular prejudices. It is in this sense that much of what professes to be the church has actually lost sight of what the gospel is and what it does in the lives of people. As misconceptions in the church are proliferated, it now becomes necessary for the Holy Spirit to intervene through this bowl of wrath and call people back to the everlasting gospel without holding back.

As the everlasting gospel is clarified, God’s called ministry uses that clarified gospel to scorch men with the fire God used to clarify the gospel for them. The word scorch appears several times in the New Testament under its various forms. The first appearance is in the parable of the four kinds of ground Jesus taught in Matthew 13:3–8 and Mark 4:3–8. Jesus said some people are like stony ground; they are shallow and lack commitment to the gospel.

They at first receive the gospel with joy. This is because they have been troubled by guilt and they hear of the possibility of forgiveness. They then make an emotional response to the idea of God’s forgiveness; perhaps they even confess their sins and ask God to forgive them. But there is no real repentance in their begging forgiveness; they imagine they are pardoned and from that they have some temporary peace and joy. Jesus says they have no root in themselves. Their sense of pardon is really wishful thinking. Because there was no repentance, the new birth did not take place in their lives and they did not receive the Holy Spirit of God. They have no real love for Jesus—they see Him more as a good buddy than a Savior to be served and obeyed. Because there was no real moral and spiritual change, their moral compass is still set on the flesh and is drawn to the flesh and sin. The sun scorches them because in the inevitable time of temptation they have no moral and spiritual strength to resist it and they give in and return to sinning.

The object of this fourth bowl of God’s wrath is the church that allows and expects this to be the standard for salvation under the gospel.

 

What is the gospel about?

 

The angel that appeared to Joseph in the book of Matthew introduces the gospel with the conception of Jesus. He assures Joseph that the conception is an act of the Holy Spirit so that the babe born of Mary is truly God incarnate. He tells Joseph the son to be born to her is to be called Jesus. The name Jesus is significant because it is the same word as Savior. Barnes emphasizes the significance of the name and the angel’s statement that

 

 He shall save. This expresses the same as the name, and on this account the name was given to him. He saves men by having died to redeem them; by giving the Spirit to renew them, (John 16:7, 8) by his power in enabling them to overcome their spiritual enemies, in defending them from danger, in guiding them in the path of duty, in sustaining them in trials and in death; and he will raise them up at the last day, and exalt them to a world of purity and love.

 

In Matthew 1:21 the angel says that Jesus “will save His people from their sins.” Barnes drives the point home in unmistakable words:

 

This is the great business of Jesus in coming and dying. It is not to save men in their sins, but from their sins. Sinners could not be happy in heaven. It would be a place of wretchedness to the guilty. The design of Jesus was, therefore, to save from sin; 1. by dying to make an atonement; and, 2. by renewing the heart, and purifying the soul, and preparing his people for a pure and holy heaven.

 

Barnes, who was a Presbyterian minister in the mid-nineteenth century, goes on to say that we learn three things from this declaration:

 

That Jesus had a design in coming into the world—he came to save his people—and that design will surely be accomplished. It is impossible that in any part of it he should fail. We have no evidence that we are his people, unless we are saved from the power and dominion of sin. A mere profession of being his people will not answer. Unless we give up our sins; unless we renounce the pride, pomp, and pleasure of the world, and all our lusts and crimes, we have no evidence that we are the children of God. It is impossible that we should be Christians if we indulge in sin, and live in the practice of any known iniquity. That all professing Christians should feel that there is no salvation unless it is from sin, and that they can never be admitted to a holy heaven hereafter, unless they are made pure, by the blood of Jesus, here.

 

What Barnes wrote here most certainly is this bowl of God’s wrath that scorches with great heat. Very few ministers would dare to preach any one of these three points to their people, let alone all three of them.

John the Baptizer picks up on the saving work of Jesus when Jesus came to be baptized. He declares in John 1:29, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” As the Lamb of God Jesus bears the sins of the world by living a human life and dying on the cross to make atonement for the sin of all mankind.

Does the salvation Jesus made possible take away our sins ,or does it only purchase forgiveness of our sins? The Apostle John answers this question in 1 John 1:7, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” One wonderful truth we learn from this statement is that there is no sin, no matter how wicked or despicable that cannot be forgiven and cleansed from the sinner’s record.

A second truth is the truth of justification; that having repented and placed faith in the atonement in Christ, a person’s record of past sins is abolished and he stands before God as if he had never sinned. Among modern fundamentalists it is believed that the cleansing from all sin includes not only past sins, but present sins and all future sins. It is held that at the moment a person is saved all his future sins are covered by the blood of Christ. It is inevitable that people will continue to sin and those sins are covered by the blood of Christ before they are committed. A person should ask forgiveness as he commits a sin, but if he does not, the sin is still forgiven and under the blood of Christ.

Let’s ask our nineteenth century Presbyterian minister friend, Albert Barnes, to comment on the cleansing from all sin. “His [Christ’s] religion requires that all his friends should resemble him by their walking in the light.” Does continual sinning sound like bearing a resemblance to Christ? “Provision was made in his religion for cleansing the soul from sin, and making it like God. No system of religion intended for man could be adapted to his condition which did not contain this provision.” Does what Barnes wrote or what the Bible says resemble the modern gospel in any way?

There are more scriptures we could read that speak of the cleansing and keeping power of the gospel. Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:15–16, “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’” All this because we are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ. (Verse 19)

The apostle Paul puts the heat of the sun in this bowl of God’s wrath in Galatians 1:8–9, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” It is common in Scripture to repeat a statement to emphasize its importance. Paul emphasizes the magnitude of redemption in his words to Titus in Titus 2:14 Jesus Christ, “who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”

The gospel of the modern church is more about accepting people in their present condition than changing their moral and spiritual nature. The modern gospels are more about making people happy than making people holy. The modern gospel loves Jesus while still embracing sin. The modern gospel offers people forgiveness of their sins but no hope for victory over sin until they get to heaven. If there is no hope of victory over temptation and sin in this life, there is no incentive to live a holy life.

The modern gospel gives a Christian only two options: Do the best you can, or don’t even try. If you believe in Jesus you are “OK” and on your way to heaven regardless of how you live. If you are a Christian, the only impact your continued sinning has is to lessen your reward in heaven—but you will still go there.

Many professed Christians comfortable with their sinning religion will reject the everlasting gospel when it tells them of the deliverance FROM sin. That in no way implies that Christians cannot sin; we are all under the possibility of doing so if we do not follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We do not HAVE to sin; we can be kept from sinning if we will follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Who would not want that?

But rejecting the everlasting gospel has a consequence. 1 Timothy 4:1–2, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.” Departing from the faith does not necessarily mean they quit being Christians, it means they do not embrace the faith of the everlasting gospel and choose a gospel that is a lie.

The expression seared with a hot iron comes from the same root word as scorch in the scripture of the fourth bowl of wrath. Continual rejection of the everlasting gospel will sear the conscience. With a seared conscience a person will not repent of his continual sinning; to a degree, he feels he has a license to sin, although he may not call it such.

Sinning Christianity desecrates the blood of Christ and contradicts the everlasting gospel. In this sense, sinning Christianity blasphemes the name of God who has power over these plagues.