September 14, 2023

Revelation: Suffering, Judgment, and the Call to Endure

Revelation 6-8 takes us into the heart of a profound and often challenging aspect of the Bible. These chapters introduce us to the seven seals that contain divine judgment, and in doing so, they raise fundamental questions about God.

In this episode, Whit and Casey explore how we endure in the face of suffering, God’s mercy, and living with faithful confidence

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These are hard chapters that stir up two of the biggest objections people have about God. Why does He judge? Why does He allow suffering? These are deep theological questions that have stirred debate and contemplation for centuries.

Endurance in the Face of Suffering

A lot of people either believe that God is glorified when we suffer, or that there is no point to suffering.

However, the New Testament offers a lot of clues that neither of these views represent the truth about God and suffering.

Hebrews 10: 35-39 says,

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

God is not glorified in our suffering. He is, however, glorified in our endurance. God is pleased when, despite our circumstances, we remain faithful and committed to Him.

Isn’t that what you would want in any relationship? Think of marriage vows. Couples don’t stand on the altar and commit to be faithful when it’s easy. They vow that for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, they will remain faithful and committed to one another.

This is the same covenant commitment God desires. It’s in these seasons of trial that love is truly tested and strengthened.

Journeying Alongside Eternity

Understanding suffering in light of eternity is another key theme we see throughout the Bible, and particularly in the New Testament (1 Peter, James, many of Paul’s letters). Rather than merely seeking a life of comfort and pleasure, we are called to embrace eternal reward over earthly comfort.

In essence, the Christian journey is not a path toward eternity; it is a journey alongside it. It’s about having faith in a different reality, knowing that our current experiences are not all there is. It’s this faithful confidence that gives us the strength to endure

Why would God Judge?

We like the loving and forgiving verses about God but struggle with the verses about judgment. But what is the opposite of love? Not hate but indifference. God’s judgment proves that He is not indifferent to human suffering or evil.

In his book Exclusion and Embrace, Miroslav Volf argues that the Western ideas of wrath and judgment are often limited:

My thesis that the practice of nonviolence requires a belief in divine vengeance will be unpopular with many Christians, especially theologians in the West. To the person who is inclined to dismiss it, I suggest imagining that you are delivering a lecture in a war zone (which is where a paper that underlies this chapter was originally delivered). Among your listeners are people whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit. The topic of the lecture: a Christian attitude toward violence. The thesis: we should not retaliate since God is perfect noncoercive love. Soon you would discover that it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence corresponds to God’s refusal to judge. In a scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die. And as one watches it die, one will do well to reflect about many other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind.

Maybe instead of asking why does God judge, we should ask, why wouldn’t God judge? A God who didn’t deal with the evil and suffering in the world would not be a God worthy of worship.

A Call to Repentance

Revelation does not shy away from the harsh realities of life. It’s a warning to turn and repent. God does not desire to pour out His wrath on us; it already got poured out on Jesus.  But Revelation presents a sobering reality: despite the chaos and suffering, people often refuse to repent.

They follow the pattern set by Adam and Eve, avoiding self-confrontation. Yet, it’s those who are willing to face their capacity for sin who can find endurance through Christ. To endure, we must first admit our own weakness and dependence on God.

In the midst of suffering, we can either hide from God or hide in Him. The latter is the safest place we can be.

Living with Faithful Confidence

While we may face trials and tribulations, knowing that God will ultimately deal with the brokenness and evil in the world gives us the confidence to endure. We might still experience fear and anxiety, but our faith guides us through life’s challenges. God’s plan includes the removal of sin’s destructive nature, and He is actively working to unite heaven and earth.

In the end, the call is to remain faithful to the Lord regardless of our circumstances. The faithful confidence we have is in the promise is that the reward for our faithfulness far surpasses anything we can imagine. As C.S. Lewis beautifully articulated in The Great Divorce, heaven will one day overshadow our earthly suffering:

Both good and evil, when they are full grown, become retrospective. . . . Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.


Show notes:

Listen to the message: Put Your Prayers in a Bowl


Check out another episode on seasons of suffering:

Purpose to Pain: How God Works All Things for Good


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