John saw and heard firsthand the grand finale, day of antichrist, the end of the age, the culmination of all that was prophesied. This chronicle should be read slowly and repeatedly. For John, these visions were quite a contrast to his surroundings in exile. How he must have been encouraged and humbled!
Action in the book of Revelation is both awesome and dynamic, for God is the master at giving us tremendous mental imagery. Put yourself in the front row of an IMAX screen watching fantastic visual effects of the most exciting scenes of all Star Wars movies with sequences of continuous animation. The huge difference between IMAX images and reading chapters 14-18 is that the Bible is absolutely true. God knows the future, and as He did with creation, He has purposefully envisioned these scenes and knows them to be as true as if they have already occurred. People today try to predict the weather, the stock market, and who will win sporting events, but God already knows the future in exacting detail.
Jesus often used word pictures. The patriotic song “O Beautiful,” written by Katherine Lee Bates in 1895, uses many word pictures. “Amber waves of grain” is colorful mental imagery which describes wheat fields that are ripe and blowing in the wind. The book of Revelation utilizes vivid conceptual descriptors such as sickles being thrust, bowls and vials of judgment being poured out, and extreme darkness, to depict drastic and severe retribution. People will chew their tongues in anguish. There is a time in the middle of most severe scenes where men and women will know who is judging and will curse Him instead of repenting and recognizing Almighty God for Who He is (16:9 and 21). (Compare the attitude of Cain in Genesis 4:9.) Men in both passages realize they are dealing with God, the Creator of everything, yet they are unwilling to submit themselves to His sovereign authority, and they suffer the tragic consequences. People will choose sides, and many will be eternally sorry for the decision they made.
Judgment is coming. God is longsuffering, but God also has wrath toward sin. The wrath of God is poured out on the earth in these chapters in a way that never has been and never will be again. At the conclusion of any good book or movie, the activities increase, and the plot thickens. The fervency and intensity of action is fierce. If we could hear background music, it would be eerie, then loud and bombastic. This is the climax of the age. There are fantastic scenes of great deliverance and great punishment. The book transitions often from visions of imagery to concrete, literal statements. It is not a hodgepodge of clips but unfolds in mathematical order. After two beasts have been identified in chapter 13, the victorious Lamb is spotlighted in chapter 14. Thunderous sounds occur from heaven. There is heavenly music from heavenly musicians. There are vivid, colorful descriptions of many different characters. Winners and losers are distinguished. Angels are used as servants and messengers. An angel pronounces judgment upon Babylon, the place where the tower of Babel originated, and also refers to the apostate religious and political world system headed up by the Beast. Those in authority will profoundly bemoan the destruction of Babylon. There is a warning not to take the mark of the Beast, which shows allegiance to him, because to take the mark is a death sentence.
The reading of this book is a blessing (see 1:3) and should encourage us to praise and worship God who planned this and informs us about it. The Revelation should sober us, as well as embolden, rally, and stimulate those who know the Lord to live in a manner that is well-pleasing to Him. It should persuade us to tell our friends and neighbors about His love and their need for the Savior so they too can enjoy His blessings and avoid coming judgment. As I imagine faces of people I know reaping the judgments in chapter 16, I am prompted to live a testimony and share my faith, hoping that God will use me to save some before the judgment. May Jesus Christ be praised!