I’ve been reading in the Book of Revelation. I’ve been quite affected by the imagery of God as recorded by the Apostle John. We find God seated on a throne covered in radiant color and glory, surrounded by myriads of myriads of angels and elders and other living creatures, falling before Him in worship. They tell us He is holy, holy, holy. They cast their crowns down before Him. They sing His praises night and day. This is a picture many of us hold closely in our hearts. But there’s more.
Revelation also gives us this:
From the throne came flashes of lightening, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire… (4:5)
The creatures in heaven speak with voices like trumpets and thunder. By God’s command they call out horses and riders who bring judgment to the earth: war, famine and death. They kill with sword, pestilence and wild beasts. They bring earthquakes and gales; every mountain is moved and the sky is rolled up like a scroll. By God’s will the trumpets are blown and the earth is showered with hail and fire mixed with blood. Stars fall from heaven like blazing torches; an eagle flies overhead calling, “Woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth…”
Another angel flies overhead proclaiming “an eternal gospel.” He says,
Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come, and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water. (14:6-7)
Yet another angel warns that those who don’t fear God and give Him glory (i.e., those who align themselves with the enemy of God),
…will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of His anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night…” (14:11)
What rich and frightening imagery. Picture this scene and realize that God, in the midst of it all, is not dwarfed or obscured by these magnificent creatures and mighty events. He remains the overpowering Presence and focus of both heaven and earth.
I think most of us like to think about God in a far less fearsome way. We cling to His tenderness, His mercy, His image as Abba, Father. We say, “God is love; God is forgiving.” This is true, of course. But we tend to emphasize these attributes of God and ignore His awesome power and His inherent wrath.
If we truly recognized God in His fulness, if we understood not only His love but also His judgment, we might understand what it means to fear God. If we truly feared God, who would dare to speak lightly or carelessly about Him?
Consider this from an LDS man who occasionally emails me:
The real reason that faithful Latter-day Saints cannot accept Evangelical-Protestant beliefs is simple, because your god is a LOSER…. For you, the choice is heaven or hell and either choice you make is made from fear and ignorance. Ultimately, this means that your god is a SADDEST and a LOSER.Obviously, faithful Latter-day Saints do not share your same dismal view of deity. I think it’s truly a shame that you don’t have a more clearer description of your Creator and the Plan Of Salvation.
As for Latter-day Saints, our LOVING God came to seek and save that which is LOST. For us, this just happens to include EVERYONE.
This man seems to cling to certain attributes of God while neglecting others. If we truly feared God, who would dare to mock Him?
Consider these words spoken by Joseph Smith about the biblical God worshiped by Christians:
Many men say there is one God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are only one God. I say that is a strange God anyhow — three in one, and one in three! It is a curious organization. …All are to be crammed into one God, according to sectarianism. It would make the biggest God in all the world. He would be a wonderfully big God — he would be a giant or a monster. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 372)
I combat the errors of the ages; I meet the violence of mobs; I cope with illegal proceedings from executive authority; I cut the Gordian knot of powers, and I solve mathematical problems of universities, with truth — diamond truth; and God is my ‘right hand man.’ (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 6:78, emphasis retained from the original)
I tremble to think of “the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of His anger.”
A poem by Stephen Crane comes to mind:
A Spirit SpedA spirit sped
Through spaces of night;
And as he sped, he called,
He went through valleys
Of black death-slime,
From crevice and cavern
“God! God! God!”
Fleetly into the plains of space
He went, ever calling,
Eventually, then, he screamed,
Mad in denial,
“Ah, there is no God!”
A swift hand,
A sword from the sky,
And he was dead.
The Book of Revelation reveals our fearsome God, a hater of sin and idolatry, a dispenser of fierce and righteous judgment. Yet at the same time He is our Rescuer and Redeemer who says,
Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (21:3-4)
As John ended his recording of the Revelation, he cried out in joyful anticipation, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” I’m ready for that day. Are you?