As we ponder the symbolic language of our Lord Jesus in his final message – the revelation given through his beloved disciple John – we are struck by the different ways God has punished those who have no time for Him, often after a long period of grace looking to find in them a change of heart.

There are two classes of people who suffer punishment. First, those who claim to worship him, but are insincere or false in their service. It can be said that they try to have the best of both worlds. Second, there are those who have no time for God at all, especially those who have convinced themselves there is no God, no creator – that all that exists is the result of an incredible series of ‘accidents’ over endless ages.

There is, of course, a small third group, those who are faithful, but who suffer at the hands of others. Some of them become martyrs (Revelation 6:9).

Through the ages God has brought plagues upon both classes of people, such as the plagues in Egypt in the days of Moses. The Egyptians had a memory of the blessings that the leadership of Joseph had brought to their nation! But human memories of good things always fade away or are taken for granted. Is not this the spirit in the world today?

As we read Revelation 9 with its pictures of destruction and reflect on its probable application to particular events through the ages we come to the final verses which say, “The rest of mankind … did not repent of the works of their hands … nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts”. Any sense of repentance these days for disregarding God’s laws has more or less vanished. These words are a warning to our generation.

Jesus read from Isaiah in the synagogue; he found the place where it was written (61:1,2) that his work would be “to proclaim the year (time) of the LORD’s favour”. Then he stopped, but the next words of the scroll are “and the day of vengeance of our God” – and the world faces that ‘day’ now, for his return must be near.

Finally, the world has reached the predicted time (Matthew 24:14) when people of all nations can read God’s word and see its challenge to believe in the gospel – and its warnings of coming divine punishment on a godless world. Tomorrow we will read of both the tragedy – and the triumph – that come with the opening of the final seal.