The final message of Jesus in Revelation has caused much heart searching for believers in every generation. Its wonderful visions of an ultimate age of perfection and glory are balanced by the awesome series of woes beforehand. The last 1,900 years bear testimony to the judgements that were predicted – but so many crises have been the results of man’s folly and blindness toward God.

For many today it is hard to relate to the woes and disasters which many chapters describe. For one thing they are portrayed in largely symbolic language, for another, nearly all the present generation have not experienced fearful times of crisis. Our TV screens have been making them real, but the trouble is, so much of it is fiction, it does not seem real. Added to this, computer war games have de-sensitized many to the horrors of it all.

A few of our generation can remember being huddled into shelters with schoolmates because of flying bombs, and seeing gangs of workers under guard because they were ‘prisoners of war’. We heard the urgent noise of anti-aircraft guns across the road trying to shoot down enemy planes. We know that weapons of mass destruction exist – and there are powerful rockets able to deliver them, but it’s a threat we have become used to. After the collapse of Communism, everything seemed rather good, but it has not lasted!

Today’s political instability and disharmony between nations, with an impotent [dis]United Nations unable to do anything other than talk, is worrying to some; but unless it affects them personally most people ignore what is happening.

We read today in Revelation, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth” (8:13), and the people who suffer that “woe” are “those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads” (9:4). But those who do have that seal “are before the throne of God … for the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (7:15,17). When to real day of “woe” arrives will you possess “the seal of God”? Jesus said, “… be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44).