Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Dec 25 2020 - Revelation 16:1-21 – Blessed is he who stays awake

Here we have another chapter that it full of terrible pictures of judgment. They are pictures of judgment poured out upon the evil kingdom of the beast (Revelation 16:10). They are judgments that recall the plagues visited on Egypt which secured the liberation of God’s enslaved people. They are judgments which echo the threats against the Roman Empire from nations and armies to the East that were all too real when John wrote this extraordinary book (16:12).

These judgments are working up to a last battle at Armageddon when the powers of this world will face their final showdown with God Almighty (16:16,14)

God is righteous and just (see 16:5-7). If we are angered by a world marked by greed, oppression, injustice, pain and the lust for power, do we not think that God is angered far more? He sees all that it done in this world. He hears the cry of those who suffer from hunger and war. He hears the cry of the homeless, the refugee, the widow and the orphan. He hears the cries of those who watch their children die. God is not unmoved by these things. The day is coming when he will judge the world in righteousness and put all things to rights. God is coming and he calls us to stay clothed and awake as we look for and long for that day: “Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed” (16:15)

It is the early hours of Christmas morning and I am awake before the dawn. In the darkness and quiet of this night, my thoughts turn to the shepherds near Bethlehem on the night the Saviour was born. They were out in the countryside keeping an eye on their sheep. Perhaps they dozed with one ear attentive to the sounds of the night. Maybe they took it in turns to sleep while at least one kept awake, alert and watching. Whatever the case, they remained clothed and ready for action; alert to whatever the night might bring. It was to them that the news of the Saviour's birth was first announced by angels. The Saviour of the world had arrived "like a thief in the night" – unseen and unnoticed by many. Their whole concern had been for the welfare of their sheep yet they left their flock at the mercy of the night and hurried to Bethlehem that they might see the Lamb of God who had come to take away the sin of the world.

It was those who were alert in the watches of the night who were the first to witness the arrival of the Messiah. This verse in Revelation calls us also to remain always alert, clothed and ready for action; we do not know at what day or hour the Lord may appear. Peter, recalling how the Israelites were told to remain clothed and ready to move on that first Passover night, urges us to “gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13 New King James Version).

When the Lord to human eyes
shall bestride our narrow skies,
not the child of humble birth,
not the carpenter of earth,
not the man by all denied,
not the victim crucified,
but the God who died to save,
but the victor of the grave,
he it is to whom I fall,
Jesus Christ my all in all -
he it is to whom I fall,
Jesus Christ my all in all. (Timothy Dudley-Smith)

Lord, keep me watching, keep me waiting, keep me praying, keep me working for the coming of your kingdom when pain and injustice shall be no more.

Peter Misselbrook