Breaking the Rules
So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia. Revelation 14:19-20
When I drive, I routinely speed, setting my cruise for 5 mph over the speed limit. Everyone does it. Law enforcement seems to allow it. I’ve gotten away with it for years. So, when I saw the flashing lights in my rearview mirror the other day, I was a little surprised. Really? I’m not going that fast. This is just the normal amount of rule-breaking, right? Why are you pulling me over? As it turned out, I hadn’t been paying attention to my speed or the speed limit. The officer kindly informed me of my transgression. I had no argument. I’d actually been going 15 mph over. I was wrong. Frankly, I deserved a ticket. There are rules and I’d broken them. As much as it surprised me, I’d earned the consequences.
I’ve done this in other areas of life as well. In my addiction, I gradually came to accept behavior that now just seems absurd. Using my medical license to get pills for myself? Sure. That’s normal. I knew other physicians who occasionally wrote antibiotic prescriptions for their own family members, so I told myself it wasn’t that great of a leap to prescribe opioids for myself. At first, it was guilt-inducing, but after a few times, it simply became normal behavior. Then, when my judgment day arrived and everyone saw what I’d done, my conscience was resurrected as I could clearly see how awful my behavior had become. I was guilty. I had no excuse. Frankly, I deserved the horrible consequences.
We’re prone to this kind of gradual acceptance of evil. Yes, we believe in God, and we intend to live right, but everyone does it, right? We’ve gotten away with sin for so long that often, we forget how much God hates our rebellion. In today’s passage, we’re reminded that one day, God will say, “Enough”. On that day, his wrath will be poured out against evil. Not accidentally, John describes this as occurring in the same place where God once poured out his wrath on Christ upon the cross. This is, of course, our only salvation from God’s slow but terrible justice. Our only escape from God’s judgment is to place our faith in Christ so that we may be forgiven and seen by him as righteous. Only through faith in Christ can we be made clean before God so that we may one day escape his terrifying anger.