The Wrath of the Lamb (T.F. Torrance on Revelation 16)

 Revelation 16:1-17

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.” So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea. The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, “Just are you, O Holy One,  who is and who was, for you brought these judgments. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!” And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!” The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory. The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds. The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty…And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!”

(The following sermon excerpt comes from T.F. Torrance, 1959. The Apocalypse Today. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, pp.106-9. Artwork by Chris Koelle, The Book of Revelation)


Let us take care to note that these angels are clothed in pure and white linen, and have their breasts girded with golden girdles. This means that the wrath which they are about to pour out upon the earth is a pure and sinless wrath, priestly in its function and golden in its integrity, quite unlike the wrath of man…Moreover it is a judgment that proceeds out of the innermost part of the Temple, out of the Holy of Holies which enshrines God’s Testimony, His inviolable Word. But let us not forget that the Commandments of God in that Holy of Holies are all covered with the tender mercy of God…Once a year on the great Day of Atonement, the High Priest, girded much as these angels were, offered sacrifice and slipped through the veil that screened the inner shrine from public view…With confession of sin and the pleading of sacrifice the High Priest received the atonement and brought word back to the waiting congregation. “It is finished! It is done! God has judged the sin and forgiven His people!”…

So it is at Calvary. There we see the sacrifice of the Lamb who was also the High Priest. The veil is torn in twain from the top to the bottom, and the Mediator enters through the thick darkness of the world’s guilt and God’s holy judgment, into the heart of the mystery and makes atonement. We hear the triumphant voice: “It is finished! Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” but we cannot fathom the awful depth of the suffering behind those dread words: “…My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken me?”…But here we do see something of the horror of great darkness that pressed with such crushing weight upon the Spirit of our Lord in the garden of Gethsemane, and of the bitterness of the cup which He drank to the very dregs, being made a curse for us. As vial after vial of wrath is poured out upon the earth, the sea, and the air in sevenfold fulness until at last there comes a great voice out of the Holy of Holies, and from the Throne of mercy, saying, “It is done!” – surely it is intended that we should understand in all that something of the unmitigated darkness and agony of Golgotha. If God must at last pour out such wrath upon inveterate and defiant godlessness, it is a wrath at the cost of infinite agony to Himself. It is His voice that John hears from the throne of mercy, and it is at His bidding that these pure angels pour out their vials upon the earth…

One after another the whole kingdom of the beast is smitten with divine judgment, until at last the whole trinity of hideous wickedness – the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet – is roused from its lair to gather the forces of the wide world to do battle against God Almighty. That is an organization of forces on a universal scale in which all that is anti-God reaches out to its limit of arrogant defiance…But it shall never be! The meek and gentle Jesus, the Lamb of God, shall come forth to Armageddon as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, for the purpose of His love shall not fail. The voice that went up in exultant suffering from Calvary shall ring out again in final triumph over all: “It is finished!” And He shall reign for ever and ever, the King of kings and Lord of lords.