Something to Think About

Mercy and Judgment

Ezekiel 32:1–33:33; Revelation 16:1–21; Job 37:9–15

“God is judge,” we like to say—especially when someone is struggling with injustice. When we get to the book of Revelation, though, we might struggle to understand God’s judgment. Yet even as John describes God dispensing judgment, he emphasizes God’s righteousness and loving nature. He tells us we should not forget that God is a righteous judge.

The Bible is unapologetic and straightforward when speaking about God’s judgment. This is especially true in Revelation. Here the judgment God exacts echoes the plagues that He sent on Pharaoh and Egypt in the book of Exodus—blood, darkness, fiery hail, and locusts. Although Pharaoh was given multiple opportunities to obey God’s request, he still chose his own way. By turning the bodies of water into blood, God spoke what Pharaoh should have realized: “By this you will know that I am Yahweh” (Exod 7:17).

Revelation 16 pronounces God righteous not in spite of His judgment, but because of it (Rev 16:5). We might be tempted to question God’s judgment, but Revelation shows us that His judgment displays His righteousness. Revelation also shows God’s love for and protection of the saints—that His judgment is vengeance for their blood (Rev 16:6).

Those who receive judgment in Revelation express fierce opposition to God in their blasphemy. They rebel even to the end: “And people were burned up by the great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has the authority over these plagues, and they did not repent to give him glory” (Rev 16:9). When other judgments come, the responses are the same (see also Rev 16:11, 21). Nothing hints at repentance.

God’s judgment is not arbitrary, and His willingness to show mercy is great. Throughout the Bible, we hear about His longsuffering nature and His mercy that extends to a thousand generations. When we speak of His judgment, we should not diminish His mercy. We should speak carefully about God as a righteous judge, but we should balance and outweigh these statements by speaking of His longsuffering nature and incredible love.

How do you carefully weigh words about God’s judgment?

Rebecca Van Noord