Today’s Reading: Revelation 6
Located in Washington DC is the iconic memorial to Thomas Jefferson. And written on the northeast portico of the memorial are these sobering and haunting words our country needs to read and digest again from one of our founding fathers: “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
Wow, that is sobering. God’s justice will always be turned loose against sin.
The best definition of sin I have ever read is from John Piper:
“[Sin] is the glory of God not honored, the holiness of God not reverenced, the greatness of God not admired, the power of God not praised, the truth of God not sought, the wisdom of God not esteemed, the beauty of God not treasured, the goodness of God not savored, the faithfulness of God not trusted, the promises of God not believed, the commandments of God not obeyed, the justice of God not respected, the wrath of God not feared, the grace of God not cherished, the presence of God not prized, the person of God not loved.”
God’s justice will judge sin. The problem is that, from our standpoint, it takes too long. Whenever we see sin and injustice, we want immediate recompense. The living asks for it, and in today’s chapter, we have another group asking for it. In Revelation 6 we hear the cry of the dead, but not just the dead—those who have died for their faith in Jesus. Listen to the cry of the martyrs when the Lamb broke the fifth seal, and we hear their hallowed voices:
“When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” (Revelation 6:9-10)
Many believe early church father Tertullian said these famous words, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” He argued that persecution actually strengthens the church; as martyrs bravely and willingly die for their faith, onlookers convert. In Christianity Today, Morgan Lee goes on to say:
“Some 1,800 years later, restrictions on religion are stronger than ever. According to the Pew Research Center, 74 percent of the world’s population live in a country where social hostilities involving religion are high, and 64 percent live where government restrictions on religion are high. Does this explain why Christianity is likewise growing worldwide?”
The Revelation 6 martyr’s question is our question: “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” That is the question for the living and the dead. When is God going to put things right? When is God going to judge those who rightly deserve judgment?
Here is what I have learned about God and immediate judgment. First, God is patient. God is willing to wait. Second, God is willing to be misunderstood in delay. While men cry for “now,” God sees the bigger picture as more important than answering our immediate cry. And third, there will be a day when God will make everything right; it just may not be the day on your calendar.
So God is patient. God can handle mischaracterization about Himself while He delays. And God will have the final word.
The book of 2 Peter gives such a great perspective to the “how long?” question the martyrs of Revelation 6 asked. The context of the answer is that people want Jesus to return quickly. They want that final judgment day to happen to show the mockers and skeptics that God is real and that they are going to get what’s coming to them. But Peter explains God’s reason for the delay: “His’ delay’ simply reveals his loving patience toward you, because he does not want any to perish but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, TPT). The Message says it like this, “He’s giving everyone space and time to change.”
When we and the martyrs ask how long or why the delay in receiving justice, God wants us to understand that He is giving everyone space and time to change. God is willing to wait through mischaracterization, accusation, and our exhaustion, and even death to bring as many people to heaven as He can. And I believe He is waiting on those who caused the injustice and the deaths.
Don’t mistake God’s patience for His absence. Patience is not the absence of action but the wisdom of knowing the right time to act. Thank You, God, for being patient not only with me but with all of humanity.