First, Carson opens the chapter by considering why talk about the wrath of God tends to make people so uncomfortable. In our culture according to Carson, “…it is hard to think about this topic because anger is often connected in the public mind with intolerance, narrow-mindedness, and bigotry”. And yet, according to the “eternal gospel” in Revelation 14:6-7 the herald calls every nation, tribe, language and people to fear the God of all creation and give Him glory and worship for His judgment has come. And the impending doom of paganism (e.g., Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great) is that of a “society that’s been set free of God is its own worst enemy”:
“6 And I saw another angel flying in mid heaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; 7 and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”
Second, Carson considers how Revelation 4&5 unpack the gospel. According to Carson, revelation 4-5 unpacks for us what the gospel is. Chapter 4 reveals that God is the God of creation and the entire created order is dependent on Him to live move and have its being. Chapter 5 reveals God’s purpose for judgment and blessing and only the Lion, who is the Lamb, can open the seals.
Third, Carson looks at the meaning of two agricultural metaphors found in Revelation 14:14-20. The grain and the treading of the wine press are teaching about the final judgment.
“14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.
17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. 18 Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.”19 So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. 20 And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.”
Grain Harvest means that a set time is coming when the harvest will happen, and there’s no escaping it. It speaks of the goal of history, and end in sight, where time will be no more after the final judgment.
The Treading of the Wine Press means to emphasize the violent thoroughness of God’s wrath when it is finally poured out. This imagery is horrific—it’s about the trampled blood of people by God’s thorough wrath.
Fourth, Carson addresses the issue of manipulation when we talk about hell. Many have charged that talking about hell is manipulative. Carson rightly emphasizes that it’s not manipulative if it’s true. After all, Jesus spoke of hell more than any other person in the Bible and he warned people of impending doom (Mt. 10:28). However, if it were a lie, then it would be manipulative and the charge would be warranted. But, if it’s true, to not sound the alarm is vicious, cruel, and unloving. Jesus warned people, we must also…but many times we have not. That’s troubling!
When we preach about hell we want to be faithful to Christ’s attitude about it, not betray Him. Moreover, we who have been pardoned by the sovereign grace of God through the Son were once under God s wrath. We’re no better than any other person. We are beggars/prisoners who know where to find bread, and who have received pardon. Plain and simple!