Perhaps it's just part of the irreparable fissure between guys and gals. The other night, my wife Melody and I were sitting on our living room couch and I, remote in hand, was doing what any self-respecting, red-blooded American male would be doing at a time like this. I was channel surfing. Now, truth be told, I actually don't do a lot of channel surfing. I usually only flip back and forth between two types of channels: news channels and sports channels. But on this particular day, the news was all Michael Jackson, a story which by this point had tired me, and the sports channels were saturated with Major League Baseball games which, although okay, are not merely as captivating to me as NBA or College Football games. Thus, in a quest for something interesting to watch, I ran the whole gamut of TV channels when I stumbled across the Discovery Health channel.
I'm still not sure what kind of surgery it was on the Discovery Health channel, but whatever it was, it was really cool. Scalpels, scissors, stitches, and lots of blood. Immediately I became transfixed. "Wow! That's amazing," I declared. Melody, however, was not so awed by the gruesome sight. "Yuck!" she exclaimed. "I don't want to watch this. Turn the channel! Turn the channel!"
As I said, perhaps it's just part of the irreparable fissure between guys and gals. Show me blood and I find it fascinating and interesting. Show my wife blood, however, and she turns away her head in disgust and disdain.
With that in mind, I suppose it's really not surprising that the book of Revelation was written by a guy. For this apocalyptic narrative certainly has its share of blood. And today's reading from Revelation 14 is no exception.
In what is yet another vision of God's judgment of the world on the Last Day, John sees an angel executing divine wrath on those who do not believe in Christ. This angel is commanded:
"Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth's vine, because its grapes are ripe." The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God's wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses' bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia. (verses 18-20)
On the Last Day, the enemies of God are trampled by God's sickle of wrath. Such a punishment is fitting since, prior to their final judgment, they wickedly trampled on the saints of God (cf. Revelation 11:2). But now their judgment has come and now their blood will flow, rising as high as a horse's bridle, approximately 5 feet high, and flowing a distance of 1,600 stadia, approximately the length of Palestine from north to south. Now that's a lot of blood! Even with my affinity for surgery shows on the Discovery Health channel, I'm not so sure this is a sight I want to see. And it most definitely a judgment of which I don't want to be a part.
Why would John paint such a gruesome picture of the Last Day and God's judgment? To serve as a warning for those who do not trust in Christ for their salvation. It is especially interesting to note the location of where this judgment takes place: "outside the city" (verse 20). With a touch of poetic irony, this turns out to be the same place where blood once flowed from a Savior named Jesus: "And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood" (Hebrews 13:12). The question that John is prompting us to ask, then, is, "Whose blood do we want to flow outside the city? Jesus' blood for the forgiveness of our sins or our own blood at our impending destruction?" Sadly, many people, rather than relying on Jesus' blood, prefer to give their own blood as recompense for their sins. But for those of us who trust in Christ, this need not be the case. Our blood need not flow. For Jesus' blood has already flowed for us.
As much as I might like to watch doctors operate on others on the Discovery Health channel, I dread the notion of being operated on myself. I'm happy to watch other people's blood, just not my own. Thankfully, for my salvation, I will never have to watch my own blood flow. For I have seen the blood flow from my Savior on the cross for my forgiveness. And that's the only blood I need. And that's the only blood you need too.