Thursday, May 7, 2015

"The 7 Bowls = The Final Plagues" - Revelation 15:1-16:21

Hello friends!

Let the battle begin...

In the movie, Gladiator, the opening scene is of General Maximus, commander of the Roman Army (played by Russell Crowe), and his captain (Quintus) speaking as they prepare for battle. The captain says, "People should know when they're conquered."  Maximus replies, "Would you, Quintus?  Would I?"

Satan, the Antichrist and the False Prophet are as good as conquered, but evidently they just don't know.  They are beaten and God has won the victory, it's just that the Unholy Trinity will not stop.

In our continuing study of the Book of Revelation, God has been sending warning and opportunities for unbelievers on earth to repent.  Those warnings and opportunities come to an end and God now sends punishments on those who have rejected him.

These chapters (15 and 16) are interesting studies on God's sovereign and just right to judge.  I trust as you listen to the study, asking Holy Spirit for illumination and guidance, that you will embrace the love AND justice of God:  the love he has for his people and the justice imposed on those who have rejected Him.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments, as always.  And may God bless you as you take his Word seriously.  - Kirk McCormick

The Revelation
The 7 Bowls = The Final 7 Plagues

Revelation 15:1-16:21


·      We are just about ready to see the Final Judgment.
·      So far, God has –
o   Opened the 7 Seals to reveal the contents of the Scroll (i.e.: God’s last will and testament over the Creation)
o   The 7th Seal contained 7 Trumpets – each revealing more in-depth content of the Revelation
o   The 7th Trumpet, now being revealed, will have 7 Bowls (disclosed in Revelation 15 and 16), which contain the final and most gruesome content of God’s Final Judgment
·      As is usual in the pattern of Revelation, Chapters 15 and 16 give us a preview of the 7 Bowls with the subsequent chapters giving us the

Hebrews 10:29-31 – “How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?  For we know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Revelation 15:1-8 – A Synopsis of the Final Victory

Note: This passage is written as a finished deal –

“I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues - last, because with them God’s wrath is completed.” (v. 1)

Point: Though its completion is not fulfilled on Earth, God’s plan is as good as done, so it IS done. 

“Great [magnitude] and Marvelous [magnificence - incomparable]” (v. 3) = the description of God’s works…

…no work has ever been described like this before in the Revelation…this is the high mark of God’s activity

“Sea of Glass mixed with fire…” = the totality of God’s people refined by the fiery experiences of trial…specifically, the martyrs who overcame the oppression of the “Beast”

** Note:  The martyrs appear to have lost when they are killed by the Beast…but…

Barclay – “The martyrs died the most savage deaths — and yet they are said to have emerged victorious.”

Jesus said, “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)

“Song of Moses” = the song sung by Israel in response to the greatest deliverance (to that point) that God had provided his people as they escaped the perils of the Exodus

See Exodus 15:2-18

Note that the martyrs “song” is composed of quotes from the Scriptures:

“Great and wonderful are your deeds.”
How great are your works, O Lord! (Psalm 92:5);
Great are works of the Lord (Psalm 111:2);
he has done marvelous (wonderful) things (Psalm 98:1);
Wonderful are your works (Psalm 139:14).

“Just and true are your ways.”
The Lord is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings (Psalm 145:17).

“Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name?”
All the nations you have made shall come and bow down before you, O Lord; and shall glorify your name (Psalm 86:9).

“You alone are holy.”
There is no Holy One like the Lord (1 Samuel 2:2);
Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he! (Psalm 99:3);
Holy and awesome is his name (Psalm 111:9).
“All nations will come and worship before you.”
All the nations you have made shall come and bow down before you, O Lord (Psalm 86:9).

“Your righteous acts have been revealed.”
The Lord has made known his victory, he has revealed his vindication
in the sight of the nations (Psalm 98:2).

“Tabernacle of the Testimony” = a reference to the wilderness tabernacle where the Tablets (i.e.: 10 Commandments… or “Testimony”) were housed during the Exodus.

…this is imagery saying, “God is preparing to leave his eternal throne room to go to earth to fulfill the Final Judgment.”

“Seven angels with the seven plagues” = the agents of the final judgments from God

Note: The angels come out of God’s presence, but no one was able to “enter” his presence yet… i.e.: the merging of heaven and earth has not been completed.

Note 2: The angels are dressed in “clean, shining linen and word golden sashes around their chests.”

·      “Clean, shining linen” = purity…these angels were set apart for THIS distinctive task
o   …their task was given to them AT THAT MOMENT
o   see v. 7 – “One of the four living creatures [c.f. 4:7] gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God.”
o   Note: earlier (5:8), the Golden Bowls had held the prayers of the saints, asking for revenge of God…now they hold the judgment of God – (i.e.: God answered those prayers of the saints)
·      “Golden Sashes around their chests” = depicts the military nature of their task

“The Temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God…and no one could enter the temple…” =

·      “Smoke” clouds the view to the Almighty… God is not fully revealed until AFTER the Final Judgment happens.  It also prohibits anyone from entering.
·      This is the Biblical way of saying, “God is Sovereign…he needs no help or advice to judge the world.  Vengeance is his alone!”

** Interestingly, after Chapter 16, John has no further vision of what is going on in Heaven. This is likely because Jesus comes back to earth to judge evil and reestablish his Kingdom on Earth.

Revelation 21:3 – “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”

Revelation 16 – A Synopsis of the Final Judgment – The “Bowls”

Note: In the earlier plagues, these were given as warning signs to drive people to God. Now, these plagues are strictly for the purpose of punishment. The days/times of warning are over.

Bowl 1 (v. 2) – Sores on those who worship the Beast

·      These are the same malignant, boiling sores inflicted on Egypt during Moses’ crusade (c.f.: Exodus 9:8-11)
·      Pain inflicting, but not death causing
·      Note: They are given to those who have the Mark of the Beast…not God’s people.

Bowl 2 (v. 3) – The Seas are decimated…no more life

·      Again, reminiscent of the waters of the Nile turning into blood (c.f.:  Exodus 7:17-21)
·      Note: Earlier (8:8-9), one-third of this sea life was destroyed as a warning sign. Now there are no more warnings…only devastation
·      Purpose:  to kill every living creature – fish and vegetation, alike…so a major food source is destroyed.

Bowl 3 (vs. 4-7) – Fresh water is destroyed.

·      Earlier (8:10-11), one-third of the fresh water was destroyed.  Then the waters became “bitter”, but still drinkable. Now, they “became blood.”
·      People can last only a short time – only a few days – without water. 
·      Note: The angel “in charge of the waters” affirmed God’s right to judge in this way…not that God needs it, but people will often think, “Why does a loving God punish people?”  The answer:  Because he had given them warning after warning, yet they chose to worship a false god.
·      So this is a “just” punishment…after all, God is only doing to them what they have done to his people – See v. 6 – “for they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.
·      Note 2:  God is the one who “is and was”…but is no longer the one who “is to come” because “is to come” is NOW.

Bowl 4 (vs. 8-9) – Scorching Heat beats down on the Earth

·      Who knows how God will allow the sun to scorch the earth. It’s not like the sun has a thermostat…
·      …but perhaps there will be damage done to the ozone or magnetic field (which protect the earth from the sun’s radiation) from the earlier plagues (c.f.: 8:12 – the 4th Trumpet), enabling the sun’s energy/heat to radiate the earth’s surface, causing this scorching.
·      BTW…Some suppose this infers nuclear warfare
·      The Effect:  “They cursed the name of God” – again…no repentance because they were so committed to the Beast/Antichrist, and subsequently, Satan.

Transitional Note: To this point, the first four plagues are directed on the people following the Beast/Antichrist. The next two (Bowls 5 and 6) are directed on Satan directly.

Bowl 5 (v. 10-11) – Curses on the Kingdom of the Beast

·      Now God attacks the Antichrist, himself…making this a personal battle between the Antichrist (the Beast) and Satan (the Dragon).
·      This is reminiscent of Moses causing darkness to cover Egypt (c.f.: Exodus 9:8-11)
·      Joel 2:1-2 – “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand -  2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come.”
·      This judgment only drives the unbelievers into deeper disrespect of God. They curse God and “gnawed their tongues in agony.”
·      J.B. Phillips – “The crescendo of hurt brings a crescendo of hate, and in a thousand tongues and dialects, men lift up their voices to heaven in one long shrieking blasphemy and curse. The Beast, the wonderful Beast they have exalted and extolled, will be powerless to help, for now his throne is under attack from on high, and he knows it full well.”

Bowl 6 (v. 12-16) – The Demonic is unleashed to torture all of Creation

·      With the Beast proven to be a fraud, the powers of Evil shift into full destruction mode.
·      “Euphrates” = a symbol of the life of Babylon – the symbolic kingdom of Satan/Evil.  Attacking the “Euphrates” = cutting off the life-line of the Evil kingdom.
·      The Result:  all of the Evil spirits are loosed to do what they do – conspire against The Almighty God of Heaven…
o   …they conspire by rallying the nations of the “WHOLE” world against God.
·      “Armageddon” (Hebrew:  Har = “Valley”/“Plain” plus Meggido the city/fortress of defense for the entire country of Israel…as Megiddo goes, so goes Israel) – the Gathering Place of the nations/kings against God in the final battle
o   In ancient times Megiddo was an important city-state.
o   It was situated at the crossroads of two important trade routes. 
o   One route traveled north-south…from Megiddo through the Jordan Valley to Jerusalem.
o   Excavations have unearthed 26 layers of ruins, indicating a long period of settlement.  It was inhabited as early as 7000BC.
o   Megiddo is strategically located at the head of a pass through the Carmel Ridge overlooking the Jezreel Valley from the west.  If an king/army controlled Megiddo, they controlled the entire northern region of Israel.

Point: So here we have the Unholy Trinity (Dragon, Beast, False Prophet) conspiring with the kings/nations of the earth (who owe the Unholy Trinity their success, thus their allegiance) to fight the inevitable fight against the Almighty.

Note:  Verse 15 – The Interlude of Assurance and Hope from Jesus

“Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.”

** Why the interlude?  It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Don’t worry when you see the masses of evil forming against you. I’ll be there to protect you and defeat them fully.”

Bowl 7 (v. 17-21) – God comes back with His Vengeance

·      Here’s what we need to hear:  “It is done” (v. 17)… the Unholy Alliance can do what they want, but to no avail… “It is DONE!”
·      God unleashes all the power of Heaven and Nature to defeat all the power of Evil

v. 18 – “Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake.”

·      Note:  According to Ezekiel (Chapters 40-48), this battle takes place in Jerusalem.  Meggido is only the staging/gathering place of the armies. From there they travel to Jerusalem to make their last stand in “God’s City”.
·      And then comes the Final Judgment as “Babylon” (we’ll discuss this later) feels the FULL power of God’s wrath and judgment - v. 19b – “God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath.”

Recap: So Revelation 15 and 16 are only a synopsis of the Final Judgment of God – which will be revealed in more detail in the next few chapters.

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