Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Revelation 16, The Full Wrath of God is Delivered

In this chapter, John watches seven chosen angels pour out the seven last bowls of judgment filled with the full wrath of God onto the earth during the last half of Tribulation.

v.1 "Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, 'Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.' "

This marks the beginning of what will be the most horrific period in the history of man. Regarding this time, Jesus said, “For then will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt.24:21). Other prophets call it the “day of the Lord”; when God’s wrath and fierce anger come as destruction, with darkness and gloominess, causing devastation, desolation, and distress upon men.
"Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it" (Isa.13:9).

"Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is at hand: it shall come as destruction from the Almighty…a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness…" (Joel 1:15; 2:2).

“That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and alarm against the fortified cities and against the high towers. I will bring distress upon men, and they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord; their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like refuse” (Zeph.1:15-17).
As we read the judgments, pay close attention to the striking resemblance many bear to those God imposed on Egypt in the deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Pharaoh (Ex.8-11). Moreover, not unlike those judgments in Egypt, which broke an oppressive kingdom and delivered Israel from slavery, by these judgments the kingdom of Satan will be destroyed; Satan himself will be immobilized; and the nation of Israel will once again be delivered from bondage forever. “For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance,” Isaiah says, “the year of recompense for the cause of Zion” (Isa.34:8).

Also, keep in mind that the period covered by these plagues is three and a half years. So I would assume at least some of the judgments evolve in intensity during that time and therefore don’t reach their absolute and deadliest worst until the end, just before the Coming of Christ.

v.2 "So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast, and those who worshiped his image."

This "first judgment" is appropriately poured upon the earth, which is the kingdom of Satan.

As a result, those who had taken the mark of the beast and worshiped his image, break out in a “foul and loathsome” sore. But this is no mere skin blemish; the thought conveyed is a “diseased and malignant” sore that is both highly repulsive and agonizingly painful to those who are afflicted by it. The cause is unknown, though one commentator speculates that the sore could be the result of a lithium leak from the computer chip implanted under ones skin, and another, that it might be form of cancer resulting from the fourth judgment upon the sun (vs. 8-9).

v.3 "Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature in the sea died."

This "second judgment" is poured out upon the sea.

As a result, the oceans become blood, in turn killing every fish, mammal, and organism in every ocean in the world. This will not only contribute to famine, but considering the valuable food chain that the oceans supply, will undoubtedly have a devastating impact on the world's economy as well.

v.4 "Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood."

This "third judgment" is poured out upon the rivers and springs.

This causes all the fresh water both above and below ground to become blood; thereby eliminating the presence of all drinking water, and further reducing the availability of food generally provided by fresh water lakes and streams.

v.5-7 "And I heard the angel of the waters saying: 'You are righteous, O Lord, the One who is and who was and who is to be, because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due.' And I heard another from the altar saying, 'Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.' "

This is heaven’s reassurance that God’s judgments are purposeful and just.

Note how incessantly ready the angel is for them to finally occur and how genuinely righteous the angel acknowledges them to be, and who better, but an angel, could give testimony to such things. For angels know the whole story of man’s rebellion, and have remained astute witnesses to the bloodshed of God’s saints from the very beginning.

It’s unclear whether this “angel of the waters” is a specific angel whose duties might include charge over the waters, or the third angel whose bowl turned the waters to blood. As for the answering cry made from the altar, it would seem that that came from the souls of the Tribulation martyrs John saw earlier at the altar crying out for God to avenge them (Rev.6:9-11).

v.8-9 "Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God, who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory."

This "fourth judgment" is poured upon the sun.

This results in men being so severely scorched by fire and great heat that the prophet Malachi refers to it figuratively as an oven that will burn up the wicked like stubble (Mal.4:1).

The cause of this solar event is speculative. Some have suggested a super nova (a process at the end of a star’s life in which it becomes intensely brighter just before it burns out). Others see it as a dramatic depletion in the ozone layer resulting in extremely high levels of ultra violet rays.
Whatever its cause, the hearts of the people in these last days would have become so incurably wicked that even in their suffering, rather than repent, they only grow in their contempt for God. (see also—2Tim.3:13).

v.10-11 "Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. And they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and sores, and did not repent of their deeds."

This "fifth judgment" is poured out upon the throne of the beast himself, causing his kingdom to become absolute and utter darkness.

Any number of catastrophes, including a nuclear blast, forest fires, oil fires, or volcanic eruptions could explain the sudden darkness, and most certainly fits what the prophet Joel describes as pillars of smoke being the cause (Joel 2:30-31). But we don't know.

Nonetheless, for all the turmoil, chaotic despair, and gnawing pain these plagues are causing, the people are so dark spiritually and morally that they continue to blaspheme God and do not repent.
"For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people" (Isa.60:2)
v.12-15 "Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the kings from the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame."

This "sixth judgment" is poured out upon the Euphrates River.

This causes the river to dry up and in turn prepares “the way” for the kings from the east, or more literally “the kings of the rising sun.” Moreover, in concert with the elimination of the Euphrates, comes the release of three unclean spirits, who, through the performing of signs, awaken the kings of the earth to gather them for battle at Armageddon (see also—Rev.14:17-20).

It should be noted that the final divine promise Jesus makes regarding His Coming "Behold, I am coming as a thief" seems out of place in this passage, having nothing to do with the context before or after it. Moreover, its common use in Scripture regards the need for the Christian to be ready and watchful for the imminent return of Christ. At this point, however, the rapture is already past, so it's not directed to the Church. It's possible that it's a call for repentance to the unbelievers watching this event (check—Zep.2:1-3), or maybe God is engaging the believers alive in this world to prepare for it as He is doing today.

v.16 "And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon."

The word "Armageddon" is a compound of the two Hebrew words, “Har-megiddo”, which means “Mountain of Megiddo.” It lies to the west of Jordan about sixty-eight miles north of Jerusalem near the town of Nazareth in the vast plains of Esdraelon; a Greek modification of the name Jezreel, or “God sorrows,” an area roughly fourteen miles wide and twenty miles long.

Traditionally, the plains of Esdraelon have been a chosen place or encampment and popular battlefield throughout Israel’s history. Including wars against such mortal enemies as the Canaanites, Midianites, Philistines, and Egyptians; and under the command of such notables as Deborah (Judges 4:4-10; 5:19), Gideon (Judges 7:1-25), Saul (1Sam.31:1-3), and Josiah (2Chron.35:22).

Given its capability to be a bivouac area for sizable troops, along with Israel’s historical connection with it, Armageddon seems to explain why God has chosen it as the epicenter to defeat His enemies and those of His people once and for all.

v.17-21 "Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, 'It is done!' And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And great hail from heaven fell upon men, every hailstone about the weight of a talent. And men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great."

This "seventh judgment" is poured into the air, perhaps because the devil is “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph.2:2). It is the final outpouring of God’s great wrath, and brings to an end the tribulation judgments.

The words “It is done!” are clearly those of God because they are spoken from within the temple where God has remained alone during the judgments (see notes—Rev.15:8). It signifies that the mystery of God has finally been answered, the bowls of wrath have fully been poured, and His judgment work on earth is done.

As a result, there will be a great earthquake of such magnitude that the earth is said to be “violently broken…split open…shaken exceedingly” (Isa.24:19). By it, Jerusalem ("the great city") will divide into three parts, the remains of Babylon will be completely disposed of, cities will be toppled, and virtually every island and mountain range around the globe will be leveled.

Moreover, there will be “hailstones” or a “hail of stones” (the literal Greek meaning) weighing seventy-five pounds that will plummet from heaven “as fruit falling from a fig tree” (Isa.34:2-4) and virtually stone the wicked; as one commentator points out, an appropriate ending to the judgments considering that God has made blasphemy punishable by stoning (Lev.24:11-16).

There is one battle yet remaining. My opinion is that the horrific outcome of this outpouring causes man to make war against Christ Himself at His Second Coming (check—Rev.19:19), ultimately bringing to an end life on this planet as we know it.

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