Jesus Wins! – Part 29: Seven Bowls     

//Jesus Wins! – Part 29: Seven Bowls     

Jesus Wins! – Part 29: Seven Bowls     

Rev. 16

16 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.”

So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.

The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea.

The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say,

“Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments. 6 For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!” And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!”

The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.

10 The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish 11 and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.

12 The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. 13 And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. 14 For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. 15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) 16 And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

17 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. 19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. 20 And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. 21 And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe. [1]

Without God’s holiness, there could be no wrath. Without wrath, there would be no Calvary. Without Calvary we would have no refuge from God’s justice. Without wrath poured out upon the Lamb, there would be no proof God loves his people. That, in a nutshell, is what we are learning from chapters 15 and 16. Chapter 16 focuses us upon the character of God’s judgement and his just right to punish all worship of ANYTHING other than himself.[2]

But, maybe like me, you have had a hard week and you came today hoping for some comfort and renewal. Yet, we are in a text that deals with God’s wrath and judgment upon the world and the devil. This probably isn’t a passage I would take into a hospital room. I wouldn’t likely read it at a funeral. But there IS comfort here when we consider the wrath of God is proof of the love of God. How can I know such a wrathful God loves me when I receive devastating, heartbreaking news? How can I know a wrathful God cares for me when I am hurting deeply? What can make the truly HARD better? Only the good news that Christ Jesus drained the cup of with bitter wine of the wrath of God for us so that we may enter his perfect Promised Land. That alone is how a wrathful God proves his love in a broken world of hurts:

In this is THE love, not that we have been loving God, but that He Himself loved us and sent out his Son as the propitiation for our sins.[3]

So, as we examine God’s just and true wrath, know that your comfort is in the love of God who poured out his wrath upon his unique Son for you, if indeed you are trusting into Christ as your exodus. Paul said:

If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?[4]

When we last saw the plagues of Egypt being poured out upon the world in the trumpet judgments of chapters 8 through 11. Israel’s exodus from Egypt becomes the frame of reference throughout the bible for people to understand how God saves them. It is a prominent theme in the Psalms. As we saw last week, Luke writes of Jesus cross work and resurrection as an exodus (Lk. 9:31), a fitting connection to Christ as the Passover Lamb.

The trumpets depicted the plagues as limited in scope to function as both warnings of the final trumpet of the last judgment and to harden the hearts of the earth-dwellers. Now we see this new camera angle of the events of judgment and discover God is ratcheting up the pain leading up to a final battle with the devil and his demonically-led hordes of earth-dwellers.

This final fight is known as the Battle of Armageddon. But it does not involve the modern nation of Israel and it does not take place on the Palestinian plains of Megiddo. This is a picture of the final battle between the dragon and the Lamb in which the dragon is defeated and cast into the lake of fire. Some see the seven bowls as a separate series of judgments from the seals and the trumpets since they are more intense. That is possible, but not important to the picture John paints.

John is showing what will happen to the earth and the earth-dwellers when Jesus Christ comes again at the end of the age, to judge the world, raise the dead and make all things new. No one or nothing will escape. By the time the bowl judgments have been poured out, God’s wrath against sin and unbelief will be complete.

Chapter 15 served as a literary bridge between chapters 12-14 (with its picture of the church, the dragon, his beasts, and the Lamb) and these seven bowls of wrath here in chapter 16. All these cycles of judgment – the bowls, the trumpets, and the seals, are pictured from the vantage point of God’s heavenly throne. The repeated point is that God’s will is being done in all things.

FIVE BOWLS

The vision begins, “Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, ‘Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.’[5] The voice coming out from the temple shows that everything about to take place has been ordered by God. As in the seal and trumpet judgments, this pictures the moment when the saints under the altar who have been crying out to see God vindicate himself are answered. God is now going to cleanse the earth of all its idols, idol-worshippers, the devil, and his demons. God will bring the world to its end, establish the new heavens and new earth and lead his people into the new and true Jerusalem to receive their promised inheritance.

Can you see how John makes a point in verses 2 and following that God’s wrath is a worship issue? “So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.[6] You receive according to what you worship. The tattoos of slavery to the devil’s worldly powers bring boils. This color in the painting comes from the sixth plague upon Egypt in Exodus 9:8-12. The magicians of Egypt could not protect against God’s plague. The devil and his minions cannot protect the earth-dwellers from God’s wrath for they are not sealed into Christ but bear the mark of imperfect, idolatrous man – 666, the unholy trinity of the devil, his sea beast, and the false prophet.

The second bowl, in verse 3, turns the sea entirely to blood, like its corresponding Egyptian plague. In the second trumpet judgment, only a third of the creatures were killed. Now, everything dies. The sea is the domain of the dragon and his beast. The dragon is powerless to preserve it against God’s wrath. In the new earth (Rev. 21:1), there will be no more sea – no more realm of the dragon and his beast, no place for chaos because the lord of chaos has been thrown into the lake of fire.

In verse 4 John writes, “The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood.[7] God had turned all of Egypt’s water to blood. Water in the desert was life. In the third bowl, God is destroying the very sources of life upon which the earth-dwellers depend. He is repaying blood for blood. Verse 5 records an angel’s song of God’s just judgments. It echoes Deuteronomy 32:4,

He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. [8]

God’s judgments are altogether righteous.Those who have shed the blood of the saints, will now be forced to drink their own blood–an apocalyptic symbol of how God’s just punishment perfectly fits the crime, as seen in Isaiah 49:26, where the prophet declares concerning God’s judgment:

I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh; they will be drunk on their own blood, as with wine. Then all mankind will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. [9]

Seeing the righteous nature of this judgment, we read the heavenly response from the suffering saints in verse 7, “And I heard the altar saying, ‘Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!’[10] God will avenge his suffering servants, and heaven resounds with praise to God, when the day of final retribution comes, news of great comfort to a suffering and persecuted church.

In the fourth trumpet, the sun, moon, and stars were dimmed. In the fourth bowl, God turns up the sun’s heat to scorch the earth-dwellers who worship mother earth and the astrological signs, and “the universe.” Still, as all that the earth-dwellers worship and depend upon turns against them and the dragon and the beasts are powerless to help, the people still refuse to repent and worship God.

That the idolaters are scorched is a direct contrast to God’s promise to his people in 7:16, “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.[11] God’s people are protected from his wrath, while those who serve the dragon curse God, refuse to repent or give God glory, despite the ferocity of his judgment. So deep are the effects of sin upon the human heart, so thoroughly have the beast and the false prophets deceived the world’s inhabitants that they curse their creator even while his judgment is being poured out upon them. Verse 8 says, “they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.[12]

The fifth bowl, in verses 10-11, echoes Egypt’s ninth plague of darkness. The earth-dwellers, covered in boils as Job once was, have been scorched by the sun. Now they cannot drive away the darkness. Government cannot find a solution. Culture has no answers. The devil, who “disguises himself as an angel of light[13] cannot bring back what God has removed. Do you see God’s judgment here? EVERYTHING Christ-rejecting mankind trusts into for their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness is completely out of their control. They know it. They HATE it. They “gnawed their tongues in anguish 11 and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.[14]

ARMAGEDDON (16:12-16)

In verse 12, John shifts our focus from plagues of judgment to the final battle in which God crushes all his enemies. This is the Battel of Armageddon. This scene is another camera angle of the battle described in Revelation 9:13-15 where the sixth trumpet unleashed a demonically-driven cavalry of 200 million soldiers to kill a third of humanity. In Old Testament Israel’s day, Babylon and Assyria were east of the Euphrates. In John’s day, it was the eastern geographical border of the Roman Empire. To John’s readers, the river was the edge of civilization.

In the sixth bowl, verses 12-16, God dries up the Euphrates so there is no hinderance to the demon-driven armies. The six bowl pictures a ginormous escalation of the conflict. Both Isaiah and Jeremiah speak of the Euphrates’ barrier being removed as a judgment. It exposed Israel’s Babylon to their enemies’ attacks. Isaiah 41-46 tells of an invading army led by Cyrus, king of Persia, who defeats the Babylonians so that Israel is freed to return to her home in Palestine. Isaiah 44:26-28, foretells that Cyrus liberates Israel from her Babylonian captivity after God dries up the streams of Babylon (the Euphrates, the Tigris), so that the Persians can invade and defeat her. Jeremiah announces that God’s judgment will come upon Babylon when God brings a drought which dries up her waters. Therefore, the removal of the barrier allows the agents of judgment to enter and destroy the great city of man.

God drying waters to bring judgment was a feature of Israel’s crossing the Red Sea and the destruction of Egypt’s army. God dried up the Jordan for Israel to enter the promised land. God symbolically dries up the Euphrates to prepare the way for his slaughter of the earth-dwellers. The enemies of God’s people rush across the dry Euphrates and assemble to destroy the true Israel of God. But they find instead, not the helpless people of God, but God present in all his wrath ready to pour out the final bowl of judgment – the seventh seal, the seventh trumpet, the great winepress of the wrath of God.

God comes upon them like a thief. He sneaks up on them and pounces. How can he sneak up on them when he has poured out so many obvious bowls of judgment already and they have been cursing him over the judgment they KNOW is from him? God surprises them because he and they have hardened their hearts. When you are your own god, you assume you’re invincible – until you’re not. Paul warned, “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.[15] Peter wrote:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.[16]

The “day of the Lord” of which Peter warned, of which the prophets sang, is depicted by John as, “the great day of God the Almighty” (verse 14) in which the demonically-led “kings of the whole world” are deceived by the devil who leads them to their own slaughter. Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 warn: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.[17] The devil has received the worship of the earth-dwellers, but he has no loyalty to them. Whatever and whomever you worship other than God in Christ Jesus WILL kill you. The seductive ways of the whore of Babylon (that we will see in chapters 17 and 18) bring destruction.

This battle has often been said to take place in a literal location in Palestine called Megiddo. But Zechariah 12 and 14 say the final battle will take place in Jerusalem where God’s holy mountain and holy temple stand. That jives with Revelation 14 where we saw the triumphant Jesus standing on the heavenly Mt Zion with his saints. Har-Megedon means “the mount of gathering/assembly” – the mount of the temple.

What is much more likely than an actual war with tanks, plains, locust-like attack helicopters, drones, and armies of Russia and/or China lined up against the modern-day nation of Israel is that all of Satan’s powers gather to destroy the assembly of God, God’s people, the true Israel, the citizens of the Jerusalem that is above. This is apocalyptic imagery, not a future news article. We will see this same final judgment again with additional detail from a slightly different camera angle in Revelation 19:19-21 when the devil and the beasts are thrown into the lake of fire. We will see it again in 20:9-10 when Satan surrounds the City of God to destroy it and fires of judgment destroy his army and he is thrown into the lake of fire.

Repeatedly, Revelation explains to God’s people that Satan and his demonic forces are real, they are dangerous, they are ready to pounce upon God’s people who dabble in worshipping their own wants and demands instead of Jesus. The devil and his vast army of fallen angels hate God, they hate the earth-dwellers who bear God’s image, and they deeply hate those sealed into Christ.

No government can save us from the just and true wrath of God against sin. Culture, art, history, philosophy, science, and economics cannot save us from the just and true wrath of God against sin. Only the resurrected and ascended Messiah Jesus – by his sin-free life, his perfect worship of the Father, and his wrath-absorbing sacrificial death that completely and eternally pays for the sins of his people – can save us from the just and true wrath of a holy God and deliver us into the new and true Promised Land. Jesus is our only means of exodus from wrath and entrance into his glorious kingdom. That’s what he meant when he called himself the door:

Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd.[18]

Flee to Jesus. Worship God alone in Christ Jesus. Come and find pasture.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. [19]

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 16:1–21.

[2] The majority of this sermon can be found more expertly presented here: Kim Riddlebarger, A Place Called Armageddon (Revelation 16). http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/downloadable-sermons-on-the-bo/A%20Place%20Called%20Armageddon%20edited%2023.pdf

 

[3] 1 John 4:10. Translation mine.

[4] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Ro 8:31–32.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 16:1.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 16:2.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 16:4.

[8] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Dt 32:4.

[9] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Is 49:26.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 16:7.

[11] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Re 7:16.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 16:9.

[13] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Co 11:14.

[14] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 16:10–11.

[15] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), 1 Th 5:2–3.

[16] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), 2 Pe 3:10.

[17] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Prov 14:12.

[18] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 10:7–11.

[19] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 22:17.

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