Sunday, September 7, 2014

REVELATION 16: 1-21 “ THE SEVEN LAST PLAGUES “

REVIEW :
Chapters 12-14  included the  picture of the  woman (Israel), the dragon (Satan), the first  beast (the anti- christ), the  second beast or the false prophet (who promotes worship of the anti—christ), the 144,000 (the church), the three angels who announce God’s judgment to the world, and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who stands triumphantly in the midst of His people on  Mount Zion. It is the time of the second coming , beginning with the final  judgement  and the great  harvest. Revelation 15  serves  as the introduction to  chapter  16, the “7 bowl  judgments  or 7 plagues “ which are associated with that final harvest – the great wine press of the wrath of God (14:19). Revelation 15:1 indicates  that with these  seven  plagues  the  wrath of  God is  completed. It  will be  the end of the world as we know it.
We have seen that the   Revelation to John  consists of a series  of cycles of judgment  that  come with ever increasing intensity , beginning with the  first cycle, the  seal  judgments (Rev. 6:1-8:1)  bringing  death and destruction upon one  quarter  (25 %)  of the earth’s  people.  The second cycle  of judgment, the trumpet judgments  (Rev. 8:1 -11:19)  is even more intense than the seal judgments , bringing  death  and destruction to one third  (33%) of the earth’s  people.  The bowl judgments  announced in Ch.15  and described  in  Ch. 16, bring  complete destruction upon the entire world. [1] It will be the end of the world as we know it.
Each of the cycles of judgment (the seal, the trumpets and the bowls), begins from the vantage point of the heavenly throne.  All  of these three cycles (which  cover the  period  between Christ’s ascension and His descension) speak about the same thing , but  with  ever  increasing  narrower focus .
Think about this –  approximately  2000 years have passed  since the  ascension of the Lord Jesus. Do you think that we can be far from this  event ?  Let  the text  in Rev. 16:15  continuously remind you  of  this fact.  A recent movie  called “ 2012” (based on Mayan writings and calendar)  shows us  that even  pagans have a foreboding that this  world will end soon. 

Revelation 16:1-21
·        In this chapter we will  discover what will happen to  the world’s  unbelieving people[2] at the time of Christ’s second coming.
·        Note  the similarity   between  this and the Exodus 7:14 – 12:32 judgments. In the Exodus judgments  God made a distinction between  the Egyptians and His people. So will it be at the end.
The judgment  of the 7 bowls   comes  from the temple  in heaven (16:1“Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling  the seven angels, “Go, pour out on the earth the seven bowls of  the wrath of God.”  This indicates  that everything about to happen  will take place according to God’s plan. It is also the long awaited moment   for those in Rev. 6:9-11,  who had been slain for the Word of God, and who are  waiting under the altar  in heaven  for justice to be done :  “how long before you will judge  and avenge our blood on those who dwell  on the earth ?”  This is the time  when God answers their prayer!

The Seven Bowl Judgments :
The first  angel pours out God’s wrath on all  those  who have worshiped the beast and who bore His mark  (16:2). Like the painful sores of the sixth plague which came upon Egypt (cf. Exodus 9:8-12), so too,  this  people  will suffer the wrath of God.  
The second bowl judgment  (16:3) in which the  sea  becomes like blood and lifeless, borrows its imagery from  the first plague upon Egypt, when  the Nile turned into blood.  This also corresponds  with   the second trumpet  judgment  in  Rev 8:8  where  a third of the sea had been turned to blood.  But here  in  16:3  everything dies – again an indication  of the finality  of God’s wrath upon all who have despised  His  Son.
The  third bowl  judgment (16:4-7)  is similar to the second , except that  the rivers and  springs  became  bloody and lifeless,  symbolic of the fact that God’s judgment now extends even to the sources of life.  Note   the response from the angel who executes  this  judgment (vv 5-7). This reminds us of  Deut. 32:4,
Moses  reminds  Israel  that  Israel’s God ,  “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.”   Here , the  fact that  God’s people who  have suffered  greatly at the hands of  the  people of this world ( in  the hands of  Satan , the antichrist and the false prophet )  is not forgotten. The abusers of God’s people   will now be forced to drink their own  blood . This is the picture  that we find in  Isaiah 49:26 :  “I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh, and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine. Then all flesh shall know  that I am the LORD your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”
Now note the response from the altar (i.e. those in Rev. 6:9-11) as  they respond  in 16:7 :  “Yes, Lord God the  Almighty, true and just are your judgments.”  Here is the assurance  that  God will avenge  all those who have died for the cause of His name. The suffering and persecuted church is reminded that  she  is not  forgotten by her God.  The day of His terrible judgment is  coming. Justice will be done!
The  fourth bowl judgment  (16: 8-9)  continues  the outpoured wrath of God  as it  reveals  an  intensification of the sun’s heat, scorching  the enemies of God and the  amazing  thing is that these people that are so afflicted  still dare  to curse God,  refusing to repent or to  give God  the glory due to  His Name . In this they are as stubborn as the Egyptian Pharaoh at the time of the 10 plagues .
The fifth bowl judgment  (16:10-11)  reflects  the 9th  plague upon Egypt (darkness- while  the people of Israel had light where they lived Ex 10:23) and yet, despite the agony which comes upon the people  of the earth,  who gnaw their tongues in anguish, they continue to curse God and refuse to repent.
The sixth bowl judgment (16:12-16)  sets the scene  for the final great battle  of Armageddon. The symbolic barrier–the Euphrates River[3]- the eastern border of the Roman empire  is breached ,  allowing  a massive  army to invade the territory of Mt Zion   from the east. [See the similarity with  the 6th trumpet  in 9:13ff   in which a vast army crosses the  Euphrates to  kill a third of mankind]. God’s power to dry up waters has been shown on a number of occasions in Israel’s history  -  the Red sea ( Ex 14:21ff); the Jordan (Josh 3:14ff) cf.  also Isa  44:27. With the symbolic barrier of the Euphrates removed, the enemies of God now rush to assault the church, only to find themselves totally defeated by the direct intervention of God.
The kings of the east–later identified in verse 14 as kings of the whole world,  now advance  against God’s people because they have been deceived by the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet (see  16:13) out of whose mouth  came  “three unclean (evil) spirits that looked like frogs “.  V. 14 tells us  that  “they are demonic spirits of demons performing  signs,  who  go around  to the kings of the whole world, to  assemble  them for  battle on the great day of God the Almighty” , which  will be  the same day  and event  which is spoken about in v. 15  “Behold I am coming like a thief!...”    THE  SUDDEN APPEARANCE  OF OUR LORD JESUS   as  told in  Matt 24:44 and  25:13  (see also  1 Thess. 5:2,4 ; 2 Peter 3:10; Rev 3:3)
The Lord Jesus  has warned Christians   to be  alert to this happening. This  exposes  us to the real  threat that  many in the  modern church are facing – namely that we  are  sleeping, just   like the five foolish virgins in Matt. 25:1-13.
Given what follows in Revelation 17-18, where the  great prostitute  with her seductive ways is exposed, Christians are warned  not  to be  caught naked  and exposed  (v.15)  in bed with this prostitute .  

The final  battle of Armageddon:
Many  commentators believe that Armageddon is a reference to the plains of Meggido, north-east of Jerusalem,  the site of several important battles in Israel’s history (cf. Judges 5:19; 2 Kings 23:29). A very  common interpretation is that at the end of the age, the armies of the world  would gather  on these  plains  to  destroy  the nation of Israel, or to fight against the armies of heaven, when Jesus Christ destroys them.
But  many  recent  commentators  think that the reference to  Armageddon, has nothing to do with the plain of Meggido,  and nothing to do  with  a  war  to get  rid of the Jews  etc. Rather, it is argued that Armageddon should be understood as Har-Magedon, or “the Mount of Gathering” .  In  Zechariah  12:3  and  Ch.14, the prophet speaks of the final battle occurring at Jerusalem ( Mt Zion) , not at Meggido. Har-Magedon,  (the Mount of Gathering)  is therefore, much more likely a reference to Mount Zion, the earthly counterpart of the heavenly  temple gathering. We have already  seen  this in   Revelation 14, where  the Lord Jesus  stands triumphantly on Mount Zion among His people.
If  this  is true, then this  is not  a description of a literal military battle  in which  these armies  fight against  the armies of God . It is unlikely that the Christian  church will  ever have an army like this! What we have here is  an  image of the kings of the earth being gathered together by the dragon  Satan to wage war against Mount Zion, which is symbolic of the church of Jesus Christ.
The big looser on this occasion   will be Satan and his allies. It is the same event of which we shall read  later in  Rev. 19:19-21,  where John sees the beast and the false prophet being thrown into the lake of fire. It is also described in Revelation 20:9-10, where those deceived by Satan,  after he is released from the Abyss, “marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, [10] and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
It is certainly correct to think of Armageddon as the final and ultimate battle between Christ and his enemies. But this battle has nothing to do with the plains of Meggido, the nation of Israel, or the armies of the world fighting against Christ and his physical  army. John is giving us an apocalyptic vision of Satan’s final assault upon the church (also known as Mount Zion, Har Magedon, the Mount of Assembly), an assault which is  crushed by Jesus Christ at his return to earth in judgment – simply with the breath of his mouth (2 Thess. 2:8). Martin Luther said in his hymn “ A Mighty Fortress is our God” … concerning Satan : “ one little word shall fell him!”  And so it shall be  that on that  day,  Satan and all his associates together with the kings and nations who serve them,  will be  thrown into the lake of fire.
This is judgment day, when God’s wrath is completed. It will be the end of the world as we know it.

The seventh bowl judgment  (16:17-21)  begins with these words :  “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!’  Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a  great  earthquake,” already mentioned in  Rev. 6:12-14.  (cf.  Zechariah 14:3-5 ).  It is an  unequalled earthquake  that causes the city of  rebellious man, metaphorically called  Babylon  to  split into three parts , along with the cities of the nations  and indeed the whole world . From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell on people. And they cursed God for  the plague of the  hail, because the plague was so severe.
The seventh bowl describes the destruction of Babylon , and  John will speak  about this in  greater detail in chapters 17 &18 .

The final outcome  of this battle  is clear – even though  it is tense to begin with. Just when it appears
as  if  Satan will overcome the church with an overwhelming  army , Jesus Christ will return and destroy the dragon and his allies , casting them all in the lake of fire where they will be tormented forever and ever.  Satan’s ambitions will  die  where the  Lord  Jesus died  - on Mt Zion  - the Lamb of God , slain  for our sins , will receive His accounting .

APPLICATION
·        God’s people,  (the spiritual Zion) must  remain  alert ,  ever watching for the Lord’s return.
·     We must avoid the seductive ways of the  great prostitute , lest we be caught naked and be shamefully exposed on the day of Christ Jesus.
·        Jesus Christ will return like a thief and crush all his enemies and deliver his people from Satan.
·        With the saints in heaven, we will finally  rejoice , “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, just and true are your  judgments.”

WHAT YOU MUST DO  IN THESE DAYS :
Jesus says  : “Watch and pray”  ( Matt  24,25).  Keep your eyes in the Bible  and be alert. Pray  always . Make sure that your eyes are focused on the Lord Jesus  and not on the world.  Stay close to the Word. Make sure that you  obey  God’s precepts ;  don’t compromise ;  keep short accounts with sin ; use the protective  network of the church ( Mt Zion)   to stay encouraged . Don’t be distant from the church. Be a faithful worshipper.    Learn  from faithful Bible exposition  and always pray  with your brothers and sisters in the Lord that you may not fall into temptation, and that you may not fall asleep ( i.e.  become apathetic / or fall away) at this time.    



[1] This, of course, means that the return of Jesus Christ is the day of final judgment, a point which is very problematic for pre-millenialists, who believe that the final judgment does not occur until the thousand years (the millennium) are over.
[2]  All those who have not believed in Jesus Christ as  the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
[3] Israel’s  enemies  Assyria and Babylon had lived beyond the Euphrates. In the time of John, the Euphrates was regarded
the eastern border of the Roman empire, and therefore, the edge of civilization itself.

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