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Scripture reading – Revelation 16; Revelation 17
Review – The Seventh Trumpet and Its Judgments (Revelation 11-15)
The seventh trumpet sounded in Revelation 11:15, and announced the third woe poured out on the earth and its inhabitants. Rather than repent of their wickedness, and turn to God, the nations of the world were stirred to anger and their sins demanded God’s judgments (11:18). The devil was revealed as the “great red dragon” (12:3, 9), and the antichrist, empowered by him, was promoted to rule over a great coalition of nations (13:1-2).
Another man of great wickedness, the false prophet, was empowered by the devil, and deceived the nations of the earth. He commanded all men and nations should worship the antichrist as god (13:11-15). Men who refused “the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name,” were denied an opportunity to “buy or sell” (13:17).
John beheld the Lamb, Jesus Christ, standing on mount Zion, and with him the 144,000 preachers of the tribulation (14:1). The apostle, then, saw three angelic messengers sent from the throne of God (14:6-8). The message of the third angel was a warning, that any who received the mark of the beast (antichrist) would be tormented forever (14:11).
Two judgments followed the third angel, and the first was portrayed as a harvest of grain (14:14-15), and the second a harvest of grapes (14:17-20). Then, John “looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened” (15:5). “[S]even angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles [or belts worn round the waist]” (15:6). To each of the seven angels was given a “golden vial” or bowl filled with “the wrath of God” (15:7).
Revelation 16 – Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath
The Five of the Seven Bowls (16:1-11)
The seven angels were sent, and commanded to pour God’s wrath out of their bowls upon those who worshipped the antichrist (beast), and had accepted his mark in their hand or forehead (16:1). Each bowl or vial represented a judgment of God. The first angel poured out a judgment that caused “a noisome and grievous sore” (or ulcer, 16:2). The plagued poured out by the second angel turned the sea to blood, and so contaminated the waters that “every living soul [creature] died in the sea” (16:3).
The third angel, bearing the third bowl, turned the fresh waters of the earth to blood (16:4). Destroying the fresh water of the earth would be catastrophic for all humanity. Lest any complain and protest God’s judgment, the angel declared spoiling the fresh waters with blood was a fitting judgment for mankind, for “they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy” (16:6). Then, the altar itself said, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments” (16:7).
The judgment borne by the fourth angel followed, and was poured out “upon the sun” (16:8). The consequence was an increase in the sun’s heat and radiation that “men were scorched with great heat” (16:8). Rather than repent, and call out to God for mercy, men “blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory” (16:9).
Then, “the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat [throne] of the beast [antichrist]; and his kingdom was full of darkness” (16:10). The darkness shrouded the lands and people ruled by the antichrist (16:10), and the terror was so excruciating that men “gnawed their tongues for pain” (16:10b). Still, they did not repent, but “blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores” (16:11).
The Sixth Bowl – The Euphrates River Dried Up (16:12-14)
The judgment brought by the sixth angel was directed against “the great river Euphrates” (16:12), which is the longest and most important river in the Middle East. The region depends upon the Euphrates for navigation (ships can sail up the river some 1200 miles), and irrigation of farms and orchards. Although a 2000-year-old prophecy, the unthinkable is happening today…the Euphrates River is drying up! With the salt water and freshwaters polluted by blood, and the Euphrates dried up, John saw what he described as “three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet” (16:13). Frogs are deemed unclean (Leviticus 11:10, 41), and their vileness was symbolic of the demons that had influenced the antichrist and false prophet (16:13). So, was revealed the means by which those evil men had influenced the earth (16:14).
It was “the spirits of devils” that compelled “the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (16:14). While the nations of the earth gathered “into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon” (16:16), the Lord comforted those believers who had survived the judgments of the tribulation, and promised, “Behold, I come as a thief” (16:14).
The Seventh Bowl (16:17-21)
The seventh and final angel came forth with the wrath of God filling his bowl, and God lifted up His voice, and said with a loud voice, “It is done” (16:17). Thundering’s, lightnings, and an earthquake greater than any that had preceded it followed the pronouncement (16:18). The city of Jerusalem was “divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.” (16:19). The earth will be so devastated by the earthquake that islands and mountains will disappear (16:20). Hail will fall from heaven, and the weight of each hail stone will be “about the weight of a talent” (100 pounds or more, 16:21).
Closing thoughts – I hope to address the balance of our Scripture reading (Revelation 17) at another time, and in another year. I conclude for now with the observation that men will refuse to repent of their sins, even though all mankind will have suffered before the Second Coming of Christ. Instead of crying to God for mercy, the wicked who refuse the Lord will blaspheme the name of God (16:21). I close today with the invitation by the writer of Hebrews:
Hebrews 3:15 – “While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.”
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