Chapter 15 and 16 we're going to get into the bowls. This is the third (fourth) and last of the series of seven judgments. We've had the seals, the trumpets, MAYBE the thunders, and finally, the bowls.
Seals- destroying 1/4 of the earth.
Trumpets- destroying 1/3 of the earth.
Bowls- destroying all of everything. Completion language all over because everything is finished, not necessarily that it's the end of the earth, because, remember, we've already seen the earth ending a number of times (Rev. 6:13-17 and other places). We've already talked about all the mountains being torn away and all the islands being torn away, and what is that? End of the earth.
So this isn't necessarily the end of the earth because we've come to the end of the earth a couple of times already. He's saying, "this is the end of my capitulations. It is coming to a conclusion." Literarily to the people to whom John wrote, it would be similar to me saying, first, second, and finally.
And this is going to emphasize God's righteousness when compared with the corruption of man.
1 Then I saw in heaven another marvelous event of great significance. Seven angels were holding the seven last plagues, which would bring God’s wrath to completion. 2 I saw before me what seemed to be a glass sea mixed with fire. And on it stood all the people who had been victorious over the beast and his statue and the number representing his name. They were all holding harps that God had given them. 3 And they were singing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are your works, O Lord God, the Almighty. Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations. 4 Who will not fear you, Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous deeds have been revealed.”
Why is "sign" important? Because it is an interpretive clue.
Verse 2 should make what 666 is obvious for us. The number OF HIS NAME. His name adds up to his number.
These are the LAST plagues. Verse 1 shows us that God's wrath is done being revealed with the Bowls.
What is the concept of sea in Scripture? Chaos, evil.
So what is a sea of glass? Chaos tamed.
What does it mean that it's mixed with fire? Chaos is being controlled, but it wants to explode but is being constrained by the sovereignty of God.
And standing by the sea are the saints of God and they are pictured as secure- they have no fear, even though they're standing next to the sea because they're secure and they know they're secure because they're in the presence of God.
They are worshipping. This is real worship. Like-God-is-so close-you-want-to-burst-out laughing kind of worship. It’s the opposite of the worship we sometimes feel in this life- the God-is-so-distant-all-I-can-do-is-cry-out-to-him kind of worship. Imagine that veil suddenly being ripped away and we see the spiritual realities around us and we see GOD in all his glory!!!
And CAN YOU IMAGINE THE JOY?!? We just got back from the NACC, and I got to see a lot of the people who have influenced me greatly over the years, and it’s always so amazing to catch up and hear peoples’ stories of God’s provision and guiding. There were people there that I had known, and some that I had just met, that I stood there for hours to talk to about God and the things of God. Now, that’s an earthly joy that echoes heaven. Can you imagine ALL of the people who belong to Jesus when we are all gathered to him how much joy we will get visiting with one another and telling stories about God’s faithfulness as God is there face to face with us?
I can’t wait for that. There’s one thing that both saddens and encourages me: until Jesus returns, I will not ever again be in the same room with more than a few of the people that God has used to help me grow over the years. But I know that we will all be together again when Jesus returns, so that’s encouraging. And I can’t wait for that day. Some days, I feel it more than others. Some days here bring tears, and I just want that day to be now. And I wait for it with tears. And other days, I look forward to it with joy. But that’s the hope, right there: that we will all be gathered together in the presence of Jesus to live in perfect community and tell the stories and sing the songs of the faithfulness of our God with him forever. Can you just imagine?!?
There are two songs of Moses, and I’m not going to read them to you. I’m just going to tell you where they are and you can read them for yourself if you want a devotional this week. And the great thing about the song of Moses in these two places is that we can really personalize them. Because Moses sings of God’s faithfulness to bring Israel through the Red Sea to safety, delivering them from slavery in Egypt to freedom through the water. This is the exact same song we can sing- God has delivered us from slavery to sin to freedom in him through the water of baptism. This is your story. This is our story.
Exodus 15:1-18; Deuteronomy 32:1-43
In Moses' song in Deuteronomy, just before Moses is about to die and hand leadership over to Joshua, he sings a song pronouncing judgement over disobedient Israel because they will rebel. And he is singing this over them, but at the end, the song changes to how God will avenge the blood of the faithful ones. In Revelation, these people are the fulfillment of Moses' expectations for what Israel was to be.
And we stand in that line.
Then I looked and saw that the Temple in heaven, God’s Tabernacle, was thrown wide open. The seven angels who were holding the seven plagues came out of the Temple. They were clothed in spotless white linen with gold sashes across their chests. Then one of the four living beings handed each of the seven angels a gold bowl filled with the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever. The Temple was filled with smoke from God’s glory and power. No one could enter the Temple until the seven angels had completed pouring out the seven plagues.
1. This is an introduction to the bowls found in 16.
2. This emphasizes where these judgments come from.
What fills the bowls? God's wrath.
God has control over when they start, and God has control over when they end. our God is sovereign, so in the midst of these, we should not be afraid. We should look forward to what will be in the future, but we should also focus on what we need to do in the present.
We need to multiply. This is the mission. If you’ve forgotten the mission, let me remind you of it:
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
That’s the what. Because Jesus changes lives.
The how is different for every church. Matthew 18 is our mission. The specific ways we go about that mission is our vision. And the vision is measured by goals, and all of it is assessed in terms of core values.
Right now, we don’t have a clear vision. That’s what we’re praying about. We want to change this town, this county, this region for Jesus. We are praying through how God has called us to do that. You could pray with us that God would give us something that we’re passionate about that is specific to the way he has wired this church. And through that vision, we will begin to move and be effective at the mission Jesus has called us to here in Colony, Kansas, in Anderson County, in Allen County and in the rest of this region.
So to prepare the soil here for what Jesus is going to do in this church, I want to take a few minutes for anyone that feels led to talk about some of what impacted them most at NACC and how God spoke through that.
I know God spoke to Randy and Darren through this weekend, and they had some things they wanted to share, so I’ll ask them to come up and share what’s on their hearts, ad after that, anyone else that feels led may come and share for a couple of minutes.