War of the Worlds
Today, we’re going to cover the bowls- the last series of seven judgements found in Revelation. And I’m not going to comment a whole lot on the judgements themselves because in them are echoes of Exodus again, and you’ll hear them. I want to talk about the point of these judgments and how we can apply this chapter to our lives. And in this, we’ll see some warnings and some encouragements from God.
Then I heard a mighty voice from the Temple say to the seven angels, “Go your ways and pour out on the earth the seven bowls containing God’s wrath.” So the first angel left the Temple and poured out his bowl on the earth, and horrible, malignant sores broke out on everyone who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his statue. Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse. And everything in the sea died. Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs, and they became blood. And I heard the angel who had authority over all water saying, “You are just, O Holy One, who is and who always was, because you have sent these judgments. Since they shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets, you have given them blood to drink. It is their just reward.” And I heard a voice from the altar, saying, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, your judgments are true and just.” Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, causing it to scorch everyone with its fire. Everyone was burned by this blast of heat, and they cursed the name of God, who had control over all these plagues. They did not repent of their sins and turn to God and give him glory.
I don’t really want to focus too much on these plagues specifically, because the point is judgement on those who have rejected Christ, and they echo the Exodus plagues. I hope you see that in these.
But in verses 5-7, we have what is called an “antiphonal hymn”- Sing/response. If you grew up in Church, you know exactly what an antiphonal hymn is. For example: “Allelu, allelu, allelu, alleluia” .... “praise ye the Lord.”
[How I understood that song as a kid] I’m grateful that we put the words up when we sing together. “What’s a prajee?”
But this song here in Revelation emphasizes a few of things:
1. God is judging.
(Just are you in these judgments)
2. God is judging here and now.
(O Holy One, who is and who was)
3. God is judging justly.
(For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets). And because they’ve been bloodthirsty, God basically says to them, “Okay. You’re so thirsty for blood, I’m going to make you drink all the blood you have spilled.”
Sometimes justice looks like drinking the blood you’ve spilt.
This country has blood on its hands. If God doesn’t judge America for celebrating infanticide, idol worship, sexual immorality (including in his church -pornography, fornication (having sex outside of marriage), adultery, homosexuality- and the like, he will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. This is why we are Christians FIRST and anything else a VERY distant second. We are to be in the world, but not of the world. We are foreigners. This world is not our home. But sometimes that doesn’t translate into the really practical statement: THIS COUNTRY IS NOT OUR HOME. It will be judged for the evil done in it, as will every country that does not submit to Jesus.
The response to this is basically a loud amen.
He is judging, and he is just, and there's a voice that basically says, "FINALLY!"
Remember Revelation 6:9-10 with the saints who were killed under the altar? What was their cry in those verses?
"How long, O Lord until you avenge our blood?" There is a longing for those who have been killed for God to have justice. They want their blood not to have been spilled in vain, and for the true king of the world to be revealed. A loving God who is not just is not loving. If there's no punishment, why did Jesus die? For a charade?
And these judgements are intended to communicate a familiar message from this book:
1. God is in control (Rev. 16:9)
2. Judgments are intended to bring the judged to repentance. This is not the white throne judgment. (Rev. 11:13 is the only time people do).
3. Rebellious humanity hates God so much that even when they acknowledge his existence and power shown through the plagues, they refuse to bow their knee to him. (Rev. 16:9)
Why would they curse his name if they didn't know who was doing it. We can't know who has the innate hardness of heart, so our job is to love, love, love people into heaven.
Are these judgments the end of the world, or throughout history? Yes.
We're living in the end times or last days. There's nothing left in Scripture to be fulfilled as a hint or a precursor to Jesus returning. There's no prophecies to be fulfilled before Jesus returns.
Will these literally happen? I don’t think so. Remember, Revelation is not a roadmap to the end of history. Otherwise, what Jesus is going to say in a few verses will make no sense.
It doesn't make sense to ask when it will happen when it isn't an event being revealed, but a truth. God is sovereign and mankind will be judged.
Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. His subjects ground their teeth in anguish, and they cursed the God of heaven for their pains and sores. But they did not repent of their evil deeds and turn to God. Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great Euphrates River, and it dried up so that the kings from the east could march their armies toward the west without hindrance. And I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs leap from the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet.
I hope I don't have to keep explain that John is harkening back to Exodus here.
What are the beasts? Rome/imperial cult, and what is the interpretation for our day? Anti-Christian governments and anti-Christian religions. And they will fall. Notice the recapitulation here again. They did not repent.
The kings from the east are probably a reference to the Parthians who lived east of Rome and were a constant threat.
God as an act of judgement to get people to repent removed the protective barrier around their lives.
SOMETIMES GOD HAS TO DRY UP THE EUPHRATES IN OUR LIFE SO THE PARTHIANS CAN COME IN AND WRECK OUR LIVES AND OUR COMFORT.
-The point of this suffering is repentance.
Tragedies have a way of shaking us awake. 9/11 is the perfect example.
14 They are demonic spirits who work miracles and go out to all the rulers of the world to gather them for battle against the Lord on that great judgment day of God the Almighty. 15 “Look, I will come as unexpectedly as a thief! Blessed are all who are watching for me, who keep their clothing ready so they will not have to walk around naked and ashamed.”
JESUS COMES LIKE A THIEF, EVEN IN THE SIXTH BOWL, REVELATION IS NOT A ROADMAP.
These things are certain. This is why it is so urgent to fulfill the great commission. We don’t know when this is going to come. It could be today. Is there anyone in your life that as we’re being judged, and Jesus separates the sheep from the goats who would be taken away for judgement who would look at you asking with pleading eyes, “why didn’t you tell me?” And I don’t mean on Facebook. I mean a conversation, laying it on the line, telling them about hope in Christ.
The beast's kingdom is rebellious humanity. And it's easy to forget that we are at war. The point is, "don't forget we're at war." And we’re not at war with the people who aren’t God’s. We are at war with Satan and his demons. That means you don’t have permission to hate people. Even ISIS. They are not the enemy. They are captives of the enemy being used to do his bidding. Christ even desires that the fighters of ISIS would repent and be saved. Keep in mind that many of the people we have been quick to hate are people that Jesus loves. So if you’re hating someone or a group of people, you are basically telling Jesus he is wrong to love them, and I wouldn’t want to be in the position of telling God that he is wrong. There’s a story about that in the Bible. And if I remember correctly, it ended with God coming down in power, telling Job to put on his big boy pants, and then cross-examining him with 68 pointed questions to put him in his place.
God desires that all would repent (interesting use of that word in Josephus) and follow him, but those that don't will be held accountable for their crimes committed in the cosmic war. Neutrality in this war is not an option- you are either with Jesus or against him.
And Jesus gives a beatitude here: "I come like a thief". What is the focus of that statement?
The unexpectedness of the return of Christ.
And he says, "Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his garments on". Whether or not you're clothed is a symbol for whether or not you belong to God. If you're clothed, it means you're holy. But in Laodicea, remember Jesus says, "I council you to buy clothes from me so that you can cover your shameful nakedness." In Revelation, clothing indicates ethics.
Christians need to be alert because Jesus will come unexpectedly, and we need to be ready in character for his return that we don't need to be ashamed. Remember the parable of the talents?
Tell the story: (Matthew 25:14-30).
Don’t squander your gifts!
16 And the demonic spirits gathered all the rulers and their armies to a place with the Hebrew name Armageddon. 17 Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air. And a mighty shout came from the throne in the Temple, saying, “It is finished!” 18 Then the thunder crashed and rolled, and lightning flashed. And a great earthquake struck—the worst since people were placed on the earth. 19 The great city of Babylon split into three sections, and the cities of many nations fell into heaps of rubble. So God remembered all of Babylon’s sins, and he made her drink the cup that was filled with the wine of his fierce wrath. 20 And every island disappeared, and all the mountains were leveled. 21 There was a terrible hailstorm, and hailstones weighing as much as seventy-five pounds fell from the sky onto the people below. They cursed God because of the terrible plague of the hailstorm.
So these frog spirits gather people for a battle that doesn't happen. At Armageddon- a transliteration of Hebrew “har megiddo.”
Megiddo- a place called Megiddo (the valley of Megiddo).
ARMAGEDDON IS NOT TIED TO A SPECIFIC PLACE.
Problem, there is no mountain of Megiddo. What is John saying? The place is not important. The message is. And the message is God's sovereignty in the face of His enemies. These people aren't marching to battle, they're marching to their execution. The Beast knows he's destroyed because Satan is going to be destroyed, and they just want to take as many people down with them as they can.
And what happens? Nothing. God says, "it's done," and you see again, the end of the earth.
WE LIVE BETWEEN tετέλεσται, AND γέγονεν. The victory is already won.
Is God allowing suffering in your life because of something you did (and if this is the case, you know what it is), and you’ve been ignoring him? When God calls you to repent, then repent.
Always be ready for Jesus’ return. Always be ready to share the gospel. And if you don’t know how to do that, come talk to me, I’d be happy to help you. Do not worry about things that are beyond your ability to control. Trust your future to God. Be secure in the fact that for your life, Jesus declares that your debt is paid in full. And rejoice in the fact that one day, Jesus will come back and declare that it is done and we will be with him forever. Be secure in your salvation, and live OUT of it.
If you want to hear the words of the servants who managed the talents well, you need to reverse-engineer your life.
It is never too late to repent and let God change your life. What steps do you need to take today to get there? What books do you need to read? Who do you need to take out to lunch? What do you need to pray about? What habits do you need to break? What habits do you need to begin?
Ask Jesus to step into that and shape you into the man or woman who will hear those words, “well done, good and faithful servant.” The Holy Spirit is enough for you to sustain you, to change you, to shape you. Let him work.