We jump in at verse 8 of Revelation 16 and examine the last four bowls of judgment. We walk through similarities between Revelation and the plagues in Egypt. We also talk about the battle of Armageddon. Tim continues to navigate the difficult imagery in this book, the completion of the wrath of God and the beautiful interjection of Christ in this story. The Gospel of Jesus Christ can assure us we are on the winning team.
The fourth bowl judgment: fire
Rev. 16:8. The fourth angel, then, poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. I think it’s really interesting that the sun is a “him.” I wonder if the sun can talk. The furniture can talk. Maybe the sun will be able to talk. They do in the cartoons. It seems like everything we love about cartoons is going to actually happen in the new earth.
—and power was given to him to scorch men with fire.
In spite of all the rhetoric, what’s actually known today is that most weather patterns are affected most severely by sunspots, solar flares. Nobody knows what makes them happen, and nobody knows how it happens. But that’s the best correlation we have.
As a matter of fact, the best weather forecasts come about looking at a little place in the Pacific Ocean’s water temperature; and when the water temperature changes one degree, we’re going to have El Nino, and that’s one rain pattern. And if it’s another degree, it’s La Nina, and that’s another weather pattern. And nobody knows how that happens. They don’t know if it’s volcanic activity, solar activity.
The more we know, the more we realize how little we know. Meanwhile, claiming we know a lot more than we actually know. That’s kind of the pattern.
What’s going to happen is the sun’s going to go crazy. And, verse 9, men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give him glory. They didn’t do it.
This is interesting because we saw one time previously that men did give God glory, and it’s in Revelation 11:13. In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.
Here they’re giving glory because they realize God did this. Because remember glory, doxa, is only just something getting credit for what it really is. You can have shameful you really are, you can have fantastic you really are.
But in this case, these people are recognizing God did this because they’re blaspheming God, but they are not repenting.
So there’s one kind of glory you can give to God and say, well, God did that. But the glory God’s actually after is to say, “You are the authority to whom I need to bow my knee.” That’s the one God wants. And that’s the one they’re not willing to give.
The fifth bowl judgment poured out on the throne of the beast
Verse 10. Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast—The word throne shows up 41 times in Revelation. One of the overriding messages of Revelation is “God is on his throne.”
We see most of these prophecies happen with the throne either directly in front of John or in mind.
But there’s another throne, and that’s the throne of Satan. And that’s on earth. We saw that the throne of Satan was in the capital city of Rome in a province of Asia. So human government and earthly power is still the domain of Satan even though Jesus said all authority is given unto me. Because Jesus hadn’t actually taken office yet. It’s a really long lame-duck period for Satan.
This particular bowl’s poured right on the throne of the beast, which is not going to last very much longer. —and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain.
I’m not sure what this is, a kingdom becoming full of darkness. But what is clear is it creates massive pain.
They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds. No matter what happens they don’t repent of their deeds. It seems that everyone on earth who has taken the mark of the beast is now Pharaoh. Their heart is hardened. And they refuse to bow to the commands of God.
The next time we will see this word pain will be in Revelation 21:4, and it will say God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain—
That’s a blessed hope, but there’s a lot of pain that has to happen to get there.
The sixth bowl judgment poured out on the river Euphrates
Verse 12. Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates—Euphrates River is still a major river. —and its water was dried up, so the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
Here’s the unholy trinity: the dragon, the dragon-man, and the false prophet.
The battle of Armageddon
For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
Here it comes. This is the great battle. This is the part that the epic movies always end with: a huge battle. This is the battle of the five armies. This is the battle of the whole world. This is world war—I don’t know how many world wars it will be by then—but it’s the final one.
And then we have this very interesting thing where all the sudden Jesus pops up and says, “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”
And then the narrative picks back up again. And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.
So they’re going to have this great battle. And right in the middle of gathered them together in Armageddon is this editorial statement: “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches—”
Now I asked, why is that there? It seems kind of odd. It’s almost like a break away to a commercial message or something.
I’m not sure what the answer is, but it certainly seems as though one possibility—if we’re rooting for the sheriff to clean up the town, we’re rooting for Gandalf and the good guys to get to Helms Deep at just the right time so they can deliver the earth from the Orcs. We’re waiting for the trumpet to go and the cavalry to come over the hill, and we’re really excited. I mean, the world’s about to get cleaned up. And we’re rooting for the bad guys to die. That’s what we always do in movies, right? “Yeah! He got killed! It was a little too gruesome, but it was really good!”
It kind of breaks in here and says, let’s remember what this book’s about. I am telling you that we overcome, and we win. But let’s remember what the book’s about. The book’s not mainly about who wins. The book’s mainly about what I want you to do. And what does God want us to do? What’s the message all the way through here? Be faithful witnesses; don’t fear death. What’s he say? Watch. Keep your garments spotless because judgment comes for you too. Judgment for believers has a different purpose; it’s the same judgment.
God poured out the same judgment on Israel that he did Babylon. Totally different reason. In the case of Babylon, he said, “You’re no more. We’re not having anymore Babylon.” When we have Babylon in this beast, it’s Rome with the power and authority of Babylon. It’s not Babylon again, in the sense of the ancient country, Nebuchadnezzar, and so forth.
But in the case of Israel, he gave them the same judgment. They’re exiled. And he says in Jeremiah 29:11, you’re going to have half of Jerusalem die, and a whole lot of people are going to be killed, and you’re going to be taken out of your homes, but I only have your best interest in mind. Everybody’s saying, “What? How is that my best interest?” Just watch and see. And, of course, we can watch and see how amazing that was for Israel. God has our best interest in mind, but judgment still happens.
So watch! Be a faithful witness. Don’t fear rejection from the world. Don’t fear death. Do what I ask you to do.
And if you don’t, you end up without a garment. Now, have you ever had a dream where you showed up at the fancy ball naked? Or you forgot to change your clothes and put on the fancy gown?
Well, that’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to show up at the judgment seat, and we’re going to be no present, nothing to show.
So watch. Don’t be naked and ashamed.
And he called them together to a place called Armageddon. We’ll end with that. Let’s finish the chapter first.
The seventh bowl judgment poured into the air
Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.
Parallels to the plagues of Egypt
So we’ve finished the seven bowls, and it’s interesting what we’ve seen. We’ve seen water turn to blood. Remember that from Exodus? Frogs—these were demonic frogs, as opposed to physical frogs dying like we saw in Exodus. Dead animals—all the sea creatures. Boils, or sores on peoples’ skin. Hail—really bad hail. Darkness. And this darkness was accompanied with pain.
We’ve actually seen everything but lice, flies, and locusts. Maybe the sun killed all of them; I don’t know. But it’s the same plagues. It’s the same image. God is delivering his people from the slavery of sin and the world. He’s delivering the world in creation from corruption, and he’s going to restore all things.
And instead of the Passover, we’re going to have this great battle. So what about the great battle?
The seventh bowl judgment
Before we do that, let me make a couple of points. This talent, according to the internet, was 50 pounds. I looked up—again, the internet—two pounds is the biggest hailstone anybody’s ever seen. So if that’s correct, a 50 pound hailstone, you can see why men would blaspheme God because the hail plague was exceedingly great.
Nobody knows, but it’s going to be really bad. That’s fairly clear from the context.
And in verse 20, this term that says every island fled away, that’s the same phrase as is in the verse and the whole world went after him. So it’s “some of every kind.” So it could be literally every island, but it also could be just islands all over the world.
Given technology the way it is, it’s possible somebody will be listening to this at some point as this is all unfurling, and I’ll just tell you: don’t go on vacation to Hawaii during this time period. Stay in the Midwest somewhere.
This appears to have massive tectonic activity. Mountains, islands—most mountains are just volcanoes of some sort sticking up out of the ocean. And perhaps massive volcanic activity associated with this is certainly one possible way this could be done.
The battle of Armageddon
Let’s finish with Armageddon. It’s interesting, this is the only place in the Bible this word Armageddon shows up. It took on a lot of fame even though it only showed up one time. As it should. It just means the hill of Megiddo. Megiddo is an ancient city. It was a very, very sought after city because it was the best toll booth.
You know, if you’re a king, the main thing you want to do is be able to take money from other people without having to work for it. That’s what governments do in general and kings in specific. And the best way to do that is to tax trade.
There were two major trade routes that go right by Megiddo. So if you have that city, you can collect a lot of taxes. It’s a very fought over plain in general.
The valley there is called the Jezreel Valley today, the area of Megiddo.
And let’s just turn to Zechariah 14:1, and I think there we will see this battle.
Behold, the day of the Lord is coming,
And your spoil will be divided in your midst.
For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem;
If these are both talking about the same thing—and I suspect they are; although, I’m not sure—then what’s going to happen is the armies will be gathered in Jezreel, and then marched down to Jerusalem, which, if you know something about the terrain there, makes some sense.
The city shall be taken,
The houses rifled
And the women ravished.
Half of the city shall go into captivity,
But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
I suspect that this part of the prophecy already happened in 70 A.D. A lot of times these prophecies have double fulfillments, and the fulfillments are all interbedded with each other in the prophecy, which is one of the reasons you can’t get too dogmatic about things looking in the future.
You’ll have a prophecy about Jesus, and one part of one sentence, it’s talking about the first advent; and the next few words, it’s talking about his second advent.
And then in verse 4,
And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives,
Which faces Jerusalem on the east.
And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two,
From east to west,
Making a very large valley;
Half of the mountain shall move toward the north
And half of it toward the south.
Basically, the Mount of Olives is a ridge, and Jesus is going to come down on it—this is when he returns—and when his foot lights down, it’s going to break in two and move apart, and then water’s going to start flowing up. And water’s going to flow down to the Mediterranean and down to the Dead Sea. It’s going to flow both ways, and the Dead Sea’s going to become living.
So verse 6,
It shall come to pass in that day
That there will be no light;
We saw darkness happening. It could be the same darkness or a different one.
It shall be one day
Which is known to the Lord—
Neither day nor night.
But at evening time it shall happen
That it will be light
And in that day it shall be
That living waters shall flow from Jerusalem,
Half of them toward the eastern sea
And half of them toward the western sea;—Mediterranean and Dead Sea.
In both summer and winter it shall occur.
And the Lord shall be King over all the earth.
In that day it shall be—
“The Lord is one,”
And His name one.
This is apparently this last battle. And we saw previously that there was going to be a gathering of a myriad of myriads of soldiers, and there was going to be blood running 180 miles all the way up to the bridle of the horse. So this is going to be a massive battle with tremendous loss of lives. And this is the last battle.
We’ll see in chapter 19 here coming up, Jesus coming down on his white horse. Apparently he rides the white horse, people coming behind him, touches down on the Mount of Olives, and this is part of the culmination of the battle. It really is going to be like one of those old westerns where just at the last minute Jesus comes down and saves everybody, apparently.
So Armageddon will be like the last cleaning up.
Now it’s complete. The wrath of God is complete. And what’s remaining is to actually have Jesus come back and clean things up. And we’ll get there in chapter 19. But next time we’ll do chapter 17 and 18, and we’re going to have another one of these interludes that gives us a lot of explanation about what is actually taking place and where the shift is happening. And what we’re going to do is see the shift from the world’s system to God’s system; and it’s going to be a dramatic shift.