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Bible: What Does Revelation 15-16 Teach Us About Signs and Bowl Judgments?

Updated on September 8, 2016

Praise for God's Justice

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Martyrdom

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Revelation 15-16: The Third Heavenly Sign; Seven Bowl Judgments

Martyrs Extol God for His Justice

John sees a third sign in heaven (cf. 12:1, 3): seven angels carrying the seven last plagues which finish God’s wrath (v. 1).

Before he witnesses their entrance, however, the apostle notes the appearance of tribulation martyrs (“those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name”) standing on a “sea of glass mingled with fire” and accompanying their singing of “the song of Moses . . . and the song of the Lamb” with harps (vv. 2-4; cf. Ex. 15:1ff).

[These people refused to submit to Antichrist’s controlled economy.

Where they stand (“the sea of glass mingled with fire”) may speak of the purifying, holy environment situated between God and man. See 4:6.]

Their song extols the “Lord God Almighty” and “the King of the saints” (“nations,”NASB) for His great works and for His true and just ways of ruling (v. 3a).

They acknowledge that no one will refuse to respect and honor Him, because He is absolutely pure and separate from sinners; His righteous judgments will bring Him worldwide worship (v. 4; cf. Is. 66:23).

Now the apostle observes the seven angels clad as priests exiting the Holy of Holies in heaven (“the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony”) [vv. 5-6].

One of the four living creatures gives each angel a bowl full of the wrath of the eternal God (v. 7).

The active manifestation of His glory and power (“smoke”) prevents anyone from entering the temple until the plagues ended (v. 8).

[Where there’s smoke, there’s fire kindling something.]

Disaster!

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A Great Earthquake and Hailstorm

The final bowl the seventh angel empties into the air, and the Father declares that His wrath is finished (“It is done”) [v. 17].

More lightning and thunder ensue, and then the wrath of God causes the most powerful earthquake of all time to divide Jerusalem (or Babylon) into three parts.

It also makes all cities worldwide to fall, and every island and mountain to disappear (vv. 18-20).

To crush completely every building that still stands, God sends an “exceedingly great” hailstorm (v. 21).

[It is difficult to comprehend how every hailstone can weigh about one hundred pounds (“the weight of a talent”).]

Despite the severity of God’s wrath, unregenerate mankind continues to blaspheme the Lord (v. 21b).

God: Righteous Judge or Cruel Tyrant?

Is God a righteous Judge, or is He a cruel tyrant?

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Revelation 16

God's Judgment Upon "Beast" Worshipers, Sea Creatures, and Waters

In one climactic chapter, John presents the judgments proceeding from the seven bowls.

At the behest of a loud voice from the temple—presumably the Father’s—the angels begin to pour out the bowls’ contents one after another (v. 1).

The first container produces a “bad and evil” sore upon beast worshipers (v. 2); the second kills every sea creature remaining, as its contents turn the water into blood (v. 3; cf. 8:9).

Bodies of fresh water become blood when the third angel pours out his bowl (v. 4).

This third angel, “the angel of the waters,” proclaims the righteousness of the eternal God in judging the waters, for in so doing He forces the murderers of believers to drink blood: their just reward (vv. 5-6).

From the altar a voice cries out its assent to God’s “true and righteous” judgments (v. 7; cf. 6:9).

[Might this voice represent the martyrs who had earlier cried out for justice from beneath the altar?]

God Uses Heat and Darkness to Judge Mankind

The sun receives the contents of the fourth bowl, and it responds by scorching men “with great heat” (vv. 8-9a).

Instead of repenting of their evil, however, the people who experience this unrelenting, hot weather speak disparagingly of God (“blasphemed the name of God”) [v. 9b].

The fifth bowl brings about a pain-inducing darkness upon the throne of the beast and his kingdom (v. 10).

Still, the false worshipers do not repent, but blaspheme “the God of heaven” (v. 11).

[Perhaps the darkness does not produce pain; the gloomy environment only exacerbates the pain that they already feel from previous plagues.]

The Site of the Final Battle


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Enemy Armies from the East Invade at Armageddon

The River Euphrates in Iraq feels the wrath of the sixth bowl, as its water dries up; the diabolical trinity (“out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet”) uses three frog-like spirits (“the spirits of demons”) to incite “the kings of the east” to enter the Middle East via the Euphrates, and to bring together “the kings of the whole world” to Armageddon, “the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (vv. 12-14, 16).

[One possible scenario finds the demons inflaming the hatred of oriental dictators—namely, North Korea, China—and causing NATO forces to converge on this geopolitical territory in order to protect the oil reserves.

Ryrie sees Armageddon as a series of battles, and not just one; Antichrist will attack Egypt (Dan. 11:40-45) and Jerusalem (Zech. 14:2) before moving into the valley of Megiddo.]

Jesus inserts the truth that no one will expect His Revelation, and He promises blessing to those who continue to look for Him and to do good works (v. 15).

© 2013 glynch1

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