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Revelation (scene 5 of 7)

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Scene 5 of 7.  “God’s judgment, seven bowls.”  (chapters 15-18)   We begin scene 5 in chapter 15.  These final judgments of God are referred to as the bowl judgments.    John specifically notes that these are the last judgments, completing God’s wrath.  These seven judgments are the result of the sounding of the seventh trumpet and they are more severe than all the proceeding judgments.  While the seven seals affected a quarter of the earth and the seven trumpets affected a third of the earth, the seven bowls act upon the entire earth. 

In preparation for the bowl judgments John witnesses a large contingent of people, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image AND over the number of its name.  Each member of this vast victorious army received a harp and they sing a song:  “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty.  Just and true are your ways, King of the nations (verse 3-4).”

In verse five John sees the “Ark of the Covenant” – and it was opened.  The “Ark of the Covenant” has not been missing for 3000-years, it has been safe and sound in the heavenly throne room of God!  However, John is not given time to ponder the meaning of the open “Ark” because seven angels enter his field of vision.  Each angel is dressed in shining linen with a golden sash, and each is given a golden bowl filled with the wrath of God.  Heaven is placed in “lock down” and no one can enter into God’s presence until the work of these seven angels is complete (verse 8b).

In chapter 16 the seven angels are given the order to, “go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath upon the earth.”  While each bowl is poured out in succession, there is nothing to indicate much of a pause between them:

Bowl 1, verse 16:2, causes festering sores on those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. 

Bowl 2, verse 16:3, causes all of the seas of the earth to become blood like that of a dead person.  The blood of a dead person would be thick and dark.  It would bring death to everything in the oceans.   

Bowl 3, verse 16:4, causes all of the fresh water on the earth to turn to blood.  Not only surface water but even springs and ground water will turn to blood.  The angel pouring out this bowl declares that, “You are just in these judgments, O Holy One…”   

Bowl 4, verse 16:8, causes the sun to scorch all people with fire.  Even as the people are seared by intense heat, they continue to curse the name God. 

Bowl 5, verse 16:10, causes the kingdom of the beast to be plunged into darkness.  But this darkness is more than the lack of light, the people gnaw at their tongues in agony.  The combination of festering sores, intense heat, no water, and this terrible darkness is agonizing.  Yet much like Pharaoh, they refuse to repent.   

Bowl 6, verses 16:12-16, initiates the battle of Har Meggido (Armageddon).  As the sixth angel empties his bowl, the Euphrates river dries up to prepare the way for the kings from the east.  As this happens, demons that looked like frogs exited the mouths of each member of the anti-Trinity.  These demons go out to the governments of the entire world, deceiving them into gathering for a great battle.

Jesus faces John and says (verse 15), “Look, I come like a thief!  Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.”

Returning his attention to the action, John records that these armies gather together in Har Megiddo.  Today, we know Har Megiddo as Armageddon.  We will return to this battle in a minute…

Bowl 7, verses 16:17-20, initiates the final destruction of evil.  As the angel pours out this last bowl, a loud voice declares “It is done!”  In the midst of lightning and thunder the earth is struck by a massive earthquake.  This earthquake splits the city of Jerusalem into three parts.  However this is not the end but only the beginning of the destruction caused the seventh bowl. 

Before John continues he receives an informative sidebar from one of the bowl angels.  In chapter 17 the angel describes Babylon, the Prostitute on the Beast. In verse 1 this angel invites John to witness the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters.  “With her,” the angels continues, “the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.”  

At that point John is carried away in the Spirit so we know this is a separate vision.  In this vision John sees a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns.  We have previously learned that this beast refers to the anti-Christ.  The woman (prostitute) was dressed in purple and scarlet, glittering with god, precious stones, and pearls.  She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.  In verse five we learn of a mystery, a name written on her forehand:  “Babylon the Great – The Mother of Prostitutes and of the Abominations of the earth.”  John saw that this prostitute was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.  We will come back to this woman/prostitute when we get to verse 15 (the angel provides us with important detail).

The angel understood that John was astonished so he explained the mystery of the woman and the beast she rides.  I will quote verse eight directly.  “The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction.  The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come.”  John records the following two times in this one verse:  “…the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come.”  We have already learned that this beast is the anti-Christ, an evil being controlled by satan.  In chapter 13 we learned that the beast received a fatal head wound and was brought back to life.  The anti-Christ was alive, he was fatally wounded, and then he was resurrected – simply so that he can go to his destruction!

But there is more, beginning in verse 9, “this calls for a mind with wisdom.” The seven heads are seven hills upon which the woman sits.  They are also seven kings.  Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come;  but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while.  The beast (who once was, and now is not), is an eighth king.  He belongs to the seventh and is going to his destruction. 

This message from the angel brings the beast into clearer focus.  Not only is the beast the satan controlled anti-Christ BUT he/it is also an eighth king in a run.  Five kings have fallen (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece).  The sixth, Rome, existed at the time of John’s Vision, and seventh is yet to come.  Some speculate that the seventh king is Rome, or the European common market, or the Pope.  The truth is that we don’t know with any certainty whom the seventh king is.  But we do know that the anti-Christ will replace the seventh king.  And we know that the seventh king will be a leader of substantial portion of the world – similar to Rome, Greece, and Babylon. 

Verse twelve gives us one more bit of detail about the beast, “the ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast.”  Thus we also know that the beast/anti-Christ will lead a group of ten “kings” or governmental authorities (verse 13).  The beast/anti-Christ and his ten minions will wage war against the Lamb but Jesus will triumph (verse 14).  We, as Followers of Jesus Christ, will stand at His side!

 Now (verse 15) the angel turns to an explanation of the woman/prostitute.  First we learn that the “many waters” where the prostitute sits are “peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages.”  Secondly, we learn that the beast HATES the woman.  God will allow the beast to bring the woman to ruin (verse 16).  That is God’s purpose and plan – for a time.  Thirdly, (verse 18) “The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.”  The great city of which the angel refers is called Mystery Babylon. 

Many, myself included, interpret the woman/prostitute In chapter 17 to represent false religion(s) – the apostate church.  Thus the false church is riding on the back of an evil governmental leader (king) – the beast.  While the governmental leader hates this religion(s), he uses it to garner support and acceptance by the peoples of the earth.  At some point the beast/anti-Christ/king turns on the woman/false church/prostitute and puts her to ruin (verse 16-18).  Mystery Babylon is the false religious and government system setup by the beast to defeat Christ. 

In chapter 18 another angel, one with great authority, announces the demise of Mystery Babylon.  The rest of the chapter describes the rightful destruction of Mystery Babylon and the heaven celebration over its demise.

Revelation (scene 4 of 7)

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Scene 4 of 7:  “A pause/interlude for seven messages.”(chapters 10-14)  As noted at the end of the last post, scene 4 chapters 10-14, provides the background information necessary to understand the Great Tribulation and God’s judgments.  John, like us, needs to be introduced to a few of the key participants in this great drama.  I find it useful to break these four chapters down into seven messages.  

Pause 1 (chapter 10, angel with a little scroll):  In chapter 10 John receives a message from a mighty angel with a little scroll.  John notes that the message of this angel is in the form of Seven Thunders.  However, John is not allowed to record the message of the seven thunders.  But, as John notes in verse 7, “in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound the seventh trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to His servants the prophets.”  Thus we know that something very important about God will be revealed at the time of the seventh trumpet.  We also know that aspects of these revelations can be found in the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and the other prophets.

The message is not yet complete.  In verse 8-10 John is directed to receive the little scroll book from the angel and to eat it.  As John complies, the book tastes sweet – the knowledge of God is always sweet.  However, once eaten, the knowledge found in the book makes John’s stomach sour.  The angel makes this message clear in verse 11.  Is spite of the fact that what you are about to see is quite bitter, you must continue to experience the visions and record the prophecies that you will receive.  This prophecy MUST be reported to many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.

Pause 2 (chapter 11, two witnesses):  In chapter 11 we are introduced to two witnesses who will prophesy for 1,260 days (3.5 years).  These two men are described figurative as: olive trees and lampstands.  Many think this is a reference to Moses and Elijah, others lean toward Enoch and Elijah.  The symbolism of olives trees signifies a connection to Israel, while the lampstands denote them as leaders of the church.  These two leaders have great authority and power from God, similar to the power that Moses experienced in the Old Testament. 

After 42 months these two great witnesses are killed, left in the street for three days, and then resurrected to heaven.   The comparison between this message and the crucifixion of Jesus cannot be missed.  Many humans will gloat at the defeat of these two great witnesses.  From verse 14 we can conclude that these witnesses are active on earth prior to the time of the sixth Trumpet (second woe).  From verse 15 we can conclude that they are called to heaven prior to the sounding of the seventh trumpet.   In heaven, the second woe (the great battle) has ended.  In heaven, the seventh trumpet has just sounded!  But John needs to learn a bit more before he returns to earth and sees the results of the seventh trumpet…

Pause 3 (chapter 12, the woman and the dragon):  Chapter 12 is introduced as a great sign in heaven.  This great sign seems to take place in the ancient past.  As we read this chapter it is clear that John is providing a summary of the fall of satan, and the fact that one third of the angels fell with Satan.  Secondly, we are provided a summary of the birth of Jesus from the tribe of Israel.  And thirdly, a record of satan’s attempt to wage war on the Child - and later on humanity.  It was important for John (and us!) to understand that the bitterness of the coming judgment is a necessary part of His plan.  It is the plan from ancient times.

Others, including MacArthur, see a bit more detail encoded in chapter 12.  From verses 13-17 MacArthur believes that we are provided with satan’s three-phase battle plan.  Phase one (verses 13-14) happens early in the tribulation as satan attacks Israel.  During phase two (verses 15-16), satan expands his battle to include those allied with Israel.  And finally, in the final phase (verse 17) satan expands his battle to include the Church.  

Another theory is held by some.  They see the Vision of chapter 12 as a reference to constellations.  Using software that can display the stars (constellations) through time from any location on earth, they find interesting arrangements.  If they assume that the constellation virgo is the "women" referred to in chapter 12, they are able to find the twelve stars on her head at various dates.  Many dates have been proposed, the latest of which is September 23, 2017.

Pause 4 (chapter 13, the ANTI-Trinity is introduced):  Chapter 13 is simply fascinating.  We are introduced to the ANTI-Trinity:  The dragon (anti-God), The beast (anti-Christ), and The false prophet (anti-Spirit).  John first mentions the beast (anti-Christ) in chapter 11; it is this same beast that kills the two Godly witnesses.  In John’s vision he notes the dragon (satan) standing on the shore of the sea.  He immediately adds that he “saw a beast coming out of the sea.”  The beast rises up as Satan looks on, still thinking that he is the rightful owner of the earth.  John continues his description of the beast:  “It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.  The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion.” 

A very similar vision of a beast is recorded by Daniel (Daniel 7).  From Daniel, we learn that the lion described Babylon, the Bear was described the Medes/Persians, and the Leopard represented Greece.  A forth great beast with iron teeth was the Roman empire.  From Daniel we also learn that horns represent kings or kingdoms, specifically ten horns represent ten kingdoms.  John’s beast resembled a leopard (Greece), but had feet like a bear (Medes/Persians), and a mouth like a lion (Babylon).  John also described this beast as having ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns.  I think it is clear that the anti-Christ (the beast coming from out of the sea) is a leader with characteristics of Greece, Persia, and Babylon.  The ten horns is likely symbolic of ten nations (governments) that we join forces with the government of the beast/anti-Christ. 

What is unclear is the nature of the characteristics of Greece, Persia, and Babylon that we ought to focus upon.  Are they geographic, political, cultural, or physical?  What are we to make of the ten kings (horns), seven head, and ten crowns associated with (or aligned with) the beast?  The answers to such questions will become clear at the time of the seventh trumpet!

Let us turn know to the second beast (verse 11), coming out of the earth.  John describes this beast as having two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon.  Though softer in appearance, this second beast is more deceptive.  Not only does this beast speak for satan, but he/it is empowered by satan to do signs (miracles), even breathing life into an image of the first beast.  This beast orders everyone to worship the first beast (anti-Christ) and kills those who do not comply.       

In verses 16-18 we learn about the mark of the beast, 666.  John provides us with a few facts about this 666 mark:  First, people will be forced to receive this mark on their hand or forehead.  Those that do not have the mark will be unable to buy or sell.  Secondly, this 666 mark is the number of a man involving a calculation.  John further notes that it will take wisdom and insight to determine the calculation.  Many assume that the number, this 666 will be tattooed on people.  While that is possible, I don’t think that is the true message.  Earlier John made reference to the mark of God.  The mark of God is not a physical mark on the exterior of the body but rather a mark on the soul.  I think Satan will attempt to mimic this type of mark.  I think the mark of the beast is far more insidious than a 666 tatooed on one’s arm.  In recent times thoughts have turned to implantable chips.  The specifics of this number will become clearer as we approach the seventh Trumpet.  Whatever the calculation or the form of this mark, we are to be prepared and be not deceived.

Pause 5 (chapter 14:1-7, Jesus and the 144,000):  In the first part of chapter 14, verses 1-7, we meet up again with the 144,000 that we were introduced to in chapter 7.  This time they stand with Jesus on mount Zion.  It is important to remember that this group is marked/sealed by God.  It is because of this passage immediately following the comments on the mark of the beast that I believe satan will attempt to mimic the type of mark/seal of God.  We do not know the precise timing of this announcement but we do know that Jesus is standing alongside the 144,000 in Zion – Jerusalem.  Therefore, I believe that this will occur near the end of the Tribulation.  Since these 144,000 began their work in chapter 7, it seems logical to assume that they have completed their work in this passage.

Pause 6 (chapter 14:8-13, Messages from three angels:  In verses 8-13 of chapter 14 we are introduced to three angels with three messages.  The first angel declares the eternal Gospel.  The second angel states that, “Babylon the Great has Fallen (v8).  The message of the third angel is, “Do not worship the beast or take its mark.”  The three messages of these angels, along with the placement in the text of this message, lead me to the understanding that this is near the end of the Tribulation.

Pause 7 (chapter 14:14-20, The Harvest of the earth):  The seventh and final “pause” can be found in the last seven verses of chapter 14.  Here we learn of the two-part harvest of the earth.  In the first phase, the Son of Man “harvests” those who are made righteous by faith.  They are referred to figuratively as wheat.  In the second phase, a angel gathers those who remain.  They are referred to figuratively as grapes.  They are placed in the winepress of God’s wrath.  As with the above announcements within chapter 14, this one most certainly takes place at the end of the Tribulation.

After completed the seven passages and recording the announcements provided, John is prepared to finish his Visions of God’s Judgment!