Handout No.

12 Joshua Pappas

The Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath & Armageddon - Revelation 16

Do you fear the imminent political escalation leading to the Battle of Armageddon? Well, maybe you’ll feel a little better to know that’s not what this chapter is about, and the battle of Armageddon as mentioned in Revelation 16 has nothing directly to do with our present Twentyfirst Century time. Chapter 16 shows seven angels commanded to pour out the wrath of God contained in seven bowls. These bowls represent divine judgments upon the immoral and idolatrous people of the Roman Empire, and specifically upon those involved in emperor worship (which was the main source of Roman persecution against the church). Like the seven trumpet judgments earlier in Revelation, these judgments are answers to the prayers of the saints and their primary purpose is an attempt to bring the evil people of that ancient time to repentance, and to bring vengeance upon them in response to what they’ve done to God’s people. I. I. Pouring Out the Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath (16:1-21) A. The Angels’ Commission (v.1) 1. The voice is probably God’s, since it comes from the heavenly temple, and (as of 15:8) no one else is in it (at least in the sanctuary). 2. A lot of blasphemy, vain boasting, heathenism, and of course, persecutions had come out of Rome. 3. Until this point in the text, God has been saying a lot about his wrath (5th time since Ch.13). He wants us to understand clearly it’s what this is. None of it is an accident! 4. It’s a short, terrifying statement! B. The First Bowl (vv.1-2) 1. “Angels, the good ones, are wiser than humans. When God says ‘go’ they just get up and go. You think there’s a lesson here for us? The bowls parallel the trumpets. The trumpets were to warn, but the bowls are to recompense. The time for warning is over. The trumpets are partial, but the bowls are total and complete.” –McGuiggan, Revelation, p.235. 2. Sores on those with the mark of the beast. This reminds us of the 6th plague upon Egypt, which, we are told in Exodus 9:11, came even upon Pharaoh’s priests/magicians. C. The Second Bowl (v.3)

1. Compare to the 1st Plague (Exodus), and contrast with the 2nd Trumpet, which was a partial judgment. The 2nd bowl turns the sea not just into blood, but into dead man’s blood. Everything in the sea dies as a result. Do we take this literally? (See Zephaniah 1:2-4; Jeremiah 4:23ff). 2. This is a total judgment upon the political, commercial, and social system. Did ancient Rome’s political, commercial, and social system collapse? D. The Third Bowl (vv.4-7) 1. Just as God judged every aspect of Egypt’s world in the time of the Exodus, so he judged all parts of ancient heathen Rome. He is Sovereign over all things, and there are no gods who can resist or counter his will when he decides it’s time to act. 2. Rivers represent fresh “drinking” water. 3. The judgment of rivers of blood upon Rome is just, because Rome’s thirst for blood was unquenchable. 4. (V.7) The altar speaks out (the same altar that has played a part in Revelation before, see McGuiggan p.238). E. The Fourth Bowl (vv.8-9) 1. Poured out on the sun so that it sent out scorching heat. The wicked cursed God rather than to bow in recognition of his power. 2. See 7:13-17. What we are to see are the contrasts between what the faithful receive, despite what they suffer, and what the wicked receive, because of what they cause the faithful to suffer. F. The Fifth Bowl (v.10-11) 1. Poured out on the beast’s throne, and its kingdom plunged into darkness. 2. Symbolically, darkness stands for ignorance, deception, and confusion. As God judged and broke each part of ancient Rome in succession, the leaders grew more and more desperate and irrational. Bad leadership deepened all of Rome’s problems and was a major factor in her final downfall. This was all God’s doing. G. The Sixth Bowl (vv.12-16) 1. Euphrates dried up. Euphrates represents powers coming from the east. In Israel’s history it had been the source of Assyria and later Babylon. In those cases, the coming of armies against God’s people was represented by the Euphrates overflowing its banks. See Isaiah 8:7-8 for instance 2. In this case it has been suggested that the drying of the river represents the removal of military might in order to make way for an army from the east. 3. Premillennialists often argue it is an army from present-day Asian countries. They are inconsistent. 4. It’s more than likely the river is dried up to make way for God’s armies to move through. In the Bible, only God is ever reported to have such power over the waters. The kings of the east are on the Lord’s side.

5. Concerning the frogs (demonic spirits), see 1Kings 22:19-23. H. The Seventh Bowl (vv.17-21) 1. Poured out upon the air—the particular place of Satan’s power (Ephesians 2:1ff). 2. It will be more fully described in Ch.20, but as God judges and afflicts all of Satan’s minions and tools, it only make sense that God will punish him too!” II. Armageddon A. Refers to Har-Magedon or Megiddo. B. This is where Israel won great victories against Jabin and Sisera (Judges 4-5). It’s where Pharaoh Necho (on errand for Yahweh) defeated and killed King Josiah. It was the ideal ancient battleground. It isn’t at all suited for the kind of faceoff Premillennialists are looking for, but for ancient scenarios (which are all Revelation has in mind) it was perfect. C. Consistency of interpretation requires we understand the reference to Megiddo as symbolic—a symbol in a symbolic narrative. Armageddon represents the faceoff between the forces of the Dragon and the Lord. It isn’t a literal battle yet to be fought between the fabled Antichrist and returned Jesus. Revelation has nothing to do with any of that fiction. However, if we understand Revelation to explain how the Lord fought the power of Satan through the ancient world and gave victory and deliverance to the church, we can know he’s the same God today. In a sense, every generation is marching toward Megiddo in the ranks of the Dragon’s Hordes, or the righteous army of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have an Armageddon to fight and win in our generation so let’s awake each morning and gear up for war (Ephesians 6:10-17; 2Corinthians 10:3-6, etc.).

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