Honolulu Bible Church
Morning Worship Service
July 26, 1998
THE BOOK OF REVELATION
THE CHURCH'S TRIUMPH THROUGH CHRIST
Sermon #54 - The Bowls of Wrath - Revelation 16
INTRODUCTION - We have been emphasizing the first century interpretation of the book of Revelation. It is a covenantal book, describing both the curses and blessings of the Covenant of Grace. This covenant had once been given to the Jews, a covenant of mercy and forgiveness to those who followed the Lord. Yet the Jews of the New Testament had rejected this covenant. They thought they were children of Abraham, when in reality they were children of the devil. Instead of responding with repentance and faith, they rejected the Messiah, killed Him, and then turned against God's true people, the Church. For this rebellion and apostasy, Israel would reap the curses of the broken covenant. They had been forewarned of this in the Old Testament, and now in the New Testament we see that judgment poured out. Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed, and the true people of God, the church, would come victoriously through this great time of judgment. This is the theme of judgment in Revelation - the pouring out of covenantal curses upon first century apostate Israel. It is the end of the old dispensation and the beginning of the rule and reign of the Lord Jesus Christ.
1) THE WAY GOD WOULD JUDGE ISRAEL IF SHE TURNED AWAY FROM HIS COVENANT OF GRACE - Deuteronomy 28:58-62 - We must remember that God told Israel He would curse them if they broke His gracious covenant. Deuteronomy 28 is a chapter filled with the curses of the broken covenant. In particular, we are told here that if Israel rejected God, He would bring upon them all the plagues which He once sent against their enemy, Egypt. This was the curse of the covenant. It is important for us to see this, for when we come to interpret Revelation, we shall see these plagues being poured out on Israel of the first century. The words used to describe Jerusalem in the book of Revelation are: Egypt, Sodom, Babylon, and the Great City. She had fallen into idolatry and had become like her enemies (Revelation 11:8). Due to this, God would judge her like Egypt. Jerusalem would be destroyed, and the way it is pictured is through the plagues once given to Egypt. The bowls of wrath are full of the Egyptian plagues, and they are sent forth against the Great City, Jerusalem.
2) JOHN IS CERTAINLY SPEAKING OF THE JUDGMENT WHICH WOULD FALL UPON ISRAEL - Revelation 16:19 - There is no question, John certainly has Israel and Jerusalem in mind as he writes this chapter of Revelation. She is the Great City, and there is no other great city in Revelation besides Jerusalem. First century Jerusalem was no longer the City of God. The Temple was no longer His dwelling place. Now it was time for Israel to receive her judgment of the plagues for breaking covenant with God.
3) THE JUDGMENT OF GOD ON APOSTATE ISRAEL PICTURED THROUGH THE PLAGUES OF EGYPT
A) THE VOICE OF THE LORD FROM THE TEMPLE - Revelation 16:1 - The command for judgment comes from the holy place of God. It is the Lord who initiates this wrath. We can imagine how fearful it is to hear such judgment pronounced! God has been patient up to this point, but now it is time for His wrath to fall (Hebrews 10:31). We can imagine the residents of Jerusalem enjoying themselves, spending their days in their labors, still living under the patience of God, yet what a horrible day it was when His wrath was released! They were caught in their self-righteousness and rebellion against the Lord! The bowls of wrath were let loose upon these apostates.
B) THE FIRST BOWL OF WRATH - Revelation 16:2 - God once poured boils out on Egypt and now they are given to Israel. The recipients are those who followed Rome and bowed to Caesar, and it is certain that Israel had bowed before this pagan king. Instead of Christ, they pledged allegiance to Caesar, thus God judges them for their unfaithfulness.
C) THE SECOND BOWL OF WRATH - Revelation 16:3 - Here we see the Egyptian plague of water turning to blood. Israel's land would become filled with their blood as judgment came from God through the Roman armies. The records of those times continue to speak of the great outpouring of blood from those killed in the Jewish nation.
D) THE THIRD BOWL OF WRATH - Revelation 16:4-7 - Once again, we see the Egyptian plague of blood. Now it is the rivers and springs which are filled with blood. There is blood throughout the land of Israel. There is no doubt that John is speaking of Israel for who else were the ones who killed the prophets and the saints? This was the crime which Christ accused them of, and which would reap the wrath of God (Matthew 23:31-36). The blood of the prophets and saints would be required from the Jews. We are shown here the response of heaven to the judgment of God, The angels, and thus the church of the Lord, respond with praise for the righteous judgments of God. The Lord is doing that which is right and He is praised by His people.
E) THE FOURTH BOWL OF WRATH - Revelation 16:8,9 - This passage shows us the terrible response which Israel will have to the judgment of God. Instead of bringing repentance and faith, they will become like Egypt, like Pharaoh, hardened in their hearts. They hate God even more and refuse to bow to Him. Such is the case as we witness in this world. Men who have fallen under the judgment of God will bring forth blasphemy and anger unless the Lord changes their hardened hearts. The plague of the scorching sun is a reversal of the covenantal blessing where God would protect His people from the scorching sun (Psalm 121:5-8). Now, the blessing is turned into a curse.
F) THE FIFTH BOWL OF WRATH - Revelation 16:10,11 - Though the bulk of the wrath is aimed at Israel, here we see Rome also falling under the judgment of God. Darkness strikes the Roman empire during the time of the Beast. The darkness is an Old Testament symbol of God "turning out the lights" of His enemies. As Rome will not repent of her deeds against the church, so God brings judgment against her. We are reminded of that terrible time of darkness in her history after the death of Nero, when the entire nation was plunged in chaos.
G) THE SIXTH BOWL OF WRATH - Revelation 16:12-14 - Again, the parallels to the Egyptian plagues is amazing. The frogs came out of the River in Egypt, but here they are pictured as demons, proceeding from the enemies of God, and leading the forces of God's enemies into battle against the Lord. The armies of Titus certainly came from the direction of the Euphrates, and here we see the dragon, Rome and Jerusalem bound together as the enemies of God. They are all being brought together in a great battle against the Lord. This is the spiritual warfare behind the events of the overthrow of Jerusalem. In this sixth bowl, you see the unity of the enemies of God, even though they will eventually go to war against each other. They are all united as one against God. It is again the great theme of Psalm 2, where the enemies try to overthrow the throne of the Lord.
H) THE RESPONSE OF THE CHURCH DURING THIS JUDGMENT - Revelation16:15 - The true people of God, the church, is called to respond during this time. They are expected to keep their garments pure, for they shall be protected during this time of judgment. This is the same message Christ gave to the churches earlier (Revelation 3:2-5). Christ coming "as a thief" is not His second coming, rather it is describing His surprise visit on Israel and the church, for He will visit them when they are not aware to see if they are still faithful. The first century church was, therefore, always to be ready and blameless before the Lord.
I) ARMAGEDDON - Revelation 16:16 - This is where the demons have gathered the forces of the enemies of the Lord. Once again, here is a name which has received much bad interpretation in our day. Even the world thinks that "Armageddon" means the end of the world, but this is not the event connected with this place. This is the only time Armageddon is mentioned in Scripture. Unfortunately, there is no such literal place in the land of Israel. The word means "Mount Mageddo" and such a mountain does not exist in Israel. There are those who tie this place in with "Megiddo" in Scripture, but the spelling is not the same, and Megiddo is not a mountain, it is a city sitting in the middle of a plain. There have been those who have tried to convince us that Armageddon is Megiddo, but there is no way that this location would be considered a mountain. We are told that the plain of Megiddo is the place for the final battle between Christ and the devil at the end of time, but once again there is a problem. This location could never contain the worldwide military forces which are being spoken of, for it is too small. We should also realize that the text never speaks of a battle taking place here. It is simply said that this is where the enemies of God are mobilized from. There is no mention of a battle of Armageddon taking place. If we are going to be literal in our interpretation of Armageddon, we would have to say that there is no such literal place, thus, it is simply an image of God's enemies gathering against Him (Psalm2). If we presume that John is referring to Megiddo, we might think that he is referring back to the battle of Josiah at this place, where the king was defeated and Israel began to turn to idolatry from that point on. Megiddo became a symbol of defeat and destruction for Israel. Perhaps this is what John had in mind, but this could be stretching the text. Armageddon is a figurative place, having nothing to do with the end of the world, but is used to illustrate the gathering of God's enemies against the Lord. Little do these enemies realize, they will be facing the judgment of God!
J) THE SEVENTH BOWL OF WRATH - Revelation 16:17-20 - We are again given two references to Jerusalem as it is called: the Great City and Babylon. Jerusalem is divided into three parts, a reflection of its judgment in the Old Testament (Ezekiel 5:5-12). It was again a symbol of the judgment of God. The angel cries "It is done!" and here we see the completeness of God's anger poured out. The covenantal curses are poured out to the full on Israel and the cataclysmic signs represent the fall of that nation as God turns against her in His wrath.
A COMPARISON BETWEEN THE PLAGUES ON EGYPT
THE TRUMPET BLASTS WARNING OF JUDGMENT,
AND THE FINAL JUDGMENT OF ISRAEL IN THE BOWLS OF WRATH
(From David Chilton's commentary, "The Days of Vengeance")
PLAGUES ON EGYPT
1. Boils (sixth plague: Exodus 9:8-12)
2. Waters become blood (first plague: Exodus 7:17-21)
3. Waters become blood (first plague: Exodus 7:17-21)
4. Darkness (ninth plague: Exodus 10:21-23)
5. Locusts (eighth plague: Exodus 10:4-20)
6. Invasion of frogs from river (second plague: Exodus 8:2-4)
7. Hail (seventh plague: Exodus 9:18-26)
1. On the Land; 1/3 earth, trees, grass burned (8:7)
2. On the sea; 1/3 sea becomes blood, 1/3 sea creatures die; 1/3 ships destroyed (8:8,9)
3. On the rivers and springs; 1/3 of the waters become wormwood (8:10,11)
4. 1/3 sun, moon, and stars darkened (8:12)
5. Demonic locusts tormenting men (9:1-12)
6. Army from Euphrates kills 1/3 mankind (9:13-21)
7. Voices, storm, earthquake, hail (11:15-19)
BOWLS OF WRATH
1. On the Land, becoming sores (16:2)
2. On the sea, becoming blood (16:3)
3. On rivers and springs, becoming blood (16:4-7)
4. On the sun, causing it to scorch (16:8,9)
5. On the throne of the Beast, causing darkness (16:10,11)
6. On the Euphrates, drying it up to make way for the kings of the east; invasion of frog-demons; Armageddon (16:12-16)
7. On the air, causing storm, earthquake, and hail (16:17-21)