It is without doubt one of the most anticipated events in Scripture. It is a constant theme in the Old Testament and expounded upon throughout the New Testament.
The ‘great day of His wrath’ will be unlike anything the world has ever known. The time for mercy and long-suffering has come to an end. No one will anymore have to ask “why doesn’t God do something”, for now God will act, in his righteous judgment, and we will see seven bowls of wrath poured upon this Christ-rejecting world that has shed the blood of countless numbers of God’s own.
The following verse-by-verse commentary is drawn from our Sunday morning studies where we have been studying verse by verse through the book of Revelation.
May these notes encourage you and help to deepen your love for the World of God.
The Great Tribulation
Following on from the parenthetical chapters (11-14) we now rejoin the time-line where we left off, at the mid-point of the Tribulation. Antichrist’s world Government is now established, Israel has fled to the wilderness of Edom (modern day Jordan) to escape the world-wide persecution – and seemingly the world government will have no jurisdiction there. The remaining believers (those who have converted since chapter 6) have come under extreme persecution, and the false religious system that has dominated and manipulated the world for so long has been destroyed by Antichrist’s 10 ‘kings’.
This is Satan’s moment of glory, when the world has all but eradicated the God of the Bible. But the situation is very reminiscent of Adonijah’s claiming the title to the throne of Israel in 1 Kings. Although Solomon had been promised by his father (David) to become the king, we read “Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, I will be king: and he prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him” (1 Kings 1:5). Adonijah’s ego trip was brought to a sudden end and Solomon was crowned king. With that in mind, remember where we left off in chapter 10? A mighty angel, with one foot on the land and one in the sea, declared that time was up! (Rev 10:6), and in chapter 11 we had the great declaration that “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev 11:!5). As with Adonijah, Satan will have his tenure rudely interrupted when the Rightful King returns to establish the Throne of David.
In preparation for that, the earth will now be purged and made ready for the Coming King!
This is now one of the most anticipated moments in scripture. This is the beginning of the Day of the LORD. This is the Great Tribulation. This is the moment when God’s wrath will be poured out on this world without restraint, and the wickedness of man will be punished in God’s righteous anger. The blood of the millions of His children who have been killed throughout the ages will be avenged.
And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.
John has seen a number of signs to this point, so to state that this one is ‘great and marvelous’ should grab our attention! The Greek words here are megas thaumastos, which literally translated could be rendered ‘exceedingly great and to be wondered at’. Even though we are all too well acquainted with the wickedness of man, the ferocity of the judgments that are about to be poured out will cause us to stop to catch our breath. Just as God’s mercy is unfathomable to us, so is His wrath. You may well start to think that this is too extreme, but remember that God is good (Psalm 119:68). The judgment meted out is in direct proportion to the crime. Remember that we also have the tendency to play down sin, i.e. make it out to be not so bad. But God is Holy. Read the book of Leviticus and see how much blood is shed, then you might start to see just how abhorrent sin is to a Holy God. Remember too, that God has gone to extraordinary lengths so that no one would have to endure what is about to follow.
We have had four groups of 7. The seven seals (Rev 6-8), the seven trumpets (Rev 8-10), the seven thunders (which John was not allowed to record – Rev 10:4), and now the seven bowels of wrath as they are often known, in the King James called the vials. When these are poured out it will be done. This is the purging of earth prophesied by Isaiah:
“Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it”. (Isa 13:9)
And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.
The Church was Raptured before the Tribulation began, prior to the start of the seven years. A great multitude was then saved and taken out of the Tribulation (as recorded in ch 7:13-14). The two witnesses were then removed when their work was complete, and in the last chapter we saw the removal of the 144,000. All this has been in preparation for the coming hour of wrath. All that remained was for these tribulation martyrs to be killed by the edict of Antichrist for refusing to receive the mark of the beast or his name. Thus, just as with Lot and the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah, all the righteous are now removed and time for the pouring out of these vials has come.
In Romans 11:25 Paul declared: “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in”. Many have speculated at when that moment would be. When exactly would all the Gentiles be gathered in? I believe it is here. It will also be at this time that Israel, now in hiding, will cry out for their Deliver (Hosea 5:15), and so their blindness will be removed.
3 And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.
4 Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.
How wonderful for these believers who did not know Jesus during the Church age, possibly never went to a worship service at a Bible believing church, and have probably had little to no fellowship to speak of, now to be before the throne in Heaven, all their suffering and troubles behind them forever. No wonder they sing! But just stop for a moment: doesn’t this make you overwhelming glad to be part of the Church right now and not have to endure what they will have to? Shouldn’t this be enough of a wake-up call to never moan again about all the things we have to ‘do’ for the church now? How much do you think these martyrs would have loved to have attended a mid-week Bible study, or go to a mid-weak prayer meeting? They will probably never get to worship in freedom on a Sunday morning, or stay and fellowship after the meeting. There will be a price on their head for defying Antichrist; yet like their LORD, for the joy set before them, they will ‘endure their cross, despising the shame’ (ref Hebrews 12:2). We should stop and ask ourselves how real our faith really is? Do we despise the world, counting the things we once thought were gain as loss for excellency of knowing Christ? (see Philippians 3:8). Or do we still love the things of this world a little more than we should?
After returning from Patmos, John wrote to us and said: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15-17).
If reading these things in Revelation stir us at all (and if they don’t please check your pulse!), we should be wanting to “fellowship more as we see the day approaching”! (Hebrews 10:25), edifying each other in love (Ephesians 4:16) as we rejoice in our like precious faith (2 Peter 1:1). To be honest, I just don’t get Christians who don’t want to spend as much time as possible with other Christians, “for where two or three are gathered…” (Matthew 18:20).
Look at the beauty and wonder of their song of love to their Saviour! They sing Moses song, and the song of the Lamb, using the very best expressions of worship they can utter. They praise Him for His works, for His justice, for His truthfulness, for His might and power, for His holiness, and because now is the time for His judgments to be made manifest!
5 And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened:
6 And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles.
7 And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever.
8 And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.
John says that after the incredible things he just witnessed, he looked… the Greek word is ‘eido’ which carries the implication of understanding. It is as if John now sees the Tabernacle in heaven open and what he now observes and records for us suddenly makes sense. If he had not understood before, he does now. After all the tribulation martyrs have gone through, all they have suffered, and even casting our minds back to chapter 6 where we heard the cry of the martyrs under the alter (who are the saints who have been killed for their faith through the ages)… “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled” (Rev 6:10-11). Now that time has come; now it is the time to avenge their blood on those ‘who have made this world their home’, and rejected everything holy and pure.
As the heavenly tabernacle opens John sees these final seven angels to whom are given seven vials (containers / bowls) in which are seven final plagues that God will pour on the world.
It is as if the vials contain things so toxic that all heaven holds its breath as these angels commence their great task!
But two things to note; firstly we are told that the heavenly Temple is the ‘Tabernacle of the Testimony’ or we might say the ‘Tabernacle of Witness’. To fully understand this heavenly Tabernacle we would need to do a detailed study of Exodus 25-31, where the instructions for the earthly model of this heavenly Temple were given to Moses. However, for now, let me just ask the question, what was the heavenly Temple a witness to? The obvious answer is that it is a witness and testimony to the completed work of Christ. Everything in the earthly Tabernacle pointed to Christ in some way. But we are told a number of times in scripture that God keeps records. We know we have the Lamb’s book of life (which we will deal with more fully in chapter 20), but we read in Psalm 56:8 “Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?” In Psalm Ps 139:16 we are told that ”Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them” .
In other words God keeps records of every tear you shed; He knows exactly how He formed you in the womb, and keeps an inventory.
So my question is, what were these seven angels doing in the Tabernacle of Witness? Could it be that they had gone to consult God’s records, the testimonies that had been recorded regarding every cruel, vicious, merciless, barbaric and ungodly act committed against His saints?
The 2nd point to mention here is the fact that this is the only time we see angels clothed in white linen. Other than this reference, white linen is only seen being worn by the saints / in connection with man. In Revelation 19:8 we are told that fine linen represents the righteousness of the saints. Could it therefore be that these angels are so clothed because they are here acting as representative of the saints throughout the ages?
And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.
The word translated vials is translated bowls in some of the modern translations and comes from the Greek word ‘fee-al’-ay’ and means a broad shallow cup. The picture here is clear: these vials contain some nasty things – you can imagine the seven angels treading carefully so as not to trip and spill any of this stuff in the wrong place! The vials contain the ‘wrath of God’; it has been stored up for the ‘day of wrath’ (Rom 2:5). Much of what we have seen up to this point has been a warning – coupled with the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom by the Two Witnesses and the 144,000 Jews. God has done everything possible to allow people to repent; remember, God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11) and has truly been ‘longsuffering toward [mankind] not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). Again, as we move into this chapter we need to remember that God is just and righteous.
And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.
There have been those who have speculated whether this will be as the result of a chip (microprocessor) implant ‘bursting’ under the skin. Certainly the ‘Mark’ will enable people to buy and sell, so this may well be the case, but it is worth remembering, as we have seen in our study of chapter 13, the Mark of the Beast will be the number of Antichrist’s name and not an individual’s personal and/or security details as is often assumed.
Either way, all those who have received the Mark will break out in extremely painful sores. Medically boils and sores are usually a sign of an inward corruption, a problem under the surface. The same is true in a spiritual sense for all those who have rejected Christ and chosen Antichrist.
And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.
These judgments are not just random, so we should ask ourselves why the sea? Well, ever since the earliest times the sea has been essential for trade and the moving of goods and produce around the world. In the early years after the flood each family had a simple lifestyle with their own property and livestock being sufficient for their needs, materialism was not an issue and God was central in people’s lives. However along came Nimrod (great grandson of Noah) and he became a ‘mighty one in defiance of the Lord’ (Gen 10:8-11).
According to Justin in his writing ‘Trogus Pompeius’, Nimrod ‘was the first who carried on war against his neighbours, and he conquered all nations from Assyria to Libya, as they were yet unacquainted with the arts of war” Thus everything became more centralised and Nimrod set up cities, becoming the first ruler of men. With this centralisation came the demands that a large populace necessitates and the beginning of industry and trade. Whist industry and trade may of themselves not be wrong, the obvious result was the beginning of materialism and a shift in focus from the Lord God who would provide all their needs, to a desire for the acquisition of wealth and substance. We will deal in much greater depth with this subject in the next two chapters but materialism has become one of the greatest obstacles to men seeking after God. It has often been commented on that people presented with the gospel in third world countries seem to respond readily and often incredible miracles have been reported among isolated tribes and cultures. Why? Because there are far less distractions; they have less to ‘give up’ in order to follow Christ. The western world has every form of amusement imaginable to occupy it’s time so there is no time left to ‘take up our cross’.
The word ‘muse’ means to think. Prefixing a word with ‘a’ implies a negative; hence a-muse literally means ‘not to think’; this is exactly what Satan desires. Before the flood Satan tried to destroy the human race from the outside, that didn’t work so he laid the foundations with Nimrod and Babylon to destroy it from the inside
Tying all of this together, the sea has become essential to world economy carrying the bulk of international trade. 80% of the world’s import-export trade in terms of tonnage is carried by sea. When we get to Revelation chapters 17 & 18 we read of the destruction of ‘Babylon’ which just about encompasses everything that keeps man from God, specifically false religion and materialism. In Rev 18:19 we read: “And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate”.
Jesus, by His own example rejected a materialistic lifestyle, trusting in God alone for all He needed. It is a sad fact that even for many Christians, material things still prove to be a barrier that stops us truly letting go and letting God. We don’t want to risk losing what we’ve got so we try to water down God’s call upon our lives: “Surely God doesn’t want me to give up…”. This is no different to the first lie ever told: “Did God really say……” (Gen 3:1)
This is why the sea gets it!
NB: From the Greek this verse could read “And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea and it became blood, as of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea” i.e the sea doesn’t become like blood, it actually gets supernaturally turned to blood as in the first plague of Egypt in Exodus chapter 7. This will have an enormous effect on the oxygen supply on earth as most of our oxygen is produced by plankton, which will die as a result. The reference to ‘every living soul’ could be misleading because, as we know, animals do not have eternal souls (Cf Job chapter 1 vs Job 42 / Ecclesiastes 3:21). However, according to Strong’s concordance the Greek word used is: “psuche” (psoo-khay’) which means ‘breath’ i.e. (by implication) spirit, abstractly or concretely (the animal sentient principle only; thus distinguished on the one hand from “pneuma” (pnyoo’-mah); which is the rational and immortal soul; and on the other from “zoe” (dzo-ay’) meaning life in general.
And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood.
Next it’s the rivers. If the sea is the heart of commerce, then the rivers are the arteries. Just one example of the importance of rivers to the global economy was highlighted by the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina on the ports of New Orleans and South Louisiana in America. These ports are where the Mississippi, America’s second longest river meats the ocean, and are therefore a major artery that feed much of mainland America. Dr Chuck Missler, in Personal Update (the news Journal for Koinonia House www.khouse.org) October 2005 wrote:
“On its own merit, [the Port Of South Louisiana] is the largest port in the United States by tonnage and the fifth-largest in the world. It exports more than 52 million tons a year, of which more than half are agricultural products: corn, soybeans and so on. A large proportion of U.S. agriculture flows out of the port.”
“Furthermore, almost as much cargo, 17 million tons, comes in through the port – including not only crude oil, but chemicals and fertilizers, coal, concrete, etc. The commodity chain of the global food industry starts here, as does that of American industry. If these facilities are gone, more than simply the price of goods shifts: The very physical structure of the global economy will have to be reshaped”
Think too of how the River Thames feeds London and has been central to the economy of London (and therefore the UK in general) since the founding of the city in the 1st century. In the 18th and 19th centuries London was the busiest port in the world, with wharves extending continuously along the Thames for 11 miles (18 km), and over 1,500 cranes handling 60,000 ships per year. Today the Thames handles over 40 million tonnes in the form of timber, paper, vehicles, aggregates, crude oil, petroleum products, liquefied petroleum gas, coal, metals, grain and other dry and liquid bulk materials.
We soon realise that many of the world’s major cities are on the banks of rivers. Consider the Seine that feeds Paris, or the Tiber that feeds Rome.
Another well-known river is the Rhine, one of the longest and most important rivers in Europe, it flows through six countries -Switzerland, Principality of Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, France and the Netherlands before flowing into the North Sea at Rotterdam. However, the Volga has the distinction of being the longest river in Europe and also one of Russia’s most important rivers. Out of the 20 largest cities of Russia, 11, including its capital Moscow are fed from the Volga.
The Danube is another of Europe’s key rivers and the continent’s second longest river after the Volga. The river was one of the long standing frontiers of the Roman Empire and today forms a part of the borders of 10 European countries. It originates in the Black Forest in Germany and flows eastwards for a distance of some 2850 km (1771 miles), passing through 4 capitals, before emptying into the Black Sea. Since the completion of the German Rhine–Main–Danube Canal in 1992, the river has been part of a trans-European waterway from the black sea all the way to Rotterdam on the North Sea.
When the sea and rivers are turned to blood, the systems of this world will suffer a fatal arrest.
Just as an aside, both the above pictures and headlines were real recent unexplained occurrences where rivers turned blood red. I am not suggesting that these rivers turned to blood on these occasions, but it does serve to remind us that we should cautious before boldly asserting that this could never happen! God has a very good track record at confounding the critics and doing things that our finite minds say are impossible!
And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, [and shalt be], because thou hast judged thus.
Rather than go straight into the next vial, in verses 5-7 we have two voices that speak out to declare the justness and righteousness of God in bringing these judgments.
The first voice we are told is the angel of the waters. Thus it would appear that certain angels are given assignments to look over or monitor things on earth. It is therefore fitting that this angel who has just witnessed the seas and rivers being turned to blood, and has firsthand experience of the traffic and trade that takes place on the waters, should declare that God is right and just to bring about these judgments.
It would be easy for an uniformed person to look at these judgments and think that they are a bit harsh; after all, this is an unprecedented event that will have horrific consequences not only for all those at sea but also considering the catastrophic effect this will have on the whole world. But we must remind ourselves that God has made available a way of escape, and those who are left at this point have willfully rejected Christ. That, and the fact that this angel, who is ‘in the know’ declares God’s righteousness is enough to silence any who would dare to accuse God of being unmerciful.
In the Greek the phrase ‘and shall be’ is not there [although implied], it has been added by the translators. [An alternative] rendering of the verse would be “And I heard the angel of the waters saying, Righteous art thou, who art and who wast, The Holy One, because thou didst judge these things.” (J Vernon McGee)
OR: “The existing One, the One who was, the Holy One.” (Dr Chuck Missler)
For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.
The angel explains why God is just in His judgments, and that is because those who are now being made to drink blood are those who are responsible for shedding the blood of the martyrs of Jesus Christ.
“And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” Rev 6:9-11
“He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.” Rev 13:10
And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.
Another = Greek ‘Alos’ ‘another of the same kind’, suggesting that this second voice is also that of an angel. ‘Out of the alter’ links this angel to the multitude slain for the word of God who are waiting under the alter for these judgments to avenge their blood. (See Rev 6:9-11 above)
And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.
We now return to the vials and as the 4th angel steps forward things really start to heat up – literally. We have all heard so much about global warming, and there is still a lot of political maneuverings masking the reality, but there is no question that this is the real thing! There may be various natural causes that result in this sudden increase in the Sun’s heat, but the significant thing is the timing, that it occurs at this particular moment show it to be the supernatural work of God.
Malachi 4:1 foretells this moment: “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch”.
It is worth noting at this point that Sun worship was the earliest form of paganism – starting with Nimrod on the plain of Shinar in modern day Iraq. Whatever you worship, if it is not the One true God, will end up destroying you, for we have been made for God, and He is a jealous God. “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another” (Isaiah 42:8).
Something else that should be mentioned at this point is what scientists call the ‘anthropic principle’; This principle observes that there are literally hundreds of factors that make life on earth possible; just a small change in any of these factors would render life on earth impossible; thus they conclude that it is as if it has been designed specifically for man! The earth is exactly the right distance from the sun not to be too hot or too cold; the size of the moon is directly proportional to the distance of the sun from earth so that tides, seasons and day and night all fit neatly together in an incredibly balanced framework; so much so that some of the parameters cannot be adjusted by more than 1 part in 10,000 without it breaking down. As is evidenced here, just a small change will have dramatic effects!
Yet with all of this, the world of academia in our top universities & education systems desperately hold onto the foolish notion that it is all just ‘happenstance’, just a lucky coincidence! They would have us believe that it all occurred by chance, a result of nothing exploding! The Apostle Paul insightfully stated: “Professing to be wise they became fools” (Romans 1:22).
And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.
Once again this is just incredible; men are in immense pain and what do they do? Get down on their knees and repent? No. They blaspheme their Creator who is acknowledged as having power over these plagues. This is just like the stubbornness of Pharaoh in Egypt.
And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain,
We have all been in a house when a power cut occurs, but this is far worse. This darkness is so thick that it is actually painful. Although it is stating the obvious, darkness is the absence of light – in this case God’s light; this is almost impossible to comprehend. This darkness is centred on the ‘throne’ of Antichrist and as with the first vial, it only affects his kingdom, implying that Israel in hiding in Edom will not be affected – just as it was with the plagues in Egypt. (See also Isaiah 60:2 / Joel 2:1-2/31)
And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.
Once again they blaspheme God and refuse to repent.
And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.
The river Euphrates is fed from the water that runs off Mt Ararat. Dr Henry Morris (among others) have put forward the scenario that with the heat from the forth vial, the snow caps on Ararat would melt causing initial flooding but then once the source of water has gone the river would dry up. This is indeed plausible but what makes this provocative is that if the snow caps on Mt Ararat melt, it could leave exposed, for the first time in over 4000 years, a symbol of God’s divine judgment the last time He destroyed the wickedness of man from the face of the earth – Noah’s Ark! However, even if true, it is still not enough to cause men to repent.
Who are the kings of the east? Almost all scholars seem to agree that they will be the communist nations (China, North Korea, etc) and probably India etc. What interest will they have in crossing the Euphrates? Middle-Eastern oil may well be a factor, but the next verses explain that they will be coming at the request of Antichrist to fight against what they perceive to be their common enemy.
Introduction to Revelation 16:13-16
As with all the previous groups of 7 judgments (7 seals / 7 trumpets), there is now a break before the seventh and last vial is poured out. Verses 13-16 introduce us to infamous battle of Armageddon that will be fought in the valley of Megiddo, also know as the Esdraelon Valley.
It is at this battle, as the enemies of God and Israel march against Israel to destroy her, that Jesus will mount His white horse and ride out of heaven to the aid of His countrymen and to establish His throne in Jerusalem. It is interesting to realise that as a boy, Jesus living in Nazareth would have grown up being able to look across to the vast plain of Megiddo where one day He would defeat the enemies of God.
And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
Here John is given a glimpse into the spiritual world and sees these spirits that are ‘like frogs’. There is an account in the Old Testament in 1 Kings 22 where Jehoshaphat king of Judah had gone up to assist Ahab king of Israel against the Syrians. As was often the case, he sought the advice of a prophet before the battle to see whether they would be successful. Ahab called his own prophets who told him what he wanted to hear. Jehoshaphat however was not content and wanted to hear from a prophet of the LORD. Micaiah was called who eventually declared: “I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd: and the LORD said, These have no master: let them return every man to his house in peace”
This just angered Ahab and his false prophets, but unperturbed Micaiah continued: “Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.” (1 Kings 22:17-23)
It will be the same spiritual deception that will deceive the kings of the earth as we see confirmed in the next verse….
For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
The purpose of these lying spirits is to gather all the nations to side with Antichrist, at which point he will then commence his final assault on Israel in an attempt to destroy them. In the midst of this Jesus will return and Antichrist and his armies will turn to fight against Jesus! It is hard to imagine anything more preposterous than this! (see Rev 19:19). However, just as with Ahab back in 1 Kings 22, God is setting the whole scene in order to bring His judgment.
Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
This verse is almost ignored by most commentators; the question that it begs is: who is it referring to? The statement ‘Behold, I come as a thief’ is consistent with what other passages teach regarding the way that Christ will come upon this unbelieving world. (Luke 12:39 / 1 Thes 5:2 / Rev 3:3). That being the case, the contrast is drawn between those who are not watching (i.e. the world) and those who are. The ones who are watching are clearly identified in scripture as none other than the Church (the true Church). (Luke 12:40 / 1 Thes 5:4 / Luke 21:34-36).
What then is a passage addressing the Church doing here? It is here for you now! These things are almost upon us, the Rapture could be at any moment, it is imperative that you watch, and that you live lives ‘worthy of your calling’. (See Eph 4:1 / Col 1:10 / 1 Thes 2:12 / 2 Thes 1:11)
And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
As we have noted, the purpose of the lying spirits is to ensure that all are gathered to Armageddon.
As an aside, two verses relevant to this scene, but that have caused some confusion in the past are Matthew 24:28 “For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.” And Luke 17:37 “And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles [be gathered together].” In the context that these verses occur the question in hand is the events leading up to Christ’s return at the Second Coming (not the Rapture). This is confirmed by the fact that Jesus is quoting from Job 39:27-30: “Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high? She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place. From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off. Her young ones also suck up blood: and where the slain are, there is she.”
This is again confirmed in Rev 19:17-19 “And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.”
We will explore this more in Revelation chapter 19.
And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.
So after our parenthesis we now return to the unfolding vision and the seventh angel now steps forward with his vial. This time the angel pours the vial into the air. Why the air? One answer may be that it is because the air is Satan’s domain for now? (cf: Eph 2:2).
‘It is done’ refers to these judgments and literally means ‘it is concluded’ (Gr. Ghin’omahee’)
This is the last time the temple in heaven is seen. It has been mentioned 6 times during the 7 vials.
And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.
This needs no explanation – it’s going to be unlike anything known.
As an aside, that fact that is the largest earthquake ‘since men were upon the earth’ this would suggest that the reference in Genesis 10:25 to the earth being divided in the days of Peleg is to do with the languages being divided at the time of the Tower of Babel – which would have been during Peleg’s lifetime – and not the division of the continents as suggested by some as the result of a meteor collision etc. as this would have equalled or been greater than the event that John is recording here.
And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.
The great city is Jerusalem. The fact that the cities of the nations fall supports the comments for verse 3 – 7 above (the 2nd and 3rd Vials). Babylon – that we will look at in depth in the next two chapters – is brought into remembrance before God. The Bible in many ways is the ‘tale of two cities’, Jerusalem and Babylon, God’s city and mans city, God’s rule vs man’s rule.
The concept of God’s wrath is bad enough; but when coupled with ‘the fierceness of His wrath’ it sends shivers down your spine. How wicked is mankind that God’s wrath is kindled to this extent? How much more should we fear and stand in awe of Him ‘who has the power to cast body and soul into hell’ (Luke 12:5). See also Proverbs 1:7.
And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.
This is going to be an enormous upheaval and is part of the ‘restitution of all things’ (Acts 3:21). Originally the earth was one landmass (see Gen 1:10), and this verse indicates that God will remove the islands by a reversal of what occurred in the Flood where the mountains rose and the valleys sank to the levels He decreed (Psalm 104:5-9) thus causing the continents as we now have them.
Romans 8:20-22 explains that all of creation has been in bondage to decay since the fall and ‘groans earnestly’ to be delivered when the true and rightful Heir to planet earth takes the throne.
And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.
These are no ordinary hailstones. A talent could weigh anything from 50 – 140 lbs depending on which ancient culture we are referring to. For John it would most likely be in the region of 100 – 110lbs – not that you would bothered about the details if one were to hit you!
The Old Testament penalty for blasphemy was stoning; the people on earth at this time have done nothing other than blaspheme the God of Heaven; now He applies the appropriate punishment for their blasphemy as they are stoned with these hailstones.
To be continued…