The Tribulation: The Gloves are OFF
In Part 10, we saw with John a vision of God 's wine press of wrath, and the sanguine results of that pressing. Now we stand witness with John as he beholds the most terrifying of all the judgments:
The Bowl Judgments.
At this point, God is ready to send the final series of judgments upon the earth. And with the immediacy that each one follows the previous, they seem to happen in trip hammer fashion and speed; no sooner is one delivers than the next strikes. And unlike the first two series of judgments, the last series is unlike ANYTHING the Earth has ever experienced.
And so we watch alongside John, as he sees seven angels emerge from the Temple in heaven:
"I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name" (Revelation 15:1-2a, NIV)
The first verse is key: "because with them God's wrath is completed" indicates BEYOND A DOUBT that ALL the Tribulation is His wrath. The Sea of Glass is once again the sea (giant basin) that sits in the Throne room. Around this basin stand all those that the Beast had hunted and murdered in his mad campaign to stamp out the faithful; they have no sadness or sorrow, but a song for the Lord:
"They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: "Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed." (Revelation 15:2b-4, NIV)
They confirm that what God is doing is not petty vengeance, but Holy Justice, well deserved by the people who inhabit the earth. And as they sing, we see the angels emerge for their part in delivering the last plagues upon the planet:
"After this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony, was opened. Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests. Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed." (Revelation 15:5-8, NIV)
The bowls themselves are described as "filled"; these bowls are brimming with the wrath of God, which is full strength and not diluted by any mercy or grace.
The angels that carry these bowls are no ordinary angels; these have been hand-picked by the Lord for this moment, as they are dressed in linen that is almost reflective, and with gold sashes on their chests. As they take their assigned bowls from one of the living creatures, the temple fills with smoke and becomes closed to all in heaven. In scripture, God's presence is indicated by two forms: clouds and smoke. Clouds are normally how the Lord displays his glory; smoke is the other display, and in this case, holds an ominous tone to it. The people of the earth have blasphemed God repeatedly; judgment after judgment has fallen, and they would not repent. They murdered those he prepared and sent to witness to them; they cursed God and smeared his holy name, and they defiantly worshipped another 'god' that is in truth, the very one who first deceived man at the Garden of Eden.
And now... the time for judgment has come at last.
"Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, "Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth." (Revelation 16:1, NIV)
With this announcement, the judgments commence:
The First Bowl:
"The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image." (Revelation 16:2, NIV)
Those that had taken the Mark would not have to wait until their day of judgment before the Lord; since they chose to be marked, God would mark them with what he felt was appropriate for rebels who spit in the face of grace and mercy, and cursed his holy name. In the King James Version, the sores are "noisome and grievous". This says it all: that these sores are SO bad, that they cause wailing and misery. Hideous to look at, there will be undoubtedly many who showed off their mark on their foreheads, now screaming as their face is marred by something disgusting and vile. Those with the mark on their hand would most likely not be able to use that hand, as the pain and loathsomeness of the sore would preclude much , if any, use of it.
Either way, sleep would be all but impossible, and many would despair over it.
The Second Bowl:
"The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died." (Revelation 16:3, NIV)
With the second bowl, all water in the oceans of the world turn into a disgusting sight: the blood of a dead man. This is not just blood, but the thick, dark, disgusting-smelling sludge that a dead body exudes. It is almost gelatinous in nature, and the odor is putrid. All life in the sea dies because of this viscous mess, and the air quality, already foul from 7 years of bombardment by plagues, reduced trees and plant life, and the smoke from volcanoes and other forms of ash, now becomes virtually unbreathable. People by the thousands are heaving and vomiting in nausea by this point.
The Third Bowl:
[I]"The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood."[I](Revelation 16:4, NIV)
The third bowl repeats the previous process for the remaining freshwater of the planet. Now, all water, save whatever has been stored (and even THAT may be affected) has become utterly gross and undrinkable. Crops that were not destroyed in the previous judgments now have no water to be watered with, and hygiene is impossible (although most would probably not notice given the smell of the waters now). Any medical treatment available is now gone, as sterilization of equipment and cleaning of hands and wound sites is impossible.
"Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say: "You are just in these judgments, you who are and who were, the Holy One, because you have so judged; for they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve." And I heard the altar respond: "Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments." " (Revelation 16:5-7, NIV)
Upon this plague's delivery, the angel in heaven who is in charge of the waters (apparently, angels have offices over the various functions of the planet) declares that God is just for turning the water to blood.
The reason? Because the people of earth shed so much blood of prophets and the Lord's servants. Since they desire blood so much, God has given them ALL the blood they could ever want. If it was blood they thirsted for, God gave them PLENTY to quench their thirst. And the angels confirm that God is right in doing this to man.
The Fourth Bowl:
"The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him." (Revelation 16:8-9, NIV)
The fourth angel pours his bowl into the sun instead of the earth, and the sun flares up intensely. The heat alone broils and fries the planet, and kills off whatever plant life was is left at that point. Ultraviolet radiation is now pouring through the atmosphere like water through a sieve; the ozone layer having been ravaged by the previous plagues and pummeled by this one. Skin cancer, radiation burns, blindness and a host of other diseases now run rampant, as medical care is a distant memory.
Not to mention the oceans, lakes and rivers boil...
The air, virtually unbreathable before, is now so bad that man is practically choking on every breath. Asphyxiation alone claims the lives of those already lung-damaged by the previous plagues, while vehicles overheat due to temperatures being so high, not to mention the lack of potable water for cooling.
And yet...man STILL will not repent. Even in the face of these judgments, man holds his ground stubbornly, rigidly. He simply will NOT give up being his own 'god.'
The Fifth Bowl:
"The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done." (Revelation 16:10-11, NIV)
The next plague the Lord sends strikes the heart of the beast's kingdom, and spreads from there: wherever the Beast holds dominion, darkness envelops. In horrific pain, thirsty, choking on foul air, hungry and burned badly, people now have to contend with utter darkness. This is God's way of saying to those that follow the beast: "If your 'god' is so powerful, let him bring forth light!" And for all his trying, he CANNOT; against all of this, the Beast and his False Prophet have no sway, nor ability.
And yet AGAIN, they refuse to repent.
The Sixth Bowl:
"The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty."Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed." Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon." (Revelation 16:12-16, NIV)
At this point, God begins his "endgame": first, he allows the Euphrates to dry up, so that the armies from the east have a "expressway" to the battlefield that the world will be coming to. Then, three spirits come one apiece from Satan, the Beast and the False Prophet and proceed to the world leaders that Satan seeks to draw to the Middle East. Of note: "Armageddon" will probably not be merely one battle, but most likely a series. In fact, it will probably be what we would call "WWIII": a war of the world against the world, the world against Israel, and ultimately, the world against God Almighty.
The Lord issues one last warning to those who are left that still love and serve him: to keep their "clothes with them". My best guess is as Christ warned in the letters to the churches: not to be naked and ashamed, but to buy of him gold tried in the fire.
The Seventh Bowl:
"The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, "It is done!" Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible." (Revelation 16:17-21, NIV)
With this bowl, the Wrath of God is finished upon the earth. A light display of lightning, and thunder that echoes forever, cracks the sky as the mother of all earthquakes rocks the entire planet so violently, that islands and mountains vanish as they collapse back into the earth. Jerusalem splits into 3 sections, and what is left of the other cities of the world simply collapse after all the quakes, bombardment and other catastrophes. Whatever "shell" is left of Babylon will be decimated by the earthquake; not even a "memory" will remain of her.
Finally, God finishes his wrath with a very biblical judgment that fits it perfectly: hailstones weighing a talent (100 lbs). In Levitical law, blasphemy was punishable by stoning; here, God stones the entire PLANET for it's blasphemy against him. The massive hailstones smash whatever the earthquake did not level, utterly wiping away all testimony of man's "achievements". Essentially, God has demonstrated that whatever man can build, God can UNBUILD. And what do men do in response to this?
They curse God even more.
(That's brilliant, right?)
Join us for Part 12: the Destruction of Babylon.
I bid you all peace.