Revelation Chapters 15 and 16
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
The time of the Bowl Judgments is upon us. The full fury of God’s Wrath, begun in chapter 6, is coming. It’s been building in stages to give all those who will, the opportunity to seek and find Him before it’s too late. But now the climax is at hand. Upon the completion of the Bowl Judgments, God’s righteous requirement for judgment upon those who have rejected His earnest and unceasing pleas for reconciliation will have been satisfied. At long last Planet Earth will be ready to receive Her King, and enjoy the peace He alone can bring.
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. 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.” (Rev. 15:1-4) What I’ve said before bears repeating. God’s wrath doesn’t begin here. It began with the seal judgments as indicated by Rev. 6:17 and will end with the coming bowl judgments of Rev. 16.
Jews and Gentiles who’ve been martyred for refusing the mark of the beast begin showing up in heaven. They’re the ones who will be reunited with physical bodies in Rev. 20:4. Just like the multitude from Rev. 7 who serve in God’s Temple but are never called priests, they’ll reign with Christ but are never called kings. Only the Church can be Kings and Priests.
The conformity of man’s will to God’s, so long resisted, will finally be achieved. Following the certain and total defeat of the anti-Christ and his allies, every knee in Heaven, on Earth, and under the Earth will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Phil. 2:10-11)
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. (Rev. 15:5-8) The fact that these angels are clothed in spotless linen means that the judgments are righteous. The Earth deserves every bit of what’s coming and it won’t be a pretty sight. The King of the universe shuts Himself inside His temple to mourn the necessity for all this, and once again we’re shown that He’ll do nothing to either shorten the duration or lessen the impact of these final judgments. This is going to run its course and no one can change that.
The Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath
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.” 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. (Rev. 16:1-2) Everyone was warned about the dire consequences that would attend taking the mark. (Rev. 14:9-12) But as usual where God’s concerned, lots of people ignored the warning. They have only themselves to blame.
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. (Rev. 16:3) One third of the sea had been struck in the Trumpet judgments. Now the rest is contaminated.
The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. 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:
For the second time, there’s no “is to come” in God’s name. But now the Name also indicates the plurality of the Trinity. (Some translations add the “is to come” phrase and some don’t.) Those under the altar cry out in support of these judgments. It’s their blood the angel in charge of the water is talking about. (Rev. 6:9-10)
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. (Rev. 16:8-9) In the USA 2006 is the hottest year on record, so far. Overwhelmingly, the number one cause of global warming is the increasing temperature of the Sun. Regardless of man’s pathetic effort to legislate a reversal, this trend will continue until the day people when actually burst into flame if they’re directly exposed to its heat.
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. (Rev. 16:10-11) Now it’s getting personal. Having plunged the Earth into Spiritual darkness, the anti-Christ is treated to physical darkness, adding further discomfort to the sores and the burns. No lamp, no fire, not even the Sun will provide relief from darkness so thick you can almost feel it. Satan’s effort to turn the truth into a lie has been so effective that men curse God for their plight, hardening their hearts even further against repentance. Believing that God is their enemy and that Satan’s trying to save them, they resolve to stand firm in their loyalty to the anti-Christ.
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. (Rev. 16:12-14) The Great Border between East and West is finally removed and the coalition of victors from the Eastern Wars of Rev. 9:13-16, their minds stirred up by the evil spirits, come rumbling toward the Middle East for the final showdown.
Before we go on, it’s time for a brief history lesson, courtesy of Daniel 11:40-45. When Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, the Greek Empire was divided up among his four Generals. Cassander took the Eastern European territories around the Adriatic Sea. Seleucus took Turkey, Iraq and Syria. Lysimachus got the Eastern provinces stretching from Iran to India. Ptolemy got Egypt. Cassander is not mentioned in Daniel 11, and Seleucus later defeated his friend Lysimachus, acquiring Iran and the Eastern Empire n the process. The story throughout Daniel 11 is of the Kings of the North (the Seleucids) and the Kings of the South (the Pyolemys) fighting each other for control of the entire Empire. These are the Kings in view in verses 40-45.
Of course when Daniel wrote chapter 11 in about 539BC these men hadn’t even been born yet, and Alexander’s Kingdom was still 200 years away. But in an overwhelming demonstration of God’s knowledge of the future, there are 135 historically verified fulfilled prophecies in the first 35 verses of Daniel 11, all written from 200-400 years before the fact. That lends credibility to what He had Daniel write about the end times beginning in verse 36. But for now, we’ll focus on verses 40-45.
At the same time that the Kings of the East from Rev. 16:12 begin their march another large force from the North begins mobilizing. Earlier, the King of the North, (mainly Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria) had joined up with the King of the South (Egypt) to oppose the anti-Christ’s move to control the Middle East, but he had overcome them. Only Jordan, the hiding place of the Jews, remained unscathed. (Daniel 11:40-43) So this new threat from the north can’t be the already defeated King of the North.
Reports of the movement of this huge combat force from the East and North greatly alarm the anti-Christ. What are they up to? Is this a Russian Chinese alliance that the world has long feared? Or is it going to be every man for himself?
Setting up his headquarters in Jerusalem the ant-Christ readies his troops to meet them in the last great battle for planet Earth. (Daniel 11:44-45) By some estimates, up to 400 million combatants will be involved before it’s all over. The blood from their slain forms the river that flows from Megiddo in central Israel all the way to Petra in Jordan, about 175 miles away. (Rev. 14:20)
“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. (Rev. 16:15-16) The “come like a thief” phrase has been used many times to describe the Lord’s coming for His church, but by the time the bowl judgments arrive, the Church will have been long gone. This warning is the second indication (the first was in Rev. 14:12-13) that Tribulation believers will be responsible for maintaining their own salvation, symbolized by keeping their clothes with them. It also confirms three statements in Matt. 24-25 that believers on Earth at the end of the Great Tribulation won’t know exactly when the Lord will return. (Matt, 24:42, 44, & 25:13)
If you’re familiar with the symbolic reference to clothing, you know what this verse means. If not, let’s review it. Isaiah 61:10 says, I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Just as clothing provides physical covering, righteousness provides spiritual covering. At the first moment of belief God clothed the Church in His own righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21) and sealed the Holy Spirit within us guaranteeing our salvation (Ephes. 1:13-14).
Believers on Earth are cautioned to stay alert and keep their righteousness intact because the time is very short and if they’re not careful they’ll be caught unawares. In the Book of Revelation, there’s no indication of the indwelling Spirit guaranteeing the security of Tribulation believers like He does during the Church age. As was the case with Old Testament saints, they have to stay awake and alert and look after their position before God constantly.
The name Armageddon comes from the Hebrew phrase Har Megiddo, or Mt. Megiddo. It’s a place in central Israel at the western entrance to the Jezreel Valley. King Solomon had massive stables there, and Napoleon called this valley the most ideal battlefield on Earth. Here it’s used as the staging area for the troops amassed against the anti-Christ.
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. (Rev 16:17-21) This passage defies description. God has given Planet Earth His most severe judgment ever. Any more and the planet would literally cease to exist.
Earthquakes level every city. Babylon, God’s ancient enemy, is singled out for special treatment that we’ll tackle next time. The entire Earth is being re-formed in this final cycle of judgment, partly to eradicate every trace of man’s evil intentions, and partly to prepare it for a complete makeover when the Messiah comes.
The Biblical penalty for blasphemy is death by stoning. (Lev. 24:10-16) The anti-Christ and the people of Earth have been blaspheming the Name of God since the beginning. Now comes the penalty phase. 100 pound blocks of ice come crashing down out of the sky. God is stoning the people of Earth for their blasphemy. And still they curse Him.
Next time, we’ll cover the destruction of the three powerful forces that make up Babylon the Great, and that have oppressed and enslaved mankind through out most of his history. They are religious, commercial, and governmental in nature and each is treated to a special measure of God’s wrath. See you then.