Today, we come to the 16th chapter of Revelation. The seven “Bowl judgments” are the last of the three cycles of judgment presented in the Book of Revelation. The opening of the seven seals took place back at Revelation 6:1-17. The blowing of the seven trumpets took place in Revelation 8:2-11:19 with the seventh trumpet blast being heard in Revelation 11:15-19. Now we come to the pouring out of the seven bowl judgments.
Like most of Revelation, this section of Scripture has been interpreted in such a wide variety of ways that it would be impossible for us to discuss all of them this morning. In the beginning of our study of Revelation we covered the four primary schools of interpretation: Preterist, Historicist, Futurist, and Idealist. We won’t discuss those methods of interpretation today, but if you would like to know more about them then you can go to our website (www.brittonchurch.com) and read the sermon, “The Unveiling: Introduction to the Revelation of Jesus Christ.” I would like to say that even among those who subscribe to one particular interpretation there are different ideas on specific texts within Revelation.
I read the commentaries of great Bible teachers each week, Bible teachers from different schools of interpretation, and I have been greatly blessed to glean from their insights into this powerful book of God’s Word. I don’t want to spend the time we have on Sunday simply talking about the differences of opinion as to what the symbols and signs of Revelation mean. I see how we could so easily be tempted to simply sit around on Sunday and argue “schools of thought” instead of seeking to hear from God about how this book applies to our life today and what God desires to do in each of our lives this very morning.
With that said I want to ask you this morning, “How long will it take for God to get our attention? What will we have to go through for God to finally open our eyes? Will we ever learn? Will we ever listen? Will we ever recognize the hand of God at work to turn us around, to turn us away from destruction?” I ask these questions this morning because as I have been studying Revelation I’ve seen over and over again how God uses “discipline, judgment, or wrath” to turn us back to Himself.
There are some who recognize the hand of God at work in their lives and they repent, they turn around. There are others, referred to by John, as those who “refuse to repent.” Why? Is it because they don’t know God? No, that’s not it at all. John tells us that when these horrible plagues fall upon them they “blasphemed the name of God.” They knew full well who was behind the painful experiences of their lives. The Apostle Paul would say that these were the folks he was talking about in Romans 1:18, those who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Let’s read the Scripture together.
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Romans 1:18-23 NIV)
Now do you better understand what I am talking about? People know that God is, that He exists. They may say they don’t believe in God, but they are merely suppressing the truth so that they can live however they want to live. In Revelation 16 we see where that road will take you my friends. Let’s read together from Revelation 16:1-21.
1Then 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.” 2 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. 3The 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. 4The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. 5 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; 6 for they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.” 7And I heard the altar respond: “Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments.” 8The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. 9They 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. 10The 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 11 and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done. 12The 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. 13Then 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. 14They 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. 15“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.” 16 Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. 17The 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!” 18Then 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. 19The 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. 20Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. 21From 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 16:1-21 NIV)
I do want to spend just a couple of minutes examining these seven bowls of wrath before we get to the heart of our lesson today. First, the first four bowls of God’s wrath are similar to the first four trumpet plagues that we’ve already studied. The first four bowls and trumpets resemble the first, sixth, and ninth plagues that God brought on Egypt when He freed the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. You can read the chart and Scripture below to see the similarities.
1st Bowl (Rev. 16:2) 6th Plague on Egypt (Ex. 9:10-11)
Ugly, painful sores Plague of boils.
2nd Bowl (Rev. 16:3) 2nd Trumpet (Rev. 8:8-9) 1st Plague on Egypt (Ex. 7:14-24)
Sea turned to blood. 3rd of sea to blood. Nile turned to blood.
3rd Bowl (Rev. 16:4) 3rd Trumpet (Rev. 8:11) 1st Plague on Egypt (Ex. 7:14-24)
Rivers and streams 3rd of waters turned Nile turned to blood.
turned to blood. bitter.
4th Bowl (Rev. 16:8) 4th Trumpet (Rev. 8:12)
Sun scorches people. Sun, moon, and stars
are struck and dark-
5th Bowl (Rev. 16:10) 4th Trumpet (Rev. 8:12) 9th Plague on Egypt (Ex. 10:21-23)
Beast’s kingdom plunged Darkness. Darkness.
6th Bowl (Rev. 16:12 6th Trumpet (Rev. 9:13-16)
Euphrates dried up. Frogs Four angels at Euphrates
go out to gather the kings people attacked.
of the whole world.
7th Bowl (Rev. 16:17) 7th Plague on Egypt (Ex. 9:24)
Earthquake. Great city split in thirds. Plague of hail.
Islands and mountains affected.
Hailstones fall on people.
You can see the similarities, but it doesn’t take long for you to also see that there are some very unique features about the bowl judgments. The most striking difference is that there was no personal suffering in the first four trumpet plagues or the first five Egyptian plagues, but here in Revelation 16 we see human suffering from the tipping of the first bowl. Another difference is that in the first four trumpet plagues only 1/3 of the earth, sea, water supply, and heavenly bodies are affected, but in the bowl plagues all are impacted by God’s wrath.
This last series of judgments in Revelation 16 are devastating. This is the wrath of God poured full strength. Because of the horrible images that come up in our minds when we read of these judgments there are many who would like to dismiss them as simply figurative, or purely symbolic. I don’t know how much literalism or symbolism should be read into the seven bowl judgments, but I do know that the judgment of God should be taken seriously. If we continue to thumb our nose at God and dismiss His call upon each of our lives then the day is coming when God will come in judgment.
For those who would choose to not take this series of judgments seriously, or to leave room that they could be literal judgments of God that have come in the past and will most definitely come at the end of the age, then let me remind you that the 10 plagues did come on Egypt. Not in a symbolic way, but literally, they came upon the Egyptians and their land.
Let’s take a look at the first bowl plague so that we can see how it is similar to the 6th plague on Egypt. Read along with me from Revelation 16:2.
2 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)
Now, turn with me to Exodus 9:10-11 and let’s read what happened to the people of Egypt during the sixth plague of God’s wrath.
10 So they took soot from a furnace and stood before Pharaoh. Moses tossed it into the air, and festering boils broke out on men and animals. 11The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils that were on them and on all the Egyptians. (Exodus 9:10-11NIV)
In Exodus 9, God’s wrath was poured out on Pharaoh and the Egyptian people because they were opposed to God’s purposes for His people. The Egyptians had oppressed the Hebrew slaves for 400 years. Pharaoh would not let God’s people go, so God applied pressure until Pharaoh’s grip was loosed.
In Revelation 16 we see that ugly, painful sores broke out only on those who had the mark of the beast and worshipped his image. Please don’t jump to conclusions and say something foolish like, “This is just another example of the capriciousness of God. God gets angry so He wipes out a nation or judges people for their mistakes.” Over and over again in the book of Revelation God has called people to turn around, to change their ways, to repent, but they have refused. God was patient with Egypt for 400 years before His judgment came.
Twice in Revelation 16 we read that people refused to repent of their ways. Take a look at Revelation 16:8-9 with me.
8 The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. 9 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)
As the fourth angel poured out his bowl and the people felt the effects of the scorching sun they “cursed the name of God,” but they refused to repent and glorify God. Now look at verses 10-11 with me.
10 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 11 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 fifth angel pours out his bowl and the pain of judgment is felt once again. What do those in such agonizing pain do? Do they yell, “Calf rope chicken!” “I give up!” Not on your life. They “cursed the God of heaven,” but they refused to repent.
The word that is used for our English word, “repent,” is “metanoe,w” (metanoeo). The word means “to change one’s mind, to turn around, or to repent.” The word is used 34 times in the New Testament—12 times in Revelation alone!
In Revelation 2:5 Jesus cries out to the church in Ephesus and urges the people there to turn around. Read along with me.
5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. (Revelation 2:5 NIV)
In Revelation 3:2-3, Jesus once again calls out to one of His churches, the church in Sardis, and says,
2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. 3Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. (Revelation 3:2-3 NIV)
We read from Ezekiel 33 last week and learned that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. His desire is that we would turn from our ways and begin to walk in His ways. In 2 Peter 3:9, Peter tells us.
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 NIV)
We are learning in our study of Revelation that God is patient, He desires for us to turn to Him, but there will come a time in each of our lives, just as there came a time in the lives of those who have gone before us, when, if we continue to choose to turn away from God, His judgment will come.
Let’s move on. I want you to keep in mind the ugly, painful sores that were given to those who had the mark of the beast, those who worshipped his image. When we get through the first two bowl judgments an angel speaks.
5 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; 6 for they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.” 7And I heard the altar respond: “Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments.” (Revelation 16:5-7 NIV)
The angel says that God is “just in these judgments.” The word “just” translates the Greek word, “di,kaioj” (dikaios) and it means, “righteous, or upright.” It also means “To render to each his due in a judicial sense, passing judgment on others, whether expressed in words or shown by the manner of dealing with them.” We would say, “You get what you deserve.” Let me give you an example: If the law says that if you drive over 25 mph through a school zone that you will be fined. You should expect a fine if you break the law. If your company has a policy that says that if you steal from the company, or any employees, then you will face immediate termination, then prepare to be fired if you choose to take something that is not yours. If your teacher has a policy that says that if you cheat on a test then you will receive an “F,” then prepare yourself if you choose to cheat. The law is “just” in doing what it has promised it will do. Your boss is justified in letting you go. Your teacher is right in doing what he or she promises to do.
If those in authority in our land, those who have been given the charge to carry out the law, begin to wink at lawbreakers and turn a blind eye to those who break the law then utter chaos will slowly, but surely take over our community. The angel says that God is just, He is right in doing what He had promised that He would do. What is it that God is doing? He is giving those who refuse to turn from their ways, “as they deserve.” (vs. 6)
Let me share with you an interesting twist on the first bowl poured out upon those who had the mark of the beast, those who worshipped his image. If you will remember from our study of Revelation 13:16-17, some believe that the mark of the beast, for the church in John’s day, was a mark which was issued by Emperor Domitian which gave people the right to buy and sell in the marketplace, the Agora. There were believers in Ephesus who did not take the mark of the beast even though their refusal to take the mark meant that their family might starve to death.
When the first bowl is emptied the people who took the mark of the beast received another mark if you will. They had received the sign of the beast, but now they receive the sign of judgment—ugly, painful sores upon their body.
Before we leave here this morning I want to point out two additional lessons that I learned this week. First of all, did you notice the intense suffering that is brought upon those who turn away from God? It hurt me to read this chapter this past week. Painful sores, smelly, coagulated blood where the fresh water and salt water should have been, the power of the sun unrestrained to scorch folks, people gnawing their tongues, and hailstones like nothing you’ve ever seen before—what pain, what suffering! That is quite a picture isn’t it? Why? Why is all of this pain and suffering to be endured? Because they refused to repent. They refused to acknowledge that God is God and He alone is God. They refused to confess that they were sinners and desperately in need of God’s grace. They refused to live according to God’s will so that they could continue to do whatever they wished.
I don’t want to be so hard-headed, so stiff-necked. I don’t want to set my jaw and say, “I don’t care what God thinks, I’m doing it my way.” I want to be humble. I want to pursue the Lord with all of my heart. There is a different picture painted for us in Revelation of those who cling to the Lamb of God as their only hope and source of salvation. Turn with me to Revelation 7:13-17.
13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes– who are they, and where did they come from?” 14 I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. 16 Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. 17For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:13-17 NIV)
The sun doesn’t scorch those gathered around the throne. The Lamb leads them, not to the stinky, polluted water, but to the springs of living water! Wow! Oh, why would you follow your own path to destruction when you could follow the Lamb to eternal, everlasting life?
Last of all, I want you to pray with me this morning that the Lord would open our eyes to be able to see His hand at work. The book of Revelation was a powerful letter from Jesus for those sat in the pews of the 7 churches of Asia Minor. It has been a source of conviction and hope for God’s people throughout the ages and will remain a source of conviction and hope until the end of the ages. The tragedy is that for so many of us today we do not hear God speaking to us through His Word. We need ears to hear. If you hear the Lord calling you this very morning to surrender your life to the Lamb of God, the Lamb who gave His life for you, then won’t you come forward at this time.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
January 28, 2007