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(Revelation 16:1-7) Poetic Justice

(Revelation 16:1-7) Poetic Justice

Ref: Revelation 16:1–7

If I were to ask you what you consider the most decisive battle or conflict in history, what would you say? Perhaps Constantine's victory at Milvian Bridge . . . the colonists' triumph over Great Britain . . . Hitler's defeat in World War II. No matter what your opinion is, you can put all the important battles in history together and they will still pale in comparison to a battle that is yet to be fought. The Battle of Armageddon, as Scripture calls it, will change the face of the world . . . literally.


Poetic Justice

Revelation 16:1-7

Mention some of the words either found in the Book of Revelation or described in the Book of Relation and you will get a reaction from just about anybody.

Whether or not a person spent any time in church or raised an agnostic, mention the word rapture – and they’ll have an opinion.

Mention the number 666 and you’ll get a reaction too.

I read recently that the Utah, Colorado and New Mexico successfully gained permission in 2003 to change Highway 666 to Highway 491.  It had been named Highway 666 in 1926 simply because it was the 6th branch off Interstate 66. 

The states were finally granted the right to change the road, not because they were superstitious, or because they were concerned about the coming Antichrist, but because they couldn’t keep the Highway signs from being stolen.

Chronic sign theft caused more money and damages than they wanted – people just wanted to have the sign for their memorabilia, whether they believed in the Book of Revelation or not. 

Just about everybody knows that words like rapture, Antichrist, 666 are future events with cataclysmic effects.

Another word that captures the attention of the world is the word Armageddon.

Just about everyone knows that the word Armageddon has something to do with the end of the world as we know it.  The more informed know that it has something to do with a final world war.

Speculations abound.

The latest rage in Armageddon fever is the calendar from the ancient Mayan civilization.  They believed that time cycled and old world orders were destroyed by the gods and new world orders created.

The end of the latest cycle, according to their calendar is around December 21, 2012.

Remember that in 2012.  You might want to save your Christmas shopping until after December 21st just in case . . . there’s no need to spend time and money.

For me, doing Christmas shopping before December 21st would be really early anyway.  Why rush it?

Listen, as we approach the end of 2012, more books than ever will be sold, as well as tabloids and good luck charms and new age secrets of the universe, even pseudo-Christian scholars will cash in on the end times fever as people become increasingly fascinated with the end of the world.

Could it be the ending of civilization as we know it and the beginning of another?

Frankly, all of that has within it seeds of truth. 

Time will reach a new cycle as a God – the true and living God – comes to destroy the kingdom of Babylon and her allies and launches His own millennial reign.

There is a coming day when the kingdoms of this world will collapse and God the Son will rule a civilization on earth that is vastly superior to the one we now inhabit.

And I can say with biblical authority that it won’t have anything to do with the year 2012.  The predicted 7 year tribulation period that we’ve been studying, a 7 year period launched by the signing of a peace treaty between Israel and a new world leader – that hasn’t happened yet. 

So Armageddon is at least 7 years away and more. 

So even if the rapture occurred today and the Tribulation period began soon after, the earliest date for Armageddon is 2016. 

If you’re looking for signs of the coming Battle of Armageddon, it won’t have anything to do with Christmas shopping and the close of 2012.

In fact, what will happen on planet earth just before God the Son returns to establish His kingdom, defeating the armies at Armageddon, has already been clearly spelled out for us in the Book of Revelation.

John will deliver the details of the rise and fall of Babylon; we have in living color, details of the final cataclysmic events that wrap up the final days of civilization as we know it.

For one thing, the world will be wrapped in God’s final outpouring of wrath just prior to Christ’s return with His church to set up the millennial kingdom.

By the way, as I researched the Mayan calendar and civilization, I discovered they believed that time cycled and then repeated itself.  They believed that by knowing their past they could control their future.

Isn’t it ironic that the Mayan civilization doesn’t exist today?  All that remains of a massive civilization are broken down ruins and remnants of their idolatry.

They were not in control after all.  No matter how much they devoted their attention to the orbit of Venus and Jupiter and Mars.  No matter how extensively they developed their calendars of time.  No matter how passionately they believed they could control their future by knowing their past.

So John the Apostle will reveal to us all that as the last civilizations of the world rush toward the battle of Armageddon, mankind is still not in control.  God is.

The kingdoms of this world will all pass away but the kingdom of our Lord will stand forever.

Beginning in Revelation chapter 16, seven angels step forward with 7 bowls, filled with the wrath of God to be poured out in one final series of events just before Christ splits the skies open in His triumphal return to planet earth.

Notice verse 1. Then I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels, “Go and our out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.

This scene is both figurative and literal.

The bowls are literal bowls signifying the pouring out of the wrath of God.  This scene personifies wrath as if it were some kind of liquid being poured out from these 7 bowls.

By the way, these bowls are shallow saucers.  The Greek word, phiale (fialh), refers to a wide shallow bowl much like a saucer. / Fritz Rienecker/Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Regency, 1976), p. 847

. . . like the one you might pour milk into for your cat – if you have one – which certainly fits the idea of tribulation.

Before we look at the individual saucers of sovereign wrath, let me give you 4 categorical observations about them.

  1. They are rapidly delivered

All of this will affect the earth and the human race over the course of a few days and weeks . . . the language implies that one bowl after another will be poured out without any delay.

They are poured – not dripped.  The language refers to sudden pouring as the bowl is entirely emptied at once.

  1. Which leads me to the second observation: these bowls are cumulatively distressing.

With only a brief pause in verse 5, these bowls are poured out one after another, adding judgment upon judgment.

You need to understand that these bowls are all supernatural acts of God.  The text does not tolerate the attempts so many authors to give them a purely natural, scientific explanation.  They will hit far too rapidly for any explanation other than that they come from God Himself. / John MacArthur, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 2000), p. 139

Much like the plagues of Egypt swept through the land.

Perhaps you’ve read the Reader’s Digest explanation of the plagues in Exodus.  How they began with a volcanic eruption which caused the water to turn poisonous and red which drove frogs inland bringing flies with them as they died in heaps and pestilence developed from that which caused cattle to die and then people became infected with boils and the ash from the eruption also caused the sun to darken . . . and on and on.   

Of course they have to generalize the effects of the plagues so that one in every household seemed to die because of them.

Never mind that the Bible specifically attributed the plagues to the miraculous power of God through his servant Moses, including the killing of the first born from every family who refused to follow the protecting plan of God which foreshadowed the atonement of Christ as they put the blood of lamb on their doorposts.

Never mind all of that.  There has to be a scientific explanation for this natural phenomena.

You can no more explain these events apart from the hand of God anymore than you can explain the rapture. 

Try explaining the creation of a new heaven and earth (Revelation 21). 

Explain a city made of transparent gold.  (Revelation 21) Explain city gates made from single pearls – each gate carved from a single pearl.  Are there monster oysters somewhere working on these things?

While you’re at it, explain the resurrection of Lazarus; wrapped in burial cloths so that breathing would be like you trying to breathe through a pillow smothering your face; on top of that he’s been in a tomb for 4 days with nothing to eat or drink (John 11). 

Explain the resurrection of Christ Himself (John 20).

In fact, if you want an easier miracle to explain, try explaining the miracle of Christ walking on the stormy waves that night on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 14).

Although I did read a few months ago that scientists have been able to track weather patterns dating back to the time of Christ and now believe there was a sudden freeze and that Christ actually walked on floating pieces of ice. 

That explains it!

Peter tried to do it too, but he kept slipping off the ice.  He didn’t sink, he slipped.

Ladies and Gentlemen, these bowls of wrath are the supernatural work of God through His created universe which brings about terrifying judgment upon planet earth.

  1. Let me make a third observation of these bowls of judgment; they are specifically directed.

You will notice that only followers of the Antichrist will experience the torment of one or more these judgments; we’re told that the first bowl of terrible sores will only affect the followers of Antichrist – in verse 2.

The 5th bowl of “darkness” in verse 10 specifically designates the throne of the Antichrist and it may only affect his capital city.

So the believers who have yet survived through this point of the Tribulation may indeed be spared some of the effects of this final outpouring of God’s wrath.

  1. However, and this is my fourth observation, these bowls of judgment are not only rapidly delivered and cumulatively distressing and specifically directed; they are, fourthly, terminally destructive.

As you and I will discover, life on the planet will change for everyone – unbeliever and believer.  Water is going to run out for everyone.  Food sources and the ecosystems of the planet are permanently disrupted.

In fact, without the intervention of Christ returning to the planet soon after these bowl judgments are poured out, no one would survive for very long. 

But Christ does return and He sets up His kingdom with His capital in Jerusalem and, though we’re not told, there is plenty of evidence with what happens in the Kingdom to assume that God not only miraculously turned the water sources to blood, but He just as easily turns the oceans and seas back to clean sources of water. 

The truth is, if He didn’t, earth would be uninhabitable. Yet we know that Christ will reign on the earth with millions of people for a thousand years (Revelation 20).

Okay, enough of the overview . . . let’s take a closer look at this final series of judgments from the hand of a holy God.

Bowl #1: Unbelievers plagued with painful sores

Notice verse 2.  So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth; and it became a loathsome and malignant sore on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.

The word translated sores is helkos (‘elkoV) can be translated abscess. / Rienecker, p. 847

The word in Latin gives us our word ulcer.  It describes festering, painful, incurable, oozing ulcerous sores. / MacArthur, p. 139

This is the same word in the Greek translation of the Old Testament – the Septuagint – for the sores inflicted upon Pharaoh’s magicians as Moses demanded the release of his people in Exodus 9.

These sores are running, inflamed sores that refuse to be healed. / Robert L. Thomas, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 1995), p. 249

These sores will not affect believers, John writes here.  It only affects those who have the mark of the beast – the name of the Antichrist on their bodies.

It is a symbol of their coming, eternal, physical suffering.

It also serves as a further warning to those who have yet to bow to his image, and there are millions who have yet to submit to the Antichrist and bow to his image.

This will serve as an encouragement and warning to them to continue to resist him.  In other words, this plague of sores will communicate to the world, “Look at what happens to followers of the Antichrist.  They are plagued with sores that even he cannot heal.”

Jesus Christ never failed to heal those He wanted healed.

The Antichrist has attempted to masquerade as the Divine Physician – the Antichrist is unable to heal his own people.  He is exposed as a false physician. / Daymond R. Duck/Larry Richards, The Book of Revelation (Thomas Nelson, 2006), p. 230

This will signal to the world that he is not the god he claims to be and that will play a role in his undoing and armies from the east will dare to defy as they soon will.   

Bowl #2: The oceans/seas are turned into blood

Verse 3 reads, The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood like that of a dead man; and every living thing in the sea died.

This excellent translation does not say that the sea became like the blood of a dead man – but that it became blood, like that of a dead man.

The Greek word used here for blood is the word haima (aima) which gives us our word, hema – hematology – the study of the nature and function of the blood.

As unbelievable as it might sound, the oceans of our world become, in an instant, literal blood that resembles the blood of a corpse – congealing, coagulating, thickening dark blood. / Thomas, p. 250

We cannot imagine the horror, the stench, the corpses of sea mammals, creatures and fish piled on shore and floating dead upon the water’s surface.

Everything having to do with the ocean will grind to a sudden halt; the effects on the food supply of the world will be catastrophic. / Sam Gordon, Revelation: Worthy is the Lamb (Ambassador, 2000), p. 326

Some conjecture that these bowl judgments are simply a restating of earlier judgments.  They do sound familiar.

However, on closer inspection, the earlier judgment that turned water bodies into blood  –  the second trumpet judgment from chapter 8 – only affected a third of the sea, killing only a third of the sea creatures before the water returned to its normal state.

This one affects all the large bodies of water and every living sea animal.

One believing scientist wrote,

In this toxic ocean nothing can survive, and soon all the billions of fishes and marine mammals and marine reptiles and the innumerable varieties of marine invertebrates will perish, thus still further poisoning the oceans and contaminating the sea shores of the world.  In the present world, sea organisms provide the basis for the world’s great “food chains,” and the ocean itself is the anchor of the earth’s essential hydrologic cycle.  The sea and its creatures had once been a spring of life; now it becomes a turgid pool of death. / Henry Morris, The Revelation Record (Tyndale, 2983), p. 298

Bowl #3: Fresh water sources are turned into blood

If this isn’t bad enough . . . another angel now steps forward – notice verse 4.  Then the third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water; and they became blood.

In other words, if anybody is thinking, yea that ocean thing is really bad news, but I live in Kansas and Colorado and we’ve still got plenty of drinking water in the springs, rivers, wells, lakes, etc. so we’re gonna be alright. 

Well, think again.

This is comprehensive global judgment.

It’s reminiscent of an earlier judgment from chapter 8 of Revelation where 1/3rd of the fresh water sources became too bitter to drink. 

But this time – in this act of judgment in this final series of God’s wrath – this time it’s water turned to blood is on a global scale.

All inland water is affected, leaving people with nothing to drink. / General Editor, Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Revelation(Tyndale House, 2000), p. 185

Unless God miraculously reverses His judgment, mankind cannot survive without water and before long, all bottled water, drinks of every kind, water stored in tankers and towers, water of any and all forms will run out.

What happened to the Nile River as God judged Pharaoh by turning the Nile into blood now happens to the world’s entire supply of water. The contamination of the world’s oceans will be an environmentalist’s worst nightmare.  But the destruction of the world’s remaining fresh water supply will be a catastrophic, staggering blow to fallen humanity.   / MacArthur, p. 142

One author put it this way when he wrote, “This effectively signals the death of our planet [and the human race].” / Kendell H. Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary: Revelation (Holman Reference, 1998), p. 285

This is so horrific – the stench so unimaginable – death so catastrophic.  And the nightmare of dying of thirst is now the reality facing the entire planet. 

People will certainly wonder how a God of compassion and mercy and love and grace could ever do such a thing.

God anticipates that kind of question in our own minds.  In fact, about the time you might think mankind deserves an explanation – even though they were warned earlier that all the world was going to experience the undiluted wrath and fury of God – an angel steps forward to effectively speak in God’s defense. 

Listen to him in verse 5.  And I heard the angel of the waters saying, “Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things; 6. For they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink.  They deserve it.”

How terrifying are these words to the human ears.

This is poetic justice.

They poured out the blood of Christ’s followers and so now God pours out blood.  The same Greek word for pour is used in both instances.

They deserve this!

This is the ultimate illustration of sowing and reaping – poetic justice played out like never before.  

  • This is greater than Pharaoh attempting to have all the Hebrew baby boys thrown into the Nile river to drown only to see his army drown in the Red Sea.
  • This poetic justice is greater than Hamaan building a gallows upon which to hang Mordecai the Jew he so hated; but in that turn of events, Hamaan himself hangs there on that same gallows by the neck until dead.
  • But Revelation is greater in its poetic justice.  Greater than King Saul who refused to execute the Amalekites as God commanded only to be later killed as he fought the Amalekites. / Adapted from Sam  Gordon, p. 328

All of these scenes of poetic justice pale in significance against the backdrop of this apocalyptic scene.  The forces of Antichrist who have shed the blood of the believers now have only blood to drink.

They have been bloodthirsty in their killing of the saints – and now they are surrounded by blood.

But it’s actually deeper than that.

The human race has effectively dismissed the true and living Christ in favor of Antichrist.

And so in this final series of judgments they now experience the irony of poetic justice in their choice of Messiah.

  • They denied the Creator and are punished by creation;
  • They refused the Healer now suffer incurable disease;
  • They refused to follow the One who in His ministry on earth turned water into wine – and now experience His wrath on earth as He turns water into blood. / John Phillips, Exploring Revelation (Loizeaux Brothers, 1991), p. 191
  • They tread upon the blood of Christ and shed the blood of His saints and now they have only blood, blood and more blood.

The truth is, we all deserve the judgment of God.  If He consigned us all to an eternity of torment we would all receive what we deserve.

For the just wages – the payment for sin – is death . . . but.  Thank God for that little conjunction – eternity has been changed because of it! 

The wages of sin is death but, the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

For those who believe, not wrath, but the grace of God has been poured out upon them.

Paul used this same word for pour – used here in Revelation for the bowls pouring out the wrath of God, when he wrote, “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5b)

It’s even more ironic to consider the fact that the verb, “to pour out” – which occurs repeatedly and only in this chapter of Revelation – is the same verb we read in Acts chapter 2 where God poured out the promise of His Holy Spirit at Pentecost as the church came into being.  Thomas, p. 246

In other words, for those today who believe – they have the love of God poured out in their hearts.  But for those who do not believe in Christ – you have illustrated before your very eyes in this scene from Revelation chapter 16 – the wrath of God is poured out on them.

This is the height of poetic justice! 

Those who refused the pouring out of the Spirit of God through redemption will have poured out upon them the fury of God – a pouring out of wrath that will never end. 

And the angel says God is right and true in judging the world in this way. 

In the first book of the Bible Abraham asked rhetorically, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Genesis 18:25).

And the angel answers here in the last book of the Bible, “Righteous are you, O Holy One, because You judged these things.”  Verse 7.  Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.

You do what is right.  You don’t play by our rules, we play by Yours.

Matthew Henry wrote that the unbelieving world thinks that everything belongs to them.  This is their earth; their air, their sea, their rivers, [their world] . . . they believe they alone have the right to judge. / Stewart Custer, From Patmos to Paradise (BJU Press, 2004), p. 174

But the angel here announces the truth about God – this is His earth, this is His air, this is His ocean, these are His seas, His rivers, His creation, His animal kingdom and His created human race.

This is my Father’s world, O let me never forget;
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world, the battle is not done;
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and heaven become one.
Maltbie Davenport Babcock 1858-1901

So in this last series of judgments we’re immediately given the truth – God owns this world.  God does what is right.  Sin deserves judgment.

And you also can hear an invitation to surrender now to the Sovereign  –  He owns everything.

Come to the Savior  –  He will forgive everything.

Receive from Him the free gift of salvation – He’s already paid for everything.

Instead of having future judgment poured out upon you,

have the love of God poured out in your heart

and the grace of God lavished upon you

and the Holy Spirit given freely to you

as you become a part of the body of Christ

and a member of the family of God.

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