TITLE: Revelation: Scene Five – Part Two
PREACHER: Marcus Herbert
DATE: 18 AUGUST 2013 – Sunday AM
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As we look at this final part of the fifth scene in the book of Revelation (Revelation 15: – 16:21) we must keep in mind that there are eight scenes altogether and each scene provides a complementary and exciting angle about the age we’re living in, which is the Gospel Age, between the first and second coming of Jesus Christ.
We, who have faith in Jesus, have received the Gospel message and have been born again. Now we’re waiting for the return of Jesus with great joy. But those who aren’t in Jesus need to fear the day of his return as there will be a time of great judgement. At every scene we look at in the book of Revelation, we see it show the same thing but from a different angle, and encourage us to hold on and keep our faith. We have a responsibility in this process of the Gospel Age – God has given us an incredible Gospel and his incredible Word so we know what to do in times like these – the times of tribulation we see in the book of Revelation.
Last week we saw God’s anger towards sin and anything evil. What we’re seeing here is a behind-the-scenes look at what affects world affairs. When we see Anti-christ governments rise and take control. The harlot and the beasts influence this world. We see if more clearly in countries where people have never even heard the name of Jesus.
Remaining three bowls
We looked at the first four bowls from Revelation 16, now we will look at the remaining three.
10 The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish 11 and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.
12 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. 13 And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. 14 For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. 15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) 16 And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
The Seventh Bowl
17 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. 19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. 20 And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. 21 And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe.
We’ve previously discussed how the beast in verse 10 is about Pagan government and false religion – an irreligious system against God. And here we see that that sort of thing doesn’t last forever, God will bring judgement on it. We’ve seen this in history – the walls of communism collapsed. Whatever else that has opposed God in times past has collapsed. And so it will continue. Nations will rise in their anger and rebellion against God and God will judge them, until the end when the final rebellion happens and God brings everything to account and sorts it out once and for all.
Today, when you look at this world, it looks like it’s spun out of control. If we had to listen to the green-peace evangelists we would believe that this world is finished. If you listen to other aspects of what’s going on, it seems that there is no chance and our kids have no chance. Many countries today have a negative net growth because people don’t want to have children and bring them into this evil world. Well, here’s a suggestion to those people: Change it! This generation lays its life down for the next generation and we set you up with hope. That’s the Gospel!
The end of verse 10 and verse 11 is the saddest statement of all – “People gnawed their tongues in anguish and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.” There comes a time when we’re handed over to our sin and repentance isn’t possible any more because that’s how hard our hearts have become. We must realise that evil is incredibly evil – it works itself to a point where you can say what you want and warn with trumpets and preach your guts out, but a hardness of heart refuses to repent. At the Great White Throne judgement where Jesus will judge there are going to be people who have not accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour and for them it’ll be too late, they’ll be cast into the lake of fire.
Verse 12 talks about the “great river Euphrates” and this might be a difficult one to understand. We’ll delve into it a bit later when we talk about Armageddon and what it means.
Verse 13 talks about three unclean spirits “like frogs.” We see that Satan is throwing out every single weapon he has against God’s people – the dragon (Satan), the beast and the false prophet spew out these frogs. Now in those days and that culture, frogs were considered the most ugliest, wicked and despised creatures alive. It’s a picture for how ugly these frogs, which are demonic spirits (as verse 14 explains), are. These forces, these spirits, so influence the world that it puts itself up against God and his people. There are times when it seems as if the whole world is caught up in a battle, especially against God’s people, and as we get towards the end it’ll be like the whole world is against God.
It’s going to get worse. Government and public / popular thought will resist us, as you get closer to the end. At the time this was written, those in the seven churches it was written to were going through a time like that where everything was against them. If you lived then, you couldn’t practice your trade and go into the marketplace if you were a Christian. Everywhere you went the entertainment available would be orgies. A soldier could stop you and ask if you have a certificate to prove that you worship Caesar and if you didn’t, you could be killed on the spot. Suddenly one day they could take your mom and dad and put them in the arena and you’re made to watch them torn to bits by wild animals. That’s what it was like.
Jesus was showing the people then that what was behind all of this is Satan and his demons, and that this sort of thing will carry on throughout history until the end. The devil wants Christianity wiped out and he has been cast out of his position of authority (Revelation 12) walking around like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8) seeking to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). But Jesus has come to give life and life more abundantly!
Regardless of what we face, Jesus has come to give us life and life more abundantly. It doesn’t matter how things change – we will have life in Jesus Christ. This was true for the Christians back then and it’s true for us. What the book of Revelation was for then it is also for us.
We see in verse 14 that these demonic forces could perform signs. Not all miracles are from God. God’s miracles point to Jesus and bring people to be born again. When it comes to God’s miracles, the miracle isn’t the focus is, Jesus and the Gospel is. But in the case of these demonic spirits, the miracles are performed for the sake of those performing them so they can win and influence people.
Verse 15 makes it clear that Jesus is coming like a thief. If you knew when a thief was coming, you would prepare for it and clobber them when they came in! But in this case, we don’t know – only the Father knows when Jesus will come again. We can’t just put things off and do what we want to do. No, we need to be prepared; we need to keep at it; we cannot give up this Gospel; we must keep working out our salvation; we must keep loving, keep preaching and keep going, no matter how many frogs come at us!
Now for verse 16, which has been totally misunderstood. Here we see that word “Armageddon” and there’s so much confusion around what this means. Most of us think of it as this end-time catastrophe, some big war people are preparing for, and every time we see a country parading its nuclear weapons we get scared. There have been so many count-downs to Armageddon and we use it as a catch-phrase to explain the end of the world and a catastrophe that’s going to wipe it all out. But we need a good biblical understanding.
A historical geography lesson
So where is Armageddon? To the east of Israel is the Euphrates river (remember, this also links to verse 12). It’s a river that always runs, through every season, so you expect it always to be there. The river served as a natural border and deterrent against Israel’s enemies, most of which came from its east. So its enemies had to always come through this great river Euphrates to get to Israel and it served as a protection – it wasn’t easy for the enemy to come through.
If they did get through the enemy would land in the valley of Megiddo – a great plain and the only place to really land as the enemy. So this would be the place of many battles and wars, and we’ve seen many wars here throughout history. We can see that God is using this as a picture (and this valley would have been well known at the time) to say that there are going to be times where the protection for God’s people will seem like it’s has dried up and disappeared (verse 12) and the enemy will come through. It would seem as if evil has dumped all of itself on God’s people and all is lost. Armageddon represents this valley of battle (it’s a picture of the valley of Megiddo), but it’s a spiritual battle, not a physical war.
Most of us would see it as a physical war because of the interpretation we’ve been exposed to – something along the lines of the church being raptured with a little remnant staying behind; for seven years the anti-christ rules and then there will be a literal war in the valley of Megiddo against Israel and the remnant of Christians, and in this middle of this great war God will blow his trumpet and Jesus will come back. But this is all based on a mis-interpretation of the book of Daniel and bad exegesis of this passage in Revelation. The principle is right but it’s applied incorrectly – Armageddon is referring to a spiritual battle that takes place, not a great big world war that will one day take place.
Ephesians 6: 10 – 13 says:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
We don’t interpret this passage as literal – we don’t physically put on an armour – so why should we interpret Revelation 16, which is from a book that uses picture-language, literally? The Bible says that there will be wars and rumours of wars, but there is no indication in scripture of a physical war taking place at the end. It’s a spiritual battle. All the goings on in the world is about a spiritual battle taking place behind the scenes, and that’s what this is getting to.
There’s this battle taking place and at some point the Euphrates – the church’s supernatural protection – will dry up and evil will spill in and lives will be in danger. But God will rescue. Scripture cannot mean something different to us for what it meant to its original recipients! If we think it means something different because we live in a modern world, then we start coming up with all sorts of science-fiction theories about what this all means. This letter had to make sense for its original recipients and it’s within that context that it makes sense to us.
An example of bad exegesis from current thought
Let’s take an example to show how, if we think the scripture means something different to us today, where that can of interpretation leads. I’ve seen so many people who claim to be part of this new ‘reformational’ way forward say that, if Paul was alive today, and he knew what we know about homosexuality, that’s it’s a genetic thing, he wouldn’t have written what he wrote about the topic in Romans 1 and other places. He would have interpreted the time differently. But do you think God never knew that there would be homosexuality when he inspired Paul to write Romans 1? Homosexuality is not a genetic thing, it’s a choice that people make.
Does that mean we’re against homosexuals? Never! We want to see them come in and turn, just like we want to see adulterers turn. It’s as if, sometimes, adulterers are more welcome in the church than homosexuals. God loves all and wants all to be a part of his people!
Stick to the premise
You have to stick to the premise of scripture. So our first principle of interpretation is that it can’t mean something different to us today, it must mean the same thing it meant then. So we can’t say that ‘666’ as another example is a barcode or some kind of technology. It didn’t mean that to the original recipients! It stood as a code for evil taken to its most wicked extremes. It means the same today.
The second principle of interpretation is to use scripture to interpret scripture. So let’s do that here. We know now that Megiddo is where the conquerors would land after crossing the Euphrates. Many in history did this – it goes right back to Pharoah Thutmose. The crusaders of the middle-ages fought many of their battles here. Napolean even called it “the most natural battlefield of the whole earth.” Barack defeated the armies of Canaan there. This is where Saul lost his life and where Josiah was fatally wounded in the Old Testament. It’s also where the Roman emperor landed to sack Jerusalem.
This is a place of fierce, horrible war, where good and evil clash. That’s the principle and it’s being used to show us something spiritual. Those in the first century would have understood that it meant a place where you fought and that there is going to be a spiritual Megiddo. There have been many but there will be a final one at the end, where the church’s protection seems like it’s gone and all the frogs / false spirits and arguments and lies pour out over the church, so that even we might question whether Jesus is real. And the encouragement is this: when that happens, hang in there! Keep your robe of righteousness on (verse 15)! Jesus is going to come like a thief, when no one expects, so don’t give up! We’re in Megiddo but we will overcome! Jesus has overcome this world!
Conclusions from this sixth bowl
Here’s the conclusion of all this: Satan is always wanting to destroy the church. We must settle this in our hearts. When evil comes lurking at your door, he’s not there for your good; when the temptation to move the finances from a dead account into yours comes… or any temptation… it’s not going to end well. One day God will allow Satan a time to oppress the church in an unprecedented way and we must know that God is dealing with something here and he knows why people must suffer like this. But it won’t last very long and it won’t succeed; communism seemed like it was the anti-christ and the system that’ll wipe out everything and we all thought there would be a nuclear war and so we dug shelters. But it’s gone. But now there are different things.
The seventh bowl
In all the scenes in the book of Revelation, we see six events take place where evil rises and then, on the seventh, it’s judgement day where God sorts it all out. In this scene we see that judgement from the point of view of evil (in others we see it from the point of view of God’s people).
Verse 17 says, “it is done!” Let that reverberate around the universe, bounce off every galaxy and be the cry of every star. Verse 18 and 19 shows how Babylon is judged. Remember, Babylon is a picture in the Bible that represents evil. In those days, they would even call Rome “Babylon”. We see Babylon made to drink the cup of God’s wrath – every last drop. He has poured out his wrath until this point but now he finishes it, he pours it out completely and deals with evil forever.
Verse 20 talks about how ever island flees, which is a picture of how the immoveable moves. Things you thought could never move will move. Who would have thought, as a believer in East Germany, that communism would crumble? But the immovable was moved and the wall came down and people could serve God like they wanted once more.
Verse 21 shows how evil refuses to repent and will continue to curse God. From the point of a believer in Jesus, the worst thing that can happen is death. As a believer, imagine you had uncertainty about death today? If you do then on this day you would curse God because it’s too late. But the good news is that you’re breathing today and that means there is hope – you can receive Jesus today as your Lord and Saviour.
The seventh bowl shows us that history will run to a climax and there will be an end point, where sin and wickedness is ruined and destroyed forever.
The scariest of them all
This fifth scene is the scariest and most cataclysmic of them all. So let’s get some sanity in our hearts. Here are three things that this fifth scene should do for us:
1. It reminds us that our safety is found in the Lord Jesus Christ alone
Hear that. This is our message to the city, the nations and all we meet. The only place of eternal security is in Jesus Christ alone, who says, “I am the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes through the father except through me.” (John 14:6.) Your safety is not in good deeds, in shelters or picking a religion; that’s a frog that’s been spewed out and which misleads us. It’s a lie. There’s only one way and his name is Jesus.
2. It ought to make us feel very sorry for the world
When you see these things and what’s going on and see men stand up and make statements, men like Hitler and so on, it should make us feel sorry for them.
3. It ought to make Christians very grateful for their salvation
We should always have something to rejoice about. These mild things we go through that sometimes seem so great, let’s sort these them out. We have the ability to do that with our salvation.
4. We ought to know that the best thing we can do in the world today is bring the Gospel
Is it true that the best thing we can do for our world today is kiss it goodbye, holding onto our salvation and crying, “Burn, baby burn!” as we fly with Jesus in the sky when we’re raptured? No! We’re not called to do that! The best thing we can do for our world is preach the Gospel, lay our lives down for this Gospel.
We need to apply this to everything we do – the jobs we choose, who we choose to marry. We need to ask: how does this count towards the Gospel? Don’t worry about the troubles of our lives, those things that keep us ensnared; get the Gospel out! Nations are waiting. Joburg is waiting! Wherever we have the opportunity, we are here for the sake of the Gospel. Let this weigh heavy on our hearts, because it should.