Seven Bowls (Revelation 15 – 16)

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Last week I titled the talk “the Eye of the Hurricane” because before that I went through what is arguably the most difficult part of the most difficult book in the bible, covering the extremely symbolic chapters that show us the many layers of the events surrounding the midpoint of tribulation. Last week was kind of a “tie up loose ends” chapter, and generally pretty calm – like the eye of a hurricane.
And just like a hurricane, the other side of the eye will be just as tumultuous as the way in. While that is true, I don’t think the rest of the content in Revelation will be nearly as difficult to understand as the midpoint. Far less symbolism. So, maybe you won’t need as much Advil moving forward. I guess we’ll see.
Anyway, let’s pray and get into it.
We are now moving into chapter 15 of Revelation – actually we will be covering chapter 15 and 16 today as they tell the story of the seven bowls of God’s wrath – the final set of judgments to complete God’s wrath on his rebellious creation.
But the bowls are only one of the layers to the endpoint events. Much like the midpoint, there is a lot going on that is communicated to us in layers. So, in order to help you keep your sanity and to keep us aware of the big picture as we go through the details, let me give you the quick summary of end-time events we will be covering over the next four weeks.
Here is that graphic I’ve been using to indicate the timeline of the whole tribulation. So far, we’ve seen the seal judgments, the trumpet judgments, and the midpoint in all its craziness. Through all of that, the world’s population was reduced to less than half of what it was before the rapture, and the inhabitable part of the earth was narrowed down to the continents surrounding the central players: Jerusalem and Babylon. The world is in pretty bad shape at this point after multiple intense earthquakes, hail storms, fire, and such. They will likely be reduced to a pre-digital-age as far as technology goes.
After the midpoint, things will be pretty calm as far as judgments from God go, and while the remnant of Jews that fled from Jerusalem will be safe in their mountain fortress under God’s protection, it will be that time of distress that Jesus talked about for everyone else because the Antichrist the Beast will have full power and will have set up beast worship on pain of death along with his mark that will be required to not starve to death. He will also be systematically killing off Christians and Jews that do not worship him and take his mark. It will be party time for the wicked and the worst time ever for believers for three and a half years.
No doubt the Beast, the False Prophet, and their followers will think they have won, that it would only be a matter of time before they were done eliminating the Christians and Jews and then God’s plans would have failed and the Dragon – who is Satan – will be victorious.
But all of that is about to quickly change.
The events of the end will all happen in a rather short period of time – probably no more than about three months.
The end results are for the most part agreed upon by commentators, but the sequence of events leading up to the end has many possible paths that I got a headache sifting through so that I could save YOU the headache by picking what makes the most sense to me and teaching it that way. If you want the headache yourself, I can point you to the study material that will help you with that.
So, here’s my best educated guess on how the end plays out, which I will elaborate on for the next few weeks.
After the midpoint, God allows Satan and his unholy trinity to gain a false sense of security. Then when God is ready to end it, he initiates the bowl judgments that will finish his wrath.
The Stage
The first five will likely come in rapid succession – no more than a day or two apart. Since Satan knows how the story is supposed to go, he will cue the Beast to immediately ramp up his destruction of the Jews – which as I showed you before is the only way that Satan could technically prevent Christ from coming back.
STEP 1
He will set out from his base in Babylon toward Jerusalem where there are still unmarked Jews living, and, of course, the remnant is nearby as well. God will actually aid his effort via the sixth bowl judgment by drying up the Euphrates river that separates Babylon from Jerusalem. Part of that judgment also causes the other kings that are allied with the Beast to make their way to Jerusalem too, gathering in the place called Armageddon.
STEP 2
While the Beast is away from Babylon, some other kings decide they are done following the Beast and they go sack Babylon, killing every living person in it.
STEP 3
Shortly after this is when the seventh bowl judgment causes the complete physical destruction of every city in the remaining world except Jerusalem. Babylon is especially destroyed.
STEP 4
News of this reaches the Beast and his other kings who realize they have no homes to go back to, so their only chance of survival is to take Jerusalem and kill off the remnant.
STEP 5
They begin attacking Jerusalem. Parts of his army also move south to Bozrah where the remnant are being kept safe and attempt to attack them as well. At first they are unsuccessful, but eventually start overtaking Jerusalem.
STEP 6
And just when it seems like the Beast’s forces are about to win, the remaining Jews finally all call out to God and in unison repent of their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah.
At that, Jesus will come down in the clouds with his army, landing near Bozrah to lead his sheep out of their pen.
STEP 7
King Jesus works his way back to Jerusalem – personally killing all of the enemy in his path. When he makes it to Jerusalem, he climbs the mount of olives at which point it splits in two providing a valley for the sieged residents of Jerusalem to flee. Then he slaughters the rest of the Beast’s armies.
STEP 8
The Beast and the False Prophet are thrown into the lake of fire, and the Dragon – Satan is bound in the abyss.
STEP 9
Thus ends the war of Armageddon, which is followed by a 75 day interval in which
– Jesus regenerates the decimated earth,
– resurrects all believers who died during the tribulation,
– judges the remaining living inhabitants of the earth,
– then sets up his earthly rein with you and me and all believers having positions of authority according to what we did with our lives. And this kingdom will last for a thousand years.
There’s more that happens after that, but we will get to that after Easter and the Sonrise Music Festival.
So, that is the outline I will be filling in with details over the next few weeks including today. As I said, there are many opinions on this sequence but the end results are certain because they are clearly spelled out in Scripture.
Now, as for where this sequence comes from, if you’ve read the rest of Revelation you will know that most of it is not in this book. Instead, most of the details of specifically the War of Armageddon and also the Millennial Kingdom are found in the Old Testament prophets. John’s vision here in Revelation is more of a summary with clues that point us back to the pertinent prophecies of old.
Today I will be talking about the Bowl Judgments.
Next week will be all about Babylon.
After that I will show you all the details of the War of Armageddon culminating with the return of King Jesus.
Then, the week before Easter I will be covering the 75 day interval where several things happen as Jesus sets up for his 1,000 year reign.
After that I’ll be taking a three week break from Revelation for Easter and the Sonrise Music Festival and will pick it back up in May with four final weeks on the Millennial Kingdom, the Final Judgment, and the New Heaven & New Earth.
So, now that you have the road map, let’s talk about those bowl judgments. We read about these in two chapters. I’ll start with reading all of chapter 15.
Revelation 15
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 glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb:
“Great and marvelous are your deeds,
    Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
    King of the nations.
Who will not fear you, 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.”
After this I looked, and I saw in heaven the temple—that is, the tabernacle of the covenant law—and it 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.
A nice short chapter but a few important things to talk about before moving on.
Notice in verse 1 John says he is seeing another great and marvelous sign. That’s what he called the vision of the woman and the dragon which included the vision of the beast and false prophet.  Basically, in these last few chapters and in the next few, John is given visions that communicate something. That means they are mixed with literal happenings and symbolic meanings.
This particular sign is of seven angels who will carry out the final pouring out of God’s pent up wrath on all the wickedness of humanity since our creation.
John sees a sea of glass again, similar to in the throne room scene, but this one is glowing with fire, and next to it are the multitudes of tribulation saints – those martyred by the Beast for not worshiping him.
And he says they held harps and sang two songs (which is where people get the idea that this is what we will be doing in heaven – that’s like assuming preachers only work on Sundays because that’s the only time you see us preaching…both rather erroneous assumptions.)
Anyway, One is the song of the Lamb, which is written out for us here and basically praises God and predicts the near future when everyone would worship God (though we know many will not do it willingly).
As for the song of Moses, he actually has two songs recorded in scripture. One just after they crossed the red sea and the waters crashed over the Egyptians, thus finalizing their escape. It was a song of praise and thanksgiving for rescuing them. The other was at the very end of his life and contained a lot of “you guys are going to mess this up” kind of language.
We don’t know for certain which song John is referring to, but most think it’s the first one since it would keep the same mood as the Lamb’s song. Must not be that important since he didn’t specify. I encourage you to go to Exodus and look them up yourself.
After this I looked, and I saw in heaven the temple—that is, the tabernacle of the covenant law—and it was opened.
Remember we’ve seen this temple in heaven a few times during our studies. God has his own temple in heaven that the earthly temple and tabernacle were modeled after. The Tabernacle was built by Moses and was the tent-like precursor of the solid construction Temple built centuries later by Solomon. John sees that the perfect temple of heaven is 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.
These are the same seven angels John mentioned at the start of the chapter. He is now describing them more and how he came to see them.
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.
The four living creatures we have met before and are always associated with the throne of God. The bowls are symbolic representations of the wrath of God that is going to be poured out on the earth and cause seven rather horrible plagues.
 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.
It seems at this point that God, in a sense, shuts himself in his temple and wants to be left alone until the fury of his wrath is finished. What exactly this means is debated. Some suggest this means that salvation is cut off at this point.  Like when the door to the Ark of Noah was shut before the floods came.
We can’t be sure, and I like what one commentary says – to speculate further is to go where angels fear to tread – so we’ll just leave this in the We Don’t Know category.
The angels have their bowls and God has put up the “do not disturb” sign. Now the stage is set for end to begin.

Revelation 16
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, festering sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.
The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died.
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, O Holy One,
    you who are and who were;
for they have shed the blood of your holy people and your 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.”
The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was allowed 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.
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 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.
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 Then I saw three impure 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. 14 They are demonic spirits that perform 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 “Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.”
16 Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
17 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!” 18 Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since mankind has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. 19 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. 20 Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. 21 From the sky huge hailstones, each weighing about a hundred pounds, fell on people. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.
I’m sure you can probably see why it is most likely that these plagues happen in rapid succession. Let’s take a closer look.
Revelation 16
The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly, festering sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.
Here we have another judgment that differentiates between peoples. In this case, only those who took the mark get this – probably as a “mild” precursor of their ultimate fate. This is probably similar to what God did to the Egyptians back in Moses’ day:
Exodus 9
Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from a furnace and have Moses toss it into the air in the presence of Pharaoh. It will become fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, and festering boils will break out on people and animals throughout the land.”
10 So they took soot from a furnace and stood before Pharaoh. Moses tossed it into the air, and festering boils broke out on people and animals. 11 The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils that were on them and on all the Egyptians. 12 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said to Moses.
The people with the mark will be just as obstinate, and really they have no choice at this point anyway. Taking the mark permanently hardened their hearts with no chance to change them. Basically, those with the mark are already dead as far as their chances of salvation go.
No doubt this plague is painful and disgusting, but it’s nothing in comparison to what comes next.
Revelation 16
The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died.
In the trumpet judgments, God struck a third of the sea and fish. This time the whole of the world’s oceans and seas become blood and everything in them dies. And it even says blood like that of a dead person – meaning it’s not watery fresh blood but sticky lifeless blood of a corpse. The stench alone would be unbearable.
Revelation 16
The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.
In the trumpets, a third of the water became bitter or poisonous. Now ALL water on earth has become blood. Unless they have a stockpile of bottled water built up, this game is about to be over real quick. Human beings cannot live for long without water.
The destruction of what is left of the earth’s fresh water will cause unthinkable hardship and suffering.
There will be no water to drink;
no clean water to wash the oozing sores caused by the first bowl judgment;
no water to bring cooling relief from the scorching heat that the fourth bowl judgment will shortly bring.
The scene is so unimaginably horrible that people will wonder how a God of compassion, mercy, and grace could send such a judgment.
And so there is a brief interlude in the pouring out of the judgments while an angel speaks in God’s defense.
Revelation 16
Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say:
“You are just in these judgments, O Holy One,
    you who are and who were;
for they have shed the blood of your holy people and your 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.”
Basically, these people are getting what they deserve. They have rejected God’s mercy and forgiveness outright and went about killing those that accepted it. What is left for them but wrath? You don’t wan’t God’s mercy? Fine! He won’t give it to you!
Revelation 16
The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was allowed to scorch people with fire.
This one is interesting because if you recall, the fourth trumpet judgment basically short circuited the sun, moon, and stars such that they only shine 2/3 of the time – which has presumably been the case ever since, meaning that for the last 3.5 years the people must have adjusted to different daylight hours.  Now, the sun’s heat is intensified such that it’s burning people. Does this mean it’s now on all the time? Don’t know.
Revelation 16
 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.
The language is intense – seared, scorched. Basically they are getting a little preview of their final destination – the lake of fire – and instead of acknowledging their poor decisions – they curse God. Not a whole lot different from today – in our society that avoids personal responsibility like the plague. This is the end result of that and it only gets worse.
Revelation 16
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 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.
This is an interesting follow on to the sun burning people. Now these same people are in total darkness. Probably a darkness like what God did to Egypt when he brought Israel out of slavery.
Exodus 10
21 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. 23 No one could see anyone else or move about for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.
A darkness that can be felt and isolated to a specific region. God is not beholden to the laws of nature. He controls the light itself, such that he can cause light in one spot and darkness in another, whether the sun is shining or not – and we’re not talking like the shadow of a cloud – but complete and utter darkness. I don’t really know what that kind of darkness feels like, and honestly I don’t want to.
And it says they gnawed their tongues in agony and continued to curse God because of the pain and their sores – indicating that each of these plagues are lasting. I think that means the sun continues to burn them even though they can’t see it.
Now, this darkness in addition to the other tortures may seem rather cruel – but God is only giving them what they’ve asked for. Jesus spoke of this in the same conversation of the world’s favorite verse.
TANGENT ALERT
John 3
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Most people like to stop there. God loves us SOOOO much, and Jesus isn’t here to condemn us but to save us. Yay! I can do whatever I want cuz God loves me so much and Jesus will never judge me!
Well, I’m sorry, but that is just not so.
First, the “SO” in this verse is extremely misunderstood. It’s not “so” as in God’s heart is just gushing over with emotional love for us. It’s “so” as in “just so” or “in this way” – It doesn’t mean God does not feel love for us. It means that God’s love for us is not based on a feeling. John 3:16 is actually saying the exact same thing as
Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The “so” in God so loved the world is better translated as “in this way, God loved the world” in other words “God demonstrated his love for us by giving up his one and only Son – so that whoever believes in him (or rather, puts their full faith and confidence in him) will have eternal life rather than eternal death.
It’s an important distinction I insist on pointing out because it shows how LOVE is not a feeling but a choice. LOVE – God’s Love – AGAPE LOVE while it can be associated with feelings is primarily an act of the will to place others before yourself – regardless of how you feel.
And it is extremely good news that God loves us in that way – because as we are seeing in these parts of Revelation – God also has a lot of wrath built up that he has been holding in check for thousands of years in order to give us hateful and rebellious people more time to come to our senses and love Him in return. I am thankful I have a God whose love for me is not based on his feelings toward me – because I make him angry every day.
But for most people, John 3:16-17 are the world’s favorite verses because it seems like you can’t lose. God has gushy feelings for us and sent his son to save us and not condemn us. Because if you have gushy feelings for someone you will never do anything to hurt them or make them sad or ever tell them they are wrong…right?

Well, it is totally true and awesome that God loves us and Jesus didn’t come to condemn us but save us – but that is only half of what Jesus says here. He continues..
John 3
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
You see, the point Jesus was getting at is that Jesus doesn’t need to condemn us because we are already condemned for our treasonous sin.
We are already guilty of treason for sitting on His throne.
He didn’t come to condemn us MORE. He came to show us our desperate state and offer a way to be saved from our rightful fate.
That salvation and forgiveness is offered to everyone, but only received by those who believe in the name of God’s Sonwhich is not a mental acknowledgement that his name is Jesusbut a belief that Jesus is God’s Son and rightful King of the Universe and your life, that he died in your place and was raised to life,
And that is not just belief in the facts – but a full surrender of the throne of your life to the rightful king.
It’s a belief that results in a changed life as you now take orders from King Jesus through His Word, rather than continuing to live for yourself – which is the way that makes you condemned already.
That is what John 3:16 really means. And that is the truth that the people of the world and those who worship the Beast wholly reject.
TANGENT OVER
The tangent is over, but we are still in John 3 because now Jesus gets to the part I was originally getting at about how this plague of darkness is God is giving the people exactly what they want, but I just couldn’t pass up the need to set it in the proper context…
John 3
19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
Condemned people love the darkness because in the dark anything goes – especially the things you don’t want seen in the light. And in the dark you can pretend like you are in charge instead of God.
And so, here at the 5th bowl of God’s wrath He gives them the darkness they insist on having, only now they get perceive what that darkness really is – Hell on Earth.
At this point, it probably will be a lot like hell – which is not a place of light, but a place of darkness, and fire, and festering sores, and weeping and gnashing of teeth. No doubt this is an awful time to be alive for anyone who took the mark.
And it’s probably this plague of darkness, if the others didn’t do it, that sets the Beast to leaving Babylon with his armies to go after Jerusalem in his vain attempt to thwart God’s plans. It’s uncertain if this darkness is just over Babylon or anywhere the Beast goes. I suspect it’s just over Babylon because if the darkness followed the Beast and his armies, the war of Armageddon would be impossible.
Either way, life is really miserable right now for a lot of folks.

The sixth bowl judgment breaks the pattern of the other five with something that seems quite confusing if you don’t realize even these bowl judgments are a layer among several of the intricate sequence of events of the very end.
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.
At first glance it might seem strange that God would make it easier for the Beast and his armies to attack Jerusalem. Babylon, his headquarters, sits right on the eastern shore of said river and they would have to cross it to get to Jerusalem as would any army on that side. It’s possible there are not many bridges left due to the damage the earth has sustained in the tribulation – and some suggest that the intense heat of the sun causes the ice caps to melt and flood the rivers even more…with blood – which is mostly made of water and would still flow like a river. If the rivers fill up too much any bridges could be destroyed. Either way, drying up the riverbed makes it really easy for all the armies of the Beast to cross and head toward Jerusalem.
So, why would God do this? Basically, he’s setting a trap.  This is foretold by the prophet Joel.
Joel 3
1 “In those days and at that time,
    when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,
I will gather all nations
    and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat.
There I will put them on trial
    for what they did to my inheritance, my people Israel,
because they scattered my people among the nations
    and divided up my land.
God is gathering his enemies to one place so he can crush them like grapes in a winepress as the grape harvest vision of the last chapter foretold.
And he does that by letting the Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet do what they do best – LIE.
13 Then I saw three impure 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. 14 They are demonic spirits that perform 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.
Why frogs? Perhaps an allusion to the frogs plague on Egypt. Either way, they are unclean animals, and these are not frogs but spirits that look like frogs who go out to the other kings of the world with great signs in order to lure them into the trap as well (though for the Dragon, Beast, and False Prophet – they think they are gathering everyone for victory!)
The text continues…
15 “Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.”
16 Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
Another interjection by Jesus that seems to be mid-thought in this description of the sixth bowl. I’m going to save addressing that for the application ending. First, let’s finish with these bowls.
It says they gathered in a place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. There it is – the famous word that is so overused and misunderstood. It’s come to be associated with the end of the world in whatever fashion Hollywood can dream up that it ends. Many think the word itself is the name of the final battle. But it’s not.
The English word Armageddon is a transliteration of the Hebrew pair of words Har-Magedon which literally means “Mount Megiddo.” Since there is no specific mountain by that name, and Har can refer to hill country, it is probably a reference to the hill country surrounding the Plain of Megiddo (or Valley of Jezreel as it is also called), some sixty miles north of Jerusalem.
Basically, it is a great flat plain that would be perfect for gathering a larger army for an invasion. Armageddon is just the staging ground. The actual battles (plural) will be fought all around Jerusalem and spreading down south to Bozrah. But we’ll talk more about that in a couple of weeks.

Now, before we go into the seventh and final bowl judgment – let’s take stock of where we are.
Here’s an interesting artist’s rendition.
Over the course of no more than a few weeks, all of the people of the Beast’s kingdom are struck with horrible festering skin ulcers, then all of the water in the oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams turns to blood. Followed by a sun so hot it literally burns you (with no water to help you cool down or wash your wounds) then the heat doesn’t turn off but the lights go completely out as you experience a darkness that you can feel. The pain must be intense.
But they still will not repent and submit to God. Instead they follow the Beast and march across the mysteriously dried up Euphrates river to go kill off God’s “holy” people once and for all.
While they’re on their way (it’s a good distance to go on foot) they get news that their hometown has been routed by what used to be their allies, then all of a sudden…
17 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!” 18 Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since mankind has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. 19 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. 20 Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. 21 From the sky huge hailstones, each weighing about a hundred pounds, fell on people. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.
It’s really amazing anyone survives this to even fight in the final battles, but apparently many do.  There’s a lot going on here. Let’s break it down.
The final angel pours his bowl into the air and then probably God from inside the temple calls out – IT IS DONE!  What is done? His wrath. Remember that these seven plagues/bowls were introduced as “the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed.” Unlike God’s love – His wrath is not eternal, but it is fierce.
Even though the bowl is poured into the air, it’s effects cover the air and the land. Lightning and thunder and a severe earthquake. The worst the world has ever witnessed, such that it levels all the mountains and makes all the islands disappear. The only city and mountain that survives is Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives – making them now the highest points on earth.
It says the quake caused the “great city” to be split into three parts. Both Jerusalem and Babylon are referred to as the “great city” at different times, so which is it this time? Not surprisingly, commentators are split and honestly I am not sure which to pick as there are good arguments on both sides though I tend to lean toward it being Babylon as she is described as getting the special treatment of the cup filled with the wine of the fury of God’s wrath, while all other cities are merely collapsed.
Basically, God is really mad at Babylon, and the next two chapters of Revelation talk about her destruction. Next week I’ll tell you all about it.
And finally, 100 lb hailstones fall from the sky onto people. You may survive an earthquake if you are out on an open plain (which most of them will be at this point) but when the sky starts dropping giant balls of ice, good luck.
Skeptics like to say that hail could never get that big. The largest ever recorded is only 2 lb. But they also dismiss how God says he gets all that hail. In the earth science lesson he gave to Job, God referenced “storehouses of the hail, which he reserves for times of trouble, for days of war and battle. And it’s not as if God couldn’t just manifest hail at will with the same power he uses to turn all the water to blood and make the sun hotter and the earth darker at the same time….
The best calculation I could find on this puts these hailstones at about 24 to 26 inches diameter. So, about the size of your standard tire on a car except spherical. And if it obeys the laws of physics, it will be hitting the earth at about 270mph. You’re not walking away from that.
And so, along with killing a lot of people and remodeling the surface of the earth, it is likely this hail coupled with the earthquake will be the means of the final and total destruction of Babylon, but surprisingly this will not be the end of the war. The hail and earthquake eventually stop, and possibly the sun and darkness plagues too (as God wants them to try to fight), the people that are left regroup and set out to destroy Jerusalem and the Jewish Remnant hidden in Bozra – at which point it will be God the Son’s turn to unleash His wrath – which we will cover in a couple of weeks.

Needless to say you don’t want to be around for this time of history – believer, mark taker, or otherwise. Which is why I believe Jesus once again interjects John’s writing with a warning and encouragement:
15 “Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.”
Commentators are split on whether this message is intended for the people going through these plagues or for the readers of this book through the centuries. There are arguments for both, but I tend to believe this is meant for us readers.
Jesus uses the common language he often uses in reference to his RAPTURE coming – that he’s coming as a thief – meaning in a time you don’t expect. His return at the end of the tribulation can actually be calculated pretty accurately based on certain markers that happen, such as the original signing of the antichrist/Israel 7 year covenant, and the abomination that causes desolation at the midpoint. How many mentions of 3.5 years have we talked about?  Enough that the people who know the bible in this time will have a good idea of when Jesus is going to make landfall.
But as for the rapture, when Jesus comes back before the tribulation to take us away and save us from the wrath that we are not appointed for – that can happen literally at any moment. Jesus earlier said of this in the Olivet Discourse concerning these end times…
Matthew 24
36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.
And here in Revelation he repeats the urge to “keep watch” to “stay awake” – in fact both phrases translate the same Greek word – gregoreo – which means to stay awake, alert, watchful, vigilant.
Jesus is coming when we least expect, and when he does – those of us in the faith will be in good shape but everyone else will have to go through the things we’ve been discussing – at least half of them anyway. Most will die before this point.
And so, Jesus says to us who know Him, before it is too late…
Revelation 16
15 “Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.”
He’s not talking about never sleeping and staying dressed.  This is similar to what he told the church of Laodicea at the beginning of this book.
Revelation 3
14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to vomit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
And in a later chapter we will get to, we are told that these white clothes are actually symbolic of our righteous deeds. But not good deeds done in our humanity – good deeds done in obedience to the Holy Spirit. Another parable of Jesus helps to illustrate this point.
Matthew 22
1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.
13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
There’s a lot to this parable that I’m not going to dissect in this talk. The basic premise is that God invited the Jewish people but they rejected Him, so that’s why us Gentiles get a chance. But aside from that point is this point about the one guest who is not wearing the wedding clothes.
This doesn’t mean he forgot to wear a tux. This is actually a take on a Jewish parable already in circulation in which the King himself provides the proper clothing for the rabble he invites to the wedding (since they surely will not be able to afford the appropriate attire). Probably similar to how in our modern weddings, the clothing for the groomsmen and bridesmaids is provided, or at least picked out for them. What if a groomsman or bridesmaid just showed up in their workout clothes?
In the parable, the King expects that the guests won’t have the proper attire on their own, so he supplies it for them and expects them to wear what he provided – only to see that one of them figured his own clothing was good enough. Well, it clearly wasn’t.

In all of the visions of the people in heaven in Revelation, they are all wearing white robes. We learn later, in chapter 19, at the wedding supper of the Lamb – when Christ mysteriously marries his church – that his bride is given “fine linen, bright and clean” to wear. And that the “fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.”
In other words – you can’t get into the kingdom of heaven without the proper wedding attire that you can only get from Jesus himself – like he told the church at Laodicea.  You can’t get into heaven wearing your best effort at being good.
That proper wedding attire that Jesus provides is the righteousness that comes from faith in Jesus as your Savior and Lord. It’s a righteousness that is credited to you when you believe in your heart that Jesus literally died in your place, and then rose from the dead – proving that he is God and King. Then, based on that belief, you submit to Him as Lord of your life.
Romans 10:9-10 tells us that this combination is what saves you.
Romans 10:9-10
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess your faith and are saved.
This belief coupled with confession wipes your slate clean and gives you a new heart and a new start. All of your sin is forgiven and you are given the white robe to wear and keep wearing – meaning that you now live in obedience to your Lord and King – Jesus (Thats what it means to confess Him as Lord).
It doesn’t mean you will be perfect, but that now in your changed heart, your desire is ultimately to please your King rather than yourself – which will take you the rest of your life to learn how to do.
What Jesus is saying here by staying clothed is not a call to be perfect and never sin again, that is impossible. He is saying that when you have the new heart and new clothing that He gives you, that now your DESIRE should be to live righteously. Before, when you were in your own clothing – your desire was to please yourself. Now, your desire will be to please your King, however imperfectly. If your desire hasn’t changed, then you are likely still wearing your own clothing. (Read Romans 8)
So, Jesus tells us to be intentional about living righteously AND to stay awake, or alert and watchful for his return.
But not only watchful for our own selves.
Part of living righteously and part of being ever watchful for our Lord’s return is that we are also to be intentional about doing what we can to ensure others do not show up to the wedding supper with the wrong clothes on.
I believe Jesus inserts this statement right here amid the terrible bowl judgments as if to say,
“Hey YOU! Yea, you reading about this horrible stuff! Do you see what I am going to do to those who reject me? Do you see what is going to happen to everyone who denies my name? Do you see what horrors await all those you have not yet bothered to tell about me?”
You see, keeping watch and even staying clothed is not just about you. The two greatest commandments of our King are to Love God, and Love Others.
And He’s not talking about affectionate feelings, but a love of action that does what is best in the interest of the other – just as God did for us.
God doesn’t say – “If you have feelings of love your friends, tell them about Jesus.”
He says “Love your friends by telling them about Jesus, regardless of how you feel.”
My friends, as a church I believe we are nearing the end of a season of primarily internal growth. God has been shaping and stretching us as a church family. But God does not shape and stretch for no reason. I have believed since I became the pastor and I still believe now – that He is shaping and stretching us into a strong core of believers like the Acts 2 church.  Such that when He sees we are ready, he will add to our numbers daily those who are being saved.
If I didn’t believe that I would quit right now.
But I do believe that, so I encourage you to endure these times of lean with me. But more than endure, I challenge you to let it grow you. Let it bring about the perseverance that James talks about so that we can be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
And specifically, I challenge you to start praying that God will show you who to invite to Easter and beyond. Pray that God will send us people so we can tell them about the proper wedding clothes, or, more importantly, tell them about our King.
Because the time is short. Jesus IS coming back like a thief at a time when we do not expect. So, let us be clothed in righteousness and ever watchful for ourselves and others so that they do not have to go through this hell on earth or worse.
Let’s pray.