The Wrath of God Revealed, part 1

The first entry in this series can be found here.
The previous entry can be found here.

In our day and age, we are fascinated with movies about the end of the world. We love the terror, the fear, the peril. It excites us and urges us to keep watching.

Now granted, it seems as if this theme has slowly lost popularity over the past few years, though every superhero movie could technically be classified as an end-of-the-world flick, because–let’s face it–if the hero doesn’t save the day, the world as we know it will end.

However, what we usually lose sight of in these sorts of movies, amidst the rising fatalities, the increased stakes, and the adrenaline boosts, is that when the world actually comes to an end, it will be in God’s control. (Knowing that God is love should force us to pause and reflect before we imagine that the end of the world will be just a violent, gruesome apocalypse.)

In fact, in our passage today, John goes so far as to show that heaven will praise God at the end of time for His perfection in pouring out His wrath on the world.

The first went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and severely painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.

The second poured out his bowl into the sea. It turned to blood like a dead man’s, and all life in the sea died.

The third poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. I heard the angel of the waters say:

You are righteous,
who is and who was, the Holy One,
for You have decided these things.
Because they poured out
the blood of the saints and the prophets,
You also gave them blood to drink;
they deserve it!

Then I heard someone from the altar say:

Yes, Lord God, the Almighty,
true and righteous are Your judgments.

Revelation 16:2-7

Last time we looked at how the bowls of judgment are actually the fulfillment of the saints’ prayers throughout time. When Christians are persecuted or mistreated, they pray for God to hear them (cf. a lot of the psalms), and God listens, even though He often doesn’t do anything at first. Rather, He stores up those prayers, and He will unleash them on the last day.

So what does the outpouring of God’s wrath look like?

Today, we will look at the first three bowls of wrath, comparing them to the seals and trumpets, noting the overlap that should help convince us that Revelation is not a timeline of the end of the world. Today is the day of salvation! Don’t wait until tomorrow!

Bowl of Plague

The first went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and severely painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.

While most of these bowls correspond with the seals and trumpets, this first one is an outlier. There are two things that set this plague apart from the rest.

First, this bowl judgment is limited to those who worship the beast. Therefore, God differentiates between His people and those who are not. Now, as I pointed out a few weeks ago, the Christians have likely been removed by this point, so God doesn’t necessarily have to differentiate because there will be no one to differentiate with. But this leads to the second observation.

Second, this bowl judgment finds its predecessor in the plagues on Egypt before the exodus. We read about it in Exodus 9:8-12.

Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of furnace soot, and Moses is to throw it toward heaven in the sight of Pharaoh. It will become fine dust over the entire land of Egypt. It will become festering boils on man and beast throughout the land of Egypt.” So they took furnace soot and stood before Pharaoh. Moses threw it toward heaven, and it became festering boils on man and beast. The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils were on the magicians as well as on all the Egyptians. But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had told Moses.

A repeated refrain throughout all of these bowl judgments is that the people refuse to repent (cf. Revelation 16:9, 11), which finds its parallel in Pharaoh’s response as well. It is possible that God is responsible for this hardening (cf. Romans 1:18-32, especially verses 18, 24, 26, 28; and Exodus 3:19; 4:21; 7:3, 13, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 12, 34-35; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17). These verses show that hardening is a two-way street. As humans prove stubborn to God’s acting, God gives them what they want, so it becomes difficult to separate who is truly responsible for the hardening.

But it is worth noting the similarity between the sixth plague on Egypt and the first of the bowl judgments. God differentiates between His people and those who are not His. While the Exodus passage cited above doesn’t explicitly say it, we do see it in the fifth plague (9:5) and the seventh (9:26), which implies that there was likely a differentiation in the sixth as well.

Because of this differentiation in the first bowl judgment, it is possible that Christians have not yet been removed at this time. God preserved Israel through the exodus plagues on Egypt. He can preserve His people through the outpouring of His wrath on the world.

Regardless, the point here is clear: Trust in Jesus now, before it’s too late!

Bowl of Blood (salt water)

The second poured out his bowl into the sea. It turned to blood like a dead man’s, and all life in the sea died.

This bowl is closely related to the second trumpet judgment. In the second trumpet (8:8-9), a mountain fell to earth, turning 1/3 of the waters in the sea to blood and killing 1/3 of the life in the sea (the 1/3 there could look forward to the 1/3 referred to in 12:4, showing that some of these judgments are Satan’s responsibility, though ultimately under God’s sovereign control). This plague destroys all life in the sea, and it turns all of the seas into blood. The emphasis here is on death (note “like a dead man’s”), much like the second seal (6:3-4). For this reason, it is pointless to try to draw a timeline of the plagues of Revelation.

The end is coming. And once it comes, it’ll be too late. The time to trust Jesus is now! Do it before it’s too late!

Bowl of Blood (freshwater)

The third poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood.

This bowl is closely related to the third trumpet judgment. Much like the second, this one is closely related to the third trumpet and seal judgments as well. The third trumpet (8:10-11) describes a star (cf. 12:4) falling from heaven and poisoning 1/3 of the fresh water on earth. This bowl judgment turns all fresh water on earth to blood. When the implications of this are realized, we learn that it connects nicely to the third seal (6:5-6) as well. When there is no fresh water, crops can’t grow. When crops can’t grow, famine follows.

But this bowl is followed by an angelic announcement:

I heard the angel of the waters say:

You are righteous,
who is and who was, the Holy One,
for You have decided these things.
Because they poured out
the blood of the saints and the prophets,
You also gave them blood to drink;
they deserve it!

Then I heard someone from the altar say:

Yes, Lord God, the Almighty,
true and righteous are Your judgments.

It’s important to note that God is praised in heaven for these judgments. Everything God does earns Him praise. In heaven, we will understand more clearly that God is true and righteous in all His deeds (cf. Revelation 15:3; Psalm 19:9), and this is one reason why I am inclined to believe that this portion of Revelation happens after the saints have been removed from the earth. The person at the altar is the bride of Christ–the church, the saints (cf. Revelation 11:1).

Allow me to offer encouragement to you today, Christian:

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea were prophets. We think of them as especially holy, especially important to God. They penned the Bible, after all, didn’t they? Note how the angel praises God! He lumps the prophets into the same category as the saints. If you’re a saint–a Christian–God values you incredibly highly. Don’t go through life a moment longer wondering if God cares about you. Of course, He does. He doesn’t take attacks on His people lightly (cf. Psalm 105:15).

But if you’re not a Christian today, all I can do is call you to believe the Gospel. Blood here is poured out on all the water on earth. Better: all the water on earth is turned into blood. When this happens, it’ll be too late to repent and believe.

I beg you to believe in Jesus today!

Just like water here gets turned into blood, faith in Jesus will turn your sinful self into a righteous saint. Please don’t wait a minute longer. Place your faith in Jesus and escape the coming wrath!

In this with you.

Soli Deo Gloria
Sola Fide
Solus Christus
Sola Scriptura

Thanks for reading.

The next entry can be found here.


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