Fury of God's Wrath (e)
A theme running through
the entire book of Revelation is the judgment of God upon the sins of mankind.
Jesus is seen walking among the seven churches of Asia. He reveals each
church's condition and condemns or commends each appropriately. (Revelation
2-3) John portrays God's partial judgment that is to come upon the earth
through the sounding of the trumpets as a result of earth's sins. (Revelation
8-12) The judgement of the earth is portrayed as reapers going out to gather
the inhabitants of the earth as grapes and throwing them into the winepress
of God's wrath. (Revelation 14:14-20) In chapter 15 &16 John reveals
the full fury of God's wrath against the sins of Rome.
Another theme running
through the entire book of Revelation is the assurance of victory for the
saints living in the troublesome times of Roman persecution. We have consistently
seen the martyred saints standing before the throne of God in heaven after
their martyrdom. They are promised white stones with their names written
on them, which was a sign of victory. They are encouraged to be faithful
through death to receive the blessings of God. As chapter 15 opens, John
sees what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire. Summers suggest that
it may have been like the sun glistening off of smooth water at sunset.
Chapters 12 & 13 portrayed the devil standing upon the seashore while
a beast was coming out of the sea to bring havoc against God's people.
But here in chapter 15 the sea is so calm that it reflects the sun's rays
like a mirror. It is definitely a tranquil and peaceful scene as compared
to the previous scenes.
Upon this sea of glass
were standing those who had been victorious over the beast and his image
and over the number of his name. They have passed through martyrdom and
stand in the presence of God with heavenly harps. They are singing a song
that only the redeemed could sing. It was the song of Moses and the Lamb.
"Great and Marvelous
are your deeds Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your
ways, King of the ages.
Who will not fear you,
O 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." (Revelations 15:3-4)
The scene is reminiscent
of the song of Moses and Miriam sung by the Israelites after crossing the
Red Sea by the hand of God's deliverance. (Exodus 15:1-18)
John sees seven angels
with seven golden bowls of wrath. The bowls of wrath are about to be poured
out upon the earth. The seven bowls of wrath represent God's complete judgment
against Rome. Judgment, thus far upon the enemies of the saints has only
been partial for God was endeavoring to bring them to repentance. Now the
longsuffering of God is completed and earth will fill the full fury of
God's wrath. Earth will experience the complete and full wrath of God.
The Purity of God's
It has been suggested
that the scene represents the purity of God's wrath. The angels are dressed
in clean shining linen and are wearing golden sashes around their chests.
The bowls containing God's wrath are pure gold. The glory of God's presence
is portrayed as the temple is filled with smoke.
The marvelous truth
about God's judgment is that it is executed in holiness and righteousness.
It isn't a vindictive judgment. "Therefore since we are God's offspring,
we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone--
an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such
ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he
has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has
appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the
dead." (Acts 17:29-31) Justice is not vindictive.
I remember a special
program that revealed what working as a guard on death row in a prison
in Georgia was like. There was an interview with the warden of the prison.
He was asked if there was any satisfaction on the part of the prison staff
in putting a man to death. The warden responded by saying that he had best
not find any of those who endeavored to fulfill the law's demand for justice
finding any satisfaction in putting the prisoners to death. The program
revealed how that a relationship was usually developed between many of
the guards and the death row inmates. There was no vindictiveness, they
were only doing what was required by law. Christ judgment will be in justice,
holiness and righteousness. It is not vindictive. Christ's work on earth
now through the gospel is proof of this fact. He is endeavoring to save
us. In fact, Christ has met the laws demand for justice for each person.
When his judgment comes, every effort possible will have already been made
to save everyone. It is only then that justice can be dealt through mercy.
"You are just in
you who are and who
were, the Holy One,
because you have so
for they have shed
the blood of your saints and prophets,
and you have given
them blood to drink as they deserve."
And I heard the altar
"Yes, Lord God Almighty,
true and just are your judgments."(16:5-7)
Today some ask, "If
God is a good God, how can he punish anyone?" We know from history and
personal experience that evil left unchecked destroys everything in its
path. The destructive path that evil itself paves for one's life, as one
gives oneself to it, is reason enough for an all holy God to come in judgment
against it. What kind of God would God be if he left evil unchecked and
undisciplined. But what would the world be like, if one could wipe out
evil once and for all. If tomorrow you woke up and all evil had disappeared
overnight, what kind of world would this world be. This is God's ultimate
objective through the creation.
Say among the nations,
"The LORD reigns." The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity. Let the heavens rejoice, let the
earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields
be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will
sing for joy; they will sing before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to
judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples
in his truth.
The judgment of God
is not without warning. John has revealed God's partial disciplinary judgment
upon the earth in an effort to bring the earth, Rome in particular, to
repentance. There has been ample warning and encouragement to repent. God
has sought to warn the faithful and unfaithful. But Rome has refused. She
has become hardened in sin. Now she will experience the full fury of God's
My righteousness draws
near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice
to the nations. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm.
Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens
will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its
inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness
will never fail.
The Seven Bowls of
The seven bowls of wrath
are reminiscent of the ten plagues brought upon Egypt as Israel was about
to be delivered. The first bowl of wrath indicates that this judgment was
directed upon those who had the mark of the beast and worshipped his image.
The judgment is spoken of in figurative language. These are not literal
descriptions of the judgment of God. They are symbolic representations
describing God's judgment. But God's judgments are nonetheless real.
The number seven represents
that God's complete and full wrath has now come. God's judgment is portrayed
as quick as each successive judgment comes. There are no interludes between
each judgment. There is no time given between each judgment for repentance.
That time has past. The angels in heaven are crying out in praise, for
it is time for justice.
In this judgment, there
is a warning for the faithful Christians. "Behold, I come like a thief!
Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he
may not go naked and be shamefully exposed." (16:15) In the plague of the
firstborn in Egypt, the Israelites were to have their clothes girded about
them as they ate the Passover Lamb. So it is here, as God comes as a thief
in judgment, Christians must remain alert.
The first bowl of wrath
is poured upon mankind as ugly painful sores broke out on the people who
had the mark of the beast. (16:2). The second is poured upon the sea and
it turns into blood like that of a dead man. The third bowl of wrath is
poured out upon the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.
The fourth angel poured God's wrath upon the sun and the sun was given
power to scorch the earth with intense heat.
God's judgment is comprehensive.
The agony was so great that the people of the earth began to curse God.
It is much like Job's wife telling him to curse God and die. They were
probably crying out saying, "If God is a good God, why are we suffering
evil." Their evil hearts turned bitter and they refused to repent and glorify
God. (16:8-9) The angels in heaven were spontaneously praising God, while
the inhabitants of the earth were cursing God. The saint's prayers were
being answered. They had cried out, as the Lamb opened the sixth seal,
"How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants
of the earth and avenge our blood." (6:10) Their prayers are answered,
but they were not answered until earth was given ample time to repent.
With the fifth bowl
of wrath, God's judgment begins upon the throne of Rome itself. The kingdom
was plunged into darkness. The darkness probably represents how they were
plunged unrestrained into the darkness of evil. This darkness was so awful
that men gnawed their tongues in agony and their bitter hearts continued
to curse God because of their pains and sores. They refused to repent of
what they had done. They were simply reaping what they had sown, but rather
than accept the responsibility of their own actions, they chose to curse
and blame God.
Rome's greatest threat
from foreign armies was from the Parthians east of the Euphrates River.
As the sixth bowl of wrath is poured out upon the Roman Empire, the Euphrates
River is dried up. It is much like God backing up the Jordan River for
Israel's conquering armies to cross into the land of Canaan. Jeremiah points
out that the drying up of the waters was a prelude to Babylon the Great's
destruction in the Old Testament. (Jeremiah 1:38) Then evil spirits go
out into all the regions to deceive the world and gather the kings of the
whole world for the great battle on the day of God Almighty. They are gathered
together to destroy the throne of the monster. They are gathered for the
great battle of Armageddon.
Notice that the frogs
that represent the evil spirits come from the mouth of the dragon and from
the mouth of the monster. Earlier this same dragon was portrayed as making
war against all those who obeyed God's commandments and hold to the testimony
of Jesus. (12:17) The dragon and the beast are relentlessly bringing havoc
upon the whole creation. They seek not only the destruction of God's children,
but also those who do their bidding. The evil is so deceitful that it succeeds
in persuading its on followers to curse and blame God for their torment.
Total destruction and annihilation of all that God holds dear is evils
ultimate goal. Yet, God's entire creation is near and dear to him for He
died for all.
allies gather their forces on the battlefield called Armageddon. This was
a famous Hebrew battlefield. Here Gideon and his three hundred defeated
the Midianites. Here King Saul was defeated by the Philistines. Here Barak
and Deborah overthrew the hosts of the Canaanite king, Jabin. Here Ahaziah
died of Jehu's arrows. And here Pharaoh-Necho overthrew Josiah, The place
was burned into the minds of the Jewish people, and the mourning for Josiah
in the valley of Medgiddo was long afterward quoted as a typical example
of national grief. Thus Megiddo fitly symbolized the worldwide distress
of righteousness and evil engaged in deadly combat. This is not an actual
material sword and spear battle. Such a thing would be at cross purposes
with all the teachings of the New Testament, the ideals which Jesus held,
his death on the cross, and all of God's purposes of grace. Jesus' way
was never the way of the sword. His sword is the sword of the Spirit, the
Word of God. If one expects this to be a literal, material battle, he must
expect the army to be headed by a committee of three frogs. Both figures
are symbolical; neither is literal. There is no reason for making one literal
and the other symbolical. The Armageddon in the book of Revelation has
no location on the maps of the world; it is logical, not spatial. The battle
is not one in which material, physical armaments will decide the issue;
the battle is between righteousness and evil, and righteousness is the
certain victor." (Ray Summers, Worthy Is The Lamb, Broadman Press, Nashville,
Tennessee, 1951. Pages 189-190.)
The battle is so significant
in bringing victory that the seventh plague portrays that it is the final
battle for Rome. As the seventh bowl of wrath is poured into the air, there
are lightnings, peals of thunder and a voice from the temple saying, "It
is done!" Then there is an earthquake so terrible that there has never
been one like it upon earth before. Babylon, which signifies Rome, is split
into three parts. The islands fled away and the mountains disappear. This
signifies the complete destruction of the worldly order of things. Rome
is given the full cup of God's wrath. Earlier God's judgment on earth had
been portrayed as angels gathering the grapes ripe for harvest and casting
them into the winepress of God's wrath. The blood rose to the horses' bridles
and flowed for 180 miles. Now Rome is given a cup from God's winepress
of wrath to drink. As hundred pound hailstones were hurled to the earth,
men continued to curse God in their bitterness.
John sees God's righteous
holy judgment as swift, comprehensive and sure.
Rome is drinking from
the full cup of her own iniquities.