An angel pours the first bowl out on the land, and ugly and painful sores break out on ‘the people who had the mark of the beast…’ (Revelation 16:2). The second affects the sea and kills all marine life. The third turns the rivers to blood. The fourth causes the sun to scorch the people of earth. The first four trumpets of Revelation Chapter 8 warned of impending calamity through the pollution of man’s environment, but here God uses these same elements to punish a humanity which just didn’t listen or care. Throughout human history, God has poured out punishment many times in response to entrenched rebellion and evil. Part Five of Revelation covers the whole time period between the first and second comings of Christ, but it focuses more specifically on the ultimate judgement of the very last days. These two chapters of Revelation therefore present a horrifyingly vivid picture of the final judgement of unrepentant humanity. Note particularly statements like; ‘they refused to repent and glorify him’ (Revelation 16:9), and, ‘they refused to repent of what they had done’ (16:11). These describe the response of ungodly men and women even in the face of ultimate judgement.
‘For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.’ Hebrews 10:30-31
It is also important to note that Chapter 15 of Revelation starts with a depiction of the church, the people of God, standing before His throne singing His praises. It is unsaved people who are in view in the balance of Part Five of the book of Revelation; those who bear the mark of the beast, not those who bear the mark of the lamb.
The fifth bowl of Revelation 16 pours out the darkness of spiritual deception, and the sixth summons the demonically empowered armies of the world to battle. Humanism and religion running rampant result in utter darkness and destruction.
I believe that the church is no longer on Earth at the culmination of this terrible time. This is alluded to in the statement; “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.” (Revelation 16:15)
I am not talking about a secret snatching away of the church before the time of tribulation. I don’t see any hint in Revelation, or any other part of scripture, of two second comings, one secretly for the church and one with the church. No, the ‘rapture’ I see alluded to in Revelation 16 is right at the very end of an exceedingly difficult passage of human history when wickedness abounds and the very end of all things draws near.
John sees in vision three frogs (Rev 16:13-14) coming out of the mouths of the dragon, the beast and the false prophet (the second beast of Revelation 13). Pity… I rather like frogs … but here they are used as symbols of demonic influence over the people of the world. The ungodly are bewitched by satanically empowered miraculous signs and drawn into a final confrontation with Almighty God. The ‘place’ of this confrontation is given as Armageddon (Revelation 16:16) but there is no location by that name either in biblical history or modern geography. We shouldn’t be surprised because names symbolise deeper truths in the book of Revelation. ‘Har’ is a shortened form of a Hebrew word meaning ‘hill’ and Megiddo is an area in Israel where significant historical battles were fought. I have stood on a hill overlooking the Megiddo valley and seen just how strategic the area is, and I can understand why it is a place synonymous with great battles.
One final point of interest for those of you who have been following my references to the constellations in the book of Revelation. The last of the 12 constellation groupings is called Leo, the lion, and he is depicted as pouncing on the head of Hydra the dragon/serpent. Two minor constellations are positioned on Hydra’s back; Corvus the crow, the bird often associated with battlefield carnage, and Crater, the bowl of wrath.
Next week, God-willing, I will show you how the Sun-clothed woman of Revelation 12 becomes the drunken Whore of Babylon … interesting and sobering stuff!