Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 39 - Revelation 16:1-11

  Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, "Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God." So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.
  The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea.
  The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say,
  "Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!"
  And I heard the altar saying, "Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!"
The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.
  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 and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds. (ESV) 

What comes to your mind as you read these first five plague of God’s wrath? 

This chapter provides the details of how God’s judgment will be poured out on evil mankind. For ages, godly people have wondered how long it would be before God would bring about His judgment.

Why do the wicked still live, Continue on, also become very powerful? Their descendants are established with them in their sight, And their offspring before their eyes, Their houses are safe from fear, Neither is the rod of God on them. (Job 21:7-9 NASB)
Righteous art Thou, O Lord, that I would plead my case with Thee; Indeed I would discuss matters of justice with Thee: Why has the way of the wicked prospered? Why are all those who deal in treachery at ease? Thou hast planted them, they have also taken root; They grow, they have even produced fruit. Thou art near to their lips But far from their mind. (Jer 12:1-2 NASB)

Job was a righteous man in the midst of misery. All he could think of was the terrible things others did and there seemed to be nothing but sweetness in their lives. As with Jeremiah, haven’t you wondered why the wicked prosper? How is it that people who totally reject God can do so well in material blessing and even appear to be a happy and joyous people? When will God show men that it is futile to resist Him?

But if they will not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation, saith the Lord. (Jer 12:17 KJV) 

The Lord answered Jeremiah, telling him that in due time Judah would go into exile because of its wickedness. When they turn back to God, He will restore them. He also tells us that this applies to any nation and it applies to individuals as well. In this chapter we see that there aren’t any more chances, but the nations of the earth are receiving their judgment. Job and Jeremiah didn’t have the perspective of the whole Bible. They didn’t have this chapter in Revelation or 2 Peter 3:8-13. 

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 KJV)  

We know that God has delayed His punishment of mankind and individuals so that many will come to Him in repentance.

Voice from the temple

Why is it important to understand that the voice coming from the temple commands this destruction? 

Only the voice of God from the temple can authorize this destruction.  

The Lord within her is righteous; he does no wrong. Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, and every new day he does not fail, yet the unrighteous know no shame.
Therefore wait for me," declares the Lord, for the day I will stand up to testify. I have decided to assemble the nations, to gather the kingdoms and to pour out my wrath on them — all my fierce anger. The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger. (Zeph 3:5, 8 NIV) 

God is righteous and can do no wrong. Even though He dispenses justice each day, we have to wait to see His ultimate justice. He has declared that this will happen and He has warned the world. The point of His voice coming from the temple is an affirmation that He is doing this. In Rev 16:5 the angel in charge of the water reaffirms that God is Holy and in charge of this judgment. In Rev 16:7, the altar agrees and reaffirms that God is in control. There is no mistake that God will bring about the terrible devastation that will soon be described.

The First Plague - Ugly Sores

Why do you think that the first plague is these horrible sores? 

"All right, do with him as you please," the Lord said to Satan. "But spare his life." So Satan left the Lord's presence, and he struck Job with terrible boils from head to foot.
His wife said to him, "Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die."
But Job replied, "You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?" So in all this, Job said nothing wrong. (Job 2:6-7, 9-10 NLT)  

Many people believe that the book of Job predates the accounts of the patriarchs in Genesis. If this is so, then the first account of Satan inflicting anyone with disease is in Job. It seems fitting then, that God would inflict Satan’s kingdom with sores.  

What is the purpose in our suffering?  

If we didn’t know better, we would think that God’s decision to let Satan afflict Job was frivolous. As we see the end results of Job’s suffering and also know other Scriptures like Ro 5:1-5, we can understand the benefit that came to him as a result.  

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom 5:1-5 NASU)  

Because we have peace with God, we can accept any suffering. (We may not always accept it but we do have the ability.) We know that suffering is to develop our character into what God wants it to be. 

How is the plague of sores on the people who worship the beast the same and different from our afflictions? 

God is causing the sores to appear on the people who have been faithful to Satan instead of those who are faithful to Him. The purpose of the sores is the same in that will prove their character along with the other plagues that will come on them. They, too, will remain faithful to their master; they will follow the advice of Job’s wife and curse God.

The plague is only poured out on those who have worshiped Satan through the beast. As I’ve mentioned before, it is possible that there are still some people who have not worshiped the beast. I don’t think that they are Christians, but are people who have stubbornly refused to worship Satan.

The Second and Third Plagues - Water Turned to Blood

Why is it fitting that all the water on the earth is turned into blood? 

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:37-39 KJV)  

Jesus told us that when we come to Him and accept Him we will have rivers of living water coming from us, a symbol of the Holy Spirit who dwells in all believers. The fact that all water on the earth has been turned to blood like a dead man’s blood coincides with the removal of the Holy Spirit and His work from the earth. Just as people can no longer find water to live, they will not be able to find the living water of the Holy Spirit.  

Why is the angel in charge of the waters quoted? 

If anyone would be upset by turning water into blood, you would think it would be the angel who has been in charge of the water all though history. This angel has just seen thousands of years of work go down the tube. Yet he makes it known to all that this is a just judgment. Again we see the affirmation of God and His right to judge. 

Why is the voice from the altar in agreement with the angel? 

Since these people have shed the blood of the saints, then it is only fitting to give them blood to drink. This thought needs no interpretation since verse 6 states it clearly. These things are given people in judgment of their actions.  

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (Gal 6:7-8 KJV)  

These verses have been quoted many times, often to pound someone over the head to get them to stop his or her sinful behavior. It is correct for that, but we need to remember that it is God who can’t be mocked. In other words, we should be careful when we quote this because it is God’s holiness that is being mocked by sinful behavior, not ours. We can also find many other verses where God has promised vengeance for those who have mistreated His people. It isn’t until now that we see the full-scale fulfillment of that promise. Rev 6:9-11 was the cry for vengeance of those who had been martyred for their belief. Now we see in Rev 16:7 the satisfaction that has been granted. But there could be no satisfaction if it weren’t God’s judgment. If His judgments were not true and just, His holy nature could not be satisfied. If the judgment came too soon so that one person who should be saved was lost, there would be no satisfaction.

The Fourth Plague - On the Sun

How does the heat from the sun correlate to the God’s punishment of unauthorized worship in the Old Testament? 

And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace. (Lev 10:1-3 KJV) 

When His people offered sacrifices to Him, in the manner acceptable to Him, God used fire to devour the sacrifice (Lev 9:24). When it was unacceptable, He used fire to consume those offering the sacrifice (Num 16:35). The people of the earth have been offering sacrifices to Satan. They have given him honor and glory that belongs only to God. God now uses fire from the sun to punish all involved in this wickedness.  

How is this scorching sun a preview of hell? 

Unlike Aaron’s sons, God does not kill them. He only scorches them. This is part one of a preview of hell – eternal pain from fire but without death. Those who were in the assembly of Israel saw the holiness of the Lord after fire came from God. But the people of the earth don’t recognize His holiness. Instead they curse God. This difference in the attitude and actions of the Israelites and the people of the earth is remarkable. Even so, they affirm that it is God who is in control of the plagues as they openly curse Him. 

What does it mean that God had power over the plagues? Why is it important? 

Exousia (ex-oo-see’-ah); from existin (in the sense of ability); privilege, i.e. (subjectively) force, capacity, competency, freedom, or (objectively) mastery (concretely, magistrate, superhuman, potentate, token of control), delegated influence.[1]   

The Greek word for power in this verse expresses the idea that God not only has the ability but the authority to do this. It is the third demonstration that His control, authority, and right are being exercised. To me it is extremely significant to recognize this. There are many who would say that a loving God would not punish people this way (or send them to hell either.) The book of Revelation is consistent with the rest of Scripture and demonstrates that God does punish sin. 

What is significant in the people cursing God? 

As equally significant as the fact that God is doing this is their response to the plague. They curse Him. This is the first of three times that they curse Him in this chapter. I think that this is exactly what we would expect without the Holy Spirit on the earth. It further emphasizes that all Christians have been removed and that there isn’t any influence for good. The only influence it that of Satan. The result is that they refuse to repent and curse God. It makes senses that there will be no more saved from among these people.

Another thing to observe is that at this time in history, there won’t be any atheists.

The Fifth Plague - On the Throne of the Beast

What is the relationship to the darkness on the throne of the beast and the Holy Spirit? 

In the beginning God created the Heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. (Gen 1:1-3 KJV)  

This might be stretching it a little bit, but the world started in darkness with the Spirit of God hovering over it. He was not yet involved with it. When He became involved, the first thing that He did was create light. In this Revelation passage, the Holy Spirit has been removed from the earth, which is now essentially the kingdom of the beast. The result is darkness. It is also another reason why we will not see anyone coming to salvation. If the Holy Spirit is not there, they have no means by which to become convicted. 

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. (John 16:7-11 KJV)  

The Holy Spirit (Counselor) was sent to us when Jesus left. He was sent to all who believe in Jesus. Jesus explained the role of the Holy Spirit and how He convicts the world. The way I look at it, the Holy Spirit does His work of conviction in part, through the presence of Christians. We are God’s visible representatives. But it is the Holy Spirit in us that they would attack if they were aware of Him. That is why we suffer persecution. That is why, when they hear the gospel from us, they react to us. Verse 11 is the decisive factor; Satan stands condemned and he is going to take as many with him as he can. Since the rapture has occurred there is nothing that stands in Satan’s way to control people on earth. 

What is the relationship to the darkness on the throne of the beast and Jesus? 

I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. (John 12:46 KJV)  

Jesus is the light and when someone believes in Him, he comes out of the darkness into the light. But don’t be deceived by the word believe. It means a lot more than to simply acknowledge facts. It takes a commitment of the heart and soul to act upon what you believe. Look at those who remain on the earth. They believe but they curse God. They will never come out of the darkness. This plunge into darkness is a demonstration that Jesus isn’t in the world anymore. 

What is the relationship to the darkness on the throne of the beast and the Father? 

You have laid me in the lowest pit, In darkness, in the depths. Your wrath lies heavy upon me, And You have afflicted me with all Your waves. (Ps 88:6-7 NKJV)
Whoever curses his father or his mother, His lamp will be put out in deep darkness. (Prov 20:20 NKJV) 

Even in the Old Testament, the concept of hell and separation from God the Father was equated with the idea of darkness and misery. If a person curses his mother or father his lamp will be put out and he will be in pitch darkness. Think about the people on earth who have been cursing God. We know Him as our Heavenly Father. They only know Him as a “creator Father.” Is it any wonder that He has chosen darkness as one of the plagues? 

What preview of hell did Jesus tell us about that matches Rev 16:10-12? What are the differences and similarities?  

And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt 8:11-12 KJV)
Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt 22:13 KJV)
And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt 25:30 KJV)  

These verses describe people who were given every chance to be in the kingdom of God and for one reason or another have failed to become a part of it. They are all cast out into the darkness even though they thought they were in. They are like the people described in Revelation, gnashing their teeth or gnawing their tongues. Unlike the people in Revelation, these were expecting to be in heaven with God. The common factor is their faith. They all believe in God (you can’t curse God unless you believe He exists), but none of them has ever gotten to know Him personally, trusting Him for their salvation. Gnashing of teeth and gnawing tongues in total darkness is the second preview of hell.

Even with these plagues people still curse God. I don’t know which is more shocking, the reality that the horror of hell will be even worse, or the knowledge that in the face of it, people still curse God. The only reason is that they are utterly lost and fully aligned with Satan. 

What did it take for you to come to Christ? Was it suffering, prosperity or something in between? Think about the circumstances of your life and how you have responded to God’s working in your life. Has it been with cursing or blessing?  

May you bless the Lord even in difficulties for we will not suffer endlessly in hell but be comforted forever in heaven.

[1] Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.

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