Episode 74: End Times Judgments, Part 4- Bowls 1-3

Peace to Live By Episode 74: End Times Judgments, Part 4- Bowls 1-3 - Daniel Litton
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       We are moving today into the final series of judgments from God at the end times as described in the Book of the Revelation. These are the Bowl Judgments. Over the last three weeks we have gone over the Seal Judgments and Trumpet Judgments, and we studied all that those judgments entailed. Now, we are going to find out today and next week just how bad these Bowl Judgments are, as these are the final judgments that God unleashes onto the world at the end times—his final displaying of his wrath—before he defeats his enemies and establishes his kingdom on the earth, the 1,000 year Reign of Christ. By force, God takes back what is rightfully his, the world, and begins his complete rulership over the people of the world. Satan and sin are eliminated from the picture, including people who willingly practice sin on a regular basis. God has the right to do this because, after all, it is his world. The earth, the sky, the universe, and everything in them belongs to God. He created everything, and he is taking back what is already his own.

       Before we completely get into these final judgments, the Bowl judgments, there is a prelude here in Revelation 15 that would be good for us to consider, and we will spend a good portion of today talking about it. Go ahead and turn in your Bibles, or tap in your Bible apps on your mobile devices, and let’s go to Revelation 15. We are not going to read the full chapter here first, but rather we will approach this text section by section in order to save time. So, let’s start at verse one here. The Apostle John states: “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished” (ESV). Thus begins the final segment of God’s wrath being displayed on the whole world.

       Right off the bat, the Apostle John notes here that the angles with their seven plagues are “great and amazing.” This is should be a sign to us of the powerfulness and fierceness that we can expect from these final plagues, the bowls of wrath from God the Creator. We are going to find that while we know God created the world and everything in it at the beginning, we are about to watch God undue and destroy much of what he has done. This is the end of things as we know them to be. These last bowls here are not going to be a reiteration of what has already taken place, as some might propose, but these judgments are going to be the actual final judgments to fall upon the earth. While some of these may appear similar to previous ones, the main point here is that these final judgments encompass the entirety of the earth while some former judgments only covered portions of the earth. That’s the main difference and that is how we know these are distinct, separate, and final judgments.

       Continuing in the text, John states: “And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands” (Revelation 15:2, ESV).

       Again, as we have in other places in Revelation and in the Bible, we get a glimpse, a sneak peak into God's throne room in Heaven, and some of what it looks like. John describes here “a sea of glass” which is also “mingled with fire.” The sea of glass is undoubtedly a beautiful sight, as this is some type of glass flooring that sits before God’s throne. Interestingly enough, John describes fire underneath the sea of glass, which must represent God’s fury that is about to be unleashed on his adversaries. Psalm 79 talked about this, when the psalmist said, “How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealousy burn like fire? Pour out your anger on the nations that do not know you, and on the kingdoms that do not call upon your name! For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his habitation” (5-7, ESV). God is about to give the Jewish people what he promised he would give them, and what is rightfully theirs.

       John also points out that standing beside the glass sea are saints of God, those who had been victorious over the Antichrist and the image that forced people to worship the Antichrist. These people had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They had been martyred for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. John notes that these individuals have harps of God in their hands. In the Old Testament, harps were used to praise God. One example of this is found in Psalm 71, when the writer says, “I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God” (22, ESV). Now, God is faithful in our passage here, for one of the reasons that these martyred saints are praising God is due to the fact that he has answered their prayers that they have lifted up in Revelation 6. Remember that passage? Back there, at the fifth Seal Judgment, John tells us, “They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been” (Revelation 6:10, 11, ESV). Well, here, we have the full number of those martyred, and God does what he told them he was going to do.

       Next, we read: “And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed” (Revelation 15:3, 4, ESV). What a tremendous song. Let’s consider what has been sung here.

       So, the saints here worship and bless God by the song they sing to him, which obviously comes from their hearts. While John calls this song The Song of Moses, which is found in Exodus 15 (after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea), and the Song of the Lamb (which is found in Revelation 5), this is actually a new song, as it does not match word for word either of those previous songs. However, it is in the spirit of those songs. The saints first mention both God’s deeds and ways. They note that no matter what God does, he is always right. They call him, “the Almighty” which displays his power and sovereignty. He is in complete control. And the saints state that no matter what way he does it, it is right, for they said his ways are “just and true.” Indeed, God is always right in what he does, and there is no difference here in these judgments which are about to occur. They show us that the Lord Jesus Christ is about to be in charge of the reign of the earth, for they call him, “King of the nations.” And they are correct in saying that everyone is going to fear and glorify God. God has told us this was going to happen, and the Apostle Paul reiterated it to the Romans, when Isaiah recorded, “By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance’” (Isaiah 45:23, ESV). Now, God is not forcing unbelievers to bow to him, but they will willingly bow to him when when they see his greatness at their judgment. Nonetheless, it will be too late for any of them to be saved, but rather they will be thrown into the Lake of Fire to be tormented for all eternity.

       The saints in their song tell us that God alone is holy. We know that our God is the only true God, and that there are not multiple gods in existence like some in the world believe. The Jewish and Christian God is the only real God. People will find out, very quickly, that the other gods don’t exist, but that they were make-believe. They were human creations rooted in demonic doctrines. Whether we consider Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism---whatever we consider---none of these religions are in fact true. Even the atheists and agnostics will realize that the Christian God really is real, and they will willingly choose to fear him and glorify his name. John says, “All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed” (Revelation 15:4b, ESV). This not only includes unsaved people, but it also includes believers in Jesus Christ, for there will be believers from every nation here on the earth. God will call and save people from all nations. John also records that the saints sing, “for your righteous acts have been revealed” (ESV). This, again, shows that everything God is doing here, with these judgments, is in fact just. His standard is the perfect standard, and is not people’s standards.

       Continuing in the passage, we read: “After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished” (Revelation 15:5-8, ESV).

       Here again, we are seeing the Temple of God, the real Temple, in Heaven. Now, out of the sanctuary, that is, the Holy of Holies, come seven angels. Each are given the seven golden bowls of the wrath of God. Again, God is going to use his angels to carry out his wrath upon the inhabitants of the earth, and the earth itself. Recall in the things Jesus said that he talked about God’s use of angels at the end times during his earthly ministry. One example of this is when Jesus referred to angels as reapers (see Matthew 13). Nonetheless, the seven plagues are going to be one of the responsibilities of angels at the end times. And notice that once the seven bowls were given out, that the Holy of Holies was filled with the smoke of God’s glory, and the smoke from his power. Truly, these plagues do show God’s glory because, again, he is right in what he is doing. By judging the world, he shows he is righteous. And, of course, the awesomeness of the plagues displays his power. And John reveals that no one could enter the Holy of Holies in Heaven until the seven plagues were finished.

       So, let’s go ahead here and look at these plagues. I want to note that each of these seven plagues occurs quickly, in a short amount of time. The time estimated for these plagues ranges from months to days, but nonetheless they happen rapidly. And they lead up to, and take us to the Battle of Armageddon. Again, these are the final judgments of God upon the earth. We see God destroy what he had originally created back in Genesis 1. This is the dismantling of the house, and he uncreates the world through these plagues. These are the worst plagues to ever come upon the earth, and there will never again be times like this. And the last two plagues are the most devastating.

       In Revelation 16 now, John continues: “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” (Revelation 16:1-2, ESV).

       All of the prior judgments from God either affected the earth or outer-space, which in turn affected the earth. Now, God is moving to directly affecting people by inflicting their bodies. In this plague, we see that God causes men and women, those who are still alive on the earth and will not repent of their sins, to be inflicted with sores. These are people who John says have received the mark of the beast and worshiped the image that has been going throughout the world. That’s going to be a tremendous amount of people, as that will surely be most people in the world. John notes that these sores were both harmful and painful. The wording here seems to denote that the sores are malignant, that is, they are terminal. Not that that really matters anyway since all the unsaved in the world are about to die. But, the severity of the soars will certainly cause fear to fall upon people as they are inflicted with them, and as they deal with them in their pain. Perhaps people will realize that they appear incurable.

       Next, we read: “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” (Revelation 16:3, ESV).

       This plague is going to affect all of the oceans of the earth. Notice that when the angel pours out his bowl, that all of the ocean waters of the world become like blood, and that like the blood of a corpse. What does John mean by the blood of a corpse? Well, let’s think about it. When a person dies, their blood certainly becomes stagnant in the body until the body is embalmed. So, the stagnant blood is the picture here. We can imagine that this blood just sitting in the body, not moving around anymore through the veins of the body, would probably become spoiled, so to speak, kind of like the spoiled, or stagnant water of a swamp. All of the oceans have this spoiled, stagnant water. And John tells us that this affect on the waters ends up killing every animal that resides within the oceans. All sea creatures become extinct. So much for the endangered species list. They all become extinct here, and God is righteous in doing that because he is the one who created these creatures in the first place. He created them, and he has the right to destroy them. Humans no longer have dominion over them.

       The third bowl is this: “The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood” (Revelation 16:4, ESV).

       We just saw that God destroyed the oceans of the earth, making them laid waste, and now he moves to complete his destroying to the waters of the earth. This angel here is assigned the task of pouring out his bowl on the rest of the good, drinkable waters of the earth. All the rivers and other springs of water are ruined. They become unusable, and there is no more water to drink. God causes the waters to supernaturally become blood. We saw God do something similar to this in the third Trumpet Judgment, but at that judgment he just affected a third of the world’s fresh water supply. Now, all of it is gone. This will have a profound impact on the people who are trying to survive on the earth, and certainly forebodes what is to come—the utter destruction of everyone who is not right with God, their Creator.

       Then the Apostle John states the following: “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!” (Revelation 16:5-7, ESV).

       Here, we see a break from the bowls of the wrath of God. John records that there is an angel who is in charge of the waters. So, here, we see a glimpse into the angelic world and one of the responsibilities of an angel, which is interesting. Anyway, this angel worships God, pointing out that he is holy, eternal, and responsible for these judgments which are taking place. In other words, God is just in what he is doing. Then the angel speaks of how these people, who are on the earth, are responsible for the blood they have shed, and he mentions the saints and the prophets. While this is a reference surely to the martyred saints of the Tribulation period, and the two witnesses who were slain (we didn’t go over this), it surely is also a reference to the collective sins of the human race, of unbelievers, who have, throughout time, gone against Christians by persecuting them and killing them. Remember, in Matthew 10, when Jesus sent out his twelve disciples, he said that judgment would be worst for those cities who didn’t accept the Gospel. Well, those folks haven’t accepted the Gospel.

       Consider the Wisdom of God, when King Solomon wrote: ““I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion. The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate” (Proverbs 8:12, 13, ESV). As an aside, people have accused Christians of hate speech for agreeing with God and declaring evil what is really evil, and yet these accusers are actually the ones with the perverted speech that God hates. Satan has turned things backward, like he often does. And this time at the end will not be any different, but in fact far worse. God wants us to have prudence, knowledge, and discretion, hating evil. Back in Revelation, the angel declares that God has given the people of the world blood to drink for the evils they have accomplished, and obviously, rightfully so. The angel even says the bold statement, “It is what they deserve!”

       John next tells us he heard a statement from the alter in Heaven. This may be the collective voice of the martyred saints which John says he saw under the alter in Revelation 6:9-11. Recall? These were the saints who were asking God for vengeance against their adversaries who were still on the earth. Regardless, the following statement is made: “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!” (ESV). What the angel has spoken is restated as God’s righteousness is affirmed to be true. That is, what God is doing aligns with the truth, and he is not doing anything wrong. And not only that, but also it is affirmed that God’s judgment is just. He is doing what is good, and he is doing it for the right reason. His declaration of wrath is the right one. Everyone who is on the earth is getting the wrath that has been stored up for them, and God is vindicating himself.

       That’s where we are going to stop for today. Next week, we will finish up our studies on the Bowl Judgments by considering the rest of them.

       I know some of you have been listening and you’ve felt convicted about what I have said today. You have realized you are not following the Lord Jesus, and you know you are following the ways of this world, and you are practicing sin in your life—doing things God has said not to do. Well, today, the good news is that we are still in the grace period. The Rapture of the Church hasn’t happened yet, and God is still withholding his judgment on the world. Please understand that God loves you and wants to be in a personal relationship with you. He wants to help you be a good person. He wants to help all of us become more like Jesus, and that includes you today. In fact, God sent Jesus to the earth 2,000 years ago, and he died on a cross to pay our sin debts, all the wrongs we’ve committed in our lives, and to make us right with God. Jesus rose from the dead and is today with God in Heaven. Jesus wants to help you. He wants to be on your side, and doesn’t want to be against anyone.

       God will accept anyone who comes to him with an open heart. It is true that one day in the future God will judge all people, and anyone who isn’t trusting in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for them will be found guilty for all accounts of sin. These people will have no hope of experiencing true life, or living in peace and harmony with God and others. Rather, God will separate those who don’t believe from his presence, and these individuals will be tormented for their sins in a place the Bible calls The Lake of Fire. Yes, God is a God of love, but he is also a God of holiness and righteousness. A god of love who is just love is not the real god, but just a figment of people’s imaginations. And God cannot have anyone with him who will not believe in him. And he cannot have anybody reside with him who is bearing the guilt of all their sins. Thankfully, though, God has provided a way for us to be declared not guilty of all of our sins. And that is through trusting in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as an acceptable payment for us.

       If you would like to come into a personal relationship with God today, then I want you to follow my lead in this prayer:

God, I have realized today that I’m not believing in you in my life. I’m not following your ways of doing things, but I’m doing things the wrong ways. Today, though, I want to turn from doing wrong and accept Jesus into my life as my Guide. I want to do things the right way. I believe Jesus died for my offenses and can make me right with you. I believe he rose from the dead, is alive today, and will help me in my life. Please Father, help me to start today in making right choices, and being close to you. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

       Let’s pray.

       Heavenly Father, I thank you for the opportunity today to consider the first part of these Bowl Judgments, the last series of judgments that you will be releasing onto the earth before you return at the Battle of Armageddon and destroy all your enemies who are left. Help us to understand these things as best we can, Father, and help us to take seriously what you are telling us in your Word.

       I pray for those who have just received Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, I pray that you will lead them down the right path and help to start to make positive change in their lives. And keep them strong in their newfound have that they have today. And I pray for those of us who already know you, that you would continue to build us up, that you would help us to grow, that you would help us to continue to mature, into becoming more like Jesus as we live out our lives. So, thank you Father again for this wonderful study from your Book of the Revelation and please bless us as we go about today. In Jesus’ Holy and Precious name I pray, Amen.

-Daniel Litton