Sermon: The Time Between Promise and Fulfillment (Revelation 16)

The Time Between Promise and Fulfillment
Revelation 16

Introduction

We now enter the latter part of this book, as we will focus upon the bowl judgments of Revelation 16.

We have completed that section of Revelation which runs from chapter 12-14 and which includes the account of the woman (Israel), the Dragon (Satan), the Beast (the state), the False Prophet (who promotes worship of the state), the 144,000 (the church), the three angels who announce God’s judgment to the world, and the Son of Man, who stands triumphantly in the midst of his people on the heavenly Mount Zion.

Revelation 15 serves as a kind of literary bridge between the return of Jesus Christ at the time of the great harvest and the bowl judgments, which are associated with that harvest. As John says in Revelation 15:1, “with them [the bowl judgments] God’s wrath is completed.” Therefore, the bowl judgments are especially connected to the end of the age.

Throughout this series, I have been using the analogy of camera angles mentioned by Dennis Johnson throughout his fine commentary on Revelation, the Triumph of the Lamb. This is a very helpful way to understand the series of repeating visions in Revelation, which are indeed similar to different camera angles focusing on the same event.

The first cycle of judgment in Revelation 6:1-8:1-the seal judgments-covers the entire period of time between Christ’s first advent and second coming, before culminating in the sixth seal, which is the return of the Lord. The series of seal judgments brings death and destruction upon one fourth of the earth’s inhabitants and demonstrates the Lamb’s authority to bring judgment upon the earth.

The second cycle of judgment-the trumpet judgments of Revelation 8-11-likewise runs its course throughout the entire inter-advental period, but is more intense than the seal judgments. Mirroring the plagues, which came upon Egypt, the trumpet judgments will bring death and destruction to one third of the earth’s inhabitants. This cycle also culminates with the return of Jesus Christ at the seventh trumpet, when the city of man-Babylon the Great-is destroyed, just as Jericho, which blocked Israel’s entrance into the Promised Land, was destroyed in the days of Joshua. For the city of man blocks the establishment of the New Jerusalem, which John says in Revelation 20, is even now coming down from heaven.

But the bowl judgments of Revelation 16, are by far the most intense of the three cycles of judgment found in this book, for these judgments bring destruction upon the entire world. Commentators are divided as to the question of whether or not the bowl judgments are a cyclical series of judgments, which run throughout the entire inter-advental period, (1) or whether they are limited to the time of the end and our Lord’s return. (2) Here is where the camera angle analogy is very helpful. If the seal judgments present a wide angle view of the inter-advental period, and if the camera angle afforded by the trumpet judgments is more narrowly focused, then what we see with the bowl judgments would be a close-up upon the events associated with the return of Jesus Christ, specifically that of the sixth seal and seventh trumpet.

John is setting forth what will happen to the earth and its unbelieving inhabitants when Jesus Christ comes again at the end of the age, to judge the world, raise the dead and make all things new. No thing or no one will escape. By the time the bowl judgments have run their course, God’s wrath against sin and unbelief will be complete.[1]

For now, we are in between the advents of Christ. In other words, the promises of Jesus are yet to be fulfilled. So, what is life like while standing in between His first and second coming?

I remember my dad telling me that as he would go to a cemetery and read the tombstones he was once struck with the thought that it’s the dash between the person’s year of birth and year of death that really matters. The dash stood for their life and what they did or didn’t do for Christ. We all right now are living in the time of the dash or the time between what God has promised us and the reality of those promises being fulfilled.

In his commentary entitled The Gospel According to Abraham, Living in the gap between promise and reality, Iain Duguid summed up the life of Abraham as standing between promise and reality. Abraham had received the promises of God but it would be 4 generations later that the Israelites would actually enter into the Promised Land.

Genesis 15:16 (ESV)

16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

 

This verse very clearly indicates the reason Abraham lived his entire life waiting on the promises to be fulfilled. The sin of God’s enemies had not reached its fullness. So, the judgment that would come on God’s enemies would be what He would use to also bless the Israelites.

Abraham was forced to live by faith as he also waited in the in between time between promise and fulfillment.

The reason all this matters today is that with the bowl judgments we are about to see that time is up. Judgment is at hand. God’s people and God’s enemies are no longer living in the gap but the final judgment is at hand. God’s patience and pleading has ended and now comes the time when He pronounces and delivers wrath to all that align themselves with the beast. When the last bowl is emptied, our Lord returns.

The good news for mankind today is that God’s wrath against sin is still future and there is still time. But the clock is ticking and time is running out.

 

Text

 

Revelation 16:1–21 (ESV)

16 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.

10 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 11 and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.

12 The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. 13 And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. 14 For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. 15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) 16 And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

17 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. 19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. 20 And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. 21 And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe.

 

Primary Truth Taught

 

God’s wrath is poured out on His enemies and their destruction will pave the way for the New Heavens and New Earth.

 

Human Need

        

As we live in the time of the gap, we must realize that this causes us, like Abraham, to live by faith and not by sight. The realities we read of in Revelation seem so far away that we may be tempted to ignore their warnings. However, that way of thinking will only prove destructive for us. These events are real, God’s promises are real, and so is His wrath.

 

  1. The First Bowl: Malignant Sores

 

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.

Here we see, everyone who has the mark of the beast, the symbolic mark of ownership, will suffer from boils much like Job and much like the Egyptians. This first bowl shows that their allegiance to the beast and ultimately to Satan the dragon is of no value to protect them from God’s wrath.

 

  1. The Second Bowl: Sea is Turned to Blood

 

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.

Here, God is destroying the beast’s means of doing business. The sea creatures die much like the first plague in Egypt when the Nile was turned to blood and the fish died. This is, however, worldwide, all salt-water animals are killed. No more fishing and no more trade. Shipping routes are no more and the beast and his followers suffer. They come to realize that God is in charge and no power from the beast or the dragon could stop the seas from turning to blood.

 

  1. The Third Bowl: Fresh Water Turned to Blood

 

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!”

In the third trumpet judgment, God makes one third of the waters of the earth bitter, bringing sickness or death upon those who drink it. Now God fouls all the waters of the earth, symbolic of the fact that God’s judgment now extends even to the sources of life. But what is perhaps most interesting about this judgment is the response it elicits from the angel who carries it out.

“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!”

There are loud echoes here from Deuteronomy 32:4, when, just before entering Moab prior to Israel’s conquest of Canaan, Moses proclaims of YHWH: “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” God’s judgments are altogether righteous. For those who have shed the blood of the saints, will now be forced to drink their own blood-an apocalyptic symbol of how God’s just punishment perfectly fits the crime, as seen in Isaiah 49:26, where the prophet declares concerning God’s judgment, “I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh; they will be drunk on their own blood, as with wine. Then all mankind will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. God will avenge his suffering servants, and heaven resounds with praise to God, when the day of final retribution comes, news of great comfort to a suffering and persecuted church.[2]

  1. The Fourth Bowl: Burning Heat

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.

Here, as in 7:16 even in pain and suffering the earth’s inhabitants refuse to neither repent nor give God glory. Rather, as in previous examples they are in rebellion against God even to the end.

Notice, while refusing to repent and give God glory they did, however, know where the scorching heat came from… and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues

The beast is powerless to stop this scorching heart.

 

  1. The Fifth Bowl: Darkness

 

10 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 11 and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.

Notice that with the pouring out of the fifth bowl by the angel, the lights go out in the beast’s domain. Nothing he can do can change the fact that he and his followers are now suffering with sores, burns, and thirst. Nothing he can do can change it. Just like the ninth plague in Egypt so now the world is dark.

The beast’s rule and reign is a scam.

 

  1. The Sixth Bowl: River Euphrates is Parched

12 The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. 13 And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. 14 For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. 15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) 16 And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

In this, the sixth bowl God prepares the way for the enemy’s defeat. The route is made clear and dry.

The dragon is now going to have the ability to spread lies and round up an army for one last ditch effort to overthrow God’s people, the church.

13 And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. 14 For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty.
We have God setting the precedence by drying up the Red Sea, which meant deliverance for His people in the OT. He dried up the Jordan and they crossed. Isaiah wrote of God drying up the Great River Euphrates (41:2). What we must see here is that in that day, God’s enemies see the dry riverbed as a means of traveling swiftly and silently to defeat God’s people. What is really going to take place though is they will be travelling swiftly to their own destruction.

Through all this, God’s people are to be diligent and watchful…

15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”)

We hear echoes of our Lord’s Words to the Laodicean Church…

Revelation 3:18–19 (ESV)

18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

 

  1. The Seventh Bowl: The Earth is Shattered

 

17 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. 19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. 20 And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. 21 And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe.

We see the final image of God’s wrath being poured out on the earth and its inhabitants. It is done…is the cry and the wrath of God is finished and just as the inhabitants of the Promised Land were to be cleared out and destroyed so too will all of earth’s people be destroyed. God’s wrath is complete.

 

  1. Conclusion and Application

 

As we live in the era of grace, we must make every effort to maintain a godly witness while we live in the gap, the time between our Lord’s first coming and second coming. He is calling all of us who name His name to keep our garments free from stains. As we live in this world in the not yet period while we wait on our Lord to return we are given a wonderful opportunity to live by faith and not by sight. Abraham was called the man of faith because he trusted God and believed what God told him.   So too, we have the opportunity to live by faith as we wait for the fullness of the sins of God’s enemies.

We live in the time of grace, now is the time for perseverance, striving in righteousness, glorify God, and also the time when we can share with sinners that God can forgive them and offer them repentance…because, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

 

 

 

LORD’S SUPPER

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources for this sermon include…

Kim Riddlebarger’s sermon on the same text…especially the intro and Dennis Johnson’s book The Triumph of the Lamb

 

[1] Kim Riddlebarger   http://www.mountainretreatorg.net/sermons/place_called_armageddon.shtml

[2] Kim Riddlebarger   http://www.mountainretreatorg.net/sermons/place_called_armageddon.shtml

 

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