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A. For those who came to GPC during this Revelation series:
1. The hardest book in the Bible.
2. Other sermon series are not this difficult or complex.
3. The less you know about the Bible, the harder it is to understand this book, because this book draws on many other parts of Scripture.
B. We are at a crucial juncture in the book of Revelation. Today, we come to the end of all the cycles in the book. We still have six chapters and 16 sermons left, but next week we begin the final series of grand visions in Revelation.
C. Thus far, we have seen that there are four stages of future history:
1. The present age between Christ’s first coming and His future second coming, characterized by the spread of the gospel to the every people group on earth, along with many tribulations.
2. Followed by a short period when Satan is unleashed and will provoke a gathering of the wicked world against the people of God.
3. This brief period will be interrupted by the second coming of Christ to rescue His beloved and bring final judgment upon all that is evil.
4. This eventuates in a great reconstruction of the heavens and the earth and the great wedding day of Christ and His beloved bride, the true church.
D. Last week, the first five bowls illustrated the kind of tribulations and hardships God has imposed on this world during this present age. But bowls #6 & 7 don’t just continue the theme of the first five.
E. I think we’ll see that, just like with the seven seals and the seven trumpets, the last couple of bowls talk about what happens at the very end of history. The sixth bowl refers to the second period, the brief period before the end when Satan is unleashed, and, in particular, to the great battle of Armageddon when the ungodly wage a final war against God’s people, and the seventh bowl refers to the third period, the great day when Christ intervenes and brings final judgment upon the wicked.
F. Revelation 16:12-16 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.
1. 17-21 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.
II. First, let’s walk through v.12-16 about the sixth bowl of God’s wrath poured out upon the earth.
A. Revelation 16:12 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.
1. There’s a lot here. Like many other passages, this is meant to make us think of other places in the Bible. The sixth bowl gets poured out on the Euphrates River and it dries up, preparing the way for kings from the east to get through. Later, in v.14&16, we find out these kings are assembled by satanic powers to fight the battle of Armageddon on the great day of God the Almighty.
2. The OT stories all this is based on the story of how God brought judgment upon Babylon by drying up the Euphrates River and the story of the prophet Micaiah and the sending of an evil spirit to provoke nations to go to battle.
3. — God’s judgment of Babylon and Israel’s restoration from exile.
a. For those not familiar with this, the land of Israel was conquered by the Babylonian army and its people were taken into exile in Babylon. Seventy years later, God freed His people from their exile and brought them back to the land of Israel. And He did this by having Babylon itself conquered by the nation of Persia. And the way that took place is important here.
b. The great city of Babylon was protected by the Euphrates River. And the only way the Persians could enter Babylon was by first crossing the river, which was not an easy thing to do.
c. The OT prophets Isaiah & Jeremiah prophesied that God’s judgment on Babylon for what they had done to His people would include the drying up of the Euphrates River (Is.11:15; 44:27-28; Jer.50:38; 51:36). These prophecies were fulfilled when God raised up the Persian King Cyrus, who diverted the waters of the Euphrates upstream, allowing his army to cross the now shallow waters of the river, enter the city unexpectedly, and defeat the Babylonians.
4. So, God is using this story now to explain what will happen on this day in the future when the nations of earth will be gathered against the people of Christ for a great and final battle.
5. (This can’t be a literal geographical reference to the Euphrates River in modern Iraq, for it is repeatedly said in Jeremiah (Jer.50:39-40; 51:24-26, 62-64 – and Is.13:19-22) that Babylon will be desolate forever and never again be inhabited.)
6. So, here in Rev.16, the drying up of the river depicts the removal of the barrier that holds Satan’s power back from assaulting the church.
7. — I think this may coincide with the release of Satan mentioned in Rev.20:3&7.
8. But the bottom line is to show again how God’s sovereign control of the nations and kings of earth is used to bring about their ultimate destruction and victory for His people.
9. OK. That’s v.12, a summary of the sixth bowl, but now v.13-16 spell out the specific details.
B. Revelation 16:13-14, 16 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...16 And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
1. Here we are reintroduced to three characters we saw in chapters 12 and 13: the dragon (Satan), the beast, and the second beast – here called the false prophet. (This is the first time that the phrase false prophet occurs in the book. This title speaks to the deceptive role of the second beast in persuading people to worship the first beast.)
2. We saw how these three formed an unholy and wicked trinity opposed to Christ and His people.
3. We know who Satan is; the beast seems to represent the evil powers of the state, and the second beast, here called the false prophet, represents the world’s false religious powers and influences.
4. Now, in the pouring out of the sixth bowl, we see three unclean, demonic spirits coming out of the mouths of these three in order to assemble the kings of the earth for the battle of Armageddon.
5. — This part of the vision seems to be based on another OT story, the story of Micaiah. In that story, in 1Kg.22 & 2Chron.18, God sent an evil spirit on a mission to convince King Ahab to go to battle against another nation. But God’s purpose in King Ahab going to battle was ultimately to destroy him. And so it is here, these three evil spirits are sent to incite the kings of the earth to assemble to attack God’s people, but God’s ultimate purpose in bringing it to pass is to destroy these nations and kings.
6. — These evil spirits are said to perform signs in order to further their deception, just as we also read in Rev.13:13 and 19:20.
7. — Now I’m not sure why these three unclean spirits are said to be like frogs, though some interesting ideas have been proposed:
a. Frogs picture these deceptive spirits because of their croaking, which is loud but meaningless.
b. The frogs which came to Egypt as part of the ten plagues appeared harmless, but were used to destroy the Egyptians.
8. Now let’s talk more about this battle of Armageddon. There are a number of places in the Bible which talk about a great and final battle which will take place at the end of history whereby the forces of evil will surround and attack God’s saints, but Jesus will intervene to deliver His people and destroy their enemies. Only in this verse is it said to take place in Armageddon, and that’s why it is commonly referred to as the battle of Armageddon.
a. — (It seems to have been given this name because this is where the battle of Deborah took place in Judg.5:19, when God gave deliverance to his faithful few in the face of a vast army. So it seems that here the name is used to again draw our attention to that battle, the nature of which was similar.)
b. We see it in:
(1) Zechariah 14:1-3 Behold, a day is coming for the Lord... 2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered... 3 Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle.
(2) Revelation 19:19-21 I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse...
(3) Revelation 20:7-10 When the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations...to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
(4) See also Ezekiel 38:2-9, 39:1-8; Zech.12:2-9; possibly Zeph.3:8-20; 2Thes.2:3-10; Rev.11:7.
c. You see, these wicked nations are deceived into thinking that they are gathering to exterminate the saints, but in fact they are gathered together by the sovereign work of God in order to be exterminated by the Lord Jesus (Rev.19:11-21), as we see in the seventh bowl...
III. The seventh bowl: God intervenes and punishes His enemies with final judgment. (Rev.16:17–21)
A. Revelation 16:17 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!”
1. Why pour the bowl into the air? In Eph.2:2, Satan is referred to as the “prince of the power of the air.”
2. And the “loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’”?
a. It becomes apparent in the NT that Jesus is not going to fulfill His mission in one coming. He will
(1) bring redemption in His first coming, and
(2) He will consummate that redemption and bring final judgment in His second coming.
b. When He was finished with the redemptive part of His mission, He said, “It is finished.”
c. And now, when He finishes the judgment part of His mission, He says, “It is done.”
B. Revelation 16:18-21 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.
1. ...a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. The great city was split into three parts.
a. This great, final earthquake is spoken of elsewhere in Scripture as well (Hag.2:6; Heb.12:26-27).
2. — In Dan.12:1, in similar language, he describes the terrible tribulation at the end of history: “There will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time.”
3. The great city is Babylon, which, as we’ve seen, stands for the city of man, or humanity apart from God. And now the great city is being torn to pieces by the worst earthquake ever, and bombed to smithereens by 100 pound hailstones. Everything is destroyed – even the islands and mountains disappeared. Why? Because God made Babylon the great drink the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. All this will be expanded on in the following chapters.
A. But we left out Rev.16:15. Right in the middle of all the symbolism of the 6th bowl – not the 7th bowl about the judgment day but the 6th bowl about the day of mounting persecution – Jesus interrupts all the crashing horrors and loud voices, and whispers a little message to His beloved ones: “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!”
B. It has three parts:
1. I am coming like a thief!
2. Blessed is the one who stays awake.
3. Keep your clothes on.
C. I am coming like a thief!
1. The point here is not that Jesus comes to burglarize. Rather, the image of a thief in the night is meant to illustrate the surprise of His arrival, the fact that He will come at an unexpected moment, as Jesus Himself explains in Matt.24:43. (See also Rev.3:3, 1Thes.5:2, 2Pet.3:10.)
2. It’s easy to pay attention to the people who are making noise and speaking loud and being obvious. You can see them; you can hear them; you can feel them and even smell them. They grab your attention. But it is easy to disregard the invisible character; it’s easy not to notice the person hiding in the shadows, or peering into the window on a dark night, or waiting in the closet. You can’t see him or hear him.
3. But He’s there! And when the right moment comes, He’s going to jump out, and then everyone will notice! Suddenly He will become the one no one can ignore.
4. That’s the way it’s going to happen. Don’t forget it. Right now Jesus is laying low. He is being inconspicuous. But don’t let anything convince you that He’s not really there, or you’ll be ashamed when He reveals Himself.
D. Blessed is the one who stays awake.
1. Because Jesus will come like a thief in the night, it is important that His people stay awake and watchful. Satan is trying to lure us to sleep everyday.
2. This is our battle – we must keep shaking ourselves and fighting to stay awake.
3. It seems to me that there are two different forms of sleepiness we must avoid.
a. The first is the kind of sleepiness which is similar to the seed sown among the thorns: the worries and cares and pleasures and illusions of this world. We can become so preoccupied with worldly circumstances that we sort of forget about God or fall asleep toward God.
b. But there’s another kind of sleepiness which I think might be even more in mind here. When the people of God are being surrounded by the world and all the forces of darkness, who are intent on their demise, it is easy to be so gripped by fear for yourself and your loved ones, that it will be easy to fall asleep toward God, and forget that He is going to burst on the scene just at the right moment to intervene.
4. If we are not alert to His imminent arrival, if we forget that He sits upon the throne, if we get caught up in all the turmoil of earthly life, if we get overwhelmed by the scary threat around us, if we give in to fear and panic – instead of persevering in trust, instead of remembering Jesus is there, instead of remaining certain of His imminent intervention – then we have fallen asleep.
5. It’s hard not to think about Gethsemane when Jesus says, “Blessed is the one who stays awake.”
a. It was the crucial hour, the pivotal hour. It was time to pray, time to be alert to the earth-shaking, history-transforming things which were happening. It was also the eve of temptation.
b. But the disciples were oblivious – and sleepy. Over and over again. And so they weren’t ready.
E. Blessed is the one who keeps his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!
1. A good Biblical case could probably be made from Scripture for not joining a nudist society, and this verse may seem like an obvious one to use, but this verse isn’t talking about that kind of nudity. When Jesus tell His people here to keep their garments on, He is not talking about the kind of clothes you take off when you get in the shower.
2. Some people have dreams of being in situations with less than adequate clothing on. Obviously they have a deep seated fear of that. But Jesus says there’s a form of nakedness, a form of keeping one’s garments on, a form of being seen exposed which is much more important and much more costly. It’s spiritual nakedness, spiritual exposure, being unclothed spiritually.
3. In Rev.3:17-18 Jesus said to the church at Laodicea, “You say, I am rich, I have prospered, I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Buy from me...white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen.”
4. — In Rev.17, the Babylonian harlot is said to be judged for her idolatry by being made “desolate and naked” (17:16).
5. Garments here symbolize being clothed with Christ having your sins covered. It involves refusing to compromise with the world. It refers to the garments necessary for admission to the marriage supper of the Lamb in Matt.22:11-13. (See also Ezek.16:36; 23:29; Nahum 3:5; Is.20:4; Gal.3:27)
6. We must not go out into the world without being clothed with Christ! We mustn’t go out into your day without being clothed with Christ!
7. “Put off the old self, and put on the new self. As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving each other...And above all these put on love.” Colossians 3:10-14
8. There is a great battle being waged – it is not come as you are!
9. I mustn’t fall into Satan’s temptation to think that I am enough, that I have what I need in myself, that I don’t need to put on the belt of truth, and the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation. (Eph.6:14-17)
10. We must put on the new self (Eph.4:24, Col.3:10); we must come clothed with Christ (Rom.13:14).
F. God is so good to His people!
1. One of the great fears of people who get kidnaped or are taken as hostages or prisoners of war, is the fear of whether anyone knows that you’re there. Is anyone looking for you? Is anyone planning to rescue you?
2. And when the nurse comes in to take your vital signs, and whispers in your ear, “Stay alert! Your rescue is near!” it makes all the difference in the world.
3. It means they haven’t forgotten you. And they are working to get you out of there.
4. And that’s like this little word from Jesus in Rev.16:15.
5. He knows what we’re going through. He’s planning our rescue. He wants us to be ready.
G. In the book of Revelation, Jesus tells us the kind of things we’re going to have to face. He tells us how we’re going to be able to face them. And He tells us that it won’t last long before He comes and takes all the hardship away and gives us reward far beyond all comparison to the suffering we experience.
1. The American dream of a safe, happy, healthy, prosperous life – even if you were to obtain it – will last only for a little while.
2. But the life Jesus is calling you to pursue is a life of following Him, so it will reflect His life. It will involve service and sacrifice, rejection and even crucifixion, but it will lead to resurrection and abundant life forever. Forever!