Let’s start with a quick recap of the four main steps in the Inductive Method of Bible study:
- Pray – the Spirit is our Teacher and Guide.
- Observe – only looking at what the text says – do not jump to any conclusions here.
- Interpretation – ask about the meaning to those to whom the book was originally written. Here we ask why questions; we do not ask about ourselves or our society in this step.
- Application – application is the goal of Bible study, leading to transformed lives and societies, but it is the last step in the method. Jumping to application prematurely can lead to incorrect doctrine.
Bear these steps in mind as we get into the text.
Try getting into the method a little for yourself:
- Pray. Ask God to open greater understanding of Revelation’s message to the original readers, and the application for your life today.
- Observe. The division of the 7 bowls into two groupings. Hints as to whether this is partial (for repentance), or final, judgement.
- Interpretation. Is this Act showing final or partial judgement?
Act IV; The 7 Bowls; 15:5-16:21
Where is the setting of Act IV as seen in Rev 15:5? . . .
Sanctuary of the Tent of Witness in heaven.
Note that Rev 15:8 is an allusion to the Day of Atonement that Israel kept once a year. The instructions for the Day of Atonement are found in Leviticus 16.
The 7 bowls: God judging man
This Act goes by quickly. The bowls are poured out in quick succession, displaying God’s complete victory.
Note that these judgements have no partial element to them; the time of God’s holding back and releasing only a ¼ and then a 1/3 is ended. This is Final Judgement!
These seven bowls once again have two groupings. The first four are distinguished from the last three, just as in the case of the seven seals and the seven trumpets. The first four are more general, affecting the earth, the sea, the sun, etc. The last three are more particular, affecting the throne of the beast, the Euphrates, and Babylon. Some of these later judgments are set forth in detail in chapter 17-20, again showing the cyclical nature of Revelation.
Note also that there is some correlation between the bowls and the trumpets.
Scenes 1-5 (Rev 16:2-11)
Scene 1 (Rev 16:2) – Notice that the sores are only on those who bear the mark of the beast.
Scene 2 (Rev 16:3) – In comparison to the trumpets, where a third of the living creatures in the sea died, here we see all the creatures dying.
Scene 3 (Rev 16:4-7) – In comparison to the trumpets, where a third of the fresh water is made bitter, here all fresh water from rivers and springs becomes blood. In this Act, the angels and the altar praise God for His just judgements against those who have harmed His saints; this is an encouragement to the original readers that their persecution is noticed.
Scene 4 (Rev 16:8-9) – Even in the midst of final judgement there is an opportunity for repentance!! How merciful is our God! And yet the people chose to curse God and not repent. This is the broken state of mankind.
Scene 5 (Rev 16:10-11) – The Kingdom of the beast is plunged into darkness, whereas at the forth trumpet one third of the sky was struck, and a third of the light darkened. Again we see God’s heart in giving another opportunity for repentance, but again the people chose to curse God and not repent.
Scene 6 and 7 (Rev 16:12-21)
In Rev 16:13 we see what is sometimes referred to as the “satanic trinity,” as the enemies of God again seek to mimic Him: The Dragon (Satan), the Beast (beast from the sea) and the False Prophet (Rev 19:20 links the false prophet to the beast from the earth).
In scene 6 we see all the enemies of God coming together at Armagedon to do battle against God. Most people have heard the word “Armagedon” in association with the End of the World, and either watched a movie made about it, or read a book on it, or certainly heard opinions about it. Who remembers all the hype surrounding 2000? Lay all your preconceived ideas and previous exposure behind and let’s see what Revelation says . . .
The word Armageddon comes from two Hebrew words : “Har-Megiddon” (*Strong’s Bible concordance). Har means “mountain or range of hills”. Megiddon is a place in Manasseh in Galilee, but can also mean “rendezvous” (**Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible “says: “cut off” or “slaughter”)
Megiddo is a place of many battles of ancient history. It is in a strategic location that allowed control of trade between Asia and Africa. If you ruled this, you ruled trade and economy for the region.
- The Battle of Megiddo of the 15th century BC was fought between Egypt and a large rebellious coalition of Canaanite vassal states.
- Two great victories in Israel’s history:
- 1) Barak’s victory over the Canaanites (Judges 4:15) and
- 2) Gideon’s victory over the Midianites (Judges 7).
- Two great tragedies in Israel’s history:
- 1) the death of Saul and his sons (1 Samuel 31:8) and
- 2) the death of King Josiah (2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:22).
The original readers (who we must always come back to for sound interpretation) would be thinking “great land of conflict”.
Another great tool for sound interpretation is called “literary context” – bringing in context from elsewhere in the Bible. For example:
- Joel 3 names “the valley of Jehoshaphat” as the scene of God’s final judgement.
- Whereas in Rev 20:9, nations gather before Jerusalem and surround the camp of the saints.
The literal interpretation of this scene is that armies physically gather against one another at this place. The symbolic interpretation is that this is referring to, and showing aspects of, Judgement Day.
So what happens at Armageddon?
Read Rev 16:16 – Eish, scary!
But now read Rev 16:17 . . . IT IS DONE!”
Let that sink in! “IT IS DONE!”
Who wins? . . . God! God in a very decisive victory! There is no doubt about the end result. We don’t need to live in fear about who is going to come out victorious. Though all the enemies of God come against us, HE WILL WIN!
The application is easy: Live sold out lives from Christ, worshiping Him, sharing the Good News, and having peace because we know how the story ends.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26)
Next post we will get into the Fifth “Act” of Revelation as the drama continues to unfold.