Revelation 15–16. Act II. Scene IV. The End of God's Wrath.
Key Notes: Seven plagues like those that hit Egypt. Armageddon. How can His Return be a surprise?
In Revelation 15:1–16:1 John prefaces the final cascade of seven plagues with a scene of worship in Heaven. Those who conquered the Beast are standing before the throne of God singing with harps. The sea of glass is now aflame, a symbol of judgment. Some have noted the irony of saying that the saints had conquered the Beast, when Rev.13:7 says the Beast would conquer them. The Beast had them killed, and in so doing failed, much as imperial Rome failed. It had slaughtered the Christians and then saw their children take power when Constantine declared Christianity the religion of the empire.
The psalm that is sung glorifies God for justice, truth, and holiness. All nations shall worship Him because His judgments have been revealed. This note sets the stage for the plagues. The song is called the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. There are two songs of Moses:
Ex.15 expresses rejoicing in the triumph over Pharaoh and his army.
The second song is Deut. 32, a psalm of God's faithfulness to Israel and a prophecy of her coming apostasy. It is likely that Ex.15 is meant here. The song of the Lamb could be Psalm 110 in which God proclaims His Anointed as king and priest, and judge over all the nations.
15:5–8 John sees the temple open. Seven angels come out and are given golden bowls full of the wrath of God, with smoke filling the Temple as they leave.
The cloud covered the Tabernacle at its dedication. Ex.40:34
The glory of the Lord filled the first Temple at its dedication. IIChron.7:1
The Temple was filled with smoke in Isaiah's vision. Isa.6:4
6;1–21Now a series of plagues--bowls of wrath--fall upon humans. Five of the seven are like the plagues that freed Israel from Egypt.
Plague 1. Sores break out on those who worship the Beast and bear his mark. Ex.9:8–9.
Plague 2. The sea turns to blood and all life in it dies.
Plague 3. The fresh waters turn to blood, as in Egypt. Ex.7:17–18.
Here a relationship between the plague and the blood of slaughtered saints and prophets is spelled out.
Plague 4. The sun becomes exceedingly hot. Men curse God and do not repent. The prospect of a heat death of the planet is not beyound possibility.
Plague 5. The kingdom of the Beast is in darkness, anguish and pain, again resembling Egypt's plague. (Ex.10:21). Men curse God and do not repent.
Plague 6. Dirty spirits like frogs ( see Ex.8:1,7) from the Dragon, Beast and False Prophet go forth with signs of their power to gather the nations of the battle of Armageddon.
Plague 7. A great earthquake with lightning, thunder and huge hail (Ex.9:22) hits the earth. Hailstones weighing up to 100 lb. would break roofs and kill people caught in the open. The earthquake breaks up the Great City (?Jerusalem). Nations collapse. Islands disappear (tidal wave or rising seas?). Babylon receives her due.
Numerous parallels between the seven great plagues and the plagues on Egypt are noted. It may be interpreted as a second Exodus especially when the song of Moses is mentioned.
Numerous parallels also exist between the trumpet plagues and the bowl plagues, especially #2,3,6, and 7. The relationship remains mysterious.
Armageddon. (Har-mageddon = Mount Megiddo, modern Tel Megiddo). Armageddon is believed to be the site of an actual future battle. Megiddo was a fortress in Israel (now an archaeological dig) which overlooks a valley ten miles long and five miles wide near Mt. Carmel on the West and Mt. Tabor to the Northeast. It was so important in ancient times that Thutmose III of Egypt has been quoted: "The capture of Megiddo is the capture of a thousand towns." It is situated on a ridge and is the cross-roads for routes from Southwest to Northeast and from Southeast to Northwest. It was near the scene of a battle between Israel led by Deborah and Barak (Judg.5:19) against Canaanites led by Sisera. Another battle was fought and lost by Josiah when he tried to prevent Pharaoh Neco from using the coastal route north to fight the Babylonians. IIK.23:29
Other prophecies of great battles in Israel: "I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel" (an adjacent geologic formation to the southeast of Megiddo. (Hos.1:5)
"I will gather all nations an bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat" (Jehoshaphat means "Yahweh has judged.") We do not know the physical location for this valley. (Joel 3:2). Zechariah 12:2 locates the last great battle around Jerusalem.
After describing the assembly of nations for Armageddon, John says "Lo, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is he who is awake, keeping his garments that he may not go naked and be seen exposed! " (Rev.16:15). From the previous chapters 12–14, where the Great Tribulation is believed to last for 3.5 years, we surmised that God's rescue of the Church would be during the time of the Beast. Here, in the middle of the development of the final battle, John warns us not to try to date Jesus' Second Coming because it will be a surprise. Evidently, all attempts to try to identify the time of the Christ's return are unwise and unsuccessful, even if we cannot resist trying.
If we cannot predict the future then we may ask why we are told anything about it. The answer is that we are to be always on the alert. Being awake, with garments on, and not exposed, is not a call for insomnia, but a metaphorical expression for a person who is spiritually alert, and has eventualities planned for. Swindoll has said that he has various temptations already worked through in his mind, so that if confronted, he would not be surprised or ready to compromise.
Coming like a thief is an expression that Jesus used. The Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
"…if the householder had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an unexpected hour.” (Lk.12:39–40).
"The day of the Lord will come like a thief and the heavens will pass away with a great noise." (IIPet.3:10)
"If you will not awake, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you". (Rev.3:3). Also (IThes.5:2)
Christ comes for us at death, may come to the Church in judgment (Sardis) and will come finally in person at the end of the Age. My time-table says "not now", but "coming like a thief" suggests "maybe now".
Let us be ready.