The Sixth Bowl

Revelation 16:12-16
The End Times

In my last post, we considered Revelation 16:10-11 ~ The Fifth Bowl. In this post, we continue with Revelation 16:12-16 to explore The Sixth Bowl.

The War of Armageddon (Har Megiddo)

The War of Armageddon (Har Megiddo), the final earthly battle, is demonically inspired. It is called the war of the Great Day of Adonai-Tzva’ot (“the Lord of Heavenly Armies”). In this conflict the kings of the whole inhabited world come against God’s people; but God, through His Messiah Yeshua, wins the victory after Babylon the Great has been destroyed (compare Zechariah 12 & 14).

“The sixth one poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water dried up, in order to prepare the way for the kings from the east. 13 And I saw three unclean spirits that looked like frogs; they came from the mouth of the dragon, from the mouth of the beast and from the mouth of the false prophet. 14 They are miracle-working demonic spirits which go out to the kings of the whole inhabited world to assemble them for the War of the Great Day of Adonai-Tzva’ot. 15 (“Look! I am coming like a thief! How blessed are those who stay alert and keep their clothes clean, so that they won’t be walking naked and be publicly put to shame!”) 16 And they gathered the kings to the place which in Hebrew is called Har Megiddo.” ~ Revelation 16:12-16 (CJB)

The sixth one poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water dried up, in order to prepare the way for the kings from the east. This bowl, like the sixth shofar, affects the River Euphrates. Under the sixth shofar, the demon army of 200 million riders was released from the Euphrates. Here the Euphrates is dried up to make way for the kings from the east and their vast army. This is in the area of present-day Iran, Iraq, and Syria. In years past, an army of 200 million men seemed inconceivable, but with current populations in China, Russia, India, and other eastern countries today, it is entirely feasible.

Because of its size (1,780 miles long; 300-1200 yards wide; ten to forty feet deep) the great river Euphrates is a natural boundary and an excellent buffer zone during times of war. History gives many examples of armies that were stopped because they could not forge the river.

This war is predicted in Psalm 2:2-4: The earth’s kings are taking positions, leaders conspiring together, against Adonai and his anointed.3 They cry, ‘Let’s break their fetters! Let’s throw off their chains!’ 4 He who sits in heaven laughs; Adonai looks at them in derision.”

And I saw three unclean spirits that looked like frogs; they came from the mouth of the dragon, from the mouth of the beast and from the mouth of the false prophet. 14 They are miracle-working demonic spirits which go out to the kings of the whole inhabited world to assemble them for the War of the Great Day of Adonai-Tzva’ot. Gary Cohen shares these interesting thoughts: [1]

In verse 13 we see that from the Infernal Trinity there goes out a clamor for the armies of this world to gather together in northern Palestine, the approach valley-plain to Jerusalem, Armageddon (verse 16). Why? We do not yet know the Satanic reasons that these three will give to the world. Some have suggested that the western world will desire to have a showdown against the eastern armies marching to take Palestine. This may be it. Perhaps both east and west are coming as a United Nations force to once and for all settle the Middle East by totally annihilating Israel, and representative armies from all over the world are to participate in this necessary “for the good of mankind” genocide? This would certainly fit the circumstances of Joel 3 and Zechariah 12:14.

This is a revealing insight into the way God works among the nations of the world to bring to pass His will. It is amazing how the leaders of the world’s countries think they are in control of what happens when in reality they are controlled by unseen spiritual forces and moved along a course God has already laid out.

(“Look! I am coming like a thief! How blessed are those who stay alert and keep their clothes clean, so that they won’t be walking naked and be publicly put to shame!”) Right here in the middle of this prophecy concerning the most catastrophic events ever to afflict humanity, Yeshua makes an announcement! It’s like a wake-up call. Who is He speaking to? I believe He is speaking to two groups of Believers! First, He is speaking to those of us who are alive now. He is reminding us that His return is the theme of Revelation. The message here is for us to remain faithful; to live an exemplary life and reach out to those around us with the message of the Besorah.

The second group of Believers would be those who are alive in the closing months, weeks, days, and hours of the Tribulation period. They are to remain steadfast, knowing the end is close at hand. These are the ones who haven’t taken the mark of the beast; nor bowed down to him, nor given in to his commands. They probably are meeting under cover of night, knowing that to worship the Lord openly would cost them their lives. I thought the Left Behind series did an excellent job of portraying this group.

To all Believers of any age the message remains the same: remain faithful, keep your garments white, Yeshua is coming as a thief in the night.

And they gathered the kings to the place which in Hebrew is called Har Megiddo. In Zechariah 12:11, which also places Megiddo in the context of the Last Days, the Hebrew word is Megiddon: When that day comes, there will be great mourning in Yerushalayim, mourning like that for Hadad-Rimmon in the Megiddon Valley.”

Hadad-Rimmon was the place in the Valley of Yizre’el (Jezreel) near Megiddo where King Yoshiyahu (Josiah) fell at the hands of Pharaoh Nekhoh in 609 B.C.E. (2 Kings 23:29-30).

David Stern comments: [2]

The city of Megiddo, which overlooks the Yizre’el Valley and guards a major pass on the ancient Via Maris (“Way of the Sea”) connecting Egypt with Syria, has seen many battles and much mourning. The archeological remains, spanning a period from the Chalcolithic Age (4th millennium B.C.E.) to the Persian conquest (7th century C.E.), consist of twenty levels, indicating the city was destroyed and rebuilt many times. In this valley, Dvorah [Deborah] and Barak defeated the Canaanites (Judges 4-5; Megiddo is mentioned at Judges 5:19) and Gid’on the Midianites (Judges 6-8). In modern times both Napoleon (1799) and General Allenby (1918) defeated the Turks near Megiddo. The hundred square miles of the Yizre’el Valley would provide more than enough space for the conflict envisioned in the book of Revelation.

 However, the final war may not take place at Har Megiddo at all, but in Jerusalem, at Har Megiddo, the “mount of his choice fruit,” i.e., the mountain of God’s blessing, Mount Zion. Mount Zion has already been mentioned at 14:1; moreover, the imagery resembles Joel’s picture of the Day of Adonai, when God’s power goes forth from Mount Zion against the forces of evil (Joel 2:1-11, 4:16-17 (3:16-17); compare also Isaiah 31:4-9). The next passage (vv. 17-21) resembles 14:14-20, which also draws on imagery from Joel 4 (see 14:14-20N). Strengthening the case further Zechariah 12:11, cited above, mentions Jerusalem along with Megiddon.

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 16:10-11 [3]

Historicist Approach:

Since the Garden of Eden and later Babylon were both situated at the great river Euphrates, Historicists believe human history will come to an end where it began.  They also believe that the Euphrates points to the Turkish Empire.  Some believe that the three spirits are paganism, the papacy, and Islam. Many modern Historicists do see the War of the Great Day of Adonai-Tzva’ot as a real armed conflict of international proportions.

Preterist Approach:

Preterists point out that Cyrus the Persian did divert the Euphrates in 536 BCE in conquering the Babylonians. Again, they still see these events as relating to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

Futurist Approach:

Most Futurists believe the kings from the east may include Japan, China, India, as well as other lesser nations.  The involvement of every nation on earth is taken literally by many.  They raise an interesting conundrum: Since the countries of the whole world will be effectively under a single government during the Tribulation, how will it be possible for there to be a world war at the end of the Tribulation? One possibility is the conflict will be against the Messiah and His Heavenly Army.  The second option is that the final battle will be one of rebellion and insurrection on the part of many nations against the beast’s authority.

Idealist Approach:

There is no consensus among Idealists as to whether this passage describes spiritual or physical warfare.

In my next post, we continue to explore the plagues by examing Revelation 16:17-21 ~ The Seventh Bowl.         

                Click here for PDF version.                                                    

[1] A Layman’s Commentary on Revelation by Don Jones.

[2] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

[3] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.

The Fifth Bowl

Revelation 16:10-11
The End Times

In my last post, we considered Revelation 16:8-9 ~ The Fourth Bowl. In this post, we continue with Revelation 16:10-11 to explore The Fifth Bowl.

“The fifth one poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom grew dark. People gnawed on their tongues from the pain, 11yet they cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and sores, and did not turn from their sinful deeds.”  ~ Revelation 16:10-11 (CJB)

The fifth bowl is poured onto the throne of the political beast, whose realm had suffered greatly from the first four bowls. Darkness ~ probably real darkness ~ fills his kingdom. Perhaps this is like the darkness that fell over the land of Egypt (Exodus 10:21-23). Humanity continues to blaspheme.

The fifth one poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom grew dark. People gnawed on their tongues from the pain, 11yet they cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and sores, and did not turn from their sinful deeds. On the surface this seems to imply a partial blackout covering only the place of the beast; however, looking back to Chapter Thirteen, where the beast rises up out of the sea, his dominion and power extend to every tribe, people, language and nation (Revelation 13:7). It would seem then that his kingdom covers the earth. If true, then this plague involves a total blackout of planet earth. How long it lasts is not known. However, it continues for a sufficient time to cause complete panic among the inhabitants of the earth.

The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast. This bowl was directed to the controller of the people of the earth ~ the beast, the Antichrist, who had been placed into power by Satan (see chapter 13). His throne was merely an imitation of God’s great throne in heaven (Revelation 4:2-11).

When the fifth bowl was poured out, the Antichrist’s kingdom grew dark. This was not like the partial darkness that had occurred during the fourth trumpet (Revelation 8:12). This was total and complete darkness ~ like the plague visited upon Egypt, which is described as so dark that “during that time people scarcely moved, for they could not see” (Exodus 10:23).

It’s interesting to note that at the same time people are still suffering from the sores of the first plague. G. E. Jones says: [1]

In the days of Moses and Aaron there came a plague of darkness on the land of Egypt so intense that it could be felt. See Ex.10:22-23. All who accept the Bible as being God’s Word believe that those plagues which came on Egypt were literal. The plagues about which we read in Revelation will be just as literal as were those on Egypt. In fact, we can see a striking similarity in those plagues. Those that will come on the Beast and his followers will be greatly intensified. Let us not try to explain away the word of God, but let us be willing to believe it.

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 16:10-11 [2]

 Historicist Approach:

Historicists believe the throne of the beast is a reference to Rome. The darkness that fills the beast’s kingdom is symbolic of confusion, disorder, and the distress often the emblem of calamity during the French Revolution.

Preterist Approach:

Preterists agree with the Historicists concerning the throne of the beast being a reference to Rome. The darkness is symbolic in prophetic scripture representing political turmoil and the overthrow of a ruler.  This appears to have occurred in Rome after Nero committed suicide on 68 CE.

Futurist Approach:

Futurists again divide between a symbolic and a literal interpretation.  The darkness affects the political power of the beast.  Lindsey takes a literal approach stating: “I believe there’s a reason God’s blackout of this Revised Roman Empire: the darkness will allow the movement of 200 million Oriental soldiers into the area of the Middle East, the subject of the next judgment.” The pains and sores relate to ongoing effects of the first bowl judgment.

Idealist Approach:

Idealists seem to take a literal approach to this passage.

In my next post, we continue to explore the plagues by examining Revelation 16:12-16 ~ The Sixth Bowl.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] A Layman’s Commentary on Revelation.

[2] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.

The Fourth Bowl

Revelation 16:8-9
The End Times

In my last post, we examined Sukkot. In this post, we come back to Revelation 16:8-9 to explore The Fourth Bowl

“The fourth one poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was permitted to burn people with fire. 9 People were burned by the intense heat; yet they cursed the name of God, who had the authority over these plagues, instead of turning from their sins to give him glory.” ~ Revelation 16:8-9 (CJB)

The fourth bowl, unlike the fourth shofar which darkened the sun, intensified the sun’s heat. Perhaps God’s darkening of the sun was to keep the intensity of the sun’s heat from getting so extreme that all would perish. There is also an interesting passage in Matthew where Yeshua, while describing the end of the age, says, Indeed, if the length of this time had not been limited, no one would survive; but for the sake of those who have been chosen, its length will be limited.” Matthew 24:22 (CJB) Even through the worst of days, God makes provision for His people.

Even as God pours out these final warnings to humanity, the people refuse to repent and continue to blaspheme Him.

The fourth one poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was permitted to burn people with fire. 9 People were burned by the intense heat; yet they cursed the name of God, who had the authority over these plagues, instead of turning from their sins to give him glory. For the most part, we seem to take for granted the water, the sun, and all other God given blessings that enhance our lives. In the previous two plagues the waters of the earth are polluted, and now the sun is altered in such a way that the increased heat scorches people. It would be logical, in light of this, that humanity should repent and turn to God, but, as in the case of other such events, again with this plague there is no repentance, no godly sorrow; just a blaspheming of God. This seems to imply that they could have repented, that God in this fury of judgments was still extending His mercies, and yet God knew, as in the case of Pharaoh, their hearts were growing harder and they had lost the capacity for repentance. Oliver Greene has the following to add: [1]

In Revelation 8:12 the heavenly bodies were affected. “One third” were blacked out. But here it is altogether different. The power of the sun is increased until the terrific heat and blazes of fire from the sun scorch and burn the backs of men, roasting them. What a horrible thought! God takes His mighty hand, pushes the sun so near the earth that the sunrays scorch the backs of earth’s inhabitants! God created the sun, and it would be a small thing for Him to put it close enough to earth to scorch men. Both Moses and Malachi speak of a day in which it will “BURN AS AN OVEN,” when men shall be “DEVOURED WITH BURNING HEAT” (Deut. 32:24, Mal. 4:1). Hear this solemn declaration: “The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof: because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant… therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.” (Isaiah 24:4-6).

David Stern comments on verse 9: [2]

Here is the New Testament’s most cogent description of the normal behavior of hardened sinners. They cursed the name of God… instead of turning from their sins, the result of which would have been to give him glory. Although God had the authority over these plagues, these unbelievers, in their irrationality, instead of entreating the only one who could help them, curse him. They recognize that God controls the plagues but blame him instead of themselves, since, being amoral and materialistic, they see no causal connection between their own sinful behavior and these events as judgment. They remain unrepentant throughout the chapter.

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 16:8-9 [3]

Historicist Approach:

Historicists believe the time of this vision’s fulfillment overlaps the time of the second and third bowls during the French Revolution. All three are judgments focused upon papal Rome.

Preterist Approach: 

Preterists cannot take a literal interpretation of this vision as there is no record of such an event occurring with the fall of Jerusalem or Rome. Instead, they take the sun symbolically as representing an influential political or religious leader

Futurist Approach:

Futurists again look at this vision as either symbolic or literal.  Symbolically, it relates to a supreme, ruling authority.  Others take the vision literally.  As is his general approach, Hal Lindsey compares this to the result of full-scale nuclear exchange which radically upsets the universe.

Idealist Approach:

Idealists take this vision literally.

In my next post, we continue to explore the plagues by examing Revelation 16:10-11 ~ The Fifth Bowl.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] A Layman’s Commentary on Revelation by Don Jones.

[2] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

[3] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.

Sukkot 5778

The Ultimate Sukkah

We interrupt our series on Revelation once again to consider the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.  This is the third and last of the traditional Fall Holy Days. In 2017, the festival of Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles, begins at sundown on Wednesday, October 4th.

Sukkot is the third of the great annual pilgrimage festivals (Vayikra 23:33-43).  Each year, all adult Jewish males were required to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the feasts of Matzah, Shavuot, and Sukkot. The festival is also called the “feast of ingathering (Sh’mot 23:16; D’varim 16:13).  It is celebrated immediately after the harvest, in the month Tishri, and the celebration lasts for eight days (Vayikra 23:33-43).  During this period the people leave their homes and live in a sukkah, a temporary dwelling, formed of the branches of trees as a memorial of the wilderness wanderings when the people dwelt in sukkot (Vayikra 23:43).


Typical Backyard Sukkah

Like Thanksgiving Day in the United States, Sukkot is a time of feasting, rejoicing, and giving thanks to God for His bountiful gifts (D’varim 16:13-15).  In fact, it is widely believed that the Puritan colonists, who were great students of the Hebrew Scriptures, based the first American Thanksgiving on Sukkot.

We are to “rejoice before the Lord God” during all the time of this feast (Vayikra 23:40).  The tradition of the Jewish people is that they were to express their joy by dancing and singing hymns of praise to God, with musical instruments.

Sukkot (the plural form of sukkah) are temporary dwellings, many with canvas walls.   The roof is made of natural materials such as bamboo, corn stalks, or other greenery, usually supported by a few wooden beams.   It provides more shade than sun, but you can still see the sky through it and the stars at night.

Today, as in the Second Temple days, we still wave the lulav (palm branch) and etrog (citron) as mandated in the Torah.   The lulav is made of a palm branch, arava (willow), and hadas (myrtle).   The etrog is a citron.   Together the lulav and the etrog are referred to as the Four Species.

Of all the feasts of the Lord, Sukkot best illustrates the fact that God would dwell in the midst of His people through the presence of the Messiah (John 1:14).  He may have fulfilled His promise on the very day of Sukkot.  We don’t know the exact date of Yeshua’s birth.  But we do know; it certainly wasn’t December 25th.  For me, there is sufficient evidence to corroborate that Yeshua’s first coming came on Sukkot.

Sukkot pictures the future kingdom God has prepared for Israel when Messiah returns (see Zechariah 12:10-13:1; Isaiah 35; Luke 1:67-80).  The Prophet Zechariah described the changes that will take place in the topography of the holy land and how the Gentile nations will celebrate Sukkot along with the Jewish people   (see Zechariah 14:16-19).

For Israel, the best is yet to come!  The scattered people will be gathered; the sinful people will be cleansed; the sorrowing people will rejoice.  And for Messianic Believers, the best is yet to come; for we shall be together with the Lord and His people, every stain washed away, rejoicing in His presence.

Sukkot has always been known as the appointed time that commemorates God dwelling with His people.  How fitting for the Kingdom of God, when it fully comes to the redeemed earth, to be considered the ultimate fulfillment of this appointed time.  God himself will finally dwell with His people in all His fullness.  The Sukkah of God will be among men when Messiah Yeshua dwells as the ruler of the 1000-year Messianic Kingdom!

All the Feasts of the Lord have their particular lessons to teach.  Because of its latter day fulfillment, Sukkot seems to be the apex of all the other appointed times of God.  The goal of God’s plan is ultimately the establishment of His Kingdom here on earth.  This explains why, of all the appointed times, Sukkot is said to be the premier celebration of the Millennium.

As the Prophet Zechariah has told us in Chapter 14, in the last days all nations will be gathered against Jerusalem.  They will take the city and plunder it. (Zechariah 14:1, 2)  The Lord will then take charge of His people; He will appear upon the Mount of Olives.  By splitting this mountain, He will prepare a safe way for the rescue of those that remain.  He will come with all His saints (Zechariah 14:3-5) to complete His kingdom.

The other pilgrimage feasts (Matzah and Shavuot) have been fulfilled, but the Feast of Tabernacles – Sukkot finds its fulfillment during the millennial kingdom of the Messiah (Vayikra 23:33-44; B’midbar 16:13-15; 31:10; Nehemiah 8:17, 18; Revelation 20:1-6).

The remnant of the nations will turn to the Lord and come yearly to Jerusalem, to keep the feast of Sukkot (Zechariah 14:16-19).  Can’t you just imagine it?  The feast of the Millennium!  What a party that will be!  This feast will be kept by all who have come to believe in Messiah, to thank the Lord for His grace in that He has brought them out of the wanderings of this life into the blessedness of His kingdom of peace.

In the perfected kingdom of God there will be no more sinners, but only those who are righteous and holy.  This is affirmed in the last clause of Zechariah’s prophecy: “there will be no merchants anymore in the house of Adonai.” (v. 21)

Thus, does Zechariah’s prophesy close with a prospect of the completion of the kingdom of God in glory.  All believing commentators are agreed that the final fulfillment of Zechariah 14:20-21 lies before us in Revelation 21 and 22.

According to Isaiah, God has promised His people a new heaven and a new earth (see Isaiah 65:17; 66:22).  The old creation must make way for the new creation if God is to be glorified.

Indeed, many interesting questions could be asked about our future abode in heaven, but most must go unanswered until we reach our glorious home.  In fact, John closed his book by reminding us that we have responsibilities today because we are going to heaven.

Sukkot has always known as the appointed time that commemorates God dwelling with his people.  How fitting for the Kingdom of God, when it fully comes to the redeemed earth, to be considered the ultimate fulfillment of this holy day.  God, Himself will finally dwell with His people in all His fullness.  The Sukkah of God will be among men when Messiah Yeshua tabernacles with us as the ruler of the 1000-year Messianic Kingdom!

What a celebration there will be as His people, both Jews and Gentiles, wave the lulav and chant, Ana Adonai Hoshiana!  (Lord, do save us!)  Amen.  Come quickly, Lord Yeshua!  Come and dwell in Your Ultimate Sukkah!

In my next post, we will return to our series on Revelation by looking at Revelation 6:8-9 ~ The Fourth Bowl.

Click here for PDF version.

The Third Bowl

Revelation 16:4-7
The End Times

In my last post, we examined Yom Kippur. In this post, we come back to Revelation 16:4-7 to explore The Third Bowl.

“The third one poured out his bowl into the rivers and springs of water, and they turned to blood. 5 Then I heard the angel of the waters say, “O HaKadosh, the One who is and was, you are just in these judgments of yours. 6 They poured out the blood of your people and your prophets, so you have made them drink blood. They deserve it!” 7 Then I heard the altar say,“Yes, Adonai, God of Heaven’s Armies, your judgments are true and just!” ~ Revelation 16:4-7 (CJB)

The rivers and springs of water on which the third bowl was poured became blood also. It was the blood of Yeshua that could have saved these people, and now it is blood that will kill all living creatures in the sea and probably many people, for there is no more water to drink.

The third one poured out his bowl into the rivers and springs of water, and they turned to blood. This third bowl judgment is very similar to the second, except it affects the fresh water supplies rather than the seas of salt water. The magnitude of the chaos and hysteria that will develop due to this plague will be overwhelming. People will be hoarding all the liquid they can gather whether bottled water, soft drinks, or any other source that has not been affected by this plague. The frenzy surrounding the search for fresh water will continue to escalate, as no living being can live very long without water. These times are obviously what Yeshua was referring to when He said: Indeed, if the length of this time had not been limited, no one would survive; but for the sake of those who have been chosen, its length will be limited.” ~ Matthew 24:22 (CJB)

Then I heard the angel of the waters say, “O HaKadosh, the One who is and was, you are just in these judgments of yours. 6 They poured out the blood of your people and your prophets, so you have made them drink blood. They deserve it!” 7 Then I heard the altar say,“Yes, Adonai, God of Heaven’s Armies, your judgments are true and just!  Ray Stedman gives the following explanation:

After this third bowl of judgment is poured out, John hears the voice of the third angel. The angel affirms that God’s judgment is right and just. It is based on the principle we hear so often these days: “What goes around, comes around.” What you dish out, you will someday have to take. Those who shed the blood of the prophets and the saints of God will have to drink what they have spilled: a torrent of blood. Then something amazing takes place: the altar speaks! The altar is the symbol of redemption, of the substitute sacrifice, of the shedding of innocent blood that removes the penalty of sin from the guilty. In the day of judgment when it is too late to pray, even the altar, the symbol of God’s mercy and grace, will declare that God is just in meting out consequences and judgment to those who have earned it.

O HaKadosh means “O the Holy One.” Rabbinic writings often refer to God as HaKadosh, barukh hu, “the Holy One, blessed be He.” For example, in the well-known ‘Aleinu prayer recited near the end of each synagogue service: “We bend the knee, bow and acknowledge before the supreme King of kings, HaKadosh, barukh hu … that He is our God, there is none else.” Here too, the reference is to God the Father, but at Acts 2:27, 13:35, quoting Psalm 16:10, the term applies to the Messiah.

They poured out the blood of your people and your prophets, so you have made them drink blood. They deserve it! This verse and Revelation 17:6, 16 echo Isaiah 49:26, where God says to Israel, “I will feed your oppressors with their own flesh, and they will be drunk on their own blood.” The nations that fight against God’s people will shed each other’s blood in civil warfare. Compare Ezekiel 38:21-22, Haggai 2:21-22 and Zechariah 14:12-13 (which also suggests the first and fifth bowl judgments).

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 16:4-7 [1]

 Historicist Approach:

Historicists believe that the timing of the first four bowl judgments coincide with the beginning of the French Revolution.  Beginning in 1793, France launched invasions of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Northern Italy.  The subsequent wars produced much bloodshed, in particular on the river system of Italy.

Preterist Approach:

Preterists who see Jerusalem’s fall throughout the passage seem to have the advantage over those who believe it refers to the Roman Empire.  The pollution of the water sources did occur during the siege of Jerusalem and streams of actual blood flowed through the city. Verse six lends further credence to Jerusalem’s fall in 70 CE.

Futurist Approach:

Futurists again are divided between a symbolic and literal approach to this passage.  The gloomy assessment of the body count during the Tribulation period seems to justify the more literal interpretation. Without fresh water, the remaining population of the world would die within a matter of days.

Idealist Approach:

Idealists do not generally commit to any specific belief as to the fulfillment of a plague like this one.  It merely shows God’s ability to match the punishment with the crime.

In my next post, we again take a break from our study of Revelation to observe Sukkot.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.

Yom Kippur – 5778

The Day of Atonement

In this post, we take a break from the series on Revelation to observe the second of the fall Jewish feasts of Yom Kippur.

In 2017, Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement begins at sundown on September 29th.  The Tanakh says that the blood of the sacrifice is given to make atonement.   The Hebrew words translated as “atonement” in English are Kippur (noun) and Kaspar (verb).   The root occurs about 150 times in the Tanakh and is intimately linked with forgiveness of sin and with reconciliation to God.  What does “atonement” mean?

Atonement means making amends, blotting out the offense, and giving satisfaction for wrong done; thus reconciling to oneself the alienated other and restoring the disrupted relationship.

Vayikra (Leviticus) 16 provides detailed instructions for a unique sacrifice to be offered once a year, on the tenth day of the seventh month – Tishri.  On that day the whole community of Israel was to gather at the Tabernacle (and later, the Temple) to fast and to pray.  The high priest followed carefully prescribed steps and entered the Especially Holy Place (Holy of Holies), bringing the blood of the sacrificed animal.  There he sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat.  This animal was a sin offering for the people (16:15).  That sacrifice was an “atonement … to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.”  Following that sacrifice, Israel was told, “You will be clean before Adonai from all your sins” (v. 30).

It is important in looking at the Tanakh to realize that in it we see realities acted out that would be unveiled later.  The whole of scripture is a progressive revelation of God.  He reveals Himself more and more throughout human history.   God planned for continuous enactments of reality so that when Yeshua finally came to lay down His life for us, we would realize just what He was doing?  Should we be surprised at the centuries of animal sacrifice, and the stress on the shedding of blood as necessary for forgiveness?  No.  In the repeated sacrifices of the Tanakh we are led to understand that, to God, death has always been the price of life for sinful men.

Yom Kippur in Yeshua’s Time

Vayikra 16:7-10 states that the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) is “to take the two goats and place them before Adonai at the entrance to the tent of meeting.  Then (he) is to cast lots for the two goats, one lot for Adonai and the other for ‘Az’azel (scapegoat) (He) is to present the goat whose lot fell to Adonai and offer it as a sin offering.  But the goat whose lot fell to ‘Az’azel is to be presented alive to Adonai to be used for making atonement over it by sending it away into the desert for ‘Az’azel.”

There were also a few traditions that were added to the scapegoat ceremony.  According to the Mishna, lots were drawn to decide the fate of both of the goats.  The lot for the sacrifice said “for the Lord,” and the lot for the scapegoat said “scapegoat.”  The people considered it a good omen if the lot “for the Lord” came up in the Priests right hand.  Also, a red sash was tied to the scapegoat’s horns, and a portion of it was also tied to the door of the temple.  The sash on the temple turned from red to white as the goat met its end in the wilderness, signifying to the people that God had accepted their sacrifices and their sins had been atoned.  This idea came from Isaiah 1:18 which says, “Even if your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow…”

Also stated in the Mishna as well as the Talmud, four events occurred during the forty years before the destruction of the temple which foreshadowed its doom.  (This would have started at the time when Yeshua was sacrificed once and for all.)  For forty years:

  • The lot that said “for the Lord” did not come in the Priests right hand…this was considered a bad omen.
  • The portion of the red sash that was tied to the temple door stopped turning white with the death of the sacrifice.
  • The westernmost light of the temple candelabra would not burn. This was crucial because this was the shammash” (servant) used to kindle the other lights.
  • The temple doors opened by themselves. The rabbis saw the prophetic fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 11:1 that says, “Open your doors, Lebanon, so that the fire can consume your cedars.”  In fact, fires did consume the cedars of Lebanon that may have adorned the inside of the temple.
Yeshua’s Fulfillment

What should surprise us is that God would give His Son for us.  What should amaze us is that the blood spilled on history’s ultimate altar would be His own.  But we should never be surprised that only the sacrifice of another life can exempt one from the death penalty that sin and guilt deserve.  Sacrifice has always been central to the history of God’s gracious dealings with men.  Over and over again, that picture is presented to us.  Over and over again we see the blood.  Over and over – till with awed amazement we look at Calvary and suddenly the pictures from the past merge into one.  And we bow, stunned by the reality.

He died.
He died for me.
He died for you.

Even in ancient times, God lifted the veil to let us peek beyond the shadows of the reality.

Isaiah 53 was long understood by the Jews to speak of the coming Messiah – the Deliverer to be sent to them by God.  In this passage, we have a clear picture of Yeshua, and of sacrifice.

“Like a lamb led to be slaughtered” (v. 7).
“He would present himself as a guilt offering” (v. 10).
“He exposed himself to death” (v. 12).
“Actually bearing the sin of many” (v. 12).

We cannot read these words today with out realizing that they contain God’s explanation for Yeshua’s life – and for His death.

According to Hebrews Chapter10, the sacrifices of old were “a shadow of the good things to come, but not the actual manifestation of the originals” (v. 1).  The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins (v. 4).  The sacrifices only covered and concealed sin, thus permitting God to overlook His people’s sins until Yeshua could come to take away sins by the sacrifice of Himself (Romans 3:25-26).  What the ancient sacrifices foreshadowed, Yeshua accomplished!  By one sacrifice, He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

In Yeshua, our sins and lawless acts have been forgiven entirely, and we have been cleansed. (Hebrews 10:14) Thus “an offering for sins is no longer needed” (v. 18).  We just need to appropriate for ourselves the atonement of the shed blood of Yeshua.

The animal sacrifices had to be repeated again and again.   Their repetition was a continual reminder to Israel that sin, while temporarily covered, must still be dealt with.  The repeated sacrifices served to demonstrate that no animal’s life could ever satisfy the righteousness of God.  What a different message the bread and wine of Communion!  No longer is fresh blood required.  Yeshua has died, offering “for all time one sacrifice for sins” (v.  12).

It is enough. 
Redemption’s work is done. 
By the blood of Yeshua, you and I have been set forever free.

The focal point of God’s atoning work is Yeshua’s death on the execution stake.  Sha’ul wrote, “we were reconciled with God through His Son’s death when we were enemies” (Romans 5:10).  These words not only define the meaning of atonement, but they also reveal the heart of the gospel as well.

At the beginning of His ministry, Yeshua was identified as “the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  The purpose of His coming was “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).  He explained His death regarding His “blood shed on behalf of many” (Mark 14:24).

The relation of Yeshua’s death to forgiveness of sins was implicit in the earliest Messianic preaching (Acts 2:21; 3:6, 19; 4:13; 5:31; 8:35; 10:43).  Sha’ul proclaimed, “Yeshua died for our sins” (1 Cor.  15:3), that He was the “kapparah – atonement” (Romans 3:25 KJV; “sacrifice of atonement,” NRSV, NIV; “expiation,” RSV), that He became “a cursed on our behalf” (Galatians 3:13), and that those “who were once far off have been brought near through the shedding of the Messiah’s blood.” (Ephesians 2:13).   Furthermore, Yeshua has been “offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28) and has become “a new and living way” (Hebrews 10:20) into God’s presence.  He is the one who “bore our sins in his body on the stake” (1 Peter 2:24).

Though atonement is focused in the execution stake, the Brit Hadashah makes clear that Yeshua’s death is the climax of His perfect obedience.  He “became obedient unto death, even the death of the execution stake” (Philippians 2:8).  “Even though he was the Son, he learned obedience through his sufferings (Hebrews 5:8).  Romans 5:12-19 contrasts Yeshua’s obedience with Adam’s disobedience.  His sinless obedience qualified Him to be the perfect Sacrifice for sin (see Hebrews 6:8-10).

The atonement for sin provided by Yeshua’s death had its origin in divine love.  No other reason can explain why “God reconciled us to himself by Yeshua” (2 Corinthians 5:18).  The anthem that continuously peals from the Bible is that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only and unique Son” (John 3:16; see 1 John 4:9-10).  This does not mean that God loves us because Yeshua died for us.  Rather, Yeshua died for us because God loves us.  Thus, “God demonstrates his own love for us, in that the Messiah died on our behalf while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8) Because atonement issues from love, it is always seen as a divine gift, never as a human achievement.

No day was, or is, as sacred to the Jewish community as Yom HaKippurim, the Day of Atonement. 

After the high priest had made atonement for his sins and those of his household, he proceeded with the rites of atonement for the whole community.

“God put Yeshua forward as the kapparah – the atonement – for sin through his faithfulness in respect to his bloody sacrificial death.” (Romans 3:25)  Scripture depicts all human beings as needing to atone for their sins but lacking all power and resources for doing so.  We have offended our holy Creator, whose nature it is to hate sin (Jeremiah 44:4; Habakkuk 1:13) and to punish it (Psalms 5:4-6; Romans 1:18; 2:5-9).   No acceptance by, or fellowship with, such a God can be expected unless atonement is made, and since there is sin in even our best actions, anything we do in hopes of making amends can only increase our guilt or worsen our situation.

As a perfect sacrifice for sin (Romans 8:3; Ephesians 5:2; 1 Peter 1:18-19), Yeshua’s death was our redemption.  He paid the price that freed us from the jeopardy of guilt, enslavement to sin, and expectation of wrath (Romans 3:24; Galatians 4:4-5; Colossians 1:14).  Yeshua’s death was God’s act of reconciling us to himself, overcoming his hostility to us that our sins provoked (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Colossians 1:20-22).

Yeshua’s atoning death ratified the inauguration of a renewed covenant, in which Yeshua’s one sacrifice guarantees access to God under all circumstances that cover all transgressions (Matthew 26:27-28; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 9:15; 10:12-18).  Those who through faith in Yeshua have “received reconciliation” (Romans 5:11) “in him…  become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

We no longer need the blood of bulls or goats.  Yeshua is our perfect atonement.  He is the Messiah!

In my next post, we will return to our series to continue to explore Revelation 16:4-7 on The Third Bowl.

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The Second Bowl

Revelation 16:3
The End Times

In my last post, we examined the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. In this post, we return to Revelation 16:3 to explore The Second Bowl.

“The second one poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died.”  ~ Revelation 16:3 (CJB)

The second bowl judgment was poured out upon the sea. This, too, is similar to the account where Moshe and Aharon turned the waters of Egypt to blood (Exodus 7:17-21). Also, you may recall that the Second Seal (Revelation 6:3-4) was an account of the Red Horse which caused a great war with much bloodshed. The sounding of the Second Shofar (Revelation 8:8-9) caused one-third of the sea to become blood.  This time all the seas of the whole earth are impacted.

It ‘s hard to imagine all the seas in the world turning to blood. This plague will involve all salt water bodies, and all living creatures in these seas will die. Because of the magnitude of this plague, there are some who refuse to believe that this could be a real plague that would afflict the oceans of our world. Gary Cohen writes: [1]

In 8:8-9 the second trumpet turned the sea one-third to blood, and one-third of the fish died. Here, however, the second bowl is not partial; it is universal in magnitude. It will sweep the sea, and the fish not in aquariums or otherwise separated from the sea will perish. Alas, sinful man denies God and boasts that he controls the oceans—that he is the master of his fate. God’s plagues will, as in the case of Pharaoh, show all that God alone rules the world! Since Exodus 7:20-25 shows that the turning of the Nile to blood at the touch of Moses’ rod was an event that actually occurred in the real world, I do not doubt for a moment that this second bowl judgment will also literally take place. Here we do not have a mere parabolic—fairy story that is intended to teach us the lesson that God will own the seas in the end; but one which will never actually happen. No, the second bowl will be poured forth, and the sea will become blood. It has been spoken; it will come to pass.

At the time of Yochanan’s writing, the Roman Empire lived by sea trade and most of their food came from the sea. Because travel by land was slow, Rome depended on the sea for most of its transport of goods. The key cities in the Roman Empire were the ports on the Mediterranean Sea. Rome’s Navy ensured the safety of travel on the Mediterranean. But they could do nothing against God’s judgment. This type of judgment would devastate a civilization. [2]

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 16:3 [3]

 Historicist Approach:

Historicists do not see this passage literally.  Recall they see these plagues as a judgment of the papacy. Fulfillment of this prophecy is found in a series of great naval disasters that swept away the fleets of France, Spain, and Portugal, all Papal nations that had a navy during the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.

Preterist Approach:

It doesn’t appear that Preterists have a unified view of this passage other than the similarities with the Second Shofar. For those who see the second half of Revelation as depicting the fall of Rome, the difference in the extent of the two sets of judgments would be explained regarding the shofars being upon Jerusalem, and the bowls more universally upon the Roman Empire at large.

Futurist Approach:

Futurists again allow for a more symbolic than literal interpretation.  This bowl represents the moral and spiritual death among the nations. Stedman points out that we have already observed the phenomenon of the “red tide” which scientists have seen in the Caribbean and elsewhere.  Microorganisms multiply precipitously turning the water a dark scarlet and killing all sea life in the affected area.

Idealist Approach:

Idealists like the Preterists are divided over the interpretation of this passage. The blood of a dead person brings into focus the utter putrefaction of a dead society.  God brings final punishment and death upon unrepentant sinners.

In my next post, we again take a break from our study of Revelation to observe Yom Kippur.

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[1] A Layman’s Commentary on Revelation by Don Jones.

[2] Life Application Bible Commentary – Revelation

[3] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.

Rosh Hashanah – 5778

Be Ministers of Reconciliation

In this post, we take a break from our series on Revelation to observe the first of the fall Jewish feasts of Rosh Hashanah.

Rosh Hashanah:  The Key Is Repentance, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation

Biblical References:  B’midbar (Numbers) 29:1–6 and Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:23 – 25 ~ Yom Teruah (The Feast of Trumpets).  In 2017, the holiday begins at sundown on September 20th.

Rabbinic Change:  Since this is the first Shabbat of the Fall Holidays, it has been considered as the “spiritual” New Year.  Hence the name changed to Rosh Hashanah, “the head of the year.”  It is also seen as the anniversary of creation; the sacrifice of Yitz’chak; the release of Yosef from Pharaoh’s prison; and, the birth of Samuel, the prophet

The purpose and traditional observance of the Holy Day is summed up in one word – regathering.  Since the fall holidays call us to regather to a pure faith in God, Rosh Hashanah has come to represent the Day of Repentance.  It is the day when people of Israel take stock of their spiritual condition and make the necessary changes to ensure that the upcoming New Year will be pleasing to God.

The shofar is sounded daily to alert the faithful that the time of repentance is near.  The observance takes on a somber character, yet always with a hint of hope because of God’s forgiveness.

The traditional challah is shaped in a circle to symbolize God’s Kingship and the coming of Messiah.  Sweet honey cakes and apples dipped in honey are a real treat and express the hope of a new fresh year.

Tradition tells of three books that are opened in the heavenly courts during the feast of Rosh Hashanah; one for the completely righteous, one for the thoroughly wicked, and one for the average person.  The completely righteous are immediately inscribed in the book of life.  The completely wicked are immediately inscribed in the book of death.  The average person is kept in suspension from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).  If they deserve well, they are inscribed in the book of life; if they do not deserve well, they are written in the book of death.  Consequently, the Ten Days of Awe are a time of solemn self-examination with time spent in seeking reconciliation and doing good works in the Jewish tradition.

Since the 15th Century, the ceremony of Tashlich is celebrated in the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah.  The congregation meets at a river or stream.  Special prayers of repentance are recited, and a portion of Micah is read.  People then take breadcrumbs and cast them into the water symbolizing that our sins are carried away by the water.

Rosh Hashanah has profound Messianic significance!  The rabbis have taught that one day the shofar would sound and the Messiah would come.  According to Rabbi Sha’ul, in the future, all true believers in Yeshua will be gathered to meet Him in the clouds.  The dead in Messiah will rise first, to be followed immediately by those believers alive at the time.  “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a rousing cry, with a call from one of the ruling angels, and with God’s shofar, those who died united with the Messiah will be the first to rise; then we who are left still alive will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we will always be with the Lord.  So encourage each other with these words.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)  That day will indeed be characterized by joy, delight, and sweetness for those who are called home!  As we observe Rosh Hashanah, we should anticipate the time of Yeshua’s return.

The traditional greeting during Rosh Hashanah is, “L’shanah tovah tikatevu!”  May your name be inscribed in the book of life!  As Messianic Believers, we can rightly say, “L’shanah tovah tikatevu b’shem Yeshua!”  May your name be inscribed in the book of life, in the name of Yeshua!

 Read 2 Corinthians 5:17 – 21Rosh Hashanah: repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation.  Rabbi Sha’ul wrote to the Corinthians about these key ingredients to our annual observation of this holy appointed time.  As Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the new spiritual year, so it is that we become new creations when we are united with Yeshua as our Messiah.

The key idea in this passage is reconciliation.  Because of our rebellion, we are the enemy of God and out of fellowship with Him.  Through the work of the execution stake, Yeshua has brought God and us together again.  God has been reconciled and has turned His face in love toward the lost world.  The essential meaning of the word reconcile is “to change thoroughly.”  It refers to a restored relationship with God and the lost world.  “And it is all from God.”  (2 Corinthians 5:18a)

God does not have to be reconciled to man because Yeshua accomplished that on the execution stake.  It is the sinful man who must be reconciled to God.  “Religion” is man’s feeble effort to be reconciled to God, efforts that are bound to fail.  The Person who reconciles us to God is Yeshua, and the place where He reconciles us is His execution stake.  He not only reconciles us to Himself, but he gives us the task of reconciling other people to Him.  We have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation.

Another key idea in this paragraph is that God does not count our sins against us.  In the KJV, the term used is imputing.  This is a word borrowed from banking; it just means, “to put to one’s account.”  When you deposit money in the bank, the teller puts that amount into your account.    When Yeshua died on the execution stake, all of our sins were imputed to Him – put into His account.  God treated Him as though He had committed those sins.

What was the result?  All of those sins have been paid for, and God no longer holds them against us, because we have trusted Yeshua as our Messiah.  But even more: God has put into our account the very righteousness of Yeshua!  “God made this sinless man be a sin offering on our behalf, so that in union with him we might fully share in Gods’ righteousness.”   (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Reconciliation is based on imputation: because the demands of God’s Torah have been fully met on the execution stake, God can be reconciled to sinners. Those who believe in Yeshua, as their Messiah will never have their sins imputed to them again (see Psalms 32:1-2; Romans. 4:1-8).  As far as their records are concerned, they share the righteousness of Yeshua!

How does this beautiful doctrine of reconciliation motivate us to serve Yeshua?  We are ambassadors with a message.  God has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

Since we are the ambassadors of Yeshua, this means that the world is in rebellion against God.  He has sent His ambassadors into the world to declare peace, not war.  “Be reconciled to God!”  We represent Yeshua (see John 20:21; 2 Corinthians 4:5).  If sinners reject our message and us, it is Yeshua who is rejected.  What a great privilege it is to be heaven’s ambassadors to the rebellious sinners of this world!

God has not declared war on the world; at the execution stake, He said peace.  But one day, He will declare war; and then it will be too late for those who have rejected Yeshua (2 Thessalonians 1:3-10).  Satan is seeking to tear everything apart in this world, but Yeshua and His Messianic community are involved in the ministry of reconciliation, bringing things back together again, and back to God.

Ministry is not easy.  If we are to succeed, we must be motivated by the fear of the Lord, the love of Yeshua, and the commission that He has given to us.  It is indeed a privilege to serve Him!

During these next ten days before Yom Kippur, I encourage you to do some self-reflection.  Is there any unconfessed sin in your life?  Do you need to forgive someone who has hurt you?  Are there any relationships that require a reconciliation?  As we enter into the start of a new spiritual year, resolve to make a fresh start and be ambassadors of Yeshua HaMashiach, “so that in union with Him, we might fully share in God’s righteousness.”

In my next post, we will return to our study of Revelation 16:3 on The Second Bowl.

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The First Bowl

Revelation 16:1:1-2
The End Times

In my last post, we examined a Revelation 15:5-8 to consider The Angels Having the Seven Last Plagues. In this post, we move on to Revelation 16:1-2 to explore The First Bowl. We will be spending some time in Chapter 16 as it contains the description of all Seven Plagues.

The events that are presented in Chapter 16 are neither a record of historical occurrences that have happened in the past nor are they circumstances to be spiritualized and not taken literally, for the plagues that are depicted will indeed occur during the last half of the Tribulation as this catastrophic event happens here on earth. It is also interesting to note the striking similarity between the plagues that afflict the world during the Tribulation and the plagues that fell on the Egyptians preceding the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt during the days of Moshe. The difference is one of both scope and intensity. The plagues of Pharaoh’s time were limited to the country of Egypt; however, the plagues described in here will be worldwide in scope and much more intense.

The First Bowl

“I heard a loud voice from the sanctuary say to the seven angels, ‘Go, and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of God’s fury!’ 2 So the first one went and poured his bowl onto the earth, and disgusting and painful sores appeared on all the people who had the mark of the beast and worshipped its image.” ~ Revelation 16:1-2 (CJB)

Like the first four shofars, the judgment of the bowls is poured successively out on the earth, sea, rivers, and sun. God Himself is directing the angels to carry out these judgments. The first bowl judgment is poured out on the earth and causes those who have the mark of the beast to be covered with ulcerated sores.

I heard a loud voice from the sanctuary say to the seven angels, ‘Go, and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of God’s fury!’ 2 So the first one went and poured his bowl onto the earth, and disgusting and painful sores appeared on all the people who had the mark of the beast and worshipped its image. This first angel empties his bowl upon the earth, and all the inhabitants of the earth who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped him were stricken with sores. This plague parallels the sixth plague in Egypt as recorded in Exodus Chapter 9:8-11. Tim LaHaye shares that this judgment delineates two essential points: [1]

  1. The time ~ when Antichrist is worshiped. Further confirmation that the three judgments, the seals, the shofars, and the bowls, are sequential, not concurrent, as some Bible teachers suggest, is clarified at the time of this judgment. Antichrist will not be set up as the object of worship until the middle of the Tribulation Period. This judgment will fall on humanity because of their worship of Antichrist, which could only occur in the midst of the Tribulation Period as we saw in chapter 13. The time of this judgment, then, will probably commence within the first one to three months of the last half of the Tribulation Period.
  2. The recipients ~ the beast worshippers. The selection from among the peoples of the earth is seen in this passage: only those containing the mark of the beast and worshiping his image will be selected for those awful sores. This would indicate that God in His marvelous grace will not bring judgment on Believers during this latter half of the Tribulation, but will protect them as He did the children of Israel during the plagues of Egypt.

According to Revelation 16:11, despite the pain of these sores, their hearts, like Pharaoh’s, remain hard – they never turn from their sins to glorify God (v. 9) but curse him to the end (v. 21).

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 16:1-2 [2]

 Historicist Approach:

The majority of Historicists relate this vision to the French Revolution, seen as one of the major blows in modern history weakening the papal power, but not yet eradicating it entirely. As a result of the Revolution, the power of the popes in France was shattered.

Preterist Approach:

Preterists are divided concerning the recipient of these plagues.  Some believe they are associated with Jerusalem; while others see the second half of the book deal with the fall of Rome.  So, those who take the mark of the beast are either loyal citizens of the Roman Empire or Jews who have rejected Yeshua as the Messiah.

Futurist Approach:

At this point in the narrative, some Futurists allow for both a literal and a symbolic interpretation.  The sores can either be the result of nuclear fallout or internal corruption that is outwardly manifested.  In either case, they are apparently incurable.

Idealist Approach:

Idealists believe, as do the others, that the loud voice from the sanctuary is God Himself signifying that the time for repentance has passed.

In my next post, we will take a short break from our study of Revelation to learn about Rosh Hashanah.

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[1] A Layman’s Commentary on Revelation by Don Jones.

[2] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.

The Angels Having the Seven Last Plagues

Revelation 15:5-8
The End Times

In my last post, we examined a Revelation 15:1-4 to consider The Song of Moshe and The Lamb. In this post, we move on the Revelation 15:5-8 to explore The Angels Having the Seven Last Plagues. This chapter is the shortest one in the book of Revelation; however, its brevity should not take away from the importance of its message, as it sets the stage for the final seven angels to pour out the bowls of the wrath of God upon the earth.

After this I looked, and the sanctuary (that is, the Tent of Witness in heaven) was opened, 6 and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean bright linen and had gold belts around their chests. 7 One of the four living beings gave to the seven angels seven gold bowls filled with the fury of God, who lives forever and ever. 8 Then the sanctuary was filled with smoke from God’s Sh’khinah, that is, from his power; and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels had accomplished their purpose.” ~ Revelation 15:5-8 (CJB)

After this I looked, and the sanctuary (that is, the Tent of Witness in heaven) was opened. David Stern opines: [1]

The word “tent” appears only here in Revelation. If there was a Hebrew original underlying our Greek text, this phrase, unique in ancient literature, could be explained as a corruption of “the Temple of God in heaven,” which appears with the same verb (was opened) at 11:19. If the phrase stands as translated, the “sanctuary” is the Holy of Holies, which was also the location (or tent) of the ark of the Covenant (Messianic Jews [Hebrews] 9:4), called the ark of the Testimony throughout Exodus 25-40. Verse 8 supports this rendering, for we read that the smoke from God’s Sh’khinah filled the sanctuary; in Exodus and Ezekiel God’s glory inhabited the sanctuary. These final “bowl” plagues come from God’s ultimate holiness.

William Newell writes: [2]

There is a literal temple of God in heaven. Unless this is clearly seen and believed, much will be obscure. Was not Moses commanded when he was to make the tabernacle, “see that thou make them after their pattern, which hath been showed thee in the mount” (Exodus 25:40)? Now these tabernacle things are distinctly called, in Hebrews 9:23, “copies of the things in the heavens.” We saw in Revelation 11:19, that there was opened the temple of God that is in heaven; and there was seen in his temple the ark of his covenant”

And out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean bright linen and had gold belts around their chests. 7 One of the four living beings gave to the seven angels seven gold bowls filled with the fury of God, who lives forever and ever. The fact that the seven angels  were dressed in clean bright linen and had gold belts around their chests (part of the attire of priests), would indicate that these are angel-priests. They also came out of the sanctuary. We know there are different ranks or levels of responsibility given to angels; therefore, it would seem that these seven angel-priests are of an extremely high order. Oliver Greene comments on these bowl (veil) judgments: [3]

The vials of God’s wrath are in a group all to themselves. Two things about the vial judgments differ from the seal and the trumpet judgments:

  1. The throne in Heaven is the source of the seal and trumpet judgments. But the temple is the source of the vials. The temple takes the place of the throne in the vial judgments, introducing therefore an even more violent judgment than ever before witnessed on this earth. These vials, filled with judgment, come from God in His holy and righteous character.
  2. These vials contain the wrath of God against the organized systems of evil, which are in power here upon the earth at that time; and the pouring out of these vials of God’s wrath will mean the consummation of all evil power here upon earth. God’s judgments upon evil men and their systems are being completed in order that the Millennium can begin, and there will then be peace on earth and good will toward men for the space of one thousand glorious years of peace.

Then the sanctuary was filled with smoke from God’s Sh’khinah, that is, from his power; and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels had accomplished their purpose. Messianic Jews [Heberews] 9:5 understands “the k’ruvim…, casting their shadow on the lid of the Ark,” as “representing the Sh’khinah,” in the earthly Holy of Holies. Thus it is no surprise to find that in heaven the sanctuary was filled with smoke from God’s Sh’khinah. At 13:6, the beast insulted God’s “name and his Sh’khinah, and those living in heaven” and “was allowed to make war on God’s holy people and to defeat them.” Now the tables are turned, with God’s people victorious, and God’s fury about to be poured out on those who follow the beast.

No one could enter the sanctuary may mean that none can enter His presence to intercede to avert the judgments. The day for intercession is past. The sanctuary is filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power – perhaps no created being could survive being in the presence of such extreme glory and power

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 15:5-8 [4]

The seven last plagues are contained within the seventh shofar of Chapter 8.  The bowls given to the angels are to be poured out in Chapter 16.

Historicist Approach:

Historicists believe that the bowls are poured out over a period of two or more centuries, beginning with the French Revolution in the eighteenth century.  They are designed for the punishment and destruction of the beast, papal Rome. They concur with my comment above on no one being permitted to enter the sanctuary.

Preterist Approach:

Preterists concur that the smoke from God’s Sh’khinah harkens back to the dedication of the Tabernacle in Exodus 40:34-35 and to Solomon’s Temple in 1 Kings 8:10-11.

Futurist Approach:

Futurists harken back to Revelation 5:8 where the bowls were full of the prayers of the saints and are now filled with divine retribution.  This is the third woe of the seventh shofar.

Idealist Approach:

Idealists basically agree with what I have provided above.

In my next post, we will explore a Revelation 16:1-2 to examine The First Bowl.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

[2] A Layman’s Commentary on Revelation by Don Jones

[3] Ibid.

[4] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.