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 Mark of the Beast

Revelation 13:16-18
The End Times

In my last post, we unpacked Revelation 13:11-15 concerning The Second Beast: The Beast from the Earth. In this post, we move on the Revelation 13:16-18 to examine The Mark of the Beast.

“Also it forces everyone  –  great and small, rich and poor, free and slave  –  to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead 17 preventing anyone from buying or selling unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18 This is where wisdom is needed; those who understand should count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person, and its number is 666.” ~ Revelation 13:16-18 (CJB)

What Does the Number of the Beast Mean?

No one, including this author, really knows the answer to that question.  According to Halley’s Bible Handbook, the number can be the name of a man, or possibly a group of people, or an institution headed by a man or group of men. Neither Hebrew nor Greek has separate symbols for numbers; rather, letters were also used as numerals. Thus, in Greek, A=1, B=2, etc. The letters of the name, when added together, total 666.

Image Courtesy of Google

Emperor Nero (ad 54-68).
Some believe that the number 666
directly relates to the Roman emperor Nero
since the Hebrew script for
Caesar Nero (qsr nrwn) = 100 + 60 + 200 + 50 + 200 + 6 + 50 = 666.

Few things in the Bible have given rise to such speculation as for the meaning of the number of the beast. Each era in history has discovered the name of a leader who is seen as impersonating the ultimate evil of the Antichrist, from the head of the Roman Empire of Paul’s day to Napoleon, to Adolf Hitler.

I remember seeing a bumper sticker years ago claiming that Ronald Wilson Reagen was the beast because his full name had six letters each. I didn’t agree with that especially as my full name has six letters each.

In our time it has been claimed that the mark is a number rather than a name and that this figure is incorporated in the bar codes on consumer products.

Others understand the number symbolically: 6 is man’s number, just short of 7, which is God’s number; 666 is a “trinity” of sixes. The square of 6 is 36; when we add up all numbers from 1 through 36, the total is 666. The significance, then, is that the beast, powerful as he is – and no matter how powerful he may become – is still not as powerful as God.

At the close of chapter 13, Yochanan tells us that the false prophet, who receives his power from the great imitator, Satan, requires everyone to get a mark on his right hand or his forehead. Without this mark, people could not buy or sell anything (vv. 16-17). Remember the seal God placed on the forehead of all the servants of God at the beginning of the Great Tribulation (Revelation 7:3).

Most people are already more readily identified by number than by name, whether it be Social Security number, credit card number, bank account number, or many other computer devices. Recently, there was a news report that a company in Wisconsin was implanting a microchip into employees hands (voluntarily) to punch the time clock, open secured doors and purchase snacks in the break room.

With this conditioning, it will not be all that difficult to get crowds to line up and receive this one number of identity. Most of us don’t remember that during World War II the government gave out ration stamp books that were required for the purchase of certain commodities. Money was not enough; the proper ration stamp was required as well. For example, to buy five pounds of sugar one had to have the ration stamp that entitled him to five pounds of sugar. People today are again being prepared to operate similarly. So where’s the problem? The problem is that this particular mark of identification will be associated entirely with the Antichrist and will give him the additional power needed to manipulate the masses of humanity.

Everyone  –  great and small, rich and poor, free and slave  –  [is forced] to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead. Compare this verse with Revelation 20:4, which says “and,” not “or”: “those who had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received the mark on their foreheads and on their hands.” This makes a mockery of t’fillin, which Orthodox and Conservative Jews wear in the synagogue on the hand and forehead to obey Deuteronomy 6:8, “You shall bind them [that is, God’s mitzvot] for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.”

This mark of the beast (Revelation 16:2, 19:20; also 14:9-11) also mimics the sealing of the 144,000 (7:2-3). Regardless of whether any of the speculations are true or fanciful, the mark points to a time of complete totalitarian control over economic life by religious elements.

David Stern lends some interesting Judaic perspective to the number of its name. [1]

In Jewish interpretation, gematria (the Hebrew word derives from the Greek word geômetria,” which underlies English “geometry”) is a system of deducing the sod (“secret”) of a text by positing a meaningful connection between words whose numbers are either identical or related by simple arithmetic. Example: in rabbinic literature, God is sometimes called the “Place” (“Makom). Why this should be is not evident, so Gematria explains it in this way: the letters of YHVH” – yud, heh, vav and heh – are equivalent to 10, 5, 6 and 5. The sum of the squares of these four numbers is 186, which is the same as the number of Makom” – mem, kuf, vav, mem (40 + 100 + 6 + 40).

The number could be entirely symbolic. The name of Messiah in Greek, Iêsous, equals 888; 7 is regarded as the perfect number; and triple repetition symbolizes absolute ultimacy (as in Isaiah 6:3, “Holy, holy, holy is Adonai of Hosts.”). Therefore 888 means that Yeshua is entirely and ultimately beyond perfection, while 666 implies that the beast in every respect falls short of perfection and is therefore utterly and ultimately imperfect and evil.

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 13:11-15 [2]

Historicist Approach:

Historicists have concurred with Irenaeus in the second century who believed that 666 referred to Lateinos (Greek for Latin).  This naturally points to the Roman Catholic Church. Popes have been known to forbid commerce with non-Catholics.

Preterist Approach:

Preterists insist that the beast is Nero since Yochanan would want his contemporary readers to know who it was.

Futurist Approach:

Many Futurists view this passage of a cashless, worldwide economy which we seem to be heading towards and in fact already rely heavily on credit/debit cards.  No consensus exists for the meaning of 666 other than what has previously been stated above.

Idealist Approach:

Idealists offer no additional insight other than the mark is synonymous with proclaiming one’s servitude to the beast.

In my next post, we will explore a Summary of Chapters 11-13 and explore an Introduction to the Seven Last Plagues contained in Revelation 14-16.

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[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

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