(Today’s post by Adam Cooper)
What is there to be said about Revelation 16? If God were a twitter user I would imagine He would use the hashtag #holysmackdown. In this chapter we see God’s angels pouring His wrath out upon the Earth. Seven bowls unleash seven plagues that are reminiscent of the 10 plagues of Egypt. Bowl one brings about sores on those who bear the mark of the beast (God unleashed this plague as number six on his Egypt smack down list.) Bowls two and three turn all water into blood; first the oceans and then the rivers and streams (this was number one on the Egypt smack down list.) Bowl four unleashed the burning power of the sun causing it to “scorch people with fire.” Bowl five brought darkness upon the kingdom of the beast (number nine in Egypt.) Bowl six dried up the Euphrates River to make way for the kings from the East. Lastly, bowl seven brought about thunder, lightning, hail stones (100-lb hail stones!!), and the largest earthquake EVER (thunder and hail were number seven in Egypt BTW.)
Man is a creature of control. We strive to control everything within our environment. Some even try to control, or at least be able to flawlessly predict the weather, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. In this final time God is displaying that no one has control except Him. God is angry. No, I would say it is more appropriate, although less politically correct to say that God is pissed off!! Throughout history God has given everyone the ability to find redemption in Him (whether directly with the ancient Jews or through Jesus Christ) and for thousands of years people have snubbed Him and tried to go their own way. Now, with the end near, God unleashes these seven bowls of wrath and people continue to ignore Him. As each bowl gets progressively worse, people continue to look only towards the beast for their redemption.
In verse 13 we see Satan’s last ditch effort to wage war and defeat God. The three spirits that are released begin to work miracles in an attempt to draw everyone that has not turned to God over to his side. Satan is trying to show the world he is just as powerful as God. Everyone is called for battle; to choose sides and prepare for war. And, in the midst of all of this, we get a warning from God to His believers to be prepared. Verse 15, “Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.” If you have read through the book of 1 Thessalonians this statement should look somewhat familiar: 1 Thessalonians 5:2, “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.” I also believe that this may be a reference back to Genesis. Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree “in the midst of the garden” and they became ashamed by their nakedness. This verse is saying to me that God is coming at any time to fix the “shame” that was brought about in the garden and we are to be prepared; so prepared in fact that he tells us to “stay awake” and “keep [our] clothes.” Like a soldier on sentry duty we are to be armed, clothed, and fully prepared for His return.
I must admit that this chapter is out there. At least at first glance. Every apocalyptic movie ever written and combined into one over-the-top blockbuster could not equal the enormity of what God is doing in this chapter. I think that is why so many people have trouble grasping this book of the Bible. Our Earthy imaginations cannot grasp the destruction, terror, and wrath that is described in this book so we shove it to the side, marginalize it, and pretend that it doesn’t exist. We have been doing that for over a thousand years so why should the 21st century be any different, right? Wrong. God has provided us with a guide for what is to come. We don’t know when, but we do know it will come suddenly and without any warning. For those who have come to faith in Jesus during this time in history, this time of tribulation, it will be a horrifyingly, troublesome time. But it is the hope of the end of all of our Earthly struggles that should give us strength to persevere.
How can we apply this chapter to our lives as believers? As a warning. A warning to what people will endure should they not come to a saving faith in Christ. Therefore, having knowledge of this warning, we have a duty to act. A duty to plant as many seeds of the Gospel of Christ as humanly possible. Tell it, live it, BE it. My prayer for us all is to go in boldness, driven by the urgency of this warning, and tell the Good News to everyone we meet!