The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Applying Revelation 15-16: Invincible Rebels

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This is a continuation of Applying Revelation 14: Harvest Time.

In our discussion of Chapter 12, we talked about how reading through Revelation is like listening to a short song that is stuck on continuous replay. In Chapter 14, Yahweh swiftly obliterated all of mankind and chucked all of His enemies into Hell. Yet as we start this chapter, it’s like someone has set all the chess pieces back up on the board so God can knock them all off again. How many more ways and times is God going to show His Jewish audience scenes of mankind getting spanked and the Roman Empire falling? At least a few more. Our Gods do enjoy flaunting Their wrathful side.

Then I saw in Heaven another marvelous event of great significance. Seven angels were holding the seven last plagues, which would bring God’s wrath to completion. (Rev. 15:1)

Is there really such a thing as God’s wrath being brought to completion? At this point, we’re starting to doubt it. After all, if God’s wrath was so easy to satisfy, there wouldn’t be a concept of eternal torment. Clearly God’s wrath is as tenacious as His love: it’s never quite done.

I saw before me what seemed to be a glass sea mixed with fire. And on it stood all the people who had been victorious over the beast and his statue and the number representing his name. They were all holding harps that Yahweh had given them. And they were singing the song of Moses, the servant of Yahweh, and the song of the Lamb:

“Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord Yahweh, the Almighty. Just and true are Your ways, O King of the nations. Who will not fear You, Lord, and glorify Your Name? For You alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous deeds have been revealed.” (Rev. 15:2-4)

There are two songs of Moses recorded in the Old Testament. The first was one that Moses led his mass of Hebrew ex-slaves in singing right after Yahweh had miraculously led them through the parted waters of the Red Sea. The Israelites crossed on miraculously dry ground. The Egyptian army that tried to follow them only got part way through before Yahweh caused those towering waves to collapse and drown both horse and rider. You’ll find the lyrics to this song in Exodus 15. It starts like this:

“I will sing to Yahweh, for He has triumphed gloriously; He has hurled both horse and rider into the sea! Yahweh is my strength and my song; He has given me victory! This is my God, and I will praise Him—my father’s God, and I will exalt Him! Yahweh is a warrior; Yahweh is His Name!” (Ex. 15:1-3)

The second song of Moses is recorded in Deuteronomy 32. This song is much longer and it serves two purposes: to recap Israel’s history with Yahweh up until that point and to remind the little idolaters what their priorities ought to be in the future. By the time Moses teaches the assembly this second song, he is very aware of how rebellious the people are and he knows that they’ll only get worse in the future.

“For I know how rebellious and stubborn you are. Even now, while I am still alive and am here with you, you have rebelled against Yahweh. How much more rebellious will you be after my death!

Now summon all the elders and officials of your tribes, so that I can speak to them directly and call heaven and earth to witness against them. I know that after my death you will become utterly corrupt and will turn from the way I have commanded you to follow. In the days to come, disaster will come down on you, for you will do what is evil in Yahweh’s sight, making Him very angry with your actions.” (Deut. 31:27-29)

Moses is frustrated, and the lyrics of his song paint the Jews in the unflattering light that they deserve. Here is a sample of the kind of lyrics this song has:

“But Israel soon became fat and unruly; the people grew heavy, plump, and stuffed! Then they abandoned the God who had made them; they made light of the Rock of their salvation. They stirred up His jealousy by worshiping foreign gods; they provoked His fury with detestable deeds. They offered sacrifices to demons, which are not God, to gods they had not known before, to new gods only recently arrived, to gods their ancestors had never feared. You neglected the Rock who had fathered you; you forgot the God who had given you birth.” (Deut. 32:15-18)

This is the real Israel. Quite a departure from all this guff you hear in the Church today about poor sweet Israel being some eternal victim, isn’t it? The next stanza gets even worse as Moses describes Yahweh’s response to His people’s rebellion.

“Yahweh saw this and drew back, provoked to anger by His own sons and daughters. He said, ‘I will abandon them; then see what becomes of them. For they are a twisted generation, children without integrity. They have roused My jealousy by worshiping things that are not God; they have provoked My anger with their useless idols.” (Deut. 32:19-21)

These are the two famous songs of Moses from the Torah, but how do either of them work for a group worship session in Heaven? Moses also wrote Psalm 91, but the lyrics that John records for the song that was sung in Heaven don’t match any of the Old Testament works by Moses. So why is Moses being credited as the author of this praise song? Because Moses is a Jewish hero, and what’s being described in Revelation is a Jew’s paradise. To stand around singing songs composed by Israel’s heroes—what could be better? Plus, since Moses represents the Old Covenant Laws and Jesus represents the New Covenant, this “song of Moses and the Lamb” could be seen as a symbol of unity between Old and New Covenant believers. But that’s kind of stretching things.

Now Yahweh has really been dominating the scene for the last several chapters, and this reminds us of how strongly these Jews view Yahweh as the alpha God. Sure, they will praise Jesus as their Lord and Savior—but they still think that Yahweh is the One running the show. They are wrong, of course, but correcting the flawed understanding of ancient Jews is not a high priority at this time. The most important issue is to address their fear that Satan has somehow gained supremacy over the earth. It is our Gods who are sovereign. Since most of these Jews are still entrenched in Old Covenant thinking, they’re a lot closer to grasping the sovereignty of Yahweh than they are the sovereignty of Jesus. So Yahweh is the One taking center stage and flaunting His absolute power as He shows the Jews images of Him demolishing the Roman Empire over and over again.

Then I looked and saw that the Temple in Heaven, Yahweh’s Tabernacle, was thrown wide open. The seven angels who were holding the seven plagues came out of the Temple. They were clothed in spotless white linen with gold sashes across their chests. Then one of the four living beings handed each of the seven angels a gold bowl filled with the wrath of Yahweh, who lives forever and ever. The Temple was filled with smoke from Yahweh’s glory and power. No one could enter the Temple until the seven angels had completed pouring out the seven plagues. (Rev. 15:5-8)

Jewish priests wore fine white linen tunics tied with a colorful blue, purple, and red sash. These angels are wearing the same fashionable attire, only they’ve stepped things up a level by wearing sashes of gold. The point is that no one in Heaven is seen wearing jeans, hoodies, or t-shirts because such fashions don’t exist in John’s world. This Heaven is utterly fictitious from beginning to end. It has nothing to do with what the real Heaven is like.

There were a ton of bowls used in Temple work. Here these priest imitating angels emerge from a heavenly Temple carrying gold bowls which are probably filled with some kind of liquid which metaphorically represents the wrath of God. Meanwhile, the Temple has filled with smoke, because we’re just never going to stop harking back to Yahweh’s smoky, thundering, fiery, shaking, roaring Mt. Sinai appearance.

On the morning of the third day, there was thunder and lightning with a thick cloud on the mountain. There was a very loud blast from a trumpet, and all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because Yahweh came down on it in fire. The smoke rose from the mountain like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain shook wildly. (Ex. 19:16-18)

Now once Yahweh goes into heavy smoke mode, every Jew knows to keep a reverential distance. Here in Revelation, John understands that Yahweh isn’t going to come out of His brooding cloud until His angelic servants complete the tasks He has assigned to them. Those tasks are to pour out those seven bowls of bad news onto the earth that has been magically restored from the beating it received in Chapter 14. It’s time for the Roman Empire and all of the elements of the natural world to get spanked—again.

Then I heard a mighty Voice from the Temple say to the seven angels, “Go your ways and pour out on the earth the seven bowls containing God’s wrath.”

So the first angel left the Temple and poured out his bowl on the earth, and horrible, malignant sores broke out on everyone who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his statue.

Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse. And everything in the sea died.

Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs, and they became blood. And I heard the angel who had authority over all water saying,

“You are just, O Holy One, who is and who always was, because You have sent these judgments. Since they shed the blood of Your holy people and Your prophets, You have given them blood to drink. It is their just reward.”

And I heard a voice from the altar, saying: “Yes, O Lord Yahweh, the Almighty, Your judgments are true and just.” (Rev. 16:1-7)

Here is a graphic picture of that revenge which the Jews are pining after. We find several references to Yahweh turning water into blood in Revelation, and of course this would flash the Jews back to those epic ten plagues on ancient Egypt. From their perspective, those plagues were about Yahweh spanking their cruel oppressors—now He’s at it again. Of course in real life, the plagues on Egypt weren’t about Yahweh hating on Egyptians, but rather He was trying to wake the Egyptians up by proving His supremacy over their gods (see Saving Egypt: The Story of the Ten Plagues). In real life the original Hebrew slaves hadn’t been in any better spiritual condition than their Egyptian oppressors. Not only were they worshiping the Egyptian gods, they brought idols of those gods out of Egypt with them and continued worshiping them all throughout their wilderness journey. Then they brought those same gods into the Promised Land with them where they were passed down to and embraced by each generation. So while Yahweh is parting the sea, collapsing Jericho, raining food down from the sky and doing countless other miracles, He sees all of the people He’s helping going into their tents to worship demonic idols instead of Him. No wonder we find Yahweh venting His angry disgust with Israel throughout the Old Testament. Today Christians read those sections and complain about how mean the “God of the Old Testament” is. Right. He’s mean and Israel is faithful. For all of our boasting about being “true to the Word,” we clearly don’t have a clue about what the Word actually says.

Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, causing it to scorch everyone with its fire. Everyone was burned by this blast of heat, and they cursed the Name of Yahweh, who had control over all these plagues. They did not repent of their sins and turn to God and give Him glory.

Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. His subjects gnawed their tongues in anguish, and they cursed the God of heaven for their pains and sores. But they did not repent of their evil deeds and turn to God. (Rev. 16:8-11)

All of you legitimate prophets and pastors out there need to take a good look at what’s going on here. This is an excellent depiction of the insanity of rebellion. No matter how much God hammers these guys, they refuse to repent and submit to His Authority. So when folks today aren’t responding to your convicting messages, don’t take it as a sign that you’re failing. It’s never a failure to say what the Holy Spirit is telling you to say. But you need to get the bulk of your encouragement from knowing that you are honoring your King, not from clear evidence of change in other people’s lives. As Yahweh is clearly demonstrating, most people refuse to ever repent.

Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great Euphrates River, and it dried up so that the kings from the east could march their armies toward the west without hindrance. And I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs leap from the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. They are demonic spirits who work miracles and go out to all the rulers of the world to gather them for battle against the Lord on that great judgment day of Yahweh the Almighty.

“Look, I will come as unexpectedly as a thief! Blessed are all who are watching for Me, who keep their clothing ready so they will not have to walk around naked and ashamed.” (Rev. 16:12-15)

The Euphrates formed the eastern border of the Roman Empire. It was the largest river in the Mesopotamian region. To have it dry up would make Rome very vulnerable to her immediate eastern enemies. This is not a prediction of some modern day nation one day rising up to trash everyone. Countries like China and India don’t even exist on John’s mental map of the world. This is a picture of Rome being systematically crippled by Yahweh.

Now that last quotation is usually attributed to Jesus by most translations, but it’s probably Yahweh who actually said it, for this is Yahweh’s long foretold Day of Judgment which is being played out here. Yahweh always warned people that His terrible day of wrath would suddenly strike without warning.

In Matthew 22, Jesus tells a parable of a king who hosted a wedding feast. When a guest came without proper attire, the king had him thrown out into “outer darkness” (see The Parable of the Wedding Feast). The parable was a metaphorical picture of how Yahweh responds to those who defy His Authority on earth. For example, if you’re invited to a black tie gala and you show up in dirty, torn clothes, you’re insulting the host by showing no respect for his feelings. In His letters to the seven churches, Jesus told the unsaved souls in lukewarm Laodicea that they needed to obtain new clothes from Him. This isn’t about works, it’s a warning that those who refuse to submit to Yahweh by aligning with the requirements of His New Covenant will be in big trouble when He suddenly announces that they’re out of time to repent.

Don’t get hung up on the frog spirits. They aren’t really frogs, John just says they are acting like frogs the way they come leaping out of each evil beast’s mouth. Devil Dragon, Spotty Domitian, and Bossy Horns each spit out some kind of evil spirit, demonstrating that they themselves are demonic in nature. These demon spirits are now going to scramble to try and throw together one last ditch effort to beat Yahweh. Like these defiant humans, these demons just won’t give it up.

And the demonic spirits gathered all the rulers and their armies to a place with the Hebrew name Armageddon.

Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air. And a mighty shout came from the throne in the Temple, saying, “It is finished!” Then the thunder crashed and rolled, and lightning flashed. And a great earthquake struck—the worst since people were placed on the earth. The great city of Babylon split into three sections, and the cities of many nations fell into heaps of rubble. So God remembered all of Babylon’s sins, and He made her drink the cup that was filled with the wine of His fierce wrath. And every island disappeared, and all the mountains were leveled. There was a terrible hailstorm, and hailstones weighing as much as seventy-five pounds fell from the sky onto the people below. They cursed God because of the terrible plague of the hailstorm. (Rev. 16:16-21)

That famous Armageddon is better translated Har-Megiddo, which is the same as saying Mt. Megiddo. Megiddo was a city which King Solomon fortified by building castle-like walls around it. In these times, folks feel much safer living inside a city with walls than they do living in wide open country. This is why the new, heavenly Jerusalem that shows up later in this book is going to be a massive fortress. Though there is supposed to be no war in Heaven, it’s portrayed as a fort. Why? Because thick walls make people feel safe in these times and God wants the Jews to understand that they’ll feel secure in Heaven.

Now Megiddo was on a hill in a large mountain pass which many armies used as a kind of highway. With so much military action on that route, Megiddo became associated with a bloody battlefield. Just as Americans associate Capitol Hill with politicians, the Jews associated Har Megiddo with blood and carnage. It’s a symbolic reference, so we can all stop studying world maps to try and figure out where that epic battle of good and evil will one day take place. There isn’t going to be any such battle on earth. This is all symbolic. Remember that by now the earth has already been destroyed multiple times in drastically different ways, so we ought to know better than to try and take any of this stuff literally.

It’s Yahweh who is sitting in His smoky Temple, and He is the One who cries out “It is finished.” The following lightning, thunder, and earthquake are all Yahweh’s signature events, and of course the “It is finished” language makes these Jewish Christians flash back to Jesus’ death on the cross. The point is that Yahweh is announcing that His wrath has been satisfied. But clearly His wrath isn’t satisfied because as we wrap up this chapter, ginormous hailstones are raining down on the earth and people are still spitting in God’s face—you know, those same people who have been burned, dehydrated, covered in sores and psyched out by darkness. You’ve never seen such resilient humans as these rebels in Revelation. They’re like the Terminator—they just keep on cursing no matter what Yahweh does. Obviously Yahweh can’t really be satisfied with a world that is still filled with blasphemy. He must be planning to do more. Well, yes, He is. As we start the next chapter, that great Babylon that split apart and crumbled into rubble will somehow be intact once more and ready to take another beating.

UP NEXT: Applying Revelation 17: Rome Gets It…Again

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