Session 1/2

Revelation 16:1-7

Further transcripts

And I heard a great voice out of the temple, saying to the seven angels, Go and pour out the seven bowls of the fury of God upon the earth.

                                                Verse 1

We might ask the question which is the area where these bowls are poured out? It says clearly in verse 1 that they are poured out on the earth. Could we perhaps get a clearer impression in our minds as to what the expression 'on the earth' might mean. Where, geographically, does this extend?

I will suggest an answer, giving ample opportunity to brethren to express their opinions also. The earth here is not the geographical earth but the prophetic earth. The earlier judgements, the trumpet judgements, as we know, are limited to the third part of the earth, which seems particularly to refer to the western part of the Roman world. There is also the eastern part of the Roman world and I would suggest that this is not the whole earth geographically but it is still the Roman earth but: in a wider extent than in the first judgements, the trumpets. Now this is based upon the fact that you will find (in verses 2, 10 and 13) references made to the beast so that the beast's influence clearly is not universal but it is still somewhat limited. And if you turn back to chapter 13, verse 7, you find there a definition of the area of its interests because he has given authority over all kindreds and tongues and nations that dwell upon the earth. The area of his influence is certainly extensive but it is not geographically the whole earth.

The thought of the earth, it occurred to me, implies what is stable as opposed to the sea. And to my mind it embraces a settled society which is organized, I suppose we might call it the establishment, and it embraces the entire sphere where the beast's influence reaches.

That would be confirmed when we come to verse 2, do you not think?

Would it be too enigmatic to say that the term does not denote the earth physically, but the moral area occupied by those we read of in Revelation as 'earth dwellers'?

I think that is good but I thought the threefold reference to the beast in connection with the bowls is still limited it to the area of his influence. Now as we well know, the Roman influence is going to be very widespread but it is still not quite the same as the geographical.

There is just the point where I certainly agree with it but I think we have to see in some part of the earth, there is much more of the influence of the world than there is generally. So there is some correspondence between the world and its earthliness and geographical connotation. So I think the beast has his sway really where there is that sort of that political situation, that worldliness, prevalent and it may not really coincide with the whole of the world.

What seems to be practical to me, is that the Roman beast is characterized by two legs, the eastern and the western parts of that empire and it seems to suggest that is what is alluded to, the sphere in which the Roman empire has influence. And particular reference is made to the Euphrates to make way for the kings of the east. So it would seem to me that Europe and Asia particularly would be important.

It is an essential point to see that God always deals with us in respect of the moral issue, not just the geographical one. It is clear that the beast and Babylon have very widespread influence all around the world and as a matter of fact it is what we see already in those days where the beast the woman and Babylon is trying to put some order around the world. You have used the word "political world". It is connected with that because prophecy refers to the political earth. In the past, it mainly consisted of Israel, because God was dealing mainly with His people, the Jews. Now, during the grace, it also comprises God's dealings with the Gentiles. Therefore, this political earth is extended a lot but morally, it is the same as before: the area where God is dealing with man. And this is the problem that we are to remember that God has something to do with man and man has some responsibility towards God and as soon as we have not called to our responsibility then we are faced with the judgement.

As to the first mentioning of this word 'earth' in verse 1, one could rightly say that this earth is that part of our globe where the influence of the Roman empire is felt. It is not said that they are the frontiers of it - the limitations are not given - but I think the mentioning of the beast shows the influence. It might even go further than the borders of the Roman empire, in some parts of the Roman empire it might not be as strong as in other parts. It is the moral influence on the earth. But in verse 2, it is a good thing to realize that there we get a different thought. There it is put in contrast with its image and here it is characteristic of the organized and orderly people in contrast to those who are not deceived. So we must distinguish between the word 'earth' in the first part of the verse and the second verse.

Don't you think that the influence of the beast could well extend round the whole habitable world? Due to television and the internet that influence can pretty well go all over the world.

It seems to be a question of degree. Happily there are still parts of the world that have never heard about the internet.

I would like to ask brother A regarding this question of opposition or contrast between the earth and the sea. The point is that in verse 1, all the bowls are poured out upon the earth but it included both the first bowl (of verse 2) poured out on the earth and the second (verse 3) poured out on the sea. It is my understanding that the earth of verse 1 is not only those who dwell on the earth but also others which are embraced by the sea of verse 3, and this is connected with the fact that the influence of the Roman empire goes beyond the border. So it goes beyond just those who dwell upon the earth and reaches others which are confused nation as are represented by the sea.

The impact of the seven bowls is to be felt - if you read in chapter 16:14 - also by all the kings of the earth, the sixth bowl, and the seventh bowl, the cities of the nations. And all the seven bowls are summed up, in chapter 11:15, in the third bowl. And the seventh angel sounded [his] trumpet: and there were great voices in the heaven, saying: "The kingdom of this world has come of our Lord and of His Christ". So the impact of these seven bowls will be - to my understanding - universal, although there are degrees and it will be felt mostly in the kingdom of the beast; but it is the end of the judgement and will be felt upon the whole earth.

While the brethren are pondering that statement it might be just as well to remark that while the seven churches are divided into three and four the seals, the trumpets and the vials are divided into four and three. We can all see that these first four bowls affect physical matters (though they do have a moral teaching); but clearly the fifth, sixth and seventh bowl have a political bearing. We also notice the usual intermission between the sixth and seventh bowl that we have already seen between the sixth and seventh seal and the sixth and seventh trumpet. I would suggest that these bowls go on contemporaneously with the trumpets. Whether they stop at the same time is a matter of question.

And the first went and poured out his bowl on the earth; and thee came an evil and grievous sore upon the men that had the mark of the beast, and those who worshipped its image.

Verse 2

I believe that there is no geographical difference between verses 2 and 3 but, as brethren already have pointed out, there is a moral difference. The earth and the sea are two aspects of this Roman empire. On the one hand the order of Satan, that is the earth, and then there is also the disorder as symbolized by the sea. Verse 3 primarily applies to Western Europe, the Roman empire area, since here we have the blood of a dead person: these people do have a confession that they live but they are dead but now they even give up this confession. And this makes clear a very important aspect about the language of the Revelation. Things are described here which do not exist literally, it is not the blood of a living person who is dying, it is the blood of a dead person. They have a confession but there is no life and now they even give up the confession and I think that is the judgement in verse 3.

I think the commentators, with respect, all emphasize the moral application of verses 2 and 3. On the other hand it is quite interesting to line up the physical pictures with other Scriptures. Often times these bowl judgements have been connected with the plagues in Egypt. The first bowl here, can be linked to the sixth plague: a very interesting picture is described in Exodus 9, verse 11, where the scribes in Pharaoh's court just could not stand before Moses because of their boils. We have a second of physical disabilities when the Philistines captured the ark: they were afflicted with emerods (1 Samuel 4:6) - probably bubonic plague, for those who are interested in those matters. Further, there is the case of Job when he had his affliction, an ulcerative dermatitis which made him very itchy. These are all very clear physical features but I am sure we are right to see beyond the physical features to a moral situation. Now even if we limit ourselves to the moral application, that is even more solemn. How dreadful to have this sort of situation morally and I think that it is the course of this passage here to bring home the awfulness of having God's fury in judgement falling upon men. The positive side is we can remember the Scripture in Exodus that God promises that upon the children of God there should be none of those diseases. We should be deeply thankful that this path will never be the portion of the children of God. Those who are raptured of course will be out of the scene altogether but even those who are the Remnant this time will know what it is to be clear of these awful judgements.

In connection with the moral application, could not the sores, the boils, suggest what is corrupt and therefore the moral sway of Satan over the world bringing in a corrupting influence and then there is this manifestation of the judgement of the world in this regard?

A boil, obviously, is an external manifestation of internal difficulties. When we come to the second angel this matter of death of death in brought in. We know from Romans that the mind of the flesh is dead. So that we get stages: first of all the external manifestation of the internal corruption (verse 2) and then secondly the final manifestation of this (verse 3).

The grievous sore is really, as you say, a manifestation of an inner condition. It comes "upon the men which had the mark of the beast". They had taken this mark for the sake of commercial success and that meant everything to them. They wanted to accumulate wealth and in that way they gave themselves wholly to this idolatry and what they wanted was prosperity and success. There are people who act and think in a similar way today, among the Lord's people. That is very solemn. The vial shows that this ambition meets God's judgement not God's approval. I think we could learn something from this: instead of rest and satisfaction and complacency in what we have achieved and accumulated we have grievous sores, we are in a bad condition. Those who might have an ambition to accumulate wealth in this world should take these verses as a salutary warning.

Regarding the sores, we might state that they speak of corruption. The word is also used in relation to Job: he could almost not endure what he had and we also mentioned Exodus 9 where the magician could not stand before Moses because of the boils. So it is a very severe condition that people cannot endure. It is interesting to connect that with the fact that it reaches the people in chapter 13 who have enjoyed the coming of the beast as a very major improvement of their life, but it is a complete lie, deceiving of the world. Satan is a liar. This is a very important instruction for everybody for us: we will not get what the world is promises but we will get the worst possible.

The lust for advancement and wealth is prevalent everywhere. Scripture is not against wealth, it has to be used in consecration to the Lord's interests; but the ambition to pursue the accumulation of money and goods in this world is really the attitude of the Laodiceans: they thought they were rich but of course they had nothing. But the Scripture warns us to beware of greed and covetousness and rather to be content with such things as we have. So this is the force for the Christian and I think that it will do well for us all to get our ambitions adjusted not for accumulating or raising up some dynasty in this world but really setting our hopes on another one.

We have to see that these verses show end result of pursuing a course where idols displace God. What a lesson it is for us to be careful not to be found occupied with something that is going to divert us from God's best for us. It is a very good lesson that God's will is actually the best. It is a very powerful verse in John's writings where the apostle ends his epistle in these words "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." (1 John 5, verse 21). Now what will do it? Nothing but a heart that is trapped up in the Saviour and I am sure that John's writings have a particular bearing to us in closing days. There are a thousand and one things to keep us from God - as an idol suggests - besides money which can occupy our attention. They surround us in our houses. The man next door to us is absolutely mad on cars, he is a Rally driver, he seems to think about cars from morning till evening. But it is very easy even for a saint to be occupied with something and our dear brother Mr. Hole wrote a tract to the young people and he said 'Try and live your life without a hobby.' I thought that is a very happy hint from Mr. Hole and I think I know what he meant. Do not get wrapped up in something that is going to divert your heart from the Saviour, from the interests of Christ. A very powerful word for each of us.

In the Old Testament we find the expression 'Until the measure of the sins of the Ammonites are fulfilled'. God is righteous in His dealings and this is what we have here in Revelation. Here we find that the limit of the sin of man has been reached. We see this again and again. One might think of the story of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar when he took for himself the honour of God and God made him a beast. Likewise, the story of king Herod in Acts 12: it was when he took the honour of God that God said 'Now, the limit has been reached' and God punished him by an angel immediately. And here we have this Revelation that man has replaced the worship of the Creator with the worship of man and God says it is not the worship of a man it is the worship of a beast. And here God, before dealing with the judgement itself, makes manifest that His judgement is righteous by bringing out the inner situation of man, that the worship of the beast come out in the grievous sores on man.

I would like to come back to this question raised on chronology. There are different opinions as to the chronology of these last bowls. At the end of chapter 11:15 we read (after the seventh trumpet): "And the seventh angel sounded his trumpet: and there were great voices in the heaven, saying, The kingdom of the world of our Lord and of His Christ is come, and He shall reign to the ages of ages." Now there is the opinion that here the time of the seven years - the last week - is at its end, and that here, prophetically, we are at the point of the appearing of the Lord. If that is true then everything after chapter 11 must be a retrospect or a review of the second half of the week of Daniel, i.e. the last three and a half years. And then the other view is that in chapter 11:15, we are almost but not quite at the end. And the seven bowls will come very fast. Are these two views irreconcilable?

I was a little bit concerned about remarks earlier that they could be looked upon as contemporaneous. "I think the idea of the swift accomplishment of this bowl fits in better with the evidence.

Do you not think though that the last of the trumpets comes after the last of these bowls?

They do not start together but they converge and they must finish pretty well in conjunction.

I do not think there is any difficulty about the conclusion of the matter but if we follow Mr. Pollock, he finds that the last four are pretty well contemporaneous. Well, it does not seem to agree with the evidence.

The important point seems to be that the bowls occur, according to chapter 15, at a time when no man could enter the temple of God. And that is the point which is utterly unique and which we do not find at all in the trumpet. I agree that the last trumpet seems to go to the declaration of the arrival of the King. In this respect, the bowls are included but the bowls are absolutely unique as to their character, there is just the wrath of God.

Regarding the question of chronology which has occupied us I would like to point out the difference between the trumpet and the bowl. The trumpet, in general, is the signal for the commencement of something whereas the pouring out of the bowl stands for the rapid and unconditional judgement. You pour out the bowl and everything goes to the ground at the same time. And this points out to us that this point of time here is immediately before the Lord's coming in glory and that these bowls of wrath are a preparation for the imminent coming of the Lord. And then I would like to point out with respect to verse 2 that we find the harvest of the seed here. There is the order of Satan, which is that men can only buy and sell if they accept the mark of the beast. Instead of taking refuge to God, men take refuge to the order of Satan and now they have to reap what they have sowed, namely that this mark of the beast will be of no use whatsoever to them because now this order of Satan has been destroyed.

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