Tag Archives: Revelation 16

Two Gospels in Revelation (Bowl Plagues 5)

The three angels of Revelation 14:6-12 together proclaim the final gospel message to the entire world. It is the “everlasting gospel” to every nation, tribe, language and people (Rev. 14:6). “Everlasting gospel” means that while it arrives in the special context of the End-time, it is not a different gospel than the one that was taught by Jesus and the apostles. It is a call to worship the creator (Rev. 14:7) rather than the beast or his image (13:4, 8, 12, 15). This gospel produces the faith of Jesus (14:12), a trust in God grounded in abundant evidence of His character. At its simplest, the gospel can be summarized as “What we could not do, God did.” And at the heart of the gospel is the truth about what God is truly like, God’s character. He is infinitely powerful, yet infinitely gracious. While He is all-powerful, He chooses to resolve the issues in the universe without violence, without force or intimidation of any kind.

What many readers of Revelation have missed is the counterfeit gospel also proclaimed to the world in Revelation 16:13-14. The dragon, the beast and the false prophet (the counterfeit trinity of Revelation 13) each produce an unclean spirit like a frog out of their mouths (Rev 16:13). According to verse 14 these frogs are the “spirits of demons” who go out to the kings of the whole inhabited world to gather them for the final battle of earth’s history, Armageddon (see also 16:16). Demons are evil angels, thus you have three angels presenting the gospel of God in chapter fourteen and three evil angels presenting a counterfeit gospel in chapter sixteen. Both “gospels” go out to the entire world (Rev. 14:6; 16:14).

The proclamation of the gospel, therefore, is mirrored by the worldwide proclamation of a counterfeit gospel at the end of time. Just as the genuine gospel centers on the character of God and what God has done, the counterfeit gospel offers in its place a human construct of reality grounded in a different picture of God. At the core of Satan’s lie is a picture of human ability to save one’s self and a picture of God as very much like Satan, arbitrary, judgmental, deceptive, and cruel. Satan provokes his followers to portray God as deceptive and demanding. This counterfeit picture is described also in 1 Thessalonians 2:9-12. It is a battle between truth and lies. Those who do not rely on the words of Scripture will be deceived in the final crisis. These will accept a false picture of humanity (“you are worthless and hopeless”, yet somehow “you’re not so bad, you can make it on your own if you try” [false hope]) and a false picture of God (with a character like that of Satan).

The Meaning of the Euphrates River in Rev. 16:12 (Bowl Plagues 4)

Does the Euphrates River in Revelation 16:12 represent the literal river, the territory through which the river flows, the ruler of that territory, or something else? Through the years I have heard many interesting but implausible interpretations. The drying up of the Euphrates means the drying up of Middle Eastern oil. It pointed to death or removal of Saddam Hussein from power. It represented the nation of Iraq. In these interpretations, the Kings of the East would often be Iran or Russia. When I was much younger, it was taken literally and the Kings of the East represented the armies of Japan or China who would one day invade the Middle East. All of these interpretations are interesting, but they are contemporary speculations. If John himself defined what the Euphrates River means, we should not look elsewhere for the meaning. We need not remain in doubt on any interpretation when the text itself defines a symbol.

In Revelation 17:1 an angel introduces an explanation of one of the bowl plagues, and that bowl plagues has something to do with water. Of the seven options, three of the plagues have something to do with water; the second is poured out on the sea, the third is poured out on the rivers and springs of the earth and the sixth is poured out on the Euphrates River. Which of these three plagues is the one in view in Revelation 17:1?

I would conclude that the plague being interpreted in Revelation 17 is the sixth plague, the one which mentions the Euphrates River. First of all, the woman who sits on the water in the first verse is later called Babylon (Rev. 17:5) and the Euphrates River flowed right down the middle of the ancient city of Babylon. The reference to “many waters” in verse one is an echo of Jeremiah 51:13, where the Euphrates River is described as “many waters.” So you have a strong allusions to ancient Babylon and its position on the Euphrates River in the first five verses of Revelation 17.

The explanation of the vision of verses 1-5 (Rev 17:7-18) goes in other directions for a while, but returns to the image of verse one in verse fifteen. The meaning of the river is defined in Revelation 17:15. According to that verse, the waters of verse 1 represent “peoples and multitudes and nations and languages” (ESV), in other words, the civil and secular powers of the entire world. These powers give their allegiance to Babylon for a short time (Rev. 17:3, 12-13), creating a worldwide, end-time confederacy in opposition to God and His end-time people.

This makes sense of the sixth plague. All the other plagues are massive in their effect, most of them affect the whole earth (Rev 16:1-2). But then along comes the sixth plague, but it only effects a medium-sized river in a dry part of the earth. The plague does not seem in proportion to the other six. But if the Euphrates River represent the civil, secular, economic and military powers of the world, then it plays a huge role in the final events. The drying up of the Euphrates would mean the withdrawal of support by the secular powers of the world for the great religious confederacy called Babylon in the last days of earth’s history. At some future time the religious and secular powers of the world unite to counter the work of the gospel in the world. In the middle of this brief grand union, the civil powers of the world come to realize they have been deceived and turn on the religious authorities and institutions that have deceived them (Rev 17:16). Thus is End-time Babylon destroyed and the people of God delivered.

Why Plagues When No Repentance Will Result? (Bowl Plagues 3)

A very challenging question that people ask about Revelation 16: What is the purpose of the seven bowl/plagues if they are after the close of probation and therefore no repentance can be expected? I think there are a number of considerations to keep in mind.

First of all, Revelation makes clear that God is not the author of death, pain and destruction (Rev. 7:1-3). Satan is the destroyer (9:11). Because freedom is essential in order for genuine love and trust to exist, it is crucial to the peace and security of the universe. But if people are free to love, they are also free to hate, rebel and harm. Respecting freedom means not only allowing creatures the freedom to choose, but allowing them to experience the consequences of their choices. A God who constantly intervenes to prevent negative consequences is not a God of freedom. So God allows Satan a certain freedom of action in the course of history and at the End, after securing the righteous, God allows Satan to more fully demonstrate what his kind of government would look like. One purpose of the seven last plagues is to convince the universe that Satan’s alternative to love and trust in God leads to total disaster. This will help convince free beings in the universe to never choose that option again.

Second, even Satan’s worst actions can be used by God to fulfill His purposes (17:17). The deceptions and plagues of the final crisis expose the truth about Satan and those who follow him (2 Thess 10-12). It is not God’s fault that the wicked are unredeemed, neither the grace of God (Rom 2:4) nor the plagues of the End (Rev 16:9, 11, 21) bring about any repentence. They are hardened in the course they have chosen. Thus, even the destruction of the wicked glorifies the character of God in the end (Rev. 15:3-4). They have made themselves unsafe to save and God sadly lets them go (Hos 11:7-8). Even after the millennium and a clear perspective on God’s character, nothing in their character has changed (Rev. 20:7-10). The plagues expose their settled unfitness for eternity and vindicate God’s judgment in each case.

So even though probation has closed, the seven last plagues serve a purpose in preparing the universe for a free, loving, safe and secure eternity.

God’s People Named by Many Names (Bowl Plagues 2)

I have noted earlier that there is evidence in Revelation that the multiple names for God’s people all refer to the same end-time group rather than multiple end-time groups. For example, we noticed in the blogs on Revelation 14 that God’s faithful end-time people are called remnant in 12:17 and 144,000 in 14:1. The allusion to Joel 2:32 in Rev. 14:1 made it clear that John sees the two groups as the same. But this is not the only place in Revelation where two different expressions for the people of God are clearly parallel.

We noticed in Revelation 7 that the 144,000 and the Great Multitude appear to be opposites. One group contains a fixed number of people drawn from the twelve tribes of Israel. The other group contains an uncountable number from every nation, tribe, language and people. But these two seeming opposites are drawn together by the fact that John never sees the 144,000, he only hears about them, when he turns to look he sees the Great Multitude. So these are also two ways of describing the same end-time group (see Rev 5:5-6 for the literary pattern).

Another, similar instance is in the latter part of the book. God’s end-time people are called 144,000 in Rev. 14:1 and “saints” in Rev. 14:12 and 17:6. So God’s one end-time people are called by many names in Revelation: 144,000, Great Multitude, Remnant, and Saints. They stand by the sea of glass (Rev. 15:2), they are the ones who keep their garments (16:15) and are the called, chosen and faithful followers of the Lamb (17:14).

So the visions of Revelation are not intended to identify many various versions of God’s people at the end-time. The people of God are seen as a whole, although that whole can be described in a number of different ways. The primary path to God has not changed. Claims to total uniqueness are probably exaggerations of reality. The people of God can rejoice that they are sealed, but should never be proud or arrogant on account of that fact.

The Seven Last Plagues (Bowl Plagues 1)

Revelation sixteen describes the seven last plagues (Rev. 15:1) of earth’s history. Included in these plagues is the only mention of the word “Armageddon” in the Bible. This section (Rev 15-16) begins with the end-time people of God standing by the sea of glass singing the song of Moses and the Lamb, an allusion to the Exodus (Rev. 15:1-4). Then the seven plagues are introduced with a vision of the heavenly temple emptied because of the glory of God, a reversal of the original inauguration of the Mosaic sanctuary (Rev. 15:5-8; Exod. 40:34-35). This is close of probation imagery. Seven angels were then told to pour out bowls of wrath upon the earth one by one (Rev. 16:1-21). I will explore this part of Revelation through the following themes”

1. God’s People Named by Many Names. Evidence of the text is that names like remnant, 144,000 and saints all refer to the same end-time group.
2. Why Plagues When No Repentance Will Result?
3. The Symbolic Meaning of the Euphrates River in Rev. 16:12.
4. Two Gospels in Revelation. The three angels (Rev. 14:6-12) and the three frogs (Rev. 16:13-14) are contrasting symbols of the gospel.
5. Cyrus the Persian and the Second Half of Revelation. A pagan king foreshadows the Messiah.
6. The Meaning of Armageddon.

The final blog in this series on the seven last plagues explores how the description of the Battle of Armageddon in Revelation (Rev 16:14-16) promotes spiritual preparation for the End-Time.