1 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.” 2 The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly, festering sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. ~ Revelation 16:1-2
Today, we transition into Revelation 16 wherein we have the seven bowl judgments. As with the trumpet judgments, these are both literal and symbolic. They actually do occur as described, but they have a hidden meaning, as well. They reveal something that otherwise would be unknown. Some scholars have called this "the great chapter" because the word "great" occurs eleven times. Today, we will just consider the first of the seven bowl judgments.
There are those who say, "The Old Testament was written by a God of judgment and the New Testament was written by a God of grace." And some would go as far as to say that each testament has two different authors. This is not so. There is equal judgment in the New Testament as there is in the Old Testament. All writers of the Bible agree that God’s love and God’s judgment are two sides of the same coin. Fire can both burn and give warmth. It all depends on where we stand in relationship to the flame.
In v.1 we read, "Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, '"Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.”'
As we will see in v.2, this first bowl will be a judgment upon the land of Israel. It will fall upon the unbelieving Jews who will be so deceived that they will follow the beast whose lies and deception will convince them that he is their long awaited Messiah.
In Joshua 10, when Israel fought the Amorites, we are reminded that God sent hailstone from heaven on the enemies of Israel. And the hail didn't hit the children of Israel. It hit just the Amorites. That judgment was very selective. More were killed by the hailstones that fell from heaven than the army of Israel. Then there was the worship of the calf in the wilderness and Scripture says the Lord plagued those who worshiped the calf. In our text today, we learn God will judge the worshipers of the beast. God has always been clear in His word with warnings against worshipping idols.
In Revelation 14:9 we read, “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he will also drink of the wine of the wrath of God which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger. He will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. They have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image and whoever receives the mark of his name.”
This verse speaks of eternal judgment. These will have rejected the warning of the flying angel who continually said, “Fear God and give Him glory because the hour of His judgment has come.” These will have chosen the antichrist over the Lord Jesus Christ who grew up in Nazareth.
Here in Revelation 16 there will a clear difference in this expression of the wrath of God. The difference will be seen in that which is partial and that which is total. Here, we will have a gathering of all the horrors and all the terrors that were most severe from all the history of the judgment of God in all the past plagues, only now not partial, but now completely inundating the entire world in total disaster. This will be the judgment of God on all those who have heard the gospel multiple times and will have rejected it.
By this point in time, God will have demonstrated His love, mercy and grace in enormous ways. He will have sent His Son to die. He will have raised up messengers who faithfully proclaimed the Gospel. He will have given mankind tastes of His judgment. And still, they will say, "no" to the very One who created them. They will resist His appeal to be recreated. They will love themselves and their sin more than anything else. They will knowingly worship Satan and they will bow down to the antichrist. They will believe the false prophet, and they will reject the eternal Son of God.
And so, sadly, God's final judgment will come. The first judgment that came in Egypt happened over a period of time. The seven seal judgments and the seven trumpet judgments will take place over a period of years. This last series of judgments, the bowl judgments, will come very fast. In a matter of hours and days, and it will be all over.
If we understand love, it is because we understand the harmful nature of hate. If we understand truth, it is because we understand the deceptive and painful expression of lies. If we understand goodness, it is because we understand how wickedness rips mankind apart. If we understand reward, it is because we understand punishment. And God cannot love righteousness and faith unless He hates sin and unbelief. He cannot love truth unless He hates lies. He cannot love goodness unless He hates wickedness. He cannot reward unless He also punishes. Otherwise, He would not be God, for God is the standard bearer.