The Wrath of God
Revelation Chapter 16-18
As a reminder: To study this book or any book we must understand some things. First, the book was written to a specific historical situation. John goes out of his way to put everything into historical context.
1:1 Read “must soon take place”
1:3 Read “the time is near”
The way to approach any study of the Bible is to always understand what it meant to its first hearers. If we make any text mean what it could have meant, then we have missed the point. To see this book speaking about thousands of years from its writing misses the point.
John is writing to a hurting church that desperately needs a word from God. This book must mean something to them. It is written to them for a reason.
Second, the central figure of the book is Jesus Christ. It is a “revelation of Jesus Christ.” It is both a revelation by Him and a revelation about Him. Jesus is the point!
I think a verse in Galatians will also help us as we start to frame the discussion of these chapters. Galatians 6:7 “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”
Today in Revelation 16, the bowls of God’s wrath are going to be poured out. God will not be mocked by Rome. What they have sown, they will reap.
We are safe in making three applications of chapter 16: (1) In John’s day, the chapter had special and specific application to the Roman Empire. (2) The chapter also establishes that God will not indefinitely tolerate indifference and disobedience on the part of anyone, whether an individual or a nation. (3) The wrath poured out in chapter 16 prefigures God’s wrath on the ungodly in “the last day” (Jn. 12:48).
The seven bowls of wrath portray the tragic consequences of sin.
Read verses 1-9. A study of the first four bowls of wrath should convince anyone that it is terrible to have God remember our sins.
“But I have sinned” you may say. “What hope do I have? Revelation 16:9 needs to be balanced with Hebrews 8:10-12. (READ)
There is a relationship with God that we can have where He will “remember our sins no more.”
First, remember that you have done wrong (Ezekiel 36:31), and repent of your sins (Luke 13:3). Next, remember what God has done for you (2 Timothy 2:8), and turn to Him in love and faith (John 3:16). Then, remember what the Bible teaches, and obey the Lord in baptism (Acts 2:38). Finally, live the faithful Christian life, keeping alive the memory of what it means to love and serve Him (Revelation 2:5). You will be in God’s “book of remembrance,” which record those who fear Him and esteem His name (Malachi 3:16).
Read Revelation 16, verses 10-11.
All of us are affected by many different factors in our lives, and we are not always personally responsible for every trouble that plagues us. However, we are responsible for how we react to the troubles which come our way, and we are responsible for whether those troubles become millstones about our necks or steppingstones to something better.
The one whose faith is in God knows that He “causes all things to work together for good” (Romans 8:28). Regardless of his challenges, the faithful Christian can say, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).
If we learn nothing else from chapter 16, we should learn not to blame God for our problems. Some of them are the result of living in a sinful world. Some result from having to associate with sinful people. Some may even be the consequence of personal bad decisions. Regardless of why troubles fill our lives, let us not charge God foolishly. Rather, let us trust God to get us through our difficulties, and let us learn from them.
Read Revelation 16:13-16.
We could title this section “The Non-Battle of Armageddon” or just “Armageddon!” If you are a faithful child of God, you need not worry about the so-called battle. The Lord will take care of the battle. In verse 17 we see why all of this is a non-event.
There was no battle. As soon as the army of evil was gathered together, (verse 17) “The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!”
The Bible knows nothing of a “battle of Armageddon.” Verses 13 through 16 are symbolic of the devil’s continual efforts to thwart the plans and purposes of God. These efforts of the devil are always doomed.
Unlike the dramatic scenarios that some use to show a great battle, there is no battle. Rather, once the forces of evil were gathered together, God stepped in and His wrath fell upon them, symbolized by lightning, earthquake, and hail (vv. 18, 21). The whole affair was over before it had time to begin.
Again, regardless of why troubles fill our lives, let us not charge God foolishly. Rather, let us trust God to get us through our difficulties, and let us learn from them.
The book of Revelation could end here, but the story of the destruction of Rome continues throughout chapters 17 and 18.
When we read this apocalyptic language, we are tempted to try and match up the Roman emperors to the seven kings mentioned in chapter 17. Be careful not to lose sight of what the overall story is, Jesus is trying to explain something of importance to the early Christians.
Here the story is presented by the image of a prostitute who is riding on a great beast.
The woman is dressed like royalty and holds the cup of her adulteries; she has the title “Babylon the Great” and is drunk on the blood of the saints.
The beast is scarlet and covered with blasphemous names; it has 7 heads and 10 horns.
Some of the obvious things that we see as we read chapter seventeen are these: (1) Evil may look appealing, but it brings disaster. (2) Evil may look irresistible, but it can be repelled. (3) Evil often looks invincible, but ultimately it will fall.
To us today, the vision announces that the “pleasures of sin” are “passing” (Hebrews 11:25) and, in the end, bring only death (Romans 6:23).
Read with me what the apostle John said in I Jn. 2:15-17. ***
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
I believe that this is what Jesus is trying to explain to them, and yes to us.
Outside of Christ is disaster. In Christ there is victory.
What does the Wrath of God say to us?
First, the wrath of God has something to say about “timing” .
Does God hold back His wrath until the end of time? No, the book of Revelation shows us how the wrath came on Rome long ago.
Ungodliness is not always punished way off in the future. God’s timing will bring it about when He sees fit.
Romans 1:18 ““For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”
Second, the wrath of God has something to say about evangelism and faith.
This story comes from Ray Comfort.
He says that a flight attendant gave man #1 a parachute and tells him it will make his flight better. But after a while it becomes uncomfortable and he takes it off.
At about the same time the flight attendant gave man #2 another parachute and told him that the plane was going to crash. He didn’t take off the parachute.
Knowing the destiny of the plane and the purpose of the parachute made all the difference.
The destiny of this world is destruction. The purpose of the church is to get us and get others ready for the world’s destruction.
Church is not here to make life easier, happier, or more pleasant; it certainly can do those things, but that is not the ultimate purpose of Christianity.
Faith saves us as the plane goes down; don’t take off the parachute just because it is uncomfortable. You need it.
The coming wrath of God will descend on this sinful world. (2 Thessalonians 1:5-8) We need to remain faithful. We need to bring as many people along as will come.
Third, the wrath of God has something to say about ethics, about how we live our lives.
Read with me 2 Peter 3:11-12. Peter wants to make sure that we are wearing out parachute.
“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives 0f holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!”
Revelation chapters 16-18 keep us from missing God’s wrath.
Some people may so focus on the discomfort of Christian living that they take off their parachute. But if we realize the wrath to come, how will we live?
How are you living?
Are you ready for that great and terrible Day of the Lord?