"Judgments of a Loving God" - Chapter 35

    

     

    

    

Chapter 35: Judgments & the New Testament (3)

- The Revelation

  

      

Chapter 35 Contents

35.1 Introduction

35.2 A Skeleton Outline

35.3 Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor (Ch.3 & 4)

35.4 The Seven Seals (Ch.6-8)

35.5 The Seven Trumpets (Ch.8-11)

35.6 Figures of Doom (Ch.12-14)

35.7 The Seven Bowls (Ch.15-16)

35.8 The Fall of Babylon and the very end (Ch.17-20)

35.9 Conclusions

 

   

35.1 Introduction

 

And so we arrive at the end of the Bible to a territory that is as strange and unknown to many as is the surface of the moon. We move into a book that is pure prophecy from end to end. The trouble, for many of us, is that is seems to have many parts and uses many pictures which have stirred many different schools of interpretation into being. For the sake of this chapter we will try and avoid interpretations as much as possible and simply work with what we find in front of us.

  

    

35.2 A Skeleton Outline

 

The Outline

   

Ch.1 Introduction , Prologue, Greetings and Jesus among the Seven Churches

Ch.2 & 3 The Letters to the Seven Churches

Ch.4 & 5 The Throne Room in heaven: the Scroll and the  Lamb

Ch.6-8 The Seven Seals

6:1-2 First Seal: The White Horse

6:3-4 Second Seal: The Red Horse

6:5-6 Third Seal: The Black Horse

6:7-8 Fourth Seal: The Pale Horse

6:9-11 Fifth Seal: The Souls under the Altar

6:12-17 Sixth Seal: The Great Earthquake

7:1-8 The Sealing of the 144,000

7:9-17 The Great Multitude

8:1 Seventh Seal: Silence in Heaven

Ch.8-11 The Seven Trumpets

8:2-5 Introduction

8:6-7 First Trumpet: Hail and Fire Mixed with Blood

8:8-9 Second Trumpet: A Mountain Thrown into the Sea

8:10-11 Third Trumpet: The Star Wormwood

8:12-13 Fourth Trumpet: A Third of the Sun, Moon and Stars Struck

9:1-12 Fifth Trumpet: The Plague of Locusts

9:13-21 Sixth Trumpet: Release of the Four Angels

Ch.10 The Angel and the Little Scroll

11:1-14 The Two Witnesses

11:15-19 Seventh Trumpet: Judgments and Rewards

Ch. 12-14 Various Personages and Events

Ch.12 The Woman and the Dragon

Ch.13 The Two Beasts

14:1-5 The Lamb and the 144,000

14:6-20 The Harvest of the Earth

Ch.15 -16 The Seven Bowls

Ch.15 Introduction: The Song of Moses and the Seven Angels with the Seven Plagues

16:1,2 First Bowl: Ugly and Painful Sores

16:3 Second Bowl: Sea Turns to Blood

16:4-7 Third Bowl: Rivers and Springs of Water Become Blood

16:8,9 Fourth Bowl: Sun Scorches People with Fire

16:10,11 Fifth Bowl: Darkness

16:12-16 Sixth Bowl: Euphrates River Dries Up

16:17-21 Seventh Bowl: Tremendous Earthquake

Ch.17-19 The Fall of Babylon

17:1-18 Babylon 's fall proclaimed

18:1-24 The fall

19:1-5 Praise for its fall

Ch.19-22 The End and the Beginning

 19:6-10 Praise for the Lord

 19:11-21 Return of the conquering King of Kings

 20:1-3 Satan bound for a thousand years

 20:4-6 Those who followed the Lamb now in authority

 20:7-10 Satan released, deceives nations, and is overthrown

 20:11-15 The Final Judgement before the throne of God

 (21:1-27 The new heaven, new earth and new city of God

 22:1-5 the river of life in the new city

 22:6-21 Concluding comments)

   

Where Judgments appear

   

Bear in mind we have described judgments as decisions of God that are either disciplinary (corrective) or terminal (last resort). Arguments rage among commentators as to whether there is a single, linear flow of activity that follows one after another, or whether different series of judgments expound or open up previous series. We will not attempt to differentiate here but simply observe what happens with what effect.

 

In that respect chapters 1,4 & 5, 12 & 13, 21 & 22 have no judgments but most other chapters appear to reveal some forms of judgment. We will seek to discern the nature of judgments in Ch.3 & 4 and all the other chapters we have not referred to, but which have an element of judgment in them.

 

   

35.3   Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor

 

Most of these seven letters, sent by Jesus to a local church in Asia Minor , contains an element of corrective warning of discipline as follows

 

Ref.

Church

Summary of failure

Summary of Warning

2:4,5

Ephesus

You have forsaken your first love.

Failure to repent means removal of the church

2:8-11

Smyrna

(No failure)

(No warning)

2:14-16

Pergamum

Various false teaching being tolerated

Jesus will come and show them up for what they are

2:20

Thyatira

Tolerating a false prophetess

Jesus will deal with her with suffering and those who follow her

3:1-3

Sardis

They are spiritually dead

Jesus will come and (implied) deal with them

3:7-13

Philadelphia

(No failure)

(No warning)

3:15-17

Laodicea

They are lukewarm and blind

Jesus will spit them out

      

Thus two of the local churches simply receive commendation and encouragement (Smyrna & Philadelphia), one is warned they will be spat out (Laodicea), one is warned they will be removed if they don't repent (Ephesus), and the other three are simply warned that Jesus will come and sort them out if they don't correct what is wrong.

 

The object of each letter is to encourage, and challenge and provoke to repentance where that is necessary. None of them actually speak of individuals dying, although two of them indicate the possible end of that particular church's existence. The warnings are intended to bring correction and change and therefore they are simply warnings of possible disciplinary judgments.

 

    

35.4 The Seven Seals (Ch.6-8)

The seals in question are on a rolled up scroll that Jesus, the Lamb of God, is opening. They appear to come as general declarations of intent and come as follows:

    

Seal:

Ref

Judgment

First

6:1-2

White Horse – a conqueror

Second

6:3-4

Red Horse – to remove peace and bring death

Third

6:5-6

Black Horse – to bring famine

Fourth

6:7-8

Pale Horse - a fourth of the earth killed by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts

Fifth

6:9-11

(a picture of those martyred for Christ)

Sixth

6:12-17

Great Earthquake – colossal natural upheavals

Seventh

8:1

(Silence in Heaven)

     

Between the 6th and 7th seals is The Sealing of the 144,000 (7:1-8) and The Great Multitude (7:9-17) both of which are about those who are saved and are martyrs.

The five judgments in the list above clearly get worse and worse. There is no call to repentance, merely a description of the destruction that is coming on the unsaved world. As such they bring warning to the world of the general nature of the types of judgment they may expect.

 

     

35.5 The Seven Trumpets (Ch.8-11)

 

The trumpets in question are blown by angels and each heralds another dimension of judgment as follows:

 

Trumpet:

Ref

Judgment

First

8:6,7

Hail and Fire – a third of the earth burned

Second

8:8-9

A Mountain Thrown into the Sea – third of sea in upheaval

Third

8:10-11

The Star Wormwood – third of water bitter and people poisoned

Fourth

8:12-13

A Third of the Sun, Moon and Stars Struck – darkness comes

Fifth

9:1-12

The Plague of Locusts – power to torture unsaved for 5 months

Sixth

9:13-21

Release of the Four Angels – third of mankind killed

Seventh

11:15-19

Judgments and Rewards of end moment

          

Between the 6th and 7th trumpets we see The Angel and the Little Scroll (Ch.10) and the Two Witnesses

(11:1-14) The judgments as seen in the table above are obviously considerably worse than anything that has gone before and are quite specific in nature and may or may not be outworkings of the judgments shown with the seals. If they are not, then they are simply a second wave of judgments to come upon the earth.

 

    

35.6 Figures of Doom (Ch.12-14)

 

In these three chapters we find major events involving mythical figures who may represent specific historical figures or, some might say, political or religious movements even.

 

Chapter 12 is an overview chapter of war in heaven, Israel being dispersed into the earth (possibly AD70) and the birth of a man-child (presumably Jesus) concluding with a dragon (Satan) going off to make war against the church (presumably what we have seen over the last two thousand years). As such there are no judgments in this chapter that affect mankind.

 

Chapter 13 shows us the dragon (Satan) and then “a beast” who has ‘ten crowned horns' rather suggesting a bigger movement than just one person. This beast appears to defeat even the church (see 13:7) and whether this is a judgment on the lukewarm ‘Laodicean' church or just simply God removing even the last vestiges of righteous restraint from the earth, only time will tell. This is followed by another beast with authority who seems to dominate the world. We might possibly consider life under this ‘beast' a form of disciplinary judgment for it will obviously be difficult.

 

Chapter 14 reveals heavenly visions, first of God's people in heaven with the Lamb (Jesus), then of the Gospel going out into the world, then a declaration of the fall of ‘Babylon', then a warning of judgment on those who worship the ‘beast', but then of a massive judgment or ‘harvesting' of the earth although the extent is not specified. Without doubt this is a major terminal judgment. Seen overall, the chapter has more of a feeling of an overview of history, anchoring it in to the present judgments being declared.

 

Taking these three chapters together, chapter 12 was clearly an overview of the battle of heaven, the limitation of Satan, the existence of the Church and the dispersion of Israel . Chapter 13 reveals figures who may be movements or ideologies that eventually come under the judgment of God. Chapter 14 again has the overview feel about it taking us on into the end times. The fact that Chapter 15 clearly speaks about final judgments suggests that although the previous judgments were bad (and may be spread over a longer period of history), the ones following will be within a fairly short period prior to the return of Jesus.

 

    

35.7 The Seven Bowls (Ch.15-16)

 

Chapter 15 introduces seven ‘plagues' or final judgments and with them God's wrath is completed.” (15:1) If there is chronological order in the prior judgments then, as we have just said, these appear the last ones prior to the coming of Jesus as conquering king (in Ch.19). The fact that the first of this judgments comes on those with the mark of the Beast, clearly indicates chronological order in that it follows the events of 13:16

 

Chapter 16 reveals those ‘plagues' as follows:

 

Bowl:

Ref

Judgment

First

16:1,2

Ugly and Painful Sores

Second

16:3

Sea Turns to Blood

Third

16:4-7

Rivers and Springs of Water Become Blood

Fourth

16:8,9

Sun Scorches People with Fire

Fifth

16:10,11

Darkness

Sixth

16:12-16

Euphrates River Dries Up

Seventh

16:17-21

Tremendous Earthquake

 

16:14 clearly indicates this is the run-up to the battle that will ensue when Jesus comes (Ch.19)

 

Chapter 17 starts off with an indication that these particular judgments contribute to or bring about the downfall of the ungodly affairs of the world referred to as ‘Babylon': One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.” (17:1,2) If Babylon includes unrighteous trade, then it is clear that by the magnitude of these judgments, all of that trade will be brought to an end.

 

    

35.8 The Fall of Babylon and the very end [prior to the new beginning] (chapters 17-20)

 

Chapter 17 sees Babylon 's fall proclaimed. ‘ Babylon ' appears to be a mix or religious and general materialistic rejection of God, a conglomerate of leaders and peoples and ideologies and life and trade, all against God.

Chapter 18 sees the fall of this conglomerate – clearly a major judgment

Chapter 19 opens with praise for the fall of Babylon , developing into general praise for the Lord and then the coming of the conquering king, Jesus.

Chapter 20 sees Satan bound for a ‘thousand years' then released, deceiving nations and is finally overthrown. We then have the Final Judgement before the throne of God before whom all will stand to give account.

(Chapter 21 is all about the new heaven and new earth and new Jerusalem but has no judgments in it and Chapter 22 is a final conclusion but again, with no judgment references.)

 

     

35.9 Conclusions

 

a) Judgments

  

The judgments observed through the chapters of this prophecy appear disciplinary in respect of the seven churches but terminal thereafter.

As it is difficult to say whether the book is an unrolling time line or a series of revelations where each one expands on the previous, the best we can say is that without doubt the book is filled with a variety of incredible warnings of judgements that will come and affect the earth disastrously.

It is also clear that warning are given again and again but they are very obviously not heeded.

  

b) Failure to Heed

  

In two particular instances we are shown that whatever seems to be happening, the general population of the earth refuse to repent:

 

Rev 9:20,21 The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop

worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood--idols that cannot see or hear or walk.

Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.

Rev 16:9-11 They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him. The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.

 

Not only do these two sets of verses show us the intransigence of the Sin of the world but the first set also shows us that there was this insistence of worshipping counterfeit religion (including materialism) as well as a persistence to live out unrighteous and ungodly lives involving violence, the occult, unrestrained sex, and disregard for the property of others.

 

One might wonder if two of the final questions the Lord will ask all those unbelievers who stand before Him on the Final Judgment Day (20:12-15) might be, “Why did you refuse to be humbled and turn to me when I brought cause after cause after cause before you to bring you to that point? Do you not agree that you have no excuse?”

 

c) Why this Failure?

  

How, we might think, does the world plough on with its unrighteousness and folly in the face of such terrible catastrophes? The answer, I suspect is twofold:

Sin (my defn. – self-centred godlessness) doesn't like being challenged - “Don't tell me how I should live!”

The catastrophes don't come with writing in the sky saying, “This is a Judgment from God – Repent!” The church during this time, although appearing to remain true, suffers persecution and even death, but may not be a very clear voice in a world increasingly filled with ‘other voices'.

Perhaps we should emphasise this latter point, that unless there is a divine warning, people very often do not realise what is happening. Whether they would take note if they knew is another question, but the fact that these judgments seem to continue one after another seems to suggest that the Lord considers that they should have impact.

 

d) And So?

The purpose of disciplinary judgments, we have said many times, is to wake people up to their condition and draw them back to God. Clearly this appears to have some effect because:

  when we are given pictures of the saints worshipping in heaven we find “a great multitude that no one could count ”, (7:9) though whether that means all the saints throughout history or is an indicator of those who turn to the Lord in this period is unclear.

  at various times things happen that people recognize are the hand of God (e.g. 6:16,17, 11:13, 16:21)

  there are the two witness of Ch.11 ( Israel and the Church? 11:3-6) and their death and resurrection (11:11) have clear impact on the observers.

 even when there is major destruction and major persecution there is a call for “patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.” (14:12) so there are still believers on the earth,

 there was also a call to believers to have no part in ‘ Babylon (18:4) but again whether this applies to all of history or simply throughout these last years is unclear.

We should also remind ourselves that throughout the later three quarters of this book (chapter 6 onwards) it is all taking place as the Lamb undoes the end-time scroll and the judgments that come, all come clearly from angels from heaven. There are occasional hints that this is all taking part as the detailed plan of God (e.g. 10:7 / 17:17)

 

There is nothing chaotic or haphazard about the events seen in this book. They may appear chaotic from our viewpoint today, but in heaven they are clearly a step-by-step progression to

•  draw people to God and

•  restrain the works of darkness and evil

in the overall process working towards a clear end of a new heaven and a new earth.

 

The ongoing nature of these ‘plagues' or judgments cannot but help remind us of the ten plagues that the Lord brought on Pharaoh in Moses' day, again giving Pharaoh opportunity after opportunity to come to his senses which his hard heart yet rejected. The same appears true of these last time judgments. The fact that they are there in the book (and have been there for two thousand years) and go on for so long with such power and magnitude, must suggest that it is only the hardest of sin-filled and occult-empowered hearts that could resist.

 

Therefore they demonstrate yet again the folly of sinful mankind and the grace and mercy of God who takes the most severe of measures to try to bring people to their senses. In eternity there will be no question of His mercy and His wisdom.

 

One might suggest that there are two major purposes to this book of Revelation:

To reveal the power and sovereignty of God and His ultimate long-term plans for mankind who will turn to Him, to live with Him in the wonder of a new heaven and new earth.

To reveal the shear folly and stupidity of sinful mankind who refuse to bow the knee in the face of the incredible number of terrible things that happen within this period of history.

 

The more you turn away from trying to understand individual parts of the book and turn instead to catching the overall impact of it, the more we are left with a sense of awe in respect of God, shame in respect of our human race, and anguish over the folly of Sin. May we learn from these things.

 

 

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