Background Scripture: Revelation 16
Focus Passage: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9 NIV
Don't ever say it or even think it! You wouldn't be so foolish as to say, "I want what I deserve!" would you? Be very, very careful what you wish for because you might just get it. God's judgment and righteousness, although postponed in His grace, is certainly not mocked; ever. Without the saturating, efficacious effects of the blood of Christ, we all deserve hell. With that sobering thought in mind, I have been laboring all week to think of a way to "pretty-up" Revelation 16 - the seven bowl judgments. I must now confess to you that I have failed in that endeavor.
Bible commentator Lehman Strauss probably said it best. After his exegesis of our background scripture today, he simply said, "If a man rejects the kindness and love of God, then what makes us think that the judgment of God will change his heart either?" While this defiant, fist-in-the-air attitude toward a holy and omnipotent God is inexplicable, that, my friends, is what is going on here in this chapter. The judgments poured out upon the world at this dark time in human history, while reminiscent of Pharaoh's Egypt, are really also a preview of hell itself. In a bit, we will take a closer look at two of those judgments.
God's judgment on those who reject His love as expressed through His Son will seek out the disbeliever's heart like a laser-guided missile and will not miss its mark. It's sort of like the Yankton, South Dakota woman who accompanied her stepson to his Boy Scout meeting. The special guest at that meeting was a local narcotics officer and his drug-sniffing German shepherd dog. While the woman watched from the back of the room, the dog made a beeline to her purse and began whining. The meeting ended prematurely that night with the arrest of the woman whose purse, you guessed it, contained a bag of marijuana.
To set the stage for our glimpse into the future today, let's remind ourselves where we are in the unfolding of these events.
The Church, having been raptured, is in heaven with the Lord.
The 144,000 Jewish evangelists and many of their converts have been martyred by this time and are also in heaven singing a song before the throne.
The Antichrist has risen to power and is in now complete control of the world's economy, government, and religious practices.
The seven-year period of history known as the Tribulation is more than half over.
Most (but not all) believers who have refused to take the mark of the beast and bow down to him have been killed.
The seven angels who are specially chosen by God, are summoned to pour out His bowls of wrath on an unrepentant and unbelieving world.
God has already revealed His power and His authority to judge the wicked in various ways but it appears that, by this time, all have made up their mind which path they will choose. This is the beginning of the end.
Now, let's take a brief glance at the fourth and fifth bowl judgement:
While I find myself skeptical of Al Gore's dire warning that I will cause the end of the world simply by exhaling or that cow flatulence will melt the polar ice caps, the Bible does reveal a time when God himself will cause global warming. We see it here in the 8th and 9th verses of Revelation 16. After the 2nd and 3rd bowls of wrath, people will be desperate for new sources of fresh water. They will come from unexpected sources. The earth will be scorched with heat melting all glacial ice around the globe. One scientist has stated that there are enough ice reservoirs around the earth to raise the ocean levels 200 feet. There goes New York, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Sydney, etc. Combine that with the heat and the stench from bowls 2 & 3 and we have an unbelievably foul atmosphere in which to live. Yet, in verse 9 we read that those scorched blaspheme God and refuse to repent.
If you, like me, are old enough to remember the early days of Monday night football, you might remember that when the outcome of the game seemed assured, announcer Don Meredith would begin to sing (badly), "Turn out the lights, the party's over." Here in the latter stages of the Tribulation, the party is definitely over and the outcome is assured. God turns out the lights. If you have ever been in complete darkness (such as in a cave), you know that it is overwhelming and pervasive, almost painful. It is as if God is saying to the unbelieving world, "You want darkness? Here is is." It is reminiscent of the final three hours of the cross and the Apostle John's explanation that "men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19)
All of this is a preview of hell. The scorching heat, the weeping and gnashing of teeth, the outer darkness...but we don't like to talk of these unpleasant things, do we? Someone may ask, "Why does Dan speak of these things as though they could happen in our lifetime.?" My answer: "Because they could." All the more reason to pray that God will use His Holy Spirit to melt the hearts of the hardened...while it is still day.
Keep and Defend the Faith,
As if that wasn't enough