Share article Revelation Chap's 15 & 16 - The Vial Judgments (Lehman Strauss): A reminder: The Chapters which we are now studying in Revelation are p ...
A reminder: The Chapters which we are now studying in Revelation are prophetic; their major message being, God's judgments. Chapter's 15 & 16 show the intensive character of these judgments during the last half of the Great Tribulation.
Chapter 15 is introductory to Chapter 16, the 2 chapters combining to present one connected vision.
As we proceed now in our study of the text we will see a detailed summary of the events stated in Chapter 14.
I. THE PRELUDE TO THE VIAL JUDGMENTS
A. The Sign In Heaven
Read Rev. 15:1
In Chapter 12 there are 2 signs, a woman clothed with the sun, who is Israel (12:1), & the great red dragon, who is Satan (12:3). Here in Chapter 15 we have another sign, described as "great & marvellous" because terrible things are about to happen. They are described as "the 7 last plagues." Revelation is a book of "last" things; thus, with these plagues judgment upon the earth comes to an end. The cup of God's wrath is full, & the earth dwellers must be made to drink of that wrath. It is about to be poured out.
With this judgment, the purpose of God will be fully accomplished, that is "filled up." God is now going to fulfill both Old Testament & New Testament prophecies. God has been longsuffering, & is so even now (II Peter 3:9), but His wrath is accumulating against ALL who continue to defy Him & who REJECT HIS SON.
B. The Sea of Glass
Read Rev. 15:2
A righteous judgment is about to be delivered suddenly on the whole earth.
John saw a company of people standing on the sea of glass. From the description of them they are that victorious company which has prevailed over the BEAST, his image, his mark, his number & his name. These then are Tribulation saints. They refused to conform to the BEAST, & though it cost them their lives to defy the wicked one, they were the real victors. During the Great Tribulation it might have appeared as they they were fools, but in Truth they lost their temporary life for the greater gain of an eternal life! The martyrs had emerged victorious from their conflict with the Antichrist. "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb" (12:11).
C. The Song of Moses
Read Rev. 15:3,4
These are possibly the same "blessed dead" seen in Heaven in Chapter 14:2-5, 13. They sing a song of triumph ascribing power, glory, & salvation to Jehovah & to the Lamb. We believe this to be the swan song of Moses recorded in Deuteronomy 31 & 32; a last message of Moses, a song of exultant triumph.
Verse 4 contains a millenial scene, anticipating the full blessedness of Christ's reign on earth when ALL nations will worship Him.
II. THE PREPARATION FOR THE VIAL JUDGMENTS
A. The Scene in Heaven
Read Rev. 15:5
The "temple of the tabernacle" is the holy of holies where the ark of the testimony was kept. The ark speaks of the faithfulness of God in keeping His covenants.
Notice the sight that meets the gaze of John.
Read Rev. 15:6
John does not see the Jewish high priest ministering in the holy of holies, but rather 7 angels, or messengers, emerging. These angel-priests are about to vindicate the offended holiness & justice of God. The servants of God are going to rid the earth of all that has caused creation to groan. God is now going to fulfill His covenant with Israel. Through His servants, God will demonstrate that ALL men & nations WHO DEFY HIS LAW MUST SUFFER FOR THEIR SINS. The angels, being 7 in number, suggest the completeness or perfection of that judgment they are sent to execute. Their solemn task is to carry out the severest of God's judgments upon this earth.
B. The Seven Vials
Read Rev. 15:7
This is the final step of preparation just prior to the actual judgment. The world "vial" (Greek = phiale) denotes a bowl. The word contains the idea of a rapid & final emptying of its contents. How significant!
In that day there will not be a single scientific or psychological means of pacifying the fears of men. Scientsists & psychiatrists will be totally helpless also in those days. Menn who have refused to drink of the cup of God's salvation must drink fromt he bowls of His wrath.
C. The Smoke in the Temple
Read Rev. 15:8
When the tabernacle in the wilderness was completed, a cloud of glory filled it (Exodus 40:35); likewise when the temple was completed (I Kings 8:10,11). No SMOKE was seen in either instance, because they were not associated with judgment. However, when God gave the Law to Moses, the entire Mt. Sinai was enveloped in SMOKE because the Law pronounced judgment upon all who failed to obey its demands (Exodus 19:18).
In John's vision, judgment is about to descend from God upon the earth. And until the bowls of wrath are emptied, no man can approach God. Until the 7 plagues have been completed, no approach to God, by prayer or otherwise, can halt the coming judgment.
Presently, God is extending His grace to ALL men. But in the day of His judgment, none need try to seek Him, for He will not be found. Grace will be withdrawn & prayer will go unanswered. Heaven will be barricaded so that none can enter until justice is satisfied. Jeremiah prophesied of that day, saying, "Thou has covered with anger & persecuted us: Thou has slain, Thou has not pitied. Thouse has covered Thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through" (Lamentations 3:43,44).
III. THE POURING OUT OF THE VIAL JUDGMENTS
Some portions of the Word of God are preached with great delight. This is not one of them. The mere reading of a Scripture passage such as this causes one to shudder. However, there is a comforting & consoling note for Christians; namely, we do not expect to be on the earth when these judgments are poured out. But why so severe a judgment?
The 1st commandment God gave to Moses ' "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3).
The 2nd commandment - "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealouos God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the 3rd & 4th generation of them that hate Me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me & keep my commandments" (Exodus 20:4-6). The vision which John saw is that visitation of judgment. Satan's desire for worship has been satisfied in men worshipping the image of the BEAST (Isaiah 14:12-14; Matthew 4:8-10). But God will never allow His glory to be given to another. When men turn from God completely, giving themselves to the worship of the devil, then God steps in to vindicate His sovereignty, righteousness, & holiness. The pouring out of the 7 vials is that vindication.
Read Rev. 16:1
From the SMOKE-filled temple there comes a great voice commanding the angels to proceed with the execution of judgment. The adjective "great" is used repeatedly in the chapter. The world today likes such an adjective & refers to many things as being "great"! But man will have produced nothing to compare with the greatness of the coming judgments upon the earth.
Let us keep in mind the fact that these judgments are future & literal. The bowl judgments were not fulfilled in the French Revolution, the oppression of Napoleon, the pressure of popery, or the machination (evil plots) of Hitler & his slaughter of 6 million Jews. These events in history, & others like them were mere rehearsals for the great & final drama of the last judgment on earth!
A. The First Vial
Read Rev. 16:2
This first judgment is on the worshippers of the BEAST. It is aimed particularly at idolatry. It is described as "noisome", that is, painfully bad. It will fall upon all them that have the "mark" of the BEAST. By the True Messiah (Jesus Christ) diseases were healed. Under the false messiah such afflictions cannot be prevented nor cured.
B. The Second Vial
Read Rev. 16:3
You will recall that at the breaking of the Second Seal, there was much human blood shed upon the earth (6:3,4), & at the sounding of the 2nd Trumpet, 1/3 part of the sea became blood (8:8). Here ALL the water is affected! The awful stench, which is as the blood of a dead man will be world wide. The water will not become literal blood, for the text says "AS" the blood of a dead man; but it will be a horrible plague that affects all the seas!
C. The Third Vial
Read Rev. 16:4-7
It would seem here that the 3rd angel extends the blood-like judgment to the fresh-water rivers & lakes as well as the springs which feed them. The angel declares God's judgment is just; another voice out of the altar agrees.
There may be some who read this message & feel that God is unjust in such severe punishment. That is because we do not have perfect knowledge, nor are we perfect in righteousness. But God is all-knowing & righteous. As the Judge of all the earth, He will do right (Gen. 18:25). The justice in this judgment is based on the fact that the wicked are being judged by how they judged innocent victims (Matt. 7:1,2). They shed the blood of saints & prophets; now they must reap that which they have sown.
D. The Fourth Vial
Read Rev. 16:8,9
For many milleniums God has made the sun rise on the evil as well as the good (Matt. 5:45). But in the Great Tribulation it shines only upon the evil, & then with such intensity that many will die. The world has never known a heat wave that is comparable to this one that is to come. The effect of this judgment will not change men's hearts. They only blasphemed God the more & refused to repent.
E. The Fifth Vial
Read Rev. 16:10,11
The concentration of God's wrath is now directed at the very source of the wickedness in the world, namely, the "seat" of the BEAST. He is the one whom the people on earth will be worshipping at that time. They will see that their leader is helpless in the face of the judgments of Almighty God. The "darkness" which describes his kingdom is that moral & spiritual darkness which results, not from ignorance, but from willfully rejecting the Truth (Matt. 6:22; John 3:19-21; Col. 1:12,13). By this time, the judgments have become so severe, that people will bite their tongues from pain. They continue to blaspheme the God of Heaven, but they are made to punish their own tongues which they use to offend God.
F. The Sixth Vial
Read Rev. 16:12
The drying up of this river is literal. God dried up a path through the Red Sea for Israel, & then duplicated the miracle 40 years later at the Jordan River. John's vision here in Revelation may be a fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy (Is. 11:15,16). If the Euphrates River is to be the eastern boundary of the revived Roman Empire, it will be a simple matter for God to remove that boundary. This too is connected with God's judgment; that fact will become more clear as we proceed in our study.
IV. THE PURPOSE OF THE VIAL JUDGMENTS
Read Rev. 16:13,14
It seems here that we have the action of the evil trinity - the dragon, the BEAST, & the false prophet -- which action discloses in part at least, the purpose of the bowl judgments. The evil trinity will persuade the kings of the earth to join forces in battle against the people of God in Jerusalem. A part of their activity will be the revival of spiritism. Men will be possessed by demons with the power to do great signs & miracles to deceive the nations of the earth. They will draw the nations toward Palestine for the purpose of an all-out global war, a war to include "the kings of the earth and of the whole world." This will be the great & final conflict called Armageddon. When the nations have assembled to fight against God & Jesus Christ, devine judgment will be perfected. Thse 2 verses (13,14), disclose the purpose of the judgment, namely, to settle once & for all among every nation on earth the absolute authority of CHRIST over the whole earth. When all the nations converge on Jerusalem, the 7th bowl will be poured out, followed by the personal return of CHRIST.
V. THE PARENTHETICAL WARNING BEFORE THE LAST VIAL
Read. Rev. 16:15
Before the last bowl judgment is poured out upon the nations, there is a solemn pause, & the Lord Himself speaks. He reminds them of His soon, sudden coming, & the subsequent battle of that great day. He says that He will come "as a thief", showing that the Church will not be on the earth at that time, for the Thessalonian Christians were assued that, that day could not overtake them as a thief (I Thess. 5:4; II Peter 3:10). Here is a final warning to the Tribulation saints to watch for His coming and to keep themselves unspotted from defilement & from the Satan-inspired activities of those last days. The "garments" here are not literal, but they speak of character, as in other Scripture references.
VI. THE PERFECTING OF THE VIAL JUDGMENTS
Read Rev. 16:16-21
"It is done!" Here is the pefecting of the judgments, the consummation of God's wrath, the final overthrown of all opposition. Once before our Lord uttered similar words from the cross when He cried, "It is finished!" (John 19:30), & at that time there was an earthquake (Matt. 27:51). But then He was bearing the judgment for man's sin. However, the next time He spoke of a finished work, it will be the consummation of judgment upon all who have rejected Him. It is the comprehensive finality of judgment upon the earth & its inhabitants.
The judgment of these verses are literal. Mountains will disappear and islands will be submerged.
The 7th angel tips the 7th bowl of judgment in "the air," the present headquarters of Satan (Eph. 2:2), followed by thunders, lightnings, and hailstones weighing upwards to one hundred pounds. This is the final destruction of every religious, politcal, & educational institution that man has built apart from God. It is the collapse of all man's hopes & dreams. But with all of this, men still refuse to submit to God's rule. Men boast of their scientific progress, but it will all come to nought. All that men consider stable, they must watch crumble. Many people marvel at such descriptions of the severity of God. This author marvels at the unconcern & wickedness of men's hearts! The God-given power to choose or reject Him (FREE WILL) means eternal LIFE or eternal TORMENT IN HELL. Please consider this awesome power that you possess & CHOOSE LIFE by surrendering & submitting to the LORD today!
to be continued.....