REVELATION CHAPTER 16
The 7 Chalices are poured out
Succession Arrangements cont.
"The time of waiting is over; at the time when the seventh angel is heard sounding his trumpet, the mystery of God will be fulfilled, just as he announced in the gospel to his servants the prophets." –Revelation 10:6
"The seventh angel emptied his bowl into the air, and a great voice boomed out from the sanctuary, 'The end has come!'" –Revelation 16:17
"Listen! An uproar from the City! A voice from the Temple! The voice of Yahweh bringing retribution on his enemies." –Isaiah 66:6
Compare these last 7 plagues with the Trumpet Judgments of Revelation and the plagues of Egypt in the Book of Exodus:
CHALICE & TRUMPET JUDGMENTS VS. PLAGUES OF EGYPT
The Chalice Judgments are repeats, with variation, of the Trumpet Judgments from Revelation chapter 8. Since the Trumpet Judgments were essentially warnings they took only a third of the Land; with the Chalices, however, the destruction is total. The similarities between the Chalice and Trumpet Judgments and the Plagues of Egypt cannot be casual coincidence. The similarities should make us ask "Why is the vision (or the plague) repeated'what is the connection?"
Judgements in Revelation
Judgements in Revelation
PLAGUES ON EGYPT
In the book of Exodus
1. On the Land, becoming
1. On the Land; 1/3 earth, trees, grass burned (8:7)
Boils (6th plague: Ex. 9:8-12)
2. On the sea, becoming blood (16:3)
2. On the sea; 1/3 sea
becomes blood, 1/3 sea creatures die, 1/3 ships destroyed (8:8-9)
Waters become blood (1st plague: Ex 7:17-21)
3. On rivers and springs, becoming blood (16:8-9)
3. On rivers and springs;
1/3 waters become wormwood (8:10-11)
Waters become blood (1st plague; Ex 7:17-21)
4. On the sun, causing it to scorch (16:8-9)
4. 1/3 of sun, moon, & stars darkened (8:12)
Darkness (9th plague: Ex. 10:21-23)
5. On the throne of the Beast, causing darkness (16:10-11)
5. Demonic locusts tormenting men (9:13-21)
Locusts (8th plague: Ex. 10: 4-20)
6. On the Euphrates, drying it up to make way for kings of the east; invasion of frog-demons; Armageddon (16:12-16)
6. Army from Euphrates kills 1/3 of mankind (9:13-21)
Invasion of frogs from the river (2nd plague: Ex. 8:2-4)
7. On the air, causing storm, earthquake, hail & the Great City splits into 3 parts (16:17-21)
7. Voices, storm, earthquake, hail (11:15-19)
Hail (7th plague: Ex. 9:18-26)
M. Hunt March 2003
From now on John will no longer use the imagery of warning but will concentrate on the message of Jerusalem's destruction. In Rev. 16:19 John will once again mention the Great City that he identified in Rev. 11:8 as the city where Jesus was crucified. In that passage he symbolically connected that city with Sodom and Egypt. Jerusalem is symbolically imaged with Sodom because like Sodom Jerusalem will be condemned to a total destruction as a whole burnt sacrifice on the altar of judgment (Genesis 19:24-25; Deut 13:12-18). But in chapter 16 John extends and intensifies the imagery of the judgment on Egypt in Exodus. As you will remember this is imagery that has been so pervasive throughout the 7 Seals and 7 Trumpets chapters, but now the 7 Chalice judgments will correspond to the 10 Plagues of Egypt. These final, terrifying judgments will be "poured out" on "The Great City." As we study chapter 16 please be award of how the Trumpet judgments (which were essentially warnings because they took only 1/3 of the Land) are related to the Chalice judgments and to the Plagues of Egypt. Do not miss the fact that the Chalice judgments are the end of God's wrath, this time the destruction will be total. Please look up the chart entitled "The Chalice and Trumpets Judgments vs. the Plagues of Egypt" in the chart section. We will be referring to this chart throughout this chapter.
Please read Revelation 16:1-9 The First Four Chalices
Revelation 16: 1-2 "Then I heard a loud voice from the sanctuary calling to the seven angels, 'Go, and empty the seven bowls of God's anger over the earth.' The first angel went and emptied his bowl over the earth; at once, on all the people who had been branded with the mark of the beast and had worshipped its statue, there came disgusting and virulent sores."
Question: In verse 1, where does the command authorizing the judgment come from and what is the significance and connection to chapter 15:5-8?
Answer: This scene is the continuation of the action in the heavenly Temple, and the command from the Temple emphasizes both the divine and ecclesiastical origin of the plagues/judgments.
The command from Temple reminds me of Isaiah chapter 66 when Isaiah prophesizes judgment on Jerusalem: "Listen! An uproar from the City! A voice from the Temple! The voice of Yahweh bringing retribution on his enemies. Is. 66:6.
Question: What does the voice command?
Answer: Go and pour out the 7 bowls of God's wrath over the earth.
Question: What is unique about these judgments? See 15:1.
Answer: These are the last.
The Greek verb used in Rev. 16 verse 1 is very significant. The New Jerusalem translates the Greek word ekcheo as "empty" ("and empty the 7 bowls of God's anger over the earth") but I prefer the English words "pour out" or "pour" as a better, more literal expression of the Greek verb ekcheo. I support this interpretation by pointing to the use of ekcheo in the Old and New Testaments.
The use of ekcheo in the Old Testament:
1. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament (used at the time of Christ) this verb is used in the liturgical directions to the priests in literally "pouring out" the blood of the sacrificial victims around the altar of God: Leviticus 4:7 "The priest will then put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of incense smoking before Yahweh in the Tent of Meeting and will pour (ekcheo) all the rest of the bull's blood at the foot of the altar of burnt offerings at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting." Ekcheo is also used in Leviticus 8 times: 4:12(twice), 18, 25, 30, 34; 8:15; 9:9. Eight is the number of salvation (Heb 9:22 "In fact, according to the Law, practically every purification takes place by means of blood; and if there is no shedding of blood, there is no remission (of sin)."
2. This same verb is used in the prophet Ezekiel's reference to apostate Israel's adultery with pagan peoples in Ez. 16:35-36 & 23:8 (The New American translation is more literal than the New Jerusalem in these passages): "Therefore, harlot, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the Lord God: Because you poured out (ekcheo) your lust and revealed your nakedness in your harlotry with your lovers and abominable idols, and because you sacrificed the life-blood of your children to them,.." and "She did not give up the harlotry which she had begun in Egypt, when they had lain with her as a young girl, fondling her virginal breasts and pouring out (ekcheo) their impurities on her."
3. It is used to express Israel's shedding of innocent blood through oppression and idolatry: Ezekiel 22:3-4, 6, 9, 12, and 27. (v6 Look! In you the princes of Israel, one and all, have furthered their own interests at the cost of bloodshed (ekcheo pouring out blood)."
4. It is used in God's threat to "pour out" His wrath on Israel for her many
transgressions against the Covenant in Jeremiah 42:18; 44:6,19;Lamentations 2:4Ezekiel 14:19; 20:8, 13, 21; and 21:31-32(v. 36-37) "You will be fuel for the fire, your blood will flow (ekcheo pour out) through the country, you will leave no memory behind you; for I, Yahweh, have spoken!".
In the New Testament this verb is used in contexts that are similar to the major themes in Revelation:
The use of ekcheo in the New Testament
1. The spilling "pouring out" of wine in Matthew 9:17"Nor do people put (ekcheo/ pour) new wine into old wineskins.."; Mark 2:22; and Luke 5:37.
2. The shedding of Jesus' blood: Matthew 26:28 " Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he handed it to them saying 'Drink from this, all of you, for this is my blood, the blood of the New Covenant, poured out (ekcheo) for many for the forgiveness of sins.'" ; Mark 14:24; and Luke 22:20
3. The shedding of the martyr's blood in Matthew 23:35 (Jesus to Jerusalem: "and so you will bring down on yourselves the blood of every upright person that has been shed (ekcheo- poured out) on earth, from the blood of Abel the holy to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. In truth I tell you, it will all recoil on this generation.'"; Luke 11:50; Acts 22:20; Romans 3:15
4. The "pouring out" of the Holy Spirit: Acts 2:17-18 (Peter quotes Joel 2:28-29) "In the last days –the Lord declares'I shall pour out (ekcheo) my spirit on
all humanity.......(18) Even on the slaves, men and women, shall I pour out (ekcheo) my Spirit." Acts 2:33 "he has received from the Father the Holy Spirit, who was promised, and what you see and hear is the outpouring (ekcheo) of that Spirit." ; also 10:45; Romans 5:5; and Titus 3:6 (also Old Testament references to "pouring out" of God's Spirit in Joel 2:28-29 and Zechariah 12:10).
The point is all these references are liturgical and point to the imperfect sacrificial system of the Old Covenant made perfect in Christ's sacrifice on the cross! This is important in understanding the significance of this "pouring out" of plagues into the Land (Israel) that has "poured out" the blood of Jesus Christ and His disciples on to the people who have resisted the Holy Spirit and who have rejected the Messiah: It is the parable of the wine skins that Jesus told using ekcheo in Matthew 9:17. The wine-blood of the New Covenant cannot be poured into the imperfect skins of the Old Covenant. The old wineskins of Israel are about to be split open!
Looking at verse 2 of Revelation chapter 16: Now those who follow the Beast instead of only carrying the Beast's mark will be marked with a loathsome and hideous mark. It is as though this imagery suggests that the Beast's mark (on the souls of his followers) has broken open in a deadly infection!
Question: What connection do you make with an Old Testament event? See Exodus 9:8-11 or look at the Chart comparing the Chalice & Trumpet judgments with the Egyptian plagues.
Answer: The Egyptian plague of boils when God "poured out" boils on the pagan state who worshiped their king as god and who persecuted God's holy people. The parallel is that Israel was also guilty of rejecting God (Jesus Christ) in favor of the god-Emperor of the Romans ("We have not king but Caesar"), and who persecuted God's holy people.
Question: What is the connection to Moses' list of curses that will fall on Israel if they fail in the Covenant obligations? See Deut. 28:27-25.
Answer: Moses specifically mentions the plague of boils in his list of the curses of the Covenant for idolatry and apostasy, which is precisely what Judea is guilty of committing.
Revelation 16: 3 "The second angel emptied (ekcheo – poured out) his bowel into the rivers and springs of water and they turned to blood, like the blood of a corpse, and every living creature in the sea died."
The more literal translation of this passage reads: "and every soul living died in the sea." "Soul," Greek = psyche, is more generally, but not always, used for human beings. "Every soul," Greek = pasa psyche, can mean "everyone" or, in the plural, "persons."
Question: Where does the second angel/minister pour out his chalice and what is the result?
Answer: He pours it into the sea, which becomes like the blood of a dead man, and every loving soul in the sea died. This may reference "human life" in a historical context that I will explain shortly.
Question: What is the connection to the plagues of Egypt and what is the significance of the description of the blood of dead men?
Answer: Plague #1 but instead of the blood flowing like a river it is clotted and coagulated.
Question: Looking at verses 3-6, how man times is blood mentioned and in what context?
Answer: Four times: v. 3 = blood covering or pouring out over every living soul in the sea; v.4 = blood poured out in rivers and springs; v. 6 pouring out of the blood of saints and prophets and v6 (again), the blood of the saints and prophets given to Israel to drink.
Question: Do you recall the purity restrictions under the Noachide Law and under the Sinai Covenant concerning blood and death ? See Genesis 9:4-5; Leviticus 3:17;7:26-27; 15:19-33; 17:10-16; 21:1; Num 5:2; 19:11-19; Deut 12:16.
Answer: to consume either flesh or blood was strictly forbidden with the penalty of being excommunicated from the community. To come in contact with either blood or death caused ritual impurity. Therefore, with all of Israel (Judea, Samaria, and the Galilee) covered in blood, Israel is unclean, defiled and cast out!
Question: From what you know now (from the passages prohibiting the consumption of blood or flesh can you understand the horror of the Jews listening to Jesus' Bread of life discourse in John chapter 6? Reading that passage, why did many of His disciples turn and leave when He told them "In all truth I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise that person up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person." Did they believe He meant this literally or symbolically?
Answer: they clearly believed He said this literally or they would not have left (v.66). That He did not stop them proves He did mean this literally!
There is a literal historical fulfillment of this disaster of the blood in the sea that is recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus during the events of the Jewish Revolt against Rome. During the fierce battle of Tarichaeae, thousands of Jewish rebels fled to the area of the Sea of Galilee (also called the Sea of Tiberius by the Romans). Hoping to escape the Romans, the Jews launched boats and rafts out onto the Sea where they were pursued by the Romans who overtook them. Josephus records their slaughter by the Romans:
"As for those that endeavored to come to an actual fight, the Romans ran many of them through with their long poles. Sometimes the Romans leaped into their ships, with swords in their hands, and slew them; but when some of them met the vessels, the Romans caught them by the middle, and destroyed at once their ships and themselves who were taken in them. And for such as were drowning in the sea, if they lifted their heads up above the water they were either killed by darts or caught by the vessels; but if, in the desperate case they were in, they attempted to swim to their enemies, the Romans cut off either their heads or their hands; and indeed they were destroyed after various manners everywhere, till the rest, being put to flight, were forced to get upon the land...but as many of these where repulsed when they were getting ashore, they were killed by the darts upon the lake; and the Romans leaped out of their vessels, and destroyed a great many more upon the land: one might then see the lake all bloody, and full of dead bodies, for not one of them escaped.....The number of the slain, including those that were killed in the city before, was six thousand and five hundred."
The reference to "every soul dying in the sea" in verse 3 can be explained in this disaster or the corpses strewn on the Sea of Galilee could lead to the assumption that most of the drinking water became unsafe which contributed to the death of every living thing through drinking bloody water.
Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War, 3.10.9
Revelation16: 4-7 "The third angel emptied (ekcheo- poured out) his bowl into the rivers and streams of water and they turned into blood. Then I heard the angel of water say, 'You are the Upright One, He who is, He who was, the Holy One, for giving this verdict: they spilt the blood of the saints and the prophets, and blood is what you have given them to drink; it is what they deserve.' And I heard the altar itself say, 'Truly, Lord God Almighty, the punishments you give are true and just.'"
Question: By what title does the 3rd angel address God?
Answer: the "Upright One, He who is, He who was, the Holy One."
Question: Of what does the reference to God as "He who is, He who was" remind you? See Exodus 3:11-14.
Answer: God's holy Covenant name, Yahweh, which we usually translate as "I am who am" but Jews translate His name as "I was, I am, and I will be."
Question: This 3rd chalice resembles what Trumpet judgment and what Egyptian plague?
Answer: the 3rd in Rev. 8:10-11 and the 1st Egyptian plague since it affects the rivers and streams, turning all the drinking water to blood and bringing death.
Question: This is a reversal of the positive symbolism of the water imagery used throughout the Old and New Testaments. How was water used as a positive symbol? Answer: Water is often used as a symbol of life and blessings from God beginning with the story of creation and the Garden of Eden (seen as a symbol of heaven) to Jesus' statements that He is the water of eternal life. In this plague the blessings of Paradise are reversed into a curse.
Question: How does the Angel of the Waters respond?
Answer: Praising God for His righteous judgment. He is not one of the Chalice angels.
Question: Who is this angel?
Answer: Possibly he is the 4th Living Creature/cherubim with the face of a man who corresponds to the constellation of Aquarius the Water Pourer (?)
Question: The angel announces that this punishment fits the crime. What was Israel's crime? Perhaps you can recall Jesus' condemnation of Jerusalem for the same offense? Revelation 16:5-6 "You are the Upright One, He who is, he who was, the Holy One, for giving this verdict: they split the blood of the saints and the prophets, and blood is what you have given them to drink; it is what they deserve." read Matthew 23:31-36 (v 31-2 Jesus speaking: "You are the children of those who murdered the prophets! Very well then, finish off the work that your ancestors began". (36)"In truth I tell you, it will all recoil on this generation.").
Answer: As we have seen the murder of the Saints and Prophets has been a continual crime of Israel/ Jerusalem.
1. 2 Chronicles 36:15-16= inspired writer summing up Israel's rebellion against God which led to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586(7)BC: "Yahweh God of their ancestors, continuously sent them word through his messengers because he felt sorry for his people and his dwelling, but they ridiculed the messengers of God, they despised his words, they laughed at his prophets, until Yahweh's wrath with his people became so fierce that there was no further remedy."
2. Luke 13:33-34 Jesus speaking: "Today and tomorrow I drive out devils and heal, and on the third day I attain my end. But for today and tomorrow and the next day I must go on since it would not be right for a prophet to die outside Jerusalem."
3. Acts 7:52 =Stephen's defense of Christ before the Jewish law court: "Can you name a single prophet your ancestors never persecuted? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Upright One, and now you have become his betrayers, his murderers." (notice that Stephen uses the same title for Christ as in Rev. 16:5.
The Angel of the Waters concluded with an interesting statement when he said that the blood God has given them to drink is what they deserve. This is a parallel to the message of the New Song or Hymn of chapter 5:9 "You are worthy to take the scroll and to break its seals, because you were sacrificed, and with your blood you bought people for God..." The Lamb received His reward on the basis of the blood He shed and now these followers of the beast who persecuted and killed the saints have now received the just reward for the blood they shed! Isaiah 49:26 "I shall make your oppressors eat their own flesh, they will be as drunk on their own blood as on new wine. And all humanity will know that I am Yahweh, your Savior, your redeemer, the Might One of Jacob."
Question: How is this judgment a reversal of the Eucharist and was this prophesized? Answer: This judgment was prophesized in the Covenant Curses of Deuteronomy 28:53-57 and was fulfilled during the siege of Jerusalem in 70AD as reported by Josephus when the Jews actually became cannibals and mothers literally ate their own children (Josephus, The Jewish Wars 6.3.3-4). Because they shed the blood of the Saints and rejected the blood of the Messiah, God gives them their own blood to drink.
Question: Joining the Angel of the Waters is another voice. Whose voice joins in agreement?
Answer: The voice of the Altar where the blood of the sacrifice had been poured out, the blood of the Saints and Prophets given as a pure and holy sacrifice to God. This recalls the scene John witnessed in Rev. 6:9-11. Please re-read that passage.
Question: What is the connection to Rev. 6:9-11?
Answer: This liturgy is the answer to the prayer of the souls of the Saints gathered around the base of the altar who cried out for justice and what else?? Answer: vengeance! "How much longer will you wait before you pass sentence and take vengeance for our death on the inhabitants of the earth (literal = those who dwell on the land." This is one of the 12 times this expression "those who dwell on the land or earth" is used in Revelation to refer to Israel. In the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD that prayer is answered.
It is not a coincidence that the prayers in Revelation 15:3-4 and chapter 16 verses 5-7 are actually based on the song sung by the priests and the Levites during the interval between the preparation and the offering of the sacrifice at the liturgical service of the daily sacrifice in the Temple. It is ironic that just as God Himself is preparing for the Whole Burnt Sacrifice of Jerusalem in 70AD, the very angels of heaven were singing apostate Israel's own liturgy against her! (see Massyngberde Ford, Revelation p. 266).
Revelation 16: 8-9 "The fourth angel emptied (ekcheo - poured out) his bowl over the sun and it was made to scorch people with its flames; but though people were scorched by the fierce heat of it, they cursed the name of God who had the power to cause such plagues, and they would not repent and glorify him."
Question: How is this plague related to the 4th Trumpet judgment and the plagues of the Exodus? Please consult your chart.
Answer: The 4th Trumpet judgment resulted in a plague of darkness (8:12) like the 9th plague of Egypt but now the heat of the sun in increased so that it scorches with its great heat. This is a reversal of the Covenantal blessing of the Exodus when Israel was protected from the sun's heat by the Glory-Cloud, the Shadow of the Almighty (Exodus 13:21-22; Psalms 91:1-6). This is a Covenantal promise that would be repeated again and again throughout the books of the Prophets. Now that protection is withdrawn.
The last line "they would not repent and glorify him." reminds us that the whole purpose of suffering unto judgment is redemptive.....returning the transgressor to repentance and fellowship with God.
Question: What is the result of this plague?
Answer: the people do not repent.
Question: Looking back over the first 4 Chalice judgments what were the "targets" of those judgments and what do they reflect? There are 4.
Answer: Land, sea, waters, and the sun = physical creation.
Revelation 16: 10-11 "The fifth angel emptied (ekcheo – poured out) his bowl over the throne of the beast and its whole empire was plunged into darkness. People were biting their tongues for pain, but instead of repenting for what they had done, they cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and sores."
With the first four plagues the judgment fell on the elements of nature but with the last three the consequences of the judgments are more political in nature. They will include the Beast's political center (his throne); the war of the great Day of God; and the fall of "Babylon."
Question: What is the result of the pouring out of the 5th Chalice?
Answer: it is poured out upon the Beast's throne (the Roman Empire) and even though the sun's heat is scorching those who worship the Beast, the lights are now dark on his kingdom. Darkness is a familiar Biblical symbol for political chaos and the fall of kingdoms (Isaiah 13:9-10; Amos 8:9; Ezek. 32:7-8). This chaos of the Roman Empire was a historic reality. At the time of the Jewish Revolt there was war and rebellion all across the Empire. In addition to this instability in the Empire, Nero's forced suicide in June of 68AD was followed by the murders of three Emperors all in the year 69. Finally Vespasian regained control but that same year the great Temple of the Capitoline Jupiter burned to the ground in December 19, 69AD. It is interesting that 7 months later the Temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed, resulting in the destruction of the two most important holy sites of the ancient world –the Temple of Jerusalem and the Temple of the chief of the Roman gods.
In verse 11 the people are biting their tongues and cursing God because of their sores. These would be the sores of the First chalice judgment. The judgments are being poured out so quickly that there is no relief; each successive plague builds on the last.
Question: Do the people repent and turn to God?
Answer: no they curse Him.
Revelation 16: 12-16 "The sixth angel emptied (ekcheo – poured out) his bowl over the great Euphrates; all the water dried up so that a way was made for the kings of the East to come in. Then from the jaws of the dragon and beast and false prophet I saw three foul spirits come; they looked like frogs and in fact were demon spirits, able to work miracles (semeion – signs), going out to all the kings of the world to call them together for the war of the Great Day of God the Almighty. Look, I shall come like a thief. Blessed is anyone who has kept watch, and has kept his clothes on, so that he does not go out naked and expose his shame. They called the kings together at the place called, in Hebrew, Armageddon."
Question: What is the connection between this Chalice judgment and the 6th Trumpet and the Egyptian plagues?
Answer: In the Trumpet judgment an army from across the Euphrates River invades and kills 1/3 of the people (Rev. 9:13-21) and in the Egyptian plagues the 2nd plague seems to be a good match in the invasion of frogs from the river.
What is the connection between the frogs and the invasion of armies? Well, the frogs invaded Egypt from the Nile River like an invading army but there are other connections that will become clear later. The Euphrates was Israel's northern frontier from which most invading armies came to ravage and oppress God's Covenant people. The water of the Euphrates drying up may have two historical connections. The ancient city of Babylon sat astride the Euphrates River and was encircled by canals. This natural protection made the city practically impregnable but the Persian King Cyrus solved this problem by damming up the great river and marched his army across the drained river bed (see Herodotus' Histories I, 191 ). The other historical connection is that the Roman Commander Vespasian and his son Titus took the Roman Legions on the Euphrates and launched their invasion of Judah.
Question: Do you see any connection to the Exodus experience?
Answer: The reference to the drying up of the River to allow the enemy to advance is the symbolic reversal of the Red Sea (Ex. 14:21-22) flooding and destroying Israel's enemy in the Exodus experience. It is also a reversal of the miracle of the Jordan River parting to allow the Children of Israel to cross over and invade the Promised Land (Joshua 3:9-17; 4:22-24). This is another example of tragic irony; now the Roman enemy with God assistance will cross over a river (the Euphrates) to attack and destroy Israel as they did led by Vespasian and Titus in 67AD. See Josephus, The Jewish War 3.1.3; 3.4.2; 5.1.6; 7.1.3.
The reference to the "kings of the east" has no connection to the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child in Matthew chapter 2. The Magi were not kings nor are they identified as "kings" in that passage but as "some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east...". Their importance is that these gentiles give a foretaste of Jesus' mission to offer salvation to the gentile nations whose "wise men" are attracted to His light. The only "kings" in this story are Jesus and Herod. The erroneous tradition that these men were "kings" came about in the Middle Ages probably as flattery to the Christian kings of Europe who saw themselves embodied in this part of the nativity story and a fulfillment of Isaiah 49:23. It is at that time that 3 names were assigned to these gentile travelers and other myths were attached to them like the story of the 4th King who was too late to leave with the other travelers and spent his life looking for Christ only to find Him at the crucifixion. The Magi were learned men who studied the stars. They were noble in birth (probably the sons of the ruling class of Persia) and highly educated. It was common in ancient times to associate the appearance of a new star of a comet with the birth or death of kings. In Revelation 16:12, 14 & 16 two different Greek words are used: basileus is used in verses 12 & 14 and literally means king or ruler and autos in verse 16 which should be literally translated as them or their. The Roman armies that were gathered together from across the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire came as kings or rulers to bring judgment on Judea.
Question: In verses 13-14 what does John see proceeding from the mouths of the Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet?
Answer: 3 unclean spirits. The connection to the 2nd Egyptian plague is established here. The multitude of frogs that invaded Egypt came from the Nile River (Ex. 8:1-7) and John has combined these images:
Then there is the imagery of
the Dragon being imitated by the Beast and False Prophet and the triple use of
the word "mouth" reminds us of the sixth Trumpet judgment (9:17-19) "In my
vision I saw the horses, and the riders with their breastplates of flame color,
hyacinth-blue and sulfur-yellow; the horses had lions' heads, and fire, smoke
and sulfur were coming from their mouths. It was by these three plagues, the
fire, the smoke and the sulfur coming from their mouths, that the one third of
the human race was killed. All the horses; power was in their mouths and their
But the Dragon is not in charge: God is in charge and He will use the "work of
error" performed by these lying spirits in order to bring about the destruction of His enemies in the "War of that great Day of God." This is a Biblical term of a Day of Judgment against the wicked (Isaiah 13:6, 9; Joel 2:1-2, 11, 31; Amos 5:18-20; Zeph 1:14-18). This is to be Israel's day of judgment that Jesus foretold in His parable in Matthew 22:7 when the "King" would send his armies to destroy the murderers and set their City on fire because they had refused his invitation to attend the Banquet (Eucharist) and had killed his servants (Jesus and the Apostles and disciples)
Revelation 16: 15 has Revelations 3rd of the 5 Beatitudes: "Blessed is anyone who has kept watch, and has kept his clothes on, so that he does not go out naked.." This passage reminds me of Jesus' letters to the 7 churches. He told the church of Sardis in 3:3 that He would come like a thief in the night and they wouldn't know the day or hour. He also told the church of Laodicea to purchase for Him "white garments that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed." "Nakedness" in Scripture is a euphemism for sinfulness opposed to being "clothed" which is to be in a state of grace [you will remember when Adam and Eve fell from grace they feared God "I was afraid because I was naked" in Genesis 3:9-10]. St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:3, "And in this earthly state we do indeed groan, longing to put on our heavenly home over the present one; if indeed we are to be found clothed rather than naked." Also see Jesus' parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22. In verses 12-13 the man was thrown out of the feast because he was not dressed in a "wedding garment." He was not in a state of grace and therefore not eligible to partake in the feast. When we come to the Lord's Eucharistic feast we must be certain that we are wearing the proper "wedding garment!" (Note: nakedness originally in Scripture was symbolic of innocence, ie. The Garden of Eden. Biblical images of nakedness also include defenselessness and vulnerability; humiliation and shame; guilt and judgment; and sexual impropriety and exploitation but "nakedness" opposed to "clothed" is symbolic of a sin-filled life opposed to redemption which is being clothed in God's gift of grace).
In Revelation 21: 16 the demons gather the kings of the earth together at a place called Armageddon. The literal spelling is Har-Magedon, which means Mount Megiddo. This is a problem, especially for those who want to take Revelation literally. Megiddo is not a mountain; it is located in a plain. There never was or will be a literal Battle of Armageddon because there is no such place. The mountain that is closest to the plain of Megiddo is Mount Carmel and this must be the mountain John had in mind. So why didn't he just say Mt. Carmel? Because he wants us to think of the Biblical implications of both Megiddo and Mt. Carmel.
Question: What great Old Testament event happened at Mt. Carmel? See 1Kings 18:20-40.
Answer: the defeat of the false priests of Baal by God's holy prophet Elijah.
Question: What great Old Testament events happened at Megiddo? See Joshua 12:21; Judges 5:19; 2 Chronicles 35:20-25.
Answer: it was the scene of Joshua's victory over Canaanite forces; it was the place where Deborah and Barak defeated the kings of Canaan; and it was the place where the brilliant hope of Judah, young King Josiah, in deliberate disobedience to the Word of God and believing false prophets, faced the Egyptian Pharaoh Neco and was mortally wounded. Following Josiah's death the nation of Judah sunk further and further into idolatry, apostasy, and destruction which led to the defeat by the Babylonians and the destruction of the Temple. Megiddo was for John's generation a symbol of defeat and desolation for those who set themselves against the Word of God.
Revelation 16: 17-21 "The seventh angel emptied (ekcheo – poured out) his bowl into the air, and a great voice boomed out from the sanctuary, 'The end has come.' Then there were flashes of lightning and peals of thunder and a violent earthquake, unparalleled since humanity first came into existence. The Great City was split into three parts and the cities of the world collapsed; Babylon the Great was not forgotten: God made her drink the full wine cup of his retribution. Every island vanished and the mountains disappeared; and hail, with great hailstones weighing a talent each, fell from the sky on the people. They cursed God for sending a plague of hail; it was the most terrible plague."
Suddenly the scene changes and an announcement is made.
Question: From where does John hear the announcement and what is it?
Answer: from the Temple. The voice says "The End Has Come!" In Greek this is a single word: ghegonen. This single word can mean "it is finished", "it is fulfilled" (the translation I prefer), "it is completed" or even "the end has come." This Greek word could even be translated as the Aramaic "It is finished or fulfilled" = Tetelestai; words of the host at the ceremonial close of the Passover Feast and Jesus' last words on the cross (John 19:30).
This phrase is the central theme of the Book of Revelation as it was announced by Christ's warnings to the 7 churches in Rev. 2-3. See Rev. 2:5, 26, 25; 3:3, 11. The Old Covenant is "fulfilled" as Jesus promised in Matthew 5:17 "Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them." It is also the fulfillment of Hebrews 9:8 that the New Covenant could not be fully implemented until the Old Covenant passed away "...as long as the old tent stands the way into the Holy Place is not opened up."
Question: How many times did Christ warn the 7 churches the end was coming soon? Answer: 5 times! The coming of the vengeful Roman legions will be, in reality, Christ's coming in terrible wrath against His enemies. This is the Wrath of the Lamb!
Question: What is the connection to the 7th Trumpet judgment and the plagues of Egypt? Answer: Trumpet judgment has voices, storm, earthquake and hail like this judgment and the hail of the 7th Egyptian plague.
Revelation 16: 18's lightening, thunder and violent earthquake are all reminiscent of the theophany of God at Mt. Sinai in Exodus 19: 15-20 but the next phrase is a parallel to the disaster Jesus prophesized for the city of Jerusalem. In Matthew 23: 36 Jesus tells the people of Jerusalem that judgment for the murder of God's prophets will fall on this generation and then he continues to detail the tribulation that Jerusalem will face and in Matthew 24:21-22 Jesus says: "For then there will be great distress, unparalleled since the world began, and such as will never be again. And if that time had not been shortened no human being would have survived; but shortened that time shall be for the sake of those who are chosen."
Revelation 16:19's Great City is the same Great City where the Lord was crucified (11:8; 14:8). It was intended to be a "the light of the world, a City set on a hill," but she is now denigrated to an apostate, harlot murderess and is condemned to perish under the Law. Under this final Chalice judgment she is condemned to be split into 3 parts. The imagery is from the 5th chapter of our friend the prophet Ezekiel in which God instructs the prophet to act out the coming destruction of Jerusalem. Read Ezekiel 5: 1-12.
During the siege of Jerusalem in 70AD the city of Jerusalem was torn apart by 3 Jewish factions all working and fighting against each other. The Roman general Titus (son of the Emperor) was besieging the city from the outside but 3 leaders of the Jewish were destroying Jerusalem from within. See Josephus, The Jewish War,5.5.1-5.
Revelation 16: 19 is another irony. In Deuteronomy 6 Israel is to remember God's covenant and kindness in general in regards to the deliverance from Egypt. But in this final judgment there is no place to hide. The great hailstorm is another reference to Ezekiel. See 13:1-16. "The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 'Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel; prophesy and say to those who make up prophecies out of their own heads, "Hear what Yahweh says: The Lord Yahweh says this: Disaster is in store for the foolish prophets....(11) it will rain hard, it will hail, it will blow a gale and down will come the wall:.." It didn't hail snow pellets in 586BC when the Babylonians broke through the walls of Jerusalem. It hailed rocks from siege engines. The weight of the hailstone in the Revelation passage is about 88lbs. It not only recalls the plague of hail on Egypt but also the large stones from heaven that God threw down upon the Canaanites when Joshua was conquering the Promised land (Josh 10:11) and as Deborah sang in Judges "the very stars of heaven make war against the enemies of God." Deborah's song isn't any more literal than the Revelation passage. It is symbolic just as the Revelation passage and Ezekiel's prophecy against Jerusalem in 586BC was symbolic. There might also be a historical connection to the huge boulders the Roman siege engines threw against the walls of Jerusalem as recorded by Josephus (Wars 5.6.3) "..The engines that all the legions had ready prepared for them, were admirably contrived; but still more extraordinary ones belonged to the 10 legion: those that threw darts and those that threw stones, were more forcible and larger than the rest...Now the stones that were cast were of the weight of a talent..." (note: a talent is about 88 lbs)
The Chalices containing the last of the plagues of God's wrath have been poured out on Jerusalem but this is not the end. The next chapters will deal with the destruction of the great Harlot-City and her allies and will conclude with the revelation of the glorious Bride of Christ: the true and Holy New Jerusalem, the Catholic Church!