The Judgment Bowl: A Best-of-Seven Series
In Revelation chapter 16 we are again met with plague-images that evoke the memory of the Exodus from Egypt in Exodus 8 and 9. Waters on land and sea turn to blood, there are sores, darkness and hailstones. Even the plague of frogs is there, but with a radical twist. These are in a different order and do not number 10, but rather 7 – the number of completion or perfection.
Some of these plagues are limited to those with the mark of the Beast, but others affect everyone. We are given reasons for some of the plagues. The bloody waters occur because the evil empire has “shed the blood of the prophets.” These “prophets” are in fact all the faithful followers of Jesus who have made their voices heard about Jesus’ Lordship. Naturally, like Pharaoh of old, the followers of the Beast do not repent until their “nation” is completely destroyed.
One of our members wondered if the plague of increased heat from the sun was, in fact, God “turning up the heat” on a sinful world-system. A very fitting observation.
All of this leads to the sixth plague – a gathering of armies for war. Frog-demons go the gather the kings of the earth to “the battle of the great day of God Almighty.” The gathering-place is “Armageddon,” the valley of Megiddo, located in the ancient land of Israel.
It is interesting that John inserts a comment by Jesus at the point of the gathering of the armies: “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” Is this because He returns at that dramatic time – just before the all the participants in the game of empire duke it out? Or is he telling his readers to keep themselves from being defiled by the system he will describe in chapter 17, “Babylon the Great, the mother of all harlots…?” I have come to suspect the latter.
At the end, once again, is the greatest earthquake the world has ever seen. Just like in 11:19 and 8:5 – except worse, and with more detail. This suggests that they are talking about the same climactic event at Jesus’ return: the shaking up of the created order so that Jesus, its rightful ruler, is visibly and irreversibly in charge of everything.
The detail about the city that is split in three seems to be intended to set up the next two chapters that describe the “sin city” typified by Rome in John’s day.