We’ve unsealed the seven seals and heard the blasts of the seven trumpets and now we watch as the seven bowls of God’s wrath are poured out on the earth. As I read this, I am reminded of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 with a military offensive that was termed “Shock and Awe.” The idea was that the attack would come so fast, and be so overwhelming, and so debilitate the enemy that they would be unable to stand against the US. I remember watching on a tv in my OC dorm room as the bombs fell and the military raced towards Baghdad. I couldn’t stop watching for days and slept little, watching round the clock coverage. While I know many have strong opinions about the Iraq War, my intent is not to comment on the motives or execution of that war, but rather to comment on how the horrible and overwhelming force demonstrated in those days doesn’t come close to the images here in Revelation 16.
The time for warnings has passed and now God pours out his wrath on the earth to punish those who bear the mark of the beast. The horrors again echo the plagues on Egypt with darkness, hail, storms, water turned to blood, and more. It is devastating. However, it is also reminiscent of the Creation with judgments affecting the water, the land, the skies, the sun, the darkness, and humanity. It is complete and utter destruction of everything. And on top of everything, these plagues are not coming one at a time as in Exodus, but seem to be piling on top of one another bringing exponentially horrific suffering.
And at several intervals throughout this terrible judgment, the angels stop the work of pouring out wrath to praise God and commend him for his righteous justice that is being brought upon the earth. This is hard to imagine for people like me who live in a clean, orderly, society without violent oppressors. But when you live in a corrupt world where the powerful bring pain to the powerless and the faithful are persecuted, you understand the need for God to cleanse the earth. You pray daily for God to put things back the way they belong. So when God brings this wrath upon the two beasts, sent by the Dragon, there is praise from the angels and rejoicing from the saints. God is right. God is good. God takes care of his creatures and his creation, even when it means cleaning up his creation from some of his creatures.
The final bowls are setting up a great battle and even mention the battlefield Armageddon. Some believe that this will someday be the location of a huge end-of-time battle. However, when we get to this battle later, even though armies gather on both sides of the battle field, only Jesus fights. This isn’t a battle between humans. This is a battle between Jesus and the enemies of his people to restore order to the creation and justice for God’s people.
To those who stand opposed to God and persecute his people…you are on notice. God will bring justice. God wins. Pick a side. Don’t be stupid.