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Tag Archives: Plagues

Revelation 16 – Shock and Awe

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.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2013 in Revelation

 

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Revelation 9 – Crime is Punishment

As the seven trumpets continue sounding, we now have the two woes being poured out upon the earth.  Chapter 9 begins with a description of a falling star that was given the key to the Abyss and who released sun-blotting smoke and locusts upon the earth.  While the first four trumpets were from God and from above, this one comes from the depths, from the Abyss.  McGuiggan says that the fallen star with power over the Abyss is Satan, and the imagery fits as monsters emerge from the depths to attack people.  They are not allowed to harm the 144,000 who have been sealed and they are to torture those who are not faithful for five months.  

This trumpet turns many things upside down.  First of all, a plague of locusts (as was seen in Egypt in Exodus 10) would completely destroy plants, crops, trees, and the land while not doing significant harm to people.  However, when the trumpet sounds, these locust-like-monsters torture people while not harming and plant or tree.  Additionally, this situation is exactly the reverse of Luke 10:18-20 where Jesus tells the disciples that he saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven and that he (Jesus) has given the disciples authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome the power of the enemy.  In this woe-filled trumpet, a star falls from heaven and the locusts with scorpion attacks are given power and authority.  Things have gone wrong because of the sinfulness of mankind.  After the five months of locust attacks, the sixth trumpet sounds and four angels were released to kill 1/3 of mankind.

The imagery of judgment is violent and extreme, and yet it remains partial.  After the sixth trumpet is sounded and great violent death comes to 1/3 of mankind, the book will now stop to evaluate whether or not mankind has learned its lesson.  Will they heed the warnings of the trumpets and repent?  Unfortunately they do not.  Those who survived the plagues did not repent but continued in their sin.

There is an important principle that has some connection to this passage.  In Romans 1:24-28 we are told that God punished the Gentile world by “giving them up” to their own sinful desires. Proverbs 14:34 says that entire nations can be brought down by moral depravity.  In this sense, the crime is the punishment.  When we choose sin over God, the greatest punishment that can often be given to us is to be allowed to choose sin over God.  This would be similar to a parent whose child is about to do something wrong or dangerous, who after warning the child to not do that thing, then decides to step back and allow the child to learn from their own mistakes.  Sometimes when we choose sin, God’s punishment is to let us sin.  He turns us over to our own desires.  For nations, this often results in entire generations or cultures being given over to moral depravity and corruption.  It would be difficult to study the fall of the Roman Empire without recognizing the impact that moral depravity had on that once powerful society.  Today, we must recognize that a loss of morality can have be a punishment in and of itself on both ourselves and our society.  (This idea is developed fully in N.T. Wright’s book Simply Christian.)

Is it possible that there are times in our lives that if it were a book, the author could step back as Revelation does at the end of chapter 9 and say, “And yet they did not learn from their mistakes.  They did not repent.  They continued in their sin and foolishness.”

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2013 in Revelation

 

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