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Bowls of Wrath 1 & 2

Revelation 16:1-3
Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, 'Go, pour out the seven bowls of God's wrath on the earth.' The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly, festering sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshipped its image. The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died. (NIVUK)

John's vision, given to him by Jesus, now enters a new phase. You may recall that the Lamb (Jesus) opened the seven seals (Revelation 6:1-17) which describe divine judgements on a rebellious world. The seventh seal introduced the seven trumpets (Revelation 8:1-5) which announce another series of judgements, more intense than the first, but still limited in effect. Although God was showing His awesome power over creation and exposing the malign nature of humanity, people still did not repent (Revelation 9:20-21). The last trumpet summoned seven angels who were to pour out their bowls containing God's wrath on the world (Revelation 11:15-19).

Although it is tempting to try to find an exact concordance between the seals, trumpets and bowls, like all true art the vision has symmetry and asymmetry. Revelation is not a mathematical code to be cracked but an unveiling of God's future purposes. There are some similarities in the three series of judgements, but the overall message is that God will put increasing pressure on impenitent people, giving the opportunity for some to admit their folly and receive salvation; and giving the unrepentant no excuse when Jesus returns (Romans 1:20). As the bowls are poured out, God-rejecting people, having turned the prophetic gospellers into martyrs (Revelation 6:11), now experience the Lord's wrath.

The first bowl's effect in producing festering skin diseases was like the plagues of Egypt (Exodus 9:8-12), indiscriminate, inescapable with unquenchable pain. All those who prided themselves on having a good life with the Beast were not able to enjoy it as their misery was interminable. The second bowl turned the sea to blood, like the Nile which had been so polluted that nothing could grow in it (Exodus 7:14-24). All the sea creatures died. When the second trumpet was sounded, a third of the sea creatures died (Revelation 8:8-9). With the second bowl, they all perished. Of course, although the vision is described in the present tense, the reality is yet to come. Those who defy the God of creation will no longer be able to presume upon the benefits of all the good things which God has put into the created world. As we shall see in this series of plagues, their enjoyment will turn to agony and their life will become unsustainable.

It should not surprise us that our gracious and long-suffering God will eventually call time on those who refuse to repent and receive Him (John 3:36). While there is still opportunity to repent we must warn our friends and colleagues as the prophet says in Ezekiel 3:18-19, "When I say to a wicked person, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself." As well as preparing the church for very tough times ahead, which some are already experiencing, these visions are a prompt to our personal holiness and pro-active evangelism.

Sovereign Lord. Thank You that You will not allow wickedness to continue unchallenged. Forgive me where I have lost confidence that You really are in command of the whole world. Please help me to learn to live with the assurance that You will bring all things under Jesus' feet, and so I can trust You in persecution and when evil runs wild around me, that You will hold me safe until You call me. Help me to speak clearly about Your saving grace so that my friends can never say they have not heard the gospel. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams