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Bowls of Wrath 6

Revelation 16:12-16
The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three impure spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are demonic spirits that perform signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. 'Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.' Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. (NIVUK)

'The battle to end all battles'. That is how this Armageddon has been described. Much has been written about these verses which echo Old Testament passages and point forward to a confrontation between a confederation of earthly authorities under the leadership of the beast (Antichrist), guided by the other beast (false prophet) under the control of the devil and his demons. This sixth bowl of wrath is paradoxical: instead of God crushing those against Him, He removes all restraint from these mutually energised forces so that they have extra boldness to assault God's people. Like the apparently insuperable military position of Pharaoh, pinning the Israelites against the Red Sea shore (Exodus 14:10), but later to be annihilated (Exodus 15:4), the demons croak their proud boasts to the world leaders who seek to trap God's people, but fall into God's trap.

Drying up the Euphrates river bed reminds us of God's action at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-22) and the Jordan; also of the Persian King Cyrus who conquered Babylon by diverting the water of the Euphrates to allow his armies to march into the city unnoticed (Isaiah 11:15; 44:27-28; 50:2; 51:10). The Lord will deliberately lure the arrogant world rulers from the east to a confrontation which they cannot win. In the process they, and their demonic inspiration, will be surprised by the Lord who will come like a thief to snatch away their authority and establish His undisputed rule (2 Peter 3:10).

However, the church needs to be alert and ready, like soldiers, or grooms-men at a wedding who are fully dressed at all times ready for their master's command (Luke 12:35-40). The lukewarm Laodicean church were urged to obtain their clothes from Christ lest they would be caught out by His coming, unprepared and ashamed at His coming (Revelation 3:18). The great battlefield will be Har Megiddon – the hill of Megiddo – or Armageddon, 24 Km south east of modern Haifa. History tells of some 20 battles already fought here (eg 2 Kings 23:29), but this last battle against Israel will mark the end of human rebellion against Jesus Christ. In the end, the arrogance of the world leaders meets the holy wrath of Almighty God. The outcome will be obvious (Revelation 19:17-21).

The many books, plays and films which include or centre on Armageddon generally major on a struggle of evil against good. The reality is a pathetic scene of world rulers who think that there is strength in numbers but have failed to identify the awesome power of God. If they had wisdom they would have repented long ago. But the devil's trick is to blind the rebellious to true wisdom by inflating their sense of self-importance. The church must be careful to trust Christ who is our wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:17-30), and be prepared to stand firm (James 5:8) until the Lord makes His enemies His footstool (Hebrews 10:13). Such preludes as we now experience must be treated in the same way. As Jesus said, when we see such things happening we should be confident that the Lord will win the contest (Luke 21:28).

Supreme ruler of eternity. Thank You that You have announced a Day when all worldly opposition to Your rule will be demolished. As I look forward to Jesus Christ coming again, please help me not to be frightened by the world's hatred of all You stand for. May I be ready, standing firm, despite all opposition; and expect that You will show Your power at the right time for Your glory. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams