REVELATION CHAPTERS 15-16
INTRODUCTION: Recognizing and understanding symbolic language.
A. The book of Revelation identifies itself as a symbolic book.
1. Revelation 1:12-16. The use of the verb phrase "was like" indicates a symbolic meaning. The description of Jesus as having a double edged sword coming out of his mouth is clearly symbolic (Ephesians 6:17 and Hebrews 4:12). We know from the gospels what the resurrected Jesus looks like (Luke 24), so we know that the description in Revelation 1 is symbolic.
2. Revelation 1:20. The picture showed seven lamp stands and seven stars. However, the book explains that these were symbols representing the angels of the churches and the churches.
3. Revelation 12:1-9. Almost everyone agrees that the woman here described is not a literal woman, but that she represents the people of God bringing forth the Messiah. The book itself explains that the dragon is a symbol representing Satan.
4. Revelation 13. Almost everyone agrees that the beast is not a real, literal beast with seven heads and ten horns. Almost everyone agrees that the beast is a symbol representing evil kingdoms and/or kings.
5. Revelation 14:16-20. Almost everyone agrees that the two harvests described here (grain and grapes) are not literal, but are symbolic of people being brought to salvation or sent to judgement.
B. Physical reality and Spiritual reality.
1. Old Testament Israel was a physical nation with a spiritual purpose. Old Testament prophesy uses symbols to describe physical events in the life of Israel. But it also describes some spiritual events.
2. New Testament Israel is a spiritual kingdom (the Church). New Testament prophesy uses symbols to describe spiritual events in the like of spiritual Israel. However, New Testament prophesy also symbolically describes some physical events such as the physical return of Jesus, the bodily resurrection, and the judgement.
C. How you interpret the symbolism of New Testament prophesy is determined by whether you understand the church to be spiritual Israel or whether you believe that Israel in the New Testament is still the Jewish people and their physical nation.
D. Cycles in Revelation. The events in Revelation chapters 12-14 clearly describe a time period from the birth of Jesus to the final judgement. Now in chapter 15 we go back in time to sometime before the judgement day for seven last judgements against those who refuse to acknowledge Jesus.
I. A sign in heaven: The seven last plagues
A. In heaven
B. Seven Angels
C. Last: The completion of God's wrath.
II. The victorious ones singing beside the sea.
A. Sea of glass mixed with fire.
1. Glass: calm, pure, presence of God. The Israelites were saved by the sea.
2. Fire: Judgement. The Egyptians were judged and destroyed by the sea.
B. Comparison to Moses and Egypt.
1. The evil, oppressive ruler and nation.
2. The plagues poured out on the oppressors.
3. Standing by the sea.
4. Singing the song of praise to God.
C. Comparison to baptism.
1. 1 Corinthians 10:1-4: The Red Sea
2. Romans 6:3-4. Spiritual resurrection. Passing through death to a new life.
3. Baptism of suffering (Mark 10:35-40). Just as the Israelites suffered at the hands of the Egyptians, and then passed through the sea to safety, so we suffer at the hands of the evil world system and then pass through to eternal life.
D. The song.
1. Of Moses: Just like the song of Moses in Exodus 15, God is praised and given the credit for the victory.
2. Of the Lamb: Moses was the earthly leader and "savior" of the Israelites. The Lamb is our leader and savior.
E. The victorious ones.
1. We are not victorious because of our own efforts or actions.
2. God gets all the credit in the song. We are victorious because of the Lamb's work.
III. The angels come forward.
A. In Heaven.
B. The temple: The tabernacle in the wilderness. This is another reference to Moses and the Israelites.
Greek naos, a sanctuary or shrine.
Review the document "The Temple in the Book of Revelation".
C. The temple is opened and the angels come forward.
1. The tabernacle of the testimony. The inner sanctuary where the tablets of the 10 commandments were kept. This may signify that God keeps His word, even in Judgement.
2. Coming out of the temple (where God dwells) signifies that they come with the authority of God.
3. Clean linen and golden sashes signify purity and royal authority.
4. The bowls are filled with the wrath of God. The bowls are handed to the angels by one of the four living creatures: again signifying God's authority.
5. The temple filled with smoke and no one could enter. Another reference to Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness. No one could enter the tabernacle or touch Mt. Sinai while God was present. No one could enter: God's judgement is complete; Nothing can turn it back or change his mind. Smoke: God's glory and power. Isaiah 6:1-9.
IV. The Bowls are poured out.
A. The first four bowls.
1. The first bowl is poured out on the land: Sores on those with the mark of the beast. The first trumpet: 1/3 of the earth burned.
2. The second bowl is poured out on the sea, and it turned to blood. Every living thing died. The second trumpet: 1/3 of the sea turned to blood, one third of the sea creatures died.
3. The third bowl is poured out on the rivers: They turned to blood. Because they persecuted and shed the blood of the saints and the prophets, they are given blood to drink. The third trumpet: Rivers became bitter and many died.
4. The fourth bowl is poured out on the sun: People are burned with the heat from the sun. The fourth trumpet: 1/3 of the sun, moon, and stars darkened.
B. The fifth bowl.
1. The fifth bowl is poured out on the kingdom of the beast, and it is plunged into darkness. People are in agony, but there is no repentance.
2. Comparison to Egypt: One of the plagues of Egypt was three days of darkness.
3. The fifth trumpet: The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the abyss. People were in agony from the sting of the locusts.
C. The sixth bowl is poured out on the River Euphrates.
1. It is dried up in preparation for the kings from the east. Three evil spirits like frogs go out. The stage is being set for the final battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil. The sixth trumpet also mentions the River Euphrates.
2. Comparison to the Old Testament:
a. Egypt, the Red Sea.
b. Israel entering Canaan through the Jordan River.
c. Cyrus the Persian conquered Babylon by damming the Euphrates River and entering the city through the river channel.
3. Three evil spirits like frogs. This is clearly symbolic, just like the beasts and the dragon. It also indicates the spiritual nature of the events being described. They perform miraculous signs and persuade all the kings of the earth to assemble for battle.
4. Armageddon. Greek harmagedon. Hebrew har, mountain; megiddo, a plain in Palestine. This place had significant military importance throughout Israel's history.
5. The battle on the great day of God Almighty.
6. Blessing for those who stay ready. "Behold, I come like a thief. Coming like a thief seems to refer to the actual second coming, not some prior rapture.
D. The seventh bowl is poured out into the air: Judgement Day.
1. Voice from the throne: "It is done".
2. Lightning, rumblings, thunder, earthquake, hailstones (v. 21).
3. The seventh trumpet: judgement day.
Lightning, rumblings, thunder, earthquake, hailstorm.
4. The great city (Babylon) is split, and the other cities collapse.
5. The cup filled the fury of his wrath. Compare 14:8-10.
6. Islands and mountains gone.