Monday, May 23, 2016

THE SIXTH BOWL (expanded) - REVELATION 16:12-16

16:12-16
The Sixth Bowl

The last two bowls set the stage for the end of this age and the judgment of Gods enemies. This sixth bowl dried up the Euphrates River. The reason is to prepare the way for the kings from the east.

Rivers were often sources of protection. They are natural barriers. In the Old Testament, God dried up rivers and seas to deliver his people, but also as a judgment on their enemies. God caused the Israelites to walk across the Red Sea on dry ground. But, he also caused those same waters to drown the Egyptian army in judgment. The drying of the Jordan inaugurated God’s judgment on the Amorites in Canaan. God’s drying the Euphrates inaugurated the defeat of Babylon by Persia.

Here, God is getting the earth ready for the return of Christ in victory. This drying the Euphrates inaugurates the defeat of all of God’s enemies by Christ. In Isaiah 11:10-16, we see a prophecy of the return of the Lord (the root of Jesse in verse 10) to gather his people and defeat his enemies. Verse 14 says God’s people shall plunder the people of the east. People of the east symbolize the enemies of the people of God, as first represented by Assyria and Babylon. In verse 15, he says the Lord will wave his hand over the Euphrates with his scorching breath and strike it into channels. This would allow it to be crossed to defeat Assyria or Babylon. This was initially fulfilled when Cyrus diverted the river, allowing his army to cross and defeat Babylon. This event was recorded by Herodotus, the Roman historian. But it is finally fulfilled at the end of the age, as he sets up the destruction of these nations to the east. Specifically, Babylon is God’s target.

But remember that Babylon has become symbolic here. It stands for the world system of pleasure and immorality. Revelation 14:8 said Babylon made all the nations drink from the wine leading to passion for her immorality. It is also described in chapter 17 as sitting on many waters rather than on the river.  Because of this, I am more inclined to see the drying up of the rivers as symbolic of God preparing for judgment rather than a literal drying up of the river.  The drying up could also refer to Babylon losing support in the world, that people get tired of it. This would set the stage for its destruction. Indeed, in chapter 17, the kings of the earth turn against it.

It also appears that physical Babylon will not be rebuilt. Isaiah 13:20 records the Lord saying “It will never be inhabited or lived in for all generations”. In order to destroy a physical Babylon, you would need to rebuild it and occupy it. That would contradict the word of the Lord.

Satan responded by sending evil spirits to the nations. Satan, the beast and the false prophet all send out “frogs”, symbolizing evil spirits. These spirits are emissaries of the beast who go through the world performing miracles and using them to unite the earth’s people into rebellion against God. (14) They gather for a final assault on the church (the camp of the saints in 20:9), to wipe out the remainder of those loyal to the God who has brought suffering and judgment on them. But in doing this, Satan and his minions actually work to accomplish the will and work of God, for they are setting up the “great day of God Almighty”. (14)

John will see two visions of this final battle. The first shows the defeat of the beast and the false prophet and their followers in chapter 19. The second will show the outcome for the dragon in chapter 20.

The act of Satan deceiving the nations brings up the issue of the binding Satan. If we look forward to Revelation 20:1-6, we have the only explicit mention of the millennium. What we se in this vision is Satan being bound by a great chain. His binding prevented him from deceiving the nations for a thousand years. After that, he is released for a little while.

In the premileenial model, this is interpreted to mean Christ coming and ruling on earth for a thousand years exactly, but somehow Satan getting loose from his rule and staging a final rebellion.

Postmillennialists believe there will be a future time of great peace and the domination of Christianity in the world. At the end of that time, Satan gets loose and stages a rebellion.

I believe the 1,000 years is symbolic of the church age. Satan is bound from deceiving nations, although he may deceive individuals. Jesus talked of binding Satan in is story of the strong man and his description of seeing Satan fall from heaven. At the end of the church age, as these last bowls of wrath are poured out, and as the beast is specifically attacked by God, Satan is released and is again able to deceive the nations. He does this by sending these emissaries around the world to perform miracles, just as Pharaoh’s priests mimicked some of the miracles of Moses. This view is the Amillenial view.

This rebellion of Satan and his demons leads to the event described in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. There Satan causes a rebellion, the man of sin or lawlessness is revealed. He is restrained at the time Paul wrote, but will be revealed and released at the end of the age. Then the Lord Jesus will destroy him wit the breath of his mouth when he returns. Note also that this passage speaks of the wicked deception for those who are perishing because they refused to love the truth and be saved. This is the picture of this sixth bowl.

All of Satan’s forces assemble at Armageddon. The plain of Megiddo was the sight of many battles in the Old Testament. So, it seems a fitting place for Satan’s forces to oppose God.

In verse 15, Jesus inserts a reminder and a warning. He reminds us that he will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. He warns that us to be prepared, clothed and ready to go. This may indicate he will come when it appears the church is on its last legs and about to be extinguished.

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