"O Lord...You have stricken them, but they have not grieved. You have consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction. They have made their faces harder than rock." Jeremiah 5:3
Opening prayer: Father, many times we have ignored plagues that You have sent to get our attention. Give us a fresh understanding of Your will and Your plan, we pray.
This is a continuation of our series on the Revelation of Jesus the Messiah. If you haven't done so already, I encourage you to study our previous lessons in this series:
Rev. 1: The Revelation of Jesus
Rev. 2-3: I Know You!
Rev. 4-5: Preview of Heaven
Rev. Study: Prophecies of Daniel
Rev. Study: Raptures and Resurrections
Rev. 6: Overview of the Tribulation
Rev. 7: Some Special People
Rev. 8-9: Danger! Rough Road Ahead!
Rev. 10-11: Seven Thunders; Two Witnesses
Rev. 12: The Woman and The Dragon
Rev. 13: The Last-Days Dictator
Rev. 14: The Last Train for Glory
Let's start this lesson with Revelation 15, verse 1:And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.
This passage begins one of the saddest episodes we have studied to date. The sadness is not because God is going to dump plagues on the remaining inhabitants of the earth and make them suffer. The sad part is that every one of these suffering survivors is there by a conscious choice to rebel against God. Please note: For small children, this choice will be made by their parents. But our Lord will show kindness to the children when He returns. He will count them as martyrs.
To repeat material from earlier lessons, the population of earth will have been reduced to much less than half of its present levels:
- Before the beginning of Daniel's 70th week, the alive-and-awake believers in Jesus will be airlifted to safety, as discussed in Raptures and Resurrections. Unfortunately, this will probably be a relatively small group. It would be surprising if the number was higher than 2-3% of the world's total population.
- Approximately one-fourth of the people on earth will be destroyed by the forces unleashed at the opening of the seals in Revelation 6.
- Of the remaining three-fourths, one-third will be destroyed by the forces unleased at the Trumpet judgments in Revelation 8-9. This leaves a bit less than half of the original population.
- The Lord will have supplemental rapture events during the tribulation period. In fact, the rapture right at the start of the Great Tribulation is described as "a multitude that no man could count." By this time, all the lukewarm folks in church pews will have decided to become either hot or cold for the Lord, and millions more will have come to the Lord. This event could be much larger than the first rapture event.
- Wars and persecutions not described in the Bible will further reduce the survivors.
At this point in the Book of Revelation, the survivors on earth by this point will include:
- Those who have taken the mark of the beast, as described in our lesson on The Last-Days Dictator. These took what appeared to be the easy way out, and are about to regret their choice. These have a very brief time of "rewards" under the last-days dictator before entering a very long period of suffering. These have no hope for the future.
- Those who have not taken the mark of the beast but have not yet received Jesus as their Lord and Messiah. These will include survivors in areas not controlled by the last-days dictator, such as those dwelling in the radioactive ruins of the United States and Russia. These souls have a very brief time to suffer and decide their eternal future, but they still have hope for eternal rewards.
- The remnant of Israel in the wilderness who were not taken in the harvest we studied in The Last Train For Glory. These souls have great hope for the future, and just a few more hours to suffer.
- Israelites who did not escape to the wilderness and who have neither taken the mark of the beast nor accepted Jesus as their Lord and Messiah. These have a short time of suffering as prisoners of war and potential martyrs, but they still have hope for eternal rewards.
Let's skip verses 2-4 of Revelation 15, since we studied them in some depth in our last lesson. As we saw last time, verses 2-4 describe a group of people harvested by our Lord Himself after the angel orbits the globe telling people to receive Jesus as Savior and to refuse to worship the beast by taking his mark. This group will be exceedingly happy about the choice they made, even though it was painful at the time. Now we will see what happens to those who made the wrong choice.
Verses 5-8 set the stage:And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened: 6 And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles. 7 And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever. 8 And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.
Hey, teacher! What kind of temple are these folks coming out of?
This place is described as "the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony." Don't you recognize it?
Huh? It doesn't look like any church building I've ever seen!
That's true -- there's nothing like this anywhere on earth today. But the concept first appeared in the book of Exodus, when God directed the children of Israel to build a tabernacle for Him in the wilderness. Here's what we can learn about this from other Scriptures:
- The expression translated "tabernacle of the testimony" is the exact Greek term used elsewhere to describe the tabernacle built in the wilderness.
- The tabernacle (or tent or temporary housing) was where the children of Israel came to meet the Lord.
- The word "testimony" is a legal term referring to proof or evidence. In Moses' day, the manifestation of God at the tabernacle was visible evidence of God's presence. And when the pillar of cloud moved, it was evidence of God's will that the people should break camp and follow. When the pillar stopped, it was evidence of God's will that the people should stop and pitch their tents again.
- In the New Testament, the word "testimony" refers to the evidence of a believer's changed life, caused by the working of the Holy Spirit in the believer's heart. God's power works within us to make us more like Him. And as we get more sensitized to His leading, we learn to get up and move (or stop and pitch our tents) in response to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
- The word used for "temple" -- the Greek word "naos" -- literally means house or dwelling place. In the Bible, it specifically refers to the Holy of Holies, that sacred place where the presence of God rested above the Ark of the Covenant.
- The entrance of this Holy Place was covered with a massive veil, and the high priest was permitted to enter to minister to the Lord just once per year.
- Even Jesus never entered the "naos" of the temple building during His earthly ministry. Only the appointed high priest was permitted inside the veil, to bring the blood of the Sin Offering. In a spiritual sense, Jesus entered the "naos" in heaven to sprinkle His own blood on the Mercy Seat.
- In Matthew 27:51, after Jesus yielded up His Spirit, "...the veil of the temple (naos) was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth shook, and the rocks were split." This signified that the Levitical priesthood was officially finished. No longer did the high priest need to bring the blood of the Sin Offering, because Jesus had given Himself as the perfect Sin Offering. No further animal sacrifices are necessary to atone for the sins of the people. From that point onward, the only sacrifices necessary are those of fellowship, not atonement.
- The veil of the "naos" was removed, by God, to demonstrate that ANY person can now come directly to God, through the ministry of His Son, Jesus.
Here in Revelation 15, we see the seven angels emerging from the "naos." The entrance to the "naos" is still open, and we are permitted to see inside. But at this point, the power and glory of God are so intense that nobody can enter the "naos" until the seven plagues have been poured out.
So what does all this mean to me?
For perspective, note that God is pictured in the tabernacle and not on the throne we saw earlier. Whenever we saw God on His throne (or when Jesus was on a white cloud in chapter 14, taking a last rapture harvest), the picture was of God's dealing with believers in heaven. Believers have already made their peace with God at the tabernacle (Jesus). For the remainder of our earthly existence we live in physical tabernacles (our bodies) and must encounter God through the spiritual tabernacle (Jesus). We won't see the throne and clouds until we get to the other side.
However, the remaining survivors on earth will be those who have NOT brought the sacrifice of their hearts to the tabernacle of saving grace. Here in Revelation 15, we see that the tabernacle is still open to sinful man. But on that day, the Lord will pour a measure of His wrath on the rebellious folk who continue scorn His gracious Gift of salvation.
Moving onward to Chapter 16, let's begin with verses 1-2:And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth. 2 And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and [upon] them which worshipped his image.
Remember the temple? Now a "great voice" from the temple directs the angels to pour out His wrath upon the earth.
First item of business: God causes something called a "noisome and grievous sore" to fall upon the short-sighted, politically correct folks. The word "noisome" (kakos) means evil, and elsewhere in Scripture it is used to describe someone who is evil in himself but not necessarily malicious. "Grievous" (poneros) describes someone who is actively evil, malicious, spiteful and perverse. How ironic that these "good citizens" chose to take the mark and identify themselves with the most evil, malicious, spiteful and perverse person to ever walk the earth! Now they're afflicted with either ulcers or cancer because of their little embedded microchips. In an earlier lesson, I pointed out that there are several different technologies already available for this application. And God will be sure they choose "the wrong one." Tsk, tsk.
Note that the end of verse 2 appears to repeat itself, saying "and [upon] them which worshipped his image." The beast will have many admirers living outside the area under his direct control. These fools will not be required to take his physical mark, but will voluntarily worship "his image" (perhaps via the Internet). God will give them the same reward as the other weaklings.
Now verses 3-7:And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead [man]: and every living soul died in the sea. 4 And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood. 5 And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. 6 For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. 7 And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous [are] thy judgments.
The angels seem to be saying, "Don't bother feeling sorry for any of these folks." The earthbound survivors at this point will include the nastiest of the nasty. God knows what He's doing.
Note the response of the survivors in verses 8-11:And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. 9 And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give Him glory. 10 And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, 11 And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.
In verse 8, we see some divine humor: God makes "global warming" a reality. Today, "global warming" is a fraud (one of many) perpetrated by earth-worshipping environmentalists. But when the earth worshippers actually experience this "warming" they will KNOW it's not caused by car exhaust fumes or hair spray. They will KNOW God is causing it. Yet they will refuse to repent and give God glory.
Then, just to prove that extra-strong sunlight isn't a natural trend, God plunges the beast's headquarters into a very unnatural darkness. (Just a thought: Would YOU want to be in the dark with creeps like that? Me neither.) Note that these creeps are really in pain, dying from the solar radiation poisoning and cancerous sores from the mark of the beast. Yet to the end, they are stiff-necked and rebellious, cursing God and speaking evil. Some people you know personally will still be alive and will still be acting like this. Amazing.
The sixth vial is described in verses 12-16:And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. 13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14 For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. 15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. 16 And He gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
Here is a very unusual gathering. Three "unclean spirits like frogs" come from the unholy trinity and gather the people of the world to Armageddon. This gathering will involve miracles -- perhaps this could be the devil's version of a rapture event. If so, it could give us fresh insight into our Lord's words in Luke 17 verses 30-37:Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed...34 I tell you, in that night there shall be two in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. 35 Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 36 Two shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 37 And they answered and said unto Him, Where, Lord? And He said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
Remember that verse 14 of Revelation 16 spoke of "the battle of that great day of God Almighty." Jesus was speaking of "the day when the Son of man is revealed." His disciples were expecting Jesus to talk about happy things. Instead He spoke of a very odd, very selective gathering. The surprised disciples asked, "Where, Lord?" Jesus replied using two shocking words in verse 37. The word "body" is a military term referring to corpses of men slain in battle. The word "eagles" describes common vultures, circling over their next meal.
I have heard pastors teach that the passage in Luke describes the rapture of the church. Wrong church, wrong religion. I don't want to be part of the church that gets fed to these vultures.
Now the very last plague, in Revelation 16, verses 17-21:And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done. 18 And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great. 19 And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. 20 And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. 21 And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.
There have been some terrible earthquakes in the past, but nothing like this. And someplace called "the great city" is singled out for exceptional damages. As we saw in our lesson on Revelation 11, the term "the great city" refers to the headquarters city of a corrupt religious system, called "mystery Babylon." More on this subject in our next lesson.
Verse 21 tells about a very strange hail storm "out of heaven." A recent news story said that we might owe our lives to the planet Jupiter. The newspaper article said that Jupiter attracts and absorbs most of the floating rocks that come to visit our solar system. Without that giant planet's help, we would be bombarded by these vagabond rocks. By "coincidence," God will allow a shower of 75-pound rocks to avoid Jupiter and pummel the earth and its inhabitants. The stiff-necked survivors will continue to curse God. Amazing.
What has all of that Tribulation stuff got to do with me?
Hopefully nothing. Hopefully, you have already made your peace with God by confessing your sins and your stubbornness and accepting Jesus, His Son, as your Lord and Saviour and Messiah. Hopefully you are already walking in His love and in the joy of fellowship with Him.
Jesus loves you, personally and passionately. His love and power are the best protection you have against the forces of darkness that will soon rise to power here on earth. His truth will make you immune to the seductive lies of the beast and the False Prophet. My hope is that you've already come to a saving knowledge of Jesus, the true Messiah of Israel.
If you aren't sure of your relationship with Jesus, please click the "mail-to" link below to send us an e-mail. Explain your concerns and we'll respond as quickly as we can (assuming the first rapture event hasn't already happened).
Now two quick offers before we close:
- For an overall timeline of last-days events, click here.
- If you disagree with some (or all) of my conclusions -- GOOD! I'm pleased that you have the intellectual fortitude to think for yourself. Just click here to see some positive steps for continuing your study of Scriptures.
Closing Prayer: Lord, it grieves my heart to realize that some people I know and love might experience these plagues and be stiff-necked until the end. Please give me the wisdom and grace to share Your plan of salvation and peace with them, I pray. Amen.
Hey, teacher! Can you give us an overall timeline for all the tribulation events? I'm getting confused about what happens before what.
Welcome to the club: nobody (including you and me) can know the exact chronology, but we can develop some guidelines by comparing these Scriptures to other prophetic passages. The problem arises because the book of Revelation is arranged by subject, not by strict chronology. Within each chapter or major division, the events are arranged in sequence. But these events might happen before, after, or concurrently with events revealed in later chapters. For example, both the sixth seal of Chapter 6 and the seventh trumpet in Chapter 11 announce the beginning of the Day of the Lord, at the very end of the Great Tribulation.
Having said all that, we can make some cautious generalizations about chronology.
A Guide to Last-Days Events
Here are some general guidelines based on material we've already covered:
- At some point in the near future, possibly on a Pentecost Sunday or on Rosh Hashanah (the Feast of Trumpets), the Lord will call His followers to heaven and give them/us all new resurrection bodies.
- Shortly after you and I are airlifted to safety, the last-days dictator will facilitate a seven-year peace treaty between Israel and its hostile neighbors.
- The signing of this peace treaty will mark the beginning of the "70th week of Daniel" -- as described in Prophecies of Daniel. This "week" (seven-year period) will be a time of God's specific dealings with the nation of Israel, so the Church must be taken away just before or exactly at its beginning.
- Beginning then and continuing through the seven years will be the unfolding of the judgments we saw in Revelation 6, with the opening of the seven seals:
- Religious deception and a false messiah,
- Wars and rumors of wars,
- Disease and famine,
- Earthquakes and natural disasters, and
- Martyrdom of Christian and Jewish people for their faith.
- Approximately 1/4 of the world's population will be killed through these wars, diseases, famines, earthquakes, religious persecution and other disasters.
- Shortly after the start of the seven-year period, the Lord will put His seal on 144,000 Israeli-born, Messianic-Jewish men. These men will have a unique evangelistic ministry for the first 3 1/2 years of the tribulation period before being given a private rapture to be with the Lord.
- Through the first 3 1/2 years of the tribulation, the last-days dictator will be a model of political correctness. He and his False Prophet will appear to be angels of light, helping to "teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony." They will make great, inspiring speeches, encouraging people of all races and religions to live in peace and love. Millions will thrill to hear them, buy their tapes, and spread their deceitful gospel.
- In the middle of the tribulation period, the last-days dictator will break the treaty, seize control of Jerusalem, defile the rebuilt temple, and go on a killing rampage to destroy the Jewish people. A faithful remnant will escape "to the wilderness" -- perhaps the rock city of Petra.
- The breaking of the treaty will announce the beginning of the 3 1/2 year period known as the Great Tribulation.
- When the beast rises to power, the False Prophet will force everybody to take the mark of the beast. This will be a forgery-proof identification and electronic funds transfer system.
- At the very start of the Great Tribulation, the Lord will raise up two witnesses who will prophesy for the entire 3 1/2 years. They will call the shots for God, predicting the arrival of the Trumpet judgments and calling plagues down on the earth.
- At the start of the Great Tribulation, the Trumpet judgments will begin to fall upon the remaining inhabitants of the earth. These judgments will bring the type of devastation normally associated with nuclear war, and 1/3 of the earth's population will be destroyed.
- Shortly after the start of the Great Tribulation, the Lord will call a rapture for a second group of believers. These will be people (both Jews and Gentiles) who come to a saving knowledge of Jesus, the Messiah, during the first 3 1/2 years of the tribulation period. These are called the "numberless multitude," as we saw in the lesson Special People.
- At some point, either at the start or sometime during the Great Tribulation, the devil and his angels will be cast out of their places in heaven and be confined to the earth. He and his henchmen intend to persecute every Christian and Jewish person remaining on the planet. Make plans to be elsewhere BEFORE that happens.
- Near the end of the Great Tribulation, our Lord will take a final harvest of believers who will stand tall in their faith and refuse to accept the mark of the beast. These believers will be eternal celebrities in heaven as a reward for what the apostle Paul describes as "momentary light affliction."
- By contrast to the believers just mentioned, the faint-hearted folks who take the mark of the beast will be part of a different harvest -- the grapes of wrath -- performed by a very grim reaper.
- At the end of the Great Tribulation, the two witnesses will finish their prophecy and the last-days dictator will kill them. After 3 1/2 days, the Lord will resurrect the two men and give them a private rapture to heaven.
- At the end of the Great Tribulation, God will direct His angels to pour out the seven Last Plagues upon the stiff-necked survivors.
- The plagues signal the official start of the Day of the Lord.
- The plagues will set the stage for the Battle of Armageddon.
- When the dust has settled, Jesus will return to the earth to set up His Kingdom and a 1,000-year period often called The Milennium. You and I will return with Him to participate in His government.
In upcoming lessons, we will add more significant events to the above outline. Click here to return to the lesson.
Hey, teacher! I don't agree with your conclusions!
Good! Please don't be satisfied with ANYBODY's explanation, especially mine. My goal is to spur you on to do further study on your own. In fact, nothing would make me happier than to hear that you were so outraged by my lessons that you spent days studying these Scriptures trying to prove me wrong.
All I ask is one thing: Spend your time studying the Bible. Don't waste your time reading books ABOUT the Bible, except for fun. (Hint: You will save yourself a lot of grief (and money) if you avoid commentaries.) Instead, pray for the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind. Then make up your own lists and charts based on your own personal study of the Bible.
A few study helps are worth purchasing. Look up key words and phrases in your Strong's Concordance and in your Vines' Dictionary of New Testament Words. Get the Greek/English Interlinear text by George Ricker Berry, so you can get a flavor for the word-by-word literal translation of the Greek. Spend the majority of your time studying in the King James Version or the New King James translation. These two are the most accurate. (Note: Although the paraphrase versions (Living Bible, NIV) are very readable for the Old Testament and helpful for devotional studies, they are less accurate in the New Testament.) Follow up on the margin notes in your Bible, looking for related passages and concepts. Take everybody's explanations (including mine) with a grain of salt. Click here to return to the conclusion of the lesson.