ON REVELATION - LESSON 17
End Is Near
Revelation 15 and 16
We have had our
last chance. If we do not devise some greater and more equitable system,
Armageddon will be at our door." These words were spoken by General
Douglas MacArthur September 2, 1945, as he stood on the battleship Missouri
after the Japanese surrender. Less than a month before, at 8:15 a.m.
on a sunny Monday morning, August 6, a B-29 bomber, nicknamed Enola
Gay, had dropped the first atomic bomb and changed the course of
history. In the aftermath of this new kind of devastation, MacArthur
felt compelled to warn the world about a future apocalypse.
Churchill had a similar reaction after he read about the horrors inflicted
on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. He spoke these stark words: "Death stands
at attention, obedient, expectant, ready to serve, ready to shear away
the peoples en masse; ready, if called on, to pulverize, without hope
of repair, what is left of civilization. He awaits only the word of
command. He awaits it from a frail, bewildered being, long his victim,
nowfor one occasion onlyhis Master."
Decades after the
birth of the atomic age, wars are still raging around our world,
and "death" still stands at attention. The great battle of Armageddon,
which MacArthur referred to, hasn't yet broken out. But the Bible
tells us it's coming. It's going to break out just before Jesus returns
to Earth. Revelation 15 and 16 show us how Armageddon fits into last-day
events as one of the seven last plagues.
As we begin our
study, let's set the stage. Revelation 14:6-13 portrays the final
messages of the three angels that are being proclaimed right now
in these last days of Earth's history. These messages are to be given
before the "mark of the beast" and "seal of God" are given. Once
the three angels' messages have been proclaimed to all the world,
humanity will face a big decision. Everyone must decide between following
God and the Bible completely or following a belief system based on
human traditions in addition to the Bible. After earth's inhabitants
have decided whom they will follow, something tragic happens to those
who reject God. The third angel's message (vss. 9–13) tells
us that those who receive the mark of the beast will receive the
last plagues. They "drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which
is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation" (verse
study of the book of Revelation we have uncovered messages that tell
us God loves us and cares for us. Even though at times vivid warnings
of calamity and judgment must be given, the bottom line is always:
God wants to be our Friend. He has chosen to be honest; He won't
cover up unpleasant facts, but above all, God wants us to understand
there is great joy and peace in being His children. So, before He
gives us details about the seven plagues and the destruction they
bring, God pauses again to remind us that He is a God of love. There
is no need to be afraid of Him. Ultimately, sin and its results must
be eradicated. God wants to end suffering. God doesn't want the pain
of broken relationships to go on. God doesn't want the agony of cancer
or AIDS to go on. God doesn't want the grief of losing a loved one
to go on. Sin must end. But it must end in a certain way. God wants
to teach the whole universe something important by the way He puts
an end to sin. Everyone must understand how destructive and tragic
sin really is. Created beings must see that when God withdraws His
protective hand the results are terrible. After the seven plagues
are unleashed, no one will ever want sin to exist again. Out of love
and compassion, God says, "Okay, it is time to expose sin at its
ugliest and wrap up the problems of planet Earth."
15: The sea of glass
how these plagues fall, God gives us an assurance. He shows us that
many people don't have to worry about these calamities. Those who've
accepted Christ's invitation to follow Him fully and completely are
pictured in a different setting altogether. They're not huddled in
fear. They're celebrating victory, standing on a sea of glass.
Who does John see standing on the sea of glass in heaven? (Revelation
who have the victory over the beast, its image, its mark, and the number
of its name.
who have received the mark of the beast and who have worshiped its image.
who have been killed for their faith.
Moses and the Israelites
lifted up a song of deliverance after God had given them safe passage
through the Red Sea, enabling them to escape the Egyptian army. God's
people will celebrate a deliverance equally dramatic. They sing "the
song of Moses." They also sing "the song of the Lamb." They are joyously
thanking Jesus Christ for their great victory.
of God's characteristics described in verses 3 and 4 gives you the most
comfort and strength?
Aren't you thankful
that God encourages His people by showing them this glorious scene before
the plagues fall? God is reinforcing an important message: He is there
for us in the worst of times, even when the tragedy of sin seems to
overwhelm us. Maybe you are struggling with the breakup of a marriage.
Maybe you are struggling to pay the rent. Maybe you have an abundance
of wealth, but you're lonely or depressed. Whatever your situation,
Jesus is telling you there is victory in the blood of the Lamb. He gives
you an invitation: "Come to Me... and I will give you rest" (Matthew
11:28). Jesus can give us rest because He can help us deal with problems
and find solutions.
16: The seven plagues
The subject of
plagues is familiar to those who have read the Old Testament. There
is the well-known story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt
and the refusal of Pharaoh to let them leave. God sent plagues on
the Egyptians until they agreed to let the Israelites go (Exodus
7–11). In a similar manner, God uses plagues before the second
coming of Jesus.
Many biblical scholars
share the view that although these plagues are literal, they also
have spiritual applications. Let's consider each plague from this
Plague: Malignant sores (Revelation 16:2).
Upon whom does the first plague of foul and loathsome sores, fall? (Revelation
who have blasphemed God and Jesus.
who have persecuted God's people and have put them to death.
who have the mark of the beast and who worship its image.
The beast power
which enforces the mark of the beast, decrees, "Unless you receive
the mark you will be physically harmed." This first plague is physical
in nature. It suggests that there is physical safety only in Jesus.
Plague: The sea turns to blood (vs.
What happens to the creatures in the sea when the oceans turn to blood
under the second
plague? (Revelation 16:3.)
living thing in the sea dies.
of all the creatures in the sea die.
God miraculously keeps them alive.
Plague: The waters turn to blood (vss.
What takes place under the third plague? (Revelation 16:4.)
earth is covered with a flood of water.
rivers and springs of water turn to blood.
fail around the world, resulting in a terrible famine.
In contrast, Jesus
is the living water. He described the Holy Spirit working in the
life as a "fountain of living water" springing up within one's life
(John 4:14). This is the pure well water representing the pure, caring
life of Jesus.
Plague: Men are scorched (vss. 8, 9).
What is the reaction of people on earth as they suffer from the plagues?
(Revelation 16:8, 9.)
repent of their sins and turn to God for forgiveness.
insist that the plagues have natural causes and that they are not judgments
God on their sins.
blaspheme God and refuse to repent of their sins.
Here we see sin
showing its ugly head in yet another way. Instead of turning to the
God who can deliver, the afflicted curse God and uphold the rule
of Satan, the one who destroys.
Plague: Darkness and pain (vss. 10, 11).
Where does the fifth plague-darkness-fall? (Revelation 16:10.)
the throne of the beast.
one-third of the whole earth.
The beast power
has led people into spiritual darkness, and now literal darkness
falls on Earth. Those who've rejected Jesus, the light of the world,
now find themselves in darkness. Those who've turned from the lighted
path that leads to eternal life now feel the darkness of eternal
death all around them.
Plague: Euphrates dried up (vss. 12-16).
This plague ushers
in earth's final struggle, the Battle of Armageddon. Scholars interpret
this battle in various ways. However, most everyone agrees that during
the last days of Earth's history, the whole world will be turned
into a vast battlefield as the wicked attempt to destroy God and
His people. Armageddon symbolizes the final struggle between the
forces of Satan and God. The great controversy that began when sin
first entered our world in the Garden of Eden is now coming to a
climax. Earth's inhabitants have made their decisions for God or
for Satan. Armageddon makes the fundamental issue very graphic: Whose
side will you be on? Whom will you serve?
Plague: The earth is shaken (vss. 17-21).
What words come from God's throne as the seventh plague is poured
out? (Revelation 16:17.)
kingdom is left desolate."
the blood of Jesus was flowing at the cross, and His humiliation and
suffering were drawing to a close, the Savior cried, "It is finished"
(John 19:30). The same phrase rings out at the end of this final struggle
with sin. A loud voice proclaims, "It is done!" (Revelation 16:17).
Sin and suffering are gone forever. Love has fully triumphed at last.
What beautiful words these will be!
What disasters occur under the seventh plague? (Revelation 16:18-21.)
The sun no longer gives its light, the climate
becomes freezing cold,
ice covers one-third of earth.
A great earthquake, islands and mountains collapse, a great hail storm.
Meteorites strike the earth nearly destroying it, and the sun becomes
ten times hotter.
Satan has always
tried to confuse and deceive God's people with counterfeits. Here
are some of the ones we've seen in Revelation. All these culminate
in the seven plagues.
- The Godhead
is made up of a trinityFather, Son, and Holy Spirit. Satan
has his trinity, identified in Revelation 16 as the dragon, the
beast, and the false prophet.
describes God Almighty seated on a throne. The beast also sits
on a throne.
- Jesus received
a mortal wound on Calvary and was resurrected. The leopard-beast
receives a mortal wound and is healed.
- The Holy Spirit
leads people into all truth. The lamb-horned beast leads people
into falsehood; he's called the false prophet.
- God created
man in His own image. Satan gives encouragement to the image of
- God breathed
into man the breath of life. Satan breathed life into the image
of the beast.
- God sends three
angels to proclaim His final messages to every nation, tongue,
and people. Satan sends out "three unclean spirits like frogs" (Revelation
16:13) to assemble people for the final great battle against God.
- God bestows
the seal of God. Satan bestows the mark of the beast.
- God has a remnant
in the last days who have faith in Jesus, obey His commandments,
have the testimony of Jesus, and sing praises on a sea of glass.
Satan has a group who choose to believe his lies and corrupt doctrines
and end up in the lake of fire.
All of Satan's
counterfeits are part of his covert operation to drag people down
to destruction. He doesn't want you to say "Yes" to Jesus and follow
Him. Satan doesn't want you to realize that suffering, tragedy, and
death ultimately come from him. He wants you to believe that God
is the enemy. But you don't have to fall for Satan's lies. You have
God's Word to the contrary. In fact, you have God's promise that
He will deliver you when sin's final fury envelops the Earth. God
is with you to protect you from the plagues.
to this wonderful assurance in Psalm 91:
"He who dwells
in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow
of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge
and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.' Surely He shall
deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous
pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His
wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and
buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of
the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in
darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but
it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you look,
and see the reward of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord,
who is my refuge, even the Most High, your habitation, no evil
shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all
your ways. They shall bear you up in their hands, lest you dash
your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the
cobra, the young lion and the serpent you shall trample under foot.
has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will
set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon
Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will
deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and
show him My salvation" (vss. 1–16).
Which phrase in
this wonderful psalm is most comforting to you?
As you think about
the seven last plagues and the final events on Earth before Jesus
comes, how do you feel?
that in Jesus you are safe from the plagues. Though times will be difficult,
you can rest in His sheltering arms. R. A. Anderson tells of a farmer
in Australia who returned home one day to find that his house and barn
had burned to the ground. The man couldn't help weeping as he looked
over the charred ruins and realized he'd lost all his possessions. But
something caught his eye as he came to the chicken coop. He spotted
a mound of charred feathers. It was the body of a hen. He idly nudged
it with his boot. To his amazement four fluffy baby chicks came out
scampering and chirping. This mother hen had stayed there with her chicks
safely beneath her as the fire raged. In the ruins of his farm this
man had seen a remarkable picture of sacrificial love.
I am thankful
that Jesus has the kind of love that will cover us as the final fire
rages. I am thankful for that scene of exultant worship in Revelation
15 that precedes the seven plagues. I look forward to raising my
voice along with other victorious believers who stand on a sea of
glass and shout: "Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty!
Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!" (Revelation 15:3).
Right now won't
you make your decision to be there with that joyous group? Won't
you make your decision to follow Jesus?
§ § §
During World War
II, Kata Ragoso, a native chief on the Solomon Islands, led hundreds
of military personnel to safety through enemy territory. Kata claimed
that his courage came from Jesus. He'd been born of cannibal parents,
but missionaries had led him to accept Christ as his Savior. Toward
the end of the war in the Pacific, one of the officers ordered Kata
to engage in tasks that violated his conscience and his commitment
to Jesus. He refused to obey.
The officer ordered
Kata flogged. This Christian chief was laid face down over a gasoline
drum and beaten with a cane until his back was bloodied. Again the
brutal officer ordered Kata to obey, and again he refused. Enraged
at what he perceived to be defiance, the officer drew his revolver
and rained blows on Kata's head until he fell to the ground unconscious.
Determined to teach the other islanders a lesson, the officer ordered
Kata to stand before a firing squad.
had tied Kata against a tree, the officer told the squad to fire
on the count of three. He started counting, "One, two..." but the
word "three" just wouldn't come out. Three times the officer started
counting; three times he failed to speak the fatal word. Finally,
he turned on his heels and stalked off.
Ragoso was taken to the prison compound and locked up with his most
faithful assistant, a man named Ludi. Local church members began to
pray. They knew they were outnumbered by soldiers with guns and bayonets,
but they believed that prayer was the most powerful weapon.
The moon rose just
before ten that night. The prayer meeting began. At about the same
time a tall man holding a bunch of keys walked to the prison gate,
selected the proper key, opened the padlock, and then the prison
gate. He called Kata Ragoso and Ludi to him, took each by the arm
and led them outside and along a path toward the sea. Overlooking
the beach, he pointed, "You will find a canoe there. Take it and
The two men walked
to the water's edge, and there they found a canoe with two paddles.
They turned to thank their rescuer, but no one was there.
proved that the original bunch of keys had hung on its peg in plain
sight of a sentry all that night.
God is there for
us in the darkest hour. God is there for us when the final fire rages.
He will keep us in his sheltering arms. He will send His angels to
deliver us. He will watch over you then. He will watch over you right
now as you live each day for Him. Have you accepted Christ's free
gift of eternal life? Have you accepted His plan for a better life
right now? If you haven't, please bow your head right now and tell
Him you choose Him as your Lord and Savior.
accept You as my Lord and Savior right now. I ask You to forgive
my sins and accept me as Your child. Help me to live for You
every day. Thank You, in Jesus' name. Amen.
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