An Intolerant Temple Tantrum or Righteous Retribution?

“And I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the seven bowls of the wrath of God into the earth.” And the first angel went and poured out his bowl into the earth; and it became a loathsome and malignant sore upon the men who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image. And the second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood like that of a dead man; and every living thing in the sea died. And the third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters; and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying, “Righteous art Thou, who art and who wast, O Holy One, because Thou didst judge these things; for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink. They deserve it.” And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Thy judgments.” And the fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun; and it was given to it to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues; and they did not repent, so as to give Him glory. And the fifth angel poured out his bowl upon the throne of the beast; and his kingdom became darkened; and they gnawed their tongues because of pain, and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds. And the sixth angel poured out his bowl upon the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, that the way might be prepared for the kings from the east. And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. (“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his garments, lest he walk about naked and men see his shame.”) And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har Magedon. And the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air; and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, “It is done.” And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. And the great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe.”

The Call from the Temple

The loud voice from the temple calls for our familiar friends, the seven angels, to, “Go and pour out the seven bowls of the wrath of God into the earth.” A question we must ask ourselves is, are we to take the following literally? “And the first angel went and poured out his bowl into the earth; and it became a loathsome and malignant sore upon the men who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image. And the second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood like that of a dead man; and every living thing in the sea died. And the third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters; and they became blood.”

Whether or not this text is to be taken to literal extremes has become irrelevant​ to me. Based on the context and genre, I believe it is a re-telling of the wrath found throughout Revelation from a different lens. Nevertheless, at this point in my life, it isn’t my concern. My concern is the mirror made manifest by the book of Revelation. I can’t help but look into the looking-glass and lament, what makes me different from those with the mark of the beast? I was fortunate to have parents that brought me to church as a child. Is that the mark of the Lamb? I asked Jesus into my heart at a young age. Does that really save a person? I was baptized as a teenager. Did that actually seal my salvation? I was fortunate enough to study the Bible in college. Do not atheists study the Bible as well? I was also able to study and tour in Israel. Has Israel not been a destination for all different types of religious and irreligious pilgrims? I sing songs of salvation. But do I really sing or just sort of mumble the words? I go on short-term missions trips. Am I following the Lamb? I tried to teach teenagers the book. Is the book front and center as frontals on my forehead? I have come to realize that none of that can save me or even shows salvation. Easily faked; the christian walk can be. I have but one hope, Jesus Christ. I need a gift, how could I hope for two?

Salvation is more than sufficient for a sinner like me. Considering the context to all that we’ve seen and read, how does a pre-tribulation rapture fit into the imagery? God is good but we have trouble understanding just how good he is. Trials and tribulations are given to grow the christian in their walk. And as we have seen clearly, one is rewarded in heaven for their walk in Christ. When we who, seriously, don’t suffer, are juxtaposed to the “un-raptured” first century church, our minds should begin to be changed. We don’t deserve salvation and we don’t deserve to be saved from tribulation. And when I consider my life, compared to a christian in the first century who followed until death, I have to hold the mirror of Revelation even closer to my face. It’s right there in black and white. Listen to what the angel says: “Righteous art Thou, who art and who wast, O Holy One, because Thou didst judge these things; for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink. They deserve it.”

If​ they deserve it, doesn’t that mean that I deserve it as well? I remember back to the end of chapter 6; “Who can stand?” The blood of the Lamb that was trodden outside the city, is our only hope. We must also notice the wording of the angel’s speech. Notice the action that requires judgement; “Thou didst judge these things; for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink.” To their actions, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Jesus said in Matthew 23:35, which contrary to coincidentally, contains the “seven woes,” notice: “upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.” Stephen cries out the question in Acts 7, “which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become!” To whom were Jesus and Stephen speaking? Continuing in the context of Matthew: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!” The blood is on apostate Israel, which is also, the beast followers, the dragon worshipers, namely, everyone, but particularly to those in the first century. The only exception is those with the mark of the Lamb.

We see the self-righteous, beast followers, apostate Israel. Yet we should see something else, something clearly there but often ignored. Let’s dig even deeper into the context of Matthew. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ “Consequently you bear witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. “Fill up then the measure of the guilt of your fathers. “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell? “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. “Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation.”

In this just judgement, Jesus declares their acts and sentence​, as we also see the angel proclaiming in Revelation 16. The reader sees the acts deserving of judgement. Who is judged and why? This is huge, we cannot miss this. All of Revelation speaks of this, shows this and leads us to this. Listen to the words of Jesus, Stephen and the angel–the guilty are guilty because of the blood of the Lamb. The righteous are made righteous by the blood Lamb, of course, but there is something else, notice: The blood of the prophets and the saints are also less-than-intimated, less-than-implicitly, to apostate Israel–their blood is assigned to them. Essentially Jesus says, you did it before and you’ll do it again. Remember the two non-literal witnesses? My point, the thing we miss, what we must understand is that if the saints and prophets are killed, they are not raptured. Before Jesus of Nazareth became (Genesis, more on this later) Jesus of Nazareth, they killed the saints and prophets. When Jesus of Nazareth was on the earth, they killed the saints and prophets. After they killed Jesus, they killed the saints and prophets. In Revelation, they get their just judgement. The point is, they always kill the saints and prophets so don’t expect to be raptured, expect to die. Look at the text, it’s explicit. What is not straight forward is a random rapture that is supposed to save people marked for death. Many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers say things such as, “this is the ‘Rapture’ when using texts as 1 Thessalonians 4, to prove “The Rapture.” But they don’t consider this context or that context. Yes, rapture is certainly in 1 Thessolonians 4, but not “The Rapture.” This pre-tribulational rapture is a fanciful farce, based on the fact christians are continually promised tribulation, from the first century until the kingdom come.

Again, consider the context in Matthew: “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name. “And at that time many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one another. “And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many. “And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. “But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.“ Remember, this was written to the not-even-yet-a church, not to some far-future generation. Since the beginning of the church, christians are promised tribulation, death and hatred

And the Altar Announces Agreement

Now, something else very interesting happens after the angel of the water makes its proclamation; did you see it, or remember it? It’s a pretty good sign that indicates we shouldn’t take Revelation to literal extremes. That’s correct, the altar speaks. This is also a good verse to dig into if you’re a”King James only,” Bible reader. Simply stated, the King James has it wrong. (Maybe because the translators assumed that altars don’t speak, and they’re right.) Nevertheless, in apocalyptic genre, we’re bound to read about talking altars. Essentially, the altar agrees with the statement proclaimed by the water angel. And now the fourth, fifth and sixth, (but as always, not the seventh), angels do their thing. I am noticing a pattern here. We also see another similar statement, “and they did not repent, so as to give Him glory.”

Another Trifecta of Torturous Times and Another Immutable Interlude

“And the sixth angel poured out his bowl upon the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, that the way might be prepared for the kings from the east.” Consulting our Old Testament tutor, Isaiah, “The LORD will devote to destruction the gulf of the Egyptian Sea; with a scorching wind He will sweep His hand over the Euphrates. He will split it into seven streams, for men to cross with dry sandals.” We discussed this briefly in part two of “The Four (Fallen?) Angels” and will very briefly see the imagery here. The Euphrates was to be Israel’s eastern border. Notice the Egyptian sea in Isaiah, that was to be the south-western border. I believe, based on the context and genre, this is imagery of the collapse of the apostate Israel, but more precisely, the end of the age of the law. We’ll cover this more in the future.

Now, we have another, seemingly random interlude before the seventh angel does its thing. By now, I am thinking we should look for similarities. “And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. (“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his garments, lest he walk about naked and men see his shame.”) And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har Magedon.”

Within this brief interlude, one is forced to pause for two reasons. The first is that the construction of the text in Revelation demands it. The author has shifted from bowls of wrath to a scene involving the dragon (Satan), beast (beast from the sea), false prophet (beast from the land) and frogs (unclean spirits). The author interrupts the natural flow of the text, to once again, insert a proverbial parenthetical phrase. The other reason the reader should pause, which is illuminated by the CAGED method, is that this is a familiar pattern with familiar sights and sounds. We’ve been here before. When waltzing through Revelation, one is forced to consider the configuration of the content within the composition. Action, action, action (3), interlude; action, action, action (3), interlude; concluding action–which is the seventh. One sees patterns in the pages and passages​ within the Bible but none as prevalent as the pattern put to print in this prophecy. We are seeing the same principles but from different angles or vantage points. Beyond the similarities in the context, there are undeniable similarities in the scope of the syntax. The reader who uses the CAGED method realizes that Revelation truly is a wonderful waltz.

The Real Battle is in Our Brains

When one, to whom Revelation has been taught and told, yet has never waltzed, the gathering in the place “which in Hebrew is called Har Magedon,” is manipulated by muscle-memory of the mind to the battle of Armageddon. However, the one who waltzes  begins to understand that like Mount Zion and the temple, Har Magedon is figurative. It is also the re-telling of a scene already seen, twice, at least. Look at the context, though the kings prepare for battle, Jesus claims he is coming like a thief. That is a bold and contradictory claim. Who do you believe, the Lamb or the frogs?

Therefore, when one is confronted with the following text without considering the context and genre–without waltzing, one may take it too literally; and in turn, miss the meaning meant: “And the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air; and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, “It is done.” And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. And the great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe.”

Do we see literal one hundred pound hailstones ​or does it figuratively represent massive wrath? Remember the context and genre. The context is God’s just wrath, “they deserve it,” as proclaimed by the angel and the altar. We must consider the context, content, syntax and genre. When we waltz we take into account the sentence structure and the arrangements of the words, though truly, some is lost in translation. Nevertheless, it is undeniable with the proper approach. One repeated idea is that at the seventh angel, the wrath is finished. Here in Revelation 16:17 we read, “And the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air; and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, “It is done.” “It is done,” isn’t the best translation.

Sometimes, no matter how much one waltzes, one isn’t convinced that they still have misconstrued muscle-memory of the mind. Even if one realizes that Revelation’s 7 bowls are a recapitulation of the 7 trumpets, which themselves are a recapitulation of the 7 seals, that, in and of itself, doesn’t eliminate all our presuppositions. However, when we use proper exegesis, consulting our Old Testament tutor and understanding the similarities in the New Testament, the presuppositions should not prevail. “It is done.” Perhaps your mind is remembering Jesus on the cross, in John (same author), saying, “It is finished.” And while seemingly sensible, it is not the same word. The word John uses in Revelation 16, that is translated to, “it is done,” could actually be described as an antonym to the word he uses in his Gospel in chapter 19, which has been translated, “it is finished.” Let’s look at an example from the same author. In John 8, Jesus has a tense conversation with the apostate Israel, which helps us read rightly Revelation but we’re short on time–read it when you have a chance–this is the end of the conversation; see if you find, “it is done:” “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” The Jews therefore said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple.”

I will not waste your time making you guess– it’s “was born.” Understand first that the word is used dozens of times, with dozens of slight differences, in the New Testament. But also understand that it is the word from which we get the name of the first book of the Bible, Genesis. In Revelation 16, the loud voice from the temple is not saying, “it is finished,” but rather, “It has come into being.” And even that isn’t correct because that would be in the subjunctive mood, when it was written in the perfect, indicative, active. Don’t think I am trying to correct the translators, they did very well under very difficult circumstances. I am simply highlighting the text for clarity–as clear as muddy waters. As simply as I can state it, this is not only the end but the beginning. As the Bible has stated, it’s the end of the age. We will consider this more in the future, regarding the past.