Introduction: Do you love God? Are you grateful for what He has done for you and those you love? Our study this week reveals the opposite side of the spectrum. We see in great detail what happens to those who hate God and who harm His saints. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of a God who meets out justice! Let's dive into Revelation and learn more!
Read Revelation 15:1. Where have we seen seven angels in the past? (We learned that seven angels "stand before God" at His throne in heaven. Revelation 8:2. We saw seven angels repeatedly in our studies: for the seven churches ( Revelation 1:20), the seven trumpets ( Revelation 8:6), and now the seven last plagues.)
Why are they "last plagues?" ("With them God's wrath is completed.")
Does it seem odd to you that God is pouring down His wrath on people? Isn't He a loving God?
Read Revelation 15:2. Who is this group? Are they the target of the plagues of wrath? (Remember that when we studied Revelation 7 we learned that God's people had been sealed, and among that group is the 144,000. In Revelation 14 we see another reference to those who are sealed, but this time just the 144,000. Revelation 4:6 tells us that there is a "sea of glass" before God's throne in heaven. From this we learn that those who have been faithful to God are pictured in heaven. They will not have to deal with the plagues!)
Read Revelation 15:3-4. What are the saved doing in heaven? Is this where they get the idea that we have harps in heaven?
What do you think is their main message?
I'm particularly interested in the language "Just and true are your ways." We are about to study some terrible punishment being handed down. What do God's people think about the justice of this? (They agree with God.)
Introduction to the Seven Plagues
Read Revelation 15:5-6. On who do these plagues fall? (Since these plagues complete God's wrath (Revelation 15:1) they would logically fall only on the wicked. If John is giving us a chronology, then the righteous are already in heaven. Whether this is a chronology or not is something we considered last week. Sometimes John just gives us a glimpse into heaven and it not intended to be a chronology.)
Why are the seven angels so dressed up? Why does John describe their appearance? (Imagine that you have been dealing with sin all this time. Imagine that you witnessed the suffering of Jesus and His followers - the suffering that the wicked have created. Finishing this controversy might cause you to dress up for the final counter strike.)
Read Revelation 15:7-8. Aside from the smoke, can you think of a reason why no one could enter the temple in heaven? (One suggestion is that the mediation of Jesus, our High Priest, described in Hebrews has come to an end. All decisions have been made.)
Read Exodus 19:18. What alternative explanation does this suggest? (The smoke represents God's glory and power in a very dangerous way. The residents of heaven know better than to visit right now as God is staging the seven last plagues.)
Read Revelation 16:1-2. Does this remind you of anything you have previously seen in the Bible? (Read Exodus 9:8-9. A very similar plague was sent to Egypt. Notice that it is confined to the earth and does not affect animals.)
Who suffers from this plague? (Those who have the mark of the beast.)
What is the target here? (The sea. Remember the first plague targeted the earth.)
What specific kind of blood is involved? (The blood of a dead person. The result is that everything in the sea dies.)
Contemplate the extent of that disaster. How would that affect daily life?
Read Revelation 16:4-6. What is targeted here? (The rest of the water: the rivers and springs.)
What is the specific practical problem brought by this plague? (No drinking water. This targets fresh water.)
Unlike the earlier plagues, the justice of it is specifically explained. Read Leviticus 7:26-27, Leviticus 17:11, and Acts 21:25. Can you explain God's reason for this plague? What is the justice of it? (Ingesting blood is specifically prohibited in both the Old and New Testaments because life is in the blood, and blood saves us from sin. These people are the opposite of Jesus. Jesus shed His blood to give us life. They have been taking life. Therefore they are blood drinkers. They are beyond saving.)
Read Revelation 16:7. How did the altar enter this picture? Nothing in this chapter previously referred to it. (The sacrificial blood was poured out at the base of the altar in the temple. Leviticus 4:7. Thus, symbolically, the altar has a special interest in the blood. It approves of this otherwise unapproved use of blood. It confirms the justice of this.)
Read Revelation 16:8-9. Will there be global warming? (Yes! Whatever the merits of the current debate, the sun will "sear" humans.)
Why are we told that God has "control over these plagues?" (This is judgment. Those who deny that our loving God is also a God of judgment ignore the plain text of the Bible.)
How do the wicked react to this judgment?
Read Revelation 16:10-11. Does the beast have a throne? (When we discussed the dragon, the Ten Horn beast, and the Earth Beast in Revelation 13, we decided that there is good evidence that the Ten Horn is Pagan and Papal Rome. That is the conclusion of many of the old commentaries.)
Read Revelation 2:13. What clue does this give us to the question of the location of the throne of the beast? (This tells us that Satan's throne (the dragon, not the beast) is in Pergamum. Pergamum was the first city in Asia which had a temple for the worship of a Roman Emperor. This provides evidence that we are, in fact, looking at a specific city on earth.)
Look again at Revelation 16:10-11. What does the plague of darkness mean to a modern city? (No electricity.)
Would people chew on their tongues in agony if they were deprived of their electronic devices? (Their attention is not diverted by their electronic devices. It is dark and they are focused on their agony.)
Notice the repeated statement that they still refuse to repent and give glory to God. How determined are these people to continue in sin? (We can see why they are such strong rebels against God.)
Read Revelation 16:12. Of what does this remind you? (It reminds me of the transfer of power mentioned in Daniel 5:30 from Babylon to Medo-Persia. The background is that Cyrus diverted the Euphrates river and marched into Babylon on the riverbed and conquered the city. This is referenced in Isaiah 44:27-28.)
Who are the "kings from the east?" (Read Matthew 24:27 and Ezekiel 43:2. I think this means Jesus coming out of heaven with His angels.)
Read Revelation 16:13-15. How are the forces of good and evil lining up? (Jesus is coming, and those who are evil are preparing for battle against God.)
Read Revelation 16:16-20. As this great army assembles, what happens as a result of the plague brought by the seventh angel? (A world-wide earthquake.)
Why does God defeat an army through what appear to be natural disasters? (I don't think the wicked are confused by this. Instead, it shows the great power of God that controls the forces of nature. God is not limited to the power of humans.)
Read Revelation 16:21. What pounds what is left of the evil army after the horrible earthquake? (Hailstones as big as people!)
Friend, choose wisely! Which side seems to be the better choice? Why not side with Jesus today, and right now?