Have you ever stared at one of those optical illusion pictures in frustration, not seeing anything? Then, once someone tells you what to look for, it’s like it’s all you can see! You can’t “not” see it.
I kind of feel like that looking at Revelation this time through the lens of the “Overlapping Method” we’ve been talking about. It just makes so much sense, especially in today’s read. Revelation 12-15 is designated as the introduction to the bowl judgments, the final in a series of three periods of time that John has seen. The introduction summarizes what’s going to be accomplished and reveals God’s motivation and purpose for this section. It’s by far the longest introduction and for good reason. The bowl judgments are the wrath of God, the final judgment against all ungodliness and wickedness that remains on the earth. It’s important that we understand why they must take place.
The bowl judgments are extreme. God is putting an end to life as we know it on earth. For seven and a half years, the interruptions to the natural world, pain that threatens life, and the loss of some life have only been a warning to mankind. God’s longsuffering and patience have come to an end, and the time for any chance of repentance is drawing to a close. The bowl judgments end with the appearance of Christ, and at His second coming, there will be no more grace. The unrepentant and rebellious will bear the burden of their own sin and face God’s wrath.
Because of the severity of the outcome, God wants to leave no doubt about the justness of His judgments. This is what the introduction tells us. It is a recounting of the events and players that have led to this conclusion.
Chapter 12 begins with a vision that clearly describes the birth of Jesus through the nation of Israel, Satan’s attempt to destroy Him, and His ascension back to the Father. At some point in history, one-third of the angels defected to follow satan and were cast out of heaven to earth. (No wonder we see so much demonic spiritual warfare today, as satan knows his time is short!). For some time, satan was still given access to heaven (read Job’s story). He is the great liar and accuser. But as we move into the mid-point of the Tribulation, he will be literally booted out, never to gain access again. When this happens, persecution and martyrdom will increase (Seal #5). Satan will try to destroy Israel, but she will be rescued by God and flee to the wilderness unharmed. In his anger, he will turn his attention to those who proclaim faith in Jesus. These events will lead up to God’s final wrath, indicating they take place during the Trumpet Judgments #1-6.
Revelation 12:9-12 – And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.”
I want to quote here from Revelation Logic: The Introduction to the Bowls because it does such a great job of outlining what these chapters are about.
“It may seem surprising that this book of future prophecy should go back and review something from the distant past, but it begins to make sense when we understand what this is all about.
Chapter 12 is primarily about Satan and his activities in opposition to God and to God’s people. Since Satan has been around for a long time, it should not be surprising that a review of his activities should extend from the distant past to the future. As such, it is fitting that this review would include his actions against Christ 2000 years ago.
Chapter 13 is mainly about Satan’s human cohorts: the Antichrist, the False Prophet, and their followers. These things are clearly in the future and cover a much shorter time span.
Chapter 14 continues to describe the future, as it goes all the way through to the conclusion of the end times, including a preview of the bowl judgments. This preview of the bowls includes a description of the return of Christ and the battle of Armageddon.
Finally, chapter 15 concludes this lengthy section by preparing us for the bowl events themselves. We see seven angels being given the seven bowls full of God’s wrath to be poured upon the earth, while the saints are depicted as being in heaven, acknowledging the righteousness of God’s wrath.
Overall, we see that this lengthy section of Revelation chapters 12-15 reviews a wide span of time, extending from ancient times all the way to the conclusion of the end times, including a summary of God’s wrath. Importantly, this section discusses several things that happen during the trumpet and bowl periods. It would therefore be incorrect to think that it is describing “extra” events that take place between the trumpet and bowl periods.
This section puts particular emphasis on what happens during the trumpet period. It does this by looking at the trumpet period from a different perspective than the trumpet events themselves do:
The trumpet events focused mainly on the plagues that will be striking the earth during the trumpet period, and the two witnesses who prophesy on God’s behalf during that time.
This lengthy section focuses more upon the wickedness on earth during the trumpet period, specifically the actions of Satan, Antichrist, the False Prophet, and their deceived followers.”
Isn’t God gracious to give us a “heads up” on recognizing the antichrist and false prophet so we are not deceived? Those who are willing to hear and heed His words of warning will not be caught off guard when we see the world’s systems moving into place just as God said they would. A digital currency, a “mark” (embedded chip) that will be required to buy and sell, a move towards uniting all religions – these things aren’t a surprise to us. It’s scripture coming to life right in front of our eyes.
God’s judgments are always just. The wrath of God is meant for satan, who has rebelled against God and deceived the creation He loves for centuries since Adam and Eve took that first bite in the Garden of Eden and reaped a fallen nature. That sinful nature has separated us from God from the time of our birth. Those who continue to follow satan and also rebel against the God who created them will justly suffer God’s wrath that is coming in the bowl judgments.
It doesn’t have to end that way for you and me.
We have heard the truth – the gospel. We still have time to repent of our sins and proclaim our allegiance to the winning side – Jesus, who will rule and reign over this earth for a thousand years. God’s wrath is justified because He is holy, and we are sinful, but also because His grace and love and mercy have made a way of escape.
Are the bowl judgments scary? You bet they are. I don’t want to be anywhere on this earth when God’s wrath is literally poured out on satan and all who have taken their stand with him. I’m so thankful for the salvation God gave me, for Jesus who stood in the path of God’s wrath in my place on the cross and has rescued me from eternal death and separation in a place called hell, where satan himself is headed.
I guess that’s one of the blessings of reading this book – knowing what is to come and understanding, even more, the gift that Jesus gave us. Let us be faithful to invite others to receive this gift before it’s too late.