CHAPTER XVI

 

The Vials of God’s Wrath

 

Revelation 15:6 – 16:6

 

 “Seven angels” in white linen robes, indicating spotless righteousness (19:8), with golden girdles are each given a vial “full of the wrath of God” against all unrighteousness, particularly against the detestable sin of idolatry. These angels come out of the very holy of holies.  While they are punishing the wicked by emptying the vials of God’s wrath upon them, “the temple of God was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power; and no one was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.”

 

These angels do their work very rapidly. The seventh trumpet blows for “days” when God is gathering together His elect “from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven” (Mark 13:27).  The “four winds” are mentioned in Revelation 7. This word “days” means a considerable length of time, for “day” does not always mean in the Bible precisely a period of twenty-four hours.  Sometimes it is used as “time.”  The “day” of God’s wrath means the “time” when His wrath is poured forth. Revelation 14:7 says, “The hour of His judgment is come . . .” 

 

Again, “Therefore shall her (Babylon’s) plagues come in one day” (18:8). These two expressions mean that the judgment and plagues of Babylon come rapidly and are of short duration. “In one day” may mean a literal day of twenty-four hours.  Certainly, it means suddenly.

 

            Punishment of wickedness may come about in two ways, either by being self-inflicted or God-inflicted. God once said to Israel, “Hast thou not procured this unto thyself?… Thine own wickedness shall correct thee.” God may punish us, and He often does, by giving us our own way. In Romans 1, God gave wicked men a loose rein, who plunged into wicked unbelief, idolatry and sensuality. The Word says, “The wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness . . .”  How? In this manner:  When men knew God, and did not glorify Him as God but fell into idolatry instead, then God “gave them up” to their own uncleanness (Romans 1:24), and “gave them up” to vile affections, (v. 26), and “gave them up” to a reprobate mind (v. 28).  The end of giving men up to unrestrained wickedness is described at the end of this chapter in Romans as something awful to contemplate.

 

            Paul, the apostle, tells us of a time coming when all restraint of wickedness shall be removed (2 Thessolonians 2:6-8). Afterwards, Antichrist will be revealed.  The blowing of the seven trumpets means, I believe, the removal of the restraint the Spirit of God exercises over the conduct of evil men. When seven trumpets blow, seven great events, accompanied by others, follow:

 

(1) Hail, fire and blood destroy one-third of the grass and trees of that “fourth part of the earth” where the four judgment-agents--war, famine, pestilence and wild beasts rage.  (8:7)

(2) One-third of the sea becomes blood.  One-third of the ships and one-third of the fish are destroyed.  (8:9)

(3) One-third of the fresh waters are poisoned, causing many deaths. (8:10)

(4) One-third of the sun, moon and stars are darkened, shining only part of their time each day. (8:12)

(5) A terrible locust-pest is let out of Hades, or “the bottomless pit,” by a fallen angel.  (9:11)

(6) A great war destroys 66,000,000 men. 

(7) Satan comes to earth, in “great wrath,” and raises up Antichrist and the False Prophet, who terribly persecute God’s children.

 

            None of these occurrences, except the smiting of the sun, moon and stars as a sign of what is coming, is inflicted by God.  Rather, these acts are the working out of the iniquity of war, of powers let loose from Hades, or of Satan himself.  As described in the first chapter of Romans, these will come about because God gives men up to living out their own unrestrained evil passions as wrought by demons and Satan to which is added the direct work of fallen angels.

 

            Now, we come to something entirely different in origin from the events under the seven trumpets, which we have been reviewing.(1) In our present chapter, holy angels come out of the holy Temple of God in heaven, and pour out His wrath upon the wicked.  It is a punishment of unrestrained wickedness which God allowed men to work because they wished to. These punishments are:

(1) A painful sore upon the worshipers of the Beast who have his mark.

(2) A sea of dead blood which kills everything in it.

(3) Blood only in all the fresh water supplies as a punishment for the

        slaying of the martyrs.

(4) A scorching-hot sun.

(5) Darkness and awful, mysterious agony on the “seat” or throne of     

      Antichrist--meaning terrible misery for all those about him.

(6) Next, the river Euphrates is dried up so that a great army headed by Oriental kings, may be able to   cross it without delaying to make bridges.

We can imagine how they will say, when they arrive: “How fortunate! We wished to get to Jerusalem just as quickly as possible to help our great king (Antichrist) there, for he has called upon us to come to his aid. We thought we would be detained here to build bridges, but the scorching hot weather has dried up the river.  We can push forward without delay and arrive sooner than we expected.”

 

            And so, they rush forward to help sustain the infamous ruler, who is having troubles enough, under the vials of God’s wrath. God allows them to hurry  into the trap, which Palestine will prove to be to them. Christ is now about to come.  After all His prepared saints have been translated from the earth, His coming will be so unexpected to those who do not believe the Bible that He says, “As a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.”

 

These armies of the Oriental kings will never live to return home.  At this time, “three unclean spirits like frogs” – out of the mouth of Satan; out of the mouth of Antichrist; and out of the mouth of the False Prophet--have gathered these Oriental kings and their armies together. “The spirits of demons working miracles,” they are called. Perhaps, it means demon-possessed human beings. Further on in the story, the kings respond to the call, doubtless with huge armies following them.

 

            When we remind ourselves of what has already been said, we keep confusion away. The work of these seven angels with the vials of wrath represents in detail about the treading of the winepress in chapter 14. The order of events is: First, Christ reaps the earth of all the prepared saints. Second, an angel reaps the “vine of the earth” and casts the clusters (of the wicked) into the winepress. Third, the saints, resurrected or translated, are presented before God as the wheat-loaves of firstfruits.  Fourth, the wicked are “reaped” and trampled in the winepress with the seven vials of God’s wrath poured upon them. 

 

The seventh is the battle of Armageddon when the blood mounts up to the horses’ bridles.), and the great earthquake. Revelation 14:17-20 is expanded into chapter 16 where just before the battle of Armageddon, the voice of the Lord rings out an alarm: “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” What does this scripture mean? All of God’s prepared saints will have been translated before this time, but deluded Christians will still be on the earth--those whom Christ likened to five foolish virgins not sufficiently supplied with oil to enter with the rest into the marriage feast (Matt. 25:1-13). Although they have been shut out, the Lord still extends mercy to them. They need not be destroyed at Jerusalem since many are there when it is burned with fire at the time the awful earthquake comes. The White Horseman is still abroad saving souls. When this moment comes, if only these will remember the teaching of the Word, they can escape perishing with the wicked.

 

            Very explicit directions are given to them in Zechariah 14:5.  When this day comes, Jesus Christ will descend to the Mount of Olives.  That mount will split in two, making a deep valley eastward from Jerusalem. They are instructed to flee at once from the doomed city through this valley and not rest until they reach a place called Azal.  Although we do not know of such a place east of Jerusalem now,  doubtless Christians at Jerusalem will know of such a place by the time these directions are to be followed.

 

            After the Christians of Jerusalem are translated, then those left will realize they are in a dreadful predicament–left behind.  God’s awful wrath is about to break forth upon the city and the whole world. God never forsakes His own even though, like Jonah, they “forsake their own mercy.”  Having missed the best way, yet another way is provided.  They are not outside God’s mercy though they have failed to win a crown.  Now, they have God’s guidance on how to escape with their lives.  Let us hope everyone will escape.

 

            Notice the significant words, “walk naked,” which means going out on one’s own feet.  The translation has been missed. The same is taught by the Lord’s cry over Babylon, “Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not her plagues” (18:4). In a later vision, John sees the destruction of Jerusalem under Antichrist--Babylon.

 

In his first epistle, John speaks of such Christians as being “ashamed at His coming.”  You will ask what is to become of such Christians? The answer anticipates the teaching of this book.  However, it is that they will pass right through the Tribulation from first to last and exist with other mortals on the earth –to be ruled over by those who have won a crown, been made immortal, and who will reign with Christ on the earth a thousand years (20:4).

 

They will not have a part in the blessed first resurrection (20:6).  Upon death, however, they will await the judgment of the Great White Throne (20:12) when the “book of life” will be again opened.  If they are found faithful, they will be rewarded “according to their works.”

           

The Lord revealed to a friend of mine, who lived in San Francisco that a terrible earthquake would soon wreck the city. She warned many to be ready for the calamity. Thinking her warning was all foolishness, even her own husband did not believe it.  For many weeks before the earthquake, she wrapped her Bible inside her dress and other garments and placed them within easy reach. When the earthquake finally came, she was all ready for it and escaped with her clothes and her Bible. Others were not so well off by any means.  They escaped naked and were very much ashamed until someone took pity and clothed them. I always think of this incident when I read this verse.

 

(7)   The last plague is the destruction of Jerusalem and all the armies of the world which assembled there to defend Antichrist as the ruler of  the entire world.  Later, though, when the armies assemble to defend Jerusalem, they will change their minds by destroying and burning it with fire.

 

First, Jerusalem, and then the wicked armies around Jerusalem, will be destroyed in the battle of Armageddon (16:16).  During this battle, the seventh angel pours out a vial of wrath upon Jerusalem in the midst of terrific thundering, lightning, rumbling sounds, and a terrible earthquake which breaks Jerusalem up into three parts. This earthquake will be the greatest one that has ever occurred in the history of the world.  Cities all over the world will be wrecked by it, and islands will sink into the sea. Great mountains will explode, sending up into the sky huge stones that weigh as much as a hundred pounds. These stones will fall like hail upon the people, cattle, houses, and everything at hand and do terrific damage. It is recorded that even this destruction will not cause the wicked to repent but only to blaspheme the more.

 

NOTES_______________________

 

1.   See Appendix D.

       CHAPTER 17