Welcome to this blog which is following the Book of The Revelation. Previous blogs can be found by date from the archive, or at emmock.com bible reference, or emmock.com topic word. Comments and questions are always welcome. My other blog, which is more political can be found at xtremejesus.co
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16 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, ‘Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.’
2 So the first angel went and poured his bowl on the earth, and a foul and painful sore came on those who had the mark of the beast and who worshipped its image.
3 The second angel poured his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing in the sea died.
4 The third angel poured his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. 5 And I heard the angel of the waters say,
‘You are just, O Holy One, who are and were,
for you have judged these things;
because they shed the blood of saints and prophets,
you have given them blood to drink.
It is what they deserve!’
7 And I heard the altar respond,
‘Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty,
your judgements are true and just!’
8 The fourth angel poured his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire; 9 they were scorched by the fierce heat, but they cursed the name of God, who had authority over these plagues, and they did not repent and give him glory.
10 The fifth angel poured his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness; people gnawed their tongues in agony, 11 and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and sores, and they did not repent of their deeds.
12 The sixth angel poured his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up in order to prepare the way for the kings from the east. 13 And I saw three foul spirits like frogs coming from the mouth of the dragon, from the mouth of the beast, and from the mouth of the false prophet. 14 These are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. 15 (‘See, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and is clothed,[a] not going about naked and exposed to shame.’) 16 And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Harmagedon.
17 The seventh angel poured his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’ 18 And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a violent earthquake, such as had not occurred since people were upon the earth, so violent was that earthquake. 19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. God remembered great Babylon and gave her the wine-cup of the fury of his wrath. 20 And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found; 21 and huge hailstones, each weighing about a hundred pounds dropped from heaven on people, until they cursed God for the plague of the hail, so fearful was that plague.
These events are both a) God’s punishment of evil and b) the effects of human evil on the natural and political environment. The are modeled as are other plagues in Revelation on the plagues of Egypt, where the repeated motif is the “hardening” of Pharaoh’s heart, his doomed refusal to admit that the plagues are his responsibility. So it is here. The rulers and citizens of the Roman Empire are blind to the truth that they have brough these disasters upon themselves. God’s punishment of evil is to let it run its course.
The disasters are:
Painful and disfiguring disease; the pollution of the sea with blood so that its creatures all die; the similar pollution of all fresh water sources; global warming; chaotic madness of the rulers; the drying up of the great River Euphrates, the ancient boundary of civilization; impending war.
There was a time when disasters such as these would be seen as supernatural impositions, but now, allowing for a measure of poetic exaggeration, they can be seen as the catastrophic effects of human perversity on their planetary ecosystem.
Commitment to wealth and power rather than human welfare has already permitted the spread of diseases which could have been prevented. The sea is polluted not only with the blood of slaughtered creatures but also with other pollutants such as plastic. Yesterday there was a report that 70% of examined gulls had plastic in their stomachs. Fresh clean water is already in short supply even in countries with abundant rain, because it has been made into a commodity. There may be “water wars” in the next decade. Global warming and its horrific consequences for a large part of the earth’s surface is a fact. The pathetic ineptitude of some rulers and the vicious insanity of others has never been more evident than in their response to the present crises in the Middle East and North Africa and the huge movement of populations which has resulted. The boundaries of nations have become almost irrelevant. The threat of war is ever-present. I am not claiming that the ancient prophecy of Revelation is fulfilled in our time, but rather illustrating human capacity to bring about disasters that might be called “apocalyptic.” Most evident of all is the human refusal to see such disasters as warnings and to change their way of life.
As with the other sequences of seven, the last is a symbol of the ultimate victory of God’s rule. In this case the great empires fall and the wrath of heaven is expressed in thunder, earthquakes and storms of hail. The detail of this final victory is narrated in the subsequent chapters.
The writer imagines that the goodness of God is expressed in the gentleness of the slaughtered Lamb and his followers, who offer their lives in a non-violent struggle against the evil powers; and in His own terrible refusal to control the consequences of evil. This theology can shock milder believers who live at a distance from catastrophes, but it deals with the desperate questions of those afflicted by them, not least the most ancient and anguished of human cries, “My God, why have you abandoned me?”
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