Frog Shadow

The sixth bowl: Revelation 16:12-16

Previously: The fifth bowl – Revelation 16:10-11

The scripture

Rev. 16:12 –The sixth [angel] poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the east. 13 Then I saw three unclean spirits like frogs [coming] from the dragon’s mouth, from the beast’s mouth, and from the mouth of the false prophet. 14 For they are spirits of demons performing signs, who travel to the kings of the whole world to assemble them for the battle of the great day of God, the Almighty. 15 “Look, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who is alert and remains clothed so that he may not go naked, and they see his shame.” 16 So they assembled them at the place called in Hebrew Armageddon. (HCSB)

Its water was dried up

The Euphrates River figures prominently in both the sixth trumpet judgment and the sixth bowl judgment. As you may recall, in the sixth trumpet judgment four demons bound at the Euphrates are released to lead a vast army that kills a third of the human race. Here, in the sixth bowl judgment, the waters of the great river are dried up to make way for the “kings of the east.”

Frog ShadowIn 536 B.C., Cyrus the Persian devises a plan to divert the flow of the Euphrates River, which runs under the wall surrounding Babylon. This enables his soldiers to march under the wall, take Belshazzar by surprise and capture the city without serious resistance. It’s possible that John is drawing from this well-known historic event to prepare his readers for a swift and certain act of judgment, although it’s not necessary to interpret the drying of the waters literally. In fact, many commentators see the river as a symbol for political or religious boundaries, impediments to the advance of evil forces, or the geographic region from which many of Rome’s soldiers came to destroy Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

Some futurists, however, believe the Euphrates will indeed dry up, enabling a coalition of Eastern powers to sweep into the Holy Land. While the implication is that the water is dried up by an act of God, “the fact is that dams have been built across the Euphrates River in this [20th] century to divert water for irrigation so that there are times even today when there is little or no water in the Euphrates” (J.F. Walvoord, R.B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, Rev. 16:12).

It’s worth noting the similarities between what happens here and what occurs in the crossing of the Red Sea and the march across the Jordan River as God’s people pass out of bondage and into the Promised Land. The miracle that Israel experiences in Old Testament times is now repeated in a negative sense, say preterists, as the first-century Jews who have rejected their Messiah are called into account for their national sin.

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Birth_Jesus

Who are Roman Catholics?

This is the first in a four-part series on Roman Catholicism.

The Roman Catholic Church traces its beginning to the apostle Peter, claiming he is the rock upon whom Jesus built His church (Matt. 16:18). Following Peter is an unbroken line of successors stretching to Pope Francis today.

Birth_JesusNon-Catholics, on the other hand, establish the beginning of the Roman Catholic Church at A.D. 590 with Gregory I, who consolidated the power of the bishopric in Rome.

In any case, the Catholic Church is the world’s largest Christian denomination, with 1.2 billion members. The Catholic hierarchy includes cardinals and bishops and is led by the bishop of Rome, also known as the pope.

The Catholic Church teaches that it is the one true church divinely founded by Jesus Christ. In addition, it claims that its bishops are the successors of Jesus’ apostles, and that the pope, as the successor to the head of the apostles (Peter), has supreme authority over the church.

Categories of Catholics

While the Catholic Church claims to be the one true church, Catholics worldwide hold to a diversity of beliefs. Researcher Ken Samples, cited in Christian Research Journal, has concluded that there are six primary categories of Roman Catholics:

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Judgment

The fifth bowl – Revelation 16:10-11

Previously: The fourth bowl – Revelation 16:8-9

The scripture

Rev. 16:10 –The fifth [angel] poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues from pain, 11 and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, yet they did not repent of their actions. (HCSB)

Plunged into darkness

There is a sense in which the fourth and fifth bowl judgments offer the wicked a preview of hell. In the fourth bowl judgment the sun scorches the beast’s worshipers, and in the fifth bowl judgment the beast’s kingdom is plunged into darkness. Hell often is described in terms of fiery torment. It is “the lake of fire and sulfur” (Rev. 20:10); “the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14-15); and “the lake that burns with fire and sulfur” (Rev. 21:8). Jesus describes it as “the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). Hell is where “the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48). And it is a place where the rich man is “in agony in this flame” (Luke 16:24).

JudgmentJesus also describes separation from God as “outer darkness” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 22:13; 25:30).

Flame and darkness are fitting terms for God’s judgment upon sin and sinners. Fire consumes filth, and darkness aptly describes banishment from the presence of God, who is light (1 John 1:5). In John’s Gospel, Jesus Himself is “the light.” Note:

  • John writes of Jesus, “Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).
  • John the Baptist comes as a witness “to testify about the light [Jesus], so that all might believe through him” (John 1:7).
  • John describes Jesus as “The true light, who gives light to everyone” (John 1:9).
  • Jesus declares, “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
  • He further tells his disciples, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5).
  • Jesus tells a crowd, “The light will be with you only a little longer. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. The one who walks in darkness doesn’t know where he’s going. While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become sons of light” (John 12:35-36). And His concluding testimony is that He came into the world as light so that no one who believes in Him should remain in darkness (John 12:46).

The Greek word for light, phos, appears 23 times in the Gospel of John and 73 times in the New Testament. Most of the time it is used figuratively to depict holiness, purity, or godliness. Jesus uses the term in the Sermon on the Mount to portray the holy standard of conduct expected of His disciples (Matt. 5:14-16; 6:23).

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Questions

When a question is better than an answer

QuestionsHas anyone asked you:

“Why are all Christians homophobic?”

“Why should I worship a God who allows children to starve?”

“If Jesus is so great, why are so many of His followers jerks?”

Tough questions, to be sure. And making matters worse is the questioner’s tone, implying that he or she is not really looking for an answer.

So how should we reply?

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Save us from the fire

The fourth bowl: Revelation 16:8-9

Previously: The third bowl – Revelation 16:4-7

The scripture

Rev. 16:8 –The fourth [angel] poured out his bowl on the sun. He was given the power to burn people with fire, 9 and people were burned by the intense heat. So they blasphemed the name of God who had the power over these plagues, and they did not repent and give Him glory (HCSB).

And people were burned

The fourth angel pours out his bowl on the sun, resulting in intense heat that burns people. While the first three bowl judgments are directed toward the earthly elements – namely, the earth, sea, rivers and springs of water – the fourth judgment is aimed skyward, toward the light-bearing and warmth-giving orb that interacts with the earthly elements to sustain life.

Save us from the fireThis angel, like others we have encountered, is granted authority over some part of the physical universe. In this case, he is given the power to burn people, and he uses the fusion-powered heat of the sun to carry out his task. (Some versions, it must be noted, render the word “it” rather than “he,” indicating that the sun is personified as in Ps. 19:1-6.) At its core, the sun is 27 million degrees Fahrenheit. Even the coolest part of the sun – the sun spot – is 6,700 degrees Fahrenheit, several times hotter than the lava from a volcano (www.planetfacts.org).

The earth is about 93 million miles from the sun. As the earth circles the sun in an elliptical route, the distance between the two varies from about 91 million miles to 94.5 million miles, contributing to our seasons. While that fluctuating distance seems to leave a lot of wiggle room, the fact is that if the earth passed much closer to or farther from the sun, life would be far different here, if possible at all. God created the earth and the stellar heavens to support His special creation on earth, and He holds all things together (Col. 1:17).

If the fourth bowl judgment is to be taken literally, perhaps the Lord empowers the angel to move the earth and the sun a little closer together. Or, he may simply crank up the process by which the sun generates heat. In any case, people on earth feel the impact and are burned. It appears that the people burned are those who worship the beast, for we see that they blaspheme God and refuse to repent.

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Save us from the fire

Christianity without hell

Save us from the fireJohn Shore recently authored a commentary for Patheos entitled, “What Christianity Without Hell Looks Like.” Patheos is a website providing information about various religions.

Reprinted in TIME Ideas and complete with a photo of a dove soaring in the sunlight, the article’s main point is that Christianity without hell “would allow Christians to point upward to God’s love.”

Shore is a popular Christian blogger and author, yet his column features a string of shockingly bad theological statements that nevertheless resonate well in today’s relativistic culture.

Let’s look at just four of his false statements.
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Blood - platelets

The third bowl – Revelation 16:4-7

Previously: The second bowl – Revelation 16:3

The scripture

Rev. 16:4 –The third [angel] poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. 5 I heard the angel of the waters say: You are righteous, who is and who was, the Holy One, for You have decided these things. 6 Because they poured out the blood of the saints and the prophets, You also gave them blood to drink; they deserve it! 7 Then I heard someone from the altar say: Yes, Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments. (HCSB).

The rivers and springs became blood

Blood - plateletsThe third bowl judgment is similar to the third trumpet judgment in which a third of the rivers and springs became bitter (Rev. 8:10-11). Now, however, it appears that all the fresh water is impacted as it turns to blood.

Some commentators who hold to figurative interpretations of this passage see the rivers and springs of water as “learned men” who, like streams, convey “the venom and poison of their errors and idolatries from the spring-head through the earth” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, Rev. 16:1-7). The water turning to blood signifies the godly vengeance taken upon their lives for the physical and moral harm they have inflicted on the saints. Other interpreters see the rivers and springs as depicting the joys and pleasures of life, which are poisoned by sin.

While these graphic images capture well the corrupting work of sin and God’s judgment upon it, a literal view may be the best, especially if John is describing what takes place inside the walls of Jerusalem during the Roman siege in 70 A.D. We know that water sources became polluted. In addition, death was so widespread that streams of blood literally flowed in the streets. So complete was the devastation that Jewish factions within the walls sabotaged each other’s supplies and fought a civil war within their city’s gates. A local understanding of this vision is easier to fathom than worldwide poisoning of all drinking water. Of course, God is able to accomplish this – either by direct intervention or through indirect means such as natural disasters or nuclear warfare.

The point is clear: Those who persecute the bride of Christ will find judgment that fits the crime.
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Blood

The second bowl – Revelation 16:3

Previously: The first bowl – Revelation 16:1-2

The scripture

Rev. 16:3 –The second [angel] poured out his bowl into the sea. It turned to blood like a dead man’s, and all life in the sea died. (HCSB)

The sea turned to blood

BloodJohn records that the target of the second angel’s bowl of divine wrath is the sea, which turns to blood like a dead man’s. There are two key questions to be addressed here. First, what is meant by the “sea?” And second, what is the significance of the sea turning to blood “like a dead man’s?”

As we have noted in previous chapters, Bible scholars interpret the meaning of the sea differently in Revelation:

  • Some understand it literally to mean the salty bodies of water that cover much of the earth’s surface. The seas turn red by the hand of God, or as a result of divinely orchestrated human battles; some argue that a bacterial “red tide” may be the cause of perishing sea life. The widespread death of people and/or animals in the sea would create a putrid environment that clogs the waterways with coagulating blood like a dead man’s.
  • Others argue for a narrower but equally literal view, saying John is referring to the Mediterranean Sea, or to the waters between Patmos, where John is exiled, and Rome; this would include not only the Mediterranean Sea, but the Aegean, Adriatic and Tyrrhenian Seas. This presupposes that the bowl judgments are poured out on the known world of John’s day rather than on all the earth’s seas.
  • Many preterists contend that the Sea of Galilee is in John’s view since that is where the Roman armies inflict a particularly horrifying slaughter of the Jews during their first-century rebellion against the empire. In fact, the result of the battle is that the sea becomes a floating tide of corpses, severed limbs and bloody pools.
  • Some historicists say the sea depicts the ocean centuries later as the navies of France, Spain and Portugal suffer bloody defeats while defending a corrupt papacy. Matthew Henry suggests the bloody seas may describe “the whole system of [Papal Rome’s] religion, their false doctrines, their corrupt glosses, their superstitious rites, their idolatrous worship, their pardons, indulgences, a great conflux of wicked inventions and institutions, by which they maintain a trade and traffic advantageous to themselves, but injurious to all who deal with them…. God discovered not only the vanity and falsehood of their religion, but the pernicious and deadly nature of it – that the souls of men were poisoned by that which was pretended to be the sure means of their salvation” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, 16:1-7).
  • Still others take a symbolic approach, contending that the sea stands for the Gentile nations, or the restless mass of humanity in general.

Whether this vision is to be understood literally or figuratively, the sea turning to blood “like a dead man’s” conveys the idea of massive and complete death. The waters swell with putrefied corpses. Life’s blood has been spilled beyond the hope of healing. Death, destruction, and decay assault the eyes and inflame the nostrils. This is graphic, violent, sense-numbing death. Even if we take John’s description symbolically, the corruption of people, nations, and institutions is complete. The false doctrines are a stench in God’s nostrils. The corrupt practices of people, governments, and religious institutions are beyond repair; like corpses, they must be discarded. John seems here to be telling us that God’s punishment fits the crime. The wicked are so depraved nothing short of death will vindicate His holiness.
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Judgment

The first bowl – Revelation 16:1-2

Previously: The sanctuary was filled with smoke – Revelation 15:8

The scripture

Rev. 16:1 –Then I heard a loud voice from the sanctuary saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.” 2 The first went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and severely painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image. (HCSB)

JudgmentIn chapter 15 the angels prepare to deliver God’s wrath against the inhabitants of the earth. They emerge from the heavenly sanctuary dressed in priestly garb and are given bowls filled with the seven plagues with which “God’s wrath will be completed” (Rev. 15:1). As they leave the temple, it fills with smoke generated by the glory and power of God. No one is allowed to return to the sanctuary until the seven last plagues are carried out.

A loud voice from the sanctuary tells the angels to pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth. The first angel, without hesitation, obeys, and the result is “severely painful sores.”
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GOD

Original sin and the Imago Dei

GODIn Colonial days students learned to read from The New England Primer, which featured a number of Christian maxims such as, “In Adam’s Fall, we sinned all.”

This statement, like others in the Primer, incorporated biblical truths into basic education. From childhood, students came to understand that all human beings are sinful and fallen creatures.

While many schools today abandon these truths in favor of relativism, syncretism, and multiculturalism, many Christian parents instill in their children the reality that sin has marred the Imago Dei – or image of God – in their lives.

We use Scripture to explain our depraved state: “We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way” (Isa. 53:6); “The heart is more deceitful than anything else and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9); and, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

These truths go against the grain of our feel-good culture but are intended to drive us to the foot of the cross, where the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. And for that, we owe an eternal debt of gratitude to our great God.

At the same time, both Scripture and experience remind us that while we await glorification, we must engage in a daily battle between the flesh and the indwelling Spirit (Gal. 5:17).
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