Rev. 17:15 – He also said to me, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute was seated, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages. 16 The 10 horns you saw, and the beast, will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, devour her flesh, and burn her up with fire. 17 For God has put it into their hearts to carry out His plan by having one purpose and to give their kingdom to the beast until God’s words are accomplished. 18 And the woman you saw is the great city that has an empire over the kings of the earth.” (HCSB)
The waters you saw
The angel tells John in verse 15, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute was seated, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages.” This is in contrast to – perhaps even a parody of – Psalm 29, in which the voice of the Lord is “above the waters. The God of glory thunders – the Lord, above vast waters…. The Lord sat enthroned at the flood” (vv. 3, 10). Everything Satan does is a counterfeit, and we see this in full force throughout Revelation. The notorious prostitute who sits on many waters no doubt has a global impact. Her voice reaches around the world and draws many followers. Just as we see men and women “from every tribe and language and people and nation” in heaven (Rev. 5:9b), there are “peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages” responding to the siren song of Babylon the Great.
The imagery in this scene draws from Old Testament passages that compare nations and armies with floodwaters. In Isa. 8:7, for example, we are told that “the Lord will certainly bring against them [Jews of the southern kingdom] the mighty rushing waters of the Euphrates River – the king of Assyria and all his glory. It will overflow its channels and spill over all its banks.”
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.
This 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.
We are continuing to work through the Book of Revelation with a focus on four major views of the so-called Apocalypse of John. You may read the commentary to date by clicking here.
Whether you’re a preterist, who sees the events of Revelation as fulfilled in the first centuries of the Christian era, a historicist, who views the events of Revelation as unfolding throughout the course of history, a futurist, who sees most of Revelation as yet unfulfilled, or an idealist, who sees Revelation setting forth timeless truths concerning the battle between good and evil, there are important truths the Lord reveals to all of us in this book.
We would do well to approach Revelation with caution — and with great anticipation, knowing God will fulfill all His promises to us. We also should be comforted by the fact that Revelation is the only book in Scripture specifically promising a blessing to those who hear its prophecies and keep them.
With that in mind, and to make it easier to keep our notes together, we have captured the commentary into single Adobe files (pdfs) that you may download, print and share. Click on the links below to capture notes on chapter 14. If you missed the link to notes on chapters 1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9, 10, 11, 12, or 13, links are provided as well.
Rev. 14:20 – Then the press was trampled outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press up to the horses’ bridles for about 180 miles. (HCSB)
Finally in this chapter, John records, “Then the press was trampled outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press up to the horses’ bridles for about 180 miles” (v. 20).
Commentators generally agree that the city in question is Jerusalem. It is called “the great city” in Rev. 11:8, as well as “Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.” The reason the wicked are destroyed outside the city is that this is where accursed and unclean things are taken for disposal. For example, the Valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem is where human sacrifices take place in Old Testament times. It is a burning trash dump in Jesus’ day. Even the carcasses of sacrificial animals, whose blood the high priest carries into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, are carried outside the city walls and burned.
But the writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is crucified outside the city in order to identify with sinful people. The One who knew no sin becomes sin for us, and the blessed Son of God becomes a curse: “For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the most holy place by the high priest as a sin offering are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the gate, so that He might sanctify the people by His own blood. Let us then go to Him outside the camp, bearing His disgrace” (Heb. 13:11-13).
Other interpreters see this simply as an allusion to Old Testament purification laws where the unclean are taken outside the camp (Lev. 8:17; 9:11). Still others understand this as a reference to the end-time gathering of the wicked around the city of Jerusalem (Ps. 2:2, 6; Dan. 11:45; Joel 3:12-14; Zech. 14:1-4; and the apocalyptic book of 1 Enoch 53:1). If this is a reference to the Day of the Lord, it likely speaks of the Valley of Jehoshaphat, which according to Jewish tradition is the part of the Kidron Valley between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives. This is where Joel prophesies that the judgment of nations will take place (Joel 3:12-14). Zechariah places the final battle on the outskirts of Jerusalem (Zech. 14:1-4).
Rev. 13:9 – If anyone has an ear, he should listen: 10If anyone is destined for captivity, into captivity he goes. If anyone is to be killed with a sword, with a sword he will be killed. Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints. (HCSB)
If anyone has an ear
This section concludes with a cautionary message: “If anyone has an ear, he should listen: If anyone is destined for captivity, into captivity he goes. If anyone is to be killed with a sword, with a sword he will be killed. Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints” (vv. 9-10). The beginning of this message echoes similar words Jesus used to underscore the importance of what’s being said. For example, He closes the Sermon on the Mount with, “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine …” (Matt. 7:24). He concludes the parable of the sower with the words, “Anyone who has ears should listen” (Matt. 13:9). And He uses the same phrase after explaining the parable of the wheat and tares (Matt. 13:43). And, of course, Jesus ends each of his letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor with the words, “Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.”
It appears there are complementary lessons in these words. First, the Holy Spirit through John is encouraging persecuted saints to persevere, even to the point of death. They already have been assured that God ultimately will vindicate them and reward them in heaven (see, for example, Matt. 5:10-12; Rev. 2:10; 6:9-11). Second, the Lord is reminding the persecuted saints – and perhaps even their persecutors – that He will judge the wicked. The complaint that the wicked prosper and go unpunished is common throughout scripture; many Psalms of David are deep laments, for example. God, however, reminds us that evil is not forever and the wicked do not “get away with it.”