Part One – A Midlevel Flight Across Revelation: Rev 1-3
Part Two – A Midlevel Flight Across Revelation: Rev 4-5
Part Three: A Midlevel Flight Across Revelation: Rev 6-7
Part Four: A Midlevel Flight Across Revelation: Rev 8-9
Part Seven: A Midlevel Flight Across Revelation: Rev 14-15
Three words for three chapters: judgment (16), wickedness (17), destruction (18). Rev 17 is an interlude informing us of an evil end times religious system depicted 1) in terms of the system made infamous by Babylon and 2) as a whore who has all of her rivals (i.e. Christians) murdered.
Rev 16 describes the seven final and worst judgments of all: the bowl judgments. What are these bowls? They are the golden censors used in the Temple to carry the incense (which symbolizes prayer). Remember the last time we discussed the prayers of the Raptured believers who were a sea of glass mixed with fire (Rev 15:2 cf 4:6)? They were calling for judgment to fall on the wicked world for murdering the Tribulation saints. We see today that God will answer that prayer! By this point in the Tribulation, God knows in His foreknowledge that every single unbeliever still alive on earth at this time will not repent no matter what (see Rev 16:9,11,21). These judgments in effect are a foretaste of hell. God brings judgment on these unbelievers warning, “This is what’s in store for your eternity if you refuse to repent.” They are God’s final warning; and the world will settle for nothing less than hell.
I won’t try to speculate on how these judgments are carried out. Remember that God has three ways to enact these judgments (by simply stepping back and allowing man to punish himself; by bringing natural disaster such as super volcanoes; by directly supernaturally acting). The 1st bowl (16:1-2) causes giant, incredibly painful malignant sores to break out ONLY on those who have taken the mark of the beast. These sores may be like the terrible ravages of radiation that we saw on survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The 2nd bowl (v. 3) is poured into the sea and causes ALL sea life to die (say goodbye to fishing and aquaculture). The 3rd bowl (vv. 4-7) turns all the FRESH water into blood because the world that spilled the blood of the martyrs will get blood to drink. There will be no more water to drink. The 4th bowl (vv. 8-9) is poured out on the sun and scorches people with its fire. The 5th bowl (vv. 10-11) is poured onto the throne of the Satan-possessed Antichrist, plunging his entire kingdom into a darkness that is so oppressive it can be physically felt (cf. Ex 10:21). The 6th bowl (vv. 12-16) is poured upon the great river Euphrates, and its waters dry up to prepare the path of the 200 million man army of the kings of the east. The Euphrates marks the boundary between East and West. A famous rhyme by Kipling says “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.” But they WILL meet as armies led by China will one day commit the greatest banzai charge in human history. And this judgment is an example of one that can now be fulfilled by man: the Soviet Union completed a dam project that can shut off the flow of the Euphrates for an army to cross; and a huge road project has been constructed from China through the Himalayas of Kashmir to Pakistan. India denounced it to the U.N. at the time as “a threat to peace in Asia.” History will record India to be right as the kings of the east cross it like a red carpet to Armageddon. The secular humanist world will end in a greater bloodbath than every war up to this point combined. And the 7th bowl (vv. 18-21) causes the worst earthquake in history which will cause all the great cities of the world to collapse. It will remove islands, flatten mountains, split Babylon into three parts and result in 75 lb hailstones to plunge out of the sky.
Armageddon is the result of demonic influence both on the kings of the East and the Antichrist (Rev 16:12-16). It may be that demons employ signs and wonders to inspire the various armies to gather at Armageddon – with demons inspiring each side that they will win this global war of extinction (see Joel 3:12-14). As the kings of the east mass at the Euphrates, Antichrist inspires his own armies to meet them.
We don’t know how or when the order of battle will proceed. Part of that is because there are wars prophesied in Scripture that may happen BEFORE the Tribulation or during it. For example, take Psalm 83, which prophesied that modern-day Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine would attack Israel. I believe that prophecy may have been fulfilled in the Six Day War. Ezekiel 37-38 prophesies the War of God and Magog which has not yet occurred. It will involve the modern-day armies of Russia and the former Soviet Republics of Eastern Europe, Iran, Turkey, Sudan and Libya. The Old Testament names of these countries have been pretty well established for centuries based on the Table of Nations in Gen 10 (which is the most archaeologically significant page that ever existed). As an example the great archaeologist William Albright said, “The tenth chapter of Genesis…stands absolutely alone in ancient literature, without a remote parallel…”
The amazing thing is that these coalitions described in the Bible are EXACTLY what we have today: the Russians have EXACTLY this coalition dating to the days of the USSR. And China is right now solidifying its hegemony over Asia. The global alignments look RIGHT NOW precisely the way the Bible said it would look in the very last days. The only thing we don’t yet fully see is the ten kingdoms that will be ruled by Antichrist (and consider my next paragraph for more on that).
The War of Gog and Magog is not directly tied to the Tribulation (e.g., by being specifically cited in the Book of Revelation). If the War of Gog and Magog occurs prior to the Tribulation, it might literally be the event that causes the panicked international response out of which the Antichrist arises. I see the various events of Bible prophecy as sprockets and pulleys of a great machine that will all come together with every gear and cog falling into place such that what God said would happen WILL happen as He foreknew and foretold. Whether it be war or economic collapse or both, everything prophesied in the last days will suddenly fall together in an incredibly short time such that the Antichrist will simply step in at God’s appointed hour and take over – with much of the work of organizing the world for his takeover already having been done for him. If the War of Gog and Magog occurs during the Tribulation, it would be the first stage of the vast global campaign that is summed up by the word “Armageddon.” So Russia and Iran would lead the Ezekiel 38 coalition against Israel – and subsequently be destroyed by God. China and her allies would then position themselves to protect their oil interests, thereby causing the Antichrist and his armies to maneuver to try to block their access to the Middle East amidst nuclear mushroom clouds galore. All the major armies of the world will be gathered. It will be complete madness that will be hard enough to understand when it is going on, let alone be able to figure it all out even before it happens. But one thing is sure: there is enough detail and description in the Bible that Tribulation believers will look at their Bibles and at this insane war and recognize it when they see it.
And while this vicious “the survivor wins” battle is going on, the world will be utterly devastated by a supermassive earthquake that will either be unleashed by a massive nuclear exchange or even more directly by the hand of God. God will have given secular humanist man his chance to govern the world without God. When Christ returns in Rev 19, it will literally be to prevent the destruction of the planet and the death of every single human being on earth.
I’m going to do something different with Rev 17-18. Rather than try to explain every tree (i.e., every detail in the chapters), I’m going to spend time trying to show you the forest. I believe with a good study Bible (like the Ryrie Study Bible, the MacArthur Study Bible, or even the NIV/NASB Study Bibles which share the same study notes) you can pick up a lot of the details. Rev 17 and 18 talk about “Babylon,” and what I want to do is show you where the Babylon system that Revelation describes truly comes from and what it will look like in the Tribulation.
We arrive at the descriptive interlude of Rev 17 that teaches us about two of the great dynamics driving the last days. One is a last days religious system directly connected to ancient Babylon. And again, this is something that may fall into place in an incredibly short time (to be exploited by the false prophet for the benefit of Antichrist) in the last days. Consider the cover story that has already been concocted to explain away the Rapture: “The people who leave the planet during the time of Earth changes do not fit in here any longer, and they are stopping the harmony of Earth. When the time comes that perhaps 20 million people leave the planet at one time there will be a tremendous shift in consciousness for those who are remaining.” — Barbara Marciniak, Bringers of the Dawn. Now, I think it will be quite a bit more than 20 million, but you get the idea: New Agers and secular humanists alike agree on one thing: the Christians are the problem; we are the force that is preventing the world from “evolving” the way the aliens who seeded the earth with life intended. In order to evolve to the giant government Utopia that New Age channelers and secular humanists long for, the aliens will have to show up remove the barriers preventing that Utopia. That’s us. We’ll be beamed away so the world can properly evolve.
Let me give you a complementary example: climate change. Nobody talked more about freak weather characterizing the last days than Jesus. The prophets filled the Bible with prophesies of deadly weather. “Global warming” or “climate change” or whatever they’ll call it next ought to be OUR sign; but the secular humanists and new agers who most oppose Jesus Christ and God’s Kingdom have hijacked and perverted this sign of the end times to THEIR agenda, haven’t they? The United Nations has demanded $76 trillion to save the earth from global warming as they redistribute wealth to advance their agenda. In the same way, I believe the same enemies of God will exploit the Rapture to bring about THEIR religious system, which they will use to unify the human population “left behind” by the Rapture and bind the world to their demonic agenda. And it doesn’t matter if it was in the Bible for thousands of years because the unsaved world couldn’t care less about what the Bible says.
Rev 17 talks about this religious system in terms of “Babylon.” Two things most characterized that system: gazing into space for answers (astrology) and binding the human race together in unity against God. Let’s go back to Babylon’s first moment at the Tower of Babel. Why were they building the tower? Nimrod (whose name fittingly means “We will revolt”) unified the world to build the world’s tallest astrological observatory for the purpose of astrology. But King Nimrod doesn’t first say, “Let’s build a tower.” Instead he says, “Let’s make BRICKS” (Gen 11:3). Normally you first decide what to build and THEN pick your building materials. Why is that significant? Consider an altar: God commanded it be built from uncut stones (Exodus 20:25), and therefore each stone is unique in size and shape. Think in terms of people: God made us unique individuals. But now consider bricks: every brick is exactly identical to every other brick. Bricks are faceless and interchangeable. God wants us to be stones, precious in individuality (see 1 Pet 2:4-5), but the god of this world tries to mold us into bricks. And the Hebrew word for “mortar” is the same word as the word for “materialism.” The unification of people against God by materialism. The Babylon system wants us to become faceless and mindless bricks that are mortared rigidly into place by our lust for materialism and our desire to get more and more of the material world.
The Jewish Talmud refers to this founder of Babylon as “the hunter of the souls of men” (see Gen 10:9). He hunted men not to kill them, but rather to seduce them into becoming his subjects and to make himself their master. Nimrod represented totalitarianism and totalitarian government. The ability of people to think for themselves and believe for themselves were simply not in his game plan. And throughout its entire history, Babylon continued to be infamous for its astrology, its materialism and its godless and arrogant totalitarianism. And every single totalitarian Utopia began under the deceitful premise that those who served the cause would be better off materially/economically. And as the people discovered they’d been lied to, they realized that the government had all the guns and held all the power and that it was too late to try to resist the kind of power over humanity the State now held.
If you want to know what God thought of this kind of big government system, read 1 Samuel 8:4-22. God knew that the demand for this kind of government amounted to a rejection of Him. And God knew that all the king that the people wanted would do was TAKE from them.
AFTER the Rapture – which will be hijacked by the world to make it about “obstructionist Christians” being removed by aliens so that the world can evolve into the totalitarian Utopia – would it surprise you if the world is led into a Babylon-style religious system which focuses on unity and on the movements of the celestial bodies? After hundreds of millions of people suddenly just “vanished” into space???
I hope you can see by now how the political (totalitarian Antichrist), the religious (the false prophet) and the economic (materialism, the mark of the beast) all come together in this world system. Because Rev 18 continues to confirm that; you now have a commercial/economic Babylon (see 18:3,11). This may be a geographic city; the “whore” of Babylon in Rev 17 “sits on many waters”; which we’re told in 18:15 meant “peoples, multitudes, nations and languages” (all plural). Whereas Rev 17 describes a religious system characterized by godless, arrogant, Babylon-style materialism which murders anyone who won’t become a “brick,” the Babylon of Rev 18 appears to be a political and economic center. And everything is united – politics, religion, government, and commerce – by this system that the Antichrist will rule. Secular humanists do NOT hate religion; they only hate religion that gets in the way of the political system they’re trying to impose. In a remarkable address to the American Academy for the Advancement of Science in 1991, Dr. LD. Rue, addressing the predicament of godless modern man, advocated that the human race be deceived by what he called a “noble lie” into thinking that we and the universe still have meaning, purpose and value. He wanted to avoid what he called “the madhouse option” by which everyone would get to choose their OWN personal values (see Judges 21:25). And so he wanted a noble lie that would deceives us, tricks us, compel us beyond self-interests, beyond ego, beyond family, nation, and race. He wanted a religious system – (ANYTHING BUT Christianity) – which would create the illusion of these things while still promoting the agenda of godless secular humanism. He wanted to bind mankind together by an illusion that he knew was false – “a noble lie” – that would provide all the benefits of religion without any of the costs or inconveniences. That’s what’s coming.
Tags: antichrist, Babylon, Bible prophecy, bowl judgments, bricks, Euphrates, global warming, Gog and Magog, King Nimrod, kings of the east, Rapture, religious system, Revelation 16-18, totalitarian government system, Tower of Babel, Tribulation