Our world defines love very specifically, even arrogantly as if anybody knows what it really means. The world around us would like to be the all and everything of perfect love. It might be in a moment’s sexual pleasure – of course, that is why they say they “make love”. It might be in small or gigantic charitable deeds, when people’s efforts are measured against the destruction and vengeance of the beast and the tragedy surrounding us. Whatever this world might think love is, it can never measure up to the Source of love, the One by whom we are all being made able to love.
Ancient Greek had four words for love – philia meaning brotherly love and love of friendship, thus love between equals, eros, meaning romantic love and storgé, meaning love or affection between children and their parents, mostly used for family relationships or patriotism and “loving” a sports team.
The fourth word agapé was hardly used in ancient texts outside the New Testament. The Greek language had the word, but it is as if it lay in waiting to be defined by the Source of love in human form. Jesus used it. Just the definition would blow you away by the sheer force of the power that the word itself exerts.
Agapé is unconditional love; love by choice and by act of the will. The word denotes unconquerable benevolence and undefeatable goodwill. Agapao will never seek anything but the highest good for fellow mankind. Agapao (verb) and agapé (noun) are the words for God’s unconditional love. It does not need chemistry, an affinity or a feeling. Agapé is a love by choice, rather than philos, which is love by chance, engaging the will rather than emotion. It is a self-giving love that gives freely without asking anything in return and does not consider the worth of its object.
Agapao is a word that exclusively belongs to the Christian community. It is a love virtually unknown to the writers outside the New Testament. It is a word to which Christianity gave meaning. It was rarely used in Greek philosophy and writers of ancient Greek wisdom.
This definition of God’s love must be firmly established in our minds by prayerful meditation as we consider the sixteenth chapter of Revelation.
The seven angels are ready with the seven bowls of God’s wrath. Remember, all calamity is geared to bring people to repentance. God is waiting for the cry of the afflicted to provide salvation and outcome and is ever ready to provide for all by powerful, miraculous intervention.
The plagues mentioned here remind us of the ten plagues of Egypt, although they do not exactly correspond in all the details.
For the sake of our study – here is a short summary of what we know.
First, we set out the ten plagues when Moses confronted Pharaoh with the wrath of God.
(i) The water made into blood (Exodus 7:20-25).
(ii) The frogs (Exodus 8:5-14).
(iii) The lice (Exodus 8:16-18).
(iv) The flies (Exodus 8:20-24).
(v) The plague on the cattle (Exodus 9:3-6).
(vi) The boils and sores (Exodus 9:8-11).
(vii) The thunder and the hail (Exodus 9:22-26).
(viii) The locusts (Exodus 10:12-19).
(ix) The darkness (Exodus 10:21-23).
(x) The slaying of the first-born (Exodus 12:29-30).
Second, we set out the terrors, which followed the sounding of the seven trumpets.
(i) The coming of hail, fire and blood, through which a
third part of the trees and all the green grass are withered (Revelation 8:7).
(ii) The flaming mountain cast into the sea, whereby one third of the sea becomes blood (Revelation 8:8).
(iii) The fall of the star Wormwood into the waters, whereby the waters become bitter and poisonous (Revelation 8:10-11).
(iv) The smiting of one third of the sun and the moon and the stars, whereby all is darkened (Revelation 8:12).
(v) The coming of the star who unlocks the pit of the abyss, from which comes the smoke out of which come the demonic locusts (Revelation 9:1-12).
(vi) The loosing of the four angels bound in the Euphrates and the demonic cavalry from the east (Revelation 9:13-21).
(vii) The announcement of the final victory of God and of the rebellious anger of the nations (Revelation 11:15).
Third, we set out the terrors of this chapter.
(i) The coming of the ulcerous sores upon men (Revelation 16:2).
(ii) The sea becoming like the blood of a dead man (Revelation 16:3).
(iii) The rivers and fountains becoming blood (Revelation 16:4).
(iv) The sun becoming scorchingly hot (Revelation 16:8).
(v) The darkness over the kingdom of the beast, and its agony (Revelation 16:10).
(vi) The drying up of the Euphrates to open a way for the hordes of the kings of the east (Revelation 16:12).
(vii) The pollution of the air and the terrors in nature, the thunder, the earthquake, the lightning and the hail (Revelation 16:17-21).
The trumpets have a limit, one third of the earth. Trumpets always called to alert the people to repentance and return to God. The bowls’ destruction is comprehensive and final on the enemies of God.
NOTE: the terrors befall the unbelievers.
… came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. (Revelation 16:2)
In this final series of terrors John seems to have gathered together the horrors from all the stories of the avenging wrath of God and to have hurled them on the unbelieving world in one last terrible deluge of disaster. [William Barclay]
The first four hit the environment. The last three hit the realm of the beast. The brief descriptions suggest simultaneous execution, rather than successive development. It is not only physically; the calamities are felt in the spiritual realm as well.
God’s loud voice unleashes the terror.
Sores are a direct consequence of disobedience, as described in Deuteronomy 28:35.
So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome boils and agonizingly painful sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. (Job 2:7)
Water that turns into blood makes water as life-giving source to become the source of death. The disaster hits every source of earth’s water. There is no escape for God’s enemies in the final judgment. The church is always the first to suffer from persecution. The blood of the saints becomes death to the world. Every living creature in the sea dying depicts final and full judgment.
The judgment is retributive; it is of equal weight to the crime.
The voice of the altar (16:7) speaks of Christ’s suffering and blood. The voice of the martyrs calls for judgment. The altar is the place where the prayers of the saints and lives of martyrs are offered.
To the Christian, even darkness is not bad. Darkness as described here as thick darkness is confusing and scary, but in Exodus 20:21 Moses found God in the darkness.
So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.
“Then you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the midst of heaven, with darkness, cloud, and thick darkness. (Deuteronomy 4:11 and 5:22)
That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness. (Zephaniah 1:15)
The day of the Lord, is a day of rejoicing for God’s people. For us, there are treasures in the darkness, to be discovered with the help of our Lord who brings outcome and victory in all and every situation.
I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden riches of secret places, (Isaiah 45:3)
There is a disturbing refrain in 16: 9,11 and 21. The judged curse God. Even as they could see God’s hand, they obstinately reject His call. So often today we hear the argument how can a God of love allow such suffering? It is the refrain of the pigheaded, unmoved in their affliction. My response is that if they think, by the asking of the question, that He is powerful enough to make a difference, it will be worth their while to talk to Him about it. Just ask Him. If anyone acknowledges His power to control what is happening, He is worthy of worship.
For John the throne of the beast is Rome. Rome is persecuting the church. In the spiritual world it is all out war, and it has never stopped.
The drying up of water is a sign of God’s power (16:12). He did it at the Red Sea and the Jordan. It was done in God’s vengeance as described in Jeremiah 51:36 and Zechariah 10:11.
When Persia defeated Babylon the hostile army dried up the Euphrates. They deflected the river into a lake and followed the dry path into the city. The drying up of water suggests entrance of the enemy. Water is life giving and the sources of it like rivers, fountains, and wells, suggest blessing. God makes rivers in the desert and gives the water of life as outcome in our life’s desert just as He did for the Israelites in the desert. There are many, many scriptures in the Old Testament to support this. For example:
For I will pour water on him who is thirsty,
And floods on the dry ground;
I will pour My Spirit on your descendants,
And My blessing on your offspring; (Isaiah 44:3)
In the words of Jesus:
He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38)
And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. (16:13)
Unclean spirits are likened to frogs. Speech is powerful. The word for spirit in Greek is pneuma, which means breath. The false trinity breathes evil forces. Unclean beings bring unclean influence. In the Persian religion it was known that frogs bring plagues. The words of the false trinity are empty lies that only bring plagues and torment.
The church is warned against the false prophet in Mark 13:22.
For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
True religion’s worst enemy is impostors and deceivers. They falsely interpret the Word. They can do miracles and signs and seduce people way from true worship with false doctrines. Paul and John in his epistle write grave warnings against impostors and false doctrine. We need the Holy Spirit to warn our inner beings against these teachings.
Compare Revelation 16:15 with 3:18. We, the church, are ready for whatever it takes. Problems come unexpectedly and there could be no shame, when we have our white robes, gold and eye salve to discern and walk in victory within disaster. Deliverance of shame is an important promise. Our suffering is worthy and highly esteemed in the eyes of God. Indescribable blessing awaits the over comers.
Armageddon as the final conflict is an old idea found amongst others in Psalm 2. Magedon (various spelling) is the plain between Egypt and Damascus on the highway. It was a popular battlefield in Hebrew history. Armageddon is the city and Harmageddon the mountain. Ezekiel 38 and 39 predict the battle of Gog and Magog would be won in the mountains of Israel.
Our battle is not physical; it is spiritual against the frogs (demonic powers). The seventh bowl affects the air, which is also a source of life. Nature itself makes war on sin. There are earthquakes like never before. Babylon is split and its power destroyed.
Islands and mountains change in this ongoing struggle. Islands grow and are destroyed throughout history. Hail is a well-known judgment on the enemies of God’s people as found in Joshua 10:11, Isaiah 28:2 and Ezekiel 38:22. Hail, fire and brimstone (sulfur) are indicative of volcanoes. Earthquakes, volcanoes and meteorological storms are daily occurrences over the earth today. We are made aware of this through global media reports on worldwide scientific data collection of natural disasters.
God remembered Babylon and will act upon the wickedness (16:19).
Men can lock their hearts to God. Choice is the great gift to mankind. Even in the fiercest misfortune, men can resist the call of God’s love.
But for us:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-7)
It is only in the knowledge of what we inherit that we could pray that God shares a measure of His love through us. We do not have love and we cannot love by ourselves. We only love with a measure of what God is. He is the Source of all love, even the love that the ungodly shows. There is no other source of love. We can only love with the love of Jesus.
Now that you know about the evil, the consequences of sin, do you recognize the love?