Dear Radio Friends,
Today we are going to turn our attention once again to the signs of Christ’s second coming.
Revelation 16 records for us the seven golden vials or bowls of God’s wrath. The bowls were given into the hands of seven angels to pour on the earth and its inhabitants. They are definitely bowls of God’s wrath, that is, they are the judgments of God poured out upon this world of unbelief and wickedness. These bowls containing God’s judgment on a sinful race of men are specifically poured out during the time of the reign of the kingdom of Antichrist. At that time, wicked, unbelieving man will have established his worldwide kingdom of peace in which sin will reign. The purpose of God in the pouring out of the vials of His wrath in Revelation 16 is to discredit and, ultimately, destroy the kingdom of the Antichrist. In other words, what we have here in this chapter describes various events that will take place in this world that will lead to the ultimate demise of the antichristian world power.
The first four vials are poured out on the creation. Please turn to that chapter and read it. As a result of the pouring out of those vials, the creation no longer cooperates with the Antichrist and the power he claims to have over it. No matter what signs and wonders the Antichrist may show, God, who is in sovereign control over creation, turns creation against the Antichrist. The bowls of wrath are emptied on the earth, the sea, the rivers, the streams of water, and, finally, on the sun. And, as a result, new and horrible diseases spring up, for which the Antichrist can find no cure. The waters of the earth become polluted and unhealthy, causing sickness and death. The sun in the sky will grow hotter and begin to scorch the earth, causing famine and pestilences.
And because of these occurrences in nature, men begin to look upon the antichristian world power with disgust and suspicion. Inequity and unrest begin to characterize this kingdom. The men who have attached themselves to this kingdom now begin to curse God. There is no repentance, obviously. Men do not recognize that all of this is happening according to God’s decree and in judgment. Instead men curse the god of the Antichrist, and are renewed in their hatred against Christianity.
All these events occur when the Antichrist has reached the apex of his power and rule. No sooner is the antichristian world power established than immediately God begins to pour out the vials of His judgment upon that kingdom. Peace cannot prevail where there is sin. We are going to consider in our broadcast today the fifth and sixth vials or bowls containing the judgment of God upon Antichrist. In that connection we will find that all these events that we have been talking about will lead to the gathering of the nations together to the battle of Armageddon.
Let us read together Revelation 16:10-16. “And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds. And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.”
That which makes the kingdom of Antichrist so powerful is revealed to us in verse 13 of these verses that we have read, where it speaks of a number of powerful but wicked individuals. We read in verse 13 that this fiendish trio consists of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. These three make the kingdom of Antichrist like iron. The beast is the antichristian kingdom, under its political head or leader. We spent an entire broadcast identifying that beast. One last powerful nation shall arise out of the Christianized west and influence the nations of the west to unite together in a world kingdom. Through his skill and deception and his promise of peace, world unity, and prosperity, this Antichrist will convince the pagan nations of the east to join hands with him, so that his kingdom will encompass all the nations of the world. That is the beast spoken of here in verse 13.
We have already met the false prophet, too. He is the second of the infernal trio. The false prophet is that wicked one, the man of sin, spoken of in II Thessalonians 2. He is the Antichrist, that is, the spiritual head, now, of the antichristian kingdom. He is the religious power behind the throne of that kingdom. The religion of this kingdom will be false Christianity—a Christianity that promotes a false god and a false christ. Nevertheless, in the minds of the pagan nations, whether this is true of false Christianity, makes no difference. These nations hate Christianity, no matter what form it takes on. The pagan nations of the east will desire to be a part of the political kingdom of the Antichrist only because they love the prosperity that it offers them. But they will always hate the whore—false Christianity.
Finally, there is the dragon, the great red dragon. The dragon is Satan. Although the nations and peoples of this world will unwittingly, that is, without their knowledge, serve Satan, this will really not matter. Satan is the one working behind the power of the Antichrist. This is his kingdom. This is the kingdom he has been attempting to establish since the beginning of time in his own prideful fall. He wants to usurp the kingdom and power of God and rule in God’s stead. He it is, therefore, that seeks to establish this kingdom in order that he might rule supreme.
But, upon this powerful kingdom, our sovereign God sends a sixth angel to pour out the sixth vial. We are told in verse 14 that the sixth vial or bowl is poured out in order to gather the world to the battle of that great day of God almighty. The sixth bowl is poured out to prepare the way to gather the nations of this world to do battle against each other. God does this by means of a fatal error made by the fiendish trio. We read of that in verses 13 and 14 of Revelation 16. “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.”
There is one drive common to all Christianity, whether it is false Christianity or true. It is the incessant effort to convert all peoples and cultures and races to Christianity. It is the purpose of the antichristian kingdom to do the same. Except for one thing. The spirits that go forth from the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet are unclean spirits. They are the spirits of devils. They are vile, like frogs. It is the antichristian mission work that is represented by these unclean spirits. They are demonic in nature because they preach opposition to the true God of heaven and earth and His anointed one—setting up a false god and a false christ. But the more the pagan nations become disillusioned with the reign of Antichrist, the more it is felt by the Antichrist that all nations must embrace this false Christianity. This is the only way, so the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet think, that the pagan nations will give their all to the kingdom of the Antichrist. And yet, these kingdoms hate Christianity—false Christianity though it may be.
Rather, therefore, than being lured to become strong supporters of the antichristian kingdom, the nations of the east are driven even farther away. Paganism and Christianity are like oil and water. They cannot mix with each other. This causes trouble in Paradise, so to speak. The Antichrist promised to cure disease and overcome famine and pestilence. Now the sun burns hotly in the heavens. The earth is not cooperating to bring forth food to feed the world. There is already suspicion and unrest. Many are not receiving their fair share in the riches and ease offered by the Antichrist.
At the same time, the nations of the east are discovering their own military power, their own ability to make war. They are beginning to understand that they too have the capability in themselves to exist in this world without the antichristian kingdom. And more and more a breach begins to develop between the Christianized countries in the west and the pagan countries of the east.
Then the clincher. The fifth angel pours out a whole bowl of God’s anger on the very seat of the antichristian kingdom. We read in verses 10 and 11 of Revelation 16, “And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.”
The seat of the beast is the political center, the place where his power is centralized. Where that is, this passage does not tell us specifically. Neither do we venture a guess. But God now touches the very center and heart of the power of the antichristian kingdom. This kingdom, we are told, is filled with darkness. That is to say, the nations that had put their trust in the antichristian kingdom and in its power and who had worshiped the beast for a time, those nations no longer will worship him. For a time, it seemed, they had reached happiness and bliss without the God of heaven and His Christ. But now they become disillusioned with the one that had given them hope.
Do they turn to God in repentance? Not at all. They curse Him, the more because of their pain and sores. This is what is meant by the darkness that filled the seat of the beast. No more trust in him.
Did the antichristian head and his political entourage do something crooked and wrong, underhanded and unfair? Well, is this what goes on in politics today in any land? If it goes on today, we can be sure that it will go on in the kingdom of sin that Antichrist establishes too. And the nations respond by turning on the antichristian kingdom in their rage to destroy it. In fact, there may not even be a clear-cut division anymore between pagan nations of the east and the Christian nations of the west. The lines will become blurred. There will be nations of the west that will have become unhappy with their ruler, too. But sides will be taken. And armies will be gathered. And in the great divide, the threat of war will again arise.
In verse 12 we read of how God prepares the nations and their enemies to do battle with each other. “And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.”
The river Euphrates is a river north of Palestine. It runs for hundreds of miles from the north and empties itself into the Persian Gulf. In the Old Testament, it marked the northern most border of David’s and Solomon’s kingdoms. This river, therefore, was the great dividing point between the Old Testament church (the nation of Israel) and the nations of the east. From beyond this river the empires of Assyria, Babylon, and Persia came and invaded Israel and Judah, destroying them and taking them captive. From this we discover the meaning of the symbolism given in this verse. The waters of the Euphrates River are dried up when the sixth vial is poured out upon them. This makes the way open for the nations of the east to come up against the Antichrist to destroy this great and ignoble empire.
This is not literal, of course. Today the waters of a river make little difference as far as battle is concerned. This simply symbolizes that God will remove the obstacles that kept the kings of the east from making war with the beast. These nations will discover their own power and potential to make war. And by sheer numbers, as well as their own development in technology, they, too, will have in their grasp weapons of mass destruction. And God will sovereignly direct the affairs of this world that in sheer hatred for the Antichrist, these nations will now reach a stage where they will be ready to use such weapons.
This final battle is what has come to be known, even popularly among unbelievers, as the battle of Armageddon. We read in verse 16, “And [God] gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.” The word Armageddon literally means Mount Megiddo. It refers to a large plain that was located in the far northwestern side of Canaan. There is nothing all that notable about the plain geographically or historically, except that it was a large plain that was the location of several major battles in Israel. But the particular battle of note that took place in this plain was during the time of the Judges. Deborah and Barak fought here against the armies of the Canaanites and defeated them with a great slaughter. From such, once again, we can draw the symbolism of this passage. We are not taking it literally. This is what is going to take place in this final battle: the cause of Jehovah will prevail against the armies of the wicked.
Now wait a minute. How is this possible? The true church will not even be a part of this battle. It is a battle between the unbelieving, antichristian world power and the unbelieving pagan nations of the east. And neither of them is on the side of Jehovah. How then can this battle be a victory for the true church of Jesus Christ?
This battle is being fought by God. Verse 14 teaches us that this battle is that of the great day of God almighty. That phrase informs us of two important details concerning this final battle of Armageddon. First, the battle will take place on the very last day of the existence of this world. It is the great day of God. It is the day when God will bring this world and all that is in it to an end. In other words, this great battle Armageddon is a sign—one of the final signs of Christ’s return. In fact, when we see the armies of this world gathering to do battle with one another, we can be sure that that day is approaching rapidly. And when we see the battle engaged, we can be sure that this is the great day of Christ’s return.
The second truth we learn in this phrase (the great day of God almighty) is that God is present in this battle. He not only is sovereignly directing this battle, but He is present with the captain of our salvation and a whole host of angels. There are three armies, really, that gather for battle. The beast, the kings of the east, and the Lord of lords and the King of kings, Jesus Christ. As great and powerful are the weapons of warfare used by these earthly armies, they are not of the power of those used by Jesus Christ to destroy this whole world. This will certainly be a day of carnage and blood and utter destruction. The sin of man will reveal itself in the most horrible of manners. In hatred for himself, man will be out to destroy himself from the face of the earth.
Then, in the midst of it all, we receive this comforting reminder in verse 15: “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” Christ comes as a thief in the night. This day is God’s day. And on this day, Christ will suddenly appear in the heavens. He will come upon the wicked as a thief to destroy and consume them with the brightness of his coming.
The believer is watching. He will see this sign. He will be watching and be prepared to meet his returning Lord. Christ does not come as a thief for him. Christ comes to win the victory for him. That is why this reminder comes as one of great comfort for the child of God. We need not fear this battle or the carnage it causes. This is the great day of our deliverance. Christ will suddenly appear and surprise the nations who refused to believe in Him and His coming.
But this comfort also comes as a warning to you and to me. We must keep our garments lest we walk naked and they see our shame. The garments that we wear are those of a godly and holy life. We must be seen clothed in the white robes of Christ’s righteousness. We must be living a life that is exemplary of that of a believer. If we are walking in the way of sin and unbelief as does this wicked world around us, then we are naked. And our sin is exposed for all to see. Right now, not just in that final day of Christ’s return, but now, we are to be living in the hope of Christ’s return. Then we will not be ashamed in the day of Christ’s coming when we, with the world, will stand in judgment before Him.
How are we walking? What does our life in this world reveal to others?
Blessed are they who are watching for Christ’s return.
Let us pray.
Gracious Father in heaven, again into Thy presence we come. Father, Thou dost bring this world to an end. And we see Thy almighty hand in all of these things. Give unto us great comfort and encouragement, since we know that the battle is ours because our Savior is the One who fights the battle for us. May we believe and simply trust in Him. Forgive us of our failures to do so and the weaknesses that we experience in this life. Guide us in the way that leads to life everlasting. For Thy name’s sake alone we pray, Amen.