PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS
|The Angels with the Last Plagues||Prelude to the Bowl Judgments||The Seven Bowls of the Wrath of God||The Angels with the Last Plagues||The Hymn of Moses and the Lamb|
|15:2-4||15:2-4||15:2-4||The Seven Bowls of Plagues|
|The Bowls of God's Wrath||The Bowls of God's Anger|
|16:1||First Bowl: Malignant Sores||16:1||16:1|
|Second Bowl: The Sea Turns to Blood|
|Third Bowl: The Waters Turn to Blood|
|Fourth Bowl: Men are Scorched|
|Fifth Bowl: Darkness and Pain|
|Sixth Bowl: Euphrates Dries Up|
|Seventh Bowl: The Earth Utterly Shaken||16:15|
READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")
FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL
This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.
1. First paragraph
2. Second paragraph
3. Third paragraph
CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO REVELATION 15:1-16:21
A. The seven bowls which are introduced in chapter 15 and described in chapter 16 are the third in a set of three cycles of divine plagues sent for the purpose of redemption (cf. 9:20-21; 14:6-7; 16:9,11). Each cycle gets progressively more severe: 1/4, 1/3, and total destruction (the judgment and isolation of evil). This is possibly based on "the cursing and blessing" section of Deuteronomy 27-28.
B. There is a literary relationship between these cycles. The seventh seal is the seven trumpets. The first four trumpets are also directly parallel to the first four bowls.
C. The seventh bowl is the fall of Babylon, which is a symbol of fallen human society organized and functioning apart from God. In John's day it was Rome. In Daniel 2 each successive world empire becomes more and more anti-God until the last world-wide, anti-God empire in which the Messiah is born which is Rome (see Introduction to Daniel 8, www.freebiblecommentary.org).
D. Chapters 15 and 16 draw their imagery from the Exodus experience of Israel (as did chapters 12-14). This end-time deliverance from evil is seen as the ultimate Exodus (i.e., deliverance).
E. The beasts and the whore of Babylon (rebellious human society) are defeated at Armageddon (16:12-16), while Satan is defeated along with Gog and Magog (rebellious humans) at the very end (cf. 20:7-10). The Second Coming of Christ in chapter 19 is an extension and fulfillment of the seventh seal and the seventh trumpet and the seventh bowl judgments. This is God's answer to the martyrs' question of 6:9-11.
F. The difficulties in interpreting these end-time battles are:
1. The type of literature in which they are expressed, apocalyptic/prophetic.
2. They are dealt with in successive stages, cycles, or dramatic acts.
3. There is fluidity between the groups and symbols.
4. There is difficulty separating first century fulfillment from end-time fulfillment.
WORD AND PHRASE STUDY
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 15:1-3a
1Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished. 2And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God. 3And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
15:1 "in heaven" This is the third in a series of signs John saw in heaven. See Special Topic at 12:1.
▣ "great and marvelous" This phrase occurs only here and points toward the OT allusion in v. 3, which may come from one of several places (i.e., Deut. 32:3-4; Ps. 111:2; 139:14; or Hos. 14:9).
Verses 3-4 make up one long composite OT allusion from several possible places.
▣ "the wrath of God" See full note at 7:14.
▣ "is finished" This is an aorist passive indicative of teleō to finish or fulfill. The bowls are a complete and final judgment on incalcitrant unbelief! There is no more hope of repentance and faith, only judgment and isolation!
It is theologically possible that the sequence of the seals, trumpets, and bowls was a way of showing God's hope of human repentance, but in the end, His total judgment, removal, and isolation of evil is justified! Hell is the only option left.
15:2 "I saw something like a sea of glass" This is first mentioned in Rev. 4:6. Because of its use in Rev. 21:1, it seems to be a metaphor for God's holiness, which kept sinful mankind from approaching Him (i.e., possibly a metaphor for the waters of heaven). One day this barrier will be removed. The OT allusion is to either Exod. 24:10 or Ezek. 1:22; 10:1. See full note at 4:6.
▣ "mixed with fire" This is a new element not found in 4:6. There have been numerous theories.
1. it is the reflected setting sun on human history
2. it represents fire which stands for God's judgment
3. it is the blood of the martyrs
4. it is connected to the victory at the Red Sea and the Song of Moses since the OT background of chapters 15 and 16 is the plagues of the Exodus (cf. Exod. 7-12; 15)
NASB"those who had been victorious"
NKJV"those who have the victory"
NRSV"those who had conquered"
TEV"those who had won the victory"
NJB"those who had fought against"
At first this seems to refer to the martyrs, but 12:11 shows that it must apply to those who have experienced natural deaths but who have not worshiped the beast (cf. 20:4).
NASB"from the beast and from his image and from the number of his name"
NKJV"over the beast, over his image and over his mark"
NRSV"the beast and its image and the number of its name"
TEV"over the beast and its image and over the ones whose name is represented by a number"
NJB"the beast and man, and against his statue and the number which is his name"
The beast is first mentioned in 11:7. From chapter 13 it is obvious that there are two wild beasts; one is the incarnation of Satan (i.e., a parody of Christ) and the other is his false prophet (i.e., a parody of the Spirit). From 13:18 we know that his number is 666, which is not so much a number of a person as it is of the fallenness and inadequacy of human society (i.e., government) apart from God.
▣ "standing on the sea of glass" Some translations have "on" (NASB, NKJV), and some have "beside" (NRSV) or "by" (TEV, NJB). The Greek preposition's basic meaning is "upon." This metaphor speaks of those overcomers being close to God. The "sea" in Revelation stands for a separation between a holy God and sinful creation. This sea is completely removed in 21:1 when full fellowship is restored (i.e., the fellowship of the Garden of Eden is restored).
For interpretive options on the meaning of "the sea of glass" see note at 4:6.
▣ "holding harps of God" Angels are described as having harps in 5:8 and 14:2. In this context it refers to believers who are synonymous with the 144,000 of chapter 14. As the angels worshiped with music before the God in heaven, now too, the victorious believers!
15:3 "And they sang the song of Moses. . .and the song of the Lamb" This shows the unity of the old covenant and the new covenant in this song of redemption. The song of Moses is an allusion to Exod. 15:1-19, where Moses thanks God for the defeat of Pharaoh at the Red Sea. However, it is possible that John had Deuteronomy 32 in mind because the first phrase may be an allusion to Deut. 32:3-4. The song of the Lamb has previously been noted in 5:9 and 14:3. Notice that it is a song of corporate, not individual, salvation (cf. Gen. 3:15).
▣ "the bond-servant of God" This is an honorific title for OT characters like Moses, Joshua, and David. It may be the origin of Paul's "servant of Christ."
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 15:3b-4
3b"Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations! 4"Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; For all the nations will come and worship before You, For Your righteous acts have been revealed."
▣ "Great and marvelous are Your works" This is a composite allusion to Ps. 40:5; 92:5; 111:2; 139:14 and Hos 14:9.
▣ "O Lord God, the Almighty" This is an allusion to the three most used OT titles for God (cf. 1:8; 4:8; 11:7; 16:7).
1. "Lord" refers to YHWH, the Savior, Redeemer, Covenant God.
2. "God" refers to Elohim, the Creator, Provider and Sustainer of all life on earth.
3. The "Almighty" refers to El Shaddai, the Patriarchal name for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (cf. Exod. 6:3).
See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at 1:8.
▣ "Righteous and true are Your ways" In the midst of the suffering of the saints, this emphasis is tremendously important (cf. 16:7). This may be an allusion to Hosea 14:9.
TEV, NJB"Thou King of the Nations"
NKJV"O King of the saints"
There are three different translations of this verse available in modern English.
1. "King of the ages" (ASV, NIV, REB) which is found in the ancient Greek MSS P47, א*,2, and C (cf. I Tim. 1:17; I Enoch 9:4)
2. "King of the nations" (NRSV, TEV, NJB) which is found in MSS אa, A, P, and most minuscules (cf. v. 4; Jer. 10:7)
3. "King of the saints" (NKJV) MSS 296, 2049 (Metzter, Textual Commentary, p. 753) which comes from a misunderstanding of a late Latin text
Option #2 is probably the original. UBS4 gives it a "B" rating (almost certain).
15:4 "Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name" This is the transcendent Holy One of creation (cf. 14:7; Jer. 10:7-10). Yet He offers salvation to any and all who will fear Him and glorify His name.
▣ "For all the nations will come and worship before You" In OT prophecy all the nations will one day flow into Jerusalem (cf. Ps. 22:27; 66:4; 86:9; Isa. 2:2-4; 19:19-24; 27:13; 56:7; 66:19-24; Mal. 1:11). John is using OT prophecy and imagery to describe a universal salvation. Jerusalem of the OT has become the heavenly Jerusalem of believing Jews and Gentiles. This book does not focus on Jews versus Gentiles as the OT did, but on believers versus unbelievers (compare Isa. 45:23 with Phil. 2:9-11). See Crucial Introduction at the beginning of the commentary.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 15:5-8
5After these things I looked, and the temple of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven was opened, 6and the seven angels who had the seven plagues came out of the temple, clothed in linen, clean and bright, and girded around their chests with golden sashes. 7Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever. 8 And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power; and no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.
15:5 "the temple of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven was opened" In 4:1 a door in heaven was opened for John; in 11:19 the Ark of the Covenant appeared in the temple for believers to see. Now the entire heavenly tabernacle appears (cf. Exod. 25:9,40; 38:21; Num. 10:11; 17:7; Acts 7:44). This OT allusion is developed in Heb. 8:5 and 9:23. This literary unit uses the Exodus and the Wilderness Wanderings Period as an OT backdrop. This symbolizes the second and ultimate exodus from bondage (bondage to sin).
15:6 "clothed in linen, clean and bright" These seven angelic beings come from the very innermost part of heaven's temple, which shows their authority because they come from the very presence of God. In rabbinical Judaism there are seven powerful angels surrounding the throne of God, called "the angels of the presence."
Their dress is described as (1) "linen" (linon or linoun [P47]) which was worn by priests in Exod. 28:4 (UBS4, "B" rating) or (2) the ASV translates this as "precious stone" (lithon) which follows the Greek uncial manuscripts A and C, and may be an allusion to Ezek. 28:13 as an angelic clothing of the Garden of Eden.
If the two basic presuppositions of textual criticism (see Appendix): (1) the most difficult reading is probably original and (2) the reading that best explains the variants is probably original, then "stone" is the probable choice.
▣ "and girded around their chests with golden sashes" This is very similar to the angel found in Dan. 10:5 or to Christ Himself in Rev. 1:18. These are obviously very powerful angels representing God or Christ.
15:7 "seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God" These shallow golden bowls are mentioned in 5:8, where they contain the prayers of the saints. There is a connection throughout Revelation to the prayers of His persecuted children and the wrath of God on unbelievers (see note at 7:14).
▣ "who lives forever and ever" This is an oath based on the root meaning of the term YHWH (cf. Exod. 3:14). YHWH is the only living One; all else derives life from Him. See Special Topic: Names For Deity at 1:8.
For "forever and ever" see Special Topics at 1:6.
15:8 "And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God" This was a common OT description of the presence of God (cf. Exod. 19:18; 40:34; I Kgs. 8:10-11; II Chr. 5:13-14; Isa. 6:4). This is an allusion to the Shekinah cloud of glory which represented God's presence to Israel during the Exodus. But because of the contextual connection with the bowls, it may refer to the abundance of incense representing the prayers of God's children for justice.
▣ "no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished" This possibly means that there was no stopping God's wrath once it had begun. This wrath is difficult to correlate theologically with 16:9 and 11, which implies that redemption is still the goal, even in the bowls it is still the hope and intent that fallen mankind, made in God's image, will repent and return to Him!
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 16:1
1Then I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels, "Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God."
16:1 "Then I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels" Revelation 15:8 shows that this must be the voice of God Himself. This last group of angels had ultimate authority to destroy God's earth. In the OT the death angel and the angel of destruction are God's servants, not Satan's.
▣ "Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God" This is an OT symbol for the judgment of God on unbelieving nations (cf. Ps. 79:6; Jer 10:25; Ezek. 22:31; Zeph. 3:8). This term is used often in this context for God's wrath on unbelievers (see note at 7:14, cf. vv. 1,2,3,4,8,10,12,17) because of
1. their blasphemy (cf. v. 9)
2. their persecution of believers (cf. v. 6)
3. their stubborn refusal to repent (cf. 9:20-21; 16:9-12)
For "wrath of God" see full note at 7:14.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 16:2
2So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth; and it became a loathsome and malignant sore on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.
16:2 This first bowl is very much like one of the Egyptian plagues (cf. Exod. 9:10-11). Some see this as related to Deut. 28:35, which is in the cursing and blessing section of Moses' covenant renewal. It is to be noted that, like the Egyptian plagues, these plagues affected unbelievers.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 16:3
3The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood like that of a dead man; and every living thing in the sea died.
16:3-4 The second and third bowls parallel the second and third trumpets (cf. Rev. 8:8-11) and also reflect the Exodus plagues of Exod. 7:17-21; Ps. 78:44.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 16:4-7
4Then the third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters; and they became blood. 5And I heard the angel of the waters saying, "Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things; 6 or they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it." 7And I heard the altar saying, "Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments."
16:5 "the angel of the waters" This may reflect the intertestamental Jewish apocalyptic terminology of I Enoch 66:2. In Revelation there has been an angel in charge of the wind (cf. 7:1) and an angel in charge of fire (cf. 14:8), so it is not unusual to see an angel in charge of the water. Again, angelic mediation and activity are common in intertestamental apocalyptic literature. We must interpret Revelation in light of its own genre, its own day, and not our modern western theological systems of eschatology.
▣ "Righteous are You" This is an allusion to Moses' song in Deut. 32 (especially v. 5) or possibly Ps. 119:137.
▣ "who are and who were" Notice that there is no future element as in 1:4,8; 4:8, because there is no future time (cf. 11:17). This is the end! This is purposeful; note the threefold designation of 1:4. Time is no more! The end (i.e., Parousia) is revealed several times in Revelation, not just chapter 19. Each of the seals, trumpets, and bowls ends with the Second Coming and culmination of history. This is why I Think the recapitulation theory for the interpretation of Revelation is best!
16:6 "saints" See Special Topic at 5:8.
▣ "prophets" For OT Prophecy see Special Topic at 10:7. See Special Topic below.
16:7 "And I heard the altar saying" The horns of the altar had already spoken in 9:13. This seems to refer to (1) souls that are under the altar (cf. 6:9; 14:18) or (2) the prayers of God's children (cf. 8:3-5). It may also be simply a personification for graphic emphasis.
▣ "Lord God, the Almighty" See note of 15:3b and the Special Topic at 1:8.
▣ "true and righteous are Your judgments" This may be an allusion to Ps. 19:9; 119:137. This is a helpful reminder in the midst of such terrible persecution toward Christians (cf. 15:4 and 19:2). God will set all things straight one day!
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 16:8-9
8The fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun, and it was given to it to scorch men with fire. 9Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory.
16:8 This fourth bowl is similar to the sixth seal of 6:12 and very similar to the fourth trumpet of 8:12.
▣ "it was given to it to scorch men with fire" The sun is personified as it is in Ps. 19:1-6. God controls the heavenly bodies (cf. Gen. 1:14-19). They are not gods. They do function as messengers (natural revelation) and signs for the seasons (for worship).
16:9 "they did not repent so as to give Him glory" The purpose of God's wrath is redemptive in the seals and trumpets (cf. 9:20-21; 14:6-7; 16:9,11), even though stubborn, rebellious mankind refuses to repent. In the bowls the hope of repentance has passed; only judgment remains!
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 16:10-11
10Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became darkened; and they gnawed their tongues because of pain, 11and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds.
16:10 "the fifth angel poured out his bowl upon the throne of the beast" The throne of Satan was given to the beast in 11:7. His power is described in 13:2ff. This seems to refer to the capital city of his end-time, one world government.
▣ "his kingdom" Satan mimics God. As God has a kingdom, so Satan has a kingdom. Throughout these remaining chapters the ministry of God in Christ is parodied by the evil trinity. Satan's kingdom, through the beast, is international (cf. 13:14-17).
▣ "became darkened" This is another allusion to the Egyptian plagues (cf. Exod. 10:21-23). God controls the light (cf. 8:12; 9:2; Gen. 1:5,14-18).
16:11 "they blasphemed the God of heaven" These unbelievers recognized the source and reason for their pain, but would not repent and turn to Christ! The plagues on Egypt were sent to expose the false gods of Egypt and cause the Egyptians to trust the God of Israel. The "curses" of Deuteronomy 27-28 were sent to restore unbelieving Jews to faith and obedience. Judgment has a redemptive goal (except for the last one)!
The title "the God of heaven" was used earlier in 11:13 and reflects a Babylonian and Persian title for Deity used often by Daniel (cf. 2:18, see my commentary on Daniel at www.freebiblecommentary.org).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 16:12-16
12The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east. 13And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; 14for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. 15("Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.") 16And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon.
16:12 "the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates" This river was mentioned in 9:13-19 when the demonic army crossed its borders to torture mankind. The headwaters of the Euphrates were the northern boundary of the Promised Land and the outer limits of the Roman Empire. The possible historic basis for this metaphorical demonic army was the Parthian calvary. These fierce anti-Roman invaders were a terror to the Roman legions.
▣ "its water was dried up" Quite often in the OT the drying up of the water was seen as an act of God as seen in
1. the Red Sea (cf. Exod. 14:21)
2. the Jordan River (Josh. 3:17)
3. several allusions in prophetic literature (cf. Isa. 11:15-16; 44:27; Jer. 51:36; Zech. 10:11)
This physical act symbolizes that God is allowing the end-time conflict to culminate. It is theologically parallel to II Thess. 2:6-7, "what/who restrains."
▣ "that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east" There has been much discussion as to how "the kings of the east" in v. 12 are related to "the kings of the whole world" in v. 14:
1. they are the same
2. they are antagonists (Nero Redivivus myth and the Parthian army)
3. the kings of the east refer to the army of God
If so, it is an allusion to God's calling His people from Babylon (cf. Isa. 41:2,25; 45:1-3; 46:11). It is possible from the context that the kings of the east are God's tools to attack the armies of the beast (i.e., a historical allusion to Parthians attacking Rome). However, v. 14 and chapters 19 and 20 imply that there is only one human army and it is united against God (cf. Psalm 2; Jer. 25:15-26).
16:13 "the dragon, the beast, the false prophet" This is the first time that the second beast (cf. 13:11) is called "the false prophet," but from now on he will be referred to by this name every time (cf. 16:13; 19:20; 21:10).
These three refer to a Satanic trinity which will be defeated in two stages: the two beasts in the valley of Megiddo (cf. vv. 12-16) and Satan at the end of Christ's earthly reign (cf. 20:7-10).
▣ "three unclean spirits like frogs" The term "unclean" is used in the NT gospels to refer to demons. Why they are characterized as frogs has been greatly disputed:
1. this is another reference to the Egyptian plagues (cf. Exod. 8:6)
2. in Zoroastrianism frogs are the symbol of ultimate evil
3. they refer to unclean animals (cf. Lev. 11:10,31)
16:14 "they are spirits of demons, performing signs" It is very interesting to note that these signs and wonders will lead all unbelievers astray, but not even the least of the children of God (cf. 13:13; Matt. 24:24; Mark 13:22; II Thess. 2:9-11). This last literary unit (the bowls) is a comparison between what will happen to the children of God and what will happen to the inhabitants of the earth. Christ speaks words of truth, righteousness, and mercy to bring peace to the earth, but the demonic frog spirits speak lies and gathers the nations for war.
▣ "which go out to the kings of the whole world" This may be an allusion to Ps. 2:2, which forms the imagery of these last chapters of Revelation.
▣ "gather them together for the war of the great day of God" The description of an end-time battle appears in 6:2-8; 11:7-10; 12:17; 16:14; 17:14; 19:19 and 20:8. It is possible these all represent one battle from different perspectives (i.e., parallelism).
16:15 This parenthetical phrase contains the words of Christ which are interjected to encourage and warn the people of God. This is the third of the seven blessings to believers (cf. 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7,14).
▣ "I am coming like a thief" These words of Jesus (cf. Matt. 24:43-44; Luke 12:39-40) were used earlier in Rev. 3:3 and alluded to in I Thess. 5:2 and II Pet. 3:10. It seems to refer to the any-moment, sudden coming of Christ in judgment at the Parousia (Second Coming).
▣ "Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes" This is the third of seven blessings given to faithful believers (cf. 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7,14). This almost seems to be a summary of the eschatological warning found in Mark 13:33-37; Luke 12:37. This verse must be out of place if the theory of a secret rapture of the Church before this time of persecution is affirmed. To whom, then, is Jesus speaking? See Matt. 24:37-42 online at www.freebiblecommentary.org.
▣ "so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame" This may be an allusion to Rev. 3:18. In the OT nakedness was a symbol of judgment (cf. Ezek. 23:29; Hos. 2:3; Amos 2:16; Mic. 1:8). However, it refers not to the loss of salvation, but to Christians who will be ashamed of their activities and lack of lifestyle faith at Jesus' Second Coming. Jesus' coming as the Judge and Conqueror, which is exactly how the Jews expected the Messiah to return, is described in 19:11-16.
16:16 "and they gathered them together" This is repeated in 20:8.
NASB"in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon"
NKJV, NJB"in Hebrew, Armageddon"
NRSV"in Hebrew is called Harmagedon"
TEV"in Hebrew is Armageddon"
This word is spelled differently in several Greek manuscripts. There have been several theories to describe this name (which appears nowhere else in Hebrew or Greek literature).
1. it refers to "the mountain of Megiddo," a northern city in the tribal allocation of Manasseh, built on a hill
2. it refers to "the city of Megiddo," but the problem is that this is not the exact spelling of that city
3. it is a translation of a phrase "the mount of assembly" found in Isa. 14:13, which refers to the ultimate mountain of Deity which Satan attacks
4. it refers to the whole Promised Land (cf. "the mountains of Israel" mentioned in Ezek. 38:8,20,21; 39:2,4,17)
5. it refers to "the fruitful mountain" which would symbolize Jerusalem, the end-time site of many of these final battles between good and evil (cf. the prophecy of Joel)
6. the root meaning of "megiddo" might be "to cut or to attack," making this a reference to "the destroying mountain" of Jer. 51:25, a symbol of Rome's destruction.
John has chosen a city that was well known and has slightly changed its spelling (see Metztger, Textual Commentary, p. 755). This is similar to his inaccurate listing of the twelve tribes in 7:5-8 in order to show their symbolic nature. This symbolic interpretation is further seen in the use of the phrase "in Hebrew," which indicates symbolism, as in 9:11. It is true that the Valley of Jezreel or the Plain of Esdraelon was the site of many OT battles (cf. Jdgs. 5:19-21; II Kgs. 9:27; 23:29-30; II Chr. 35:22; Zech. 12:11). This northern invasion route of Mesopotamian powers had become a cultural symbol of evil (cf. Isa. 14:31; Jer. 1:13-14; 4:6; 10:22; 46:20-24; 47:2-7; 50:3,9,41; 51:48; Ezek. 38:6,15; 39:2).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 16:17-21
17Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, "It is done." 18And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. 19The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. 20And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. 21And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe.
16:17 "Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air" This could be a reference to Satan's kingdom as found in Eph. 2:2. The air above the earth was considered the realm of evil by the first century world. The battle with evil is finished (cf. vv. 17c-21).
16:18 This imagery is used several times in Revelation (cf. 4:5; 8:5; 11:19; 16:18).
16:19 "The great city" Some see this as a reference to Jerusalem because of 11:8. However, I think even 11:8 is a symbol of Rome (cf. 11:8; 16:19; 17:18; 18:10,18-19,21). Rome is described as the great whore of Babylon (cf. 14:8) which was the ancient seat of godless society. In John's day Rome was that center of the emperor cult that persecuted the Church. In the period of the end-time Antichrist it may be another world city. John continues to describe the destruction of the seat of fallen human, anti-God government in chapters 17-18.
▣ "was split into three parts" This possibly is an allusion to the vision of Ezekiel 5, which describes utter defeat.
▣ "the cities of the nations fell" This shows the ineffective alliance of fallen human governments against our God and His Christ (cf. Psalm 2). See note at 10:11.
▣ "Babylon the great was remembered before God" The phrase "then God remembered" is often a symbol of God's judgment (cf. 18:5; 19:15). This particular cup of judgment was discussed earlier in 14:10.
▣ "the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath" Drunkenness was an OT metaphor for God's judgment (cf. Ps. 60:3; 75:8; Isa. 51:17,22; Jer. 25:15-16, 27-28; see Special Topic at 14:10).
"Wrath" is the term orgē. See full note at 7:14.
16:20 "every island fled away" This is similar to the sixth seal (cf. 6:14).
▣ "the mountains were not found" These were OT symbolic phrases for cataclysmic end-time events (cf. Ps. 97:5; Mic. 1:4; Nah. 1:5).
16:21 "huge hailstones" Hailstones have always been the sign of God's judgment (cf. Josh. 10:11; Isa. 28:2). This is another possible allusion to the Egyptian plagues (cf. Exod. 9:23-24). In Ezek. 38:22 hail is used on the end-time enemies of God. The weight of the hailstones has varied.
▣ "about one hundred pounds each" This is literally "a talent weight." The weight of "talents" in the Ancient Near East has varied from 45 to 138 pounds. Their exact weight is unknown, but these are obviously exaggerated weights to show the damage and death they will cause.
This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.
1. What does the "sea of glass" symbolize?
2. Why does God show John a vision of the heavenly tabernacle?
3. List the similarities between the seals, trumpets, the bowls, and the plagues of Egypt.
4. How are the kings of the east in 6:12 related to the kings of the whole earth in 6:14?
5. What or where is Armageddon? (16:16)
6. To what does the "great city" refer? (16:19)
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