The Seven Shallow Bowls
By Jonathan Mitchell
(An excerpt from "The End of the Old; The Beginning of the New," Comments on Revelation)
The seven plagues, like the seven trumpets, had a purposed goal which Mal. 3:2-3 described as the purification of the sons of Levi, as Yahweh's "Agent/Messenger" would sit "like a refiner's Fire, and like fullers' soap,"" as "a refiner and purifier of silver... purging them as gold and silver so that they may offer unto Yahweh an offering in righteousness (or: justice)." Levi was the tribe from which the priests arose. Malachi is of course using these metaphors in accord with his day, so they are old covenant metaphors. Understanding the seven agents/messengers as the body, or corporate representation, of the Messiah, we can conclude that they are agents of refining and purification, and that this is the goal of their ministries. Mal. 3:3 calls to mind 1 Cor. 3:12-17. If this correlation is correct, then one aim for these shallow bowls is purification of the called-out communities, with regard to their works - whether or not they are of value for building the temple - vss. 16-17.
It is also an aspect of deliverance, healing and salvation (1 Cor. 3:15b). Another level, or application, of these plagues is precisely the tribe of Levi in first century Jerusalem and Judea, as the Olivet discourse of Jesus is fulfilled, in AD 70. As with the plagues in Egypt, there was both darkness and light; there was destruction and deliverance.
We will observe that the seven bowls of God's passion, in the next chapter, "correspond in a striking manner to the seven trumpets," above (Terry, ibid p 314).
1. And I heard a great Voice out of the Temple, saying to the seven agents, "You must go (depart) and you must pour out the seven bowls (shallow cups; saucers) of God's strong passion (fury; rushing emotion; anger) into the Land (or: earth; region)."
So now the action begins, and the agents are dispatched out of the Temple to pour out God's strong passion out of their shallow cups, bowls or saucers into THE LAND. Once again, this can also be translated "the earth," but this message was first written to a specific people about specific events in a specific "Land" (Palestine), or territory. We who read this letter can apply the principles to our times or to other events in history since AD 70, realizing that He is the same yesterday (in OT times), today (in the first century), and on into our ages. He can, and I believe that He does, judge us as well. Let me here note the term "shallow cup" or "saucer." This is a picture of a small measure, thus a limited dealing.
The term "Land" was often an OT term applied to the people of Israel. We can see God's rushing emotion poured out on Jerusalem through the Roman army, on a first level of interpretation, but let us also look for a positive end of this "move of God."
The figure, "pour out," may be an allusion to Ps. 69:24,
"Pour out Your swelling, inherent fervor upon them, and let the rushing strong-passion and fury of Your swelling, inherent fervor seize them and take them down" (LXX, JM).
Or, Jer. 10:25,
"Pour out Your rushing strong-passion upon the ethnic multitudes that have not known You..." And then, Ezk. 14:19, "Or also, [if] I continue sending added (or: successive) death upon that land, and I will continue pouring out My rushing strong-passion upon it..." Zeph. 3:8 prophesies, "Because of this, remain under, endure and wait for Me, says [the] Lord [= Yahweh], unto a Day of My rising up into the midst of a Witness (a testimony; evidence). For this reason and purpose, the effect of My decision and the result of My judging [will come] into the midst of gatherings of ethnic multitudes (or: nations): to welcome and take in kings to pour out upon them all swelling, inherent fervor of rushing strong-passion. Because of that, all the Land (or: territory; earth) will continue being correspondingly used up and fully consumed (spent) in a Fire from My zeal (or: in union with Fire of My jealousy)" (LXX, JM).
2. Then the first one went forth and poured (or: at once pours) out his bowl (or: cup) upon the Land (or: ground; earth; territory) - and a bad and malignant, festering wound (or: ulcer) came to be upon those people having the imprinted mark (engraving; carve-effect) of the little wild animal (creature; beast), even upon those continuously worshiping its image (or: likeness).
The first bowl/cup/saucer is now poured out upon the Land (etc.). This location, the sphere targeted by the cup, corresponds to the judgment of the first trumpet (8:7, above) which also came upon the Land. Compare the sixth plague upon Egypt in Ex. 9:9-11. Now look at the curses and punishments that were to come upon GOD'S PEOPLE if they were disobedient. Deut. 28:27, "Yahweh shall smite you with the boil of Egypt, with piles, with eczema, and with the itch from which you cannot be healed" (CVOT). Then in vs. 35,
"Yahweh shall smite you with an evil boil... from the sole of your foot and unto your scalp."
Can we see now upon whom these plagues were sent? It was upon the Jews of the first century. Yet, it was also figuratively upon the institutional church throughout history, and in our day, as well. Yes, the organized church has the imprinted mark of the little carnal animal. Its institutions looked and function just like the kingdoms of the world and the institutions of the social systems, and today they are even acknowledged to be run like big business - for efficiency, and control, and to comply with the government (the beast upon which it rides), of course. The Jews did the same with Rome.
The bad and malignant, festering wound that came upon the people who have had the imprinted mark is a figure of all the physical and emotional wounding that the church systems inflicted upon its members and upon those it considered to be heretics. The first cup brings forth the fruit of the nature of those animal systems that took control of the people. Once the fruit is seen (the festering wounds and malignant ulcers) the tree can be recognized (Mat. 7:16). The symptoms declare the disease.
Although this may seem to be harsh, it is really a blessing. Once we recognize the disease, we can apply the right treatment. The cure is in "the blood of Jesus Christ" (1 Jn. 1:7). By the "stripe" or "bruise" of the cross, we can be healed (Isa. 53:5b) as we abide in Him (Jn. 15:1ff). Job's final testing was the ulcers in his flesh (Job 2:7). But as we saw with Job, it was for his ultimate good. The shallow saucers a positive purpose. The boils, or ulcers, in Egypt had in view the deliverance of Israel. The threatened boils of Deut. 28 had in view Israel's correction. Physical illness often has the effect of turning one's thoughts to the Lord - for healing, or for a change from the way one has been living. Often, the beast way of thinking or acting leads to physical illness or deterioration. It always leads the soul into darkness.
3. Then the second one poured (or: at once pours) out his bowl (or: cup) into the sea - and it came to be blood as of a dead person, and every living soul within the sea died.
This corresponds with the first plague in Egypt, Ex. 7:17-21. Compare also Rev. 8:8-9, the second trumpet. This was also part of the power of the Two Witnesses, in 11:6, above. So what we have here is another vision which parallels chapters 8 & 11. We have another place where everyone died:
"You see, Christ's love (urge toward accepting reunion; full giving of Himself to [us]) continuously holds us together. [We are] deciding (discerning; judging) this: that [some MSS add: since] One Person (or: Man) died over [the situation of] all mankind (or: for the sake of all); consequently all people died (or: accordingly, then, all humanity died)" (2 Cor. 5:14).
This may first be an allusion to the predicament of humanity: the death of the first Adam (Rom. 5:12) where as the result of one offense, death spread throughout humanity; and then to the solution that we just read in Paul's second letter to Corinth: in the death of the Messiah (the One Person), all humanity was taken into His death. This was the second death for humanity. Paul put this predicament-solution-goal another way in Rom. 11:32,
"For you see, God encloses, shuts up and locks all mankind (everyone; the entire lot of folks) into incompliance (disobedience; stubbornness; lack of being convinced), to the end that He could (or: would; should) mercy all mankind (may make everyone, the all, recipients of mercy)!" (Rom. 11:32).
Paul then relates this to His judgments, in Rom. 11:33b,
"How unsearchable (inscrutable) the effects of His decisions (the results of the distinctive separations, judicial awards, judgments and evaluations from Him), and untrackable (untraceable) His ways (paths; roads)."
Things are not always as they first seem, especially to our natural reasoning.
4. Then the third one poured (or: at once pours) out his bowl (or: cup) into the rivers (or: streams) and into the springs (or: fountains) of the waters - and they became blood.
This same plague, of water becoming blood, affects not only the sea (the multitudes), but also all waters and the sources of water (cf Ex. 7:17-19). This echoes 8:9-11, the 3rd trumpet, which also draws a distinction between "the sea" and "the rivers and springs." The "source of life" now brings death. This sea is not yet a glassy sea, but is a sea where souls die (from lack of the pure Water of Life, the Word of God), and where you find the blood of the slain and wounded. This sounds like many a church and parachurch group. The first meaning pointed to, and foretold, the dead who were slain by the Romans under Titus. This negative interpretation also applies to the institutional church, through the centuries, which both literally and figuratively killed those who differed from its doctrines or were not submissive to its practices.
But in the new creation with its new covenant we are called to drink Christ's blood (Jn. 6:53-56; Mat. 26:28). Once again, we can discern two levels of interpretation.
5. And I heard the Agent of the Waters saying, "You are continually a Just One (a Righteous One; One Who observes the way pointed out), the One continuously existing (or: being), even the One Who was continuously existing, the appropriately pious, sanctioned, benign One, because You suddenly evaluate and judge (or: made a decision; judged) these,
The Agent of the Waters (the one in charge of bowls 2 & 3?) interjects praise in vs. 5 and 6, which compares to the praise of 15:3-4, above. Terry observes, "As the angel [agent] of a church is but a figure for the church itself, so the angel [agent] of the waters is but a personification of the waters themselves" (ibid p 419; emphasis original; brackets added). This proclamation may be an allusion to Ps. 19:9b,
"The judgments of Yahweh are truth; they are righteous altogether" (CVOT).
6. "because they poured (or: pour) out [the] blood of the set-apart folks and of the prophets, and You gave (or: give) them blood to drink: they are deserving [this]!" [cf Lu. 11:50-51]
Who was it that poured out the blood of the set-apart folks and the prophets? Lu. 11:49-51 tells us,
49. "That is why the Wisdom of God also said, 'As emissaries I will proceed sending off prophets and representatives unto them (or: into the midst of them) - and they will proceed killing off [some] from out of their midst, and then they will proceed to pursue (chase; press forward [on] and persecute; [other MSS: banish]) [others],'
50. "So thus, the blood of all of the prophets - that having been [other MSS: being constantly or repeatedly] poured out from the casting down (the founding; the foundation; or: may = the conceiving) of [the] ordered system (world of culture, economy, religion and government) - can (or: should; would) at some point (or: suddenly) be searched out to be required and exacted from this generation:
51. "from Abel's blood until the blood of Zechariah - the man losing himself (or: perishing; being destroyed) between the altar and the House - yes, I continue saying (or: am now saying) to you folks, it will progressively be sought out and exacted from THIS GENERATION. And it was exacted, in AD 70. Cf Mat. 23:34-37, where vs. 35 refers to "all [the] just (equitable; rightwised) blood being continuously poured out (or: spilled) upon the Land."
We also have a direct answer as to who did this in 17:6, below,
"Then I saw the woman [Babylon], being continuously drunk from out of the blood of the set-apart folks and from out of the blood of the witnesses of Jesus."
Cf 14:8, above, and vs. 19, below. And again, Lu. 13:34,
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which kills the prophets and stones them that are sent unto you..."
Thus it is THESE, the Jews of the first century (then later the false church of the centuries which follow), to whom He gives blood to drink: they are deserving.
7. Then I heard the Altar saying, "Yes indeed, O Lord [= O Yahweh], the All-Strong (Omnipotent; Almighty) God, Your decisions (separations; judgings) are true and real ones, and fair (equitable; just; right) ones."
This message gives the echo of praise and affirmation which comes from the Altar. Does this correspond to the earlier scene of the altar, in ch. 6:9-11, in the opening of the fifth seal, where John heard the cry, "Until when (How long)..." from the souls (or: people) under the altar of burnt-offering? Are they also seeing what John is seeing, and now that they see the plan further unfolded they say, "Your decisions (judgings) are true ones and real ones, and fair (equitable; just right) ones"? Are they thus a part of the "cloud of witnesses (or: martyrs)" that encompass us (Heb. 12:1)? Or, is this an allusion to 8:3-5, above, which would correspond to the altar of incense. Whichever, the altar is a part of the Temple, His body.
Note the punctuation of judgment by these repeated, though varied, refrains of praise. Perhaps Malcolm Smith is right in this series of visions being a kind of cosmic opera.
8. Next the fourth one poured (or: at once pours) out his bowl (or: cup; saucer) upon the sun - and it was given to him to burn the people (the humans; mankind) in Fire.
Verses 8 & 9 present the pouring of the fourth cup, or saucer. The sun was also targeted in 8:12, above, when the 4th trumpet sounded. There it brought darkness, but here the result is men being burned in Fire with great heat (vs. 9). This seems to echo 14:10, above: those being tested with Fire and Deity in the presence of the set-apart agents (His body) and of the little Lamb.
This may be an allusion to Ex. 10:21ff, where Moses was told to "stretch forth his hand toward heaven." There, the result was darkness in all the land of Egypt. Here it was as though the earth was drawn closer to the sun, or that the earth was turned into a burning desert - which would suggest an allusion to Israel in the wilderness, but without the Cloud of God's presence as their shelter. Here, it is the intensification of His Fire for purification (Mal. 3). This foreshadows the later metaphor of,
"the lake (or: basin; artificial pool; marshy area) of the Fire: the one continuously burning within the midst of [the] Deity,"
(19:20ff, below). In Ex. 9:22-24, Moses stretched forth his hand to heaven, and this time the plague was
"hail, and Fire mingled with hail"with the "
Fire running along the ground."
9. And so the people (the humans) were burned [with] great heat, and they blasphemed (spoke insultingly of; slandered; misrepresented; vilified; hindered the Light of) the Name of God - the One having authority upon these plagues - and they did (or: do) not change their minds (their way of thinking) to give Him glory (or: to have a good opinion of Him).
Those being burned have spiritual insight: they recognize the source of this plague, for they blaspheme "the Name of God," not satan or the devil. The setting for these plagues is right here on earth. There is sure enough here to make one feel as though he is in the fire, from time to time, but this is a special dealing from God that, like His traditional dealing with Israel, came upon Jerusalem through a foreign power as the final dealing with them as a people group separate from the rest of humanity, for through the blood of their Messiah God demolished the prior categories of Jew and Gentile (circumcision and uncircumcision) making of the two "people groups" one new humanity (Eph. 2:11-17). This happened at the end of the old covenant age when the new age, the new creation and the new arrangement (the covenant of His laws written in our hearts, in the core of our beings) was being birthed through the called-out, covenant communities. He came in this plague,
"sitting as a Refiner of silver and of gold, purifying the sons of Levi (i.e., the priesthood),"
as predicted by Mal. 3:2-3, and they felt the great heat of His intimate presence among them.
Now I wonder, in this blaspheming "the Name" (either Yahweh, Jesus or one of His other Names), are they simply using the Name of the Lord in vain, as we often hear these days - when things don't go peoples' way? Is this burning plague like the "fiery trial" that Peter spoke of in 1 Pet. 4:12? Are these fiery trials - that Peter tells us we should not be surprised at - the same as the testings that are "common to humanity" of which Paul speaks, in 1 Cor. 10:13? Or, is this specifically the burning of the physical temple and Jerusalem during the siege by Rome? However we interpret this vision, they do not change their way of thinking so as to give glory to Him. But again, from the statement here in vs. 9, it seems that this was God's intent: that they WOULD change their thinking concerning Jesus as their Messiah, so as "to give Him glory (or: to have a good opinion of Him)." We saw similar responses in 9:20-21, above. Compare 2:21, above, spoken to the covenant community of Thyatira. Following the earthquake in 11:13, above, some did then give glory to Him. But here they do not seem to be responsive to "God's useful kindness (benevolent utility) and abruptness (sheer cutting-off; rigorous severity)" (Rom. 11:22).
10. Next the fifth one poured (or: at once pours) out his bowl (or: cup) upon the throne of the little wild animal (creature; beast) - and its kingdom (or: reign) came to being made dark (or: had been darkened), and they were biting their tongues from the painful labor (misery; travail; hard toil),
This plague may correspond to the fifth trumpet. See the comments on that in 9:1-11, above, which may simply be the same corrective measures which are seen from a different perspective.
From the pouring of the fifth cup/bowl/saucer, we see the little animal's "kingdom being made dark," the target having been its throne. Now in 13:2, above, we saw that the dragon (a figure of satan, i.e., the adversarial spirit of opposition) gave its "throne and authority" to this little animal. Recall that this "throne" (seat of power) was located in Pergamos (2:13, above). Of course all of this is metaphor and symbol. To try to read these figures literally will be to distort the apocalyptic nature of this letter. The little animal's reign/kingdom is within the midst of God's people, and vice versa. Any system or organization that is crafted by the mind of the "beastly" expression of people will have the character and qualities of a little wild animal. This spirit of the dragon also reaches into the seats of the nations, so Rome (which is probably represented by the 4th beast, in Dan. 7:7-8) could also have been indicated here, with its own beast system (the animal nature and way of acting). Also, if we consider again 11:7, above, we see that this repeatedly climbs up out of the abyss of the human nature (carnal, beast attitudes and responses). We further see it, today, even in the "literal interpretations" of the law and the prophets - which caused the Jews to reject Jesus as the Messiah, and then to persecute the called-out community. But the contents of this cup brought darkness (ignorance; lack of vision and understanding) to this Pharisaical kingdom, and soon destroyed it. We see the roots of this judgment in 8:12, above, the 4th trumpet. Darkness continued as an environment for the Roman Empire, and then for the "church" which it later created. Ezk. 32 gives a lamentation for the fall of Egypt, and in vss. 7-8 symbolically states,
"I will extinguish you: I will cover the heaven and make its stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light. All of the light of the light in heaven I will make dark over you, and set darkness upon your land, says the Lord God."
Now as to biting their tongues, recall the Jews response to the preaching of Stephen in Acts 7:54
"Well now, while progressively hearing these things, they were being progressively sawn in two in their hearts (= emotionally ripped and cut to the core so as to be filled with rage), and so they began and continued to grind and gnash [their] teeth on him (= at his words) with noises as of a wild animal eating greedily."
Their religion has also brought "painful labor," for Jesus said that they bound heavy burdens upon the people (Matt. 23:4). Today there is much darkness in many of the churches, for they do not see the light of God's grace and thus do they heap heavy burdens of religious works or prohibitions upon those who are ignorant of God's Word, and people still gnash their teeth in self-guilt, while the misery of carnal programs requires hard toil and great physical and emotional support to keep them going. We still see the "us versus them" attitude toward folks who read the Scriptures differently from particular "daughters" of Jerusalem (aka, Babylon). Having moved away from engaging in physical persecution (in the "enlightened" countries), we still have emotional, political and sometimes economic persecution of those whom the "orthodox" consider to be "heretical."
Rome was already "dark," so the kingdom that was made dark was the religious hierarchy, first of the Jews, in the first century, and later the stratified system of organized Christianity, in the following centuries. The "biting their tongues" may be an allusion to the Jewish leadership having the "kingdom" taken from them (Mat. 21:43), their missing out on the Messianic banquet (Mat. 25:1-12), and their being determined to be "unprofitable servants," and losing their job (Mat. 25:28), ending up having this decision made concerning them:
"And now, you men at once throw the useless slave out into the darkness (dim obscurity and gloominess) which is farther outside. In that place there will continue being the weeping (or: lamenting) and the grinding of the teeth" (Mat. 25:30).
Following AD 70, this was their situation, and condition. They were unprofitable to God's reign, and were the "foolish virgins" of Israel that ended up being broken out of their own olive tree (Rom. 11:17). If it seems hard to see this interpretation of the Jewish leadership in the first century being figured by this symbol of the little animal's kingdom, consider Acts 8:1, 3,
"Now on that day great persecution, pursuit and [D adds: pressure] was birthed (occurred) upon the called-out community [that was] within Jerusalem, so they were all - except for the sent-forth emissaries (representatives) [D*& 1175 add: who alone remained in Jerusalem] - dispersed and scattered as seeds down among the regions (or: territories) of Judea and Samaria... Now Saul began devastating, then continued laying waste and bringing havoc to, the called-out community, repeatedly making his way into and invading one house after another. Constantly dragging away and pulling along both men and women by force, he routinely handed [them] over into prison (or: transferred and committed [them] to a jail)."
11. and they blasphemed (abusively slander; hindered the light of; vilify) God with reference to the atmosphere (or: heaven's God; the God of the atmosphere; God, Who is heaven; the God from the sky) from out of the midst of their painful labor and from out of their festering wounds (ulcers), and did not (or: do not) change their mind (their way of thinking) from out of their works (or: actions).
This shows that they are still hurting from the first plague (festering wounds - some of which are received "in the house[s] of [our] friends," Zech. 13:6), and again, they appropriately blame God, Who is indeed the source of this trouble, i.e., their judgment. Their blasphemy echoes vs. 9, above. Still, they do not change their way of thinking nor have a paradigm shift from their mindset of works! Their hands are imprinted with the mark of the beast system; they work like the world. Thus, the judgment must continue to come upon them so that they may learn the true righteousness (Isa. 26:9), that of the Christ who, apart from works, joins them to Himself. Terry observes, "these seven last plagues, like those of Egypt, increase in power as they advance..." (ibid p 420). We see the same, unchanged reaction to these plagues in vs. 21b, below. This calls to mind Heb. 6:6,
"after falling by the side (or: falling aside along the way), [they are] powerless and unable to be repeatedly renewing again into a change of mind: [they are] continuously suspending back up (or: hanging on a pole; crucifying) again in, with, to, for and by themselves the Son of God, and [are] constantly exposing [Him] to public shame/disgrace."
But Heb. 6:7-8 uses an agricultural metaphor to show that even though they need to have their "Land" burned off, to remove the competing thorns and thistles, the burning is not their end. A farmer burns off his field in order to enrich the soil with the ash, and then replant in this productive soil once the competing vegetation has been removed. Paul put it this way,
"Now [look], we have seen, and thus know and are aware, that to those habitually or progressively loving and giving themselves to God - to the folks being called and invited according to [the] purpose - He is constantly working all things together into good and is progressively working all humanity together into that which is advantageous, worthy of admiration, noble and of excellent qualities" (Rom. 8:28).
All things, means all things! All that we read in the Unveiling is "according to [His] purpose," and is being worked INTO good: that which is advantageous, worthy of admiration and which has excellent qualities. This is how we who know God are to view all things: TO US, to our view and perception, He is working all humanity together into goodness, which is God, Himself. All ends in Him (Rom. 11:36).
12. Next the sixth one poured (or: at once pours) out his bowl (or: cup) upon the great river Euphrates, and its water was (or: is) dried up, to the end that the way (road, path) of the kings - the ones from the risings of [the] sun (or: = the east) - may be prepared (made ready).
The sixth plague begins with the water of the Euphrates River being dried up to prepare the way (road; path) of the kings from the rising of the sun. The figure here is tied to the following two verses. But just as in a natural waterway drying up, the frogs appear from the mud, which are representative of unclean spirits (or: attitudes - effects of the breath of the dragon, for they come from its mouth - or words, for words are also spirits, which came out of the mouth of its mouthpiece, the false prophet) and animistic (spirit) influences, termed "demons" in the Hellenistic culture and religions of that time. This figure of a "false prophet" (vs. 13, below) is also an echo of Jezebel in Thyatira (2:20, above).
The drying up of a river means that the Land has experienced a draught - there has been a severe lack of the water of life upon humanity. Famine is usually a result, and so folks look to other geographic areas to bring in the sources of life - here, the kings from the east. But when kings come, so does domination, control and loss of freedom. The allusion may be to Jer. 50:38, in a passage that speaks of Babylon's destruction,
"A drought against her waters that they may dry up!"
Isa. 11:15 also employs the metaphor of a blow upon important rivers:
"Then Yahweh will drain the tongue of the sea of Egypt, and wave His hand over the Stream (or: River, i.e., the Euphrates) with the vehemence of His wind (or: Spirit), and He will smite it into seven wadis (or: streams), and one will tread it in sandals" (CVOT; parentheses added).
Cf Jer. 51:35-37. In Zech. 10:11 we find,
"All the shadowy depths of the waterway will be dried up; the pride of Assyria will be brought down."
The imagery, here in vs. 12, is a foreshadowing of destruction. The "many waters" upon which Jerusalem sat (17:1, below) was the many nations that comprised the Roman Empire - upon which she rode, for both economy, protection and place of being as a nation (Jn. 11:48). Chilton viewed the kings from the rising of the sun literally, as "thousands of these very troops [that] actually did come from the Euphrates," citing Philip Carrington, The Meaning of the Revelation (1931), that these would be reinforcement for Titus (Chilton, ibid, p 408; brackets added). Cf Isa. 10:5-6.
Now Barclay (ibid p 128) points out that the drying of the Red Sea, then later of the Jordan River, were divine acts which gave exit from the armies of Egypt, and then access into the land of promise (Ex. 14:21; Josh. 3:17). Barclay instructs us, "Herodotus tells us (1:191) that when Cyrus the Persian captured Babylon he did so by drying up the Euphrates... he temporarily deflected the course of the river into a lake. The level of the river dropped and in the end the channel of the river through Babylon became a road" (ibid p 129). Both the Jews and the Christians would have been aware of this history and the meaning of the symbol: it signified conquest - which we now know of as the history of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Foy Wallace, Jr., in his book, The Book of Revelation, makes similar statements, saying, "The drying of the river... symbolizes obliterating all deterrents to the hordes overrunning Judah and besieging Jerusalem..." (ibid p 341). Vincent points out that the Euphrates "was the boundary-line of Israel on the northeast." In Isa. 8:5-8, the flood season of this river is compared to the king of Assyria,
"... and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks; and he shall pass through Judah..."
Beale comments, "God executed judgment against Babylon by 'raising up' Cyrus and his 'princes,' who were to come 'from the east' (Isa. 41:2), 'from the rising of the sun' (Isa. 41:25 LXX; likewise Isa. 46:11)... The victory by Cyrus led to Israel's release from captivity (Isa. 44:26; 45:13)" (ibid p 827). But here, in the Unveiling, Jerusalem has become the new Babylon, and now Titus (Rome) is raised up to destroy Jerusalem which has killed all God's prophets (vs. 6, above; Lu. 11:50-51), and bring release to the called-out, covenant communities - the resurrected "Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16) which is composed of olive branches of both Israel and the Gentiles into one new tree of Life: the continuation of the Root (Rom. 11:17-18), the new Jerusalem upon the heavens (Heb. 12:22).
Witness Lee, in The Recovery Version of the NT, points out that "the plagues of both the sixth bowl and the sixth trumpet are related to the same river, the Euphrates." When considering the sixth trumpet in ch. 9:13-21, we noted that the loosing of the four agents which were bound upon "the great river" resulted in the coming of a great army. But recall that in the particulars of the imagery there that this judgment was from the Lord, and its purpose was stated in vs. 20, "so that they may NOT worship the demons (Hellenistic concept and term: = animistic influences) and the idols (forms)." Giving importance to demons and idols has always been a weak point in the lives of God's people.
So the preterists see John as having been given a symbol of the over-run of Jerusalem. It puts an end to their worship, as the first covenant was terminated. It is a picture of the destruction which was to come to Babylon, which we see later in this vision. But note the paradox: it is a figure of forces coming from where literal Babylon once was - when they overcame and enslaved Jerusalem - to now overthrow Jerusalem which had become another Babylon. Literally, it is the pagan world destroying the world of the Jews. In relation to the church, the message for us is the same. Whenever God's "Faithful City" becomes a harlot (Isa. 1:21), God removes the protection and brings judgment. "Babylon is allegorical of the idolatry that any nation commits..." (Metzger, ibid p 88). When God's correction comes, it is a positive event for mankind. Israel was a seed that needed to fall into the ground and die, so that it (represented in its Messiah) could be resurrected and bring forth much fruit (Jn. 12:24).
13. And I saw - out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the little wild animal (creature; beast), and out of the mouth of the false prophet - three unclean spirits (or: impure attitudes), as frogs
Now we come again to the dragon, the little wild beast, and the false prophet which speak forth unclean spirits, or express "impure attitudes." These unclean spirits (attitudes and breath-effects that have not been washed in the blood of the little Lamb) come out of the mouth. The figure is of words spoken, or a message given, which have the dragon, the beast nature in man, or a lie as the source. I suggest that these parallel the dragon and the two "beasts" of chapter 13, above, and are in fact the same as are described there. The dragon, the little animal and the false prophet are symbols of spirits that have not yet been cleansed. These figures represent the work of our adversary, the estranged carnal mind of those who still are existentially "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1), and symbolize the rise of "many false prophets" of which Jesus spoke in Matt. 24:11. Keep in mind that John is here being shown things by signs: they are figures, representative pictures. Thus "the false prophet" is a sign representing the rise of "many false prophets," in the first century, and ever since.
That they appear as frogs is to remind the reader that this picture still relates to the plagues in Egypt (the second plague there, Ex. 8:2-7). In that situation, the land was over-run with frogs. From Lev. 11:9-12, 41-47, we learn that frogs fall into the category of being "unclean," as far as their dietary laws were concerned. So here they are a symbol for what was considered unclean, in the old covenant. We read in Mat. 12:34,
"You see, from out of the midst of the effect of the excess from the heart's surrounding abundance, the mouth is continually speaking."
Then, in Mat. 15, Jesus instructs us:
18. "Yet the things constantly emerging and flowing forth out of the mouth are continually coming forth from out of the midst of the heart (the core of the individual; the self as a whole, at its deepest level, which is the individual's animating and driving force [note: I owe these last phrases to Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity]) - and those things continually make the person contaminated, defiled, ceremonially unclean and common.
19. "For example, from out of the heart (the core of our being) habitually come forth worthless reasonings (wicked designs; considerations having a bad quality; miserable and laborious dialogues and arguments), murders, adulteries, fornications and prostitutions, sexual immoralities (fornications; prostitutions), thefts, false testimonies (or: false presentations of evidence), blasphemies (malicious slanders; abusive misrepresentations).
20. "These continue being the things that are making the person contaminated (unclean; defiled; common) - yet to eat a meal with unwashed hands does not make the person common, contaminated or unclean!"
Remember, everything in this vision is a symbol, a figure that represents a reality in our existence and in our world. In the quotes from Mat. we see Jesus speaking in plain speech about what is unclean and impure. The vision is representative of real spirits and attitudes within social and political organizations (figured by the dragon (the spirit of empire or domination systems), religions, trade unions, etc. (the little animals within the empire) and mouthpieces for the animal organization, or the government (false prophets; today, often: the media). We will see these three elements cleansed, in 20:10, below. We can see a correlation with 9:17-19, above, in the sixth trumpet.
Does this speak of the Land of Judea (or: today's "church") being over-run with false prophets, folks with the character of "little animals," or those who operate with the spirit of the dragon? The result here in the Unveiling is war. History attest to this in first century Palestine, and then one faction battling another faction in churches down through history, ever since! John elsewhere said "many false prophets have gone (or: come) out into the ordered System (world of societal culture, government, economy and religion) and continue there" (1 John 4:1). The prophecy of Jesus had already come true. God's involvement in all of this may find an echo in 1 Ki. 22:19-22, according to the prophet Micaiah (see below). We find 2 Thes. 2 giving further evidence for this:
11. And so, because of this, God is continuously sending to (or: in) them an in-working (or: operation) of wandering (or: from straying; which has the character of error and deception) into the [situation for] them to believe, and to trust, the lie,
12. to the end that all those not being faithful to the Truth (or: believing and trusting the reality), but rather approving and delighting in injustice (inequity; the thing that is not right), may (or: can; would) at some point be sifted, separated and decided about (or: judged).
Terry suggests that the false prophet is "but another name for the second beast, out of the land (13:11)" (ibid p 421).
14. - for they are spirits (or: breath-effects; attitudes) of demons (a Hellenistic concept and term: = from animistic influences), continually doing (making; constructing; performing) signs - which are continuously going out (marching forth) upon the kings of the whole inhabited land, to assemble them (bring them together) into the battle (combat, war) of that great Day of the All-Strong (Omnipotent) God.
Now in regard to the "spirit of a demon" coming out of the mouth of the false prophet, go to 1 Kings 22:19-23. The setting there is the same as the one here, "Yahweh sitting on His throne" (vs. 19), and Yahweh wanted to persuade Ahab that he may go up and fall (= defeat and death) at Ramath-Gilead. Then we have this interesting situation,
"And there came forth a spirit, and stood before Yahweh, and said, 'I will persuade him... I will go forth and I will be A LYING SPIRIT in the mouth of all his prophets'.... Now therefore, behold YAHWEH hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets, and Yahweh has spoken evil concerning you."
Rotherham renders vs. 22,
"I will go forth and BECOME a spirit of FALSEHOOD, in the mouth of all his prophets."
Observe that these spirits are continually performing signs. Recall 13:13-15, above, and the "great wonders" of the second beast. Jesus said, concerning the Pharisees, and the Jewish leadership,
"A good-for-nothing, worthless, base, knavish, grievously oppressive and wicked - even adulterous (unfaithful and immoral) - generation repeatedly seeks intently for a sign! And yet a sign will not proceed to be given to it - except the sign of Jonah the prophet" (Mat. 12:39).
So beware of following after signs, and those who purportedly perform them.
Another interesting situation is in Ezk. 14:7-11, speaking of any man of Israel who,
"breaks away from Me and turns his thoughts upon his fetishes... and then goes to the prophet to inquire of Me through him, I, Yahweh will respond to him directly.... And if a prophet is seduced and does speak a word [to such a person], IT WAS YAHWEH WHO SEDUCED THAT PROPHET; ... the punishment of the inquirer and the punishment of the prophet shall be the same" (Tanakh).
Both the KJV and Lamsa use the word "deceived" for "seduced" in this verse.
Paul warned of this situation in 1 Tim. 4:
1. Now the Spirit (or: Breath-effect) is explicitly saying that within subsequent seasons (in fitting situations and on appropriate occasions which will be afterwards) some of the faith (or: certain folks belonging to this trust) will proceed standing off and away [from the Path, or from the Community] (or: some people will progressively withdraw from this conviction and loyalty), habitually holding toward (having a propensity to) wandering and deceptive spirits (or: straying and seducing breath-effects and attitudes) and to teachings of demons (to teachings about and pertaining to, or which are, demons [note: a Hellenistic concept and term: = animistic influences]; or: to instructions and training which come from animistic influences [= pagan religions]),
[comment: this prophesied about the future institutionalization of the called-out community, and the introduction of pagan teachings, all of which later came to be called "orthodox"]
2. within perverse scholarship of false words (or: in association with overly critical hairsplitting of false messages; in the midst of gradually separated interpretations of false expressions; or: in union with deceptive decisions by speakers of lies)...
The "the kings of the whole inhabited land" will be seen again in 17:16-17, below. Simmons explains,
"The kings of the earth [land] are Herod and the rulers of the Jews who lifted themselves up against Christ and the church" (ibid p 306; brackets added).
We see Peter, John and those with them quoting Ps. 2:2 in Acts 4, where they applied the phrase to Herod, Pilate, etc.:
26.'The kings of the land (or: earth) took a stand (or: stood by; i.e.: placed themselves alongside to be at folks disposal), and the rulers (or: the leaders; the officials) were gathered together at the same [place] (or: = joined forces upon the same [purpose and intent]; or, perhaps: = as one) - down against the Lord [= Yahweh] and down against His Anointed One (or: the Christ which was Him; the [Messiah] from Him).' [Ps. 2:1-2]
27. "For in truth (actuality; reality) both Herod and Pontius Pilate, together with ethnic multitudes and [the] People of Israel - [coming] upon (= against) Your set-apart Servant (or: holy Boy) Jesus, Whom You anointed - were gathered together (thus: were made to join forces) in this city
28. "to do whatever (or: as many things as) Your hand and Your counsel (purpose; plan; intent; design) previously marked out the bounds for and limited beforehand to be happening (to come to be; to occur).
Although we see the first century interpretation as the first level of understanding, all of these symbols, including "the kings" are representative of the domination systems ever since that time, and all over the globe. We see these situations in politics, in businesses and industries, in education, in entertainment, in media, etc. We seldom find the fruit of the Spirit within these systems. Rather, we find the image of God normally distorted by greed and lust for power.
Notice that it is "spirits (or: breath-effects; attitudes) of demons (a Hellenistic concept and term: = from animistic influences)" that "are continuously going out." What was the purpose of their going out "upon the kings"? It was "to assemble them (bring them together) into the battle (combat, war) of that great Day." So here we see that the coming together for war was incited by these "attitudes from animistic influences." Curiously, this is one of only three places where this word, or its cognate (in 9:20), is used in the Unveiling. The other place is in 18:2, below. From traditional theology and eschatology, one would expect this book to be rife with these terms. As noted in the text of the verse, this term has its origin in the Hellenistic culture and religion. The TDNT defines it as an "animistic influence." This idea comes from pagan religions and world views.
Webster defines animism as, "The old hypothesis of a force (Anima mundi, soul of the world) immaterial but inseparable from matter, and giving to matter its form and movements; the attribution of spirit or soul to inanimate things." Such beliefs often gave rise to polytheism. From contact with the religions of Egypt, Persia and Greece, the Jews had come to accept an animistic world view, and tended to think of creation in this dualistic way. Jesus, and the writers of the NT made no recorded attempts to change this pervasive ontological-attitude. I recommend Walter Wink's exhaustive work that includes this term: Naming the Powers. This term would have been familiar to John, and so he employs it to designate adversarial, or negative, spirits (or: attitudes) that can influence people whose lives are not "hidden with Christ, within the midst of God" (Col. 3:3).
Dan Kaplan has pointed me to Mat. 12, again, perceiving a reference to corporate Israel (specifically the Jewish leadership of Jesus' day) in Jesus' instruction in vss. 43-45 concerning unclean spirits:
43. "Now whenever the unclean spirit (or: unpruned attitude; unpurged breath-effect; foul wind) should come forth (or: go out) away from the person (or: human), it normally passes through waterless places, continuously seeking a resting place (or: rest; a ceasing from activity) - and it continues finding none.
44. "At that point, it proceeds to say, 'I will proceed turning back into my house from where I came (or: moved) out.' And, upon coming, it is then finding [it] continuing being unoccupied (being unemployed, and thus, at leisure) and having been swept clean with a broom - even having been put in orderly arrangement and decorated!
45. "At that time it continues journeying on its way, and then proceeds taking along with itself seven different spirits (attitudes; breath-effects; winds) more good-for-nothing and useless (base, wicked, knavish, grievously oppressive and evil) than itself, and upon entering, it settles down and continues dwelling there in the house. So the last [circumstances] of that person becomes progressively worse than the first ones. Thus in this way will it also proceed being with (or: for; in; to) this good-for-nothing and wicked generation."
Take note Jesus' own application to the then-present generation of the Jews in the last sentence of this teaching. Notice the apocalyptic number of "7 different spirits" in vs. 45. Jesus came to cleanse the house of Israel, and God's House (the Temple), and He did so by submitting to their spilling of His blood. But they refused His work of the cross and persecuted His followers, and so by AD 70 their last situation was worse than what it was before.
So what is the, "great Day of the All-Strong (Omnipotent) God"? Here are some OT verse to which this term may allude:
"Howl! For the day of the LORD is near; it shall come like havoc from Shaddai [traditionally: 'the Almighty']" (Isa. 13:6, Tanakh).
"Now Look! An incurable Day of the Lord is repeatedly (or: progressively) coming: [a day] of rushing emotion and swelling passion to lay the inhabited land desolate (a wilderness), and to loose-away (or: destroy) the people who fail to hit the target (the failures; those who shoot off-target; the sinners; the deviators; those who err from the goal) from out of the midst of it" (Isa. 13:9, LXX, JM).
"Blow a horn in Zion; sound an alarm on My holy mount! ... For the day of the LORD has come! It is close - a day of darkness and gloom; a day of densest cloud spread like soot over the hills; a vast, enormous horde..." (Joel 2:1-2a, Tanakh).
"Woe to those yearning for the day of Yahweh! ... It [will be] darkness and not light..." (Amos 5:18, CVOT).
So it was usually a reference to God's judgment upon Israel. Chilton and Terry both suggest that this was what Jesus referred to in Mat. 22:7, "So the king inwardly swelled with fury and was made to teem with anger. And then, sending his soldiers he destroyed those murderers and set their city in flames." Cf Lu. 19:27.
15."Consider! I continually (or: repeatedly) am coming as a thief! The one continually watching (or: in wakeful vigilance) and keeping guard upon his garments [is; will be] blessed (or: a happy person), to the end that he may not be continually walking about (or: roaming; = living his life) naked so that they may continually see (or: observe) his indecency (condition of being without proper form, shape or character; shame; ungracefulness)."
Here the speaker is obviously Christ. He inserts into this vision a warning to the called-out of first century Asia Minor, but this word still speaks to us as history rolls on, and He continues coming to us. In 2:5, above, He told Ephesus,
"I am continuously (repeatedly; habitually) coming to you [as a group],"
and in 2:16 informed Smyrna,
"I am repeatedly (habitually) coming swiftly in you (to you; for you)." To Thyatira He said, "what you have (hold) you must get into your power (be strong in; lay hold of), until of which [time or situation] whenever I may arrive."
He gave the message of "arriving as a thief" to the community in Sardis (3:3, above) and following His message to Philadelphia, in 3:11, proclaimed,
"I am repeatedly (habitually; constantly) coming and going swiftly (or: = progressively coming soon)!"
A similar picture is given by Jesus in Mat. 24:
43. "Yet you are progressively coming to know that by experience (or, as an imperative: Now be personally knowing that, through normal experience), because if the householder had seen and known in what sort of watch (= which of the watches) [of the night] the thief is normally coming, he would have kept awake, remained alert and kept watchful, and then he would not let (permit) his house to be dug (or: tunneled) through.
44. "Because of this, you yourselves progressively come to be ready and prepared as well, because at an hour for (= about) which you are not normally thinking (imagining; supposing; = expecting), the Son of the Man (= the eschatological Messiah figure; humanity's son) is normally (or: repeatedly) coming."
Paul, in 1 Thes. 5:2, warned,
"for you yourselves are accurately aware (know exactly from having seen) that a day of, from and which is the Lord [= Yahweh] thus continually comes (is habitually and repeatedly coming and going; is presently coming) as a thief in a night (or: within [the] night)."
The day of Yahweh was a term that figured a time of judging and hard times, in the OT; cf Joel 1:15; Jer. 30:7; Zeph. 1:14-18.
In regard to, "walking naked," we recall 2 Cor. 5:1-4, where in vs. 3 Paul instructs them,
"being folks at some point entering within and clothing ourselves (or: being dressed, also), we shall not continue (or: proceed) being found naked."
In 3:18a, above, we read,
"I continue advising you [singular] to buy from Me gold having been refined (set ablaze) forth from out of fire, to the end that you may become rich; and white garments, to the end that you may clothe yourself and the shame (disgrace) of your nakedness may not be manifested (brought to light; caused to appear)."
In Rom. 13, Paul gave these admonitions:
12. The night advances, and the day has approached and is presently near. We should put, then, the acts of the Darkness (works from the realm of the shadows; actions that belong to dimness and obscurity) away from ourselves (or: take off and put away the deeds pertaining to darkness; = ignorance; that which was before the light arrived), and clothe ourselves with the instruments (tools; weapons; implements; [some MSS: works; deeds]) of Light (or: The Light)...
14. but rather, you folks must clothe yourselves with (or: enter within and put on) the Lord, Jesus Christ, and stop (or: do not continue) making forethought (constructing provision; planning ahead; performing provident care) into excessive desires of the flesh (= into rushing upon emotions which pertain to the inner self or the estranged humanity; = into the setting of feelings and longings upon something of the human nature that is oriented to the System).
Nakedness is first encountered in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:25; 3:7, 10-11). In Gen. 3:21, God clothed Adam and Eve, covering their nakedness. In Ezk. 16:7 Yahweh described Jerusalem as being naked when He passed by her, and in vs. 8 He
"covered [her] nakedness,"
then in vs. 22 reminds her of the nakedness of the days of her youth that she has forgotten,
"in all [her] abominations and whorings."
In Ezk. 16:37-40 He promises to
"gather all [her] lovers... and [He] will uncover [her] nakedness unto them... and [He] will also give [her] into their hand"
to be stoned and thrust-through with the sword. In 17:16, below, we find,
"the ten horns which you saw (or: see) - even the little wild animal - these will continue hating (detaching from) the Prostitute, and [she] being made desolate (having been laid waste), they will also proceed making her naked..."
This, in the next chapter, is an echo of Ezk. 16. We see the first mention of the upcoming "gathering" in vs. 16, below.
However, we should not stop at Ezk. 16:40, but read the rest of that chapter. Following her judgment, because she broke the covenant with Yahweh (vs. 59b), He told her,
"Then I Myself will call to mind (remember) My covenant (arrangement) - the one with you, in [the] days of your infancy - and I will proceed causing to rise up in you (or: with you; for you; to you) an eonian covenant (an arrangement with the character and quality of the Age [of the Messiah]; a covenant which is the Age [of the Messiah])" (Ezk. 16:60, LXX, JM).
His judgments are never the end for people, they bring us to the goal of our existence. When the cleansing (1 Jn. 1:7b) is completed, His love covers us (1Pet. 4:8), and we are enabled to follow Paul's admonition in Rom. 13:12, 14, above.
All of these messages were to the called-out communities, and the visions are meant to inform those of the first century - and we, in the following centuries, continue learning from them.
16. And He [Aleph reads: they] gathered (or: assembles) them together into the place being called, in the Hebrew, Armageddon [= the hill of Megiddo; some MSS: Mageddon].
In verse 14, above, the spirits go out to assemble the inhabitants of the land to go to war. Compare 13:5-7, above, where the first beast is given a "mouth" and then makes war with the set-apart folks (this is also seen in 11:7, above). The verb gathered (or: assembles - the aorist tense) together, or "synagogues," has no expressed subject. It is simply the 3rd person form of the verb. The Nestle-Aland text, Westcott and Hort, Griesbach, and TR (i.e., most MS witnesses) all read the verb singular ("He"). Only MS Aleph reads it plural, "they." The reading "they" (which some translations follow) would see vs. 15 as parenthetical (the NEV puts it in parentheses) and read vs. 16 as picking up where vs. 14 left off, with its plural subject. Thus, the Aleph reading could be a scribal adjustment to the text, to accord with vs. 14. The only difference between the singular and plural forms is the final vowel of the verb. But the reading, He, has Christ or God (vs. 15) as the antecedent subject, and thus the One arranging this battle as with the situation in 1 Ki. 22, cited above.
What about this gathering (for war) at Armageddon? Barclay (ibid p 132) tells us that it is the Plain of Esdraelon, which was part of the highway from Damascus to Egypt. It was a great battle field from the ancient times to the time of Napoleon. It was where Barak and Deborah defeated Sisera (Jud. 5:19-21), where Ahaziah died (2 Kings 9:27), and where Josiah was killed in a battle with Egypt (2 Kings 23:29-30). This verse is an allusion to Israel's history, locating the subject matter of the "bowls" in a context of the judgment of Jerusalem, in AD 66-70. But we will not see what was to happen here until it is discussed as Gog and Magog in 20:8-9, below. The prophet Zechariah presents an interesting picture in chapter 12:
"Behold, I will make Jerusalem a bowl of reeling for the peoples all round. Judah shall be caught up in the siege upon Jerusalem, when all the nations of the earth gather against her...In that day I will make the clans of Judah like a flaming brazier... like a flaming torch... They shall devour all the besieging peoples... Jerusalem shall continue on its site... In that day I will all but annihilate all the nations that came up against Jerusalem. But I will fill the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem with a spirit of pity and compassion, and they shall lament to Me about those who are slain... the wailing in Jerusalem shall be as great as the wailing at Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddon" (vss. 2-11, Tanakh).
The situation and context of this Zech. 12 pronouncement remains ambiguous, and need not concern us here, but an allusion to it is obvious, here in vs. 16. The House of David could be seen by John as pointing to Christ and His body - for we see them involved as agents in this present vision. Zechariah continues in the next chapter in what seems to be pertinent to the first century, and to what develops in the Unveiling, below:
"In that day a fountain shall be open to the House of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for purging and cleansing. In that day, too - declares the LORD of Hosts - I will erase the very names of the idols from the Land; they shall not be uttered and more. And I will also make the 'prophets' and the 'unclean spirit' vanish from the Land" (Zech. 13:1-2, Tanakh).
His Fire and Deity (14:10, above), i.e., the "lake of Fire," below, is the instrument of "erasing the names of the idols" (the name and mark of the "beast") from the minds and actions of humanity.
17. Next the seventh one poured (or: at once pours) out his bowl (or: cup) upon the air - and a great voice came (or: goes) forth from the Temple of the atmosphere (or: heaven) [other MSS: out of the temple from the throne; other MSS: out of the temple of God], from the throne, repeatedly saying,"It has come to be (or: He has been birthed; It has come into existence; It has occurred)!"
We come to the last of the last, the 7th plague. It is a blow upon the air, and would seem to be a counterpart of the 4th plague in Egypt, which was a grievous swarm, perhaps a mixture of insects - since the Heb. root, there, shows that they were mixed (Bullinger). The LXX calls them "dog flies," and the CVOT renders it "a heavy mixture of flies" (Ex. 8:24). This might be pointing to the aftermath of the AD 70 battles, and the proliferations of dead bodies (cf Isa. 66:24). Notice that most of these plagues are directed at the flesh. But here, the symbol of "the air" may refer to the atmosphere, and may be pointing out that the reign of the heavens - inaugurated by the death and resurrection of Jesus (and His departure into the air, in the midst of a cloud, in Acts 1:9-11) - "has come into existence," or, that results of its presence "have occurred."
Next a great voice, or message, comes from out of the Temple (His body) and proclaims,
"He has been birthed,"
(there is no personal pronoun expressed as the subject of the verb). This great voice may be describing the message proclaimed by Christ's followers that He is the Firstborn from among the dead. Or, it can be rendered, "It has come to be," or, "It has happened (occurred)!" No explanation of this statement is given in the text. We could infer that this speaks of the fulfillment of a prophecy, of God's plan, perhaps referring back to vs. 1: the ending or completion of God's strong passion and fury. Perhaps this is an echo of Jesus' cry on the cross,
"It is finished,"
which Rabbi Dick Reuben says is what the priest would say when the atonement sacrifice was completed. We can also relate this to the great voices during the sounding of the 7th trumpet (11:15, above) saying,
"The reign of the dominating, ordered System (of the world of religion, culture, government and economy; or: of the realm of the religious and secular; or: of the aggregate of humanity) suddenly came to belong to our Lord [= Yahweh or Christ] and to the anointed of Him..."
We should not forget another "pouring out," as prophesied by Joel,
"Then I will progressively give back to, for and in you folks, in place of the years... [consumed by] the great power (= empire; army) which I sent forth into the midst of you... And so you people shall progressively come to fully know that I, Myself, continuously exist (am) within the midst of Israel - even I, Myself: the LORD your God, and there exits none except Me - and in no way will My people continue being ashamed, on into the Age. And so, after these things, it will continue existing (or: progressively be). Then I will continue progressively pouring out from My Spirit, upon all flesh..." (Joel 2:25, 27, 28; LXX, JM)
Recall that Peter applied this passage to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit in the first century, in Act 2:16-21. God's pouring out was correction, cleansing and giving new life. This period birthed the new age with the new arrangement between God and humans, which formed the new creation.
18. Then lightnings and voices and thunders came to be (occurred), and a great shaking (= an earthquake) came to be (occurred), such as had not come to be (or: did not happen) since (or: from which [time]) the humans came to be (or: mankind was birthed) upon the Land (or: ground; earth) - a shaking (quake) of such magnitude, so very great!
This "saucer-pouring" is attended by lightnings, voices and thunders and a great shaking. This is an echo of Ex. 19:10-20 when Yahweh came down on Mt. Sinai. There it was all the people who shook (trembled, vs. 17), including Moses (Heb. 12:21), at the presence of God. So this figure shows that the Lord has come in this "plague," for these are signs of His presence and His dominion (figured by His throne: see 4:5, above). We are told in 1 Thes. 4:17 that,
"Thereupon (or: After that; As a next step) we, the presently living folks, the ones presently continuing to be left around, will - at the same time, together with them - proceed being seized and snatched away within clouds (or: carried off by force, in union with clouds,) into the midst of [the] AIR (the air that we breathe in; the mist; the haze; the atmosphere around us; [note: this would be in the earth's lower atmosphere, the place where there is air]) - into the Lord's meeting ([Christ's or Yahweh's] encounter; an encountering which is the Lord). And thus (in this way and such a manner) shall we always continue being (or: continue existing at all times) together with [the] Lord [= Christ or Yahweh]."
So if the Lord was present in the AIR in this plague, perhaps there was a "catching up" at this time - as some preterists believe. Perhaps this happens each time He comes. The air could also be a figure for the realm of the spirit, in the lowest heaven which touches the earth. The great shaking echoes Heb. 12:
26. Whose voice shook the land (or: earth) at that time. Yet now it has been promised (or: He has promised for Himself), saying, "Still once [more; or: for all] I am shaking not only the land (or: earth), but also the heaven (or: atmosphere; sky)." [Hag. 2:6; Joel 3:16-17]
27. Now the "Still once [more; or: for all]" constantly points to and makes clearly visible the transposition (transference; changeover; change of setting or place) of the things being repeatedly shaken, to the end that the things not being repeatedly (or: continuously) shaken may remain. [cf 2 Cor. 3:7-13]
28. Therefore (or: Because of which), continuously taking to our sides (or: progressively receiving alongside) an unshaken Reign (or: Kingdom; Sovereign influence)... Cf above: 6:12; 8:5; 11:13, 19. Also: Mat. 24:7; 27:54; 28:2. The shakings are signs of the change from the old to the new.
19. And the Great City came to be [divided] into three parts, and the cities of the nations (multitudes; ethnic groups) fell, and then Babylon the Great (or: the Great Babylon) was called to mind (or: is remembered) in the presence of (before; in the sight of) God, to give to her the cup of the wine of the strong passion (rushing emotion; fury; anger) of His inherent fervor (natural impulse; mental bent and disposition; personal emotion; indignation; wrath).
This may be an allusion to Isa. 51:17,
"Rouse yourself! Rouse yourself! Arise, Jerusalem! You who have drunk from the hand of Yahweh a [or: the] cup of His fury; the goblet-cup of tremoring you have drunk..." (CVOT).
Ezk. 23 prophesies against the prostitution of Samaria and her "younger sister," Jerusalem (vs. 4b). In vss. 31-33, Yahweh says,
"You have walked in the way of your sister; therefore will I give her cup into your hand... You shall drink of your sister's cup deep and large... with the cup of astonishment and desolation..."
The City's falling apart "into three parts" is an echo of the other fractional judgments, seen above, but is also prophetic of the divisions that happen to her daughters, in the coming centuries. The City was once a unity, but it is now fragmented, representing its dualistic and fragmented view of God and creation.
Verses 18-20 picture the fall of Babylon (figure of Jerusalem in the first century, and of the organized systems of religion and political powers in the following age) and her "daughters" (the cities of the multitudes, nations and ethnic groups which also become a figure for church "denominations"). Chilton rightly makes the observation:
"Another indication that the Great City is Jerusalem is the fact that St. John distinguishes her from the cities of the Gentiles [nations], which fell with her" (ibid p 416; brackets added).
This 7th shallow cup also equates to the "cup of the wine" of the strong passion of His inherent fervor. The visionary act of "pouring out" is a figure for an experience of those upon whom such is poured. It corresponds to 14:10-11, above,
"the wine of God's rushing emotion and strong passion,"
which was explained as being scrutinized with the touchstone (= tested) in Fire and Deity (= God and His Divine Character) within the presence of His set-apart agents (His body) and in the presence of the Lamb. There we saw that they could behold the Lamb, and
"at length, when [they] can or may turn towards the Lord, the veil shall be taken away from around [them]. And the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord [is, there is] FREEDOM! And [so] all, with unveiled face[s], BEHOLDING the Lord's glory in a mirror, are progressively being TRANSFORMED [into] the same image, from glory to glory, even as from the Lord [Who is the] Spirit." (2 Cor. 3:16-18)
Thus it will be with all who are cast into His presence. Judgment, yes. Transformation, YES!
Once again, carefully consider the semantic range of "inherent fervor," and do not automatically call to mind human anger or wrath. His ways are above ours. If He is Love, then His "natural impulse" is Love. If He is full of mercy, then His "mental bent and disposition" will be mercy, when the corrective measures have done their job. If He is gracious, thus also will be His "personal emotion." This Unveiling is about coming to know our Father, and our Lord, Jesus Christ. Like a good Father, His anger is against human violence and injustice, but the wrath is enacted in Love, which never fails (1 Cor. 13:8).
20. Then every island fled (took flight), and the mountains (or: hills) were not (or: are not) found,
These islands and mountains are figures of kingdoms, which we previously discussed in 6:14, above. They are not found because they have been absorbed into the kingdom of our Lord and His Anointed (11:15, above). The little Lamb has overcome the world. We find a similar, more extensive and inclusive statement in 20:11, below,
"Next I saw a great bright, white throne, and the One continuously sitting upon it from Whose face the Land (or: ground; earth) and the atmosphere (or: sky; heaven) flee (or: at once fled). And a place is not found for them (or: And then no position was discovered by them or found in them)."
This is a figurative of the departure of the old creation that was simultaneous with the emergence of the new creation, of which Paul spoke in 2 Cor. 5:17. The righteous (figured by its white color) throne pictures God's kingdom having been established in justice through the coming of the Messiah, and the old order (the old covenant and temple cultus that governed Jerusalem and all the synagogues of the Diaspora) was taken away through the establishment of the new order that is union with Christ Jesus.
"'Consider! I am arriving to do (form; make; create) Your will (purpose; intent; resolve), O God!' - He is habitually (or: progressively; or: presently) taking back up the first, so that He could make the second [cf. ch. 9:28] to stand (or: that He may place and establish the second)" (Heb. 10:9).
21. and hail, great (large) as weighing a talent (about 70 pounds), is continuously coming down (descending) out of the atmosphere (or: sky; heaven) upon the people (the humans; mankind). And the men blasphemed (abusively slander; misrepresented and hindered the light of) God from out of the midst of the plagues (or: blows) of the hail, because Her plague (smiting; blow) is exceeding great.
This brings an end to this 7th plague. Hail was a part of the 7th plague in Egypt, too. There it smote human and beast and every herb of the field, and broke every tree of the field (Ex. 9:25). Here it is spoken of only coming upon people, but being huge (approximately 100 #'s). The idea is devastation and ruin. This echoes reference to the day of the Lord in Ezk. 13:1-16, where an overflowing downpour and hail are sent because they had not
"gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord.... because they beguile My people, saying 'Peace,' and there is no peace..."
Verse 13, there, repeats this idea, "and hailstones in My fury - to consume" (Young).
In Josh. 10:11 great hail came upon the enemies of Israel, so that more died by the hailstones than died by the sword. Isa. 28:2 threatens Ephraim with
"a tempest of hail and a destroying storm."
Ezk. 13:11-13 speaks of God's judgment against Israel by
"an overflowing shower in My anger, and great hailstones, in fury to consume!"
Hailstones were a part of God's pleading with people in the context of the prophecy against Gog, in Ezk. 38. So once again, we see the symbols of the OT used in these visions. The message here would have been a warning of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, and a calling to mind of God's judgments in Israel's history. Josephus gives the following report of Rome's siege of Jerusalem:
"The engines that all the legions had ready prepared for them were admirably contrived... those that threw stones were more forcible and larger... Now the stones ... were of the weight of a talent [100 #'s]... The blow they gave was no way to be sustained..." (Josephus, Complete Works, Kregel Pub., 1960, Wars of the Jews, v.6.3, p 557, William Whiston trans.; brackets added).
In a taped teaching, Lynn Hiles points out that those stones would likely have been limestone, from the local terrain, and their light-tan, whitish color flying through the air may have indeed looked like huge hailstones.
This chapter ends with a response from the people being judged by these plagues. It is similar to the response to the 4th plague (vs. 9) and to the fifth plague (vs. 11). Here they blaspheme God because of this great smiting by hail. It is what we, today, would call "natural disaster." But again, those of that day recognized God as the cause of such disaster. And so, let us keep in mind the words of Heb. 12:11,
"Now ALL DISCIPLINE, indeed, for the present is not seeming to be a thing of joy, but of sorrow. YET SUBSEQUENTLY it is rendering the peaceable fruit of righteousness TO THOSE EXERCISED THROUGH IT" (CLNT).
We must remember that
"all His ways [are] JUDGMENT... Just and upright [is] He" (Deut. 32:4).
And, in Heb. 12:9 we are asked,
"To a much greater extent, shall we not be continually placed under and humbly arranged and aligned by the Father of the spirits (or: the Progenitor of breath-effects and Mentor of attitudes)? And then we shall proceed living (or: progressively live)!" [cf Nu. 27:16; Eph. 6:2-3]
Paul told the called-out in Corinth that
"If anyone is corrupting the temple of God, God will be ruining him" (1 Cor. 3:17).
Earlier in that same chapter (vs. 3) he had called them fleshly, carnal, and said that they were living in accord with the rest of humanity. Like the seven called-out communities in this book, they had some problems. It is typical for all called-out communities. But above I have pointed out God's ways, "which are judgment." And Peter reminds us that
"[it was then] the era [for] the judgment to begin from God's house..." (1 Pet. 4:17).
The judgment of these 7 plagues came to what had been "God's house," His people, the Jews (and recall that He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him - John 1:11 - although they were forgiven of this from the cross), and now their house is left to them desolate (Mat. 23:38).
But like the fractional judgments of this book, in Rom. 11 we note that it was only "some of the branches" that were broken out of the olive tree (the true Israel that brought God's anointing to humanity), and now other branches are being grafted in among that remnant and have become joint participants of the root and fatness of that tree (Rom. 11:17). The message of these 7 shallow cups is a message for the covenant communities. It happened first to the natural, but it will also happen to us - and has happened periodically throughout history.
"His judgments do not save us, but they condition and prepare us to receive HIM who is our Salvation. They cause us to turn to the Lord in repentance, and we find He has been drawing us to Himself through it all" (Prinzing).
"you were saddened and made anxious down from and in correspondence to God... For you see, the anxiety, sadness and pain down from, in the sphere of, in line with and in correspondence to God continuously works, habitually effects and progressively produces a change in thinking and frame of mind: [in turn, leading] into a deliverance and wholeness of health (a rescue and restoration to the original state and realm; salvation) void of regret and without change in purpose. Yet the anxiety, sadness, pain and sorrow which belongs to the world (that comes from secular society, and the organized System of religion, culture, economy and government) is continuously working down the production of death (or: is in line with repeatedly and progressively bringing about death)." (2 Cor. 7:9-10).
Sorrow that comes "down from" (the Greek is kata) God comes via His judgment. His Word, including His Word of judgment, does not return to Him void - Isa. 55:11 -
"but will accomplish what [He] desire[s] and achieve the purpose for which [He] sent it."
"But while the wrath of God is love's severity, yet it remains purest love, seeking the ultimate good for creation, and so it continues to apply the strokes of chastisement. Repentance will come, but how great is the need for the in-working of His judgments, until that submission comes" (Prinzing).
We should keep in mind that these 7 plagues were a picture of God's complete wrath - 7 being the idea of a complete cycle. This also "finished" His wrath (15:1, above). We can see it fulfilled upon Jerusalem in AD 70, but this in turn becomes a type, a pattern, and a message to all who read this prophecy.
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