Studies In The Book of Revelation
By Jonathan Mitchell
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) of God’s strong passion (fury; rushing emotion; anger) into the Land (or: earth).”
2. Then the first one went forth and poured (or: at once pours) out his bowl (or: cup) upon the Land (or: ground; earth) – and a bad and malignant, festering wound (or: ulcer) came to be upon those people having the imprinted mark of the little wild animal (creature; beast), even upon those continuously worshiping its image (or: likeness).
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.
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.
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 judge (or: judged) these,
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]!” [note: see Luke 11:50-51]
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.”
In ch. 16 the agents are dispatched out of the Temple to pour out the judgments out of their shallow cups 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 country. We who read this letter can apply the principles to our times, realizing that He is the same yesterday (in O.T. times), today (in the 1st 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." This is a picture of a small measure, thus a limited dealing.
The first bowl/cup is poured out in vs. 2. Compare the 6th 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 is 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 1st century. Yet, it is figuratively upon the apostate church in our day. Yes, the organized church has the imprinted mark of the little carnal animal. Its institutions look and function just like the institutions of the world and 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.
In vs. 3 we see the second plague, which corresponds with the first one 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 ch. 11:6. So what we have here is another vision which parallels ch's. 8 & 11. Vs. 4 continues this same plague which affects not only the sea (the multitudes), but also all waters and the sources of water (see Ex. 7:19). The "source of life" now brings death. This sea is not yet a glassy sea, but is a sea where souls die (for 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 literal meaning foretold the dead who were slain by the Romans under Titus. The figurative meaning applies to the institutional church, through the centuries.
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 ch. 15:3-4. In vs. 6, who was it that poured out the blood of the set-apart folks and the prophets? Lu. 11:49-51 tells us, "that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the [Israelite] world may be exacted from THIS GENERATION, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah.... it will be exacted from THIS GENERATION." And it was, in AD 70. 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 1st century (then later the false church of the centuries which follow), to whom He gives blood to drink: they are deserving.
Vs. 7 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 5th seal, where John heard the cry, "How long..." from the souls (or: people) under the altar? Are they also seeing what John is seeing, and now that they see the plan further unfolded they say, "Your judgments are true ones and right ones"? Are they thus a part of the "cloud of witnesses (or: martyrs)" that encompass us (Heb. 12:1)? Whatever, 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) upon the sun – and it was given to him to burn the people (the humans; mankind) in Fire.
9. And so the people (the humans) were burned [with] great heat, and they blasphemed (spoke insultingly of; slandered) 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).
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),
11. and they blasphemed (speak insultingly of; slander) 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).
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).
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 (impure) spirits, as frogs
14. – for they are spirits (or: breath-effects) of demons (Hellenistic concept and term: = 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.
Vs. 8 & 9 present the pouring of the fourth cup. The result is men being burned in fire with great heat. This seems to echo ch. 14:10, those being tested with Fire and Deity in the presence of the set-apart agents (His body) and of the Lamb. 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. I suspect that both of these passages are right here on earth. There is sure enough here to make one feel as though he is in the fire.
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? Whichever, they do not change their way of thinking so as to give glory to Him. But again, from the statement in vs. 9 it seems that this was God's intent. Compare ch. 2:21, spoken to the church there. Following the earthquake in 11:13 some did then give glory to Him. But here they do not seem to be responsive to "the goodness and severity of God" (Rom. 11:22).
From the pouring of the 5th cup/bowl (vs. 10) we see the little animal's kingdom darkened, the target having been its throne. Now in 13:2 we saw that the dragon (figure of satan, the adversarial spirit) gave its "throne and authority" to this little animal. Recall that this "throne" (seat of power) was located in Pergamos (ch. 2:13), for one. The little animals reign/kingdom is within the midst of God's people. But this spirit of the dragon also reaches into the seats of the nations, so Rome could also have been indicated here, with its own beast system (the animal). And if we consider again ch. 11:7 we see that this repeatedly climbs up out of the abyss of the human nature (carnal, beast attitudes and responses). We also 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 the 9th plague in Egypt (Ex. 10:21-23; but compare also Rev. 8:12, the 4th trumpet). Darkness continued as an environment for the Roman Empire, and then for the "church" which it later created.
Now as to biting their tongues, recall the Jews response to the preaching of Stephen in Acts 7:54, "Now, upon hearing these things, they were harrowed in their hearts, and gnashed their teeth on him." 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.
Vs. 11 shows that they are still hurting from the 1st 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. 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).
In vs. 12 we come to the 6th plague, which 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" is also an echo of Jezebel in Thyatira (ch. 2:20).
The drying up of a river means that the land has see a drought – 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. And thus we see that they have brought their invading forces to do combat with the armies (the protection) of the land of Israel.
Now Barclay 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). Zech. 10:11 says that "all the depths of the Nile shall dry up." Barclay says that "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." Both the Jews and the Christians would have been aware of this history, and the meaning of its symbology: conquest – which we 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 up of the river... represented the removal of all the barriers which hindered the progress of the powers to strike the final blow of the war against Judah and Jerusalem..." 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..."
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 6th 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, "that they will NOT be worshiping demons and idols." 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, God removes the protection and brings judgment. In the end of our present age, Babylon must again fall. "Babylon is allegorical of the idolatry that any nation commits..." (Metzger).
Now we come to the dragon, the little wild beast, the false prophet and the unclean spirits which come out of their mouths. I suggest that these parallel the dragon and the two "beasts" of ch. 13, and are in fact the same ones. Note in 16:14 that these spirits are continually performing signs. Recall ch. 13:13-15 and the "great wonders" of the second beast. In vs. 14, above, the spirits go out to assemble the inhabitants of the land to go to war. Compare 13:5-7 where the 1st beast is given a "mouth" and then makes war with the set-apart folks (this is also seen in 11:7).
Note that these unclean spirits (attitudes and breath-effects that have not been washed in the blood of the 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. These figures represent the work of satan and of the estranged carnal mind, 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."
That they appear as frogs is to remind the reader that this picture still relates to the plagues in Egypt (the 2nd plague here, Ex. 8:2-7). There the land was over-run with frogs. Does this speak of the Land of Judea (or: today's "church") being over-run with false prophets? The result here in the Unveiling is war. History attest to this in 1st century Palestine; one faction battling another faction in our church world today. John elsewhere said "many false prophets have come (or: gone) out into the world" (1 John 4:1). The prophecy of Jesus had already come true.
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 her, "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."
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, "that in subsequent seasons some of the Faith will withdraw (stand away), continuously holding towards (or: giving heed to) deceiving spirits and to teachings about and from animistic spirits (demons), within [the] hypocrisy of false words (or: false-speaking).
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). [note: see 1 Thes. 5:2; Matt. 24:43; 2 Pet. 3:10; 2 Cor. 5:3]
Here the speaker is obviously Christ. He inserts a warning to the called-out of 1st century Asia Minor, but this word still speaks to us as history rolls on, and He continues coming to us. He gave this message to the church in Sardis in ch. 3:3, and the garment that these on the glassy sea of vs. 2, above, are to guard are the "white garments" offered to the overcomers in ch. 3:5. A similar picture is given by Jesus in Matt. 24:43. Both Paul and Peter (references given above) describe the coming of "the day of the Lord" as the coming of a thief in the night. He is coming in judgment and with destruction.
16. And He gathered (or: assembles) them together into the place being called, in the Hebrew Armageddon [some MSS: Mageddon].
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; 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)!”
18. Then lightnings and voices and thunders came to be (occurred), and a great shaking (earthquake) came to be (occurred), such as had not come to be (or: did not happen) since (or: from of 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!
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 (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).
20. Then every island fled (took flight), and the mountains (or: hills) were not (or: are not) found,
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 (spoke insultingly of; slandered) God from out of the midst of the plagues (or: blows) of the hail, because Her plague (smiting; blow) is exceeding great.
Again, note that people recognize God as the source of their problems (vs. 21). But what about this gathering for war at Armageddon (vs. 16)? Barclay 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). But we will not see what was to happen here until it is discussed as Gog and Magog in ch. 20:8-9.
So in vs. 17 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 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). Notice that most of these plagues are directed at the flesh.
This plague is attended by lightnings, voices and thunders and a great shaking (vs. 18). This is an echo of Ex. 19:10-20 when Yahweh cam 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 ch. 4:5). We are told in 1 Thes. 4:17 that "the living ones, those continuing being left around, will at the same time be seized and snatched away INTO AIR, together with them within clouds, into the Lord's encounter (or: meeting). And thus (in this way) shall we always exist together with the Lord." 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 swarm of flies and gnats could represent the bothersome spirits or attitudes which attend the dead, estranged human condition.
In vs. 17 a great voice, or message, comes from out of the Temple (His body) and proclaims, "It has been birthed," or, "It has come to be," or, "It (or: He – there is no personal pronoun expressed) has come into existence," 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 prophesy, 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 (ch. 11:15) saying, "the reign of the world becomes (or: became; came to be) our LORD's and His Christ's..." Vs. 18-20 follow with the fall of Babylon (figure of Jerusalem in the 1st 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). This 7th shallow cup also equates to the "cup of the wine" of the strong passion of His indignation (vs. 19).
This corresponds to ch. 14:10-11, "the wine of God's fury," 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 and in the presence of the Lamb. There we saw that they could behold the Lamb, and "at length, when [they] 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." Thus it will be with all who are cast into His presence. Judgment, yes. Transformation, YES!
In vs. 20, the islands and mountains are figures of kingdoms, which we previously discussed in ch. 6:14. They are not found because they have been absorbed into the kingdom of our Lord and His Anointed (ch. 11:15).
Vs. 21 bring 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..." Vs. 13 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." 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 O.T. used in these visions. The message here would have been a warning of the coming destruction of Jerusalem.
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 5th plague (vs. 11). Here they blaspheme God because of this great smiting by hail. It is what we would today 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, "Yet shall we not much rather be subjected to the Father of spirits, and be living?" (Heb. 1:9)
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 churches 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 (Matt. 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 church. 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).
"Because you were made sorry into a change of mind; for you were made sorry down from God... for the sorrow down from God is continually producing a change of mind into unregretted salvation (deliverance), but the world's sorrow continually produces 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 inworking 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 (ch. 15:1). 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.