Revelation-Part 49

By: Dr. Robert Thomas; ©2003
Dr. Thomas briefly reviews what he has shown us about the Seventh Bowl judgment, and points out striking parallels in the verses describing Babylon and the new Jerusalem.

Contents

Second Look at the Seventh Bowl (Vial): A Review and Intercalation #2 Begun

In our column for April of 2002, we took a first look at the Seventh Bowl (or Vial) judg­ment and surveyed the extensive account of that bowl in Revelation 16:17–22:5. Since then, we have explored in some detail Intercalation #1 and the events of the seventh bowl (Rev. 16:17–21:8). Intercalation #2 occupies the remainder of the seventh bowl (Rev. 21:9– 22:5). An outline review of the seventh bowl’s structure will help introduce our description of Intercalation #2.

Announcement of the emptying of the bowl’s contents (16:17-21)

[No direct inflicting of wrath occurs in this introductory announcement, only a number of terrifying phenomena that move men to blaspheme God. The announcement centers in the proclamation of Babylon’s fall.]

Intercalation #1: Detailed description of Babylon, her past, present, future (17:1- 19:10)

[The city whose destruction is foretold in the initial announcement is representative of a system of false religion and opposition to God and His people (chap. 17) and of godless materialism (chap. 18).]

  1. The doom of religious Babylon (17:1-18)
  2. The doom of commercial Babylon (18:1-24)
  3. Heavenly rejoicing over the removal of Babylon and the institution of God’s kingdom on earth (19:1-10)

Events of the seventh bowl (19:11-20:15)

[Now comes a series of eight scenes that furnish in sequence the steps in the chrono­logical implementation of the seventh bowl-judgment.]

  1. Second coming of Christ (19:11-16)
  2. Summons of the birds to a human feast (19:17-18)
  3. Slaughter of Christ’s human opponents (19:19-21)
  4. Satan’s imprisonment (20:1-3)
  5. Satan’s release and final defeat (20:4-10)
  6. Setting of the Great White Throne (20:11)
  7. Sentencing to the lake of fire (20:12-15)
  8. Sketch of the new Jerusalem (21:1-8) Intercalation #2: Detailed description of the new Jerusalem (21:9–22:5)

[The new Jerusalem as part of the new creation is the divine counterpart to Babylon which will be destroyed under this same seventh bowl.]

  1. The city’s physical features (21:9-21)
  2. The city’s illumination (21:22-27)
  3. Paradise restored (22:1-5)

Obvious from this outline is the correspondence between Intercalation #1 and Intercala­tion #2. Each intercalation speaks of a city, Babylon in #1 and the new Jerusalem in #2. The former is a city full of wickedness that receives divine judgment; the latter is a city without blemish, the eternal creation of unhindered divine blessing. On the surface, the contrast is conspicuous, but beneath the surface the correspondences between the two sections are even more striking.

The agent of revelation in both intercalations is “one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls” (17:1; 21:9). In neither 17:1 nor 21:9 does the wording indicate which of the seven angels brought the vision, but the same identification of the revealer in each case ties both scenes to the seven bowl judgments. The same angel commissioned to dispense the seven last plagues also had the job of portraying divine love and fellowship in the heavenly city on the new earth.

In the Greek text, the introductory formulas to the two sections have twenty identical words in the same order. The English translation of these words is as follows: “And one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls . . . came and spoke with me, saying, ‘Come, I will show to you…” (17:1; 21:9). Then come five identical words in the same order: “And he carried me away in the spirit…” (17:3; 21:10). Following these comes an antithetical devel­opment in each, “harlot…woman…city” in 17:3-5 and “”bride…wife…city” in 21:10.

A similar concurrence of descriptive expressions characterizes the concluding formulas of the two intercalations (19:9-10; 22:6, 8-9). Here again, a number of identical words occur in each. Such correspondences verify that the divine (and human) author of Revelation intended for readers to catch the marked contrast between Babylon and the new Jerusalem.

Not only should the reader catch the contrast between the two cities, he should also conclude that the coverage of the seventh bowl continues through Revelation 22:5. The matching of the two intercalations leads to this conclusion. If the first intercalation is part of that bowl, the second intercalation must be also.

Other factors point in the same direction. Two related verbs translated “it is done” in 16:17 and “they are done” in 21:6 sound a note of finality for the seventh bowl. One comes at the beginning of the bowl’s description and the other comes near the end. In addition, it is neces­sary to acknowledge that the battle of Armageddon introduced under the sixth bowl reaches its culmination in the description of 19:17-21. The seventh bowl must include that too. Further, the final judgment of Satan (20:10) certainly must have its place under this bowl. Then too, as mentioned above, the role of one of the angels of the seven last plagues (21:9) is enough in itself to demonstrate that the description of the seventh bowl has not run its course until the end of the detailed account of the holy city in Intercalation #2.

How then can we account for the judgmental character of the seventh bowl in an ex­tended description of the ideal reign of Christ in the millennial kingdom in 20:1-10 and the bliss of the new creation in 21:1–22:5? The consignment of the devil to the lake of fire in 21:8-10 brings out the judgmental aspect of the millennium, and the barring of all who are in the lake of fire from the new Jerusalem (21:8, 27) accounts for the inclusion of that segment as judgment. Judgment of wickedness is part of both these climactic scenes. By the end of this bowl, a righteous and holy God will have completed His dealings with all the rebellious elements in the old creation and replaced the old with a new creation in which righteousness alone prevails.

If anyone wants a part in the new Jerusalem, he must assuredly depart from the earthly city Babylon (Rev 18:4). The materialism and worship of false gods in that city of this world are sufficient to exclude a personal relationship with the true God. A vital relationship with the true God is possible only through a life-changing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sin. That life-changing new birth will remove a person from the realm where Babylonian values prevail and relocate him/her into the realm where new-creation values are supreme. O that people everywhere could hear and respond to God’s invitation through His Son.

Note: For more details about the review of the seventh bowl and the beginning of Inter­calation #2, see my discussion in Revelation 8–22 (Moody Press, 1995), pages 455-459, 567-585. To order this volume, you may contact Grace Books International at (800) GRACE15 or www.gbibooks.com.

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