Scripture reading, Revelation chapter 15 and 16
In this study of the seven bowls I make an attempt to interpret the disasters John saw being poured out over the earth and its inhabitants in the light of the environmental problems we are facing in these days according to scientists. It is not difficult to see that the disaster scenes John described in terms and pictures he could understand do fit exceptionally well the calamities we, the generation, that entered the 21st century, can expect if we continue with the present lifestyle and culture as a whole.
The present situation
Environmental activists have for some decades already been warning for global disasters on the surface of this planet and in its atmosphere if we continue to use all the possibilities of the modern day industrial revolution.
Environmental scientists say that we:
a. Fast exhaust all natural resources we need for life on this planet.
disastrously polluting land, rivers, seas
and the atmosphere with our chemical products,
its residues and the emission of all kinds of gases.
c. Endanger the
future health and even existence
of all life by the increasing possibilities to
intervene in the complicated biostructures of life and in natural laws and processes.
And we do not know - in spite of assuring words of leading scientists - where it all will lead
to. The possibility of nuclear disasters like the one of Tsjernobil, causing changes in the
chromosomes, is also a real threat to the health of future generations.
Scientists are worried by the increasing pollution of seas and oceans:
a. Through nuclear
wastes and shipwrecks with
nuclear engines and weapons, lying on the bottom
of the seas.
b. Through all the
chemicals poured into the seas
each day. But also land and rivers are polluted by
all the chemicals scattered over its surface and by nuclear pollution.
c. Through disasters with ships full of crude oil or chemicals.
politicians are working hard to
solve these problems on a global scale and prevent the predicted
disasters. But very little or no progress at all is being made due to
interests of nations and the protection of national industries.
This was true at the first writing of this article in 2000
This was still true in november 2006. The international conference in Africa failed to make the important international agreements
Scientists are certain that if the industrialized nations continue to live and work as they are doing now, they will bring over themselves environmental disasters of enormous proportions. These predicted disasters resemble in a remarkable way the plagues of the Apocalypse. It is indeed a dark future we face on this planet if mankind does not repent of its wrong doings and turn with humility and integrity to its Creator, who alone knows and understands all the powers and structures of the natural systems we live in and so vitally need.
The seven bowls
As John continued to look with the opened eyes of his spirit he saw seven angels and each one of them received a bowl. These bowls present the last woes upon the earth, so is said. The plagues of these bowls are therefore the final miseries of man's history in its present rebellious state.
Chapter 16:2, the first bowl. The earth is hit, man is plagued by a malignant tumor. It could well be that the enormous increase of all kinds of cancers is the realization of the outpouring of this first bowl.
Chapter 16:3, the second bowl. The sea is hit. The contents of the bowl make the waters like 'blood of a dead a dead man.' The waters changes to a dark red color. The pollution is obviously fatal for all the creatures in the seas. We are now living in the days according to scientists that even the oceans are getting more and more polluted and the fish population is threatened.
Chapter 16:4, the third bowl. The rivers and water sources are hit, something like the blood is thrown into the water and they become also polluted and look like blood. Just remember that already now the water supply for the population of this planet becomes a problem and scientists are studying what must be done to secure enough fresh water in the future.
Chapter 16:8, the fourth bowl. The sun became too hot, its rays cause devastating heat. People can obviously not stay in direct sunlight. This problem is emerging also in these days as the ozonlayer makes the sunlight dangerous and hotter.
Chapter 16:10, the fifth bowl. The center of mankind's evil government is hit. There is darkness and there is terrible pain caused by sores. They cursed God for their torments and did not consider repentance. It is no secret that because of chemical and nuclear pollution diseases with sores and tumors increase.
Chapter 16:12, the sixth bowl. The river Euphrates dried up. The Euphrates was the border of the Roman Empire in the time of John. Beyond this river there lived peoples, that were from time to time a real threat to the stability of the Empire. John sees how the river, the natural border of this North-eastern region of the empire, dried up and through this the whole stability of the empire is endangered. The access of enemies has become easy. Just think how easy it is today by use of the modern weapons - there are hardly any natural borders left - to destabilize nations and indeed the whole global community.
The distrust between nations and the great antagonism between peoples causing wars is generated and fed by spiritual powers of evil, wickedness and uncleanness, represented here as frogs. Eventually they will combine all powers against the people, who keep the faith in the Great Creator.
Chapters 16:17-21, the seventh bowl. Now comes the final plague. There is a great release of power, all natural forces unite in a destructive action. There is a great earthquake, the biggest in the history of this planet. The pride of human achievement, the great city, falls into three pieces, indicating that she is fatally destroyed. Big hailstones are falling from the sky and everywhere are earthquakes, causing islands to disappear in the sea. Could it be that the earth is hit by a comet, a meteorite? Scientists are sure that the earth was once hit by a gigantic comet, causing all prehistoric animals to die. They say it could happen again, but nobody knows when.
The sad thing from the point of view and the faith of John is that proud mankind does still not understand that it needs the protection and power of her Creator, the Almighty God. People continue to blame God for all that has come over them, they do not repent of their godlessness and they do not realize that the only way to safety is to relate to the One, who understands all these forces and is able to control them. Just remember Jesus calming the storm on the lake of Galilee with one simple command: "Peace, be still." The great powers of this planet and the sky are above the manipulation of man. It is prophesied and even stated by Jesus Christ that they will increase in frightening action in the end time. If man was living in fellowship with God, He could exercise faith, inspired by the Holy Spirit to subdue these powers and cause the earth to come to rest; read Genesis 1:26; 28.
It is interesting to ponder over the words of the prophet Micah in chapter 7:13. Did he foresee how man would destroy his own environment, when he wrote: "Notwithstanding the land - or translate from the Hebrew 'the earth' - shall be desolate because of them that dwell therein, for the fruit of their doing - or translate from the Hebrew as the N.I.V. translation does - 'as the results of their deeds.'
In this interpretation of the seven bowls I have attempted to show that it is very well possible that most of the disasters described in the book of Revelation, the Apocalypse, may be caused by the godless and evil lifestyle of man himself and his unwise management of this planet earth. God allows mankind to do this for a certain duration of time, but man will inevitably feel the terrible and painful consequences of his godless management of life, human society and the resources of this planet. These painful consequences are nothing else but the judgments of God. These judgments are programmed by God in the systems and structures of His creation. When rebellious man violates these natural and spiritual laws built in the systems of Gods creation, he will feel the painful and fatal consequences of his wrong doings.
The message of Revelation is that God is on the throne and He is in complete control of everything that happens on this planet, though He allows man to meddle things up and work out his godless plans and evil schemes. Men's abilities do not in any way neutralize His omnipotent and sovereign power.
Are we entering the time of the seven bowls? Is humanity entering the last period of her history, in which she will experience the full consequences of her godless way of life? The mind with spiritual understanding will know.
This is sure: God will have the last word and that will be good. God will see to it that there will be an happy end to the history of the human race. When we come to chapter 21:9 of the book of Revelation we read that John was shown the new, wonderful, Jerusalem by one of the seven angels, who had poured out the bowls. It is going to be a city where God is living in the midst of his people. He is its light and the river of life, full of health is flowing - all is going to be well, the air is clean, the light is healthy and the whole environment is beautiful. God's intervention will bring a wonderful future for those who followed His Son, Jesus Christ and were looking for His Kingdom.
The hope for the human race in this day and age is to subject herself to the Son of God, the One, who was willing to suffer as a lamb, but will reign like a lion.
"Lord Jesus come quickly, for You alone are the Savior of this world. Amen."
T. J. de Ruiter, Pentecostal pastor and teacher of the Bible in The Netherlands
27 December 2000, revised January 2002, 2nd revision November 2006.
Read also the other studies in the book of Revelation published on our site:
Christ and the seven churches
The seven seals
The seven trumpets
Sermon The New Jerusalem
Site 'Inspiration & Insight,' since 1997 / upd. 18 August 2011 / Pastor T. J. de Ruiter / The Netherlands