************ Sermon on Revelation 16:12-16 ************


By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman


This sermon was preached on June 21, 2009


Revelation 16:1-16
Revelation 16:12-16
"The Sixth Bowl of God's Wrath"

Introduction
What is the most important day in history? No, it is not pay day or graduation day or your wedding day or even the day you profess your faith in Jesus or are baptized. No, it is not the first day of Creation nor is it the last day of Creation, the day on which God rested. Nor is it Good Friday or Easter Sunday though they are the basis for this day. The greatest and most important day in history is known as "the day of the LORD" (Is 13:6, 9; Ezek 13:5, 30:3; Joel 1:15, 2:1,11,31, 3:14; Amos 5:18,20; Obad 1:15; Zep 1:7,14; Zech 14:1; Mal 4:5; Acts 2:20; 1Cor 5:5; 2Cor 1:14; 1Th 5:2; 2Th 2:2; 2Pt 3:10). Or, as our Bible reading calls it, it is "the great day of God Almighty" (Rev 16:14).

What is so great about this day? This is the day God's people experience the totality of salvation and God's enemies will face the totality of judgment. This is the day when God will be recognized as the all-in-all. This is the day when every knee in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow before Him. This is the day when every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

God's people pray for the coming of this day. They look forward to it. They can hardly wait for it. Especially those, like the first century Christians, who face persecution. But now a word of warning:
(Amos 5:18-20) Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light. (19) It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him. (20) Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?
This is Amos speaking. To whom is he speaking? He is speaking to the people of God, people like you and me. "Be careful what you wish for," says Amos. "Be careful what you pray for," says Amos. Because "the day of the LORD" may hold unpleasant surprises like hungry bears and venomous snakes.

As we shall see in our Scripture reading, "the day of the LORD" ends up being a shock, a surprise, a less than happy day, for some. And, for others, it means eternal happiness.

To understand this passage, we need to take note of three things: the Euphrates, the frogs, and Armageddon.

I The Great River Euphrates
A Let's start by looking at the River Euphrates and the sixth bowl of wrath:
(Rev 16:12) The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East.

This looks and sounds so straight-forward. But there is far more going on than first meets the eye. Now, remember, the Revelation is full of symbolism. Very little is exactly what it looks like. We discovered that the 144,000, for instance, is actually a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language. Neither the seal on the 144,00 nor the mark of the beast are real, actual, visible marks. The plagues of the first five bowls are not to be understood literally either. In each case, what is important is not the actual thing but rather what it symbolizes.

I need to tell you that it is the same thing with place names it isn't geography that is important; rather, what is important is what the place names represent. Think of Sodom, for instance; it is mentioned in the Revelation but during the time of John it doesn't exist anymore. Egypt is mentioned, but in the first century it doesn't count for anything. Babylon is mentioned, but at the time of Rome it was nothing but a small, dusty, backwater. Sodom and Egypt and Babylon and even Jerusalem are mentioned not because their geography is important but because of what they represent.

The same thing is true for the Euphrates. Don't think geography; rather, think what it represents, what it symbolizes. This is not the first time we have seen the Euphrates in the Revelation. We have also seen it in Revelation 9. At that time I mentioned that the Euphrates River marked the East boundary of the Roman Empire. Just across the river were the Parthians. The cavalry of the Parthians was the greatest of the Ancient World. Rome controlled the North, the South, and the West; but Rome had no control over the East; the Parthians routinely crossed the border with Rome, wreaking havoc and destruction. Rome's biggest fear was that the Parthian cavalry would cross the Euphrates in force and invade the Empire.

In the history of God's people in the Old Testament, what also came from the East, from the Euphrates and beyond? Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, lay to the East; Nineveh, who conquered the northern Kingdom of Israel and took the people into captivity as God's judgment for their idolatry. Babylon lay to the East; Babylon, who conquered the southern Kingdom of Judah and took the people into captivity as God's judgment for their idolatry.

When the people of the Ancient World thought of the Euphrates, they did not think geography, they did not think location, they did not think place. Rather, whether you were Roman or Jew, when you thought of the Euphrates you thought of God's judgment, conquest, a fierce enemy.

B Now, notice what happens to the Euphrates when the sixth angel poured out his bowl: "its water was dried up ..." Don't forget, the bowls are poured out at God's command (Rev 16:1); so, the drying of the Euphrates is God's doing.

Why was the Euphrates dried up by God? "To prepare the way for the kings from the East." In other words, to prepare the way for enemies from the East. But these enemies from the East represent all enemies because notice what verse 14 calls them "kings of the whole world."

What is going on here? What is the Lord God Almighty doing? God is drying up the river so it can be easily crossed by the enemies from the East. God is drying up the river so it can be easily crossed by the enemies of Christ, the church, and the Gospel.

In the past, the enemies that crossed the Euphrates were instruments of God's judgment. Think Nineveh. Think Babylon. Think Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38 & 39 (cf Rev 20). Is this what God has in mind? The enemies from the East had better keep in mind the words of Amos:
(Amos 5:18) Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light.
The enemies from the East, the enemies of the cross, think the drying of the Euphrates means their victory. They are looking forward to "the day of the LORD" though they think of it as "the day of the dragon" or "the day of the beast" or "the day of the false prophet." They can hardly wait. They think they are going to wipe out the church and stop all worship of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Do you know what God is really doing? Do you know why God dries up the Euphrates? God is setting up an ambush for those who hate Him, the Lord Jesus, the Gospel, and the church. The sixth bowl of God's judgment is nothing but a trap set by God to lure His enemies into the open so that He might destroy all of them at one place and one time. And the bait He uses is the drying up of the Euphrates.

II Frog-Like Demons
A The second thing we need to look at are the frogs. Verses 13-14 tell us that God also uses frog-like demons to lure the enemies of the cross to their destruction:
(Rev 16:13-14) Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. (14) They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.
Notice the mention of the counterfeit trinity of dragon, beast, and prophet I say counterfeit, because Satan tries to duplicate the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Out of the mouths of the counterfeit trinity comes frog-like demons. In Revelation 9, the demons are likened to locusts and scorpions, but here they are likened to frogs. Why frogs? To remind us of the second plague in Egypt. The frogs of Egypt were everywhere and got into everything: the Nile; the palace, bedroom, and bed of Pharaoh; the houses, ovens, and kneading troughs of his servants; the frogs were even on the people. Frogs are considered unclean so all of Egypt was made unclean.

B What do frogs do? What are they known for? A couple of weeks ago I attended the "Love In the Name of Christ" banquet. Our speaker had competition tree frogs. The louder he spoke the louder they croaked. That's what frogs do: they croak and croak and are forever croaking; their croaking is loud, constant, and never ending. The three foul spirits are like frogs they are croaking, croaking, croaking, forever croaking; their croaking is loud, constant, and never ending.

Notice where the frogs come from? They came "out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet" (Rev 16:13). Each time the mouth is emphasized. The counterfeit trinity has learned to use the mouth to spread lies, deceit, and falsehoods. For instance, in Revelation 12 we see that coming out of the mouth of the dragon or serpent is a river to sweep away the woman, who represents the church a river of false teaching and heresy (Rev 12:15). In Revelation 13 we see that with his mouth, the beast utters proud words and blasphemies (Rev 13:5). As for the false prophet, he deceived inhabitants of the earth, the earth dwellers, those who live for this life and the things of this life; he ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast; he gave breath to the image of the first beast so that it could speak (Rev 13). In each case, the mouth is a source of lies and deceit. And, out of their mouths come the frog-like demons to emphasize their croaking, their meaningless chatter, their incessant chatter.

And, to back up their croaking "miraculous signs" (Rev 16:14). Notice, it doesn't say "miracles." It says "signs." Signs are miracles with a purpose. The counterfeit trinity uses counterfeit signs in order to confirm their lies, their croaking.

To what end? What do they say? What are they trying to do? Notice what Scripture says: "they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty" (Rev 16:14). Not just "a battle," but "the battle," the most decisive conflict in the history of the universe, the battle to destroy the church. The lying demons deceive the kings of the whole world to attack the church of Jesus Christ.

C Does any of this sound familiar? Don't forget what I have said before to understand the Revelation we need to know the Old Testament. Students of the Bible should recognize the story of King Ahab here. Suffice it to say that Ahab was wicked; the sins of all the other kings of Israel were measured against his. When God had enough of Ahab, what did God do? God sent a demon to be a lying spirit, a deceptive spirit, in the mouths of all Ahab's prophets. Do you remember what the lying, deceiving spirit said? "Go, make war against Ramoth Gilead." "Attack and be victorious." "You will gore the Arameans until they are destroyed." So Ahab went into battle. And, he was killed by an arrow shot at random (1 Kings 22).

Take careful note of what happened to Ahab. Ahab was beguiled, seduced, and deceived by a lying spirit sent by God. Ahab was beguiled, seduced, and deceived into going into battle. Ahab was beguiled, seduced, and deceived into a trap that ended his life. We see the same thing happening in Revelation 16. The kings of the earth are beguiled, seduced, and deceived by lying spirits sent by God Himself. They are beguiled, seduced, and deceived into going into battle.
(Amos 5:18) Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light.

III Armageddon
A The third thing we need to look at is Armageddon. Listen to verse 16:
(Rev 16:16) Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
The final battle will happen at a place called "Armageddon." The Hebrew word for "Armageddon" means "Mountain of Megiddo." But no mountain of this name is known. Rather, there is a gigantic, open plain called "Megiddo." Furthermore, Revelation 20 identifies the place of battle as "the camp of God's people, the city he loves" (Rev 20:9).

So, what is "Armageddon"? Is it a plain, a mountain, a city? Remember what I said earlier about place names in the Revelation? It isn't the geography that is important; rather, what is important is what the geography represents.

B Do you remember the Old Testament story of Deborah and Barak (Judges 4 & 5)? At that time, the Israelites were cruelly oppressed by King Jabin of Hazor and General Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army. Why didn't Israel stand up and fight? Because they were scared of Sisera and his nine hundred iron chariots. You need to realize that chariots are the tanks of the Ancient World. Back then, like now, no soldier stands a chance against a tank.

Keeping this in mind, listen as Deborah tells Barak to lead Israel into battle:
(Judg 4:14) "Go! This is the day the LORD has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the LORD gone ahead of you?" So Barak went down Mount Tabor, followed by ten thousand men.
And because God fights for them, Israel prevails in battle over Sisera at a place called Megiddo (Judges 5:19) which is the basis for the Hebrew word "Armageddon."

C Do you see what Megiddo or Armageddon represents in the history of Israel? Armageddon represents a place of victory. Armageddon is a symbol for the intervention of God in order to save and protect His people.

Notice, also, what John calls "the day of the Lord"? He calls it "the great day of God Almighty" (Rev 16:14). This is a great day distinguishing it from all other days which are lesser days. Furthermore, it is not the day of the dragon, it is not the day of the beast, it is not the day of the false prophet; rather, it is the great day "of God." It is a day marked down on heaven's calendar a day known only to God. The day when God will judge the heathen and save the righteous. Also, it is the great day of God "Almighty." Almighty. Which is a reminder that God has all power, all kingdom, all glory. Haven't we already see that His is the power that will prevail? For instance, Who ordered up the plague of the sixth angel and the sixth bowl? God! Who dried the Euphrates and invited the invasion? God! Who sent forth the lying demons? God! Who sets the ambush? God! Who will defeat the enemy? God!

So, what does our text really tell us? Someday, all the armies of the world will band together to destroy the church of Jesus Christ. But, BUT, they have been lured into a trap set by God. And, instead of a place of victory, it becomes for them a place of defeat.
(Amos 5:18) Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light.

Conclusion
In the face of all this we hear a warning to all Christians from the lips of Christ Himself:
(Rev 16:15) "Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with [on] him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed."

We see two thoughts here. First, stay awake and keep your clothes on. Second, don't go naked and be exposed. The two phrases explain each other. The first states positively what the second states negatively.

Throughout the Old Testament, to expose one's nakedness is a metaphor used by God to expose Israel's participation in idolatry. Stay awake and keep your clothes on; don't go naked and be exposed. Do you hear the warning? Don't participate in idolatry. Stay true to the Gospel. Resist the beast and the false prophet. Resist the temptation to fall away from Christ in order to save your life, to keep your business, to protect your family, to remain in the trade guild. This is a warning not only for Bob and Jamie and Larry; this is a warning for all of us.

Why is this warning to be taken seriously? Because Christ's coming will be "like a thief"! The judgment on those who gather against God, Christ, the Gospel, and the church will be sudden and unexpected. None of us ever know when and where a thief will strike; likewise, we don't know the timing of "the day of the Lord."
(Amos 5:18) Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light.

My brothers and sisters, this is not only a warning, but also an invitation. It is a warning not to fall away. But it is also an invitation to repent of your sin and to believe in Jesus Christ like Bob, Jamie, and Larry. It is an invitation to have a faith that is real and centered on Christ. For, if you truly repent and truly believe, then "the day of the Lord" will be light and not darkness.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page