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May 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Revelation chapters 15-16 05/26/2024



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, RefleXion Community!       Grace and Peace to you!

I’ve been thinking about the gift of the Holy Spirit this week, the week following the celebration of Pentecost, and wondering how to “Welcome the Spirit.”  When you pray or ponder on something, do you  sometimes have a memory come to you?  At first, it often puzzles me, but then I ask, “Why did this come back to me now?” 

Many years ago, my son asked if he could bring a woman to meet us.  He had met her online and he had even yet to meet her in person.  I said, “Yes, of course, she would be welcome,” but then I began to wonder how to prepare for the visit.  This is what I came up with at that time:  1) Clean the House, 2) Fill the Pantry, and 3) Find out all you can about her.

I had a feeling that this came back to me as part of an answer to how to welcome the Spirit. Welcome Holy Spirit!  First, clean my house. You know that when you are going to have company, you do a sweep and maybe a deep clean.  Get rid of what doesn’t belong.

Second, fill the pantry.  I think this means to make sure I am filling myself with what is healthy and helpful.  I mean, who knows what I’m going to need; make it available for whatever the Spirit wants me to provide.

Third, find out about the Spirit – what is he (or is it she?) like?  What are the ways I will recognize him?  What does she enjoy?

But this was years ago, and I kind of felt like this was all good, and a part of me was saying to Jesus, “But I have kept all these things since my youth.”  You know the story in Luke 18 about the rich, young ruler wanting to know about eternal life.  Jesus was inviting him to much more than following the law. I sense that he’s asking, “Do you want to go on with me?”   In following Jesus, there would be treasure in heaven, and daily living in the Kingdom of God, receiving much more in this time and in the age to come.  I felt this invitation was for me, too.  Do you feel an invitation for the much more?  There’s always more if we’re willing to continue to follow Jesus.

Perhaps this was just for me, but I think that we will all want to make space available for the Spirit’s work in our lives.  I want to make sure there’s plenty of fresh, free space, because who knows what ways he still has for each of us.

Shall we pray?  Lord,  thank you for bringing us to this Community House for this long season.  Thank you for preparing us for a new venue and readying it for us.  Thank you for what you’ve done in our lives; we offer the next chapter to you, because we are sure that you who began a good work in us will continue until it is finally finished on the day of Jesus Christ.  Nothing is impossible with you.  May we be attentive to what this day invites us to.  In Jesus Name.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Then I saw another sign in heaven, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished Revelation 15:1

Intro: A few years ago, Barry Liesch, a professor at Biola-Talbot University,
– wrote an article on worship in the book of Revelation
• he suggested that by using its examples of form, content, and splendor,
◦ we might enjoy a more meaningful, intense, and richer worship experience
• worship here on earth is already a participation in heaven’s worship
◦ our prayers are mixed with the incense that burns in heaven (Rev. 8:3)
– it will not always be a feel-good worship (that’s for sure!)
• but it would be authentic and appropriate to the moment
• that’s how I view the song of worship we’ll soon read

In chapter 15 we have the grand finale of the series of seven judgments

The last of the plagues to be unleashed on the world
– but just before it begins, there is worship
• God is praised for his justice (not only for the judgment)
• the worshipers are people who had conquered the beast
◦ their “victory” was won by not giving into the beast–taking his mark or worshiping him
◦ they sing and they provide their own musical accompaniment
– the song’s composition combines themes from Moses and the Lamb
• both of whom won victories over oppressors – both of whom were liberators
• there’s something I want to point out in first line of song
Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations! Revelation 15:3
◦ “deeds” are the actions performed by a person
◦ “ways” are interior commitments that motivate the deeds
◦ Moses asked God for a special favor
show me now your ways, that I may know you (Ex. 33:13)
◦ knowing God’s ways would be a move toward knowing God himself
◦ God’s ways are his modus operandi, and this is a privileged information
He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel
(Psa. 103:7)
◦ God’s deeds are not exclusively judgment and wrath
What Moses learned as that Yahweh is a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty . . . (Ex. 34:6-7)
• however, there are times when God’s deeds are “just”
According to their deeds, so will he repay,
wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies
(Isa. 59:18)

What catches John’s eye next, is the doors of heaven’s temple are opened
– the key word here is “sanctuary” (it occurs four times in vv. 5-8)
• in the first instance, he refers to it as the “tent of witness”
◦ that is because the stone tablets with ten commandments were stored in the ark
◦ it was the document of God’s covenant with Israel, kept safe in the heart of the temple
• next seven angels emerge from the sanctuary with the seven last plagues
◦ I imagine them silhouetted by the brilliance of the light behind them
◦ God’s wrath is served up on golden bowls (an elixir? ashes from the altar?)
– after the angels exit, the sanctuary is filled with smoke from God’s glory
• we see this more than once in the Old Testament – it thrills me each time
• God’s glory, filling every space – God himself, that present to his people!

The drama continues in chapter 16
Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God Revelation 16:1

The plagues repeat the previous series of sevens
(the seven seals, but especially the seven trumpets)
– the difference now, the destruction is not partial like before, but it is total
• the sequence of the seven bowls moves more quickly than the others
The first bowl was poured out on the earth, causing harmful and painful sores
The second bowl was poured into the sea, making its waters “like the blood of a corpse”
The third bowl was poured on rivers and streams – “and they became blood”
– from the beginning in Genesis, rivers spread the gift of life
• a river flowed from Eden and became the headwaters of four other rivers flowing east
• the river is a symbol of peace (Isa. 66:12), joy (Ps. 46:4), life (Jn. 7:38)
◦ but here the rivers stand for death or that which kills
◦ this is almost a parody of Jesus’ first miracle in Cana!
– at this point there is a break in the action
• a new character is introduced: the angel of the waters
• the angel sees poetic justice in this transmutation and blurts out
Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was,
for you brought these judgments.
For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
and you have given them blood to drink Revelation 16:5-6
◦ and a voice from the altar agrees:
Yes, Lord God the Almighty,
true and just are your judgments! Revelation 16:7
◦ the judgment is “deserved” because:
they received the mark of the beast, and now their bodies are marked by sores and burns
they shed the blood of martyrs, now they have blood to drink

The fourth bowl was poured on the sun, and people were scorched by its heat
• we note in passing, they blasphemed God and did not repent
– to this point, humans have been the target of these plagues, but there’s a shift in verse 10
The fifth bowl was poured on the throne of the beast
• not the beast per se, but on his throne
◦ the throne represents the seat of political power
◦ this plague plunged his kingdom into darkness
• it wasn’t the beast who suffered, but the people under his rule
◦ but they are still holding out, refusing to repent
◦ the implication of this refusal is there’s still time for them to repent
they still have the opportunity to turn to God
The sixth bowl was poured out on the Euphrates River
• the result here was not to pollute it, but dry it up
◦ make way for an army that would advance from the east
• what we learned earlier: the dragon is Satan,
the beast that emerged from the sea was empowered by the dragon
the false prophet emerged from land and promoted the beast with his propaganda
• now, out of each of their mouths come three unclean spirits
◦ in the gospels, an unclean spirit is synonymous with a demon, here demonic spirits
◦ they mobilize the rules of nations for a great battle
– at this decisive moment in the narrative there is another break
Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed Revelation 16:15
• the moment at which Jesus intervenes is not predictable
◦ but the building tension tells us it won’t be much longer
◦ in the meantime, he tells us to stay awake, dressed, prepared (cf. Lk. 12:35-48)
• returning to the narrative, we find ourselves at Armageddon

The seventh bowl is poured on the air
– we’re not told what that does, but I think it’s significant
• Paul referred to people who were
following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2)
• this is that window into the spirit-world, from where force of evil exercises its influence in the world

Here the chapter reaches its climax

A voice from the temple announces, “It is done!”
– again there are explosive sounds of thunder and rumbling
• and an earthquake greater than any other ever before
The great city was split into three parts . . . and God remembered Babylon (v. 19)
– the next two chapters feature Babylon–and it’s a big production!
• last week we saw that Babylon represented: all human civilizations from all time
◦ Babylon is split into three parts–maybe this refers the three pillars on which it was built
◦ in chapter 18, three are three sectors of society mourn Babylon’s fall
Kings: the political sector – rulers, heads of state, governments
Merchants: the sector of commerce – the economy and how it flows and who it favors
Ship builders and Mariners: the trade sector – the suppliers of goods
– finally, the curtain falls
And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe Revelation 16:20-21
– this continued rejection of God is as much a mystery as everything else in this mind-boggling book
Question: Who would continue doing something that caused them pain and no worthwhile reward?
Answer: Almost everyone:
◦ because we don’t see the connections between our actions and the consequences
◦ or we don’t believe we’re the cause of our own misery
◦ or we clutch what we have because we can’t bring ourselves to trust God
Jacques Ellul, They blaspheme because they have “heard absolutely nothing, received nothing, experienced nothing of the work of God, the love of God.”

Conclusion: As I close my Bible and muse over what I’ve read,

Two questions surface–and I’m asking you as well as myself:
First, What are you going to do about the beast?
The beast never shows up in his true form
He floats in like an angel of light and speaks in soft tones
Only when he’s enslaved a person, does he remove the disguise
How will I resist his promises, propaganda, and pressure?
I have to fully take the mark of Jesus – be branded with his name
Paul said he let go of everything to know Christ Jesus my Lord (Php. 3:8-10)
Hosea encouraged his readers: Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD (6:3)
That is how we will resist and conquer the beast

Second, What plagues you?
Solomon spoke of everyone who knows the plague of their own heart (1 Ki. 8:38)
The inner voices that bring up our past, that tear us down, that tell us God doesn’t care
I’ve found that sitting in prayerful awareness creates space
Then rather than being immersed in thoughts, I am able to review them
I see how they come automatically, unconsciously, and obsessively
Observing them gives me space to so that I don’t identify with them
Awareness gives me greater freedom to embrace or dismiss my thoughts and feelings
They do not define me

I close with my meditation yesterday:
Paul says in Romans 8, that God’s Spirit is in us
If we make the right choices, the Spirit will assist us to live true to them
How wonderful it would be if the Spirit would just take over,
and I could just go along for the ride
If I could be a spectator in the stands
and watch God win all my battles
But that’s not how it works
I have to be the one to make the choice, and then stand by it, to act on it
At this moment, I feel like everything is up to me
That God’s Spirit won’t move with me, unless I move first
And maybe at this particular moment, that is how it is,
even as that’s how it was for Adam and Eve just before they took the bite

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