Revelation 16:1-21 Part 9

REVELATION 16:1-21 Part 9


1)    Then I heard a great sound from the tabernacle to the seven messengers. ‘Go and pour out the seven bowls of the wrath of God into the land.’

2)    And the first went forth and poured out from its bowl into the land; and an evil and malignant sore came to be on the men having the mark of the beast and adoring its image.

3)    And the second poured out from its bowl into the sea, and blood as of a corpse came to be; and every being that was alive in the sea rotted.

4)    And the third poured out from its bowl into the rivers and their water sources, and there blood came to be;

5)    and I heard the waters messenger saying ‘just are You, the IS and the WAS, the Holy One; for You did judge thus

6)    because they did pour out the blood of the righteous and the prophets.  Therefore you have given them blood to drink.  Worthy they are!

7)    Then I heard saying from the incense altar, ‘Yes!  Kurie the Almighty God; true and righteous Your judgments’.

8)    And the fourth poured out its bowl on the sun; and it was given it to burn men in fire;

9)    fierce heat!  And the men were burned, and they blasphemed the God having the power of these plagues and did not turn to give Him glory.

10) And the fifth poured out its bowl on the seat of the beast; and its kingdom became shrouded in darkness.  And they were gnawing their tongues from the misery,

11) and they blasphemed The God of the Heaven for their pains and their sores.  But they did not turn from their works.

12) And the sixth poured out its bowl on the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up so that the approach of the kings from the sun’s rising would be prepared.

13) Then I saw three unclean spirits as frogs from the mouth of the dragon and from the mouth of the beast and from the mouth of the pseudoprophet.

14) These are demon spirits which are going forth unto the kings of the whole world doing signs to gather them into the great war of the Day of Almighty God:

15) ‘Lo!  I come as a thief.  Blessed the one watching and guarding his garments that he may not be walking about uncovered and they observe his shame.’

16) And it gathered them in a place called in Hebrew ‘Armageddon’.

17) And the seventh poured out its bowl upon the air.  And there was a great sound from the Holy Place of the throne saying ‘IT IS COME’.

18) And lightnings and sounds and thunders came, and there was great shaking such as there never was since men came to be on the land,

19) and the great city was made into three parts; and the cities of the  people fell.  And ‘Babylon the Great’ was recalled before God, to give it the cup of the wine of the fury of His wrath.

20) And every island fled; and no mountains were found.

21) And great hail as talant-weight comes down from the heaven on the men; and from the plague of the hail the men blasphemed God, for its plague is exceedingly great.


From Moses all the way through the Scripture, Israel was warned that should they do that which was unclean, YAHVEH would make them unclean – with open, running sores from head to toe.

And He warned them that should they pour out the blood of the sacrifice anywhere else than the altar at the entrance to the tabernacle, that He would give them blood.

And He warned them that should they pour out the blood of the righteous, that they would suffer the blood of the righteous.  And the land would be filled with their blood – a flood of blood – from border to border – up to the bridles of the horses.  And the sea (with ninety percent of all living creatures) would be made clotted blood; and everything would die.  And all the rivers and water sources (for drinking and washing and swimming) would be made blood.

And, further, YAHVEH warned them that should they worship the creation rather than creation’s Creator – such as the sun – that He would burn them with the heat of that which they worshiped; for the sun and the moon and the constellations of stars do only that which God decrees for them to do.  They are inanimate objects with no power of their own – just like the idols of wood and stone and silver and gold.

YAHVEH is Creator of these things.  Wood and stone do what He decrees them to do; silver and gold do what He decrees them to do; and the sun does exactly what YAHVEH decrees it to do.

From God’s perspective John sees a two-fold final judgment from the sun that is about to be poured out upon the land!  First, YAHVEH will turn off the lights in heaven-and-earth Israel; and a pall of darkness shall be created to cover the land.  No “light” of the glory and brightness of YAHVEH will shine in “paradise”.  Any “light” that remained in the land that men might see and repent was extinguished; and darkness was created, and they were completely given over to it.

 And at the same time the sun will burn all the people with the heat of the wrath of God, for all those remaining in the land have not only burned their sons and daughters to idols, but they have burned incense to dumb idols in all the high places; and they have burned incense to the SUN!  So, the very object of their adoration is turned against them in the heat of YAHVEH’s anger.  It is the fourth bowl of the full and final judgment of Almighty God against His special heaven-and-earth creation.

And let’s understand that there is no contradiction whatever implied here; for YAHVEH causes light to be wherever He wills.  And He causes darkness to be wherever He wills.  He creates gross darkness – that all those remaining in the land are blind to His glorious perfections; and, at the same time, He creates fierce heat (from which there is NO shade) – (fierce heat) from the very object of Israel’s worship – the SUN!

From Moses, through the historical literature, the psalms and the wisdom literature, and from Elijah to Malachi (all the prophets), Israel was warned of the Day of YAHVEH to come.  And Jesus Himself told them that all these things would come upon “this generation”; but they would not repent.

Here in our text, it was their disobedience, and their hypocrisy, and their uncleanness, and their pouring out of blood, and their sacrifices and prayers to dumb idols, and their harlotry, and their worship of the sun… and yet they would not turn; rather, they raise the arm of defiance in the face of God when He pours out His vengeance!

And now it’s the darkness that is poured out from the fifth bowl of the full and final wrath of God.  And it’s our purpose to approach His revelation of darkness, and His perception of it.

Since our Lord Jesus Christ is the fullness of all that is written; and since the entirety of the Scripture is the Gospel of God concerning His Son Jesus; and since there is a signature event at His crucifixion that can enlighten us regarding God’s creation of darkness,  please listen to what Matthew writes at chapter twenty seven.


This is verse forty-five:


“Now darkness existed (was) upon all the land from sixth hour until hour ninth.”


That sounds a little strange, but that’s the way it reads in the original text.  And part of the reason that it reads that way is that there is a very specific period of time noted; and Matthew was very aware of it.  The sixth hour was noon; and the ninth hour was three o’clock in the afternoon.

So darkness “was” at the time that the sun was at its zenith… when it shone with its strongest light – from noon until the middle of the afternoon.  This was the first great phenomena in connection with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  He hung on the cross for three hours of absolute darkness.

One of the first ideas that people have, when this is read, is that “maybe there was a solar eclipse!”  (They’re looking for something in nature, you see… something that they can explain.)  But the language here doesn’t justify even an idea such as that!  Why would one even suspect that a solar eclipse (that’s by the moon being in between the earth and the sun, of course) would last for exactly three hours, when the maximum time for one is a little over seven minutes!  It’s preposterous to even begin with such an idea.  It’s just an attempt to find an answer (a very poor one, by the way) with the starting place being “natural law”.

Then others would try and find some other explanation for it.  Maybe, they say, in connection with so evil an event, the Gospel writers were using hyperbole (a linguistic, or poetic, device).  Or maybe there was some kind of “vapor”, or dust, that settled over the area; and it wasn’t really “dark”, but just somewhat “darker” than usual.

But the text says that during the crucifixion of Jesus Christ darkness was from the sixth hour… that means it happened at noon.  And it existed.  And it existed until the ninth hour… that means it stopped – completely – at three o’clock!

The Greek word which I translated “existed” is ginomai, which has to do with “being”… existence!  Darkness did not happen by circumstance or by chance.  It was.  It existed!  It became!  And it had a definite starting point and a definite end.  And it covered the land.  The sun did not stop shining; God did not put out the light of the sun – or the stars….

You remember in Genesis that God created “light” before He created the sun and the stars.  “And there was light.”  Light doesn’t occur naturally from the sun or from the stars (there is no “natural” light).  Light was created by God beforehand!  So He doesn’t need the sun and stars in order for there to be light.

So, therefore, He doesn’t need to “put out”, or “turn off” the sun and the stars in order for there to be “darkness”!  Darkness existed.  It was!  And it was from noon until three o’clock.

Now, what was the reason for the existence of darkness for those three hours?  A number of reasons have been offered… few of which have any merit.  One says that all of nature suffered with the dying Savior.  Because He suffered… it suffered… and darkness is a “symbolic” representation of that suffering.

Another says that the sun and the moon and the stars couldn’t endure the humiliation and death of the Son of God; so, in sympathy with Him, they would not cast their light!

Well, both of these “reasons” for the darkness aren’t really “reasons” at all.  Because they both attribute to the creation something other than what it really is.  Both reasons “personify” creation… as if creation had some prerogative, or moral character, or some ability to reason, or some empathic ability.  But the creation can’t “feel” suffering; neither can it express “empathy”.

Both of these (so-called) reasons for the darkness, place the emphasis on “nature” – as if it were some strange phenomena in which the creation was itself involved!  But the creation wasn’t involved personally; nor could it be.  Creation can’t do anything!  It doesn’t exist on its own!

Another reason proposed here for the existence of darkness is that God brought it about in order to express His moral outrage at the crucifixion of His Son.  Well, that’s a little closer to reality… but not much.  God did bring it about.  In fact He created it.  Just as He created light by fiat, here He creates darkness by fiat.  And He didn’t “decreate” the sun in order to do it.  As we heard earlier, light doesn’t exist because of the existence of the sun… it exists independently of the sun.  So darkness was created by fiat… independently of the “decreation” of the sun.

So, if none of these (and there are others) if none of these are the reason that darkness existed from noon until three o’clock, where do we go to find the real reason?

Where do we always go to find the real reason?  We really don’t need to speculate, do we?  We don’t need to get the “creative juices” flowing in order to “explain” what looks like a “mysterious phenomena”!

We call them “phenomena” of nature… wherein, if one looks at these things from a purely humanistic viewpoint, they seem very mysterious; and they beg for some “natural” explanation.  Just like the passage in Joshua chapter ten… Joshua prayed to God that it would remain daylight in order that they could finish the slaughter of a Canaanite army.  The writer says that the sun did not go down for a whole day!

And astronomers and scientists have wrestled over that one for ages… trying to find a lost day in history (as if time was an eternal entity, and had primacy, and everything else was related to it)!  But there is no “lost” day in history.  Time isn’t eternal… it is a creation of God.  And He stopped time; and He stopped the movement of the cosmos in order that Joshua could complete the task that God had commanded him to do!

It’s not a mysterious phenomena….  God did something with His Own creation which, from our point of view, was out of the ordinary, and by which we may worship and glorify Him in His majesty and His great power!  You see, it doesn’t require any more power and authority to cause the sun to remain in place than it did to call it into existence in the first place!

Herein is one of the many reasons why any deviation from the six-day creation must be immediately and thoroughly rejected.  Since God did create by fiat – by bringing the whole creation into being by the Word of His Power, by bringing “light” into existence on the first day, and by creating the sun and the stars on the fourth day, we need no imagination or speculation or creative juices in order to understand the creation of darkness for three hours at our Lord’s crucifixion!  If light exists because He created it, then it’s no “stretch” to believe darkness existed for three hours because He created it.

But again, what’s the reason?  Let’s quickly go to the Scriptures.  Listen to Exodus chapter ten, starting at verse twenty-one:


“And YAHVEH said unto Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness that may be felt.’  And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there “was” a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days.  They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days.  But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.”


Egyptians had no light, for God had superceded its existence!  He created a palpable darkness in which no light existed.  It was so thick that it could be felt.  All of Egypt was absolute darkness (except for the encampment of the twelve tribes).

Now it’s obvious that there is a connection here between the absolute darkness for three days in Egypt, and the three days that Jonah spent in the belly of the fish, and the three days during which Jesus was buried, and these three hours at the crucifixion.  We could explore those connections for quite a while.  (It’s a series of perfect “threes”.)

But over and above that, this ninth plague upon Egypt was a sign of judgment… after which there was salvation for the tribes of Jacob (the “third day”, Israel was “saved”).  And the judgment upon Egypt left them with no light of the glory of God, which made it impossible for Pharaoh to repent (he was “hardened”) which, in turn, made it more difficult for Israel to be freed which, in turn, made Israel’s redemption that much more glorious for the mighty acts of God!   The more Egypt was “hardened”, the more glory is to be attributed to YAHVEH!

Let me say that again!  The darkness that YAHVEH created on Egypt made them obstinate and intractable since there was no light of the glory of YAHVEH.  And YAHVEH’s purpose for making Egypt obstinate and intractable was so that His mighty acts in saving His people would be that much more glorious!


Keep that in mind as we read Isaiah chapter thirteen, verse nine:


“Behold, the day of YAHVEH comes, cruel with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.  The stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in its going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.  And I will punish the land for evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the wicked.”



The darkness is a sign in connection with judgment upon the cosmic entity that YAHVEH had created.  And as our text reads in Revelation sixteen, the darkness made them that much more defiant.  And their defiance filled up their sin; and it made the salvation of God’s elect from the twelve tribes that much more wonderful and glorious!  And it makes the salvation of the nations that much more glorious!

Here is Ezekiel thirty-two, verse seven, in prophecy against that same creation – the land:


“And when I shall put you out, I will cover the heaven, and make the stars thereof dark.  I will cover the sun with the cloud, and the moon shall not give its light.  All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over you, and set darkness upon your land, says YAHVEH.”


The cloud, all the way through the Scripture, is the glory cloud (described by Ezekiel), which is under the firmament and the Presence of the Lord of Hosts.  When YAHVEH appears in judgment, His cherubim beneath His feet – under which is the cloud of His tabernacle, there is gross darkness, for the cloud extinguishes all light, and there is an awful “shaking” of His creation… a shaking in which the mountains and hills “flee” from the Presence of their Creator.

And if you remember, that great phenomenon also occurred at our Lord’s crucifixion.  As Matthew wrote, there was a great and violent shaking in the whole land; and the rocks were split and the veil in the temple was ripped from top to bottom.


Here’s another… Joel chapter two concerning the great army that shall overrun Israel:


“…a day of darkness…; a day of clouds and of thick darkness… the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining….”




“The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of YAHVEH comes.”


So you see there is no question now about the reason for the darkness, is there?  From the beginning darkness has been associated with judgment… shutting off any light from God’s Presence.  Where there is darkness, man has no light of the glory of God!  And with no light, man descends deeper and deeper into his depraved wickedness and his defiance – which, in turn, makes His salvation that much more glorious!  It was prophesied again and again in the older Scripture.

The principalities and powers were fallen and coming under Covenant sanctions as the Lord Jesus Christ hung on the cross and poured out His blood!

That darkness had happened to Egypt before; and now it would happen to Israel and her leaders and all remaining in the land.  Three hours of absolute darkness existed over all the land.  And it was thick and palpable.  There was NO light at mid-day; and everything came to a dead stop!

And the catastrophic curse would now come to pass upon God’s heaven-and-earth paradise.  The uncleanness and depravity of all the people would be made evident in the running sores over their whole bodies; the sea would be made blood, and the rivers and all the water sources would be made blood; the heat of the sun would be turned up seven times, and there would be no shade.  And all the land would be shrouded in darkness.  And all the people “gnawed their tongues from the pain”!

And the people would not turn.  They were confirmed in their defiance… even though all these things were prophesied to come upon them in the Day of YAHVEH!

The earthly tabernacle would soon cease to exist; and the land was about to be made a wilderness as if nothing had ever been there.

Which brings us back to the text!

The fifth bowl of the full and final wrath of God is poured out on the “seat of the beast”.  It is the fourth, and last, beast of world history – brought forth from the sea of humanity against Israel.  The “seat” of this beast was Rome, extending from there over most all of the civilizations of the earth.

As long as a nation under its rule was quiet and didn’t give the emperors any grief, as long as the taxes were paid, as long as homage was paid to caesar, Rome was, for the most part, a benevolent dictatorship; and any given nation was allowed to go on its way.

But here, in the Day of YAHVEH, the fifth bowl of the wrath of God was poured out on Rome; and it became shrouded in darkness!  Any light of the shining glory of God and His perfections was extinguished; and Rome descended into the black depths of depravity.

We don’t have the time to relate the history.  But the very seat of world power was made a cesspool of perversity; its emperors became possessed and crazed and animalistic.  And in psychopathic frenzy it turned in rage from a light-handed dictatorship with some sense of justice into a diabolical, blood-thirsty tyranny!  And all of its insane brutality was about to be unleashed upon this province called Israel.

Darkness had been poured out upon Rome.  The darkness was the wrath – the full and final wrath – of YAHVEH; and any restraint of Rome’s despotism was extinguished.  And the judgment would come on Israel… all for the glory of God!

The Lamb of God had unsealed the scroll; and the great mystery was revealed.  The fourth beast of world history would be YAHVEH’s sword of vengeance.  Darkness was poured out on it for that purpose!

Just as the darkness created in Egypt was for the glory of YAVHEH and His mighty deeds, so the darkness poured out on Rome was for the glory of YAHVEH and His mighty deeds.  He had saved His elect people from Israel and scattered them throughout the empire before His wrath was poured out; and the nations would be the great beneficiary of the Gospel of God concerning His Son Jesus.  The mighty deeds of YAHVEH would be glorious.


Let’s go back to the text again.  We read (at verses ten and eleven):


“And they were gnawing their tongues from the misery, and they blasphemed The God of the Heaven for their pains and their sores.  But they did not turn from their works.”


Now, the misunderstanding that takes place from a superficial reading of these two verses comes about (at least partially) from the breakdown of the text into verses which, as you know, didn’t appear in John’s original text.  Because of the way the verses have been numbered and set apart, it looks as if the blasphemy and the pain and the misery are exhibited by those at the seat of the beast!

But nothing could be further from the truth.  From verse one it is the full and final wrath of God against the land and all those remaining in it.  It’s their misery; it’s their sores (from the tops of their heads to the bottoms of their feet); it’s their burned bodies from the heat of the sun (turned up seven times).

From God’s perspective this seven-fold out-pouring of wrath all comes at the same time; and the focus is all those remaining in the land….  “They” blasphemed (cursed) YAHVEH for their misery – their pains and their sores; and “they” did not turn from their works!  The purpose of the pouring out of darkness upon the seat of the beast isn’t the seat of the beast!  It is Israel.  And the darkness, as before, is to the end of the glory of God for His mighty deeds; for He moves the seat of world dominion to accomplish all His purpose for the salvation of the world.

And the wonder of it all is wondrous to behold; for His glorious justice is displayed for all to see in the judgment of the beast!  It receives the outpouring of darkness in the wrath of God for its own sin; and then that darkness over the empire is the impetus for the indescribable brutality in the Day of YAHVEH.

Now.  What John writes here is what he sees and hears… all of which is about to come to pass “in the last days”.  It is all from God’s perspective at the “end of the age”.

And what he witnesses here in the full and final wrath of God is such misery among all those remaining in the land that they are “gnawing their tongues”.  Remember now, this is what John is shown; he is shown what is shortly to be!  He doesn’t just come up with this obscure term on his own.  It is revealed to him!

I’m not going to read Scripture verses for you regarding the tongue this morning.  The uses and abuses of the tongue would require a series of sermons, and that would take us far from the text.

Suffice it to say that the human tongue is portrayed in the Scripture as the instrument of great evil and destruction.  On the other hand, the tongues distributed to the apostles at Pentecost were the means of the preaching of the Gospel to men from every nation on earth.  The “light” to the nations comes from the tongues of the redeemed!

Our Lord said that it isn’t what is put into the mouth that makes a man unclean; but the tongue of the wicked is indicative of the blackness and depravity in his heart.

And what we see here in the text is the blasphemous cursing of God for the plagues being poured out on all those remaining in the land.  What comes out of a man’s mouth is what is already in his heart.

The entire fifteen or sixteen hundred years of Israel’s history was marked by defiance of YAHVEH and His Law-word.  And they’ve already poured out the blood of the Son of God; and they’ve poured out the blood of many for whom He died.

And now they’re cursing God for His justice! 

A man is identified by what comes from his mouth!  His tongue reproduces what he is; and it narrates what he is!

Aside from all the other lessons that can be taught concerning the use of the tongue, the point here in the text is that the blasphemous language used by all those remaining in the land comes into the hearing of Almighty God!  He “hears” the degeneracy of this people.  They are vile, repulsive and profane; they’re like animals – except worse; animals do what God created them to do.

And that brings us to the other word: they “gnawed” their tongues.

The profound obscurity of this word is the very essence of its profundity.  The Greek word is used one time – here in our text.  It translates a Hebrew word used one time in all the older Scripture.

Rather than reading a whole chapter of Job for you, I’ll just tell you what it’s about.  And, by the way, the word is found in the fourth verse of the thirtieth chapter.

Sins of the tongue are mentioned quite often in Job, the Psalms, and the Proverbs.  The sins are primarily of pride and arrogance.  Job’s three young detractors speak to him with arrogance in their accusations.  As Job said, they “held him in derision”.

And as Job is ruminating about these three (chapter thirty), he considers who they are and from whom they came… their fathers, in other words.

Their fathers were men who were no better than the dogs that ran Job’s flocks.  They lived among the rocks and in caves, and brayed like donkeys; “base” men (that means “foul”, or “loathsome”) – men that are driven away from others like thieves … (they were so foul that nobody wanted them around).  And Job says they “gnawed” on the ground for mallows and roots for their meat (food).

Now, regardless of how obscure some might see the connection, there are no coincidences in God’s Word!  Don’t let anybody convince you otherwise!

When John hears this word revealed to him in the heaven, it is there for a reason.  And he writes it to the Churches for them to give glory to God for its use.

When Jesus poured out condemnation upon the scribes and pharisees and priests of Israel, He said that they were the sons of men who fouled the land by pouring out blood to idols and poured out the blood of the all the righteous in history; men who were vipers; men who burned their own sons and daughters; men who worshipped the sun; men who copulated with anything that moved; men who preyed on the poor and the sick and the needy like wolves and jackals.

The scribes and pharisees and elders of Israel to whom Jesus was heaping judgment were the sons of “base” men - foul men; and they were just like their fathers.  And this generation of foul men would suffer the blood that their fathers had shed like animals all through history.

In the misery of YAHVEH’s judgment, in the darkness that was being poured out on the land, they would “gnaw” their tongues from the sores and the pain – tongues of foul men whose fathers were foul men; tongues which uttered blasphemous curses against YAHVEH for His perfect, righteous justice.  They were all just like the fathers of Job’s three detractors – arrogant, defiant to the end.  YAHVEH had made it dark over them; for the great and mighty deeds, shortly to take place, would redound to His glorious Presence!

Our Lord Jesus Christ arose out of death the third day.  All who are begotten of God were crucified in Him; and we died to darkness and death in Him.  And we arose to light and life in Him.

He is the Light; and the darkness didn’t comprehend Him – or receive Him.  But to all who are begotten of God it was given the right to become sons of God.  He is the glorious, express image of The Father.  We no longer need the sun and the moon and the stars to remind us of the light of the glory of God; for the bright and shining Daystar has arisen over the nations of the earth.  He is the “Overcomer” of darkness and death in Whose countenance shines the glory of Almighty God the Lord of Hosts.

Glory to God for His mighty work of salvation.