We now come face to face with those seven bowls of wrath! God himself orders that these be emptied out over the earth onto the ungodly. Notice the striking resemblance to some of the plagues of Egypt here. If anyone has failed to heed the warning of those previous trumpets of judgment, then the bowls of wrath is unleashed to their total destruction. At the same time, this may serve as a warning to others looking on that the time has come for them to repent.
It is important to grasp two key facts in all these examples of judgments poured on the men of earth: Firstly, whilst god-fearing people do suffer all kinds of calamities and painful experiences, none of them are punishments from God for their sins, since these sins have now been forgiven. Verse 2 makes it clear that bowl number ‘1’ was only emptied upon those who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped its image.
Secondly, these bowls are symbols of God’s justice: his wrath is not vindictive nor blindly angry, lashing out in all directions. Instead, it is controlled, targeted, measured, and proportional – where the punishment exactly matches the crime and justice is completely done. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” exclaimed Abraham – and his answer is always an emphatic ‘Yes’! God’s wrath is deserved and inevitable; sin must be punished precisely and judiciously. Sinners will receive the just penalty for their crimes against the Most High God.
For those of us who trust in Jesus, He has already received the full punishment due for those sins of ours, and therefore the price has already been paid. “There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus”, declares Romans 8:1.
As we have noted previously, these bowls of wrath leave nothing living in their wake – unlike the trumpets of chapters 8-11. Verse 3: “…every living thing in the sea died”.
The Fifth Bowl punishes antichristian government – the territorial spirits of world empires – by symbolically pouring out the wrath of God on the Beast from the Sea, plunging its kingdoms into darkness.
From the Sixth Bowl, the ground is cleared for the great mythical battle of Har-Magedon, representing the end of the world. Judges chapters 4 and 5 tell of the time when King Jabin the Canaanite is fiercely oppressing Israel. His general, Sisera, is in complete control of all military force in the land. But Israel, under Deborah, gathers an army with a general called Barak and to everyone’s surprise, the Canaanites are soundly defeated. The battle was fought at Megiddo and God fights for Israel. In Deborah’s victory song there is the line (Judges 5:20): “From the heavens the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera”. Symbolically, then, Har-Magedon represents every battle in which oppressed children of God are rescued and gain the victory, with the ‘stars’ representing the angelic forces fighting on God’s side. And this battle also points to some last great spiritual battle when the forces of God finally crush the forces of Satan.
The unclean frogs coming from the mouths of the dragon (Satan), the Beast from the Sea (unchristian governments) and the Beast from the Earth (unchristian religion) represent satanic ideas, plans, methods, and projects that are launched into society, with an aim to stir up ordinary people against the true believers in Christ.
The Seventh and final bowl ushers in the end of this age and the destruction of the great kingdoms of this world. The world is shattered into pieces and, for those who have rebelled against God, it is now too late!
NEHEMIAH 1, 2 and 3
“Resist the Devil and he will flee from you”. This is one of the main themes of the Book of Nehemiah – also known as Ezra II. Some more details of this great book, plus some thought-provoking questions…
o The main Bible books that deal with the Restoration and Renewal of the nation of Judah after their return from exile are: Nehemiah (historical), and Malachi (prophetic)
o Previously, from 536 BC, under Zerubbabel, the land was resettled, the altar repaired, the temple restored. In 458 BC, under Ezra, the teaching of the Law on proper worship and right relationships were re-started. Also, the book of Esther describes the important events that preserved the Jews in exile who hadn’t returned to the land. We have now to see how, in 445 BC, under Nehemiah, the city of Jerusalem was rebuilt, and the nation renewed.
o Nehemiah, a godly Jew in exile, was honoured to be the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia. Nehemiah was a man of prayer, full of the Spirit, passionate about his people and his God, and a great leader.
o Summarising the events of Nehemiah: 446 BC: a small group of exiles is stopped from rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem; news of this reaches Nehemiah in Susa. 445 BC: Artaxerxes appoints Nehemiah Governor of Jerusalem and sends him to lead a small expedition there to take charge of rebuilding. 444BC: Walls are completed. 433-425BC: Nehemiah goes to Babylon on official business.
o The book shows how the physical walls, and the spiritual faith of the people were rebuilt.
o Nehemiah 7:73b marks a turning point in the book: it moves the spotlight from a physical engineering task – giving physical security – to a faith and obedience activity – giving spiritual security. The reading of the Law makes this change of focus happen.
o Nehemiah was a man of deep emotion, prayer, and faith. It is a good exercise to find your own examples of each in the first six chapters of the book. Think about why was he ideally suited to lead this emerging nation?
o There were various kinds of opposition that the Jewish builders overcame in chapters 4 – 6? What were these types of opposition and how did they overcome each?
o Verses 6:15-16 are key in the whole book: fierce opposition melts away if you complete the task that you have been assigned and have persevered with. “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
o Renewal occurs after people hear the Word of God and have it explained (ch. 8): they wept, rejoiced, feasted, and celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles fully. Do we genuinely give the scriptures room in our lives to renew our hearts on a daily basis?
o They then spent a whole day in corporate Bible-reading, confession, and worship (ch. 9). Did people have a much longer attention span in those days or were they just more disciplined and respectful towards God?
o They immediately obeyed the scriptures, particularly in their Sabbath-keeping, in the purity of their marriages (i.e., not to unbelievers), and in bringing their tithes to the Levites and Priests.
Having seen a summary of the entire book, note that Chapter One sets the scene by introducing Nehemiah, cupbearer to the emperor, passionate about his people and weeping at the broken walls of his home city. Instinctively he cries out to God (is that our first instinct too?), confessing the nation’s sins and asking for the Lord’s favour.
In Chapter Two, the Emperor notices his puffy eyes (from weeping) and asks him what the matter is. He tells the truth and sends up a quick-fire prayer for help. God answers just as quickly and turns the Emperor’s heart towards Nehemiah’s purpose and grants him every assistance. Nehemiah travels to Jerusalem and inspects the walls at night in secret.
In Chapter Three, he wisely taught each family to repair the section of wall nearest their own home. Even the women helped to do this in their zeal to see the job finished. Ten gates are named and rebuilt, where most of the damage had been done. No-one was exempt, including even the High Priest. Interpreted for us, this signifies that every believer in the church needs to be active in enlarging not a building, but a people, the Body of Christ. As we build, He builds us too. No-one is exempt and everyone should be building in the vicinity of their own homes. That is how church truly grows and expands!