Lesson Four – Chapters 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16
The Third and Fourth Parentheses (Seven Thunders and the Two Witnesses), the Seventh Trumpet, The Fifth and Sixth Parentheses (Israel and Satan, then the Gentiles and Satan), the Seventh Parenthesis, and the Seven Bowl Judgments
Chapter 10 and the First of Chapter 11, the Third and Fourth Parenthesis (Seven Thunders and the Two Witnesses) and the Seventh Trumpet
The last of the three “woes” is the seventh trumpet judgment, but this does not occur until chapter 11 verse 15. What we have next is the third of seven parentheses. The first seven verses of chapter 10 is the third parenthesis that describes a mighty angel, a strong angel direct from the heavenly court, near to the Lord, clothed with a cloud, a rainbow as a halo, his face bright as the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire signifying having been in the presence of God.
This angel has a “little scroll” in his hand with one foot on land and the other on the sea which means he has authority of both sea and land. The angel then shouts like a lion roars and seven thunders are heard, seven being the biblical number of completion. It is implied that these seven thunders are more trouble to come on the Earth, but John is told by a voice from Heaven, presumable from Jesus, to refrain from writing down what he heard the seven thunders were probably because of the terrible nature of their result. God tells us only what we need to know and no more.
Then the mighty angel swears an oath to the Lord, “Who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there will be delay no longer.” This angel is about to blow the seventh trumpet which means that the “mystery of God” will be finished. This is the great and final purpose of God in human history about to be revealed or unveiled which is Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords.
The angel tells John to take the little scroll from his hand and eat it. It will taste sweet to John’s mouth but it will make his stomach bitter. Apparently, God’s plan for the second half of the Tribulation is in the little scroll and John is to prophecy about what is coming next. What John says in his prophecy is sweet because he is warning the future people that God’s plan is coming to pass and those who trust in Christ because Christ is coming to rule and reign. But first, Christ must judge and devastation has really only begun. What made John’s stomach bitter was what Jesus must do, the horrors of God’s coming wrath, to get peoples’ attention, and most will reject Him in the end.
The fourth parenthesis is the prophecy of the two witnesses. We are at the halfway point in the Tribulation, and John is instructed to measure the temple and the altar of incense including the area where people worship in the temple (11:1-14). He is to number those that worship there. John is told to leave out the outer court of the temple where the Gentiles could enter. This is the Tribulation temple, not the temple destroyed in 70 A.D. nor is this the temple in Heaven. This is a new temple that will be built by the Jews probably after they and God defeats their close-in enemies in the Psalm 83 war and their far-off enemies in the Ezekiel 38 and 39 war. Since both of these wars probably happen after the Rapture and before the start of the Tribulation, there should be time to build the temple and start its use for worship and sacrifice well before the mid-point of the Tribulation. At the mid-point of the Tribulation, the Antichrist indwelt by Satan will desecrate the temple. During the first half of the Tribulation, the Lord places two witnesses in Jerusalem to proclaim the Gospel and perform miracles.
The temple and Jerusalem will be “trampled under foot” by the Gentiles for the first half of the Tribulation for forty-two months or three and one-half years. The two witnesses are as John calls them the two lampstands and the two olive trees that stand before the Lord, recognized as the symbols that Zechariah used (4:3) to describe Zerubbabel (governor) and Joshua (High Priest) when they were rebuilding the temple some 500 years before Christ. The two witnesses are also two lampstands to give the light of the Truth and by the power of the Holy Spirit to destroy blasphemers with fire from their mouths, withhold the rain, turn water into blood, and to cause plagues to attack. Many have speculated that these two witnesses are Moses and Elijah brought back to Earth for this ministry because the plagues and withholding rain sound like what they both did before. Others think the two are Enoch and Elijah since those two men never tasted death but were caught up to be with God and now will die in the Lord’s service. In either case, these two will be a major thorn in the Antichrist’s side, and he will wish them dead.
At the mid-Tribulation point, or three and one-half years in, the two witnesses’ testimony will be finished as far as God’s design for them is concerned. The fact that, despite anything and everything that the Antichrist had tried to do to shut up these two dynamic and powerful witnesses for God the Father and Jesus Christ, he had been unsuccessful in stopping these two until they were finished. Many missionaries use their biblical example that they are truly indestructible until God is through with them. The beast (Antichrist) finally kills them and lets their bodies lie in the streets of Jerusalem (where the Lord was crucified) for all the world to see for three and one-half days. Surprisingly, and will great evil in their hearts, the unsaved of the entire earth will look upon the decomposing bodies and rejoice and celebrate! They even give gifts to one another in happy commemoration of these two trouble-makers and curiously powerful men. We all know exactly how everyone from all races and tribes and nations will actually be able to see these bodies in today’s world of satellite and cellular technology. All the world will also gape in astonishment when the two witnesses have the breath of life from God re-enters them and they stand to their feet after having lay dead and decomposing for three and one-half days. A strong voice from Heaven says a familiar, “Come up here!” just as Jesus will say for the Rapture, and just as Jesus told John in Revelation 4:1. So, this “Come up here!” signals the two witnesses’ resurrection and rapture for all the world to see and marvel as well as wonder. Perhaps this sight will turn some hearts toward God and His Son.
Immediately after the two witnesses ascend into Heaven in a cloud, a great earthquake hits Jerusalem, destroys a tenth of the city, kills seven thousand in the city, and scares the rest of Jerusalem’s residents, or at least many of them, to glorify the God of Heaven. This may mean that most in the city become born-again believers, but it probably just means that the people recognize that there really is a God Who is powerful over all things and has a will that does not match the will of humans. This ends the fourth of a total of seven parentheses in the book of Revelation. But, the end of this parenthesis marks the blowing of the seventh trumpet in 11:15.
The seventh trumpet triggers anticipation of the final triumph of God and the future visible Millennial Kingdom of Jesus Christ Who reigns on Earth from Jerusalem. This seventh trumpet announces the arrival of the seven bowls of God’s wrath, the final devastation of the earth and all that are in it to announce boldly and dramatically that Jesus’ Second Coming is very near, indeed, exactly three and one-half years future. This marks the approaching time of the judging of the dead and the eternal reward for believers. Though still a thousand years future, wonderful things happen before the actual day of the Great White Throne Judgment and the new Heaven and the New Earth. Because of this huge milestone in God’s plan in the redemption of man, the 24 elders fell and worshipped God, the sanctuary of God in Heaven was thrown open so that the ark of God could be seen, and lightning, thunder, an earthquake, and a great hailstorm occurred because the final great judgments of God’s wrath are about to take place.
Chapters 12 and 13 – The Fifth and Sixth Parentheses (Israel and Satan, then the Gentiles and Satan)
The fifth of seven parentheses occurs in chapter 12 and it starts with a great sign meaning what John is about to record is of extreme importance. This chapter and chapter 13 contain seven major figures that are key individuals in this End Times prophecy. Chapter 12 contains the first five figures and deals directly with Satan and Israel. The first four figures are: (1) the woman clothed with the sun and the twelve stars tiara (the 12 tribes of Israel) is Israel with her Child being Jesus Christ; (2) Satan, the great red dragon with control over the Revived Roman Empire, with seven heads (rulers or kings) and ten horns (nations or countries) whose tail sweeps a third of the stars of heaven (fallen angels) to the Earth waiting to devour the Child of the woman; (3) the man-child Jesus Who will rule with a rod of iron when He returns from being caught up to God and to His Throne; (4) Michael, the archangel and the good angels will war against Satan and his fallen angels, will win, and Satan and his fallen angels will be cast from heaven to Earth never able to return; (5) A voice from Heaven announces that Satan has been cast out, believers have overcome by the blood of the Lamb, and Satan turns his wrath towards Israel (the woman), to pursue her because of the birth of the Child Jesus, But, the woman flies to the desert (Petra?) where God protects her from Satan for the rest of the Tribulation. Satan is enraged and pursues the children of Christ instead.
Chapter 13, the sixth of seven parentheses, now deals with the last two figures of the seven and how Satan turns against the Gentile believers left alive at the mid-point of the Tribulation. (6) Verse 1 of chapter 13 identifies this character as coming from the sea or sea of nations making him a Gentile not a Jew. This one is known as the Antichrist and by many other names in the Bible: the wicked one in Psalm 10:2-4; the little horn in Daniel 7:8; the prince in Daniel 9:26; the despicable person in Daniel 11:21; the king who will do as he pleases in Daniel 11:36; the man of lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2:3; the son of perdition in 2 Thessalonians 2:3; the lawless one in 2 Thessalonians 2:8; the Antichrist in 1 John 2:18; and the beast in Revelation 13:1. He is given his authority by Satan who once was an archangel and, therefore, very powerful – so powerful that he rivals Michael but will be defeated by Michael just the same.
The animal symbolism that describes the Antichrist or the beast (vs. 2) comes from Daniel 7:4-8 where the lion (power) refers to Babylon, the bear (ferociousness) to Medo-Persia, and the leopard (speed) to Greece (Alexander the Great). These all were the world kingdoms that preceded the Roman Empire. The Antichrist will “seem” to have a fatal head wound (vs. 3) and be “healed”. Satan does not have the power to raise the dead, but, somehow, he fakes it very well and the whole unbelieving world worships the Antichrist because they are convinced he was raised from the dead. Satan has always wanted to be worshipped. Isaiah 14:14 says that Satan said, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the most high.” Apparently, this head wound incident and the fake resurrection occur at the start of the second half of the Tribulation since the Antichrist is said to start blaspheming God. This is also the time when Satan possesses the Antichrist because he want the worship of all the Earth, all those whose names are not in the Book of Life (vs. 8). Verse 9 of chapter 13 is another reminder and proof that the Church of Jesus Christ is absent during the Tribulation since it has the same admonishment as the one that ended all seven letters to the churches in chapters 2 and 3, but leaves off the “what the Spirit says to the churches” at the end of “If anyone is able to hear, let him hear”.
The beast’s rebellion against God will begin when Antichrist, possessed by the devil, enters the Holy of Holies in the Tribulation Temple at the mid-point of the Tribulation and declares himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:4). Since Satan’s actions fall within the Will of God, He allows the Antichrist and the devil to defile the Temple, to wield worldwide power, and to blaspheme God’s Holy Name. All the unbelieving world worships the beast (vs. 8). Those who have accepted Christ during the Tribulation must endure and be patient and faithful until the Second Coming (vs. 10).
The seventh and final character is presented in the last half of chapter 13. (7) Verse 11 of chapter 13 introduces another beast rising from the land (Israel) and is given power represented by the two horns like a lamb. The lamb’s horns symbolize his perceived manner as being gentle, but he speaks like a fierce dragon with frightful authority having the power to bring fire down upon the Earth and to deceive. This second beast causes the world to worship the Antichrist, so, he is called the False Prophet (Revelation 16:3). This False Prophet somehow creates a statue of the Antichrist just as Nebuchadnezzar did in Daniel 3 and causes it to speak. All must bow down and worship this statue just as Nebuchadnezzar demanded of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. If anyone rebels, he is killed by the False Prophet. This second beast also makes all people of the world to get a “charagma” (tattoo), a mark on their forehead or right hand in order to participate in commerce, to buy or sell, to eat or starve. This tattoo contains the Antichrist’s number, six hundred sixty-six, and no one has yet been able to interpret the meaning of this number. But, verse 18 says that the Tribulation saints will have the wisdom to know what this “mark of the beast” means and avoid it and work around it.
Chapter 14 – The Seventh Parenthesis (Martyred Saints and Prelude to Great Tribulation)
Chapter 14 is the seventh and last parentheses in Revelation that occur out of sequence, but add much to our knowledge of the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Tribulation) and the end of the world as we know it. This parenthesis takes us to Heaven itself and shows us the 144,000 Jewish evangelists are no longer on Earth, they are with the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, in Heaven. They are standing on mount Zion, the heavenly Mount Zion, before the throne of God. The lost that remain on Earth have the mark of the beast on their foreheads, but these 144,000 Jews have the name of Jesus and the Father inscribed on their foreheads.
Why are they now in Heaven? They have completed their work for Christ, and Jesus has removed their protection so that the Antichrist can remove them from continued constant preaching and saving the lost. They sing a “new song’ in Heaven along with a heavenly chorus, a song of undefiled lives on Earth, chaste, free of deception, blameless, dedicated to following Jesus, but, apparently, have completed their tasks and have been martyred. Daniel 12:2 and 3 says that at the end of the Tribulation, these Jews and the other martyrs of the Tribulation (as well as all of the Old Testament believers that had their faith “counted unto them as righteousness” such as Moses, Abraham, etc.) that accepted Jesus before their deaths will be resurrected “to everlasting life”.
Revelation 14 verses 6 and 7 show us that a powerful angel will fly in the second Heaven, or the Earth’s atmosphere, and announce to the entire unbelieving world “an eternal Gospel”, the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-8) as well as, since the word “everlasting” is used to describe the Gospel here, the good news that God at last is about to deal with the world in righteousness and establish His visible sovereignty over the world. This angel’s actions removes any possibility that even one living soul will not hear and have any excuse at all. The angel’s command straight from God with a mighty voice is to “revere or fear God and give Him glory” because the very hour of His judgment has come indicating the final bowl judgments are about to be poured out over the Earth quickly. These judgments will try the nations of the Earth and be the last chance for mankind to acknowledge God. But, sadly, literally multitudes will reject God to their eternal damnation and punishment.
A second angel in verse 8 cries out that “fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made the nations drink of the wine of her passionate immorality”. Babylon is near the God-designed center of the Earth where Eden likely was located before the Flood. Babylon is also where Nimrod established his kingdom, built the Tower of Babel (the ancient name of the kingdom), where God confused language and scattered the nations to the ends of the Earth, where polytheism began and flourished, and where the Antichrist establishes the final kingdom before Jesus returns to set up His Millennial Kingdom. This angelic announcement is the harbinger that the Antichrist’s and the Devil’s reign are about to end.
A third angel (vs. 9-12) announces the doom of anyone who has acquiesced to receiving the mark of the beast indicating that their spirituality has turned away from God to the world and the beast instead. This decision is as serious as any decision ever made by man since God’s wrath is the result of turning to the mark of the beast and eternal punishment, forever torment. But, those saints that perish during the Tribulation, who “die in the Lord”, are especially blessed (vs. 13) and find special rest and recognition for their works following their acceptance of Jesus.
The last section of chapter 14, verses 14 to 20, describe or preview the harvest of the Earth where Jesus as Messiah and King of kings and Lord of lords where the evil people of the Earth will be gleaned and then thrown into the “great winepress of the wrath of God”. John sees the Lord Jesus in His future messianic glory as “the son of man”, which is a messianic title first given in Daniel 7:13 which means “the Son related to mankind” or the “Son of God” as Psalm 2:7 states. The cloud that Jesus is sitting upon represents a great company of angels (Matthew 25:31), and the crown of gold on Jesus’ head is a “diadem” (not a “stephanos” or a crown earned for works) or a crown of His royalty and inherent right to reign. Jesus uses a “sharp sickle” to harvest the Earth which is urged by an angel who comes from the Temple in Heaven. This scene seems to come from Joel 3:2. Another angel who has power over fire also comes from the heavenly altar and calls for the sickle that will cut and “gather the clusters from the vine of the Earth, because her grapes are ripe”. These grapes are the evil people mentioned earlier, and the harvest occurs “outside the city” of Jerusalem since these people are defiled and unclean. The blood of those who come against the city of David are “harvested” and will come “up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles” (vs. 20). This is a reference to Revelation 19:17-19 and the “battle” of Armageddon (“the hill of Megiddo”, the Valley of Jehoshaphat [Joel 3:12-14, Zechariah 14:4]) which occurs on a vast plain that is two hundred miles long and just North of Jerusalem and is not really a battle at all since Jesus defeats the multitude of rebellious people with but a single word.
Here, we must remember that the prediction that Christ will judge the Earth comes after three angelic warnings: (1) the preaching of the everlasting Gospel; (2) the warning that Babylon and her religious influence will be destroyed; and (3) the assurance that the worshippers of Antichrist will be destroyed. The fact that multitudes will still reject Christ even after these warnings is strong confirmation of the utter depravity and evil of the human heart!
Chapters 15 and 16 – The Bowl Judgments
Chapter 15 begins the final series of God’s judgments that are described as the plagues of the wrath of God in verse 1. The first eight verses in chapter 15 are the prelude to God’s most severe judgments also known as the seven bowl judgments. John is given a vision of Heaven and the Tribulation martyrs who had victory over the beast by refusing his mark and his statue (verse 2). The “glassy, crystal sea mixed with fire” is a pavement of glass that stands before the throne of God. The martyred Tribulation saints are playing harps of God in gratitude and honor to the Lord for their salvation. This is perhaps the reference to harps that we hear about believers playing in Heaven. But, we see on closer examination that the harps are only to those who die during the Tribulation for their faith in Christ. The song by these martyrs is the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb (vs. 3). Exodus 15 has the song of Moses or it could be Deuteronomy 32. Both passages ascribe praise to God and are similar in many ways. The Almighty is titles the King of the nations and to Him it is said in verse 4, “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your Name?” Old Testament prophets like Isaiah, Zephaniah, Zechariah, and Psalmists have all said that there would come a time when all the nations will worship the Lord. And that time is at this time, at the end of the Tribulation.
John now sees the temple or sanctuary of the testimony in Heaven opened, and out of the “Holy Place” where the Law of God resides comes seven angels bearing the seven plagues of judgment that will be poured out over the Earth. So, because God’s Law had been broken so blatantly, seven special angels arrayed in gleaming linen with golden sashes on their chests apparently from the very presence of God Almighty come forth from the Holy Place in the temple of God in Heaven with the seven plagues to punish the Earth in final judgment before Christ’s Second Coming. One of the four living creatures hands these seven angels each a gold bowl filled with the wrath of God. The temple in Heaven was then filled with smoke from the glory of God, smoke from the heavenly incense that burns continually in honor of the Lord. No one was now able to enter the temple in Heaven until all seven plagues, the seven bowls of wrath, have been poured out over all the Earth. With these judgments, the Tribulation will be over and the Millennium Earthly reign of Jesus Christ will begin.
Chapter 16 contains all seven bowls of the wrath of God in rapid succession. Each bowl of God’s wrath and indignation is poured out by a specific angel at the command of “a mighty voice from the heavenly temple sanctuary. The first bowl contains a “loathsome and malignant sore” that comes on all who have aligned themselves with the beast by taking his mark or worshipping his image. Those who have accepted Christ are righteous in God’s eyes and do not receive this painful and agonizing plague of ulcers that resist healing.
The second bowl is poured into the sea causing the water to become blood, thick, foul smelling, and disgusting. All sea life dies from this plague which is reminiscent of the first Egyptian plague in Exodus 7:17-21.
The third bowl was poured out on the Earth’s rivers and springs, all the fresh water on the Earth turning them all into blood. The angel justifies this plague based on the persecution, death, and the blood shed that the world brought on God’s people by saying, “Righteous are You in these Your decisions and judgments. You Who are and were, O Holy One!” And from the altar John heard a reply, “Yes, Lord God the Omnipotent, Your judgments are true and just and righteous!” This simply tells all that the eternal and righteous God cannot be questioned!
The fourth bowl is poured out on the sun which causes what we would probably call a solar flare that bombards the Earth with intense and long-lasting radiation. The effect of this plague is fierce heat that scorches men with fire and fierce heat. One other effect of such radiation from the sun is that all electronics that may still exist at this point in the Tribulation (if any) would be rendered totally useless regardless of “hardening” against such occurrences. The intensity of this plague and the longevity of it causes men to blaspheme God Who has control over these plagues. The implication of this description is that if the people would repent, then God would remove the plague. But, “they did not repent, so as to give Him glory”, unfortunately the typical response to God by a large majority of humans during all ages of time.
The fifth bowl is poured out on the throne of the beast, the worldwide kingdom of the Antichrist, and this plague is darkness, a darkness never before experienced by man ever. This darkness causes people to gnaw their tongues in pain and distress obviously because this darkness is physical, atmospheric, emotional, oppressive, and spiritual at the same time. Going from intense heat from the fourth bowl to total and complete darkness, the kind of darkness one can feel, causes people, those who have pledged their loyalty to Antichrist, to blaspheme God again because of their ulcers and sores, because of the heat, now because of this oppressive darkness, and they did not deplore their wicked deeds nor repent for what they had done.
The sixth bowl is poured out on the mighty river Euphrates to dry it up to make way for the invasion of the kings of the East (vs. 12) Verses 13 through 16 describe Satan’s answer to God’s six bowls of judgment as well as the seal and trumpet judgments that have been metered out on the Earth over the last few days and going back now seven years. From the dragon (Satan), the beast (Antichrist), and the false prophet will come forth, as if from their mouths, demons or spirits of dead Nephilim described as “unclean spirits like frogs” where the word “frog” depicts something repulsive. These demons’ assignment is to go and gather the kings of the whole world for the war of the great day of God the Almighty – Armageddon (hill of Megiddo)! This last war is the very end of the Tribulation and is the focus of Jesus when He comes back to Earth in His Second Coming.
The seventh and last bowl is now poured out into the air and the Lord shouts with a loud voice, “It is done!” (Isaiah 66:6) This means that God’s wrath is finished with great atmospheric storms full of lightning and thunder, then a great earthquake so severe that the Earth has never seen anything like it before. Jerusalem is split into three parts and all the cities of the nations will fall and be destroyed. This earthquake is God giving Babylon the great the “cup of the wine of His fierce wrath” (vs 19) As a result of this unprecedented earthquake, every island will disappear and the mountains will flatten and disappear. Hailstones of unimaginable size, some as heavy as 70 pounds (a talent) will rain down on the Earth causing death and destruction never before seen. The result is that those left alive will, incredibly, not repent and will blaspheme God.