Revelation 15-17
(Seven Final Plagues)
December 29th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

Trust in him at all times, O people;
"..they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”

- Revelation 17:14 (NRSV)

Summary of Chapters

These three chapters capture a transition point in the ultimate battle. Chapters 15-16 describe a set of seven final plagues unleashed by God on Satan and his followers. Chapter 17 represents the beginning of a section that depicts the triumph of the almighty God.

Chapter 15 sets the stage with a scene of seven angels holding seven plagues and singing praises to God. Then the angels re-appeared out of the temple, set in heaven – perhaps looking like the original tent from the wilderness as described in Exodus. A creature gave the angels bowls of God's wrath and the heavenly temple was filled with smoke, just as the earthly one was filled during ceremonies conducted by the high priest.

The delivery of the plagues takes place in chapter 16. The first four were related to plagues on natural elements: Festering sores, a blood-red sea, a blood-red river, and a scorching sun. The next two were attacks on kingdoms: The fifth was a plague on the throne of the beast that plunged his kingdom into the darkness. The sixth plague dried up the Euphrates River, which was a protective border for the Roman Empire. Then Jesus announces the stealth nature by which he arrives:

The seventh and final plague resulted in a set of signs and calamitous events: Thunder and lightning were followed by an earthquake larger than any experienced before that split the largest city and flattened others, and then 100-pound hailstones fell from the sky, crushing anyone or anything in their path.

Chapter 17 focuses on the description of a woman sitting on a scarlet beast. The woman has been labeled as Babylon, the mother of prostitutes. She represents the great city that rules over kings. The woman had taken advantage of God's people and was drunk with their blood. The beast had seven heads and ten horns, each of which represented specific kingdoms. The beast on which the woman sits will eventually turn on her and devour her.

Reflection and Application

Note in the first verse that John says that God's wrath is completed with these seven plagues. It's important to note here that the wrath of God is not like human wrath might be. It's not an intense emotional flare-up or an irrational passion, instead its what Christian author Leon Myers calls "strong and settled opposition to all that is evil(1)." The repeated series of wraths from earlier chapters and today's chapters are different perspectives. The seven seals are from the view of the churches, the seven trumpets from the view of the world, and the seven bowls from the view of God. God's people sing about the victory represented by these wraths - but they do it to glorify God, not themselves. This should be our chief aim as well, to glorify God in all we say and do (2).

There are many images in the first two chapters that connect these events to Exodus, which was the pivotal moment in the Old Testament. The vision of the temple was reminiscent of the tent of meeting and the series of plagues were similar to the plagues brought down upon the Egyptians, who had been holding the Israelites captive. The scene where the victors stood by a sea that looked like a sea of glass was reminiscent of the Israelites after the Red Sea had parted for them and closed on the Egyptians, drowning them and their weapons.

The people of earth had been warned that the day of reckoning would appear like a thief in the night. Matthew recorded Jesus making a reference of this type: "But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into (Matthew 24:43 - NIV)." And Paul said it explicitly in one of his letters: "…for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2 - NIV)." Therefore, we are warned also. We don't know when the night will come, so we must always be ready. How? By continually re-dedicating ourselves to God, submitting to his will, and seeking and offering forgiveness.

John mentions a place called Armageddon: "Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon (Revelation 16:16 - NIV)." In this case, the word they is referring to the evil forces who would bring together kings from different nations to take on God in a final battle. Armageddon may have been another name for the city of Megiddo that was perched on a mound of earth (3) or may have referred to the valley below this mound. Many battles have been fought there over the centuries. The book of Judges described one battle that took place in that area. In this case, the Israelites were vastly outnumbered in men and weapons, but came out victorious, led by the female judge Deborah.

Alternatively, the name Armageddon could have been a reference to a symbolic place. In either case, the word has taken on a connotation of a disaster that brings about the end of the world. In December 2011, Economists and other financial experts were warning about a Financial Armageddon in 2012 and advising people how to avoid it. In 1998, there was a movie titled Armaggedon that depicted a story about an asteroid on a collision with earth that would wipe out all of civilization.

Some people look for the signs of Armaggedon in current events, claiming that any gathering of nations is a pre-cursor to the day of Armageddon. This would include the creation of the United Nations, the European Union, and other alliances. But there does not appear to be a mainstream agreement on any of those types of theories. In fact, none of these examples represent the type of battle described in Revelation 16.

A more reasonable representation of the Armageddon scene could be found in the final movie of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, based on the book by J.R. Tolkien. In one of the final scenes all of the evil kingdoms and beasts have joined together against men, hobbits, and other allies. Although they seem to be outnumbered, the good forces overpower the evil ones. Tolkien includes a female warrior-leader, perhaps as a nod to Deborah the Judge of Ancient Israel. This ending of Tolkien's story is consistent with the conclusion of most experts regarding Revelation - God wins in this final battle. By the time of these final plagues it seems clear that this will be the outcome, but John notes that the evil people refused to repent. They may seem short-sighted, but are we guilty of the same mistake?

The woman described in chapter 17 may have represented the Roman Empire for the people of John's era. For us, it could be the general organized community of man. We will learn more about the fate of the woman Babylon in the subsequent chapters.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. Have you ever been a victim of a thief? What were the circumstances?
    2. What did Jesus mean when he said “Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed” ?
    3. Are you ready to re-dedicate yourself to God right now?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know you win in the end. Your name carries great power to judge and redeem. Help us to repent.

    Prayer Concern
    Crime Victims


    (1) Morris, Leon, Revelation, an Introduction and Commentary, Intervarsity Press, Leicester England, 1987, p. 193-194
    (2) Doll, Rev Gregory, "Life Along the Post Road and the Book of Revelation, an Alternate Reading of Reality," series of lectures delivered in Darien, CT and New York City, January - June 2012
    (3) Morris, Leon, IBID p 193-194

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Revelation 18-19 (Fate of Babylon)

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