“When Man Refuses to Repent”
Series: Understanding The Book Of Revelation
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
First Baptist Church, Henderson KY
- Please open your Bibles to Revelation chapter 16.
We are continuing our verse-by-verse study, a series entitled, “Understanding the Book Of Revelation.” I would remind you that you can refresh your study of earlier chapters by visiting our website at www.fbchenderson.org. There you will find both written and audio sermons of the series so that you can either listen to or read the expositions of previous chapters. Now we’re dealing with a future time identified in the Scriptures as “The Tribulation.” Chapters 6-19 describe what’s going to take place on earth during that future 7-year period. What we have in chapter 16 is the last series of judgments upon the earth. You will remember there are three series of sevens: seven seal judgments, seven trumpet judgments, and seven bowl judgments. These judgments increase in frequency and intensity. So here we are now reading about the seven bowl judgments. These are judgments poured out upon the unbelievers during the time of Tribulation.
- Please stand in honor of the reading of the Word of God. We’re going to treat the entire chapter, verse-by-verse, but to get us started this morning we’ll just read the first verse and then I will lead in prayer. You’ll want to keep your Bibles open.
1 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple [and let me just add here that this loud voice must be the voice of God because of the way chapter 15 ends. The last verse of chapter 15, verse 8, tells us that the glory of God filled the temple and no one was able to enter it. Only God is there] saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.”
If you’ve ever been on a long road trip, you’re really grateful for those signs along the highway that tell you where the next food stop or gas station is. Those little blue reminders to the right of the road are especially helpful when they tell you how long it will be before the next exit. I particularly like those ones that warn you, “Last chance to Exit” for 30 miles, or something like that. It’s a reminder to you that if you don’t turn now to get gas or whatever, you may not get another chance.
What we have in chapter 16 is man’s last chance to turn. God in His justice and forbearance has given the unbelievers during the time of Tribulation opportunity after opportunity to turn to Him. This is what repentance pictures: a turning around, a changing of direction. We know that from our FAITH studies, don’t we? We ask, “If you were driving down the road and someone asked you to turn, what would he be asking you to do?” To change direction. Repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of direction. We turn to God.
The pouring out of these seven plagues, these seven bowl judgments, represents man’s final opportunity to “exit now” and turn to God. Incredibly, as horrible as these judgments are, we discover man does not repent. We see this three times in verses 9, 11, and 21. Verse 9, “They blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.” Verse 11, “They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds. Verse 21, “Men blasphemed God.”
So I want to talk to you this morning about what happens when man refuses to repent. What happens during the Tribulation when these unbelievers upon the earth refuse to turn to the Lord Jesus Christ and follow after Him and instead follower after Antichrist and follow him. Because what we learn about judgment upon the unbelievers during the time of Tribulation is instructive concerning judgment upon unbelievers today.
Chapter 16 could be summed up with the imperative phrase, “Follow Jesus or Face Judgment.” Follow Jesus or face judgment. Let’s look at God’s final series of judgments upon the unbelievers of the earth First, God sends:
1) The Judgment of Diseased Sores (1-2)
1 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.”
2 So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.
Let me pause for a moment and ask a question, “How many of you believe the 10 plagues of Exodus actually occurred? I mean, you know, when Moses stood before Pharaoh and said, “Let my people go!” and Pharaoh refused? God sent 10 plagues in Exodus 7-12. The water is turned to blood, the plague of frogs, lice, flies, boils, hail, locusts and darkness. If you believe those things we teach our children literally occurred about 1500 years B.C., can I see your hands? I’m raising mine with you. It’s always important to remember our history. If you believe God sent those 10 plagues in the past, then you’ll have no problem believing God will send these 7 plagues in the future. Many are very similar to what God has done before.
The Bible says that God will send the judgment of diseased sores upon the unbelievers of the earth. I’m not going to spend a lot of time speculating on these sores, as I’m not going to spend a lot of time speculating about any of these seven plagues. We don’t have any more information than what the Bible records so we should be careful not to speculate too much about what each of these plagues exactly looks like.
What I would want you to note here is that this plague, just like all of the plagues here in chapter 16, falls upon the unbelievers. The Bible says that these diseased sores “came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.” God protects his believers from this plague. He protects the Christians. The plague hits only the non-Christians. This is much like how God worked through the 10 plagues of Exodus. The plagues affected only the unbelieving Egyptians. God’s people were protected. Next, God sends:
2) The Judgment of Deadly Sea (3)
3 Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature in the sea died.
Here is a reenactment of the first Egyptian plague. God will turn the sea to blood resulting in the death of “every living creature in the sea.” Every living creature from the tiniest starfish to the biggest shark, every creature will die. So God sends the judgment of diseased sores and the deadly sea. Thirdly, God sends:
3) The Judgment of Defiled Springs (4-7)
4 Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.
5 And I heard the angel of the waters saying: “You are righteous, O Lord, The One who is and who was and who is to be, Because You have judged these things.
6 For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, And You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due.”
7 And I heard another from the altar saying, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.”
God sends the judgment of defiled springs. The second bowl judgment deals with seawater, the third bowl judgment deals with freshwater. Every spring of water is defiled by becoming blood.
The angel (v.5) reminds us that God is true and righteous. He will deal with sin. God is just and so He will punish sin. He vindicates the Christians who have been killed for their faith in Christ by giving their murderous unbelievers a dose of their own medicine. Every act of unrighteousness upon this earth will be vindicated by God. He always honors our doing what is right. Keep doing right. Don’t compromise your convictions. God always honors your doing right. He will avenge your positions. You may not see it happen as quickly as you like, but it will come. God always honors and rewards our doing the right thing. God also sends:
4) The Judgment of Dreadful Scorching (8-9)
8 Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire.
9 And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.
God sends the judgment of dreadful scorching upon the unbelievers. Great heat from the sun burns those who have rejected the Lord Jesus Christ. Talk about global warming! And we would think that this scorching would cause man to fall upon his face and cry out in repentance, but what do we read in verse 9, “And they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.”
Blasphemy in the book of Revelation is more than just using God’s name in vain through a curse word or something like that. Blasphemy in the book of Revelation is slandering the holy name of God through idolatry, rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ as our exclusive Savior. Turning to some other religion or trying to get into heaven some way other than falling before the Lord Jesus Christ is what the Bible means by blasphemy here in the book of Revelation. This is important to us because man blasphemes God today in the same way. Good people blaspheme God by trying to get into heaven any other way than following Jesus Christ, whether it’s by following other religions, or just by trying to get into heaven through good deeds and works. That blasphemes the work of Christ on our behalf. Good deeds are what God expects us to do whether we’re saved or not. He’s not impressed with our good deeds as a means by which to get us into heaven.
Imagine you’re going out to eat later this afternoon and your waitress comes by and she takes your order and she brings you your food and she does everything she’s supposed to do. She does a great job. I mean she’s filling your drinks back up before they’re completely empty and everything. Well, imagine after she’s finally brought out all of your food and has come back later to make sure it’s all cooked correctly, imagine then that she sits down at your table and starts eating with you. You’d be like, “What are you doing?!” She says, “Well, aren’t you impressed with the way I served you? Didn’t I do all the right things?” You’d say something like, “Yeah, but I expected you to do all those things. You were merely my server. You didn’t really think that by merely doing those things you would earn the right to sit down here with me, did you?”
And men and women live every day being kind to their neighbors and making donations to charitable organizations in the hopes that God is seeing everything they’re doing and he’s going to be impressed with their goodness, so impressed that they’ll just waltz right into heaven when they die. We might imagine God saying, “What are you doing? You didn’t think that by merely doing those things, things I expected you to do, that you would earn the right to just skip your way into heaven, did you?”
The problem with our goodness is that we aren’t good enough. Only Christ is good enough. Only Christ lived a life without sin. Only Christ can take our punishment upon Himself. The next judgment God will pour out upon the unbelievers of the Tribulation is:
5) The Judgment of Dark Suffering (10-11)
10 Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain.
11 They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.
Here is a reenactment of the 9th Egyptian plague. The kingdom of the Antichrist will become “full of darkness.” This darkness causes men to suffer harm. It may include more than physical darkness, it may also picture the effects of a reign of a person so morally reprehensible as to cause intense suffering of those who follow after him. So we read here that the unbelievers “gnawed their tongues because of the pain” and “blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores.” How ironic that the pain of their tongues should lead to their blaspheming God rather than praising Him. But such is the depravity of man. It is incredible that the unbelievers during this time know the source of the pain and yet do not repent. They “blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains.”
Somebody says, “Well, I would believe in God if He just appeared to me right now!” If I understand these verses correctly, there is no guarantee that you would follow God even if you knew for certain that He existed. This is why it is so important for us to come to Christ right now, now while He is working in our lives, softening our heard hearts, giving us the gift of His grace. Look to Jesus and be saved before your heart grows cold and calloused and you will not follow Christ even if He appeared before you. Next, God sends:
6) The Judgment of Demonic Spirits (12-16)
12 Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared.
What we read here in verses 12-16 is the preparation for the Battle of Armageddon. First the River Euphrates is dried up so as to make a way for the “kings of the east” to come west toward Jerusalem. There are at least two theories as to why they will make their way to the city. One theory is that the kings of the east are coming because they are not pleased with the leadership of the Antichrist. They’ve had enough of his one-world government, his one-world economy, and his one-world religion. They have been suffering the effects of these plagues and they are coming to see him dethroned. Another theory is that these kings are marching east to Jerusalem because they see the Jews as the source of their troubles. They had heard and seen the “two witnesses” as well as the 144,000 Jews who were making a big deal of following Jesus Christ. And it may be that they’ve had enough of these Jews and they are going to try to annihilate them. In either case, they are coming west and the Bible says later that “the kings of the earth” will join them.
13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
Here again is the unholy trinity. The dragon is Satan, the beast from the sea is the Antichrist, and the beast from the earth is the false prophet. We read that “three unclean spirits,” that is, three demonic spirits, “like frogs” come out of their mouths. Frogs were considered unclean according to Leviticus 11 and I’d consider them pretty “unclean” today, too! And it’s also significant that these demons should be likened to frogs in that we hear frogs croaking a lot. And that’s what these demons will do. They will croak a lot. They will speak in such a way as to deceive people.
14 For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
So here is the irony: These kings from all the earth are marching to Jerusalem either to wage war against the Antichrist or the Jewish people and they are being led by demonic spirits who are leading them, unknowingly, to their own deaths because they are leading them to fight a different war, the war with God in the Battle of Armageddon.
15 “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”
16 And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.
So Jesus says in the midst of this bowl judgment, “Remember that I am coming when you least expect it. Be ready.” F.F. Bruce thinks Jesus’ words here may be an allusion to those who stood guard at the temple. He says: “According to the [Jewish] Mishna, the captain of the temple in Jerusalem went his rounds of the precincts by night, and if a member of the temple police was caught asleep at his post, his clothes were taken off and burned, and he was sent away in disgrace” (Bruce, 657). So be ready for Christ’s coming. I don’t know when he’s coming. None of us can say exactly when He will return. So be ready.
And don’t be deceived by false teachers. Jesus said in Matthew 24:24-25 that “false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance.”
Do not be deceived by false teachers. This month the new head of the Episcopal church, the first woman to hold this position, has already made it clear that she embraces positions that are contrary to the clear teaching of Holy Scripture. She intimated that we are saved by the kind of lives we live here and that Jesus Christ is not the only way into heaven. Friends, these beliefs blaspheme the name of God. God sends:
7) The Judgment of Disastrous Storms (17-21)
17 Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, “It is done!”
18 And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth.
19 Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.
20 Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.
21 And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent [that’s like 75 lbs]. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.
So God sends the storm of His judgment which includes an earthquake and hail. Verse 19 says “the great city was divided into three parts.” That’s probably a reference to Babylon, the reign of the Antichrist. We’ll be reading more about the fall of Babylon in succeeding chapters.
These plagues remind us of our frailty before God. Every day is a gift. He sustains this world. I saw a headline yesterday as I was reading the news. I saw this headline and I told Michele: “Hey, here’s something I could try out for. It read: ‘Wanted: man to land on killer asteroid and gently nudge it from path to Earth.’” No kidding! (source: The Guardian, www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,,329635108-117780,00.html.). NASA is concerned about an asteroid out there on a collision course with Earth. I read about stuff like that and I am reminded how small man is in the whole of God’s creation. We must live for God because God created everything. He alone is worthy of our worship. That’s why God sends these plagues, these judgments.
And once again we read that in spite of these Judgments, man does not repent. See it there in the last verse, verse 21, “Men blasphemed God,” Why? “Because of the plague of hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.” Man focuses only on himself, his pain, his suffering. He blames God for the pain rather than seeing that God is using these plagues to turn his heart. Just like the Egyptian unbelievers under Pharaoh’s reign. They blamed God for suffering that came to them because of their own sin, but did not turn to Him.
The encouraging thing this morning is that we know these judgments are meant to bring us to God and that if we will turn to God He will not refuse us. He loves us. He is there for us. He has sent His Son Jesus Christ to be the One who brings us to God. Jesus Christ is our Great Reconciler, reaching out to us who are lost and bringing us to God. He does that by dying on the cross for our mistakes, for our sins. He takes the punishment and the guilt due to us. He takes it upon Himself. And through the death of Christ God reconciles sinful man to Himself.
Recently I heard Jerry Vines tell about a couple getting ready to divorce and they had an only child. He said: “They loved her dearly. The little child became terminally ill. The father stood at one side of the bed, the mother stood at the other side. The little one, loved by both, took the hand of the man and the woman and, over her dying body, she joined them back together and they were reconciled over the dead body of someone they both loved. God the Father loves His Son Jesus. Jesus wants you to love Him, too.”
- Stand for prayer.
Many of you are driving down the highway of life, just busily going about your business, and there’s a sign that reads, “Turn now” and that sign is a reminder to you that you must follow after Christ Jesus allowing Him into your life, allowing Him to take the wheel and drive for you. Just like on highway, you may not get another chance to turn. Or it may be that you find yourself right now with the car broken down on the side of the road with smoke coming out from under the hood. Right now, Jesus is here and He’s here to save you from that mess, and to fix your situation. He wants to come in and take control. You must allow Him in.
COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER: The text contained in this sermon is solely owned by its author. The reproduction, or distribution of this message, or any portion of it, should include the author’s name. The author intends to provide free resources in order to inspire believers and to assist preachers and teachers in Kingdom work.