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what provokes Armageddon? revelation 15-16

King Jesus’s plan is to intensify the spiritual conflict between God’s people and the forces of evil until he returns to usher in the eternal Age to Come. We must remember that Revelation is an apocalyptic prophecy; John arranges his material in numbered sets. When these sets are put together, the events they describe parallel and intensify as God exonerates the righteous and brings an end to history.

In Revelation 15:1, seven angels with seven plagues are described as “the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.” The scene is focused on “the sea of glass mingled with fire” (15:2). Throughout the Bible, the “sea” is frequently used in a poetic way to describe the unruly “space” where the dark powers dwell (e.g., Job 38:6-11; Ps 24:1-2; 74:10, 13; Hab 3:8-15). In Revelation 15, it’s finally time to judge this evil “space,” which fills the halls of heaven with celebration just like Israel did when Pharaoh’s chariots were overthrown in the sea (Ex 15).

“With harps of God in their hands … they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed’” (Rev 15:3-6). Yes, God’s righteous acts are revealed in the seven bowls. What is poured out is the answer to the saints’ prayers for justice (cf. Rev 5:8; 8:3-5).

As the seven angels step forward, the heavenly “sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished” (15:7-8). Why does heaven’s door temporarily close? The bowls mark the end of any opportunity to be saved.

The seven bowls model the exodus plagues—except on a global scale. When the first angel pours out his bowl, “harmful and painful sores” target the beast-worshippers (16:1-2). When the second angel pours out “his bowl into the sea, it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea” (16:3). When the third angel pours out “his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, they became blood” (16:4). The angel explains the reason why all this is happening: “For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets … It is what they deserve … Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!” (16:5-7).

When the fourth angel pours out “his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with … fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God … They did not repent and give him glory” because they do not want to be saved (16:8-9). When the fifth angel pours out “his bowl on the throne of the beast, its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds” (16:10-11). It’s “lights out” for the beast’s administration. God is going to pull the plug on Satan’s evil power.

While the world is imploding, the sixth angel incites “the kings from the east” and “three unclean spirits like frogs” to rally all the world rulers to fight back against “God the Almighty … at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon”—which means “the mountain of Megiddo” (16:12-16). There is a place in Israel called, Megiddo, but it is a small plain, not a mountain! Armageddon is just a pitiful symbol of the world’s last stand against King Jesus and his Church.

The only thing left to do for the seventh angel is to throw his bowl into the air and say, “It is done!” (16:17-21). It’s game over.

“Blessed is the one who stays awake,” fully clothed in Christ, and unashamed of the gospel (16:15).