Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Proof For Our Approach To Understanding Revelation, Part 3

In my last two blog posts I have sought to give proof from throughout the book of Revelation for why I understand the book the way I do. In this post I provide proof that the bowls/plagues of chapters 15-16 recapitulate the same period and material covered in the trumpets (8:6-11:19), with some progression.

To review, the approach we are taking to Revelation, based on internal evidence in the book, is that chapters 6-20 provide several views of this current age, from the first coming of Christ to his second coming--each one recapitulating and making some additional progress in explaining what is happening now, why it is happening, how God takes care of his people during this time, and why we should persevere on mission as worshipful joyful followers of Christ, even in the face of great hostility.[1]

Though many commentators believe the trumpets and bowls deal with different judgments due to the argument that “the first four trumpets appear to affect only nature, whereas the first four bowls affect wicked people,[2] and…[due to the fact that] the first six trumpets are said to be partial in their effect…[and] the bowls seem to have universal effect,” the reality is that “the similarities overshadow the differences.”
Both trumpets and bos present each of the plagues in the same order: plagues striking the earth, the sea, the rivers, the sun, the realm of the wicked with darkness, the Euphrates (together with influencing the wicked by demons), and the world with the final judgment (with the same imagery of lightning, sounds, thunders, and earthquake, and hail). The overwhelming likeness of the trumpets and bowls is a result of both being modeled on the Exodus plagues. Each woe in each sevenfold series (except for the sixth trumpet) is an allusion to an Exodus plague.

How, then, do we explain more fully the relation between these two sections of Revelation? We can make the following points:

1. “The trumpets state in a highly figurative manner [what] is stated more directly in the bowls.”

2. “The difference in the relative extend of their effect may merely suggest that the trumpets are part of a larger process of judgment which, according to the bowls, strikes the entire world at the same time.”

3. “The bowls go back in time and explain in greater detail the woes throughout the age which culminate in the final judgment.”[3] (emphasis added)

4. “The purpose of this recapitulation is to explain further the extent and application of God’s latter-day exodus judgments, which began to be explained with the trumpets. The trumpet  visions may be compared to incomplete snapshots and the bowls to fuller photographs. The bowls reveal more clearly that the trumpets are predominately plagues directed against unbelieving humanity.”

5. “Like the trumpets, the bowls are God’s further answer to the saints’ plea in 6:9-11 that their persecutors be judged. Such a link is apparent in 16:5-7 by the reference to the altar and to God as ‘holy” and His judgments as ‘true.’”

One final literary characteristic of the bowl judgments needs to be highlighted because of its impact upon the rest of the book of Revelation (From Beale, Campbell):

The former chapters envision the rise of the dragon (ch. 12), followed by that of the beast (13:1-10) and the false prophet (or second beast, 13:11-18), and finally Babylon’s success in deceiving the nations is noted (14:8). Ch. 16 begins a segment which reverses this order in explaining the demise of these evil protagonists: Babylon (alluded to briefly in 14:8, but expanded on in 16:7-21 and chs. 17-18), followed by the beast and the false prophet (19:17-20), and finally by the dragon himself (20:10). This reversal points further to the lack of concern for chronological sequence in the book. The elimination of the four foes in fact occurs simultaneously, as is evident from the same wording and same OT allusions being utilized in the descriptions of their defeat (note the references to their being “gathered together for war” in 16:14; 19:19; 20:8).

On conclusion, a side-by-side comparison of the trumpets with the bowls displays their recapitulating nature.

 The Actual Comparison Of The Parallel Trumpets And Bowls (With Corresponding Exodus Plagues

Text Box: Bowls:
1. A bowl is poured on earth, resulting in malignant sores on those with beast mark. (6th Exodus Plague)
2. A bow is poured on seas. This becomes blood, killing all living things in them. (1st Exodus Plague)
3. A bowl is poured on rivers and fountains, and they become blood. (First Exodus Plague)

4. A bowl is poured on the sun, which scorches men with fire. (7th Exodus Plague)

5. A bowl is poured on the throne of the beast. His kingdom is darkened and men are in anguish. (9th Exodus Plague)

6. A bowl is poured on the Euphrates, which dries up for kings from the east. Demonic frogs deceive kings of the world to assemble for battle at Armageddon. (2nd Exodus Plague)
7. A bowl is poured into the air, and a loud voice form God’s throne announces, “It is done.” Lightning, thunder, and an unprecedented earthquake occur, and terrible hail falls. (7th Exodus Plague + Sinai vision of God’s glory description)
Text Box: Trumpets:
1. Hail, fire, and blood fall on earth, 1/3 is burned up. (7th Exodus Plague.

2. Blazing mountains fall in sea. 1/3 of sea creatures die and 1/3 of sea is blood. (1st Exodus Plague)
3. A blazing star (Wormwood) falls on 1/3 of rivers and fountains, and their waters are poisoned and many die. (1st Exodus Plague)
4. 1/3 of sun, moon, and stars are struck. Darness results for 1/3 of a night and day. (9th Exodus Plague)
5. Shaft of pit is opened. Sun and air are darkened with smoke from which locusts emerge to torment men without God’s seal. (8th and 9th Exodus Plagues)
6. Four angels bound at the Euphrates are released, with their 200 million cavalry. A third of men are killed by them. 

7. Loud voices in heaven announce the coming of the kingdom of God the Father and of Christ. Lightning, thunder, earthquake, and hail occur. (7th Exodus Plague + Sinai vision of God’s glory description)

Joyfully Studying Revelation with you,



[1] Taken from G. K. Beale, with David H. Campbell, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015), 326-329. Note that the seven trumpets are found in 8:1-10:7, and the bowls in 15:1-16:21.

[2] Beale, Campbell, 326, highlight the reality that, “the second and third trumpets are said explicitly to affect humanity (8:9-11)….”

[3] Beale, Campbell, 327-28, add: “The phrase ‘seven plagues, which are the last’ in 15:1 was seen to refer, not to trials occurring after the seals and trumpets at the very end of history, but to the bowls coming last after the seals and trumpets in the sequence of formal sevenfold visions seen by the seer. They are ‘last’ [also] in that they complete the thought revealed in the preceding woe visions and portray the wrath of God in a more intense manner than in the previous visions (see further on 15:10. This means that the bowl judgments do not come chronologically after the series of judgments in chs. 6-14. The bowls go back in time and explain in greater detail the woes throughout the age and culminating in the final judgment.”

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