Robert Jeffress - The Road To Armageddon
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. With all of the chaos and unrest in the world today, it certainly feels like we're living at the end times. And while Christ's return certainly is getting nearer with every passing day, the trials facing our world right now are nothing compared to what will take place during the Great Tribulation. Today, we're going to see the final judgments that the earth will endure before the final great world conflict. My message is titled, "The Road to Armageddon," on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Last Sunday night, because of spring break, we didn't have our regular Sunday night activities. So I was home and decided to watch an old movie. By old, it was about 10 years old. And given what is happening in our country right now with the coronavirus, I thought it was an appropriate movie to watch. Perhaps you've seen it, it's called "Contagion". All-star cast, came out in 2011, and it was eerie how well it foreshadowed what is happening in our country. The plot line of the movie is, a mysterious animal-borne virus hits China, begins in China, and spreads throughout the world at a pandemic rate. And the CDC races to discover a cure for this virus.
Now, if you get freaked out easily, don't watch the movie. I know some of you are going to do it, just because I said that, but it was very realistic. But the part of the movie that caught my attention most was the depiction of the social unrest because of this unknown virus. People breaking into other people's homes, and stealing food. Customers at a pharmacy, thinking there was a cure, they overrun the pharmacy counter. Tremendous social unrest. And as I watched that, it reminded me of stories I used to hear my grandparents tell me when I was a little boy about what it was like in world war two when our country was facing an existential threat, the whole world was, the rise of Adolf Hitler. But in spite of that threat, the American people came together. They bonded together. They accepted rationing. They put the interest of others above themselves.
I compare that to what I was seeing in the movie Sunday night, and what I'm seeing on television right now. People having fist fights in Costco over toilet paper. And it makes you wonder, do we have the same American resolve, strength of character that our forefathers had, that got them through world war two? I think there's a serious reason to question that. And then fast forward to the final seven years of earth's history, the Great Tribulation, how is the world going to respond to epidemics even more severe than what we're seeing right now? And then imagine what that response is going to be like when all the Christians have been removed already. How will people react? It's going to be an unprecedented time of anarchy and chaos in the world. And we get a good picture of that in the passage we're going to look at today.
If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to Revelation 16, as we continue our study in this last book of the Bible, with a message titled, "The road to Armageddon". Literally today, we're going to see the road that leads to the final great world conflict, Armageddon. Now for the many of you who have just joined us today, we are in a year long study of the last book of the Bible, the Revelation, that describes the details that will lead up to the visible literal return of Jesus Christ to set up his kingdom on the earth. And ladies and gentlemen, if you're watching today, you need to know that our hope is, that Christ is coming back again. This world that we're living in right now is not the world that God originally created or intended. Man's rebellion against God brought the disorder we see in the universe today, but this world will not be that way forever. One day, Jesus Christ is coming back to reclaim those people who belong to him and to recreate this world in a world that is free of sin and sickness and disease and every malady we face today. That's the theme of the book of the Revelation.
Now in chapter 6 through 19, the author describes that final seven year period of time, the Great Tribulation, that will result in the Battle of Armageddon and the return of Jesus Christ. And you remember that God pours out his judgment on the earth during these last seven years in a series of three judgments. The seal judgments, Revelation 6. The trumpet judgments, Revelation 8 through 9. And then for several chapters, there's an interlude. And when we come to chapter 16, the final judgments, God's final judgments on the earth. We call those, and John calls them, the bowl judgments. I want you to notice, first of all, the order to pour out the bowl judgments in verse 1 of chapter 16: then I heard a loud voice from the temple in heaven saying to the seven angels, "Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God".
There are people who say, oh I don't believe in a God of wrath. This text here says that God is angry. The anger, the fierce anger of God is literally what it means. I don't believe in a God of wrath, I believe in a God of love. Well, if that's what you believe in, you believe in a God of your own imagination, not the God of the Bible. Make no mistake about it. God is love. He loves you and me so much, he sent his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty of our sin. But God is also a God of justice. He cannot allow sin to go unpunished, the Bible says. And this pouring out of his judgment is a display of God's justice, his holiness.
Now, before we look at each of these seven bowls, that word literally means saucer, a pan, a shallow ban, before we look at each of these seven, let me make three general observations about these final judgments. First of all, the bowl judgments follow each other in rapid succession. Now in your English text, it will say in chapter 16, and the first angel, and the second angel, and the third angel, and so forth. But the word angel is not in the original text. Instead, it's simply- that was inserted by a translator somewhere later on. In the Greek text, it simply says, the first, the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth. The idea is rapidity here of judgments. Not like the trumpet judgments that spanned out over months of time. Secondly, the bowl judgments are similar to the trumpet judgments.
As we go through these you're going to, to quote Yogi Berra, "I feel like you're in deja vu all over again". These sound familiar to us, it's because they are similar to the ones that were named in chapters 8 and 9, the trumpet judgments, with one major difference. And that's observation number three. The bowl judgments are unique in their severity. As we may remember, the trumpet judgments, many times it said, and a third of the earth was affected. A third of the rivers were destroyed. A third of the sea, marine life in the sea, was destroyed. But these judgments are over the whole earth. Now, having given that overview, let's look at the execution of those bowls as they're actually poured out. One thing you'll note over and over again, these judgments are against non-Christians on the earth. Those who took the mark of the beast. They chose not to follow Christ. They took the mark of the beast to be able to buy and sell food and to provide for their families. But these are specifically targeted. You'll find the text saying, to those who took the mark of the beast.
Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, well, wait a minute, are you saying there are going to be Christians who are living during the tribulation? Oh yes, there are. Well, what about the rapture? Remember at the rapture, which could happen, by the way, in the middle of this service, it looks like it's already taken place. You know, the rapture could happen at any time. It's when all Christians will be removed from the earth and then comes the Great Tribulation. But remember, at the beginning of the tribulation, 144.000 Jewish evangelists, Revelation 7 says, are going to be sealed and saved as God's missionaries. They're going to be sent throughout the world to preach the Gospel.
And there will be people who will become Christians during the tribulation time. They will pay a steep price to do so, many of them will be martyred to do so. But there will be people who become Christians during the tribulation. They will be spared these judgments. God will make sure they do not experience his wrath. The reason is, when you trust in Christ, as your Savior, you forever are freed from having to experience God's punishment. Romans 8:1 one says, there is now no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus. You are exempt from God's judgments. You're not exempt from problems, but you are exempt from God's judgment. And so these bowl judgments are specifically against unbelievers.
Now let's look at them. The first bowl judgment was skin boils. Look at verse 2. "So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth and it became a loathsome and malignant sore on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image". Many commentators note that that word boil is the Greek word, helkos. It is a word, it's a Greek word, that was used in the septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, to describe the boils that God placed on the Egyptians. It's the same word that is used to describe the boils that job experienced. Remember when he went through that test of his faith and God allowed Satan permission to strike job. Job had boils. This is kind of hard to take before lunch, but let me describe what those boils actually were.
One writer says the skin, the sores, oozed with pus. They turned darker in color. They attract worms before becoming crusty and hard. Remember job, he had those oozing wounds and they became hard and he was itching, and he had to take probably a broken piece of pottery in order to scrape himself to get temporary relief. That's the kind of boils that will come in these last times. Now, we don't know in what form they come. Perhaps it is some type of pandemic skin disease, perhaps, because of all of the warfare taking place, this is the result of chemical warfare. But whatever the reason is, these are horrendous afflictions that people will endure. Secondly, the second bowl, the destruction of sea life.
Now again, remember the second trumpet judgment killed a third of the sea. But notice in verse 3, the second angel poured out his bowl into the sea and it became blood, like that of a dead man. And every living thing in the sea died. Just imagine what it would do to our ecosystem, to have every fish, every mammal, the coral reefs, everything destroyed. Just imagine having those billions of fish on the surface of the water under the hot scorching sun, just the stench that would come up from the oceans. That's what John saw here. When every living thing in the sea had died. The third bowl was the pollution of fresh water. This was on the sea, the second bowl. This is on fresh water.
Remember again, the third trumpet judgment destroyed a third of the fresh water supplies, the rivers and streams. But this is much more severe. Again, we find it in verses 4 to 7. "Then the third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood". Can you imagine what it would be like to have no fresh water available? What it would do our world? You know, we're told that man can live 30 or 40 days without food, but you can only go a couple of days, three days without water. This is one reason we know at this point, we are very close to the return of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus himself said, were the days of the tribulation not cut short, nobody would have survived. All of the fresh water supply is going to be destroyed.
Verse 5 John says, "And I heard the angel of the waters". What in world is that? Well, apparently, you know, God has angels for everything. There's an angel in charge of the water supply in the world. He's the minister of water for the world, he's over the river supplies and the seas of the world. And this minister of water, the angel, says, "Righteous are you God, who are and who were, o holy one, because you judged these things, for they," that is the unbelievers, "Poured out the blood of saints and profits. And you in turn have given them blood to drink. They deserve it". They deserve it. That's what the angel was saying, God, you're right to do that. They got what they deserved. They spilled the blood of your people. They in turn are being forced to drink blood.
You know, those of you who have been to law school may remember the phrase, lex talionis. It's a Latin phrase. It means retribution, the law of retribution. There has to be punishment suitable to fit the crime. It's the principle in the Old Testament, an eye for an eye, and a truth for a truth: a tooth for a tooth, that is justice, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. And what the angel is saying is, God, you have given these people exactly what they deserve. God has an ability to do that. The late pastor Warren Wiersbe said it this way, "Pharaoh tried to drown the Jewish boy babies, but it was his own army that eventually drowned in the Red Sea. Haman, the Old Testament, planned to hang Mordecai on the gallows and to exterminate the Jews. But he himself was hanged on the gallows, and his family was exterminated. King Saul refused to obey God and Slayed the Malachites. So in turn, he was slain by an Malachite. That's the principle here, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth".
I imagine some of you are thinking, well, wait a minute, wait a minute. Didn't Jesus say, you know, that's what Moses said, but Jesus says, love your enemies, turn the other cheek. Why can't God just let it go, get over it. Why does God get to apply the law, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and I don't get to do that? Because God alone is holy, as we heard today. Only God is able to perfectly design a punishment that perfectly fits the crime. You and I aren't able to do that. Only God can do that. And so the angel says you are righteous to do that very thing. And then notice also what he says in verse 7, "And I heard the altar saying, 'yes, o Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are your judgments'". What is does he mean he heard the altar saying? Remember, Revelation talks about those under the altar in heaven? They are the tribulation saints. They are the ones whose blood was spilled by the worshipers of the anti-Christ. And when they see these people being made to drink blood, being punished for what they had done to the martyrs, the martyrs cry out, I don't know how else to translate it, go God! You go, God! Give them what they deserve. They deserve that punishment.
Now, again we say, well wait a minute. Shouldn't they forgive those who had killed them instead of desiring God's punishment against them? No, they're doing exactly what's right. You see, one of the most basic misconceptions people have about forgiveness is this. They think that when you forgive somebody, you just automatically give up your desire to see them treated justly. No, when you forgive somebody who has wronged you, forgiveness is giving up your right to vengeance. Vengeance is hurting somebody else for hurting me. When you forgive somebody, you give up your right to vengeance, but you don't give up your desire for justice. Justice is the punishment God or other people may require from those who wrong you.
If you're a parent, your child is murdered, yes, you're to forgive that murderer. You give up your right to hurt them for hurting you, but you don't give up your right to justice. You want the law enforcement officials, as God's instruments, to execute justice, on those who have wronged you and your children. When you forgive somebody, you say, God, I'm not going to be the one to hurt them. I'm going to let you settle the score instead. You know, we have made forgiveness so hard for people because we're falsely telling them that if they forgive somebody, they'll give up their right for justice. No, you can't give up your desire for justice. You are made in the image of God. God is a God of justice. And he made us to want justice as well. And that's why these tribulation saints are rejoicing when God executes his judgment.
Now look at the fourth bowl, will you? The fourth trumpet judgment, you remember, decreased sunlight for eight hours a day. This bowl judgment is going to increase the intensity of the sun. Look at verses 8 and 9, "The fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun, and it was given to it to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with fierce heat". We don't know how this intensity occurred in the sun's rays upon the earth. Does God alter the tilt of the earth's axis?