Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.” ~REVELATION 16:1
We’ve had the seven seals and seven trumpets, and now the seven libation bowls of wrath are poured out on earth. Here’s a revelation from my studies in Revelation of late: The “recapitulation” view of how Revelation was written says that the seals, trumpets, and bowls are not necessarily different, successive outpourings, but rather a restating of judgments to give different emphases or perspectives. As we go from the seals to the bowls, we see that the judgments grow in scale and potency as John is given new views of them. It’s a little like watching the same event from three different camera angles.
What’s the point?
Well, for us today, we can relax that the message is not about strictly literal, timed out tribulations begging to be predicted with precision, but rather the message is to state very vividly and emphatically that God will decisively and dramatically eradicate evil. God will erase what goes against His kingdom, against Life, in God’s way, in God’s timing. This will happen is the message and the hope for us all.
We must guard against falling into endless and fruitless speculation about how exactly everything is going to go down at the expense of missing Revelation’s potent message and challenge to us. You may remember from our chapter 11 reflection that we said the message and challenge is the call to bear witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, to bear witness to the truth in your own personal context, even if that environment is hostile to that witness.
I also came across this very nice summary in the Dictionary Of The Later New Testament & Its Developments: “John therefore wrote at the behest of the risen Lord to strengthen the faith and courage of believers, to nerve them for battle with antichristian forces in the world and to help them to bear witness to the one true Lord and Savior.”
Apocalyptic language is used to inspire people to act NOW, and oh does Revelation paint inspiring pictures for us! Not only the visuals, but the many numbers used are also dripping with meaning. We have these “three times seven” judgments with the seals, trumpets, and bowls. “Seven is the number of perfection, implying something done according to divine design, the number of completion. Three implies the greatest or ultimate expression of something. So seven times three indicates triple perfection! These judgments describe the complete, perfect erasure of evil.” (from Revelation For The rest Of Us by Scot McKnight with Cody Matchett)
I can see some evidence of this recapitulation theory as each of the seals, trumpets, and bowls lead us right up to the eradication of evil and the establishment of new Jerusalem. In other words, they each take us up to the end. There is indeed a repetitive pattern. Again from McKnight and Matchett: “They are not chronological judgments, where each one follows the other, but are three overlapping revelations of the eradication and elimination of evil from God’s world…We are to see the three times seven judgments as as an indication that God is making the world right by eliminating the arrogant, anti-God, exploitative, dominating ways of Babylon.”
Whatever is not of God, and therefore not fit for the new heavens and new earth, will have to be removed so that the people of God may dwell with Him in heavenly peace.
Human trafficking has no place or use whatsoever in the Kingdom of God, therefore it will be eliminated. Racism of any flavor makes absolutely no sense in the Kingdom, so it is not only not tolerated, but it is destroyed. These, along with murder, theft, greed, selfish ambition, animal cruelty, and the like are as out of place in God’s Kingdom as having an American Ninja Warrior obstacle course set up in the middle of an assisted living facility. It’s of no use to the people who belong there, so it must be torn down to make room for what can actually be used and sincerely enjoyed.
After writing this, I found this very helpful article on the recapitulation thing. And then I found this article posted just last month. Please know that I am in no way saying that this is the way you must interpret Revelation. I’m just seeking to understand it better with the resources before me, none more valuable than the Holy Spirit.