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THE SECOND BOWL OF GOD’S WRATH

 

 

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. Revelation 16:3

 

 

This second bowl of God’s wrath is poured out on the sea. The earth that received the first bowl is people with religious professions but without a real possession of God’s gift of salvation. These are church members and self-identified professors of Christianity that have not been born again and filled with the Holy Spirit. As such, these are people that tend to migrate to spiritual Babylon.

The sea in this instance is similar. Under the message of the 6th Seal we learned that the sea represents an element of mankind that is not among the redeemed; specifically, it is the church world without salvation—Christianity in name only. But, within that sea, or among the nominal church, there were a significant number of people that did have a real relationship with God and are called in Revelation chapter 7 the saints of our God, whom the angels of the 6th Seal sealed out from those churches to serve God and follow the Lamb.

The earth affected by the first bowl of wrath was the domain of the beast and those that worship its image, the Babylon exposed by the everlasting gospel under the ministry of the Lamb on Mount Zion. The sea is made up of church systems that are more fundamental and evangelical than most of the Babylon of the earth. The earth churches have no real avenue of salvation in themselves. If people in those churches find salvation it is because of the independent working of God in their lives and their personal honesty. The sea churches have enough of the gospel so that earnest seekers can respond and enter into a right relationship with God with some degree of understanding. But, we are told that when the bowl of wrath is poured out every living creature died.

The bowls of wrath are the impact of the everlasting gospel on people that reject it. It appears that the pouring out of the bowls of wrath affects conditions near the time of Christ’s Second Coming rather than through the other eras of church history.

Historically we have seen the early church in its pristine glory; the church’s decent to apostasy through its battle against heresy; a state of total apostasy under various forms of Catholicism; the first ascent out of that apostasy during the Protestant Reformation; and the advent of the Primitive Church Movement and its attempt to reflect the church as built by Jesus Christ.

From the dawn of the nineteenth century to the present time there have been no like events in the Christian Church but there have been significant stirrings within the various elements of the established church. Around the time the Holiness Movement began, another movement came into being within the councils of mainline Protestant churches designed at undermining the authority of God’s word and the essential truths of the atonement in Christ.

At the turn of the 20th Century the Fundamentalist Movement came into being with the purpose of defending the Bible against the humanistic liberalism that it saw undermining the Christian faith.

Higher criticism called into question the authenticity and validity of the Scriptures. In so doing, biblical history, the gospels and the epistles of the New Testament were called into question attempting to overthrow much of the biblical foundation of the Christian faith. Even the person of Christ, the resurrection, the meaning of Christian faith and salvation, and the very nature and role of the church were diminished under higher criticism. This higher criticism evolved into the present Modernism and humanism that pervades so much of established traditional churches.

The response of the Fundamentalist Movement was published in a set of books titled The Fundamentals, edited by R. A. Torrey. The work contains 45 articles defending the Scriptures and the truths of Christianity obtained through them. As well-intentioned, and probably necessary, as this Movement was, it quickly morphed into a war-like spirit locked in an intellectual battle with the higher criticism movement. The Fundamentalist Movement fell into the trap that ensnared the church of Pergamos in Revelation chapter 2. That church had a desperate battle with what is called “Satan’s throne” set up in their midst. To the Fundamentalists, higher criticism was a Satan’s throne that had to be taken down in the modern church. The problem with Pergamos and the Fundamentalists is that they eventually came to love the battle more than they loved Christ.

Fundamentalism became obsessed with doctrine to the degree it became rigid and intolerant. Wikipedia defines fundamentalism:

 

 . . . in religion–that is characterized by a markedly strict literalism as it is applied to certain specific scriptures, dogmas, or ideologies, and a strong sense of the importance of maintaining ingroup and outgroup distinctions, leading to an emphasis on purity and the desire to return to a previous ideal from which advocates believe members have strayed. Rejection of diversity of opinion as applied to these established “fundamentals” and their accepted interpretation within the group often results from this tendency.[1]

 

Pergamos fought forcefully against the doctrines of Balaam and the Nicolaitans with great success but were called to repentance by Christ because they lost the true spirit of the gospel, which is evidenced in the love of God for mankind. Under Fundamentalism, the church became starved for that love of God; the spiritual effect was like blood poured into the sea that began to strangle the living creatures. In its thinking, to be a Christian one had to hold to certain doctrines in certain ways. The love of God was only secondary and without the love of God it became too easy to just profess Christianity without actually possessing it.

Out of the stranglehold of Fundamentalism emerged another movement called Evangelicalism. Wikipedia says that evangelicalism . . .

 

. . . is a worldwide, trans-denominational movement within Protestant Christianity which maintains the belief that the essence of the Gospel consists of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ’s atonement.[2]

 

The central tenets of Evangelicalism are: (1) conversion as a born again experience; (2) the authority of the Bible as God’s revelation to mankind; and (3) spreading the gospel. Evangelicalism was not new to the nineteenth or twentieth centuries as it began with the Protestant Reformation. This view of the Christian faith became the object of derision with the Higher Criticism movement.

The Fundamentalist Movement attempted to restore and safeguard evangelicalism in the church, but it became distracted in the battle. Many perceptive Christian leaders realized that what they believed to be true Christianity had become hardened and combative and needed a kinder face. Crusades, such as with Billy Graham, and lower denominations and independent bodies, such as the Baptist and independent Bible groups, became less demanding in the realm of theology and practice attempting to make Christianity more palatable and attractive to the masses. Initially this was effective in the churches that followed the evangelical model. Emphasizing conversion over doctrine made sense to people reached through crusades and evangelistic work of the churches. A great deal of teaching emphasized practical application of gospel principles to everyday life. But over time, weak theology and the new compassion of these churches began to undermine the real redemptive work of the church.

As culture changed in Christian countries, migrating more to humanism and materialism, evangelical churches tethered with the culture began a gradual and slower decent with the surrounding culture. The Apostle Paul foresaw such a thing in 1 Timothy chapter 3, “In the last days perilous time will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud . . .” etc. Churches that once taught the gospel of Christ changed to a gospel of psychology and self-improvement. In turn, churches that emphasized conversion and holy living became viewed as out-of-touch with reality and incapable of ministering to the contemporary needs of people.

With the pouring out of the second bowl of wrath, every living thing in the sea died. The sea, the vast number churches other than the church built by Jesus Christ, became blood as of a dead man. The gradual destruction of the gospel through legalism and liberalism replaced the everlasting gospel in much of the church world so that spiritual life was difficult, if not possible, for those truly seeking God.

Without the everlasting gospel, multitudes in that spiritual environment died spiritually or were unable to come to a real experience of salvation from sin. Instead of ministering life, much of what calls itself the church unwittingly ministers spiritual death. Unless God’s people in that environment flee for their spiritual lives, they will die.

The judgment of the second bowl of wrath is that every living creature in the sea dies. It is not that God strikes people dead or pronounces judgment on them; they just cannot survive in a sea of spiritual blood. There is a sense in which the church as built by Jesus is both Fundamental and Evangelical, but it is not caught in the social quagmire that holds those movements in the sea and hides them from the love of God. The only blood they need is the blood of Christ that cleanses from all sin.



[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamentalism.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evangelicalism.