LAWTON CHURCH OF GOD, LAWTON OKLAHOMA

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THE THIRD BOWL OF GOD'S WRATH

 

 

Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying: “You are righteous, O Lord, The One who is and who was and who is to be, Because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due.” And I heard another from the altar saying, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.” Revelation 16:4–7

 

 

The first two bowls of wrath were poured out on organized religion. The bowls of wrath are the everlasting gospel that saves people from sin and causes them to be born again of the Holy Spirit and live their lives in obedience to God. The first bowl was poured out on those that worship the beast—what we learned is spiritual Babylon. The second bowl was poured out on the sea, which is churches that pursued fundamentalism and evangelicalism that eventually morphed into either legalism or liberalism. Now we find the everlasting gospel poured out on rivers and springs of water.

What are the rivers and springs of water? Springs rise up from within the earth and produce rivers. Rivers are tributaries to the seas. With these attributes we find there is a strong connection between the earth of the first bowl, the seas of the second bowl and these rivers and springs.

In the passage of time there has been a deterioration in the very concept of the church and the everlasting gospel to be preached by the church. In the present day in which we live we see a general lack of appreciation for the visible aspect of the church. Satan has so darkened the spiritual eyes of most humanity so that the gospel message of salvation from sin has been virtually lost to sight. The visible church as the representative of the gospel has become so identified with the world that it makes the everlasting gospel incomprehensible—people have no idea what it means. The vast majority of what professes to be the Christian church finds it more suitable to its needs to entertain people or try to help them cope with the difficulties of contemporary life through psychology and self-help.

The problem now is: Where can people go for real spiritual help and encouragement when they are moved by the Holy Spirit to seek God? The rivers and springs are the people whose consciences have been stirred by the Holy Spirit. They are aware that their moral condition is wrong and they have a strong sense that they need God to work in their lives to change them. In turn, they are moved by the Holy Spirit to seek a place of worship in hopes they can be shown what to do and to get the spiritual and moral help they need so much from God. Unlike the sea that was the blood of a dead man, the springs and rivers are water with life because so many of these people do find an experience with God through the leading of the Holy Spirit independent from the visible church.

How do the rivers and springs become blood? The answer is given by the angel of the waters in verse 6, “They have shed the blood of saints and prophets.” As you can see from what the angel says, Jesus takes this charge most seriously. The angel says “it is their just due.”

These rivers and springs are what can be called independent Christians; those that feel and believe that they do not have to be part of any congregation to be the church. In all fairness, there are those that truly are “isolated saints,” people that love God and are truly saved but do not have a congregation of people that follow the Lamb of God wherever He goes they can attend and be part of. They are in this condition through no choice of their own and they have no way of changing it. Also, there are those that would be active in a congregation but are not able because of age, physical incapacity or confinement in care facilities. But, even these precious ones can still connect through the marvel of media and participate in the teaching and worship of a congregation. But, for any number of reasons, there are professed Christians that will not associate with and be part of such congregations. They will drop in on services and activities here and there appearing to be spiritual but they will not settle down and become part of a congregation.

Independent Christians shed the blood of the saints and prophets in that they do not acknowledge and respect the body of Christ. The saints are God’s people and are individually and collectively the active members of Christ’s body that represent Him and the everlasting gospel to the world. Refusing to identify and cooperate with the members of Christ’s body in a congregation undermines the influence of the church and robs it of spiritual arms and legs needed to spread the gospel. The prophets are the leaders and teachers in the congregations. Refusing to identify and cooperat with the teaching ministry of the congregation undermines their credibility in the eyes of the world and discredits the message of the everlasting gospel. With these things in mind, it is obvious why the wrath of God is poured out on these independent rivers and springs.

Professed Christians that remain independent and refuse to be part of a congregation that follows the Lamb in time become blood—in other words, they backslide away from God and salvation even though they keep their profession.

Your being part of a congregation that follows the Lamb is important to Jesus. First of all, it cost Him the agony of the cross and the atonement to make the church possible. Second, the early church as we see in the New Testament gave us the example of unity, cooperation, and outreach as Jesus planned for His church. It is the operation of the Holy Spirit in bringing people to salvation from sin to make them functioning members in the body of Christ.

 

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. (1 Corinthians 12:12–14)

 

Most certainly there is the universal invisible aspect of the church, the body of Christ, to which people are added when they are saved from sin. But the Apostle Paul wrote this issue of truth to an individual congregation. When people in Corinth repented and placed their faith in Christ the Holy Spirit baptized or inducted them into the body of Christ in Corinth—that was a congregation of people. All the Christians in Corinth were members of this one congregation. They are called members. The word members does not mean they joined the church or were voted in as legal or social members. The word members means limbs, such as arms and legs. As a saved person in a congregation, you have some kind of function needed by the whole body. It may be small, like a fingernail, or larger like an arm, but it is necessary and critical to the health and work of the whole body.

The Holy Spirit does not baptize people “at large” or without connection to a congregation that follows the Lamb. How can one be a member if he is not attached to a body? It is unnatural. The New Testament does not give us a picture of Christians milling around “at large” and independent of congregations. The New Testament epistles were written to congregations, either individual congregations or congregations in an extended area. Only the letters to Timothy, Philemon and Titus were written to individuals, but these individuals had responsibilities for congregations.

The New Testament also shows us congregations of Christians meeting together for worship, teaching, and fellowship in specific locations in their cities. Romans 16:5, The church met in the home of Pricilla and Aquila. 1 Corinthians 16:19, The church met in the home of Pricilla and Aquila. Colossians 4:15, The church met in the home of Nymphas. Philemon 2, The church met in the home of Philemon.

There are perhaps many reasons why people want to be independent but, by the very nature of the church, independence is not possible or desirable. Independence is a cover for the intention to not be accountable to anyone. It is selfishness and puts the individual above Christ. If you will not be accountable to the body of Christ, you are not being accountable to Christ. And if you are not accountable to Him, you are not one of His. You have become blood.

There is some liberty in salvation as mentioned in 1 Peter 2:16 “as free, not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.” The context tells us that as Christians we are not owned by the secular government. However, that freedom does not remove any obligation to obey the laws of our country. And furthermore, that freedom in no way releases us from any obligation to God; it actually puts us in a relationship with Him where we are required to live out the everlasting gospel. And being part of the body of Christ is taught in that gospel. People who profess to follow Christ but disparage His body deny Christ and have become blood.

Another angel speaks up upon the pouring out of the first three bowls of God’s wrath: And I heard another from the altar saying, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments (Verse 7). The first three bowls of wrath are poured out on false versions of the church. The first fell on those with the mark of the beast; those that rely on the church membership or affiliation for salvation without actually receiving the benefits of the atonement in Christ. The second fell on the sea; those that stay in churches that leave the everlasting gospel morphing into legalism or liberalism. And the third on individuals that are independent and will not submit to the leadership of Christ and be part of His body.

Christ came giving us the everlasting gospel that produces the church He builds. There is no salvation in anything else and we are accountable for our obedience or disobedience to His gospel.