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THE FIFTH BOWL OF GOD'S WRATH

 

 

Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds. Revelation 16:10–11

 

 

The fifth bowl of God’s wrath is poured out on the throne of the beast. Your King James Version calls this the seat of the beast—the Greek word translated throne or seat is thronos, meaning a throne from which the power of a king emanates. The term throne is the key to understanding this outpouring of God’s wrath under this fifth bowl. Let’s take a few minutes for a little review to establish the significance of a throne.

The word throne appears first in Revelation 4:2 where John is admitted into the spiritual heaven of the Revelation, which we understand to be the kingdom of God. Revelation 4:2 “Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.” Of first importance, it requires a work of the Holy Spirit to be able to see this throne. Next, it is the seat of authority in the kingdom of God. Last, the only one authorized to sit on this throne as the king of the kingdom of God is the glorified Christ. In chapter five we learned that the scroll with the seven seals is issued from this throne showing us that only the glorified Christ has the authority and ability to open those seals to reveal the messages of the seals to us.

Again in Revelation 6:16 under the opening of the sixth seal we see the throne again. The professing Christian world is shown the Lamb sitting on this throne. By this time in the history of the church the visible Christian church was apostate and divided into multiple denominations, churches, and groups. Under this sixth seal, we are told the wrath of the Lamb is finally come upon apostate Christianity. The sixth seal continues in chapter 7 where we the servants of our God, having been called out and sealed, are standing in front of this throne and giving the glorified Christ His rightful place and authority in the kingdom.

Chapter 8 verse 3 reveals the seventh seal and the silence that followed the events of the sixth seal. Here we see the prayers of the saints being offered on the golden altar that was before the throne. And, in Revelation chapter 12 we see a vision of the woman clothed with the sun giving birth to a male child that is caught up to God and His throne. This is a picture of the church in the earliest days of Christianity. It was pure and undefiled by the ideas and prejudices of men, and Christ was truly the head of His church. A similar picture is presented in the 14th chapter of Revelation where the 144,000 are rejoicing around the throne.

The beast mentioned connected with the fifth vial of God’s wrath first appears in the 13th chapter of Revelation. This beast received power and authority from the dragon of chapter 12, which we have identified as Christ-less religion. We identified this beast as the apostate church that evolved into Catholicism in its various forms. This beast had two heads, of which one was wounded. This pictures the division of Catholicism in 1054 A.D. with the Pope having his church in Rome and the Orthodox Church having its head at Constantinople. It is popular among commentators to pick on the Church of Rome as an object of God’s wrath, but there are several different versions of Catholicism in the world today that originated around the same time in history.

Roman Catholicism continued as the stronger of these churches. Each church had some kind of hierarchy such as a Pope, Metropolitans, Bishops and supporting clergy. The deadly wound that was healed evidenced the strength and power of the pope, who eventually controlled not only the church, but most of Europe during what is called the Dark Ages. The religious system of these churches diverts faith and worship from God to the religious hierarchy, rituals, images, and such. This bowl of wrath calls these things blaspheme.

From our study of chapter 13, we also know that the beast of the earth follows the first beast. We are told this beast also speaks like a dragon—that is, it speaks like Christ-less religion. It also exercises all the authority of the first beast. In other words, this beast organized itself into competing churches with organizations, structures and practices that replaced the authority and true worship of Christ. We learned that this beast represents the Protestant Reformation. The worst thing this beast brought into being is the mark of the beast, which we learned is formal church membership.

As the Reformation diversified across Europe, national churches emerged, each having its own form of government and its own creed that permanently separated it from other churches and consequently separating Christians from each other by denomination. This arbitrary separation was contrary to Christ’s intention when He declared that He would build His church in which all Christians are members.

This fifth bowl of wrath coming out of the everlasting gospel is poured out specifically on the throne of the beast. The everlasting gospel condemns division in the church and the judgment of God is poured out directly on the systems that cause and rule division. This is not Christ’s authority, it is man’s authority exercised in the place of Christ. This is also blasphemy.

The word church appears only three times in the gospels. The first appearance is Matthew 16:18 where Jesus declares that He will build His church on the rock, by which He means Himself—He is the foundation as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:11, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” In Ephesians 1:22–23 the church Jesus builds is called His body. “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” And it is plain from this scripture that Christ is the only head of His church; that authority is given to no man and He does not share His authority with any man.

But with Christ as the head of the church, He also recognizes a need for organization within the body, His church. 1 Corinthians 12:27–28, “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.” Paul speaks of this to the Ephesian church in Ephesians 4:11, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” Notice that all these things are gifts of ministry given to the church for one purpose which Paul says is to come to the unity of the faith in verse 13.

Jesus recognized that in any cooperative association of people there must be some form of leadership otherwise the endeavor ends in chaos. There is a divine gift of administration (governments, King James Version). The visible church of the New Testament existed in local congregations; there was no such thing as a universal human government or leadership over the church at large. Biblically, administration in the church can only be on the local level in local congregations and the Apostle Paul defines how that leadership is invested in a congregation in Titus 1:5, “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you.” Adam Clarke provides a proper definition of the word elder: “persons well instructed in Divine things, who should be able to instruct others, and observe and enforce the discipline of the Church.”

Paul speaks of two distinct classes of elders in 1 Timothy 3:1 and 8; he identifies them as bishops and deacons. Bishops oversee the work of a congregation. Deacons assist the bishops as needed; often deacons are teachers in a congregation. The instruction to Titus was to appoint elders in every city. It is possible that there can be more than one bishop and one deacon in a congregation.

In 1 Timothy 5:17 Paul refers to the two classes of elders: “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.” Some elders rule or preside in the work of the congregation, and some elders labor in the word and doctrine. Barnes comments on this:

 

From this it is clear that, while there were “elders” who laboured “in the word and doctrine,” that is, in preaching, there were also those who did not labour “in the word and doctrine,” but who were nevertheless appointed to rule in the church.

 

The history of the New Testament shows us the visible church organized in local congregations only. There is evidence that as the church spread out to northern Africa, Asia Minor and southeast Europe lines of fellowship and communication were established. Letters from various of Jesus’ Apostles were copied and shared from church to church. Traveling ministers such as Apollos visited and ministered in many different churches. News concerning needs passed among the churches. When the churches in Judea were in need, churches in Asia Minor and Greece took up collections and sent them by the Apostle Paul.

But with all the communication that existed among the churches, there was no organization above the local congregation. The gifts of ministry given to the church by Jesus are for the purposes of preaching, teaching, and edifying the people in congregations. There are positions of leaders in congregations but there is no form of leadership above local ministry. The New Testament appears to be somewhat fluid as it gives no definite form of government for congregations. Jesus never ordained a universal bishop over the entire church. Jesus never authorized national or regional church boards, superintendents or other such supervisors over numerous churches. Jesus never created denominational associations to govern congregations, ordain ministers, or perform administrative functions or establish doctrinal guidelines.

The gospel and teachings of Jesus are the foundation and authority for His church. Whenever people take authority in the church into their own hands it brings darkness. The first phase of the darkness is that it removes the people one step away from Jesus by placing some kind of administration, a throne of the beast, between Jesus and the people of the church. The second phase of the darkness is that eventually that throne replaces Christ. This affects what is taught or not taught and ultimately it hinders the effectiveness of the gospel. The beast authority takes people into the church or puts them out of the church irrespective of their standing before Christ. Eventually, church takes the place of Christ in the perceptions and affections of the people. In their vision, the throne of the beast has become the throne of Christ.

This blasphemy causes pain when placed under the light of the everlasting gospel. People become blinded to the truth of the gospel and cannot, or will not, see that they are really worshipping their church instead of Jesus. When confronted with what the New Testament teaches about the church Jesus built and its function in the experience of salvation, such people reject it. When this angel pours out the wrath exposing this error they refuse to repent and accept the real lordship of Christ in their lives.

Remember that God’s wrath is a choice people make for themselves by separating themselves from God’s love. Taking refuge in a church other than the church as built by Christ eventually separates a person from the love of God. Even though God reaches out with the gospel, that church repels the influence of the true gospel with its version so that the people miss the real love of God. It is a pity that modern churches have put themselves between God and the people God reaches out to with the gospel. This in itself is blasphemy because that church is usurping Christ’s throne.