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Revelation 16 - "Waterloo" for Who?

Unveiled Hope: The Reigning Christ of Revelation  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  39:41
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Christians can rest in Christ's inevitable victory over all His enemies.

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Introduction

On the evening of June 17th, 1815, heavy overnight downpours drenched an area of central Belgium surrounding the small town of Waterloo, as the armies of the First French Empire and the Army of the Seventh Coalition sheltered as best they could, waiting out the rain and waiting for the battle to come. The conflict that would take place the next day would go down in history as the final defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte—he would abdicate his Imperial Throne just five days later on June 22nd, and surrender to England in July of that year when his planned escape to the United States was prevented by a British naval blockade.
Some historians have suggested that the heavy rains the night before may have cost Napoleon the battle, since he was hesitant to deploy his 8,000-piece heavy artillery for fear that it would sink into the mud. Even when he fielded the cannons later in the afternoon he was still unable to get them close enough to the action to be accurate. But whatever the reason for his defeat, the Battle of Waterloo meant the end of Napoleon’s dreams for an Imperial France, as well as the end of his power. Since then, the word “Waterloo” has become a by-word for a decisive, final defeat from which it is impossible to recover.
Our passage today also describes a battle that is a symbol of utter and irreversible defeat—the Battle of Armageddon. Like “Waterloo”, “Armageddon” conjures up pictures of a climactic battle where one side is a decisive winner and the other is an utter and eternal loser. And like “Waterloo”, the name Armageddon actually refers to a specific place in Israel where several decisive conflicts were fought. The Hebrew derivation of the name, Har Megiddo, means “Mountain of Megiddo”—Megiddo is the plain where in the book of Judges (Judges 5:19) Deborah and Barak fought Sisera (whose iron chariots got caught in the mud after a rainstorm!), and the “mountain” of Megiddo probably refers to the closest mountain to the plain—Mount Carmel, where Elijah famously contested with the prophets of Baal with fire from heaven, resulting in the Baal worshippers being defeated and slaughtered. Megiddo is also the place where the last righteous king of Judah, Josiah, was killed in battle against Pharaoh Necco (2 Chronicles 35:22).
So John, who is writing the most completely “Old Testament” book of the New Testament, wants to make it clear that the enemies of God will be utterly and decisively and irrevocably defeated, he says here in this chapter that they will meet their Armageddon, their “Waterloo” when God pours out the bowls of His wrath on them. This chapter represents the culmination of all of the judgments that God has been pouring out on Jerusalem in punishment for the generation of Jews that murdered the Messiah—by the end of this chapter there will simply be nothing left of Jerusalem. It will be all over.
John writes these things in this chapter to the churches of Asia Minor because they were suffering persecution under the Beast of Rome—he wanted them to see that the trials and dangers that they were facing were not going to last forever, but that in fact all of the unholy forces that were arrayed against them were headed for an ultimate and irreversible defeat by the Lamb, Jesus Christ.
And this is the encouragement for us in our own day, when it seems that the opposition we face is reaching unimaginable levels—if someone had told you five years ago that the governor of California would be threatening to throw John MacArthur in jail, it would have sounded unbelievable. And yet here we are. You are being told (and told so often you are tempted to believe it) that Christianity is meeting its “Waterloo” in the 21st Century. But But the message of Revelation 16 this morning—and what I aim to show you here today is that there is a “Waterloo” coming, but not for the Church of Jesus Christ! Let us look to God’s Word here this morning to see that
We can rest in Christ’s inevitable victory over all His enemies.
This chapter describes the “Waterloo” for the enemies of Christ, as the judgments that He has been pouring out on Jerusalem since Chapter 6 now come to their horrifying conclusion. In the first seven verses of Chapter 16 John shows us the first element of Christ’s inevitable victory over His enemies—he shows us here that

I. The Judgments of Christ are Just (Rev. 16:1-7)

This is precisely what one of the angels declares as these judgments are poured out—look at verses 5-6:
Revelation 16:5–6 ESV
And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, “Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!”
The first bowl of judgment that was poured out on the “Land” in verse 2 brought “harmful and painful sores upon the people who bore the mark of the Beast and worshipped its image” (v. 2)—those who were “marked” by their hatred and opposition to Christ were “marked” with a plague of boils. Then in verses 3-4 we read that the second angel poured out his bowls and the waters of the sea “became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea” (v. 3), and the third angel poured out his bowl on all of the fresh water—the rivers and springs of water—and they became blood. All of this was done, according to the angel, because Jerusalem was a bloodthirsty city—it had murdered all of the saints and prophets that God sent to it (including the Son of God Himself), and so the bloodthirsty city was given blood to drink. And the angels rejoice at this judgment because it is
Perfectly suited to the offense (vv. 5-6)
The angel cries out, “It is what they deserve!” They “get their just deserts”—the crimes they have committed against God and His people are perfectly answered in the punishment they receive. God’s judgments are tuned so perfectly to the offense, the “tolerances” are so close that there is no room whatsoever for any charge of injustice or unfairness. Here in our fallen world we try to apply justice, and even in the best of times our justice is incomplete, or clumsily (or corruptly) applied—that is why we have an entire appellate court system to appeal the judgments we receive, because we know that we are limited in our ability to apply justice—but when God lays out judgment against sin, there is no need for a court of appeal, because it is so utterly and plainly true!
Not are the judgments of God perfectly suited to the offense, but they
Utterly vindicate His people (v. 7)
Look at verse 7:
Revelation 16:7 ESV
And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!”
Remember back in Chapter 6, when Christ opened the fifth seal, the blood of the martyrs that had been spilled cried out from under the altar for vengeance:
Revelation 6:10 ESV
They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
And here they see the perfect vindication of Christ’s perfect judgments! “Yes, Lord! They spilled our blood, and now they are choking on blood!” It is a shocking, even revolting picture for us now, but we remember that this is a perfectly suited punishment! We realize when we read a passage like this that we can only trust God to deliver judgment—that in our own strength we would take all the wrong kind of enjoyment from seeing this judgment fall on God’s bloodthirsty enemies. But because God’s judgments are just and true, we can rest in His response to those who persecute His people. The martyrs whose blood was shed by the Roman and Jewish persecutions were able to rejoice in His vindication of them, without malice or bitterness or sinful glee over their downfall. And so we see from these verses that
We can rest because Christ will judge this world rightly
Christian, you are free from having to vindicate yourself, free from trying to clear your name or respond to slander. This world is working overtime to use “justice” as a weapon against you, but the day will come when God’s justice will vindicate you so totally, so completely, that you will rejoice to see how perfectly He clears your name and exalts His Name!
This chapter shows us that we can rest in Christ’s inevitable victory over all His enemies—His judgments are just and true, and in verses 8-16 we learn that

II. The enemies of Christ are doomed (Rev. 16:8-16)

If you look carefully at the plagues that the first three angels poured out on Jerusalem, you see that they bear a striking resemblance to the plagues that God poured out on Egypt when He delivered Israel from Pharaoh—the Nile turned into blood (Ex. 7:20-21), and the Egyptian people were struck with painful boils (Exodus 9:10). Later on we see three evil spirits like frogs coming out of the mouths of the dragon, the beast and the false prophet (Rev. 16:13), reminding us of the plague of frogs that struck Egypt (Ex. 8:6), and when the fifth angel in Revelation 16:10 pours out his bowl, the throne of the Beast is plunged into darkness the way Egypt was plunged into darkness in Exodus 10:21.
And the first thing that we learn from this section is that the enemies of Christ are doomed because
All of their pride is humiliated (vv. 8-11)
When God struck Pharaoh in the plagues on Egypt, we see repeatedly that it was because of Pharaoh’s pride—we read in Exodus 10,
Exodus 10:3 ESV
So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me.
Even Pharaoh’s advisors begged him to humble himself before Egypt was completely obliterated:
Exodus 10:7 ESV
Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God. Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?”
John shows here in Revelation that even though they are being utterly obliterated, and were being plunged into terrifying darkness and tormented with unbearable pain, they “cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds” (v. 11). The city of Jerusalem had gone from being God’s chosen people to being a city of proud unbelievers, like Pharaoh’s Egypt. God had warned Israel in Deuteronomy 28 that if they rejected Him as their God that he would “bring upon you again all the diseases of Egypt, of which you were afraid, and they shall cling to you...” (Deut. 28:60), and
Deuteronomy 28:63 ESV
And as the Lord took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it.
When the fourth angel pours out his bowl on the sun so that the people would be “scorched with fire”, it was a fulfillment of what God warned in Deuteronomy 28:22, that if the people broke their covenant with God that He would strike them with “inflammation and fiery heat, and with drought and with blight and with mildew”. Just as Egypt in the Old Testament refused to submit to YHWH and was struck with plagues, so John is showing that Jerusalem has become Egypt (cp. Rev. 11:8, “the great city that is called Sodom and Egypt...”), and they are utterly humiliated in their pride before His wrath.
All of their pride will be humiliated, and
All of their defenses will fall (v. 12)
The parallels with the Old Testament story of the Exodus from Egypt continue in verse 12—in Exodus God dried up the Red Sea so that Israel could escape Pharaoh—here in God’s judgment on Jerusalem the Euphrates River dries up, allowing Jerusalem’s enemies to fall on her:
Revelation 16:12 ESV
The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east.
We observed earlier that the Euphrates River represented the boundary of the Roman Empire, and that all of Jerusalem’s enemies had come from the East across the Euphrates. But John says that the protection the Euphrates River offered them was dried up.
Consider the fact that our nation has massive oceans on either side of it, that offer protection against enemy attack (in World War II, for example, while there were skirmishes with U-Boats in the Atlantic and a few Japanese sorties on the West Coast, America was effectively insulated from any assault from those directions. But imagine if Germany shared a land border with the US from Maine to North Carolina, for instance? The image here is that all of the protection that God’s enemies thought they had was taken away from them. The things they trusted in, the security they thought they had, all of their confidence that “nothing will happen to us” was taken away from them, and there in Har Mageddon, they meet their “Waterloo!” On the plain where Sisera’s iron chariots foundered the iron-toothed Beast of Rome meets its doom! On the mountain where the false prophets of Baal were overcome and slaughtered the False Prophet of Satan is overcome! The enemies of God’s people are utterly and finally defeated as His judgment is poured out on them and on the city that murdered the Messiah!
And right in the middle of this description of the fall of the enemies of God and His people there is a parenthetical statement from Jesus in verse 15:
Revelation 16:15 ESV
(“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”)
Jesus says the same thing earlier in Revelation to the church in Sardis, that though they had a reputation for being “alive”, they had abandoned their calling from Him and were “dead”. Jesus says to them
Revelation 3:2–3 ESV
Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.
When we read this description in Revelation 16 of the absolute and utter doom of God’s enemies, we must look to how we as a church are fulfilling the works that He has given us to do, because
We do not know when we will stand before Christ (v. 15)
Look at what Christ does when He judges His enemies, Christian, and let it cause you to tremble at the thought of being found “naked and exposed” when He appears! There is nothing that will take away your salvation in Christ, but He says as plainly as possible that you may very well be humiliated at His coming if you ignore the work He has called you to do! Beloved, you and I have been given the inestimable privilege of living in a time when there are massive consequences for our faithful obedience to Christ! Here is the endurance and obedience of the saints—those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus! This is a time when godly shepherds are being threatened by the State with jail time for confessing that Christ is Lord and not Caesar! This is a time when petty tinpot dictators in state houses are presuming to countermand the commands of the Ancient of Days on the throne by ordering the opening of baby slaughterhouses and the closing of houses of the worship of the Triune God!
This is not a time to “go along to get along”, this is a time to stand against the world! This is not a time to morph and shift and accommodate your commitment to God and His Word in order to placate the demands of the sexual revolution—this is not a time to whisper where the Word of God speaks plainly, this is not a time to mumble where the Word of God roars! Christian, you do not know when you will stand before the Lamb who pours out final judgment on His enemies—do you really want to spend all your time trying to gain the mark of approval from the Beast of Washington and the False Prophet of Hollywood? Christian, if you bear the mark of allegiance to the Lamb of God, why would you want the doomed enemies of the Lamb to think highly of you in any way whatsoever? The Word of God shows you plainly here that the enemies of Christ are doomed—and in verses 17-21 we are told that

III. The Kingdom of Christ is unshakeable (Rev. 16:17-21)

Verses 17-19 say:
Revelation 16:17–19 ESV
The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath.
As the final bowl of wrath is poured out on Jerusalem, the city is “split into three parts” and falls. This may be a reference to Ezekiel’s vision of Jerusalem being split into three parts in Ezekiel 5, and it may also be a prophecy of how there were three different Jewish rebel factions who fought one another inside the city during the siege, hastening its fall to the Romans. If that is the case, then this is a demonstration that
Rebel kingdoms will destroy themselves (vv. 17-19)
We see the same thing earlier in verses 13 and 14 where the Dragon, the Beast and the False Prophet send out lying demonic spirits to draw out the armies that will battle against Jerusalem and against God—God uses His enemies to destroy each other. God’s people can rest in Christ’s inevitable victory over all His enemies because He uses those enemies against each other to destroy themselves (as He did when Gideon caused the Midianite army to destroy itself in Judges 7, or in 2 Chronicles 20 when the Ammonite, Moabite and Mount Seir armies all destroyed each other without God’s people having to lift a finger. The bloodthirsty city of Jerusalem falls, and chokes on the blood of the wrath of God, draining the last drop of His fury. Verse 20 says
Revelation 16:20 ESV
And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found.
Mountains are symbols of kingdoms and authorities throughout the Scripture, and so what we are seeing here is that when God’s judgment is poured out
Rival kingdoms will cease to exist (v. 20)
Just as Daniel saw in his vision, the mountain of God will grow and fill the earth until there are no other authorities, no other kingdoms, no other governments or presidents or courts that will be able to rival the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. And there is one more detail here at the end of this last bowl judgment that presses this point home with terrible imagery:
Revelation 16:21 ESV
And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe.
The Jewish historian Josephus tells us (Wars Book V. 6. 3) that the Romans set up catapults on the hills overlooking Jerusalem that flung stones weighing one talent each (100 pounds) down onto the city—he says that the stones were white in color, and the Romans eventually had to paint them black so that the people in the city could not see them to run away in time. The devastation of thousands of these “hailstones” falling on Jerusalem and the destruction of the armies that breached the walls left the city so devastated that Josephus says a traveller could walk through the middle of the city and not know he was in a place that had ever been inhabited. The “Great City” had been pulverized to dust, the mountain of Jerusalem shaken to pieces. God’s wrath against her was complete. And John writes these things so that God’s people could rest in the knowledge of Christ’s inevitable victory over all His enemies!
I believe the writer of Hebrews is looking ahead to the destruction of Jerusalem in Hebrews 12 when he warns the believers who were tempted to abandon their Christianity and return to Judaism:
Hebrews 12:25–27 ESV
See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.
Don’t go back to Jerusalem and the worship of the Temple—it is about to be shaken to pieces! Instead, he writes,
Hebrews 12:28 ESV
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,
Beloved, see the wrath of God poured out on the kingdoms of His enemies today, see how they are shaken and dissolved and pulverized to dust, see how they are doomed to destroy themselves, how they will all meet their “Waterloo”—and let the inevitable reality of their downfall remind us that
We must worship God with grateful reverence
because you have been given citizenship in a kingdom that cannot be shaken! Let us worship God with the reverence and awe that He deserves—not come into His presence flippantly or lightly, not appearing before Him with boredom or selfish craving for entertainment. This is the God who is “a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29)—a God who will destroy every rival, who will execute perfect judgment on every sin, who will vindicate every believer who has ever suffered at the hands of wicked oppressors. Sunday mornings before church are a favorite target of Satan, did you know that? He will go out of his way to make you fight with your family, foster boredom and apathy in your spirit against God, tempt you with all of the fake promises of sin, because the one thing that his kingdom cannot survive is the gathered worship of the saints of God taking up the weapons of the blood of Christ and the word of our testimony to assault his gates!
So come here to worship with gratitude for what Christ has done, washing you with His blood and giving you the pure white robes of His own righteousness to wear! Come here to worship with reverence and awe for His power and authority and the inevitable and total victory that He will bring upon every authority that tries to stand against Him! Come here to be strengthened, convicted, melted, encouraged and empowered by His Spirit acting through His Word and His people, and then go from here to complete the works that He has given you to do so that when He comes like an unexpected thief He will find you faithful and working and rejoicing in Him! There is a “Waterloo” coming—but not for the Church! His judgments are just, His enemies are doomed, and His Kingdom is unshakeable—so go from here and stand fast in endurance and faith for the sake of the glory of the Lamb, Jesus Christ!
BENEDICTION
Hebrews 13:20–21 ESV
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:

How is the word “Armageddon” similar to our word “Waterloo”? How does John use the decisive battles at “The Mountain of Megiddo” to illustrate the utter defeat of God’s enemies and the enemies of His people?
Read the entire chapter of Revelation 16 again. What kinds of things do you see about the character of God in this chapter? How does He respond to sin and rebellion? How should the things you see in this chapter affect the way you approach Him in worship when you come on Sunday mornings?
Read Christ’s letter to the church in Sardis in Revelation 3:1-5. What are some “works” that God has given our church to do in these days? Will Bethel Baptist Church be found faithfully carrying out those works when Christ returns? Can you say that your presence at Bethel makes a positive difference in accomplishing the works He has given us to do? Why or why not?
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