Upon whom were the bowls of wrath poured in Revelation 16, leading to Armageddon?
Who was the harlot Babylon who waged war against the Lamb, and was overcome, and had her flesh eaten up and burned with fire in Revelation 18?
Revelation 16:5,6 – “And I heard the angel of the waters saying, “Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things; for they poured out the blood of the saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.”
Revelation 18:24 – “And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth.”
Answer: The ones who had killed the prophets and saints.
Who killed the prophets and saints?
The destruction of the temple, foretold by Jesus in Matthew 24, was a necessary consequence of the wickedness of the Jews. God had punished their wickedness in the past, and even destroyed the temple, but Israel in Jesus’ time had sunk lower than any previous generation. So low, that it would not be enough to punish the people with pestilence, invade the land, scatter the people, or even just destroy the temple.
The punishment for the ultimate sin was to be far more devastating. It could only be described as ‘the end of the world’, ‘the end of all things’. We in the millennia subsequent to this punishment cannot begin to appreciate the enormity of the sentence that was carried out on Israel. The end of the physical world is nothing compared with it. We tend to look at the destruction of Jerusalem as a minor conflict, with no global ramifications. “Okay, they killed the prophets. God broke their temple. They’re even. Anyway, they built a new one, didn’t they?” I believe that a closer look at Scripture should dispel this naïve, materialistic view of the most significant event in history.
In Matthew 23, Jesus condemns the Jews, particularly the scribes and Pharisees, because of their pride, arrogance, and hypocrisy. A significant portion of this chapter – in number of verses and in focus – is spent on their treatment of the prophets.
Matthew 23:29 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, (30) and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’
(31) “Consequently you bear witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.
(32) “Fill up then the measure of the guilt of your fathers. (33) “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?
(34) “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, (35) that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.
(36) “Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation.
(37)”O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.
(38) “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! (39) For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'”
What was their crime? Surely that particular generation was not guilty?
Yes they were. It was an inherited guilt, but they were cast in the same mold as the original perpetrators, according to Jesus in the preceding verses.
So why were they to take the punishment?
Because they were the wicked generation that would take the guilt of all that had gone before them. Notice that Jesus is specific here: On them would fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from Abel to Zechariah. Why just up to Zechariah? Because he was the last of the murdered prophets (at least, the last in the Old Testament books).
It was vengeance for the killing of God’s messengers that Jesus had in mind.
But this generation had not killed any prophets, had they?
In fact, the greatest prophet, according to Jesus, was killed by Herod (i.e. John the Baptist). But in order to make the Jews even more guilty, God would send even more prophets in a very short time (within the generation). And, of course, they would murder the supreme prophet, Jesus Himself.
Was killing the prophets the ultimate sin?
It was enough for God to take away the very essence of Israel. God had scattered the people before, but they had been returned. He had destroyed the temple before, but it had been rebuilt. But what was to come was tantamount to Israel being disowned, divorced, killed. Jesus makes it clear in His parable of the owner of the vineyard:
Matthew 21:33-44 – “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey. (34) “And when the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce.
(35) “And the vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. (36) “Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them.
(37) “But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
(38) “But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and seize his inheritance.” (39) “And they took him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
(40) “Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?”
(41) They said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vinegrowers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.”
(42-43) Jesus said to them,… “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.”
Jesus is expanding on the parable given to Isaiah (Isaiah 5). Here, the vineyard is identified as “the house of Israel” (Isaiah 5:7), the plant that is grown in the vineyard represents the “men of Judah”. That the vineyard represents the house of Israel indicates that God is more concerned with the people of the nation than the physical land.
In Isaiah’s parable, the vineyard is virtually destroyed, trampled underfoot, and the crop is infested with weeds, because it is only capable of producing worthless fruit.
In Jesus’ parable, although the subject is the same, the focus is different. Here, the vine-growers are the ones who are to come to a nasty end. The vineyard, again the house of Israel or the kingdom of God, is to be given to another nation – not just in captivity, but in order that real fruit might be produced.
- Because the vine-growers, the ones assigned to care for the kingdom of God, would not give God the fruit that was due to Him. Matthew 23:13 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do no enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”
- Because they refused to listen to, abused, and killed the messengers sent by the master. Worse still, they killed the master’s son.
God’s messengers were sent to warn His people against straying, to maintain holiness. Not only did the Jews disregard the prophets, they abused and even killed them. God had tolerated a lot of things, but would no longer tolerate this.
Matthew 5:11-12 – “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. (12) Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
1 Thessalonians 2:14,16 – … the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost.
The Jews were to face the terrible wrath of God, because of what they had done to Jesus, and the prophets before and after. The nations of today might well be guilty of forsaking God’s holiness, and rejecting His Christ, but it was the Jews of that generation who would bear the full guilt of the death of Jesus and all the prophets!
Were all the Jews guilty of this, and thus to suffer the fate of the scribes and Pharisees?
Yes, aside from a remnant. They were a part of that same wicked generation.
That generation was to face God’s wrath.
Peter’s first sermon (Acts 2:14-40)
Acts 2:23 – “This man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” (40) “Be saved (escape) from this perverse generation!”
Peter’s second sermon (Acts 3:12-26)
Acts 3:13 – “… His Servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered up, and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he decided to release Him, (14) but you disowned the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, (15) but put to death the Prince of life…
They had disowned Him, and asked for a murderer to be freed. When the mob had done so, they had told Pilate (rather prophetically themselves!), “His blood shall be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:25) One prophesy they understood indeed!
Jesus said, as He carried His cross to Calvary:
Luke 23:28-30 – “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.'”
And that prophesy for that generation would fulfill John’s prophesy of the sixth seal:
Revelation 6:16,17 – and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
Them and their children. That generation alive then. There is no need to twist this meaning, trying to make it mean their descendants in thousands of years’ time. It all fits in with the curse in Matthew 23. The ones who killed Jesus and the prophets would face God’s judgement, within that generation!
The purpose of Jesus coming at that particular time in history was to end, once and for all, the relationship between God and the house of Israel. It was, for the Jews, the end of the world. It was that generation that would have the Old Covenant torn from them.
That is why Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation.”
What things would come upon ‘this generation’?
“Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!”
1 Peter 4:7 – The end of all things is at hand.
1 Corinthians 7:31 – for the form of this world is passing away.
1 Corinthians 10:11 – and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
With this in mind, Jesus’ warning to His disciples needs no other gymnastics in interpretation, when He says in chapter 24, “This generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” All these things, the signs, the ‘second coming’, the judgement, were to accomplish the end of the Old Covenant.
This generation = This generation
That same generation, which took the full brunt of God’s wrath on behalf of all righteous blood shed on earth, was singled out by Jesus on several occasions. It was a wicked generation, with only a remnant to be spared.
Matthew 11:16 – “But to what shall I compare this generation?”
Matthew 12:39 – “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it (i.e. to that generation) but the sign of Jonah the prophet.”
Matthew 17:17 – “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?”
Conclusion: The wrath of God was foretold by Jesus against the scribes and Pharisees. He condemns that generation and dictates that that generation would face the punishment for all the blood that had been shed by God’s messengers, the prophets and other ‘saints’.
It would be the end of the world, because the Covenant made by God to Moses, the house of Israel, and the kingdom of God would be taken from them and given to someone else. The end of the world, the end of the heavens and earth. But a new heavens and earth would be established as God made peace with His New Covenant holders.
The Jews, who had killed the Lord and the prophets, were to face God’s wrath to the utmost. Babylon, the harlot who had been drunk on the blood of the prophets, would be destroyed.
All of the promises and warnings in the New Testament fit in with this theme. The destruction to come was that of those who had earned God’s wrath: the prophet-killers, the Jews. They were the vine growers who would come to a wretched end, and have their beloved vineyard given to others who would produce good fruit.