Bowls of Wrath

Chapter 16 of the Apocalypse appears to be another liturgical drama acted out in the church. It ends with a theophany, something that may resemble the enthronement of the divine. But this interpretation may be as controversial as the chapter itself. The scene is in heaven. The voice of the divine commands the seven angels to pour out the bowls of wrath of God. The first angel empties the bowl against the earth, that is, a creation that has come to practice idolatry. The second wrath is against the sea, that is, the ancient enemy of the divine, the dragon, chaos. The third wrath comes against rivers of blood, and in the following song of victory, we learn that this wrath is against murderers. The fourth wrath leads people to blaspheme and curse the divine name and abide in their unrepentant state. The fifth wrath is against the throne of the beast, that is, Rome, again because of blasphemy and unrepentant hearts. The sixth wrath is against the Euphrates river, again showing that the divine has power over chaos. The river dries up, preparing the way for the invasion from the East, that is, demonic spirits coming out of the mouth of the dragon, the beast and the false prophet. The invasion is probably the proclamation through the mouth of the dissidents, of a false gospel, false beliefs and practices. A promise is interjected, that the divine one is coming soon, and will bless the faithful. The seventh wrath is upon the air, and does not appear to be a wrath, just as earlier the third woe did not appear to be a woe. Instead, the seventh angel prepares the way for the arrival of the divine, the manifestation of the the presence of God, the theophany. With this arrival, accompanied by flashes of lightening, voices, thunder and a massive earthquake, the divine announces, “It is done!” That the great city, Jerusalem, is broken into three parts is a reminder that the divine alone is whole, and that what is created remains broken until redeemed. The divine is hereby enthroned, and all that has stood against it fades away. The created order remains in upheaval, as if fighting among itself.

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