Sermon Prep

I have been asked a couple of times recently about how I prepare my sermons. On Sunday night or Monday morning, I (attempt to) translate the text from the originally language. Then all week long I’ll read the text over and over again, trying to internalize it. I review what came before the text and what is coming after. Toward the end of the week, usually on Thursday, I start making notes and putting my thoughts about particular points or overall structure in a document.

This document consists of the text, broken down verse-by-verse (usually), with bullet points articulating thoughts and observations under each verse. At the bottom of the document, I do an exegetical outline. (By this I mean a simple outline of the text’s natural organization.)

On Friday, I’ll start consulting commentaries. I try to read sources that don’t necessarily agree with one another so that I’m hearing differing perspectives. With these commentaries, I add more notes to my document.

Saturday I stew on the text, review my notes, praying (which I actually try to do throughout the whole process!). I try to write one sentence that communicates the main point of the entire passage. After this, I come up with my preaching outline. This should pretty closely mirror the exegetical outline, but it is written in a way that attempts to communicate the truth of the passage clearly to today’s hearers.

The last thing I do is write out a full manuscript from the preaching outline. I don’t necessarily read this manuscript word for word on Sunday mornings, but I find it very helpful to think through the entire sermon ahead of time. Writing a manuscript forces me to do this.

Below I’ve pasted my prep document for my sermon a few weeks back from Revelation 16: “Global Warning.” It’s raw, but that’s how I do it!


Notes for Revelation 16  

1 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.”

  • “loud voice from the temple” – also in 16:17; God alone is in the temple at this point (15:8).
  • Isaiah 66:6 – “A sound/voice from the temple! The sound/voice of the Lord, rendering recompense to his enemies!”
  • “pour out” – a term used for the sacrifice of the drink offering (Exod. 30:18; Lev. 4:7, 18, 30; Num. 19:17).
  • Answers the prayer in Jer. 10:25, “Pour out your wrath on the nations that know you not, and on the peoples that call not on your name…”
  • Fulfillment of Lev. 26:21, “If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve.”

Rev. 16:2   So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.

  • As with the seals and trumpets, the first in this series of judgments affects the earth. Here all the earth-dwellers are afflicted.
  • “the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image” – not the sealed saints (3:10; 7:3-4; 9:4).
  • “harmful and painful sores” – Like the 6th plague in Egypt. These are abscessed, ulcerous sores, making one unable to walk, sit, or lie down without pain.

Rev. 16:3   The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea.

  • Whereas the second trumpet judgment included a mountain being thrown into the sea and a third of the sea creatures dying, here the judgment is clearly much worse.
  • “like the blood of a corpse” – the 1st plague of Egypt was the Nile turning to blood and killing all the fish.
  • “every living thing died” – Roman Empire depended on the sea for trade and food.

Rev. 16:4   The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood.

  • Also like the 1st Egyptian plague.
  • While this doesn’t say all life died, that is implied in “they became blood.”
  • Psalm 78:44 – “He turned their rivers to blood; they could not drink from their streams.”
  • Affects the water supply.

5 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.

  • “the angel in charge of the waters” – angel of the third bowl.
  • “Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was…” –
  • God is praised for being righteous/just.
  • God’s holiness refers to him being apart from and therefore sovereign over all creation/history.
  • God’s judgment is based upon his holiness and righteousness, and are thus “just and true” (15:3).
  • In 1:4, 8, 4:8, the three-fold title is given. Here “who is to come” is left out because the final judgment has arrived. God has arrived and is no longer “to come.” Not literal, but imminent.
  • “for you brought these judgments” – God’s holiness, justice/righteousness, and coming are demonstrated in his judgments.

6 For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!”

  • “they have shed the blood of the saints and prophets” – same verb in Gk. as “poured out,” what the angels do with the bowls in 16:1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 10, 12, 17.
  • Demonstrates lex talionis (the law of retribution).
  • Jesus said this would be reason for judgment in Matthew 23:31, 37.
  • Answers the prayers of the martyred saints in 6:9-11.
  • “you have given them blood to drink” – the blood of the waters
  • “It is what they deserve” – Gk. lit. “they are worthy.” The judgment is fitting, appropriate.

7 And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!”

  • The voice belongs to those under the altar in 6:9, the saints who cry out for vengeance, or the angel who offers their prayers to God in 8:3-5.
  • “Yes…” – The proper response to divine truth, as we presented in the hymn of 5-6, is emphatic agreement.
  • “Lord God the Almighty” – stresses the might and sovereignty of God over all
  • “true and just are your judgments” – Here “true” carries the idea of God’s faithfulness, being true to his covenant promises. God’s judgments are righteous/just and based on his faithful covenant-keeping character.

Rev. 16:8   The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. 9 They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.

  • “on the sun” – like the fourth trumpet judgment, except here the power is intensified rather than darkened.
  • “scorch people” – the sealed saints are explicitly protected from this in 7:16.
  • “scorched by a the fierce heat” – Gk. lit. “burned with a great burning”
  • “they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues” – to “blaspheme” God is to mock him through rejection and idolatry. Term occurs only in 16 and 13:6, linking them to Antichrist.
  • “They did not repent and give him glory” – the angel of 14:6 called on the earth-dwellers to “fear God and give him glory.” The earth-dwellers refuse to repent.

10 The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish 11 and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.

  • “the throne of the beast” – given by the dragon in 13:2. Contrasted with the “voice…from the throne” in v. 17. Shows that the beast’s throne (power) is temporary and no match for God’s.
  • “its kingdom was plunged into darkness” – like the 9th plague of Egypt. Darkness is symbolic of judgment and death.
  • The “Day of the Lord” was to be a day of darkness (Amos 5:20; 1 Sam. 2:9; Isa. 8:22; Joel 2).
  • “People gnawed their tongues in anguish” – Much like “weeping and gnashing of teeth” in Matt. 8:12.
  • “and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores” – They blaspheme God again, like Pharaoh who continually hardened his heart.
  • “Sores” here tells us this is a summary of their response to all the bowl judgments to this point.
  • “They did not repent of their deeds.” – confirmation of their total depravity. Shows both God’s mercy in the opportunity and his righteousness in his judgment on them.

Rev. 16:12   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.

  • Parallels the 6th trumpet, in which four angels are released from being bound at the Euphrates to slaughter a third of the earth.
  • The Euphrates was the eastern boundary for both the land promised to Abraham and the Roman Empire. The Parthians, fierce enemies, were beyond it.
  • But these enemies that will cross the river will not war against the earth-dwellers, but join with all the other earthly forces (v. 14) against God and his people at Armageddon (v. 16).
  • The judgment here is the opportunity for unity in evil humanity, withdrawing the merciful judgment of Babel.

13 And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. 14 For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty.

  • The satanic false trinity react to the judgments by furthering their deception of the nations.
  • “unclean spirits like frogs” – frogs were unclean animals and a pestilence.
  • “demonic spirits, performing signs” – false teachers, prophets who deceive and lead people astray.
  • “kings of the whole world” – We will see them commit adultery with the harlot (17:2) and reign under her (17:18). Identified with the “ten horns” of 17:12-14.
  • “to assemble them for battle” – Gk. “the battle.” A final battle has been predicted through both the OT and NT.
  • “on the great day of God the Almighty” – the day is “great” because it is the culmination of God’s plan. God will prove himself Almighty when he “takes his great power and begins to reign” (11:17).

15 (“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!”)

  • “like a thief” – In view of the coming final battle, Jesus interrupts the vision to warn the saints of their need to stay ready and vigilant.
  • “stays awake” – not slumbering through the reality of what is happening in the world
  • “keeping his garments on” – Garments have represented being clothed in both the righteousness of Christ and in good deeds. Thus this depicts the need of remaining a faithful witness to Christ.
  • “naked and be seen exposed” – shame, judgment

16 And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

  • Megiddo was a city in northern Israel on the Plain of Jezreel.
  • Many battles had taken place here: Deborah and Barak against the Canaanites in Judges 4-5, Gideon against the Midianites in Judges 7, Saul against the Philistines in 1 Samuel 31.
  • “Armageddon” is Hebrew for “mountain of Megiddo,” but there is no Mount Megiddo.

17 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!”

  • The final angel pours the bowl of wrath “into the air,” affecting the whole world. (The air is everywhere.)
  • “voice” – the voice of God, from the throne.
  • “It is done!” – God’s plan for this age is completed and the end has arrived.

18 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 final of four storm theophanies, and the most severe. Shows the coming of the Lord from his throne, as on Sinai.

19 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.

  • Rome/Babylon is symbolic of the fallen world system, and when it falls all the cities fall.
  • God remembered her sin, and he reacts.
  • “make her drain the cup of the wine…” – since they drank “the wine that leads to passion for immorality” (14:8) God will make them drink the wine of their judgment in full.

20 And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. 21 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.

  • “every island…no mountains” – sounds like 6:14, building to 20:11, when “earth and heaven fled, and no place was found for them.”
  • “hailstones, 100 pounds each” – 17.5 inches in diameter. Guinness records largest at 2.25 pounds, falling on April 14, 1986 in Bangladesh and killing 92 people.
  • “they cursed God…” – “They focus only on their pain, not on the message” (Osborne, 600).


General Notes

  • Bowls differ from seals and trumpets. Seals affected 1/4 of the earth, and trumpets 1/3, but the bowls affect the whole earth. Also, whereas the first two series of judgments only affected the earth-dwellers indirectly, these are poured out directly on them.
  • The earth-dwellers should not blaspheme God for his judgment, for it is the product of their own deeds that God has reaped and poured out upon them. (“Evil participates in its own destruction,” Osborne, 601.)

Exegetical Outline

The first four bowls afflict the natural world. (1-9)

  • God commands the angels to pour out the bowls as an offering. (1)
  • The first bowl is poured on the earth and gives sores to the earth-dwellers. (2)
  • The second bowl is poured on the sea, it becomes blood, all sea creatures die. (3)
  • The third bowl is poured on the rivers, which become blood. (4)
  • Doxological Interlude: God is worshiped for the demonstration of his holiness, righteousness, and faithfulness in his judgments on the world. (5-7)
  • The fourth bowl is poured out on the sun, scorching the earth-dwellers who refuse to repent. (8-9).

The final three bowls affect the beast’s throne and kingdom. (10-21)

  • The fifth bowl is poured out on the beast’s throne and causes darkness and pain for his kingdom, which does not repent. (10-11)
  • The sixth bowl allows the beast and his kingdom to prepare for war. (12-16)
  • The Euphrates dries up to open the way for the kings of the east. (12)
  • The false trinity sends spirits to deceive the world into declaring war on God. (13-14)
  • Christological Interlude: Jesus warns believers of his imminent return and the necessity of staying alert and faithful. (15)
  • The enemies of God gather at Armageddon. (16)
  • The seventh bowl represents the arrival of God in full judgment. (17-21)
  • The bowl is poured into the air and God declares the age complete. (17)
  • The overwhelming presence of God breaks apart creation and the beast’s kingdom. (18-21a)
  • The earth-dwellers blaspheme God for his judgment. (21b)

Preaching Outline

Main Point: God’s judgment today is a warning of the final victory he will have over his enemies.

Intro: Global warming and Obamacare reveal our self-centered, secular mindset.
Context: Explain septets, function of interludes, and relation of 5-7 bowls to next chapters.
1.  God’s judgment in the world reveals the character of God and man. (1-9)

a.    God’s judgment is wine produce by the fruit of unrighteousness. (1-4)
b.    God’s judgment demonstrates his righteousness, holiness, and faithfulness. (5-6)
c.    God’s judgment demands a response from all people. (7-9) – APPLICATION

i.   God’s people respond to his judgment by glorifying him. (7)
ii.  God’s enemies respond to his judgment by blaspheming him. (8-9)

2.  God’s judgment in the world enrages his enemies. (10-15)

a.    God’s judgment reveals the weakness of Satan and his kingdom. (10-11)

i.   God’s enemies cannot are not safe in Satan’s kingdom. (10)
ii.   God’s enemies will not repent to join God’s kingdom. (11)

b.   God’s judgment provokes his enemies to war against him. (12-14)

i.   God’s judgment allows his enemies to unity. (12)
ii.  The satanic trinity deceives sinners and emboldens them against God. (13-14)

c.    God’s people must remain alert and faithful. (15) – APPLICATION

3.   God’s judgment will defeat all his enemies. (16-21)

a.    All God’s enemies will try to defeat him together. (16)
b.    God will declare his plan fulfilled. (17)
c.    God’s presence will shake the earth and crush his enemies. (18-21) – APPLICATION

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