The eschatological exodus

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Matthias Gerung, “The Giving of the Seven Bowls of Wrath” (c. 1531)

A biblically literate reader of Revelation 16 will surely notice that the seven bowls of God’s wrath recall the Egyptian plagues in Exodus 7-12.

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Anglican theologian Joseph Mangina explores the typological affinity in his commentary on Revelation, always focusing on the big picture:

Clearly the correlation is a very loose one. Rather than setting forth a one-to-one equivalency between the two sets of plagues, the vision reflects a basic judgment that “this” (the eschatological judgment of the world in Christ) is like “that” (God’s liberating action on behalf of his people at the Red Sea). The vision thus sustains the exodus theme already noticed. Just as the goal of the exodus was not the death of the Egyptians, but Israel’s deliverance, so the purpose of the bowls is not the destruction of humanity but the gathering of a people. Comparing the plagues of Revelation to the story of the exodus shows that the gathering of the faithful on Mount Zion and the song of the Lamb precede John’s vision of the seven plagues. If Exodus shows things in chronological order, the Apocalypse shows them in teleological order. The way (through tribulation and judgment) is ordered toward the goal (communion with God, as realized in the life and death of the Lamb). If the nations, those who “bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image” (16:2), are to become the people of Israel’s God, then they must be liberated from their enslavement to the powers. One cannot serve both God and the beast

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