The Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath
16 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.”
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.
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.
The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. 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!”
And I heard the altar saying,
“Yes, Lord God the Almighty,
true and just are your judgments!”
The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. 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.
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 and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.
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. 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. 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. (“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!”) And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
The Seventh Bowl
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. And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. 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.
Revelation 16 Commentary
by Hank Workman
The last 4 verses of Revelation 15 has a sobering scene unfold. The portals of the temple in heaven open and out walk 7 angels dressed in robes like officiating priests, white linen, and golden sashes. One of the 4 living creatures, those angelic beings who stand the closest to the throne of God, as we saw in chapter 4, hands each angel a golden bowl full of the wrath of God.
Immediately following this hand-off, the glory of God fills the temple like a thick smoke. As was the case in a few instances in the Old Testament when God’s glory became tangible as smoke or cloud, the temple is declared off-limits until each content of the bowls are emptied out and all of God’s wrath is spent. He will carry out His judgment upon all wickedness. Until the 7 plagues are drained, no one can enter. What does this mean? On some levels, it simply means the time for intercession is passed. The final judgment is here. God has declared an end.
In Revelation 16, each bowl holds the final series of divine judgments. These will look slightly familiar if you have read the story of the Moses and Pharaoh or watched Charleston Heston and Yul Brynner duke it out with one another. They are reminiscent of the plagues of Egypt. The only noticeable difference is the intensity. They’re off the Richter scale and completely global in their impact.
This ushers in the final period of our earth’s history when the Lamb decisively intervenes and judges human rebellion and wickedness. Fascinatingly, there’s a passage in Isaiah 66:1-6 I want us to look at before we go forward.
“This is what the Lord says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Could you build me a temple as good as that? Could you build me such a resting place? 2 My hands have made both heaven and earth; they and everything in them are mine. I, the Lord, have spoken!
“I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at my word. 3 But those who choose their own ways— delighting in their detestable sins— will not have their offerings accepted. 4 For when I called, they did not answer. When I spoke, they did not listen. They deliberately sinned before my very eyes and chose to do what they know I despise.”
5 Hear this message from the Lord, all you who tremble at his words: “Your own people hate you and throw you out for being loyal to my name. ‘Let the Lord be honored!’ they scoff.
‘Be joyful in him!’ But they will be put to shame. 6 What is all the commotion in the city? What is that terrible noise from the Temple? It is the voice of the Lord taking vengeance against his enemies.” -Isaiah 66:1-6
This brings sores that break out on everyone on the earth, which is very reminiscent of the plague with boils in Egypt. It affects only those who bear the mark of the beast. Those who bore his mark are now visited by marks of God.
Bowl 2 and 3
The turning of these bowls over, the sea and fresh water supply turn to that of blood. All life perishes. Again, these bowls correspond to the first plague on Egypt when the Nile River was turned to blood.
Interestingly, there’s a momentary interruption here. An angel justifies the actions of God. This principle hearkens back and is deeply rooted in the notion of justice that God Himself had declared in the Law. Basically, the punishment will fit the crime. In all that takes place, the very judgments of God are true. They are just. The people had their chance and now that chance has passed.
Like a solar blowtorch, the sun beats down, bears down on the inhabitants of the earth with a ferocious deadly intensity. Everything is scorched. Fascinatingly, look at those who are burned by the heat. They curse the name of God. So hardened are these in their ways, so absolutely determined to not bow their knees before the Maker of all, they curse his name, refuse to repent and turn to God. It is astounding.
Darkness. Fascinatingly, this bowl is emptied on the throne of the beast; the epicenter is plunged in total darkness. And the blackness ratchets up their misery – and yet once again the plague has no effect on the heart of the people.
The 6th bowl dries up the Euphrates River. This will allow an army, an eastern coalition, to cross easily into the land of Israel. All barriers will be removed for the final showdown between the Dragon, the Beast of the sea and of the earth versus the Lamb.
There’s an ancient site called Megiddo, a strategic city guarding the main north-south route from Egypt to Syria that overlooks the Jezreel Valley. Hebrew kings from Solomon onward would fortify this site because it served as a choke point per se, controlling traffic and commerce along this important route. So, whoever controlled Megiddo, controlled the land. The Greek name for Megiddo is Armageddon. And it is in this spot that the final confrontation, the final war of all wars will be held.
It’s a place today that is uninhabited.
Armageddon has become that household name, and no – not because of the 1998 Bruce Willis film – but because it is the place where many believe the final showdown will take place. As we see from the passage, the unholy trinity send demonic emissaries to mobilize forces of the earth against the Lamb. Strangely the demonic spirits look like that of frogs (the second plague of Egypt). They’re successful in their war propaganda, drawing nations into the battle, blinding people on so many levels to follow their decision. Consequently, a massive army assembles at this site of Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley of Israel – Armageddon.
Many scholars tend to lean toward seeing Armageddon as an assembly point for the coalition forces allied with the beast. If there is indeed this indeed a literal gathering of the eastern allies against Israel, an invasion of Israel would certainly involve Megiddo/Armageddon because of its strategic importance.
This final bowl brings a tremendous cataclysmic fallout on the earth through earthquake and hailstorm. Through this, the devastation seems complete. The evil empire falls like a house of cards. Cities of the world fall to ruins. God is cursed by the people.
Through all the catastrophe unfolding though there is an astounding moment and message from Jesus. Look back at verse 15.
“Look, I will come as unexpectedly as a thief! Blessed are all who are watching for me, who keep their clothing ready so they will not have to walk around naked and ashamed.” -Revelation 16:15
In the same style as the messages to the seven churches, inserted is a word of prophecy from the Lamb Himself. And even though so much of the action has taken place against the unbelieving world, this word is for that of Believers.
Essentially it is a call to not despair; to not give up hope as what appears to be the success of the dragon, beast, and false prophet. It is a word from Jesus to stay true to the course, not to desert His ranks. It is to remain steadfast and faithful – no matter what.
“Blessed are those who are watching for me.” Our eyes, our hopes must not be in this world. It must not be in the circumstances that arise from politicians, world events, even personal circumstances where we see only one side. Our focus, our attention, and our ever-watchful eye must be on and for Jesus. And even more, it’s of a challenge to be ready. To be completely ready for His return – as it will come when least expected. Jesus even mentioned this in Matthew 24.
“So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. 43 Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. 44 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.” – Matthew 24:42-44
You see, this is a call from Jesus, in the middle of all this mess and horror, for our continued vigilance and commitment to Him. To not allow the things of this life, the things of this earth to sway us from our passion, to not let our hearts grow cold, nor grow lukewarm to Him and His ways.
The mentioning of someone having their clothing ready and not being naked refers to our being spiritually unprepared for His return. Back in chapter 3 of Genesis, when the first sin took place after disobeying God’s explicit command, Adam and Eve realized they were naked. They were suddenly aware of their guilt and knew they were going to be punished. They felt exposed in their nakedness and hid.
This in itself is a firm warning to stay the course, do not live in the guilt, the shame of our sin and choices. It is to be set free through the forgiveness of sin that comes through the spilling of the blood of the Lamb of God. Too embrace Him and be ever watchful and ready for His return.
Where is your focus? Where is your passion? Where is your rest? Be watchful.
Revelation 16 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
The continuity of the seals and the trumpets is broken up with the bowls as they move seamlessly through all seven with no interlude between the 6th and 7th as we have traditionally seen. We must appreciate the story that is being painted before our eyes. The seals and trumpets primarily announced the coming destruction and executed them only partially (1/3 of the earth burned, 1/3 of the sea becomes blood, etc.) However, the bowls are now universally complete in their wrath. With the seals and trumpets especially, people were directly and indirectly affected. Now, there is no one who can avoid the incoming attacks.
The bowls increase in their intensity as they move along just as the plagues did when God sent them upon Egypt. This is important to remember for the sole reason that the early churches would have seen Rome as the ‘New Egypt’. They oppressed Christians in every way possible and ruled as if they truly believed they were gods.
It’s interesting to note that between the third and fourth bowls there is an angel that verifies the judgment coming down upon these people. The words spoken here in Revelation 16 are strikingly familiar to the previous chapter’s new song.
Revelation 16 – “You are just in these judgments” | Revelation 15 – “Just and true are your ways”
Revelation 16 – “You who are and who were” | Revelation 15 – “King of the ages”
Revelation 16 – “the Holy One” | Revelation 15 – “You alone are holy”
Revelation 16 – “because You have so judged” | Revelation 15 – “for Your righteous acts have been revealed”
His wrath is not vengeful or unpredictable. It comes as an expression of His righteous character. If we believe the universe is moral, then we must appreciate God’s absolute hatred for sin. Any picture of God that ignores His hatred for sin reveals just how tricky sin can be. Just like our nature is prone to sin, God’s nature is without sin. Therefore, when Jesus returns to right all the wrongs in this life, it would be catastrophically disappointing for Him not to destroy every ounce of sin and evil forever.
It’s also interesting to consider that these people who are so angry at God (blaspheming Him at the end of the chapter) are the same people who have shed the blood of God’s faithful elect and refused to repent. They are not only guilty of doing bad things, but they are guilty of refusing to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives. They have actually seen even more tangible evidence of God’s Lordship than generations past. It draws to my attention a phrase Jesus uttered to Thomas, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
Jesus is speaking about you and I. We are living in between Christ’s first and second coming. It is easy to fall asleep and become drowsy! Revelation 16 brings a sobering message of urgency to the forefront of our minds as the believing body of Jesus Christ! We have a mission in front of us… and He has promised that death itself cannot stop us!