What Happens Next? Revelation 16: 7 Bowls of Wrath

In six scenes, bowls of divine wrath demolish the realm of nature and the realm of Antichrist. In the seventh scene the whole world is engulfed in one final catastrophic judgment. – Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 282.

1-9 – Wrath Upon Creation

10-16 – Wrath Upon The Beast

17-21 – Final Consummation Of Wrath (Armageddon)

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.

  • As in those which fell upon the Egyptians during the Exodus. (Ex. 9.8-12).
  • John doesn’t mention the impact upon the land itself, but rather the impact upon people, namely those who had rejected God’s Savior. This may be because the church has already been raptured (dispensational), or a specific outpour of wrath upon unbelievers.

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.

  • If taken literally, those who still live upon the earth will know it’s demise is very quick.
  • John’s description of the first two bowls strongly communicate that death is coming quickly. It’s hard to read these verses with an uncovered nose.

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

  • Any hope for survival is quickly gone without drinkable water. God’s judgment will be all encompassing. This also mirrors the first plague in Egypt.

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!”

  • Evidently, the angel who just poured out the bowl upon the sea and water answers any incoming objections as to the extent or fairness of God’s wrath.
  • APP: One of the major misconceptions is trying to understand the purposes of God or what God may or may not “allow” in people’s lives according to our flawed judgment. Humanity often screams, “That’s not fair!” Or, “If God were so loving, how could this be?” Perhaps these judgments aren’t best made by those of us with sin tainted thinking.
  • The angel emphasizes several aspects of God, which make his decisions right: holiness, eternality, past revelation, patience.
  • The angel also emphasizes that these bowls are certainly deserved. The word “deserved” means that they are actually receiving a proper or fitting end.
  • The unbelieving wanted blood, and God has made sure that they received it-upon themselves, upon the food, upon the waters.

And I heard the altar saying,

“Yes, Lord God the Almighty,
    true and just are your judgments!”

  • Probably the unnamed angel from 9.13?
  • Two witnesses now concur that God’s judgment is, in fact, just and righteous.
  • “Lord God the Almighty” – Ruler of all things. Jesus tells a parable which warns of this impending judgment in Luke 29.9-18.
  • APP: To presume one can offend the Ruler of all things and escape with no consequence is an absurd idea.

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.

  • Once again, John paints a picture of judgment anyone who reads can understand, but not necessarily explain scientifically.
  • Presumably, these bowls are poured out, if literally, rather quickly, right after the other, which makes the response of the unbelievers incredibly shocking. Instead of turning toward God for saving, they dig their heals into the sand of rebellion and they cursed God and refused to change or worship Him.
  • They blamed him as being the cause of their problems, not the solution to them.

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.

  • “darkness” – literal, confusion and chaos?
  • Regardless, John once again mentions their unwillingness to repent of sin and their willingness to curse God in the midst of severe judgment.

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.

  • “kings from the east” – Identification of the kings from the East has been highly debated. Without doubt, however, John’s first readers would have thought of the Parthians, a constant threat from the east in the first century. The Euphrates normally stopped the Parthians; if this natural defensive boundary were suddenly missing and an eastern army crossed freely, it would be time to panic. However events predicted here play out in the final end times, it will mean time to panic for the Antichrist monster and his forces. For the first time since he came to power, he will face a major and serious military threat. – Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 288–289.

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.

  • This threat causes the devil, antichrist and false prophet to go into action.

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 Antichrist persuades the world’s rulers to gather together, perhaps thinking that this would restore the Antichrist’s power and their peace.
  • “day of God” – as in the Day of the Lord. See also 2 Peter 3.12.

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” – Christ’s return will be sudden and unexpected. I might also not this is a good defense of a post-trib view.
  • At no point in time are believers told to worry about the return of Christ, instead his message is consistent. WATCH. STAY AWAKE. DON’T GO TO SLEEP.
  • “naked and be seen exposed” – a note to drowsy or back-slidden believers that they will be embarrassed at Christ’s return if they are not ready.

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

  • More details of this are shared in chapter 19.
  • “Armageddon” – a puzzling Gk word. possibly transliterated Hebrew? Or combination of Hebrew into Gk? Mount of Megiddo? There is a town in northern Israel called Megiddo, but it isn’t in a mountainous area. There is no Hebrew reference to a Mt. Megiddo. This may be some coded name much like his use of 666, or may reflect the fact that many battles have been fought near Megiddo throughout the years.
  • Many suggest that John isn’t intending a specific location here as he would be referring to Operation Armageddon.

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!”

  • 7, representing the completeness of God’s wrath and judgment.
  • Jesus shouted these same words when God’s wrath for believers was poured out upon the cross, here God the Father shouts it from his temple as he pours our wrath on those who have rejected Him.

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 5th and final earthquake in Revelation.
  • Heb. 12.26-27 understands this earthquake to be one that rids the earth of temporal things.

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.

  • “great city” – Babylon. Could be a coded reference to Roman rule or to the system or city from which the Antichrist reigns. Regardless, evil is destroyed. The world’s political and military might is done.
  • “drain the cup” – Babylon will absorb all of God’s wrath. Down to the last drop.

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.

  • “and they cursed God” – rebellion persists
  • APP: Our hearts would be rebellious as well, if God had not changed them.