Author: Ron Graham
Judgment of the Beasts (Revelation 12-20) >Seven Plagues >The Bowls Wrath
We now look at the vision of the Bowls of God's Wrath in Revelation 16:1-21. This is another vision about the Great Day of God and God's judgment and punishment of the wicked. However, behind this vision of doom, there is good news.
on the earth Notice that the wrath and judgment of God is poured out here on the earth. The last judgment comes from heaven, but it does not take place in heaven. Christ will judge the world when he returns to earth (Matthew 25:31-33). Then he will take the saved into heaven (John 14:3).
bowls Each bowl in the vision had some sort of punishment. From the first five bowls came a plague of sores, poisonous blood for the sea, more blood for the drinking water, fiery scorching heat, and darkness over the kingdom of the beast. The sixth bowl caused the river Euphrates to dry up exposing the kingdom to attack. The seventh bowl, as a climax, caused a great earthquake and hailstorm that destroyed “Babylon” and the whole antichristian kingdom.
judgments The vision emphasizes that these terrible judgments are not the work of a crazy God who has lost his temper, but of a patient and just God who has given plenty of warning that men should "repent of their deeds" (Revelation 16:11, cf 2Peter 3:9-13). The angel of the waters, when they were destroyed, said, "Righteous are you... O Holy One, because you judged these things... they deserve it" (Revelation 16:5-7).
altar The angel’s words are confirmed when the altar speaks, "Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are your judgments" (Revelation 16:7). The altar is part of the temple seen in heaven (Revelation 15:5). The altar represents the sacrifice of the Lamb which God provided as the means for forgiveness so as to escape his wrath. God is justly punishing those who repudiate that Way. None of these judgments hurt those who have been "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 7:14, cf 1John 2:1-2).
kings of the east The fifth bowl darkened the antichristian kingdom. The sixth bowl dried up the Euphrates "so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the rising of the sun" (Revelation 16:12). These kings are not likely to be friends with the antichristian kingdom. They are from "the bright and morning star" (Revelation 22:16). They are those who have "lived and reigned with Christ" (Revelation 20:4). They will overcome the kingdom of darkness.
demons Between the pouring out of the sixth and seventh bowls, John sees the three beasts, called the Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet. From each one's mouth springs a frog-like demon. This is said to symbolize "the spirits of demons performing signs" (Revelation 16:13-14). Certainly the powers of darkness can do supernatural things, since they are supernatural beings. But their signs don't conceal their lies and blasphemies —which is all the mouths of the beasts can produce.
war - Armageddon The kings of the whole world were gathering for the "war of the great day of God" (Revelation 16:14,16). In a later vision, we find that this war was never fought and was a great fiasco (Revelation 20:7-10).
awake There is an interjection from Jesus at the mention of the great day of God (Revelation 16:15). He warns us, in view of so much evil all around, and the judgment day coming, to keep awake and keep our clothes on —keep our faith alive and robed in righteousness.
throne At the seventh and final bowl's pouring a loud voice comes from the throne in the temple (Revelation 16:17). What's a throne doing in the temple? Well of course Jesus is both Priest and King and his kingdom is "a kingdom of priests" (Revelation 1:6).
Babylon The fall of Babylon was a long time before the visions of Revelation, but the fall of Rome had not yet happened. Even after the Roman Empire's demise, the antichristian kingdom continues until its destruction on the great day of God. So “Babylon” is used in this and following visions as a fitting name for the kingdom of Satan.
huge hailstones John sees the greatest earthquake ever, and then a hailstorm so severe that its hailstones weighed about one talent (or 30kg) each. Mountains and islands were destroyed. These events are visions. They are imaginable. Expect the real events to be unimaginably worse.
These bowls of wrath make a dreadful vision, but there is good news behind it. The righteous, those who gave their allegiance to Jesus Christ, are nowhere to be seen. We last saw them standing in heaven singing songs and waiting to go into the holy temple (Revelation 15:2,8). They are well clear of the awful punishment poured out in judgment by the seven angels.
And the best news of all is that anyone who wishes can be victorious over the beast and can reign with Christ. "Behold I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book" (Revelation 22:7)