Revelation 16: The Bowls
The First Bowl: Loathsome Sores
The result of the pouring out of the first bowl was that ugly and painful sores appeared on the beast’s adherents. We are reminded of the plague of boils in Egypt (Exod. 9:10–11; cf. Deut. 28:35).
The recipients are described as the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshipped his image.
Constant pain affects a person’s disposition so that he finds it difficult to get along with other people. Human relations during that period will certainly be at their worst.
The Second Bowl: The Sea Turns To Blood
When the second trumpet was blown, something like a mountain was hurled into the sea, a third of the waters became blood and a third of the creatures in and on the sea died (8:8–9). On this occasion there is no mention of one-third or of any other proportion. We are now face to face with finality. Everything in the sea died, and this is expressed in a full and unusual way, ‘every living soul … in the sea’.
The Third Bowl: The Waters Turn to Blood
the third … bowl extends the judgment of the second bowl on the sea to rivers and springs and they became blood
John heard the angel in charge of the waters proclaim that God the Holy One is just in His judgments (v. 5).
For God’s work in turning the waters to blood is in response to the shedding of the blood of … saints and prophets (v. 6).
“true and righteous are Your judgments” This is a helpful reminder in the midst of such terrible persecution toward Christians (cf. 15:4 and 19:2). God will set all things straight one day!
The Fourth Bowl: Men Are Scorched
The purpose of God’s wrath is redemptive (cf. 9:20–21; 14:6–7; 16:9, 11), even though stubborn mankind refuses to repent.
There is no independent power in the sun. If the sun is to scorch people it is because God gives it the power to do so.
They simply cursed the name of God. They did not repent. They gave God no glory
The Fifth Bowl: Darkness & Pain
There is a change. The first four bowls related to nature: land, sea, rivers and springs, the sun. But the last three are ‘more directly political’ (Swete). They take us to the operation of the powers of evil.
The beast’s kingdom was plunged into darkness
Just as there is no mention of what caused the darkness, so there is no mention of what brought about the pain (though possibly it is the result of the previous plagues, ulcers from the first plague and burns from the scorching heat of the fourth)
These unbelievers recognized the source and reason for their pain, but would not repent and turn to Christ! The plagues on Egypt were sent to expose the false gods of Egypt and cause the Egyptians to trust the God of Israel. The “curses” of Deut. 27–28 were sent to restore unbelieving Jews to faith and obedience. Judgment has a redemptive goal (except for the last one)!
This is the last reference in Revelation to a failure to repent
The Sixth Bowl: Euphrates Dried Up
More is said about the result of the pouring of the sixth bowl than that of any of the first five. It prepared the way for the End. It did not usher in the End, but prepared for it.
The effect of the outpouring of the sixth bowl was the drying up of the Euphrates to make ready a way for the kings from the East
In the Old Testament a mighty action of God is frequently associated with the drying up of waters, as the Red Sea (Exod. 14:21), the Jordan (Josh. 3:16–17), and several times in prophecy (Isa. 11:15; Jer. 51:36; Zech. 10:11).
The Euphrates was the boundary of the Roman Empire and for John’s readers the land beyond it was a great unknown land. Who could tell what mighty kings lurked there?
The dirty spirits are like frogs, which may be meant to remind us of the plague of frogs in Egypt (Exod. 8:3).
Love sees here ‘a devastating caricature of the failure of evil. That which men fear most because it appears to be mighty and eternally entrenched becomes at long last only a ridiculous spawning of sickly creatures of the night.’ Frogs have evil associations. They are slimy and ugly. They produce an incessant and meaningless croaking, but no solid achievement. Such thoughts are aroused by the symbolism. The main idea, however, is that these spirits are like the ‘lying spirit’ who was to entice Ahab into battle (1 Kgs 22:21ff.). But instead of enticing one man, these have the much greater task of enticing the whole world into battle.
Christ speaks words of truth, righteousness, and mercy to bring peace to the earth, but the demonic frog spirits speak lies and gathers the nations for war.
“which go out to the kings of the whole world”
“gather them together for the war of the great day of God”
16:15 This parenthetical phrase contains the words of Christ which are interjected to encourage and warn the people of God. This is one of the seven blessings to believers
The Seventh Bowl: The Earth Utterly Shaken
The climax comes with the seventh bowl. This speaks of utter destruction. It does not say that all people will be killed; they must still face Almighty God for judgment.
The seventh angel poured his bowl into the air
The evil spirits are being attacked in their own element.
It is done
The announcement of the climax caused great excitement.
The great city is a motif we have seen before (see note on 11:8). It stands for civilized man, man in organized community but man ordering his affairs apart from God. It symbolizes the pride of human achievement, the godlessness of those who put their trust in man. This great city is now shattered. It divides into three parts, which means complete break-up. And in the break-up of the great city the cities of the nations collapsed.
Nowhere in this book is there an expression as emphatic as that rendered the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. John leaves us in no doubt that Babylon is to receive the most wholehearted opposition conceivable from an all-powerful and all-holy God.
Now comes a great hailstorm.
45 lb to 100 lb or even more.
And for the third time in this chapter we read that the effect of the disaster was that people blasphemed (cursed) God.