CHAPTER SIXTEEN - BOWL JUDGMENTS
(1) Then I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels, (2) "Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God."
1. Then I heard a loud voice from the temple = seems to imply that God gives this command. If no one could enter the temple, it would seem logical that no one would be able to remain in the temple either. Therefore, the only person in the temple is God Himself.
2. Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God = is the instruction given by the voice from the temple. This indicates that God strictly controls the timing of the execution of the final phase of His wrath.
(1) So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth; and (2) it became a loathsome and malignant sore (3) on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.
1. So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth = signals the beginning of the final phase of God’s wrath.
2. It became a loathsome and malignant sore = indicates the impact of the first bowl. Similar to the boils upon the Egyptians during the great exodus, God will again send sores. The plague of sores on the Egyptians was the first plague to actually threaten the life of the Egyptians. However, there is no indication that life is threatened by the sores. The purpose of the sores seems to be unparalleled suffering.
3. On the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image = clearly indicates who is the target of the first bowl judgment. The beast-marked worshipers are the target of the first bowl judgment. The Greek says literally, "upon the men." Clearly, "men" is used in a generic sense. For women and children are not excluded from the punishment of God for taking the mark.
(1) The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and (2) it became blood like that of a dead man; and (3) every living thing in the sea died.
1. The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea = moves from man to nature. The whole of salt-water sources is the object of the second bowl.
2. It became blood like that of a dead man = is the impact of the second bowl. A figure of speech is employed. The blood of a dead man is no longer capable of supporting life. Blood is the aspect of the dead that cannot be used for transplant or transfusion purposes.
3. Every living thing in the sea died = is the outcome of the bowl.
(1) Then the third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters; and (2) they became blood. (3) And I heard the angel of the waters saying, (4) "Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, (5) because You judged these things; (6) for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and (7) You have given them blood to drink. (8) They deserve it." (9) And I heard the altar saying, (10) "Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments."
1. Then the third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters = constitutes the third bowl judgment. All fresh-water sources are afflicted.
2. They became blood = is outcome of the third bowl. As with salt-water sources, water becomes blood. We are not told that all life died as in the case of the salt-water, but that is the natural conclusion.
3. And I heard the angel of the waters saying = indicates a commentary to follow concerning God’s purpose in the second and third bowl judgment. What the job description is of the angel of the waters is not detailed.
4. Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One = is a praise report of the angel of the waters. Given the nature of the judgment falling on the earth, the heavenly host (elders, living creatures and angels) are constantly reminding us that God’s actions are righteous, just and holy.
5. Because You judged these things = indicates the angelic attitude toward the actions of God. In other words, if God had not judged these things, He would be in contradiction of His own nature. "These things" in context refers to the previous (bowls two and three) judgments.
6. For they poured out the blood of saints and prophets = is important. For is better translated because. The angelic being gives us the reason for the previous bowl judgments. The subject of this clause must be "the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image." These are the only people mentioned in the previous bowl judgments. To shed blood means to murder. The beast-marked worshipers who by association are a part of the beast of Revelation 13 are directly responsible for the death of the saints. Saints and prophets have been described as killed in the book of Revelation, particular the prophetic witnesses of Revelation 11 and the martyrs of Revelation 6:9-11.
7. You have given them blood to drink = defines the audience of God’s wrath. "Them" refers to the beast-marked worshipers who are responsible for the death of God’s people addressed in Revelation 16:2. By turning the waters of the earth to blood, the beast-marked worshipers will drink blood since they have poured out the blood of God’s people. Now people do drink blood, but never of the dead. Bowl 2 indicates that the blood is "like that of a dead man."
The author obviously intends a difference. Otherwise, there would no need to distinguish between the blood of the living and the blood of the dead. The blood of the living flows warm and oxygenated. The blood of the dead does not flow and is not oxygenated.
8. They deserve it = expresses the righteous attitude of the angelic being. The wicked are as worthy of God’s wrath as the Sardisians are worthy to walk with God in white (Rev 3:4).
9. And I heard the altar saying = is a peculiar statement. One does not normally expect an altar to speak. However, in apocalyptic literature anything is possible. Yet, Revelation 15 seems to indicate that the temple of God is empty at this moment.
10. "Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments = affirms again that a just God executes a just judgment.
(1) The fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun, and (2) it was given to it to scorch men with fire.
1. The fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun = expresses the agent of God’s wrath. The sun has been used twice before in God’s program of the end. It was temporarily darkened at the sixth seal. A third of the sun darkened by the fourth trumpet. This judgment with the aid of the sun does not contradict the two previous references to the sun. The heat of the sun is the issue at this point. Previously the issue had been its light.
2. It was given to it to scorch men with fire = is the purpose of the heat of the sun. Oi anthropoi (the men) were burned. As in Revelation 16:2, a generic reference is intended here. Men, women, and children all suffer at this point.
(1) Men were scorched with fierce heat; and (2) they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and (3) they did not repent so as to give Him glory.
1. Men were scorched with fierce heat = introduces a comment on the fourth bowl of wrath. The idea here is not burned up, but scorched or caused to suffer because of the heat. This coupled with the absence of water is suffering at its best. Again, the suffers are identified as oi anthropoi, a generic reference to men, women and children.
2. They blasphemed the name of God = is not explicitly defined. This indicates that the third commandment is broken. God’s name is taken in vain by men.
3. They did not repent so as to give Him glory = is an editorial comment unparalleled in the Revelation--unparalleled in the sense that the worst expression of God’s wrath does not bring repentance of the wicked.
(1) Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and (2) his kingdom became darkened; and (3) they gnawed their tongues because of pain, and (4) they blasphemed the God of heaven (5) because of their pains and their sores and (6) they did not repent of their deeds.
1. Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast = focuses the fifth bowl. The throne of the beast was mentioned in Revelation 13:2. The beast received it from the dragon. The throne of the beast is a figure of speech. It represents the sovereignty of the beast much as "the White House" represents the sovereignty of the United States.
2. His kingdom became darkened = is the second aspect of the goal of the fifth bowl. It is not clear, whether this darkness is literal or figurative. Literal darkness or judgment produces suffering for the living beast-marked earth-dwellers.
3. They gnawed their tongues because of the pain = is the first indicated reaction of the beast and all those who follow him. It is not explicitly indicated why or how the darkness causes pain for the beast and his followers. The biting of the tongue suggests great pain.
4. They blasphemed the God of heaven = is the second response of the beast and his followers. This is the second time the wicked take God’s name in vain.
5. Because of their pains and their sores = indicates a cumulative impact to the bowl judgments. The sores came about in connection with the first bowl and pain is connected with the fifth bowl.
6. They did not repent of their deeds = caps the fifth bowl judgment. At this point, the reader is told that repentance is not an outcome of the judgment of God.
(1) The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, (2) so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east.
1. The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates = which is reminiscent of the sixth trumpet judgment. A cruel army arose from the great river region to kill a third of mankind. The Euphrates river is called "the great river" in Genesis 15:18. The importance of the river becomes apparent as the text unfolds. It dried up. Unparalleled in ancient times was the drying up of the Euphrates River.
2. So that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east = indicates the purpose of the unparalleled event. God prepares the way for the kings of the east. That there are kings and not a king suggests individual nations still exist at this time. At what point these kings form their coalition is not indicated. The important point to remember is that God prepares the way for the kings.
Interestingly, at the beginning of the twentieth Century, the majority of the nations of the world were monarchies. However, by the end of the Century only a minority of monarchies has survived. Several kings or their sons are in exile. Russia, China, Iraq, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Laos, and Iran are or were monarchies. The reversion to monarchies by many nations to the East of Israel past the Euphrates River is a good sign to watch for when looking for the final phase of human history as we know it.
Other nations East of Israel that have or were monarchies will cease to exist. That is, Japan, Indonesia, and other Island nations are destroyed at the seventh bowl (Rev 16:20).
(1) 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; (2) for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, (3) which go out to the kings of the whole world, (4) to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty.
1. And I saw coming out of the mouth…dragon…beast…false prophet…three unclean spirits like frogs = suggests the role of the dragon, beast and false prophet. They send demonic spirits to influence the kings of the earth. We are not told in what way the unclean spirits resemble frogs.
2. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs = clarifies what the "unclean spirits" are. They are demons. These demons perform signs or do miracles. It is clear that the demonic spirits must put forth an all out effort to accomplish their objective.
3. Which go out to the kings of the whole world = moves beyond the initial discussion in Revelation 16:12. There, only the kings of the east are in focus. Here, the kings of the whole world are mentioned. Whether two groups of kings are intended is not clear. Why would God only prepare the kings’ way from the east? What makes the kings from the east special? These are questions not answered by the text.
4. To gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty = explains the purpose of the demonic activity. By the article the, we know that this is the eschatological battle between God and the wicked. This battle concludes the eschatological Day of the Lord.
(1) "Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame."
1. Behold, I am coming like a thief = is often associated with the coming of the eschatological Day of the Lord (2 Peter 3:10).
Given a literal interpretation of the trumpet and bowl judgments, it is beyond comprehension that any man on earth would continue to resist God’s rule and authority. Revelation 16:14 indicates that Satan/Antichrist/False Prophet will utilize demonic deception to gather "the kings of the whole world" "for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty." It is in this context that the Lord Jesus offers one of His clearest warnings. He states, "Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame." Incorrectly some have taken the reference, "Behold, I am coming like a thief" to refer to the Rapture. However, this conclusion fails to appreciate not only the context, but also the historical usage of this phrase.
Jesus states in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…." This is the purpose of a thief. However, there is another issue related to the coming of a thief. This concerns his modus operandi (how he operates). That is, a thief comes suddenly and unexpectedly. The apostle Paul indicates "that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night (1 Thess. 5:2)." Paul indicates that in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 the point of the figure of speech is "suddenness." Therefore, the question concerning Revelation 16:15 is this: is the point that the Lord makes in Revelation 16:15 one of purpose or modus operandi? On the other hand, it could be both. A closer examination will reveal the correct answer.
The image of a man having disrobed and fallen asleep who is then caught sleeping, awakened by surprise and forced to parade about naked is clear. The question concerns its meaning. Alfred Edersheim is helpful at this point. In his book The Temple, It’s Ministries and Service, he writes,
Perhaps one of the most striking instances of this kind is afforded by the words quoted at the head of this chapter—’Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments.’ They literally describe, as we learn from the Rabbis, the punishment awarded to the Temple-guards if found asleep at their posts; and the Rabbinical account of it is curiously confirmed by the somewhat naive confession of one of their number, that on a certain occasion his own maternal uncle had actually undergone the punishment of having his clothes set on fire by the captain of the Temple as he went his rounds at night…During the night the ‘captain of the Temple’ made his rounds. On his approach the guards had to rise and salute him in a particular manner. Any guard found asleep when on duty was beaten, or his garments were set on fire—a punishment, as we know, actually awarded. (A. Edersheim, The Temple, Its Ministries and Service)
The point is obvious: the Lord will suddenly appear and the unprepared will suffer a great disaster. In the context of the sixth bowl, which gathers "the kings of the whole world" "for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty" this is clearly a warning—stay away. This is the only way to prevent a disaster at Armageddon for "the kings of the whole world." If they come to the battle, they will die.
(1) And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon.
1. The place of "the war of great day of God, the Almighty" is called in Hebrew Har-Magedon. This is the only place in the Bible where the word occurs. John’s indication that the place bears a Hebrew name immediately sends us to the Old Testament. Scholars, in no way, agree concerning the meaning of or the place called Armageddon. The first step in arriving at the correct meaning is to recognize that a literal geographical location is intended. There is nothing in the grammar or context to prove otherwise. The second step in arriving at the correct meaning is to recognize that John’s audience was familiar with the term. John instructs the reader that Har-Magedon is a Hebrew name. As such, it is composed of two words. The Hebrew word can be translated either a hill or mountain. Megiddon "was an ancient city located on a plain in the southwest portion of the Valley of Jezreel (Jewish name) or Esdraelon (Greek name)." (Aune, Revelation 6-16, page 898)
Two great mountains stand to the northeast and southeast of the hill of Megiddo: Mt. Tabor and Mt. Gilboa. Between these two mountains run the valley of Jezreel, which is fifteen miles wide at its widest point. It will be the place of God’s great slaughter of the nations depicted in Revelation 19:11-21.
(1) Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and (2) a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, "It is done."
1. Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air = introduces the final bowl judgment. The seventh and final bowl-carrying angel punishes the air. The earth (land), water, fire and air are the four elements that are the objects of God’s wrath.
2. A loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, "It is done." = repeats an often heard motif—a loud voice. Since the temple is empty, this voice must be God, Himself. That God would pronounce, "It is done," at this point in the narrative is confusing to some. However, it must be kept in mind that bowls six and seven are given in summary fashion. They will be expanded in great detail in Revelation 17-19 where the destruction of the city and kingdom of the beast will be presented in detail.
(1) And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and (2) there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty.
1. And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder = begins a listing of the outcome of the seventh angel’s bowl. Having poured his bowl upon the air, lightning and thunder rock the air.
2. There was a great earthquake = is the third great outcome of the seventh angel’s bowl—a great earthquake. However, unlike the previous earthquakes, this one is unparalleled in all of human history. This earthquake cannot be compared or thought to be one of the other earthquakes that has occurred in the Revelation. Those who attempt to make this point ignore the textual details. The author makes clear with the intensive nature of this earthquake that it is unparalleled.
(1) The great city was split into three parts, and (2) the cities of the nations fell. (3) Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath.
1. The great city was split into three parts = signals the first effect of the unparalleled earthquake. Scholars do not agree on the identity of "the great city." However, the context is clear. Jerusalem is "the great city." Jerusalem is explicitly identified in Revelation 11:8 as "the great city." Why the city is split into three parts is not stated. However, Zechariah 13:8 declares, "It will come about in all the land [of Israel], declares the Lord, that two parts in it will be cut off and perish; but the third will be left in it." This accords with the destruction of "the great city" indicated in Revelation 16:19. Also, Zechariah 14:2 indicates that God will leave a segment of His people in Jerusalem when the nations gather to destroy it. Zechariah 14:5 states that God will empty Jerusalem of his people just prior to His arrival with His angels for the battle of Armageddon. The destruction of Jerusalem will be highlighted in Revelation 17-18.
2. The cities of the nations fell = is the second proof that "the great city" refers to Jerusalem. "The cities of the nations" (Gentiles) is in contrast to "the great city (Jews)." The punishment of Jerusalem is not as severe as the punishment of the cities of the Gentile nations.
3. Babylon the great was remembered before God = is the third entity to suffer as result of the unparalleled earthquake. Who or what "Babylon the great" refers to has not been explicitly defined. This is the second reference to it in the Revelation. Whatever it is, God will pour out the worst expression of His wrath the world will ever know upon it.
(1) And every island fled away, and (2) the mountains were not found.
1. And every island fled away = continues the impact of the seventh bowl. To flee away in the NASB suggests more than merely "moved out of their places." Exactly what happens to the islands cannot be dogmatically stated at this point. That the islands cease to exist is perhaps the sense.
2. The mountains were not found = makes an opposite conclusion possible with regards to the mountains. The Greek literally says that the mountains "were not found." That is, they disappeared. John uses two different verbs to describe what happens to the islands and what happens to the mountains. If the same thing happens to the islands that happens to the mountains we would expect John to have said, "the island and mountains fled or were not found."
And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe.