The Bowl Judgements (Part 11)
Revelation 16:1-21 The Bowl Judgements
During the Bowl Judgements the wrath of God is total, it is against every aspect of His creation. There is no part of life on earth that escapes it. God’s wrath is poured out onto the oceans and all the creatures within, upon the countryside, including the lakes and rivers. Even the sun, moon and stars of the universe are involved. All of creation is included in God’s Bowl Judgements, however, with the responsibility of the care for creation being given to mankind, the population of the world is the focus of the judgements. The Bowl Judgements are an extension of the seven Trumpet Judgements and result in the triumph of Jesus over Satan, the Antichrist, the False Prophet, and their army of darkness.
The bowls are poured out onto the earth, which implies all of mankind is being held accountable. As with the Trumpet Judgements, the Bowl Judgements closely resemble the plagues God sent against Egypt, which are recorded in Exodus. Examples being: the plague of boils (Exodus 9:8-12), waters turning to blood (Exodus 7:14-25), and darkness (Exodus 10:21-29).
The First Bowl (16:1-2)
“1 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’. 2 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 last verses of chapter 15 made it clear that the presence of God, the Shekinah Glory, prevented anyone from entering the Temple, so the “loud voice” emanating from the temple must be the voice of God! The command for the Bowl Judgements to commence is given, all authority over the events that occur on earth comes from the Throne Room of God. The warning regarding these judgements is the third woe given by the angel/eagle in Revelation 8:13.
As I warned when covering the Trumpet Judgements in chapter 8 and 9, some commentators are continually looking for natural explanations to explain the plagues. For example, some see the “painful sores” as a result of radiation fallout from nuclear warfare. The Scripture is clear that all those that take the mark of the beast receive the plague, a feat highly unlikely to be achieved by nuclear fallout. Even the more reasonable explanation that the sores are caused by the continual scanning of the mark, is unlikely. These judgements are directly from God – God has done it before – He struck the Philistines with tumours after they captured the Ark of the Covenant (Samuel 5:6), and as mentioned in the introduction, the seventh plague God sent against Egypt was boils upon the bodies of the Egyptians (Exodus 9:8–11).
The judgment of painful sores falls on the human race because of their worship of the Antichrist, and the torment from this plague is still present at the pouring out of the 5th Bowl Judgement (Rev. 16:10-11), so it is not short term. Being in constant pain has a dramatic effect on a person’s ability to function properly and to relate to others socially, and at work, which is going to add to the difficulties of life on earth under the rule of the Antichrist.
The Second Bowl (16:3)
“3 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”.
Where the Trumpet Judgements were judgments of one third, the Bowl Judgements are full blown. The second bowl contaminates all the oceans, turning them to blood. The description of the blood is detailed, in that it is like the blood of a corpse; blood is not just a red fluid, there are a lot of different materials in it. So, what would the blood of a corpse look like? Blood is more vicus than water, and after death the blood starts to coagulate, forming clots and becoming thick and lumpy. The condition of the ocean therefore is unable to sustain life, and all the creatures that live in the oceans die. The implication from verse 3 is that any ocean-going ships will become stranded out at sea.
The Third Bowl (16:4-7)
“4 The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. 5 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. 6 For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!” 7 And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!’”.
The salt water oceans of the world have been turned to blood, now God turns His attention to the freshwater sources – rivers, stream, lake and dams, will all become blood. Unlike the Trumpet Judgement of one third of rivers being contaminated, there will be no fresh drinking water above ground.
The third Bowl Judgement will be towards the end of the Great Tribulation, and most of the saints of God will have been martyred. In Revelation 6:9–11, there had been the cry from the martyred saints under the altar for vengeance, the voice from the altar now recognises the “truth and justice” of God’s judgements. With God the punishment fits the crime; the blood of the Saints has been shed, so the guilty will be required to drink blood. This is also seen in other narratives:
- Pharaoh commanded that the baby boys of the Israelites were to be drowned in the Nile because he feared that the nation might become too powerful (Exodus 1:22), so God ensured that he was drowned in the Red Sea.
- Jacob deceived his father Isaac (Genesis 27:1-41), so he in turn was deceived by his father-in-law Laban, who tricked him into marrying Leah (Genesis 29:25).
- Haman built gallows to hang Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, but instead he was hanged upon those same gallows (Esther 7:10).
The Fourth Bowl Judgement (16:8-9)
“8 The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. 9 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 fourth bowl increases the intensity of the sun’s heat, increasing the discomfort for those who are also struggling to find drinking water. Once again, there is truth to God’s justice, as the scorching heat is a preview of forthcoming attractions – the description given by John of the conditions on earth, closely resembling the description of the rich man’s torment in Sheol, given by Jesus in the narrative of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31.
As John records that the sun is “allowed to scorch people by fire,” this implies that restrictions that inhibited the intensity of the sun have been removed. Possibly the Lord reduces the size of the thermosphere, which absorbs large amounts of incoming high energy solar radiation from the sun, which raise its temperature to 200°C, hence the name “thermosphere” (the Greek word thermo relating to heat). This would increase the amount of solar energy reaching the earth, and greatly increase the temperature.
The hardness of man’s hearts is revealed, with mankind still refusing to repent. Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 2:11, gives the reason – God will hand mankind over to a reprobate mind, hardening their hearts as He did with Pharaoh during the Exodus plagues: “Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false”. By taking the mark of the beast they have sealed their fate, their hearts are hardened by God, there is no turning back, no repentance.
The Fifth Bowl Judgement (16:10-11)
“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”.
Where the fourth Bowel Judgement is a preview to the heat of hell, the fifth Judgement is a preview to the darkness of hell. Jesus ends the parable of the Talents saying: “and cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30), a description that would fit the conditions over the kingdom of the Antichrist during the fifth Bowl Judgement.
Whereas the fourth trumpet struck one third, of the sun, the fifth bowl plunges only the area indicated as “the kingdom of the beast,” into complete darkness. This area is difficult to define, as Jerusalem would be the new Babylon, the final seat of Satan, so it could be just the city. The region could also be the revived Roman Empire that the Antichrist will rise to power in, or it could include all who had taken the mark of the beast, and submitted to the Antichrist, which would be the whole world. Most commentators favour Jerusalem, the higher echelon of the Antichrist’s realm, as the target for the plague of darkness.
There may be a touch of irony in this plague being directed against the throne of the Antichrist, just as the 9th plague in Egypt was directed against the sun god Ra, and the 10th plague which resulted in the death of the first-born son in Egypt, was an attack on Pharaoh, who believed he was a god. The Antichrist, who has declared himself to be god, and possibly having a title representing light, is now plunged into darkness.
Verse 11 refers to “pain and sores”, but makes no direct link to the cause being the darkness, so it is most likely that these are the “harmful and painful sores” caused by the first bowl judgement, that still torments the population.
The Old Testament prophets and Jesus warned of the coming darkness that would be part of the “Day of the Lord”:
- “Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day will be darkness, not light” (Amos 5:18).
- “Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him” “but with an overwhelming flood he will make an end of Nineveh; he will pursue his foes into darkness“ (Nahum 1:6,8).
- “That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness” (Zephaniah 1:15).
- Christ’s own prediction was: “But in those days, following that distress, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light” (Mark 13:24).
The darkness of the Day of the Lord will have many aspects, it will not only be literal, but also the darkness of the heart of man will be revealed in moral, political and spiritual darkness as well.
The Sixth Bowl Judgement (16:12-16)
“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. 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. 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. 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!”) 16 And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon” (Rev. 16:12-16).
The sixth Trumpet Judgement records the release of four angels who were chained at the “great river Euphrates,” who then lead a demonic army of 200 million horsemen to kill a third of mankind, now an army from the eastern nations crosses the dry river bed of the Euphrates on the way to Armageddon. While the demonic horsemen are led by four fallen angels, the kings of the world are led by “three unclean spirits like frogs,” who have power to perform miracles.
The Euphrates River has such a large catchment area that it has never dried up in recorded history, however the reality is that it is now possible for the Euphrates is to run dry. Nations such as Turkey, Syria and Iran have been constructing dams on the tributaries of the Euphrates which has greatly limited the flow of the river. A drought similar to the one that struck the region in 2006 could successfully stem the flow of the Euphrates River, which would then prepare the way for the kings of the east, the massive army of the Asian nations, to cross on dry ground.
The name Armageddon comes from the words “har Megiddo”, meaning “the hill of Megiddo”. Rising up from the broad flat valley of Jezreel there is a tel (an artificial ‘mound’ or ‘small hill’), on which the town of Megiddo has been built and rebuilt repeatedly through its tumultuous past. (Excavation has uncovered about 26 layers of settlements). The word Megiddo, means crush, kill, strike, massacre; so, the tel is aptly named as a place of conflict and destruction. The valley is 22.5 km wide and 32 km long and has been the sight of multiple battles over the centuries: Barak and Deborah in conflict with Sisera (Judges 5:19), Gideon against the Midianites (Judges 7); Ahaziah slew Jehu there (2 Ki. 9:27) and Josiah dies from wounds sustained in a battle with Pharaoh Necho fought in the valley of Jezreel (2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chronicles 35:22). Napoleon referred to the valley of Jezreel as “the most natural battlefield in the whole earth”. Megiddo is at the centre of a confluence of routes through the region, in a territory that connect three continents, and the valley has all the attributes of a natural meeting place for the armies of the world at Armageddon.
These armies will be drawn to Israel to challenge the Antichrist in battle, but ultimately, they come to do battle against the returning Messiah (Psalm 2). The end result is therefore, not a conflict between the nations of the world, but the nations against God:
“7 I will tell of the decree: he Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:7-9).
Satan is also a contributor to the gathering, drawing the kings of the earth to war through demonic influence. The question that then must be answered, is why would Satan bring the armies of the world into conflict with his own false messiah? At this time, the Antichrist already has control of Israel, and will be seated on the throne of David in Jerusalem. Satan has successfully counterfeited God’s plans, so why would he want to end that apparent triumph over God? The answer is that the ultimate end goal of Satan is the destruction of mankind, with the eradication of man, there will be no one left for the establishment of the Kingdom to be ruled by Jesus. With no Kingdom, there is no future judgement of Satan, he attains a stay of execution, he escapes the Lake of Fire.
So, the armies of the world are brought together in the valley of Jezreel by the demonic forces that came out of the mouths of the false trinity. It is these demonic spirits, who by performing miracles, will so impress the kings of the invading armies, that they agree to combine their forces, and ready themselves to face the coming conflict with Jesus. The conflict is the Son of David against hundreds of thousands – a new David and Goliath match, where David strode down to face Goliath in the valley of Elah, Jesus comes down to face the armies of the world in the valley of Jezreel. David had his sling and five stones, against the armour, sword and spear of Goliath. Jesus has His sharp sword, against the advanced technological weapons of the day, namely, automatic assault rifles, rocket launches, tanks, and artillery. The army of the rebellious world will see Armageddon as a battle; however, John describes it in Revelation 19 as the “great supper of God”. The armies will be harvested by the Lord in one dramatic swoop of the sickle, the worlds mighty men will be reduced to piles of flesh and bone, a banquet for the fowls of the air, while their blood flows downstream to the sea, to the height of a horse’s bridle (1.5m).
The Gathering for Armageddon
Armageddon is a New Testament term, and is only used once by the apostle John in the recording of the book of Revelation. The climactic battle is however, also recorded by the prophet Joel:
“9 Proclaim this among the nations: Consecrate for war; stir up the mighty men. Let all the men of war draw near; let them come up. 10 Beat your ploughshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, ‘I am a warrior’” (Joel 3:9-10)
In Joel 9 the nations are told to “consecrate for war,” which is a cry to prepare for battle. The scene set by Joel is one of a time of peace being shattered by a call to arms. The shout goes out for soldiers to be shaken awake, the time for battle has arrived and men must come forward to take their place in their ranks. The time for rest and slumber is over, there is an urgency, a startling change in circumstances. The situation is so bad that even the weak are called into the ranks alongside the seasoned warriors. So many more are called up to the fight, that the blacksmiths are required to convert the tools of agriculture into weapons of war, so as to ensure all are armed for the conflict ahead. During the Kingdom age Isaiah prophesies that the reverse will be true:
“They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).
The Armies of Armageddon
The two most important apocalyptic books in Scripture – Daniel and Revelation – indicate the regions these armies of Armageddon will originate from:
Chapter 11 of Daniel, verses 5-20, record the struggles of two dynasties: the Seleucid and the Ptolemies. Daniel refers to them as the kings of the North (Seleucid), and the kings of the South (Ptolemies), on the basis of their location to Israel. Then in verses 21-45 the focus narrows to include the reign of the contemptible person, who for a brief period controlled the Seleucid Empire. This contemptible individual is Antiochus IV, a man whose life in many ways foreshadows the coming Antichrist. Then in verse 36 of Daniel 11, there is a man that is simply referred to as “the king.” A careful examination of the king’s characteristics, reveals that obvious differences exist between him and Antiochus IV, the subject of the preceding verses. The differences are important as they underline that the prophecy is no longer referring to the type (Antiochus IV), but the reality, the ultimate “contemptible person,’ the Antichrist. Antiochus IV is a shadow of the reality – the Antichrist – and he is used to introduce the “son of perdition” for very important prophetic reasons. When Daniel gives details in verse 40 of conflicts involving a king of the North, and a king of the South, he is not referring to the Seleucid and the Ptolemies. He is once again, giving geographic references in relation to the nation of Israel, this time, of armies that will be a part of the conflict “at the time of the end”:
40 “At the time of the end, the king of the south shall attack him, but the king of the north shall rush upon him like a whirlwind, with chariots and horsemen, and with many ships. And he shall come into countries and shall overflow and pass through”.
The “king of the South”, implies a confederation of African nations; then once again, as has occurred repeatedly in Biblical history, there is also an army that descends from the North, which although led by the “king of the North,” will very likely also be a confederation of Northern nations.
John in Revelation 16 gives further information, adding a third threat to the Antichrist’s dominance, he records that from the east, a massive army will cross the dried-up Euphrates River, (Rev. 16:12). This attack by “the kings of the East,” coincides with the sixth Bowl Judgement, which is the release of demonic powers that go out to “the kings of the whole world” to gather them to battle “on the great day of God Almighty” (Rev. 16:14). As Israel is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea in the West, there is no “king of the West” attack. Joel indicates attacks on the Antichrist from North and South, and John indicates an attack from the East, and then John states that “the kings of the whole world,” will be involved in the battle in Israel. So, countries from the West will not be left out of the final conflict.
The Antichrist’s forces will be formed from European nations, which will have established themselves in Israel, upon the Antichrist’s move from Rome to Jerusalem. There will therefore be a number of battles leading up to the final conflict at Armageddon, where the armies of mankind will stand in rebellion to Jesus.
The seventh Bowl (16:17-21)
“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!” 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. 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. 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”.
With the pouring out of the last Bowl Judgement, the cry goes forth “it is done”. Not only do we see the end of God’s judgements, with the greatest, most devastating earthquake, we also see the end of Satan’s dominion over the earth. The last judgement carries the crescendo of God’s wrath, which is focused at the root cause of all of man’s rebellion – Babylon! The last drops from the cup of God’s wrath are drained upon the city, the Greek use of thymou (fury – a passion-driven outburst of anger), and orgēs (wrath – violent indignation, used for punishment), together implies the strongest possible outpouring of divine judgment. I have repeatedly written of God’s hatred of syncretism, when man’s philosophies contaminate God’s Word. Rome the home of the apostate church, which had become the genesis of the End Time rebellion against God, becomes the focus for God’s climatic anger. “It is done,” signals the commencement of the Kingdom of God over the earth. It is not only a signal to an end, it is a shout of victory, announcing a new beginning – the rule of the Son of David, from the City of David – the victor takes His rightful place on the throne of David.
Satan, through the Antichrist, brought about a one-world religion, a one-world government and a one-world economy. The armies of the world are destroyed at Armageddon, Revelation 17 describes the destruction of the religious whore that deceived mankind, and here we see the complete destruction of the centre of the world’s political and economic system. Babylon the great is Rome, the home of the whore of Revelation, but also the heart of the False Prophet’s economic system. The system that brought the nations of the world into subjugation to the authority of the Antichrist. The city of Rome, the focus of God’s last outpouring of wrath is sliced and diced by a mighty earthquake.
In the book of Revelation, the title Babylon refers to the city that is the home of the apostate End Times religion. The religion that started at the rebellion of Nimrod and Semiramis, in the city of Babylon, has come full circle with the foul religion finding a home in the Roman Catholic Church. The city of Rome is therefore referred to as Babylon, and the apostate religion that found its home there is called the Whore of Babylon. Even in New Testament times, Rome was referred to in code as Babylon. The apostle John used this code in the Book of Revelation, as did Peter who refers to Rome as Babylon in his first epistle (1 Peter 5:13), his reason being to protect the church in Rome from persecution should the letter fall into the wrong hands.
The Earthquake that devastates Rome is accompanied by the greatest storm ever to strike earth, which mirrors the great wrath of God. The hailstorm is used in Scripture to reveal the power and strength of God (Isaiah 28:2) and hailstones are repeatedly seen in Scripture as a tool of God’s judgement:
- The seven plagues against Egypt (Exodus 9:24).
- The Canaanites (Joshua 10:11).
- The End Times judgement on Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38:22).
John describes hailstones weighing 45kg falling from the sky onto the earth – imagine the storm that will keep hailstones aloft until they reach a weight of 45kg! The destruction from the winds alone will be as devastating as the enormous hailstones. Compare the seventh bowl hailstones with the heaviest hailstones on record, which weighed up to 1 kg, that fell in the Gopalganj area of Bangladesh on 14 April 1986. This would have been a massive storm by any standard, now imagine a storm that will be able to drop hailstones 45 times greater in size! The Great Tribulation judgements of God are truly record breakers.
Yet, despite the severity of God’s judgements, chapter 16 ends with no record of repentance from mankind, such is the hardness of their hearts.
The Trumpet and Bowl Judgements Compared
|The Trumpets||The Judgements||The bowls|
|1. 8:1-7||The earth||16:1-2|
|2. 8:8-9||The sea||16:3|
|3. 8:10-11||The rivers||16:4-7|
|4. 8:12-13||The heavens||16:8-9|
|5. 9:1-12||Mankind – torment||16:10-11|
|6. 9:13:21||An army||16:12-16|
|7. 11:15-19||Angry nations||16:17-21|
Table of the Seven Bowl Judgements
|1 (Rev 16:2)||“Harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image”.|
|2 (Rev 16:3)||“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”.|
|3 (Rev 16:4)||“The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood”.|
|4 (Rev 16:8)||“The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire”.|
|5 (Rev 16:10)||“The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness”.|
|6 (Rev 16:12-14)||The Euphrates dries up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. Then out of the mouths of the dragon, the Antichrist and the False Prophet, come three unclean spirits like frogs. These demonic spirits bring the kings of the world to assemble in the valley of Jezreel, for the battle of Armageddon.|
|7 (Rev 16:17-21)||A great earthquake destroys Babylon the great, splitting it into three parts. Great hailstones weighing 45kg fall from the sky.|