The Bible
  NT Background
  NT Books
  NT Studies
  OT Background
  OT Books
  OT Studies
  Bible Study
  Early Church History
  British Museum
  Museums
  Historical Docs
  Life Questions
  How to Preach
  Teaching
.pdf
Print
Search for page by title (auto-completes)
Advanced search
  
Google Translate
Advanced Search
Search for word or phrase within each page
Search by OT book and chapter
Search by NT book and chapter


Revelation 6 - Seven Bowls of Total Judgement (15:5 - 16:21)

Julian Spriggs M.A.

Also available:

Introduction Four main views of Revelation
1: Prologue (1:1-8) 2: Letters to seven churches (1:9 - 3:22)
3: Seven Seals (4:1 - 8:1) 4: Seven trumpets (8:2 - 11:18)
5: Seven signs (11:19 - 15:4) 6: Seven Bowls (15:5 - 16:21)
7: Prostitute / Babylon (17:1 - 19:10) 8: Seven judgements (19:11 - 21:8)
9: Bride / Jerusalem (21:9 - 22:9) 10: Epilogue (22:10-21)
Millennium Rapture and tribulation
Jesus the Lamb

Outline

Setting (15:5 - 16:1): The temple of the tent of witness in heaven opened
Bowl 1 (16:2): Earth, sores on worshippers of beast
Bowl 2 (16:3): Sea like blood of a corpse
Bowl 3 (16:4-7): Rivers became blood
Bowl 4 (16:8-9): Sun scorched men
Bowl 5 (16:10-11): Throne of beast plunged into darkness
Bowl 6 (16:12-16): Euphrates, three foul spirits like frogs
Bowl 7 (16:17-21): It is done!

Introduction

The seven bowls were previewed before the seventh of the signs (15:1). With the bowls or plagues, the wrath of God is ended, so they represent the final judgment. There is a close parallel with the seven trumpets (8:2 - 11:18). The trumpets represented partial judgements within history, but the bowls represent total judgment at the end of history. The trumpets affected one third of the different parts of the environment, but the bowls bring total destruction. The trumpets were warnings in the present age, calling unbelievers to repentance before it is too late. When the bowls are poured out, the final judgment has come, and there is no longer time for repentance.

From this point onwards in the book time has moved to the end. We are no longer in the present age, but have reached the final judgement. With the bowls, the wrath of God is ended (15:1). There are now six chapters describing the final judgement (ch 15-20). They all describe the same event, but from different perspectives. The focus moves in turn to the different forces opposed to the Lamb, and descriptions are given of what will happen to them. We are told what will happen to the unbelievers who worshipped the beast (ch 16), then we are introduced to Babylon and witness its destruction (17:1 - 19:10). Finally only the beasts and the dragon are left (19:11 - 20:15). Many of the descriptions of judgement are drawn from the OT, particularly the plagues of Egypt (Ex 7-12) and from the many descriptions of the Day of the Lord in the prophets.

Setting (15:5 - 16:1): The temple of the tent of witness in heaven opened

Again the new section begins with a setting portraying part of the heavenly temple being opened, together with dramatic manifestations of the glory of God. The tent of witness was a name given to the tabernacle in the wilderness (Num 17:7, 18:2). Here it is the heavenly temple, the place of the presence of God in His glory. Seven angels come out of the temple wearing white robes, similar to those worn by the risen Jesus (1:13), and by the saints (19:8). They are wearing white, the colour of purity, to show that God’s judgements are just and come from pure motives to eliminate sin and the forces opposing God. The theme of the justice of God’s judgements is continued through this section (16:5-7).

The angels are given golden bowls full of the wrath of God by one of the living creatures. These golden bowls were previously seen in the vision of the throne-room (5:8), where they contained incense which was the prayers of the saints. Again we see the connection between judgements and the prayers of the saints, as in the setting of the trumpets (8:3-4). The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God so no one can come into the presence of God while his judgements are being poured out. Once the final judgement comes, it is too late to repent. At significant times in the OT, the tabernacle or temple was filled with the smoke of the glory of God (Ex 40:34, 1 Kg 8:10, Ezek 44:4, Is 6:4). Finally the angels receive the command to pour out their bowls of wrath. This command comes from the temple, from God himself. It is God alone who announces the time of the final judgement. The first four bowls affect the physical environment, together with the unbelievers. They closely parallel the first four trumpets, affecting in turn: the earth, the sea, the rivers, and finally the sun.

Bowl 1 (16:2): Earth, sores on worshippers of beast

The first bowl affects the earth, and sores come on those who worship the beast. This is the fourth time that worshipping the beast and receiving its mark are mentioned together. This is similar to the sixth plague of Egypt, the boils (Ex 9:10). Boils were also one of the covenant curses for disobedience to the law (Deut 28:35). This bowl only affects the unbelievers, not the saints. Even though saints may experience tribulation, they are never subject to the wrath of God. When Jesus died, he took the wrath in our place, so we can be proclaimed righteous.

Bowl 2 (16:3): Sea like blood of a corpse

Like the first plague of Egypt (Ex 7:17), the second bowl affects the sea, and it is turned to blood. Everything in it dies, bringing total destruction.

Bowl 3 (16:4-7): Rivers became blood

The third bowl is similar, but affects the fresh water. It is followed by two declarations of the justice of God’s judgments. The first is from the angel of the water, saying that because the persecutors shed the blood of the saints, they will be given blood to drink. It is what they deserve. The essence of justice is receiving what you deserve. The altar responds, saying that God’s judgments are true and just, as also declared in the OT (Ps 119:137). We should notice that God is described as 'the Holy One', as his judgements demonstrate his holiness. He is also the one, 'who are and were'. The 'is to come' is omitted, because the coming of God in judgment is currently being described.

Bowl 4 (16:8-9): Sun scorched men

The fourth bowl affects the sun, making it scorch people with fierce heat. Even in the midst of the final judgements, men still refuse to repent, and continue to curse God, blaming him for their suffering. The failure to repent seen previously in the trumpets continues to the end.

Bowl 5 (16:10-11): Throne of beast plunged into darkness

The fifth angel pours his bowl on the throne of the beast and, like the Egyptian plague (Ex 10:21), plunges his kingdom into darkness. For John this was Rome, representing the centre of anti- Christian government. Again, in their agony of suffering, people still cursed God and refused to repent. This repeated theme sadly shows the stubborn hard-hearted resistance of the majority of sinful mankind towards God and the Gospel of salvation.

Bowl 6 (16:12-16): Euphrates, three foul spirits like frogs

Like the sixth trumpet, the sixth bowl affects the River Euphrates. This was the northern boundary of the Promised Land (Gen 15:18), beyond which were the powerful enemy nations of Assyria and Babylon, who were used as God’s tools of judgement on his people. The Euphrates was also the eastern boundary of the Roman Empire, the barrier to stop the dreaded Parthians invading the empire. With the barrier removed, God’s restraint on the enemies is removed.

John now sees three foul spirits like frogs, which are defined as demonic spirits. They come from the mouths of the evil trinity: the dragon, the beast and the false prophet, described in chapters 12 and 13. As noted before, like the dragon, the beasts are spiritual beings, which are manifested through human beings. These foul spirits go out to assemble the kings of the earth for battle. This is the first of three times the forces of evil gather for battle (also 19:19, 20:8). Each time they gather for battle, but no battle is ever described, because the outcome is certain.

There is a brief aside addressed to the unbelievers, and a blessing for the church. Jesus warns the unbelievers that he is coming like a thief. This is a common description of the second coming through the NT (Mt 24:43, 1 Thess 5:2), showing that he will come when least expected. However Jesus only comes like a thief to those don’t expect him, as he warned the church in Sardis (3:3). The believers are called to keep awake (as Mk 13:37) to be ready to welcome him at any time, and be clothed, presumably with the righteousness of Christ (7:13-14). This is in contrast to the church in Laodicea who were poor, blind and naked (3:17), not ready to meet Jesus.

The frog spirits assemble the kings of the earth at a place called Armageddon. This literally means Mount Megiddo. Megiddo was located in the Valley of Jezreel in northern Israel. This was a flat and very fertile area lying in a gap in the hills, forming one of the main transport routes through Israel. There was no Mount Megiddo. Because of its location, Megiddo was the site of a number of very significant battles in the OT. These include: Deborah and Barak defeating the Canaanite kings (Judges 5:19), King Ahaziah of Judah dying after being wounded by King Jehu of Israel (2 Kg 9:27), and King Josiah of Judah being killed in battle against the Pharaoh Necho and his Egyptian army (2 Kg 23:29). Rather then predicting an ultimate literal battle in a place called Armageddon, this sixth bowl is yet another description of the final judgement, as it takes place on the great day of God the Almighty. The name 'Armageddon' is being used as a picture of defeat, when the forces of evil are finally defeated by the coming of Jesus. In 1815, Napoleon was defeated near a small village in Belgium called Waterloo. This place is remembered in history and is still used as a term for a final and decisive defeat, as in the phrase, 'he met his Waterloo'.

Bowl 7 (16:17-21): It is done!

The sixth bowl ended with the forces of evil gathering for battle, but no battle is described. The next thing John heard is a loud voice from the temple, from the presence of God, saying, “It is done!” Everything is finished. God’s judgements are complete, and now is the time for the glorious future for the saints, which will be described at the end of the book.

The description of the seventh bowl concludes with dramatic apocalyptic descriptions of the final judgment. Babylon, also known as 'the great city', was split into three in a violent earthquake, as it experienced God’s wrath. This is the second time that the destruction of Babylon is described. Here it serves as a preview of the longer description coming in the next two chapters. Even at this time, men continued to curse God for the hail, which was far more severe than the plague of hail in Egypt (Ex 9:24). There is still no repentance, even though it is now too late.

Conclusion of the seven bowls

The seven bowls bring God’s wrath to an end (15:1), so they represent the final judgement, as God’s wrath falls on the unbelievers who worship the beast. God’s judgements are just, giving unrepentant mankind the punishment they deserve. Through the judgements, they continue to curse God. Descriptions of the judgement on the other enemies of God come in the following chapters, as the description of the final judgement continues.

Also available:

Introduction Four main views of Revelation
1: Prologue (1:1-8) 2: Letters to seven churches (1:9 - 3:22)
3: Seven Seals (4:1 - 8:1) 4: Seven trumpets (8:2 - 11:18)
5: Seven signs (11:19 - 15:4) 6: Seven Bowls (15:5 - 16:21)
7: Prostitute / Babylon (17:1 - 19:10) 8: Seven judgements (19:11 - 21:8)
9: Bride / Jerusalem (21:9 - 22:9) 10: Epilogue (22:10-21)
Millennium Rapture and tribulation
Jesus the Lamb