Intro. – As we look through the Book of Revelation, It is my hope that you have seen some of the things that I have seen. Going into a study like this, you already anticipate great calamity and judgment on the earth and people. But one thing I didn’t expect is the longsuffering and patience of God. We see that God has chosen to execute his judgment on the earth with increasing intensity. You remember that he will begin with the seal judgments in chapter six where one fourth of the earth will feel the weight of the judgments. And when many do not repent, the trumpet judgments will affect one third of the earth. In Revelation 9.20-21, John tells us that there will be many who will continue to worship demons and not repent. These leave God no choice but to put an end to an unrepentant people. God created us to bring him glory and yet many do not.
To me, this communicates several things. First, mankind deserves their judgment for their defiance and, second, God demonstrates great mercy and patience with his creation! He had every right, as our Creator, to wipe us out with the very first sin. Yet he continues to be longsuffering, desiring that people would repent and give him glory.
This morning, we are in chapter 16 of Revelation. Please turn there in your Bibles. We come to the last of the judgments – the seven bowls of God’s wrath. Immediately following these judgments is the return of the Lord Jesus for his millennial kingdom in chapter 19. Chapters 17 and 18 serve as a parenthesis and do not drive the timeline forward. So this is the last chance…
Let’s read the text to begin. READ Chapter 16.
We are going to see a few things in this text. We will begin by looking at the Calamity. This is expected as we understand we are entering into the bowls of God’s judgment. But we will then see that the calamity is caused by mankind’s defiance and false worship. And we will see that this is contrary to the character of God. Let’s look first at the calamity that awaits the creation in the end times.
We don’t get too far into our text, when we get the impression that God’s patience has certainly been exhausted. It is his voice that bellows from the temple and commands the angels to carry out judgment on the earth. These are identified as the seven bowls of God’s wrath. We know it is the voice of God because of the ending of the previous chapter where God is the one abiding in the sanctuary (or temple, same word) and no one else could enter until after the seven plagues.
The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth. It is important to note that there is a major distinction between the bowl judgments and the seals and trumpets. In the seal and trumpet judgments there was a gap or reprieve. The bowl judgments however are successive and cumulative. In other words, there will be no relief between them. They come right after the other. And they are thorough. Another characteristic of these bowls is that many of them closely resemble the Egyptian plagues when the Israelites were in captivity and slavery at the time of Moses.
So with the first angel dumping his bowl on the earth, the people are covered with harmful and painful sores. Notice the ones who are affected. It is those who bear the mark of the beast – those who had pledged allegiance to the Antichrist. And you may recall that at the time of the Israelites, it was only the Egyptians that were affected by the plagues. And God’s people were protected. The same is true here.
These sores are similar to the sixth Egyptian plague. The description is not pleasant. They are defined as inflamed and running sores that refuse to heal. And they are probably similar to that which Job experienced when he was being afflicted by Satan.
Next, the second angel pours out his bowl into the sea and it became like the blood of a corpse. And every living thing in the sea died! Can you imagine this? The sea became like coagulated blood. Couple that with a sea full of dead fish and animals. The stench would be overwhelming I’m sure!
But we’re not done yet. The third angel in verse 4 pours out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water and THEY become blood! This affects all sources of fresh water! Blood! John MacArthur reminds us that “By the time the third bowl is poured out, fresh water will be in critically short supply. The third trumpet judgment (8:10–11) will result in the poisoning of one third of the world’s fresh water. Additionally, the two witnesses will “have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying [the last three and a half years of the Tribulation]; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood” (11:6). The temporary restraining of the earth’s winds (7:1) will also cause drought. With no wind to move clouds and weather systems, the hydrological cycle will be disrupted and no rain will fall.”
The things we take for granted. The first two plagues notwithstanding, can you imagine not having the life-sustaining provision of water? This will be devastating. And I believe this is why we have the angel interject this reminder in verses 5-7. The angel in charge of the water reminds the readers who God is. He reminds us that God is just and holy and eternal and therefore it is necessary that mankind be judged.
As we look at these verses, the angel could have stopped at verse 5 and said “God, you are holy and just and therefore, this is appropriate. Who is the clay to question the Potter?” But then he elaborates and offers further explanation. He tells us that they have murdered the saints and prophets of God Almighty and are worthy of judgment. In fact, it seems as though the punishment fits the crime. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, blood for blood. It is what they deserve!!
One thing that has really challenged my faith is my tracking updates with the Voice of the Martyrs. I subscribed to their web feed where I get daily snippets of persecuted believers around the globe. Here’s what I’ve concluded: We don’t know persecution. We think we are persecuted when people ridicule us or ostracize us.
Here’s just a quick sample of a days updates: “Christian shopkeeper beaten and detained on blasphemy charges in Pakistan. Muslims attack Christians in Pakistan. Church buildings burned down in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Christian banned from meeting fellow believers in Uzbekistan. The fate of six foreign Christians abducted in Yemen still remains unclear. Please pray.” This is just a small sample of what is going on around the globe.
Do you think that some of these folks would have a better understanding of these verses and God’s judgment?? My heart wrenches when I hear these stories of our brothers and sisters being beaten and killed. But we also need to understand that God will avenge the blood of the martyrs. Our God is just and holy and will carry out justice on persecutors of Christians.
What I find equally amazing is that many of the persecutors become so taken by the stand that Christians make for their faith, that many of them acknowledge God and trust in Christ. That is often the most powerful testimony for Jesus. This should lead us to pray for our persecutors. The worst they can do to us is to take our lives which merely ushers us more quickly into the presence of our Savior. They, however, would not face the same fate. And just as God is powerful to convert a Paul, he is able to draw other hardened sinners to repentance.
And then we read they get a confirmation coming from the alter in heaven, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments”. This recalls for us Revelation 6.9 which reads, “9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.” So it is the martyred saints who are offering their “amen” to the judgment of God in this chapter. And God hears their cry and fulfills His promises.
In verse 8, the fourth angel pours out his bowl on the sun. This appears to be the only bowl not associated with one of the Egyptian plagues. People are scorched by fire from the sun. That’s pretty intense! Remember, this is in addition to the sores on their bodies, the stench and death contained in the seas, and no fresh water to drink or wash their sores. Now, they are scorched by flames of fire by the sun. You would think at this point, many would cry out for mercy and repent. Our text indicates the opposite. They cursed the name of God (or blasphemed God) and did not repent or give him glory. This baffles me. Their hearts have become so hardened they do not admit their weakness and God’s power but rather shake their fists at their Creator.
Notice a few things here with me. First, notice God’s sovereignty over creation as he allows the sun to scorch people with fire. Next, observe the blasphemy. Recall that we recently encountered this word with the introduction of the Beast, or Antichrist in chapter 13. Interesting to note is that the Antichrist’s followers imitate his behavior. They have become like the object of their worship.
The same should be true for us. Ephesians 5.1 says, “Be imitators of God as beloved children.” In the same way that children mimic their parents (scary thought), so we should imitate God. How can we imitate a God we do not know or pursue? As Christians, we are adopted children of God!!! Children of GOD! And he has given us the privilege to talk with him whenever we feel like it. That’s better than direct access to prime minister or president or king or anybody! Why is it so easy to neglect this? Or do we view it as a waste of time? We don’t say these things verbally but by our actions, or inactions. We have been given a tremendous gift in possessing the supernatural revelation of the Creator. And yet Bibles sit on the bookshelf. We need to be imitators of our God and he has given us what we need to do this!
Also, it is the name of God they curse or blaspheme. God’s “name” represents his attributes and character. They loathe his sovereign power it appears. And this is certainly not exclusive to the end times. This is likely what deters many from coming to Christ. There is a call to die to self and serve the Lord. One commentator suggests, “God is sovereign and in control of everything that happens, but their unwillingness to honor Him as sovereign is the typical heathen spirit”.
In verse 10, the fifth angel pours out his bowl on the throne of the beast and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. There is much debate over the location of the throne of the beast, but is likely that it is a worldwide kingdom. And so this would introduce worldwide darkness. And this will cause people to gnaw their tongues in anguish. At first glance, this is hard to fathom. But when you think that there is a cumulative effect of the painful sores, fouled oceans, lack of water, intense heat and add to that pitch black darkness. That would make it absolutely unbearable. And they did not repent of their deeds… How stubborn and calloused can you be?? Craig Keener, in his commentary writes that a “survivor of a plane crash recounts that he always expected people who were dying to cry out to God for mercy in their final moments, but noted that he heard many respond with cursing, following the habits they had spent their lives developing". Interesting…
You can certainly see many parallels between the Egyptian plagues and the bowl judgments. Besides the elements involved in the plagues and bowls, we also see the continual hardening of Pharaoh’s heart as well as unbelievers throughout history.
The sixth angel pours out his bowl in verse 12. This is the only bowl that doesn’t have immediate judgment. This is solely preparatory for an event to come. The bowl is poured on the great river Euphrates in order that there might be an assembly of a great army. The river will be dried up so that the kings from the east can converge with the kings of the whole earth to wage war against believers and God. The irony is that this becomes a trap in the same way that the drying up of the Red Sea became a trap for the Egyptians. The kings of the earth will converge in one spot where they will meet their doom in chapter 19. We learn from verse 16 that this battle takes place at Armageddon. No one knows for certain the exact location but it is likely in the vicinity of Mount Megiddo.
Joel 3 prophesies the event, “2 I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land, 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 plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, “I am a warrior.” 11 Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations, and gather yourselves there. Bring down your warriors, O Lord. 12 Let the nations stir themselves up and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. 13 Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the winepress is full. The vats overflow, for their evil is great.” And Psalm 2:2, “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed.”
This army will be influenced by the unholy trinity mentioned in the next verse. It consists of none other than Satan, the Antichrist, and the false prophet who will deceive the nations to oppose God. The imagery of unclean spirits coming from their mouths indicates that it will likely come by way of propaganda and is consistent with the ways of the Adversary. Remember that it was his twisting of the truth from the Garden of Eden which led mankind to rebel against God. These three will be vigorous in manipulation, spreading lies, and performing signs. And they will be successful to the ignorant. You recall that this was introduced in chapter 13 regarding the false prophet.
Jesus also predicted these events in Matthew 24:11, 24. He warns that “many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
And I can assure you that Satan and his demons are not waiting for the end times to do these things. They are already active in spreading their lies. This is why it is crucial that we are diligent to know the truths of Scripture and not be swayed by every wind of doctrine. There is a LOT of stuff out there under the banner of “Christian” that is truly not. We need to be vigilant so that we do not fall prey to false teaching.
Lastly, we come to the seventh bowl – the end of the judgments immediately before the return of our Lord Jesus. This bowl is poured out into the last of the earthly elements. The angel pours his bowl into the air and God declares that “It is done.”
With the introduction of this final bowl, it is as good as completed. Can you imagine the anticipation? If you are in the know, you recall that Jesus is coming to establish his millennial kingdom on the earth very shortly.
But you also know that the seventh bowl will be the worst calamity in the world’s history. John’s vision informs us of lightning and thunder and a “great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake.” Notice the emphasis here… great earthquake, like never before since man was on the earth, so great was the earthquake. So I did a little research. The biggest earthquake ever recorded, occurred near Santiago, Chile, in 1960. “Known as the Great Chilean Earthquake, the quake measured an impressive 9.5 on the Richter scale. The death toll of the Great Chilean Earthquake is not known, but estimates go as high as 6,000, and the earthquake may have caused as much as 800 billion US Dollars in damage.
It is highly probable that some ancient earthquakes were of a higher magnitude, but because the Richter scale was not developed until the 1930s, it is difficult to quantitatively compare them. For example, the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 was by all accounts quite severe, and it generated a massive tsunami which only magnified the death toll, and the Shaanxi Earthquake which occurred in China in the 1500s was the deadliest known to history, killing almost one million people. So we would conclude that the earthquake contained in the seventh bowl will be a major ordeal. It will be one in which the landscape will be altered.
We see in verse 19 that the great city, Jerusalem, will be split into three parts. Hebrews 12:26-27 reads, “26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.”
Zechariah 14:3-10 describes these changes in detail. READ. “Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. 4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. 5 And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. 6 On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. 7 And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. 8 On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. 9 And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one. 10 The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft on its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s winepresses.”
John MacArthur comments: “The Mount of Olives will split in two, and a new valley running east and west will be created (Zech. 14:4). A spring of water will flow year-round from Jerusalem to the Mediterranean and Dead Seas (Zech. 14:8), causing the desert to blossom like a rose (cf. Isa. 35:1). Jerusalem will be elevated, and the surrounding region flattened into a plain (Zech. 14:10). Thus, the purpose of the earthquake as it relates to Jerusalem is not to judge the city, but to enhance it. Jerusalem was judged earlier in the Tribulation by an earthquake, which led to the salvation of those who were not killed (11:13). Thus, there is no need for further judgment on that city. The physical changes will prepare Jerusalem for the central role it will play during the millennial kingdom, when Christ will reign there as King.”
We learn also that this worldwide earthquake wreaks devastation in all the major population centers. But the fall of Babylon is the central teaching of the seventh bowl. And this will be further developed in the next two chapters.
Isaiah 40:4-5 (ESV) says, “4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” This is understood to be the physical environment of the earth before the Flood.
But God isn’t finished yet. Those who survive this massive, worldwide earthquake will then encounter hailstones. And not just any hailstones. These weigh 100 pounds each!! The heaviest hailstones ever recorded weighed about 2 pounds. These will be bigger. They will easily crush people. But then we find that the people finally threw in the towel, the repented of their evil deeds and gave God glory. No?? They cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe. Isn’t that amazing?? The entire earth shakes and splits apart, nations, mountains and islands disappear, great hailstones take survivors out. And people curse the Almighty God…
Throughout history, God has been sending a message. In his creation, he has displayed his glory - in the beauty of the earth and its creatures. In the magnificence of the universe and galaxies, he sends a message. Psalm 19 says, “1The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”
Through the nation of Israel, God has been sending a message. He chose them to be a light to the nations declaring his glory. In the birth of his Son Jesus, God has been sending a message. Jesus loved us enough to leave behind a throne to be born in a feeding trough. Jesus became obedient to death on a cross and he sends a message of his love and grace and mercy.
Throughout history, mankind has been sending messages as well. Many have said they don’t want to acknowledge or serve that God. Many prefer to BE God. Many refuse to bow to the Creator, the Savior, the returning King. This began with the fall of Satan from heaven and will continue until King Jesus returns.
But God, in his grace, continues to call unworthy sinners to repentance. He uses any means necessary. He uses the beauty of creation to draw attention to himself. He uses his written word to declare the good news of salvation. He uses trials and suffering so that we would take our eyes off of ourselves and to the One who is the Almighty. One commentator notes, “The unrepentant focus only on their pain, not on the message.”
That was me for quite a while. My parents divorced when I was fifteen. It was at that time that I decided to rebel against my Christian upbringing and pursue a different life – one that primarily included excessive drinking and drugs and everything that usually accompanies these things. And so began my slide into misery. The more I partied, the more miserable I became. God, in his grace, brought lots of adversity – numerous car accidents, broken relationships, and depression. In hindsight, I see his hand gradually increasing the intensity of his discipline and his calling me. I can now thank God for the suffering that redirected my obsession from myself to my Savior. And I have come to see this even in the book of Revelation where God continually provides the opportunity for repentance. And as each successive group rejects him, he increases the intensity until there is no offer of repentance left.
If you have been rejecting Jesus throughout your life, you must know a couple things. He has died on the cross so that mankind can be saved from their sinful state. Sinful people can be reconciled to a holy God. Hallelujah! Second, God is longsuffering and yet his patience will be exhausted. He is a just God and must punish those who continue to reject his provision for salvation. The King is coming back. In verse 15, Jesus exhorts people to ensure that they are ready for when he comes and they are not found naked and exposed. Though there are some clues, we don’t know when this will be. I can only plead with you to make sure that you are ready. Like I’ve said before, every knee will bow before Him. I pray that you will not bow solely in recognition of THE King, but as YOUR King!