This is the last of the three judgments of Revelation. They are the final series portraying the flood of God’s wrath. The chapter documents the carrying out of the concluding series of plagues. There are apparent similarities between these judgments and the trumpet-plagues of chapters 8 – 11. In both plagues the first four plagues are released upon the earth, sea, inland waters, and heavenly bodies correspondingly. The fifth comprises of darkness and pain and the sixth, introduces us to the enemy hosts that come from the area of the Euphrates Both sets of plagues draw heavily for their imagery on the ten Egyptian plagues of Exodus. However, there are distinct differences between the two sets of judgments.
Vs 1: John hears a loud voice from the temple ordering the angels of remuneration to pour out upon the earth the seven bowls of God’s wrath. The voice, seemingly, is the voice of God, for according to the previous verse (15:8) no one is allowed to enter the temple until the seven angels have completed their mission.
Vs 2: The first angel is sent out and carries out his astounding task of pouring out the wrath of God upon the followers of the beast. Those who once bore the mark of the beast are now visited by the “marks” of God.
Vs 3: This correspondence the first plague of Exodus where the waters of Egypt were turned to blood. It also correspondence the second trumpet in Revelation 8 where a burning mountain fell into the sea and turns it to blood. In all three instances it is water, one of humanity’s basic needs that is affected by divine judgment. The sea becomes like the blood of a corpse—that is, coagulated and rotten. The water is in such a state that it obviously cannot support life. All sea life dies.
Vs 4: In Revelation 8 the trumpet-plague affects a third part of the rivers and fountains of the waters as they were made bitter by a great burning star that fell from the sky. The correspondence that exists between the first four trumpets and the first four bowls shows an escalation of divine judgment in which the two series share the same imagery. When the sea turned to blood it brought forth death to all living in it, so also do the rivers and springs of water bring death when turned to blood.
Vs 5 - 6: In Jewish thought the fundamentals of nature were held to be under the authority of angels. We say In Rev 7:1 the angels who restrained the four winds of the earth, and in 14:18 of an angel who had the responsibility over fire. In the Jewish scriptures Enoch 66:2 speaks of angels of punishment who held the hidden waters in check. It is not certain that this the case in this instance. Regardless, the lyric exclamation of the angel closely resembles that of the overcomers in 15:2–4 who sang the song of Moses and the Lamb.
The judgment of God is neither vengeful nor impulsive. It is a manifestation of his just and holy nature. All pictures of God that ignore his hatred of sin reveal more about human nature than about God because in a moral universe God must oppose evil.
Because they had poured out the blood of the saints, God has given them blood to drink. The punishment is custom-made to fit the crime.
Vs 7: A second voice verifies the justice of God’s punitive act. The speaking altar is obviously a representation. It represents the mutual witness of the martyrs in Rev. 6 and the prayers of the saints in Rev. 8. It is noteworthy that throughout Revelation the altar is often connected with judgment.
Vs. 8: The fourth trumpet blast causes, a third of the sun, moon, and stars to be darkened for a third of the day and night (Rev.8:12). But now the fourth bowl is followed with extreme heat rather than a partial eclipse. The sun was so hot that it scorched the earth and everyone with fire. The heat is intensified, and fire happens. Fire is commonly connected with judgment in Scripture.
Vs 9: The heathen world does not respond to this great pain by repenting and giving glory to God. Instead, they blaspheme his name. Knowing full well that God is behind the judgment of plagues the people refuse to repent and instead resort to blasphemy. Their hearts have become hardened like Pharoah.
Vs 10: The throne of the beast would be his authority or dominion, and in John’s day Rome was the geographical focus of that power. The resulting darkness is similar to the darkness of the ninth plague in Exodus. The anguish is so great that the people grind their teeth.
Vs 11: The the followers of the beast curse God because of their pains and sores. They have become one in personality with their dark lord, whose most distinctive occupation is to blaspheme God and his followers.
Vs 12: When the sixth bowl is poured out upon the Euphrates, the river dries up, and opens a way for the kings from the East to enter. There is at least a literary equivalent between the sixth bowl and the sixth trumpet. When the sixth trumpet sounded, four angels bound at the Euphrates were released to lead a vast army of outlandish horses to the slaughter of one-third of the world’s population. The Euphrates marked the eastern boundary of the land given by covenant to Abraham and his seed. It also separated the Roman Empire on the east from the much-feared Parthians whose expert mounted troop bowmen had conquered the entire territory from the Euphrates to the Indus River. It is frequently pointed out that in the OT God’s great redemptive acts were often associated with the drying up of water. The Exodus and the entrance into Canaan (Josh 3:14–17) are the two major examples.
The kings from the East have been variously interpreted. Whatever the ultimate reference, the historical context of John’s imagery favors the interpretation of the kings as Parthian rulers.
Vs 13: John sees three evil spirits coming out of the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. The dragon is Satan, and the beast is the beast out of the sea as described in the first ten verses of chapter 13. The false prophet (appearing by that name for the first time) is surely the beast out of the earth. The evil spirits come out of the mouths of the unholy trio, suggesting the persuasive and deceiving propaganda that in the last days will lead people to an unconditional commitment to the cause of evil. That the three spirits looked like frogs emphasizes their uncleanness.
Vs 14: Jesus warned that in the last days false prophets would arise, and they would perform signs and wonders that would lead many awry. Paul wrote of the lawless one whose appearance would be with “all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders” and with “evil’s undiluted power to deceive”. The evil spirits in Revelation work their demonic influence on world rulers rather than ordinary people. Through their deception they gather the kings of the whole world for a great battle against God and the hosts of heaven.
Jeff has been in full-time ministry for thirty years. He currently serves as Executive Director at Anchor House Ministry at SeaPort Manatee in Palmetto, FL and he is a part-time Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Southside in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored A Lent Devotional (A Spiritual Journey to Lent) an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). All three are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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