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THE SEVEN ‘BOWL’ JUDGMENTS – Revelation 16:1-21

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on August 3, 2016 under AM Bible Study |

AM Bible Study Group; August 3, 2016 from Revelation 16:1-21

Theme: With the outpouring of the seven ‘bowl’ judgments, the wrath of God upon this unbelieving age is complete (see 15:1).

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

The Trumpets and Bows in Parallel

The sixteenth chapter of Revelation brings us to the terrible series of seven ‘bow’ judgments. Though there are some significant differences, the seven ‘bowl’ judgments bear a remarkable similarity to the seven ‘trumpets’ of chapters 8-11; and give support to the idea that they are parallel events. These, then, describe the final acts of God’s judgment upon this present age; and are followed by the return of our Lord.

As this chapter makes clear, the bowl judgments are directed at unrepentant mankind (vv. 9, 11) who persecuted the saints (vv. 4-5)—specifically those who refuse to repent of their alliance with the Antichrist (vv. 2, 10, 19). In the midst of the description of the horror of this future judgment, however, the Lord Jesus seems to interrupt the description, step in before the reader, and assures His saints that He is coming soon (v. 15).


The seven bowl judgments do not begin until a voice is heard from the temple saying to the seven angels to go and pour out their bowls. This is clearly said to be the outpouring of God’s wrath on the earth; but note that it isn’t done recklessly. God’s wrath—dreadful as it is—remains orderly and controlled. It’s important to note that the effects of these bowls are cumulative—one is poured out in an orderly way upon another; with each judgment accentuating the dreadfulness of the whole upon the earth (as is suggested by verse 11).

II. THE JUDGMENTS (vv. 2-21).

A. Bowl #1: A judgment on the earth (v. 2; see also 8:7). Here, a foul and loathsome sore comes upon those who have the mark of the beast and who worship his image. If this parallels the first trumpet judgment; then the “hail and fire, mingled with blood” that is thrown on the earth is, somehow, the cause of those wounds.

B. Bowl #2: A judgment on the sea (v. 3; see also 8:8-9). The sea—as in the plagues of Egypt in the time of Moses—becomes like blood “as of a dead man”. If this parallels the second trumpet, then the “great mountain burning with fire” must be the cause. It may be that this ‘great mountain’ (an enormous meteor?) contaminates the great oceans of the earth in such a way as to cause something like a wide-spread ‘red tide’ effect (although we note that it doesn’t say that the sea becomes ‘like’ blood; but that it “became blood as of a dead man”). If we see this as parallel to the third trumpet judgment, then the statement that every living creature in the sea “died” must mean that a significant portion of every kind of sea life died; but not all, because in the trumpet judgment, only a third are mentioned. (Note that in Ezekiel 47:9-10, we’re told that—in the promised times of the reign of Christ, the waters of the Dead Sea will be healed and repopulated with fish; so some marine life will apparently have been preserved.)

C. Bowl #3: A judgment on the rivers (vv. 4-7; see also 8:10-11). It may be that the “great star” that fell from heaven on the rivers and springs in the third trumpet judgment will contaminate the fresh water rivers and streams and their sources; just as the seas had been contaminated. What a dreadful judgment this will be! The availability of fresh, drinkable water will have been greatly reduced! Note the declaration from heaven that recognizes the justice of God’s judgment. One voice comes from the angel over the waters (see also 14:18); and the other comes from the altar—where the saints who had been slain for their testimony had earlier been said to cry out for judgment from God (see 6:9-11).

D. Bowl #4: A judgment on the sun (vv. 8-9; see also 8:12-13). Men were scorched with fire and great heat in this judgment—a horrible suffering to undergo after the fresh water had been polluted. Note the hard-hearted reaction of the people of earth. Even though they knew that these things came from God, they nevertheless blasphemed Him. God’s judgment doesn’t mean that men’s hearts are changed.

E. Bowl #5: A judgment on the throne of the beast (vv. 10-11; see also 9:1-12). If this parallels the fifth trumpet, then the darkness must be caused by the smoke released from the bottomless pit; and the tongue-gnawing pain men felt must be caused by the stings of the dreadful scorpion-like locusts. How horrible this must have been—with very little water to drink, unbearable heat, and dreadful darkness! Note that it is specifically the throne of the beast and his kingdom that is targeted in this judgment. And again, note the reaction of the people of earth! They blasphemed God for their pains and sours; and yet did not admit that their own sinful rebellion was the reason for this judgment.

F. Bowl #6; A judgment on the River Euphrates (vv. 12-16; see also 9:13-21). This very clearly parallels the sixth trumpet judgment. There are, of course, differences; but the similarities are more striking than the differences. In the sixth trumpet, four angels who are held captive at the Euphrates are released; but in this judgment, three frog-like demons are released. (Frogs were ceremonially ‘unclean’ according to the law given through Moses; see Leviticus 11:10, 41). It’s probable that these three demonic spirits are not meant to be understood as the same beings as those four angels that had been held at the river—although it may be that they work together. These particular demonic ‘frog’ spirits deceive the kings of the earth into gathering together for a great battle (see 1 Kings 22:19-22). This battle may be the same battle we read hints of in Revelation 19:17-21. Note how the Lord Himself interrupts the description of this terrible judgment to give a word of encouragement to His people—urging them to watch and not be caught by surprise. The scene of the promised battle is “called in Hebrew, Armageddon”. This name means “Mount of Mageddo”. Mageddo is the name of the city between the coastal plain of the land of Israel, and the Plain of Esdraelon. It is the site of nearly 200 battles over the long history of the land of Israel; some of which are mentioned in the Bible such as the battle Barak fought for his people (Judges 5:19-21), the battle that Jehu fought against King Ahaziah of Judah (2 Kings 9:27-29), and that King Josiah of Judah fought against Pharaoh Necho (2 Kings 23:29-30). It’s name has come to be traditionally associated with final destruction and judgment!

G. Bowl #7; A judgment on the air which impacts all the earth (vv. 17-21; see also 11:11-19). The great cry at the commencement of this judgment is that “It is done!” (see 11:15). God’s wrath is satisfied in this final outpouring. Note that both the seventh trumpet and the seventh bowl are accompanied by noises, thunderings, lightnings, and a great earthquake. (See Zechariah 14:3-12 and Revelation 11:11-13 for background on the earthquake and the splitting of the city.) “Babylon” is here finally “remembered”, and at last experiences the wrath of God—a particular judgment that is described in greater detail in chapters 17-18. This final judgment is associated with a horrible plague of enormous and destructively heavy hailstones—a particularly dreadful judgment to be compounded upon all that proceeded it! Note again that, in this judgment, wicked men choose to blaspheme God rather than to repent.

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In the light of these judgments, we praise God for His grace; “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9). But more; it should motivate us to proclaim the message of God’s love through the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that those who hear and believe may also escape His coming day of wrath.

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