Revelation 16: The Bowls

Posted on March 5, 2021


By David Ettinger

What This Is
Back in the mid-to-late 1990s, I taught a Sunday school class verse by verse on the Book of Revelation. This series represents my notes for each class. (I have done some updating as some of my understandings have changed over the years.) I came across them recently and decided to post them. If you wish to use these notes as a study guide, the way to do it is as follows: Read the verse first in your Bible, then look at the corresponding notes here for commentary.

For some reason, I don’t have notes for Chapters 1-3, therefore this series begins with Chapters 4-5. Following the Chapter 4-5 study notes, each chapter will be presented individually.

Read Chapter 4-5 notes here.
Read Chapter 6 notes here.

Read Chapter 7 notes here.
Read Chapter 8 notes here.
Read Chapter 9 notes here.
Read Chapter 10 notes here.
Read Chapter 11 notes here.
Read Chapter 12 notes here.
Read Chapter 13 notes here.
Read Chapter 14 notes here.
Read Chapter 15 notes here.

* Everything about this chapter speaks of the final judgment as the greatest and most awful period of human history.

* The use of adjectives is intense:

* vs. 1: a “loud” voice

* vs. 9: “intense” heat

* v. 12: “great” Euphrates

* v. 14: “great” Day of the Lord

* v. 18: “severe,” “tremendous” earthquake

* v. 19: the “great” city

* v. 19: “Babylon the great”

* v. 21: “huge” hailstorms

* The 7 bowl judgments are similar to the 7 trumpets, but are far more intense.

* Ultimately, Chapter 16 presents a series of judgments beyond anything ever before mentioned.

Verse 1
* The “loud” voice: Though not revealed, it could well be God’s voice.

* God’s wrath is going to be poured out in 7 rapid judgments which will devastate Earth.

Verse 2
The First Bowl
* The bowl judgments are exclusively for those who have taken the mark of the beast and worship him.

* In this judgment, people are actually attacked.

* By contrast, in the first trumpet, a third of the Earth is burned up (8:7).

* This first bowl judgment is similar to the sixth plague of the Egyptians (Exodus 9:9-11), the plague of boils.

Verse 3
The Second Bowl
* In the second trumpet, a third of the sea is turned into blood (8:8).

* This bowl judgment is similar to the first Egyptian plague (Exodus 7:20-21), where the Nile was turned into blood.

Verse 4
The Third Bowl
* Because much of the world’s population is not located near a sea, God will destroy the water source for the remainder of Earth.

* This bowl judgment is similar to the third trumpet (8:10-11), except there only a third of the waters were affected.

Verse 5
* Note the use of angels. This one is in charge of the waters. Here is a look at how angels play key roles in the way our world operates.

* The angel proclaims God is just for the following reasons:

1) He is the Eternal and Holy One.

2) He has judged that this shall be Earth’s punishment.

Verse 6
3) The evil men and women of this world have killed God’s saints and prophets.

4) God will pay back blood for blood.

* Note God’s special place for martyrs.

Verse 7
* The altar is the place where sacrifices are made.

* It is as though the altar is saying: “I am an expert in the art of true and just sacrifice, and I recognize that God’s sacrifice now is true and just.”

Verse 8
The Fourth Bowl
* Again, similarities can be seen between the fourth bowl and forth trumpet (9:12) where a third of the sun, moon, and stars were struck.

* Here, the fourth bowl refers only to the sun. The sun is used by God as a weapon.

* By contrast, the fourth trumpet darkened the sun.

Verse 9
* People are being burned and are in great torment.

* They recognize it is God who is causing their torment.

* However, just as their bodies are seared, so are their hearts; therefore, instead of seeking God’s forgiveness, they curse Him.

* Again, remember the rapidity in which these judgments are being executed (a time span of about 30 days).

Verse 10
The Fifth Bowl
* This judgment apparently increased the severity of the affliction of the first bowl judgment and describes those associated with the beast as being in even greater agony.

* “Plunged into darkness”: Not sure if this is literal or spiritual darkness, but either could certainly apply.

* If it were an actual darkness, it would correspond to the ninth Egyptian plague (Exodus 10:21-23).

Verse 11
* Again, we see the familiar theme of people refusing to repent (2:21, 9:20-21).

* When wicked people are confronted with the power of God, they do not easily repent, but instead increase their rebellion against Him.

Verse 12
The Sixth Bowl
* This bowl emphasizes a major feature of the Great Tribulation: A world war in which various parts of the world rebel against the Antichrist.

* The sixth bowl actually plays a role in this, drying up the Euphrates so that the armies of the East can cross.

* A survey on numerous commentaries on Revelation has found numerous different theories of this verse, with the main questions focusing on the meaning of the phrase “Kings of the East,” and whether or not to take the reference to the Euphrates literally.

* It is best to take the literal interpretation. In other words, it probably means that the Euphrates is dried up and that an army from the East will enter Israel. There is a very good chance that China will be a part of the mix.

* There is also a similarity between the sixth bowl and the sixth trumpet (9:13-16). There could be a connection between the army of 200 million in 9:16, though the bowls and judgments are two separate series of judgments.

Verse 13
* We now have a parenthetic section – a demonic gathering of armies – before the seventh trumpet is blown (v. 17).

* This is a combination of literal and symbolic.

* The evil spirits which look like frogs are fallen angels (demons).

* They evidently obey the orders of Satan, the Antichrist, and his prophet.

* The evil spirits are sent throughout the world to entice rulers to join the great world war which will be fought in Israel.

* Obviously, this indicates rebellion against the Antichrist at the end of the Great Tribulation (since his headquarters is located in Jerusalem).

Verse 14
* The demons entice the world rulers by miraculous signs.

* The scope of the demons’ influence is the entire world, and they are successful in drawing all armies to Israel.

* “The great day of God Almighty”: Armageddon.

* The gathering of the armies to Armageddon will be in preparation for the return of Christ.

Verse 15
* Apparently, Jesus Himself sounds the warning to be prepared.

* Despite all that has transpired up to this point, many will still be unprepared.

* However, God is telling those who will remain faithful to Him not to despair by all that is going on. Overcome just a short while longer.

* Generally, the reference clothes speaks of being clothed in God’s righteousness (Psalm 93:1).

Verse 16
The Gathering of Armies
* The armies of the world think they are gathering in the Holy Land to fight it out for control of Earth.

* It seems odd that Satan, the Antichrist, and the prophet would encourage a world war since they are the ones who want to control the world. The answer is found Chapter 19 when Christ returns. The gathering of the armies is a feeble attempt by Satan to gather all his military power in a vain aspiration to defeat the armies of Heaven.

Verse 17
The Seventh Bowl (the destruction of Babylon)
* This loud voice from the throne can only be the voice of God.

* “It is done”: Not “it is over,” but “it is accomplished.” (Compare to John 19:30: “It is finished.”)

Verse 18
* An incredible scene of overwhelming judgment.

* There have been tremendously destructive earthquakes in the past, but the one that is about to strike eclipses all that has preceded it.

Verse 19
* “The great city”: In 11:8, Jerusalem is clearly referred to as the great city.

* Zechariah 14:4 and following tells us that there will be a tremendous split in the city of Jerusalem when Jesus returns.

* However, also in Zechariah 14, Jerusalem will still be intact when Jesus returns, indicating that perhaps Jerusalem is not the “great city” to be destroyed by the earthquake.

* If not Jerusalem, then what is the “great city” referred to here?

* Many believe “the great city” is a rebuilt Babylon, or perhaps a city in Saudi Arabia which is undergoing major construction. (Look up the new city of Neom, as well as the incredible work being done on Saudi Arabia’s current cities.) Such a magnificent city could be the key city of a new empire. Chapter 18 bears much of this out.

Verse 20
* The earthquake will cause the topographical nature of the world to be dramatically changed with islands disappearing into the bloody sea and the mountains being leveled.

Verse 21
* Besides all this, there will be a supernatural hailstorm with massive hailstorms weighing about 100 pounds coming down upon Earth.

* Whatever is left from the earthquake will be destroyed by those massive blocks of ice hurtling down from the sky.

* And as in the previous judgments of God, neither does this one bring repentance or confession of sin. Instead, humanity continues to curse God.

* The world is now set for the second coming of Christ. Before this, however, we have a parenthetical section dealing with Babylon.