The First Through Fifth Bowls (Rev 16:1-11)

October 10, 2017 — Leave a comment

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Past Lessons and Review

B. Text of Rev 16:1-11

1Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the seven plagues of God’s wrath on the earth.” 2So the first angel left and poured out his bowl on the earth. Then painful and harsh sores appeared on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshipped his statue. 3Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea. As a result the sea turned into blood like from the dead, and every living thing in the sea died. 4Then the third bowl was poured out on the rivers and water springs. As a result they turned into blood. 5Then I heard the angel of the waters saying, ‘You are righteous. The One who is, was, the holy one that judges with these things, 6because the blood of the saints and the prophets has been poured out, so you gave them blood to drink, which they deserve.” 7Then I heard a voice from the altar saying, “Yes! Lord God, Almighty! Your judgments are true and just.” 8Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun and it caused the sun to burn up humans in fire. 9People were scorched with a scorching heat. So they slandered the name of God who holds power over these plagues, yet they did not repent and give him glory. 10Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast. As a result his kingdom was darkened and people were biting their tongues from the pain. 11They slandered the God of heaven because of their pain and sores. Yet, they did not turn from their evil deeds. (Rev 16:1-11)

The First Through Fifth Bowls (Rev 16:1-11)

Photo Credit: Matthias Gerung

C. General Remarks

“God will allow natural elements themselves (earth, sea, rivers and sun) to pass judgment on the human beings who have so grievously abused their position as God’s image-bearers with creation.” (Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 142)

D. Opening Illustration

Well known Bible scholar and writer N.T. Wright, was cycling down the street one day when he came up beside a former teacher of his. Wright had studied the New Testament under him a few years earlier, but now Wright was neck deep in studying and writing about Rom 1:18-3:20. That section of Paul’s letter to the Romans is all about God’s wrath against all human wickedness. Wright confided in his former teacher saying, “I’m having a hard time with wrath.” To that statement his former teacher said, “Aren’t we all” and he cheerfully cycled off (Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 141).

II. AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOWL JUDGMENTS (Rev 16:1)

“Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, ‘Go and pour out the seven plagues of God’s wrath on the earth.’” (Rev 16:1)

QUESTION: WHO IS IN CHARGE HERE? SEEMS TO BE THAT GOD IS IN CHARGE.

QUESTION: WHAT IS THE TIMING OF THESE BOWLS? FIRST OR LAST?

QUESTION: WHO’S VOICE DO YOU THINK THIS IS?

A. The Seven Angels

These are the same seven angels that are first mentioned in Revelation 15.

B. God’s “Wrath”

The Greek word for God’s “wrath” used here is θυμός, which has two categories of usage in the New Testament (according to BDAG). The usage here is a state of intense displeasure and can be translated as “anger, wrath, rage, indignation” (BDAG, 461-462).

I have translated the same word previously in the book of Revelation:

  • For this reason, o heavens and all who live there, rejoice. Woe to the earth and to the sea because the Devil has come down for you with tremendous anger because he knows he has a short time left.” (Rev 12:12 emphasis added)
  • “he will drink from the wine of God’s anger which has been mixed in the unmixed cup of his wrath. He will be tormented in fire and sulfur before the holy angels and before the Lamb.” (Rev 14:10 emphasis added)
  • “Then I saw another great and marvelous sign in heaven. Seven angels were holding the seven last plagues for they will complete the wrath of God.” (Rev 15:1 emphasis added)
  • “Then one of the four living beings gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever.” (Rev 15:7 emphasis added)

Here are its other uses throughout the New Testament:

  • “But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness.” (Romans 2:8, NLT emphasis added)
  • “It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11:27, NLT emphasis added)
  • “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.” (Ephesians 4:31, NLT emphasis added)
  • “When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious.” (Luke 4:28, NLT)
  • “At this their anger boiled, and they began shouting, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’” (Acts 19:28, NLT emphasis added)
  • “For I am afraid that when I come I won’t like what I find, and you won’t like my response. I am afraid that I will find quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorderly behavior.” (2 Corinthians 12:20, NLT emphasis added)
  • “idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division,” (Galatians 5:20, NLT, emphasis added)

I appreciate N.T. Wright’s thoughts on this idea of God releasing his “wrath.” He writes, “Because of the nature of his [God’s] love, he will not always be stepping in and calling ‘time’ before the appointed moment” (Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 143).

C. The Voice of God

This voice appears to be God. Walvoord writes, “The voice is undoubtedly the voice of God” (Walvoord, Revelation, 239).

III. THE FIRST BOWL JUDGEMENT ON PEOPLE (Rev 16:2)

“So the first angel left and poured out his bowl on the earth. Then painful and harsh sores appeared on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshipped his statue.” (Rev 16:2)

QUESTION: WHERE IS THIS MARK, ACCORDING TO THE TEXT?

While you might be reading this in order to learn about the Bible, I’m going to give a brief English lesson. In English a “preposition” gives the location of things. It describes where things are in relation to other things. For example, “the milk is in the fridge.” The preposition “in” describes the location of the milk. I want to ask you, where is the mark of the beast located?

The mark is “on” the hand and forehead. I have heard lots of people talk about how the mark being a “chip” that gets inserted under someone’s skin. However, a careful reading of the text lends one to believe that this is a physical mark that is “on” the hand and forehead, not “in” them or “under” them.

IV. THE SECOND BOWL JUDGMENT ON FISH IN SALT WATER (Rev 16:3)

“Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea. As a result the sea turned into blood like from the dead, and every living thing in the sea died.” (Rev 16:3)

A. Whole Versus Part

These judgments seem similar to the trumpet judgments, except that the trumpet judgments only partially affect the earth (one-third in Rev 8:7, 8, 10, 12) while the bowl judgments affect all the earth. Therefore, these bowl judgments appear to be different than the trumpets, and as a result this supports the telescopic view.

B. Literal Versus Symbolic

Some commentators do not think that these bowl judgments are “literal” but instead are “symbolic” (Metzger, Breaking the Code, 82-83; Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 142-143). Yet, they will agree that the Trumpets affect a literal one-third of the earth while the Bowls literally effect the entire earth. It seems odd for them to take the judgment events as symbolic but the scope of judgments as literal.

V. THE THIRD BOWL JUDGMENT ON FRESH WATER (Rev 16:4-7)

A. Rivers and Springs Turn to Blood (v. 4)

“Then the third bowl was poured out on the rivers and water springs. As a result they turned into blood.” (Rev 16:4)

B. The Angel with Authority over the Water (v. 5)

“Then I heard the angel of the waters saying, ‘You are righteous. The One who is, was, the holy one that judges with these things,” (Rev 16:5)

This is the “angel of the waters.” Interestingly, a close examination of angels in the Bible reveals that angels have a strong ministry. Here’s a brief list of some of the things that they do.

  • Heavenly Worship and Service (*Dan 7:9-10; Heb 1:6; Isa 6:2-6_
  • Divine Judgement (*2 Kings 19:35; *Rev 20:1-3; Acts 12:21-23)
  • Announcement and Instruction to Believers (announcement of the births of Ishmael [Gen 16:11], Samson [Judg 13:3], John the Baptist [Luke 1:11], and Jesus [Luke 1:26-33]; instructions are given on the law [Acts 7:53; Gal 3:19; Heb 2:2], explaining mysteries [Rev 17:7], and to reveal the Gospel [Gal 1:8]
  • Agents of Answered Prayer (Dan 9:20-23; 10:12-22; Acts 12:5-10)
  • Protect and Care for Believers (thru angelic presence [*2 Kings 6:13-17; *Dan 3:24-25], guardian angels [*Dan 6:22; *Heb 1:14; *Matt 18:10], death and angelic ministry [*Luke 16:22; *Jude 9], angels unawares [*Heb 13:1-2])

The point that I’m trying to make here is that this verse makes it clear that angels seem to have an area of ministry and responsibility. This seems to be the “angel of the waters.”

C. Blood Is Their Reward (v. 6)

“because the blood of the saints and the prophets has been poured out, so you gave to them blood to drink, which they deserve.” (Rev 16:6)

In my translation I am following the NET which inserts “so” in the text, indicating that what happens to the people is because of the wicked things that they did to the saints and prophets. I also like the NET version that reads, “they got what they deserved!”

D. God’s Judgments Are Just (v. 7)

“Then I heard a voice from the altar saying, ‘Yes! Lord God, Almighty! Your judgments are true and just.’” (Rev 16:7)

QUESTION: WHOSE VOICE DO YOU THINK THIS IS?

VI. THE FOURTH BOWL JUDGMENT ON PEOPLE (Rev 16:8-9)

A. Everyone Scorched with Fire (v. 8)

“Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun and it caused the sun to burn up humans in fire.” (Rev 16:8)

B. Refusal to Turn to God (v. 9)

“People were scorched with a scorching heat. So they slandered the name of God who holds power over these plagues, yet they did not repent and give him glory.” (Rev 16:9)

What does it mean to “slander” God’s name?

  • “No wonder the Scriptures say, ‘The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you.’” (Romans 2:24, NLT, emphasis added)
  • “All slaves should show full respect for their masters so they will not bring shame on the name of God and his teaching.” (1 Timothy 6:1, NLT, emphasis added)

VII. THE FIFTH BOWL JUDGMENT ON THE BEAST (Rev 16:10-11)

A. The Beasts Kingdom Goes Down (v. 10)

“Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast. As a result his kingdom was darkened and people were biting their tongues from the pain.” (Rev 16:10)

QUESTION: WHY WOULD THEY BITE THEIR TONGUES?

B. Refusal to Turn to God (v. 11)

“They slandered the God of heaven because of their pain and sores. Yet, they did not turn from their evil deeds.” (Rev 16:11)

QUESTION: AS WE HAVE READ THE BOOK OF REVELATION, HAVE YOU SEEN MORE PEOPLE TURN TO GOD OR AWAY FROM GOD IN THE LAST TIMES?

VIII. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION

A. During the Tribulation some people come closer to God while others move away from God.

In this passage it is clear that those who do not know God definitely go farther away from him. Their hearts get harder as God judges the world. Yet, during the Tribulation some people draw closer to God such as the 144,000 of Rev 7 and 14.

Christopher L. Scott

Posts Twitter Facebook Google+

Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I also may have received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."