This morning we will begin our exploration of Revelation 16, which details the 7 bowls or plagues. This is the final series of judgments against the earth. Following these judgments the Great Tribulation will come to an end, and Jesus will return to set up His kingdom. Today we will consider the first 5 bowls, depicted vividly in verses 1-11.
Before we begin, remember the scene described in the previous chapter. John saw 7 angels come out of the heavenly temple. 1 of the 4 living creatures gave each of them a golden bowl full of the wrath of God. Then the temple was filled with smoke and no one was allowed to enter...
I. THE 1ST BOWL (Revelation 16:1-2)
John heard a loud voice coming from the temple instructing the angels to go and pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath. Upon hearing this directive, the 1st angel obediently went and poured out his bowl on the earth. When he did so, a painful and harmful sore afflicted those who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.
The Bible does not give us any additional details about this agonizing sore. We don’t know where it appeared on the body or how long it remained. However, it is important to notice that this judgment was directed specifically at the Antichrist’s followers. Up to this point, the devastations of the tribulation generally affected the entire earth and all of its inhabitants. Meanwhile, the heavy persecutions of the beast narrowly targeted Israel and the Tribulation Saints (believers). For the first time, God’s anger was pointed exclusively toward His enemies. This 1st bowl marked the beginning of the end for Satan, the Antichrist, and the False Prophet.
II. THE 2ND BOWL (Revelation 16:3)
John then saw the 2nd angel pour his bowl into the sea. It turned to blood “like that of a dead man”. Every living thing in the sea died. This atrocity can be compared to the 2nd trumpet judgment (Revelation 8:8-9) that took place sometime earlier during the Great Tribulation which caused ⅓ of the sea to be turned to blood and ⅓ of the creatures in it to die. Now, as a result of this bowl, the destruction of the sea was complete - 100%.
It is hard to imagine the many effects that this would have. In an instant, there would be no more ocean creatures to eat and or use for producing other products. Shipping and marine trade would come to a complete and abrupt end, upending the world’s already floundering economy. Travel would be altered and restricted. Contamination and pollution from putrid, bloody oceans would cause worldwide sickness and death. The impact would be unimaginable...
III. THE 3RD BOWL (Revelation 16:4-7)
Next, the 3rd angel poured his bowl out on the earth and all of the fresh-water rivers and springs (and therefore lakes, streams, etc) were also turned to blood. John heard “the angel of the waters” praising God for avenging the blood of slain prophets and saints by giving those who’d martyred them blood to drink. “They deserve it”, the angel said. A voice from the heavenly altar agreed and affirmed the righteousness of God’s judgments.
This is comparable to the blast of the 3rd trumpet (Revelation 8:10-11), after which ⅓ of the earth’s fresh-water was made bitter and undrinkable. Following this bowl judgment, all of the water was tainted. The remaining ⅔, which had been potable during much of the Great Tribulation, was also ruined. Now there was virtually no fresh-water to drink or to nourish plants or crops. If any supplies of fresh-water remained, they were extremely scarce and of the utmost value as life cannot exist long without drinkable water.
IV. THE 4TH BOWL (Revelation 16:8-9)
The 4th angel poured his bowl out on the sun and it was given power “to scorch people with fire”. Due to the severe heat, the masses were badly scorched and began to blaspheme God’s name. Though suffering from extreme sunburn, they still stubbornly refused to repent or give God glory. This is somewhat similar to the 1st trumpet judgment (Revelation 8:7), during which ⅓ of the earth’s plantlife and trees were burned up.
Some modern environmentalists suggest that such a catastrophe could occur due to the deterioration of the ozone layer which shields the earth from the sun’s intense heat. Global warming is a popular and sometimes controversial topic. Is it natural or man-made, or perhaps a combination of both? Can we do anything to significantly change it? While these questions are the subject of much debate, the Bible reveals clearly that in the last days temperatures will rise, famine and drought will increase, and people will suffer in the blistering rays of the hot sun.
V. THE 5TH BOWL (Revelation 16:10-11)
John watched as the 5th angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast. The kingdom of the Antichrist was “darkened” and he and his royal court were plagued with painful sores. They gnawed their tongues in agony and blasphemed the name of God, foolishly refusing to repent of their evil deeds.
The 5th bowl was, in some respects, a continuation and extension of the judgments begun by the 1st bowl. While the 1st bowl afflicted only the worshipers of the beast, the 5th bowl actually took aim at the beast and his attendants. The heavy persecution that the Antichrist had been wielding against the children of God was now being turned against him. As they say, “What goes around comes around.” His dominance was waning and his kingdom began to crumble...
The bowl judgments will take place during the final months of the Great Tribulation, setting the stage for Christ’s glorious return. Though their effects will certainly impact the entire world, their primary target will be the Antichrist and his followers. Let’s take a moment to highlight and emphasize this point.
The 1st bowl was exclusively aimed at those who took the mark of the beast or worshiped his image. The 3rd bowl was primarily against those who martyred God’s people and were deserving of God’s wrath. The 4th bowl hit those who blasphemed God’s name and refused to repent. The 5th bowl was precisely pointed at the Antichrist and his sinister kingdom.
Up to this point, the beast had imposed his tyrannical dictates and torments upon the people of God. He and his wicked cohorts had imposed severe persecutions against Israel and the Tribulation Saints throughout most of the Great Tribulation. But as his power began to slip and God’s judgment began to fall upon him, the Antichrist became increasingly crazed and desperate. What could he… what would he do to resist?