In Revelation 14, we saw God’s reluctant, but final decision to close the gates of heaven to any further entrants. In His great foreknowledge, God knows that every unbeliever alive on the earth at that time will have hardened his heart against the Gospel and will never come to Him. Therefore, He prepares to release the final judgments on the earth.
The Bowls of Wrath
Revelation 16:1 - This verse depicts a great voice booming out of the smoke-filled temple. This voice gave the seven angels orders to pour out the bowls of wrath that had been given to them.
Bowl No. 1
Revelation 16:2 - “There fell a foul and painful sore open on those who had received the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.” This sore will be worse than anything man has ever experienced. It will be so foul and painful that cancer and leprosy will be trivial by comparison. No known drug will cure these sores. Even the Antichrist with his supernatural abilities will not be able to cure these malignancies. On the other hand, God will supernaturally protect the believers from this horrible plague. “Be not deceived, God is not mocked.” Compare this with the plague of boils in Exodus 9:8-11.
Bowl No. 2
Revelation 16:3 - “The sea became like the blood of a dead man.” In essence, the waters congeal like blood and every living creature that lived therein died. In Rev. 8, only a third of the sea became blood and only a third of the marine life died. In this judgment, all marine life is going to be wiped out. The whole earth will be affected. Sea transportation will be paralyzed. The former series of judgments (seals & trumpets) have increased gradually in measured progression. In the bowl judgments, all the stops are out.
Bowl No. 3
Revelation 16:4-7 - “All rivers and fountains of water become blood.” This will create a horrible situation. Can you visualize a world without water? In Rev. 8:10, only a third of the fresh water supply is affected. At this point, all bodies of water and all sources of water will be turned into blood. The effect of this will be felt worldwide. Rev. 16:6 tells us that the reason for water being turned into blood and the ungodly having to drink it is because they have shed the blood of believers and prophets.
One thing that will stand out in the Tribulation is the slaughter of believers. As seen in verse six, those who follow the Antichrist will shed their blood. In fact, the suggestion has been made in the various readings that shedding the blood of the believers brings gratification to the killers. This slaughter will far exceed that of the Inquisition or of the Covenanter of Scotland. Note that in Rev. 16:5 an angel says that there is nothing unjust about God’s ways of judgment. “You are righteous,” he proclaims. In Rev. 16:7, another angel vindicates the actions of God, declaring that His judgments are true and righteous. Notice now that though the wheels of God’s justice grind slowly, they grind surely.
Bowl No. 4
Revelation 16:8-9 - “Men are scorched by fire.” When 1/3 of the sun was smitten in Rev. 8, it resulted in its power being diminished. Here, it becomes so hot that men are scorched with great heat. The word “great” occurs nine times in this chapter. At this time, God will make changes in the atmosphere or in some of the other laws of nature, so that the heat of the sun becomes more intense and scorches men. Add to this the fact that water is blood and you have some idea of the intense suffering and misery of mankind.
In verse 9, we read the result of this: men blasphemed the name of God and they repented not. Why can’t they repent? Consider 2 Thessalonians 2 and its mention of the man of sin – the son of perdition. 2 Thess. 2:8 says, “And then shall that wicked one be revealed.” This will occur after the rapture of the church and after the Spirit’s dwelling place has been changed from earth to heaven. 2 Thess. 2:9-10 says, “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceiveableness of unrighteousness in them that perish […].” And verse 11 follows with “And for this cause, God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie.” These people are hopelessly lost. They are beyond salvation. Satan will deceive them – God will delude them. These people can truthfully say, “The harvest is passed.”
This brings up the age-old question: Is God sending these people to Hell without a chance? The answer is no! For this reason, up to this point, the 144,000 have been preaching the Gospel to every creature. This evangelization program will be worldwide. The two witnesses had preached for the first 3½ years. Believers had witnessed to Christ, even though it cost them their life. Those who reject Christ and accept the mark of the beast seal their own destiny and doom.
Finally, note God’s care for His own. Will the believers, alive at this time, be subjected to these great judgments? It is unthinkable. When Israel was in Egypt during the ten plagues, they dwelt in the land of Goshen, which appears to have been untouched by the plagues. The same will happen here. The judgments are poured upon those who have the mark of the beast (as seen in Rev 16:2).
It is interesting to note, in regard to men being scorched by the heat of the sun, that Psalm 121:6 says, “The sun shall not smite you by day, nor the moon by night.” Another illustration regarding men being scorched is the three Hebrew children in the furnace of fire. The furnace was heated seven times hotter than usual. Those who threw them into the fire were burned. When the king looked in, he “saw one like unto the Son of God walking with them.” In this sense, they are a type of the Jewish remnant in the furnace of the Tribulation. [Also see Rev. 20, The Great White Throne]
Bowl No. 5
Revelation 16:10-11 - This judgment was poured out on the seat of the beast; that is, the throne of the Antichrist. Verse 10 tells us that his empire was full of darkness and his subjects gnawed their tongues in pain. The result: “They blasphemed the God of heaven, because of their pains and sores.” This is a terrible time for the beast and his subjects. The sores of the first judgment still torment the human race. The water (or the blood) situation remains unchanged. The scorching of the sun continues, but to make it all more fearful, a shroud of impenetrable darkness is wrapped around this godless throng.
These conditions are the nearest to the description of Hell in all the Scriptures; excruciating pain, no water, great heat, weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth (see Luke 16). These conditions are made possible by the judgments falling in rapid succession. While the Roman Empire is engulfed in darkness, the oriental forces take advantage of this situation and 200 million men move toward the Middle East.
Bowl No. 6
Revelation 16:12 - The pouring out of the sixth judgment will cause the great river Euphrates to dry up. This is God’s final preparation for Armageddon. It was on the Euphrates River that civilization began, and it will be here that civilization will end. Civilization’s birthplace was here and its grave will be here. This great river is 1,800 miles long and half of it is navigable. It is wide and deep. The great divide. East is east – West is west, etc. The Euphrates will be dried up and, for the first time in history, the East will invade the West.
Revelation 16:13-16 - These verses show us how the Western forces will be gathered. Evil spirits will proceed from the mouth of the unholy trinity: Satan – Antichrist – False prophet. These demons will work miracles before the rulers of the nations. They will be dazzled and mesmerized, and they will align themselves with the Antichrist – move toward Jerusalem for the final conflict. (Describe at this point the last battle of the campaign of Armageddon)
The Middle East is full of troops and weaponry. It is impossible for us to imagine the magnitude of what is predicted here. At least 300 million soldiers strung out across the entire Middle East. The human waves of the East are pitted against the superior weaponry of the West. There is some preliminary fighting according to Zech. 14:1-3. The Eastern forces take Jerusalem. The doom of Israel seems certain, but at this point the Lord goes forth and fights against those nations that surround the beloved city. As they look up in helplessness to God, the Lord Jesus appears in person.
See Rev. 19. As His feet touch the Mount of Olives, it splits in two, leaving a great valley. Into this valley, the nation of Israel flees to Christ for refuge. There they will receive a revelation that will shock them and cause them great grief. Zech. 13:6 says, “What are these wounds in your hands?” Then He shall answer, “Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.” Then they will realize that Jesus, whom they crucified, was indeed their Messiah. This will be a great revelation to them and cause them great sorrow. As they turn to Christ, a nation will be born in a day. After the reconciliation, the Lord will turn His attention to His enemies.
The coming of the Lord causes a change of attitude between the forces of the East and West. They join together and unite their forces to fight against this new enemy. This is the fulfillment of Psalm 2. This is exactly what God wanted and, at this point, Bowl No. 7 is released.
Bowl No. 7
Revelation 16:17-21 - This is the final judgment – “It is done.” The whole atmosphere will explode and the earth will go into convulsions. This earthquake will be the greatest that the world has ever experienced, according to verse 18. “The cities of the nations shall fall.” London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, New York, San Francisco, Tokyo…Islands and mountains will disappear (verse 20). Great pieces of ice, 100 lbs. in weight, will fall from heaven. This was the plague of all plagues.
The prophet Zechariah gives us further information regarding this time. Zech. 14:12 says, “And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.” No wonder John wrote that the winepress was trodden outside the city and blood came out of the winepress unto the houses bridles for about 200 miles (Rev. 14:20). Judgment is coming. True is Matthew 7:13-14, which says, “Enter at the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”