The Seventh Bowl

SEVENTH BOWL: TREMENDOUS EARTHQUAKE (16:17-21). “It is done!” is one of three Divine markers spoken by God in history:

Creation: “It was very good” (Genesis 1:31) Divides creation and history
Crucifixion: “It is finished” (John 19:30) Divides Promised Redemption and Provided Redemption
Consummation: “It is done” (Revelation 16:17-21:6). Divides History and Eternity

Again, flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake denote God’s wrath being poured out. Yet, this language also suggests the appearance of a theophany such as at Mt. Sinai. Christ is coming!

This is the greatest earthquake in history. The great city is rebuilt Babylon, Rome or Jerusalem. Jerusalem’s topography of three valleys, Kidron, Hinnom and Tyropoeon, harmonizes with the threefold division. When Christ returns to earth, the topography of Jerusalem will undergo a threefold change:

On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south (Zechariah 14:4).

On the other hand, “God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath” so rebuilt Babylon or Rome could be the great city. The magnitude of this earthquake will be so great it will cause worldwide collapse of the cities of the nations. The whole world stands guilty before God. “Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found” points to a leveling of the surface of the earth; the very opposite effect of the Flood of Noah’s day. The earth is being prepared for the Millennial Kingdom.

Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 40:4-5; cf. Jeremiah 4:23-27).

HUGE HAILSTONES. From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds, each fell upon men. Hailstones of this size will cause unimaginable devastation and death. This is reminiscent of the seventh plague in Egypt (Exodus 9:13-26). The only place the hail did not fall in Egypt was in Goshen, where the Israelites dwelled. By inference, God’s people will be protected again.

There is an OT account (Joshua 10) that foreshadows the fourth and seventh bowl plagues. Five kings fled from Joshua, who typifies Christ.

As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the LORD hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky, and more of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the swords of the Israelites (Joshua 10:11).

There was no escape for the five kings and none will withstand Christ when He comes and takes them by surprise as Joshua did his enemies. The sun stood still over Gibeon and the moon over the Valley of Aijalon until Israel avenged itself on its enemies.

The hardhearted response of God’s enemies does not change: “And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.”

Unlike the opening of the seventh seal and the blowing of the seventh trumpet, there is nothing to come after the seventh bowl is poured out, except for Christ!

Historicists view the seven last plagues as judgments on the Latin kingdom or France in the year 1793, counting 1,260 years from the decree of Justinian that made the bishop of Rome supreme over all bishops in A.D. 533. The majority view is the bowls portray the French Revolution. Fulfillment of the second bowl comes in a series of eight great naval disasters that swept away the fleets of France from 1793 to 1805. The rivers and streams turned to blood were fulfilled in the invasion of Attila and the Huns. The darkening of the sun represents the diminishing of the power of the rulers of papal kingdoms, and especially the power of the German emperor. Others see the sun as Napoleon Bonaparte or the confusion and disorder that fell on Rome. The drying up of the Euphrates points to Turkish power.

The three frogs signify the spirit of infidelity coming from the mouth of the Dragon; the spirit of popery proceeding from the mouth of the Beast; and the spirit of priest-craft coming from the mouth of the False Prophet. Some identify the three frogs as paganism, the papacy, and Islam.

The seventh bowl is viewed as storms of hail involving judgments from Russia, France or northern papal kingdoms. Others see some supernatural or metaphorical curse and devastation wrought by aerial bombardments. It is the ultimate overthrow of the Papacy.

Preterists for the most part view Jerusalem in A.D. 70 as the object of the bowls, while others shift them to the fall of Rome. The mark of the Beast indicates either the loyal citizens of Rome or the Palestinian Jews who rejected Christ. The boils are an epidemic of lost sanitation during the siege of the city. The sea and waters turned to blood comes from the dead Jews and is a result of the shed blood of the saints and prophets. The scorched are either citizens of besieged Jerusalem or Rome.

The LORD will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish (Deuteronomy 28:22).

The darkness over the Beast and his kingdom is the turmoil that came following Nero’s suicide in A.D. 68, or the invasions that led to the ultimate fall of Rome in the fifth century. The drying up of the Euphrates is suggestive of Cyrus the Persian diverting its flow in 536 B.C. to conqueror Babylon and equates to the fall of Rome. Natural Egypt was inflicted by natural frogs and spiritual Egypt (Rome) is inflicted by spiritual frogs. None of these prophecies relate to literal Armageddon according to the Preterist view. The final bowl spells the doom of the two cities of Jerusalem and Rome.

Idealists hold that since the bowls resemble the plagues of Egypt, the reader is to see the deliverance of God’s people from Satan’s reign as Israel was delivered from Pharaoh’s reign. Thus, the seven bowls are to be understood as follows:

1. The sores are to be taken as the corruption of the world breaking out
2. The seal turned to blood is the utter putrefaction of a dead society
3. The rivers and springs turned to blood shows God’s ability to punish sinners
4. The effects of the sun shows the ultimate death of unrepentant man
5. The Beast and his kingdom plunged into darkness apply to the punishment of pagan Rome
6. The battle on that great day relates to a myth of John’s day where Nero would be resurrected and that forces from the East, fighting for God, come against Nero
7. The great earthquake, leveling of the earth and hailstones signify the sinful civilization broken into pieces

In summary, the seven bowl plagues are future and literal. They were not fulfilled in the French Revolution, the Fall of Jerusalem, by Napoleon, the pressures of the papacy or the evil, unlawful acts of Hitler and his slaughter of six million Jews. These events in history, and others like them, were mere rehearsals for the final drama of the last judgments on earth.

The Sixth Bowl

SIXTH BOWL: EUPHRATES RIVER DRIES UP (16:12-16). The miraculous drying up of the Euphrates removes a major natural obstacle. It prepares the way for the kings of the East to move westward. This Great River flows 1,800 miles from its source on the slopes of Mt. Ararat to the Persian Gulf. It forms the eastern boundary of the Promised Land (Genesis 15:18; Deuteronomy 1:7; 11:24; Joshua 1:4) as well as the Ancient Roman Empire.

At this point, the kings of the North and the kings of East appear to form a coalition against the Willful King. The East probably refers to an invasion of a massive army of two hundred million soldiers from East of the Euphrates River, which will have killed a third of mankind (Revelation 9:16-19). They could be from Asiatic nations, such as China, Korea, and Japan.

God shall gather the nations to the great Plain of Esdraelon and clear the way for their arrival. So when the armies of the East move westward, the Antichrist and his forces also are drawn to meet them at Armageddon.

But reports from the east and the north will alarm him, and he will set out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many. He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him (Daniel 11:44-45).

The Plain of Esdraelon is famous for two great victories, of Barak over the Canaanites, and of Gideon over the Midianites; and for two great disasters, the deaths of kings Saul and Josiah. Hence, it is a place of great slaughter, the scene of a terrible retribution upon the wicked.

Armageddon is a transliteration of the Greek armageddon (ar-mag-ed-dohn’). In Hebrew, “Har-Magedon” means the mountain of Megiddo (Nwddgm Megiddon, “place of crowds”). In Bible times, the city of Megiddo commanded the entrances to the Costal Plain, the Plain of Acco, and the Valley of Jezreel. Over two hundred battles have been fought on this plain.

An Egyptian account of Pharaoh Thutmose III’s campaign through Palestine boasted that “taking Megiddo is like taking a thousand cities” (ANET 237). Megiddo is one of the strategic locations in Palestine, and many crucial battles have taken place in its immediate vicinity. Judges 5:19 foreshadows the end time Battle of Armageddon:

Kings came, they fought; the kings of Canaan fought at Taanach by the waters of Megiddo, but they carried off no silver, no plunder.

In the ninth century B.C., Yahweh predicted this place and outcome of this battle through the prophet Joel.

I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land.

Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow— so great is their wickedness!” Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision (Joel 3:13-15).

This place is called the Valley of Jehoshaphat because here God destroyed Israel’s enemies (2 Chronicles 20:20-26). Additionally, the name “Jehoshaphat” means “Yahweh has judged.”

Ironically, the Willful King will set out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many, but his army shall be struck down by a sharp sword out of the mouth of the rider on the white horse, who is called Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11-16). At this time, the harvest of the earth takes place (Revelation 14:14-20).

Sixteen hundred stadia (about 180 miles) is the distance from Dan to Beersheba in Palestine. The height of the initial blood will be astonishing at first, and then it will taper down as it flows from the Valley of Jezreel (Jehoshaphat, Decision, Megiddo) into the rift of the Jordan Valley to the Dead Sea. Scavengers will be invited to clean up the flesh of the slain.

And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in mid-air, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great” (Revelation 19:17-18).

There are demonic forces involved in this plague also. The three evil spirits that looked like frogs came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. These might be a manifestation of evil powers, evil influences, or false teachers, which persuade the kings of the earth by lying miracles from the unholy trinity. Croaking day and night, they provoke and call forth to arms as though trumpets of war. The wicked often fall into traps they set!

Frogs are unclean animals according to OT dietary laws (Leviticus 11:10-11, 41). To Persia, the frog was the god of evil and agent of plagues. To Egypt, the frog was the goddess Heqt of resurrection and fertility. With the third plague in Egypt, God sent frogs but the powers of darkness contributed to this plague.

But the magicians did the same things by their secret arts; they also made frogs come up on the land of Egypt (Exodus 8:7).

Unwittingly, the powers of darkness will participate in their own destruction when they go to Armageddon as Satan did when he entered Judas Iscariot for the betrayal of Jesus.

BEHOLD, I COME LIKE A THIEF (16:15). The armies of the world that gather for battle will not anticipate the return of Christ to make war against them (cf. Matthew 24:43; 1 Thessalonians 5:2). Their destruction will be swift and surprising.

BLESSED (16:15). This is the third of seven beatitudes in the Apocalypse (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14). Blessing is promised for the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him. Believers are clothed with the garments of righteousness; they should not lay them aside, so that their spiritual nakedness should be seen (cf. Revelation 3:4, 18). Saints are to be always clothed with the robes of salvation; always ready for any event; however soon or suddenly it may come (Matthew 24:29; 25:13).


The Seven Bowls

CHAPTER SIXTEEN opens with a loud voice coming from God since no one could enter the Temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels is completed. This chapter describes the third woe and man’s unrepentant response to God’s wrath on the earth. Not only are humans the object of His fury but all nature suffers as it did when Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:17-18). The seven bowl plagues are the intense labor pains just prior to the restoration of creation during the Millennial Kingdom.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time (Romans 8:22; cf. Isaiah 65:20-25).

These seven angels, who minister God’s wrath, were ready to execute vengeance upon the earth, having full power; however, they could do nothing until they received authorization from God.

These bowl judgments appear to come rapidly, at the end of the last three and one half years of the Tribulation Period, and they are completed at the time of Christ’s Second Coming. Four similar judgments have been poured out upon Egypt. The very language describing them proves that they are literal plagues, fulfilled in the order in which they are given. As the plagues were sent on Egypt in order to secure the redemption of Israel, so these plagues are sent in order to redeem Israel and God’s people from the slavery of Babylon (the Revived Roman Empire under the Antichrist).

FIRST BOWL: UGLY AND PAINFUL SORES (6:2). This plague has no counterpart in the trumpets but is reminiscent of the sixth plague in Egypt (Exodus 9:8-11). God inflicts His enemies with ugly and painful sores; the saved of the Tribulation do not suffer this plague. These sores are characterized as kakon (evil things) and ponhron (intense pain). The Septuagint uses the same Greek word (ponhrw) to describe the boils that plagued Job (Job 2:7) and the Egyptians (Exodus 9:9-11).

The reason why the sixth Egyptian plague is the first here is that it was directed against the Egyptian magicians, Jannes and Jambres, so that they could not stand before Moses; and so here the plague is sent upon those who worship the Beast and practice sorcery—these worshipers are unclean, not qualified to worship.

“On the ghn [land or earth]” could refer to either Antichrist’s kingdom or the literal earth.

SECOND BOWL: SEA TURNS TO BLOOD (16:3). This plague is reminiscent of the first plague in Egypt, when the Nile was changed to blood (Exodus 7:17-21). Here “sea” cannot represent the world system since every living thing in it dies; it must be taken literally, probably the Mediterranean Sea. The blood in the Mediterranean Sea, or all the oceans, will turn thick, dark, and coagulate as the blood of a corpse. The death and decay of trillions of sea creatures will only add to the misery of this judgment.

THIRD BOWL: RIVERS AND SPRINGS TURN TO BLOOD (16:4-7). Fresh drinking water is already in short supply because of the prolonged drought caused by the Two Witnesses (Revelation 11:6). Now contamination of the fresh-water supply by blood follows that of the sea. Here the sowing and reaping principle (Galatians 6:7) is applied, “You spilled the blood of the God’s saints, now drink it!” This leads to tremendous physical thirst, which points to one’s great spiritual thirst.

But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14; cf. Psalm 63).

The angel in charge of the waters declares that “these judgments are just” and the personified altar echoes this by adding the word “truth.” It speaks as a witness to the lives of the righteous sacrificed on it by martyrdom.

Distress generated by God has a twofold purpose—punishment and abasing. What happens is the result of the choice made by those about to be inflicted. Sometimes Israel responded to inflictions by God with repentance, recognizing what the angel and altar declared.

The leaders of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, “The LORD is just” (2 Chronicles 12:6).

Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25).

Abraham asked the LORD that question prior to His destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The answer is “Yes!” An unjust God would not let sin go unpunished!

FOURTH BOWL: SUN SCORCHES PEOPLE WITH FIRE (16:8-9). Added to sores and intense thirst is the scorching of the skin from the sun. The chilling effect when the sun is darkened with the fourth trumpet (Revelation 8:12) is reversed. Increased power of the intensified sunrays scorches the wicked. This could happen several ways:

1. The sun or earth move closer together
2. Increased eruptions on the sun
3. The sun stands still
4. The ozone layer collapses over certain parts of the earth

If the sun does not stand still and the judgment is localized on the Antichrist’s kingdom, the polar ice caps will melt, inundating many of the world’s major cities with blood-polluted water and producing further catastrophic loss of life.

The Lord, the LORD Almighty, he who touches the earth and it melts, and all who live in it mourn—the whole land rises like the Nile, then sinks like the river of Egypt—he who builds his lofty palace in the heavens and sets its foundation on the earth, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land—the LORD is his name (Amos 9:5-6).

Incredibly, instead of humbling themselves and declaring, “God is just,” sinners refuse to repent and glorify Him. Their hearts grow harder like Pharaoh’s did with each plague.

FIFTH BOWL: DARKNESS (16:10-11). This plague is reminiscent of the ninth plague in Egypt.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand towards the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand towards the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived (Exodus 10:21-23).

As with the ninth plague, this one is localized also. Only the Antichrist’s throne (capital city) and kingdom are plunged into darkness. Worldwide darkness is associated with God’s judgment (cf. Isaiah 60:2; Joel 2:2; Mark 13:24-25).

By this time, the pain of the sores and scorched skin from the first and fourth plagues is so great that men gnaw their tongues in agony and curse the God of heaven. They know that “there is a God in heaven” (Daniel 2:19); yet hardened even more, they refuse to repent! There will be no repentance in Hell! The unsaved will continue to curse God forever! Darkness hates the Light! How appropriate the Beast’s kingdom is plunged into darkness; being it is the dominion of darkness (Colossians 1:13).