5] After these things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened. 6] And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and having their chests girded with golden bands. 7] Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever. 8] The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angles were completed.
16:1] Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.”
2] So the first went and poured his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.
3] Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature in the sea died.
4] Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. 5] And I heard the angel of the waters saying:
“You are righteous, O Lord,
The One who is and who was and who is to be,
For You have judged these things.
6] For they shed the blood of saints and prophets,
And you have given them blood to drink.
For it is their just due.”
7] And I heard another from the altar saying, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.”
8] Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. 9] And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.
10] Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. 11] They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds. (NKJV)
For nearly three-and-a-half years, a great world leader (great as the world understands it) has led mankind in an overt rebellion against the God of heaven. He’s been able to perform astounding miracles, even himself cheating and defeating, or so it seemed, defeating death itself. He’s murdered countless numbers of those who refuse to bow before him. Apparently he has free reign. Nothing can stop him.
But now there is a drastic change. Those heavens which had been so silent now respond. First of all, John shows us the scene in heaven, that heaven which up til now has been silent – but no longer….
There is activity. Seven angels come out of the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven, v. 6. Why such a long description? Perhaps it has something to do with the innermost workings of the Divine mind and purpose. I don’t really know. The focus isn’t so much on where these angels came from as it is on what they’re going to do. No one will be able to enter the temple until they are done, v. 8.
We’re only looking at the first five of these seven bowls of judgment, because the sixth judgment introduces a new element. Some of these judgments mirror things we’ve seen before – in earlier judgments and much earlier in Egypt.
1. The First Bowl, 16:2: Terrible sores.
A foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.
This mirrors the sixth plague in Egypt: boils which afflicted man and animal, Exodus 8:8-12. The sores in this judgment afflict only those who follow the beast. These are the kind of sores that afflicted the beggar Lazarus in Luke 16:21, a “festering, inflamed, running sore that refuses to be healed.”
The insolent challenge had risen to the heavens: “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” Revelation 13:4. In these judgments, he and his followers will find out.
2. The Second Bowl, 16:3: The sea turned to blood.
Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature in the sea died.
This bowl and the next one mirror the first plague in Egypt, where the water was turned to blood, also what happened during the second trumpet. In the trumpet judgment, however, only a third of the sea was affected, with the water turning to blood and a third of ships being destroyed.
Something is said of this “blood” that shows the severity of this plague. Running through our veins, blood brings oxygen to every cell and carries away waste products. The life of the flesh is in the blood, Leviticus 17:11. For all our science and technology, I’m not sure we understand the wonder and complexity of our blood. Carefully preserved and protected, blood can be useful and life-saving, as in blood transfusions. It can even be a preventative, as in forming scabs to cover wounds. The blood of the second bowl isn’t like that. It is blood as of a dead man, foul and corrupt. Instead of preserving and protecting life, it will kill every creature in the sea.
Why are the ships affected? Well, imagine what will happen when that great mountain – perhaps a giant meteorite – hits the ocean – and the tidal wave that will follow. It will dwarf the wave that hit the Indian Ocean in 2004. Our son was in Sri Lanka a few years afterward and said you could still see where the water came up to on the palm trees. That was nothing compared to what will happen in the future.
3. The Third Bowl, 16:4-7: Fresh water turned to blood.
Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.
The judgment of the third trumpet affected only a third of fresh water and only made these waters bitter. This judgment affects all fresh water and makes it not bitter, but blood.
We can’t even begin to know what this will be like. Imagine. The Great Lakes in the US, Tanganyika in Africa, Titicaca in South America, the Mississippi River, the Amazon, the Volga, Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park, to name only a few sources, running in blood, not water.
A lady once told me she was bothered by all the blood mentioned in the Old Testament, and indeed, many are offended and call ours “a bloody religion.” Some people faint at the sight of blood. What will this judgment be like?
Regardless of how men will react, the heavenly world will acknowledge God’s absolute righteousness and justice, vs. 5-7.
“You are righteous, O Lord,
The One who is and who was and who is to be,
Because You have judged these things.
For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
And You have given them blood to drink.
For it is their just due.”
“…Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.”
4. The fourth bowl, 16:8, 9: Scorching heat.
Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.
Because of the darkness which follows in the next judgment, some have said that the Sun suffers a type of nova, that is, it greatly expands and then collapses, going out. Perhaps. I don’t really know. Whatever happens, it will be something terrible, and will cause heat never before experienced on this world. What is believed to be the highest ground temperature ever recorded is 201 degrees in Death Valley, at Furnace Creek, California, in July, 1972. This was a local phenomenon. What Revelation describes will be world-wide, and worse.
Instead of repenting, men will curse the God of heaven. Perhaps this is an answer to those who imagine that the pains of hell will finally cause men to repent, and everyone will eventually be saved and brought to heaven. This tells us something far different. In probably what will be the closest approximation to hell this world will ever see, it won’t bring men to repentance. It will simply confirm them in and increase their rebellion and hatred of God.
5. The fifth bowl, 16:10, 11: Darkness and pain.
Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.
Though this seems to be an entirely separate thing, as another angel pours out his bowl, some of the effects of previous bowls still linger. Pain of the sores from the first bowl coupled with the intense heat of the fourth bowl make men gnaw their tongues. Then they are plunged into complete darkness.
This is similar to something that happened in Egypt as Moses and Aaron were dealing with Pharaoh’s stubbornness in allowing Israel to leave. In Exodus 10:21, we read, Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt.”
“Darkness which may even be felt….”
Have you ever experienced that kind of darkness? I don’t mean emotional pain or distress that seems to block out everything else. That is certainly “felt,” but I don’t think that’s what the Lord had in mind in Egypt, and it’s not the kind of darkness the folks in Revelation will experience.
I was in a cave once, it might have been Carlsbad Caverns, I don’t really remember. What I do remember is that while we were down there, far from the surface, the guide turned off the lights. There was no light whatever; it was absolutely dark. I could feel my eyes straining to see something – anything.
Anything at all.
It was quite a relief to the group when the guide turned the lights back on.
It’s said that unrelieved absolute darkness will result in blindness. I don’t really know, but the fifth bowl will bring that kind of darkness.
Yet those who suffer it will simply bow their necks and continue in their rebellion against God.
We mentioned earlier those who believe there will be a “second chance” for salvation after death. This is a false and fatal hope. There’s also some discussion about whether or not Christians will go through the Tribulation period. It’s not really my purpose to get into all that, but simply to say that while I believe that true believers will not go through that time of trial on this earth, there will be a lot of church-members who will.
Perhaps that sounds harsh and judgmental. I make no judgment about any particular person, but the Lord Jesus said that there is only one way of salvation, not many, one road to heaven, not many. In John 14:6, He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” In our culture of “diversity” and “inclusiveness,” this is considered bigoted and narrow. Nevertheless, it stands true.
Peter echoed our Lord to the Sanhedrin, the ruling body in Israel: “nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” Acts 4:12.
To the Philippian jailer, Paul and Silas said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
There’s no name of a church or denomination, no routine or ritual, no ceremony that will bring folks to heaven. There’s no baptism, whether of adult or infant, immersion or sprinkling, that will do it. No other “religion” is able to get you to heaven. Only those who by faith have received the Lord Jesus Christ, who He was and what He did for sinners, will escape the judgment to come. Oh, that you might be one of them.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”