Revelation 16 - Outline of Revelation (Book Notes menu page)
16:1 And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels,
Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.
great- GK= megalis. Used 9x in this chapter: great... voice (v.1), ...heat (v.9), ...river (v.12), (v.14), ...earthquake (v.18), (v.19), ...Babylon (v.19), ...hail (v.21), ...plague (v.21).
great voice- This command comes directly from God (or Christ) Himself.
go...and pour out- The command is issued to all 7 angels at once.
The bowls are apparently poured out in rapid succession with little time intervening. These judgments begin very near the end of the Tribulation period.
16:2 And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth;
The 7 Bowl (vial) judgments are similar to and parallel to the 7 Trumpets.
But the Bowls are unprecedented in scope and intensity.
cp. Trumpet #1 also falls "upon the earth", affecting "a third" of vegetation (8:7).
Here, there is no limit on the scope, the primary effect is upon unsaved men.
and there fell a noisome {ie., evil, hurtful} and grievous {ie., malignant} sore upon the men
which had the mark of the beast, and [upon] them which worshipped his image.
sore- ie., boil. Cp. the 6th plague of Egypt (Ex 9:8-11). Deut 28:15,27,35
Since this plague falls upon a designated category of men, it is implied that some remain 'unmarked.' (While these grievous sores will be a judgment from God, it is possible that they will arise as a universal, delayed adverse reaction to a vaccine or dye administered with the mark of the beast.)
16:3 And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea;
and it became as the blood of a dead [man]:
and every living soul died in the sea.
cp. Trumpet #2 where a third of sea life died (8:8,9; cp. Ex 7:20,21).
Here, "every" sea creature dies.
every living soul- "every {GK=pas, all} living {GK=zao, life} soul {GK=psuche, breath, soul}"
refers to "all that has life breath." A similar phrase occurs in Gen 1:20, where "that hath life" is lit., "life {HB= chai} breath {HB= nephesh, breath, soul}."
16:4 And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers
and fountains of waters; and they became blood.
cp. Trumpet #3 where a third of drinking water became bitter (8:10,11).
Here, the effect is unqualified, affecting all fresh water sources.
16:5 And I heard the angel of the waters say,
angel of the waters- Previously, we saw angels holding the 4 winds (7:1).
Angels apparently are more involved in the workings of the creation than we know.
Surveying the damage to the things under his purview, this angel declares:
Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be,
because thou hast judged thus.
The angel's statement is in agreement with all of heaven (cp. 15:3,4) that God's wrath is right and vindicates His holiness.
16:6 For they have shed the blood of saints {eg., 6:9,10} and prophets {eg., 11:3-7},
and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.
God is just. His enemies will reap what they have sowed. Isa 49:25,26; Gal 6:7
they are 'worthy'- That is, blameworthy, worthy of judgment.
16:7 And I heard another out of the altar say,
another- Could refer to an angel (eg., 14:18) or a voice (eg., 16:1; 19:1,2).
out of the altar- The judgments are an answer to prayer (6:9,10).
Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous [are] thy judgments.
16:8 And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun;
and power was given unto him
{ie., to the sun} to scorch men with fire.
cp. Trumpet #4, where light from sun, moon & stars are diminished by a third (8:12).
Here, the effect is intensified heat, which is not limited in area.
to scorch 'men' {lit., the men}- The heat is intended for those with the beast's mark (v.2).
16:9 And men were scorched with great heat {lit., a great scorching},
The heat of Tribulation judgment was foretold:
cp. Deut 32:24; Isa 24:6; 42:25; Mal 4:1
In this light, consider God's promise to Israel: Psa 121:5,6
and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues:
and they repented not to give him glory.
Their hardness & impenitence demonstrates the rightness of God's wrath (14:9,10).
16:10 And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat {ie., throne} of the beast;
and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain,
darkness- cp. Trumpet #5, the sun was darkened (9:1,2; cp. Ex 10:21).
cp. Isa 60:2; Joel 2:1,2,31; Mat 24:29
The sun apparently provides excess heat but little visible light.
pain- They are still suffering the effects of Bowl #1, painful sores (v.2, 11).
(This underscores the close succession of the Bowl judgments).
16:11 And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores,
and repented not of their deeds.
blasphemed- GK= blasphemo, to speak reproachfully, rail at, revile.
In v.9, they directed their vitriol toward His Name. -- Here, toward His Person.
repented not- In v.9, they refused to give glory to God.
-- Here, they refuse to disown their sin. cp. Rom 2:4-6; Rev 9:20,21
16:12 And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates;
and the water thereof was dried up,
that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.
cp. Trumpet #6, where angels, loosed from Euphrates, prepare for an army of 200 million (9:14-16).
This army will, no doubt, leave a path of destruction behind it, as it approaches from the east.
It comes into prophetic focus as it crosses the Euphrates, which marks the eastern border of the land promised to Abraham (ie., the land of Israel). Gen 15:18
kings of the east- lit., from the sunrising.
The lack of mention of the king of the north (Gog & Magog, Eze 38:14-16) may imply that he has already been destroyed, presumably just prior to, or in the opening hours of the Tribulation. [JBS]
     However, Ezekiel ch. 38 - 39 appears to present the military action, which leads up to the close of history, as one extended campaign, in which the king of the north plays an important opening role. His initial invasion of Israel will be soundly defeated, causing him to retreat to his country in a much weakened condition. Yet, there are indications that the king of the north will participate in the final battle, in a diminished role. That final battle comes into view, here, at the end of Rev ch.16. (See Dan 11:40-44, where every occurrence of the pronouns 'he' and 'him' refers to the Antichrist, who will be confronted by the king of the north, on two separate occasions, with different allies.)
     [For more, see the Book Notes at Ezekiel ch. 38 - 39. Note: That study will show in this window. Use the Book Notes button to find your way back to the present study.]
     Consider: With hundreds of millions gathered to battle, it is not beyond reason that blood will lay 4 feet deep (14:20).
After Seal #6 and Trumpet #6, parenthetical narratives provided further detail.
Here, following Bowl #6, is a relatively brief parenthesis (v.13-16) which reveals the satanic preparation for the War of Armageddon, which is apparently in process prior to the pouring out of the Bowl judgments.
In these Bowl judgments, the Lord is on the offensive. Zech 14:1-3
16:13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs [come]
out of the mouth of the dragon,
{satanic/demonic power}
and out of the mouth of the beast, {political/military power}
and out of the mouth of the false prophet. {religious/economic power}
three unclean spirits... out of the mouth...- From the members of the unholy trinity (cp. 13:4,11-12),
evil messengers proceed to persuade the unsuspecting world to war against Israel and against Christ at His return. Zech 12:2,3
like frogs- They are not frogs, but demonic spirits.
"They are frog-like in that they come forth out of the pestiferous quagmires of the universe, do their work amid the earth's evening shadows, and creep and croak, and fill the ears of the nations with their noisey demonstrations, til they set all the kings and armies of the whole earth in enthusiastic commotion for the final crushing out of the Lamb and all His powers." [J.A.Seiss, quoted by JVMcGee]
16:14 For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles,
[which] go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world,
to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
the whole 'world'- GK= oikoumene, inhabited earth.
the 'battle'- GK= polemos, war.
The call is not to an isolated battle, but to an extended campaign toward a godless final solution.
16:15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed [is] he that watcheth,
and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
Christ comes as a thief (unexpectedly, and to bring destruction & loss, cf. Joh 10:10):
-- Not for the Church, 1Thes 5:4; Titus 2:13
-- But upon those who are not watching and ready. Mat 24:42-44; 1Thes 5:2-10; 2Thes 1:7-9
watch... keep his garments- There are various views on the meaning of this phrase (all seem valid):
  1. Symbolic- of maintaining righteousness and purity.
    In a time of great apostasy, only true believers will guard a godly way of life. cp. Rev 3:3-4,17-18; Heb 12:14-16
  2. Literal- referring to modest dress at a time of looseness. [JBS]
  3. Idiomatic- of the need for watchfulness. Edersheim says that if a temple guard was found sleeping at his post, he would either be beaten or his clothing would be set afire. [ref. McGee]
16:16 And he gathered them together
into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
he gathered- That is, God or Christ (the One speaking in v.15).
Although the unholy trinity appears to be orchestrating these events (v.13,14), in reality, God is bringing to pass what He foretold long before (Zech 14:1-3).
Armageddon {HB= Har (mount of) Megiddo (meaning "troops")}-
Tel Megiddo marks the ruins of an ancient city which overlooked the plain of Megiddo in northern Israel. In 1949 AD, a Jewish settlement, Kibbutz Megiddo, was established in the valley nearby. The location is about 60 miles north of Jerusalem, 25 miles southwest of the Sea of Galilee, and almost midway between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
     The plain of Megiddo (also called the plain of Esdraelon), extends from the sea coast near Mount Carmel on the west, and joins the valley of Jezreel to its east. These valleys, which provide easy passage for armies, have been the scene of many battles, down through the centuries. (There will be further discussion of this region, in ch. 19.)
16:17 And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air;
and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne,
saying, It is done.
into the air- Since Satan has been cast to earth previously,
the object may be the disabling of air & space based weaponry, to bring the final battle to a halt (Psa 46:8,9). (eg., Air power may be depicted, in the description of the Gog & Magog invasion, as "a storm... like a cloud to cover the land." Eze 38:9,16).
great voice- God Himself speaks from His throne.
"It is done."- Compare similar occurrences:
-- The conclusion of God's purpose in redemption. "It is finished." (Joh 19:30)
-- The conclusion of God's purpose in judgment. Here and Eze 39:8
-- The conclusion of God's purpose in revelation (that which He has revealed). Dan 9:24; Rev 21:5,6
16:18 And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings;
These sounds were first heard as the storm of judgment was about to break (see 4:5).
Here it has reached its grand finale.
These sounds were heard at Seal #7 (8:5), Trumpet #7 (11:19), and now Bowl #7,
showing that the seventh Seal, Trumpet and Bowl, all mark the conclusion of the Tribulation period.
and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth,
so mighty an earthquake, [and] so great.
earthquake- characteristic of Seal #7 (8:5), Trumpet #7 (11:19), and Bowl #7.
cp. Isa 2:19; 30:32; Hag 2:6,21-22
16:19 And the great city was divided into three parts,
the great city- ie., Jerusalem - cp. 11:8,13 -
(Apparently, this is the earthquake that follows closely after the ascension of the two witnesses.)
and the cities of the nations fell:
and great Babylon came in remembrance before God,
to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.
Babylon's fall- will be described in detail, in ch. 17 & 18.
the fierceness (GK=thumos) of His wrath (GK=orge)- lit., the intense anger of His wrath.
These GK words were used separately in 14:9,10 (translated 'wrath' & 'indignation' respectively).
Here, in v.19, these words amplify each other in the phrase 'the fierceness of His wrath.'
The equivalent HB expression is used 50x in the OT. This is the first NT occurrence (also 19:15).
     In stark contrast, the NT emphasizes the 'longsuffering' {GK= makro-thumia, lit., long-temper (or, slow-to-wrath), ie., forebearance, patience} of God (eg., Rom 2:4; 1Tim1:16; 1Pet 3:20; 2Pet 3:15). However, at this point in the Tribulation period, God's longsuffering has ended, the time of His active wrath has come. cp. Ex 34:6,7
     The wine of God's fierce wrath will be drunk by Babylon which is drunk {inebriated} with the wine of her perverse fornication (17:1,2).
16:20 And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.
Rev 6:14; cf. Psa 46:1-11
16:21 And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven,
[every stone] about the weight of a talent:
{ie., about 100 pounds}
cp. Trumpet #7 (11:19), Egyptian plague #7 (Ex 9:22-24), and the battle at Gibeon (Josh 10:11)
and men blasphemed {the} God because of the plague of the hail;
for the plague thereof was exceeding great.
men blasphemed 'the God'-
As the bowls of wrath are poured out, men grow in their understanding of the One whom they blaspheme. Following the seventh bowl, they realize that God is no mere 'name' or concept (v.9). They no longer regard Him as the distant "God of Heaven" (v.11), for He has come very near in judgment. Yet, confronted by 'the God,' there is no hint of repentance, for they are beyond repenting. eg., v.9,11; 6:15-17; cp. Prov 29:1

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