Revelation 16:8-9 – The Fourth Bowl

(8)  The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire.

    The Lord told Israel that if they obey not the covenant which he made with them that he would strike them with fiery heat (Deuteronomy 28:22), and here we see this envisioned in the figure of the sun scorching them with fire. The fiery heat which the Lord promised was in the way of a scorching hot illness of the body and a scorching of the crops (ibid). This verse, like most of this book, reminds us that God has not forgotten the words he spoke long ago to this people by his servant Moses.

 

(9)  They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.

    This verse gives us a visual of the character of the nation; no matter how much pain is inflicted upon them, they will never humble themselves before their God. This verse does another thing for us; it explains that God would still be willing to grant them forgiveness, if they would only repent. With this scorching heat, they are feeling the very opposite of what they could be feeling if they were numbered with the faithful. For the lives of the faithful were earlier described in cool comfort, “the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.” (7:16).

Revelation 16:4-7 – The Third Bowl

(4)  The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. 

    The third trumpet warned the people by making the waterways poisonous to drink (see comments on 8:10-11), and many died from drinking the waters. Now the third bowl turns the fresh waterways into blood. This plague resembles that which happened to the land of Egypt (Exodus 7:20) in judgment for their oppression. It is evident from the information of the next three verses that this is a figure of the righteous blood which Israel had shed visiting them again for judgment.

 

(5)  And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, “Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments. 

    Unlike the plagues before it, the third plague gets its own chorus. The words come from the “angel of the water,” that is, the third angel who poured his bowl onto the waters. The words of the angel are very significant to the point of this judgment from God (particularly verse six). The theme of these words is that of justice. God is holy, and his actions against the house of Israel, through seemingly extreme, is just and fair.

 

(6)  For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!”

    Here is one of those statements in the book that easily show the purpose of this conflict and the judgments of God. It is also a text which helps us to easily identify who is being judged in the book. The indictment is upon those who have shed the blood of saints and prophets. Now, the Romans may have shed the blood of some of the saints, but only one people on earth could be rightfully prosecuted for the shedding of saints and prophets, and it cannot be the Romans! Consider the words of our Lord when he spoke from earth, saying,

“Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.” (Luke 13:33).

Again, what did he say, but that a Jerusalem is responsible for the shedding of the prophets. The Lord continues, saying,

“‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (35)  Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!'” (Luke 13:34-35).

Jesus called Jerusalem “the city that kills the prophets.” And for this great wickedness, he pronounces judgment upon them, saying, “Behold, your house is forsaken.”

There are many places in the book like this one (6:10; 11:18; 17:6; 18:20, 24; 19:1-2), all of which rightly identify the intent of the message. Old covenant Israel is being judged by the Lord for their wickedness in rejecting the covenant, the prophets, the Savior, and his church. God has forsaken the house of Israel (just as Jesus said), and he will leave them desolate.

 

(7)  And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!”

    This concluding response is from a voice from the altar. Earlier we saw something similar,

“I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.” (6:9).

These who were under the altar, having been the victims of the very people being punished in these last plagues, all cried out together, saying,

“O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (6:10).

When they asked God how much longer before he judges those who had slain them for their testimony of truth, they were given a response indicating that it would be “a little longer” (6:11). By chapter sixteen, it has been “a little longer,” for the seven trumpets have warned the people since that occasion, and now the unrepented are receiving the painful end to their wickedness.

    This new message from the altar stands in fulfillment to the message in 6:9-11. There was once an outcry for vengeance and justice; now there is the cry of praise to the God, saying “true and just are your judgments!”

Revelation 16:3 – The Second Bowl

(3)  The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea. 

The second trumpet warning (8:8-9) was also about sea-to-blood conversion. The effects of the warning were the death of a third of the sea creatures, and the loss of a third of the ships.

The idea that the sea became as the blood of a dead man is a vivid image of the vast amount of blood shed of the very people who shed the blood of the Lamb of God; it was enough blood to fill an ocean, figuratively speaking.

“Every living thing died that was in the sea.” If this was literal, no fish would exist today! Yes, but this is symbolic. It is a figure of the completeness of the fury of God upon the old covenant people. It sits in contrast to the second trumpet warning which affected “a third” of the sea. The people did not heed the warning and repent of their sins (9:20-21); therefore, the other two-thirds are punished now, completing the whole.

Revelation 16:1-2 – The First Bowl

(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.

    The beginning of this chapter does not start a new scene but a continuation of the vision in chapter fifteen. The seven angels with the seven last plagues had just been given seven golden bowls, and now, this chapter begins with the instruction given to them from “a great voice,” saying “go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.”

    “Upon the earth.” Where on the earth? Who is to be affected? In keeping with the context of the previous chapter, these are the plagues to be poured out on old covenant Israel in fulfillment of the words of curses and plagues found in the covenant document. Therefore, those primarily affect by the wrath of God are the unfaithful Jews; but the disastrous affects certainly pour over on other peoples as well (14:9; 16:10; 18:3, 9, 11). People who have influenced and tempted the house of Israel to increase in sin, and people who have shared with the Jews in all kinds of immorality, will certainly be grievously affected by God’s judgment against Israel.

 

(2)  And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.

    The first bowl is poured on the earth. The specification of “the earth” does not suggest a certain group of people, but it should be considered with the whole of the context. Reading this chapter, we see plagues covering earth, sea, rivers, and sky; none of these should cause us to assign specific nations to each plague, for the sense is that these plagues are seven (complete, fullness) and are poured out upon all unrepented Israel.

    The connection between the first trumpet warning (8:7) and the first bowl is evident; both fell upon “the earth” and cause a grievous burning. The difference between the two is that the trumpet served as a warning (hurting only “a third”), while the bowl completes the punishment.

    “A noisome and grievous sore.” These terrible sores were seen in the plagues of Egypt (Exodus 9:8-11), which is noteworthy. However, the main intent is for us to see that this is was God promised to bring upon the house of Israel for their sins; this is a fulfillment of Old Testament scripture.

“The LORD will strike you with the boils of Egypt, and with tumors and scabs and itch, of which you cannot be healed.” (Deuteronomy 28:27).

These wounds which “cannot be healed” are a fitting picture to the agony of the Jewish nation in the late 60’s through the fall of Jerusalem. There was no recovery for those who were so grieved.

    “Them which worshipped his image.” This is not to say that this plague is for all the idol worshippers, but for the old covenant people who have turned to the influence of their neighbors, and have worshipped the beast, and even the dragon (John 8:44). With that said, all idolatrous people will be recipients of the wrath of God at some point, but this context seems to be fixed on the judgment of the house of Israel.