In the opening of this chapter, a ‘mighty thundering voice’ is heard from the Temple giving God’s instructions to the judgement angels, to pour out their bowls of God’s wrath onto the earth. This verbal command will refresh our understanding of the mighty sovereignty of God, as He shows that He has the final Word. We will also see the abject and abortive attempts of Satan to pervert the course of God’s Justice – the only real Justice that has ever been.
We need to remember the Power of God and His absolute Holiness, separated as He is from all sin and evil. We now see that the time has come to pour out the punishment and Justice onto the remaining inhabitants of the earth, as a consequence of their willful and deliberate disobedience to God’s plan for their lives. Those who have chosen to take the mark of the beast will not be in a position to change their minds. They have decided whom they wish to follow and have thrown in their lot with Satan; accordingly they will suffer the same fate as their self-appointed master, just slightly sooner than his ultimate destiny.
These bowl judgements are different from the trumpet judgements. They are complete and final, whereas the previous trumpet judgements were partial and still gave unbelievers the opportunity to repent. There is no time left with these final bowl judgements. Those who remain undecided will suffer the consequences of the full onslaught of God’s wrath. Revelation 16:1-2.
The result of the pouring out of the first bowl is both excruciatingly painful and unsightly. However, this judgement is limited only to those who have allowed themselves to be marked with the seal of the beast. This is the exact opposite to what we witness in the lives of the Believers. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they outwardly demonstrate Christ’s Presence within them, by being transformed. Their actions reflect His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – the nine-fold Fruit of the Spirit, which is outlined for us in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (Galatians 5:22-23).
Contrast once again the vast difference between these earthly saints to those bearing the mark of the beast, who demonstrate none of these God-given attributes. Instead, men’s physical features become repulsive and their pains never ease. They are totally out of control; they are the epitome of hatred and hatefulness, full of evil and perverse ways – they exhibit the attitudes and attributes of their father, the devil. Imagine all that cancer being poured out on the earth! Even today, people are terrified of being diagnosed with the big ’C,’ so how will they feel when there is no healing nor help; not even sleep? These people do know how to worship, but they idolise the image of Satan and are totally bemused by him!
The contents of the second bowl produce death, but not death to man; rather death to all forms of sea life, as the oceans turn into blood. This affects the food chain, and as the result there is a shortage of food. The nations who depend on the sea for their livelihood discover that all they catch is inedible. The seawater becomes a thick stew of death and blood, which produces a putrid miasma. The wind picks up this foul stench and blows it over land and sea, until every man, woman and child on earth cannot escape the reality of this world-wide calamitous ‘natural’ disaster; this phenomenon is of course, entirely un-natural, Revelation 16:3.
Imagine a trip to the seaside at this time! It will be so sickening, as the stench of rotting animal carcasses hangs heavily in the air. Californians may experience a little of this, if they encounter a ‘red tide.’ This is a phenomenon that can kill millions of fish and poison those who eat any of the contaminated shell-fish. Tiny one-celled organisms, ‘dinoflagellates,’ which are a type of plankton, under certain circumstances can become prolific and toxic.
As yet there is no answer from scientists about how these red tides occur, but think about a Biblical-sized disaster of this kind and it is not so far fetched to see that eating fish contaminated in this way, could easily kill everyone in the world! This may not be what actually happens on the earth, when the second angel pours out his bowl of judgement, but it certainly shows that these curses are possible. Consider also the ways in which we are using the sea as a dumping ground for much of our waste? Shouldn’t this make us think about the kind of future we might be storing up, as a consequence?
The third bowl being poured out by the angel on the rivers and springs makes us realise that there will be no potable water on the earth! The ecological disaster in the sea was bad enough, but when all the sources of fresh water are permanently contaminated by turning into blood, men’s horror will turn into desperation. This reminds us of the OT plagues, which affected the Egyptians. Back then, Pharaoh chose to repeatedly disobey Moses’ command, to let God’s people go. At that time the effects of the plagues were reversed and the waters became ‘clean’ again, but here, there is no account in the Word of God that things revert to normal, Genesis 7:20-24.
In the records of the OT plagues, it is shown that the Egyptians were able to dig beside the river Nile, to find clean water, but now, this access to fresh water to maintain life is to be refused. Not only will the inhabitants of the earth be denied the previously plentiful seafood, but there will be no agriculture, as all the fresh water will be turned into blood, which will have a knock on effect on the entire eco-system that relies on water. Everything will be polluted and consequently die. This judgement begins the closing down of all the systems of the earth, as we know them.
There are also the terrors that came upon the earth after the sounding of the seven trumpets, Revelation 8-11. As we’ve read, similarities can be seen on the earth between the Egyptian plagues and those after the Trumpets, such as the water becoming blood; the eruption of boils and sores; massive storms with violent lightening and huge hailstones, as well as severe earthquakes. In the former disasters the devil always seemed to work within limits, but in this final judgement there is no recovery for human kind, or for the earth.
We see throughout the Word how God emphasises the importance of ‘Blood.’ From the time in the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve sinned, the shedding of the blood of a sacrificial animal was used to cover sin. God established His Covenant with Abraham, by sealing His Promise in blood, Genesis 15:17-21. The stories of Cain and Abel, Rahab and of course Jesus Himself, show us all that we cannot put too much emphasis on ‘the Blood:’ “22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness,” Hebrews 9:22.
Isn’t it amazing to recall that Jesus’ first miracle was to turn water into wine? Wine for Believers, represents Christ’s shed Blood, when taken during the Sacrament of Holy Communion. It is as if the Love story of the Bible is coming full circle; however, not yet! At this time there will be no restorative miracle with the waters of the earth. As we have seen in these studies. Humanity will be heading to a Christ-less eternity, without the precious saving Blood of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, Revelation 16:4-7.
The angels – God’s servants – who have witnessed the developing conditions on earth, both before and after the Rapture, are totally unequivocal in their acknowledgement of the justice of God’s judgements. The blood here represents the shed blood of the martyred Believers and Prophets, who were chosen and sent by God into the world and of whom the world was not worthy. The blood has now been returned to the Antichrist and his followers to drink. In Revelation 16:7 it says that even the altar speaks, praising God for the justice of His judgements. This may well be the brazen altar in heaven, where the fires burn ceaselessly, as the prayers of God’s people and the lives of the martyrs are offered as a sacrifice to Him. In Revelation 6:10 the martyrs are heard calling out in a loud voice, “How long Sovereign Lord, Holy and True, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Jesus Himself said in Luke 19:40, “I tell you,” He replied, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Here, He is pointing out to the Pharisees, who want Him to tell His disciples to stop praising God, that even stones will praise, if people will not!
For us, the important challenge here is to see that even in the middle of the horror, the angel was continuing to worship, declaring who God is and His Almighty power. There is power in praise at all times, especially in the testing times, so the power of worship can never be underestimated. Praise and worship blesses God and lifts us to a new perspective of Who He is, while reminding us of all He has done. His passionate desire is to have an intimate relationship with us, so He loves us to pour out our love to Him daily and as we worship, He draws near, as He inhabits the praises of His people. Worship is the ultimate honour we have and can offer, because of Jesus; it is also great preparation for our time in eternity.
If we thought that the results of this plague were bad, we should consider the effects of the next one, Revelation 16:8-9. The lack of food and water brought on by the previous two plagues will take some time to work their way through the system, which has become used to storing things up for unexpected problems. The world of the Antichrist will be far from the well-oiled providing machine that it was supposed to be. Instead the best food and drink will be requisitioned by those who have thrown in their lot with him and as a result, the remaining population will have made no provision for themselves.
We know that Life is made possible with water, together with light and heat from the sun. The changing seasons govern the agriculture, but now the sun will be smitten by God. Its heat and radiation will greatly intensify. It will appear to be out of control and will burn up the vegetation, which it previously nourished. Anyone who goes out into the sunlight will be overcome by the searing heat. It will be so intense that the ultra–violet rays, with which we are becoming more and more familiar, will burn people’s flesh. Consequently, their skin will be covered in blisters and open sores, causing their flesh to be encrusted with raw open wounds. The combination of the burning sun and no potable water will only further increase the intensity of their agony. With hearts of stone they will never consider that their actions are to blame for the horrific pain and changed circumstances, which are affecting their lives. Instead of turning to God, they will beseech the Antichrist to change their circumstances; but he will be powerless to act in the face of the wrath of God, as it is He, the Almighty, Who is Sovereign over all the earth’s events.
At this time in history, for us as Believers, it is vitally important that we are prepared to make a stand against so much ‘political correctness,’ especially when things contradict the Word. When things go wrong, however, we should not tell people that Satan is the cause of our difficulties! Firstly, we need to ask God for discernment to know what to share, as not everything bad comes from the devil. However, if we believe there is an attack, fear of ridicule can often prevent us from sharing about the devil’s schemes, which is exactly what he wants! Satan loves to stay in the darkness, so he does not expose his conniving, or havoc-causing activities. At the time of this Judgement, it is difficult for us to comprehend that these people are still willing to go through these disasters and yet continue to rail against the God who loves them; this is deception at its worst! If we can be bold enough to share the love of God, while drawing attention to any demon activity today, the hope is that ‘seeds will be sown’ and people will turn to God during the Tribulation, as they recall what we have been led to share by the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
God is Sovereign over all our lives. It is He Who controls every aspect of them, giving us the ability to gain wealth by using our innate talents; it is He Who provides our daily bread and the means for any project in which we are involved. Healing of our sicknesses and diseases comes, when we put our faith and trust in Jesus. He can break through from heaven, by the power of His Holy Spirit and touch the earth with miracles, signs and wonders, both large and small. He often heals through physicians and medicines, but it is God Himself, Who heals our sicknesses and diseases, body, mind and spirit, whichever way He chooses. He always answers these prayers for healing, but not necessarily the way we would choose. When there is no apparent outward healing, He is at work with inner healing and will always bless. If God healed us all the time, there would be no miracles!
Of course, we often limit God to the size of our brain, when instead He is the Creator of the vast Universe! In our small-mindedness, we even think that the world revolves around us and believe that it is we, who are in control of our destinies. This is exactly how Satan started out!
Read Revelation 16:10-11
As a result of the burning heat from the sun, the pain from the peoples’ sores will intensify as the light goes out. This is not just the light of the sun, but it is a gradual extinguishing of the Light of God in people’s lives. It is a foretaste of hell, as their pain and agony turn to excruciating anguish. The very person, whom they believe to be the saviour of the world, turns out to be nothing more than a vile impostor. Like his followers, he is reduced to fumbling around in darkness and despair, suffering from the same pains and anguish. As his supporters begin to realise that the Antichrist is really not all he proclaims himself to be, incredibly, they still refuse to turn to their Creator God in repentance. Instead, they choose darkness, rather than the Light of Life and continue cursing God for inflicting them with such torment, Revelation 16:10-11.
Have we ever held God responsible for the results of our own sinful desires and circumstances? Have we ever thought of Him as our tormentor, rather than the loving Heavenly Father that He longs to be? If so, we need to recognise who is at the root of our specious thinking. It is Satan himself, who can at times deceptively appear as an angel of light. What thoughts occupy our thinking at this very moment? Are these deliberations from God and His Word, or are they lies from ‘the world’ and the ‘father of all lies?’ As Believers, who have actively chosen to follow Jesus, we know that we have Christ’s authority, which makes the devil have no power over us, even though he can tempt us. We know that God will never tempt us, but will allow the testing of our faith and He has given us the gift of discernment to distinguish between testing and temptation. However, for non-believers, the concern is that as followers of Satan’s wiles, they will discover that he does have very real demonic power to lead them astray, over which they are powerless.
With temptation, we can often discover that our pride is very difficult to overcome. So often we choose to enjoy the results and wallow in our own disobedience, rather than to say ‘sorry’ and ask God to restore our relationship. It is so important to praise the Lord daily for Who He is, to ask Him for our daily needs, the forgiveness of our sins and help us to forgive others, as well as importantly asking Him for His Power and Presence to avoid and overcome temptation. In other words, the most power-full prayer is the one that Jesus Himself taught us! Matthew 6:9-13.
Read Revelation 16:12-16
Now it is time for further horrors, deception and manipulation, as the mighty Euphrates that one day long ago bordered the Garden of Eden, dries up. This lack of water is for a purpose; it is to allow the Kings of the East, whom we have previously discussed, to cross over with their vast army, on their way to the Battle of Armageddon. This battle will look as though it is to be fought against the European Community, but when both armies are about to lock together, they will realise that they have a common enemy Who transcends their differences – the Lord Jesus Christ! So they will become partners in the fight and join forces! Revelation 16:12-14.
At this point, John saw “…three impure spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet,” Revelation 16:13.
The picture of frogs is saying that the words, which come out of their mouths, are like plagues; words which are full of lies, false promises and unclean speech. They move out across the world, working signs, deceiving everyone they come across. They sow seeds of hatred, inflaming passions, stirring up any leader who will listen to their deceptions and inciting people to war. It is again this amalgamation of the financial, commercial and religious systems of the world, which collude to bring together the remaining kings of the earth at the same place – the valley of Megiddo. This will be the last battle and will be the scene of the greatest defeat in combat ever known to man. It will be the forces of Satan against the Word of God. This conflict is not really a contest; it is a foregone conclusion! We know this, not only because we have read to the end of the Book, but because we have a personal experience of the Lord Jesus Christ, as Believers. God is Sovereign, all-powerful and in His hands are all the corners of the earth – not the hands of Satan!
What a lovely personal note that the Holy Spirit inserts here through John, showing the heart of Jesus for these people. Even though they have been swearing against Him, He is still concerned for their well being. “Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.” Revelation 16:15-16
Read Revelation 16:17-21
Finally, the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the earth’s atmosphere. The great voice comes out of the Temple for the last time saying, “It is done!” After this there will be no Temple in the new heaven. An earthquake, which is larger than any that has occurred on earth, together with flashes of lightning and thunder, split the great city into three parts. Some say this ‘great city’ is the great Babylon which has been rebuilt, as the new epicentre of the Beast’s empire, in Iraq. Other Bible scholars say it is Rome, some even see it as a symbolic reference to the USA, but we shall look further at Babylon in the next study. Similar thunder and lightning accompanied the opening of the seventh seal in Revelation 7:5 and the seventh trumpet in Revelation 11:19. Every man-made structure bowed to the Presence of God and all the cities of the earth collapsed. The natural disasters and human violence and suffering the world has witnessed in recent years seem to be escalating, which results in the massive loss of life and property; but this will be nothing compared to what is to come. “Every mountain and hill was made low, and the hollows were filled in,” Luke 3:5.
Thunder in the desert echoes! “Prepare for God’s arrival! Make the road straight and smooth, a highway fit for our God. Fill in the valleys, level off the hills, Smooth out the ruts, clear out the rocks. Then God’s bright glory will shine and everyone will see it. Yes. Just as God has said,” Isaiah 40:3-5. It was a common practice in the days to which Isaiah referred, that when a King or an Emperor visited a location, all the roads were made smooth for them. They were levelled, by removing the hills, smoothing out the dips and filling in the ruts. Isaiah took this analogy and used it to say that this is what would happen when Jesus returns. John, in Revelation takes this analogy one step further and God shows him what will happen at the end of the Tribulation Period. Not only will the roads be made flat, but every mountain will bow down before Him and every valley shall be exalted. The entire world will be straightened out as He comes to His earth!
Revelation 16:20 ‘Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. 21 From the sky huge hailstones, each weighing about a hundred pounds, fell on people. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.’ The hailstones, weighing about one hundred pounds each, were a significant sign of God’s wrath. Hailstones were also part of the plagues, prior to the Exodus in Egypt Exodus 9:22-26 and also after the sounding of the seven trumpets in Revelation 8:7, but certainly not this size! Never has there been such a storm, yet men still chose to spurn the Ruler of the Universe. What a huge mistake; Judgement comes upon them like a thief in the night! Still they hold on to an unshakeable belief in themselves, as the masters of their own destiny. Again this is a massive miscalculation and we shall discover more, in the subsequent studies.
When we consider again the loud voice from the throne, saying, “It is done!” we are wonderfully reminded, even at this stage, of the final words of Jesus on the Cross saying, “It is finished!” He had completed His Father’s work and dealt with the sins of the whole world, so now the voice of God states that His judgement is complete.
Where will you choose to go when you die – to heaven or hell? “This is what the scripture says: If you hear God’s voice today, do not be stubborn, as your ancestors were when they rebelled against God,” Hebrews 3:15. Choose now to seek Him with your whole heart. Jesus is the Lord of Salvation. He alone, is the One Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Only He can provide eternal Life, or we choose eternal Death. So choose Life, just as Joshua did in the days just before the Judges!
“Now therefore, [reverently] fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in truth; put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the [Euphrates] River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord……., choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…….. but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. The people answered, Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods; For it is the Lord our God Who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, Who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went and among all the peoples through whom we passed,” Joshua 24:14-17. What a wonderful affirmation of our faith in the One True Living God!
28 Revelation 16 – the Judgement of God – Challenge Questions
NB. Barclay commentary records Revelation 17 as being the most difficult, so do try to listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to you personally about the awesome victory and price that Jesus has paid!
It is suggested that you answer all the questions in your homework but only do those marked with ‘*’ in your group to save time and give more time to prayer.
1. *Read the Notes and the Bible Verses referred to in them. Highlight the points that ‘speak’ to you and be prepared to share with your group.
2. From the horrors of the pouring out of God’s Judgements with the seven bowls, which do you find hard?
3. *Can you share a time when even in the horror of a period in your life, you could still worship Him? What difference did this make to your attitude in the situation?
Read Revelation 17
4. *Revelation 17:1 states: “Come with me! I will show you the doom (sentence, judgment) of the great harlot (idolatress) who is seated on many waters.” Who or what is the harlot and who or what is represented by the term “many waters?”
5. Who has become involved with the harlot? In what way and to what extent? Can you think of any examples?
6. What does the fact that she was sitting on a beast signify?
7. *Describe the woman and her attire. Describe the beast.
8. Why was the woman drunk? And with what was she drunk? How does it apply to the times in which we are living now?
9. This chapter describes the Beast in substantial detail, what do you think is meant by the seven heads?
10. *Can you explain what is meant by the description of the Beast? What do you understand from these verses?
11. *Of the seven kings, five have fallen, one exists and one has not yet appeared, who do you think these kings are, and who are the seven hills?
12. Is there a break between the sixth and the seventh king? Who is the seventh king and why must he remain for only a brief time?
13. This Chapter indicates that there will be an eighth king. Who will he be and how will he come to power? Revelation 17:11
14. *What happens to the harlot at this time? Who will cause her this harm and why?
15. Are the ten horns of the beast in agreement? About what do you think they agree?
16. *The Lamb is victorious. What is His status? Who is with Him at this time? Revelation 17:14