The Bowls – Revelation 15-16
God continues revealing Himself and His purpose to John in these visions. As John continues to see things, he sees angels come forward with plagues which he says are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished. These final plagues are called the Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath, and they are the final judgments before the great battle.
In chapter 15 John sets the stage for what is happening on earth with the bowls. He gives us some context as to what happens. He sees in Heaven a great magnificent sea that appeared to be a sea of glass mixed with fire. The colors coming off this water was radiantly beautiful as it reflected the majesty of God. John then sees those who have conquered the beast, those who rejected its image and its mark. This group which consists of the martyred saints and the 144,000 are singing a song of victory, the song of Moses. This song of Moses can be found in Exodus 15. It is the song that was sung after the crossing of the Red Sea, as the people of Israel turned and saw Pharaoh’s army being covered by the sea. A song of great victory and deliverance.
Probably as the singing is happening, John turns and sees the sanctuary doors opened, the doors of the sanctuary that led to the presence of God. Out of these doors come seven angels clothed in pure bright linen with golden sashes around their chest. The four living creatures come and give these angels golden bowls that are full of the wrath of God. The sanctuary is filled with the smoke from the glory of God, just like in 2 Chronicles 5 when Solomon finished the building of the Temple. A powerful and moving sight for John as this royal procession comes out and prepares for the final judgments.
Next, John describes to us the seven bowl judgments which are the last of the wrath of God.
Bowl 1: Harmful sores come upon everyone with the mark of the beast. Much like the boils that came on the Egyptians during the plagues of Moses.
Bowl 2: The sea becomes blood, and everything in it dies. This is exactly the opposite of Genesis 1:21 when God creates all living creatures in the sea!
Bowl 3: The fresh water is now turned to blood. The water that is necessary for human survival.
Angelic Interlude: After the third bowl, John includes an angelic interlude. The angel sings to God about how great and just his judgments are. These judgments that to us can seem so severe, are really just. The enemies of God have shed the blood of the saints, and now God makes them drink blood. God is a God of justice, and one day he will have it!
Bowl 4: The sun’s heat is now intensified! During the seal judgments and the trumpet judgments the sun is darkened. Now the opposite happens as it intensifies and scorches the people. However, they do not repent! God is still willing for them to repent, knowing they never will.
Bowl 5: When the angel pours out the fifth bowl, the kingdom of the beast is plunged into darkness. This is not a physical darkness, however. The wording is not at all like when the darkness comes in the seals and trumpets. This is a spiritual darkness. Such a soul crushing darkness that has never yet been felt. It is as if the presence of God has left them. It is interesting to consider how much the presence of God in the world changes its makeup. Even those who do not know Christ can experience the presence of God on some level. If that presence left, I believe it would be utter darkness spiritually that we would do anything to get out of. The people are in such anguish and gnaw their tongues in an effort to be free from the pain. It does not work, and so they curse God and continue in their unrepentance.
Bowl 6: In the sixth bowl, the river Euphrates is dried up in order to prepare the way for the armies of the world. The dragon, the beast, and the false prophet then send out a demonic force to persuade the armies of the world to come and stand together in order to fight against the returning Christ. Mixed in this passage is a warning to the saints to stay awake and be vigilant, to be steadfast in the truth.
Bowl 7: “It is done,” a voice cries out as the last bowl is poured. With it comes lightening, rumblings, peals of thunder, the greatest earthquake the world has ever seen, and hail. The earthquake is so powerful that the great city is split into three parts, and cities and nations around the world are destroyed. Islands disappear and mountains are gone. John says the hail are 100 pounds each, falling on the people. The people cry out to God, cursing him because the hail was so great and the plague so severe.
The wrath of God has finished. The people of the earth are devastated, and the kingdom of the antichrist is all but over. The antichrist has sent out demonic emissaries to gather an army for battle against Christ and is heading to Armageddon. As Christians though, we are called to recognize two things.
First, we are called to recognize the justice of God. It seems so great and so drastic what is happening here, but God, time after time, has reached out to the people of the world with His great love. Now it is time for a different kind of action. We so often want to talk about God’s love that we can skip over the wrath and judgment of God. However, these two aspects of our Creator need to go hand in hand with each other. God is loving, and there will be wrath. He does care, and there will be judgment. He is compassionate, and there will be vengeance. They are not opposed to each other in a way in which they cannot exist, and we need to understand that. We need to be able to share that. People need to know that their actions have consequences, and even though God is loving he will punish the disobedient.
Second, we are called to endure! Jesus tells the saints to stay awake and keep their garments on. He wants them to be watchful and ready for Him. He wants us to watch and be ready for divine appointments to come our way, so we do not miss out on an opportunity to share about Him. He wants us to watch and be ready for the day He comes to take us home with Him. He wants us to watch and be ready in order that we do not succumb to the tricks of the Devil. You need to be watchful. You need, every day, to look for Christ. Look for His presence and look for His leading. He has something for you! He wants you to share Him. All of Him!