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Daniel and Revelation
Revelation 15-16 – The Seven
Bowls of Wrath
Chapter 15 of Revelation is a preamble to the bowls of wrath in chapter 16. There is a common misconception (in my opinion) that the bowls of wrath occur during the 42-month reign of the antichrist. But I believe the wrath of God is after the 42-month reign. In Matthew 24, we read about the days of Noah and the sudden destruction that will come. The sudden destruction must be after the great tribulation. What is happening before the sudden destruction?
Matthew 24:37-39 "As the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (38) For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ship, (39) and they didn't know until the flood came, and took them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
The great tribulation is not tribulation for the world. It’s great tribulation for God’s people who are persecuted and put to death. For the word, it’s a time of “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage.” In Luke 17:28, these days are also described as being like the days of Lot. “They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, and they built.” This does not seem to be a time when the bowls of wrath are being poured out. As Jesus said, it’s “sudden destruction.” I believe the bowls of wrath are poured out during the 45 days between the 1290 days and the 1335 days of Daniel 12:11.
The 42-month reign of the antichrist is the 1290 days from the abomination of desolation. Then we have the resurrection. In other words, from the abomination there are 1290 days until the resurrection (by the context of Daniel 12:2). But those who are still alive must wait another 45 days before the rapture. After the resurrection, everyone, including those still alive, will have spiritual bodies. They will not be harmed by the bowls of wrath. The rapture would seem to be after the sixth bowl of wrath but before Armageddon.
Revelation 16:15-16 NIV "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." (16) Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon .
In Revelation 4:6, we read about a sea of glass before the throne of God. In this preamble to the bowls of wrath, we read about the sea of glass again. This time the sea of glass is mixed with fire. The sea also has those who overcame the beast, his image, and the number of his name. They are all standing on the sea of glass.
The point is that God has accomplished his goal. The empty sea of glass has become full of his people who have gone through the tribulation and have overcome the beast. In Revelation 12:11, it says “They overcame him because of the Lamb's blood, and because of the word of their testimony. They didn't love their life, even to death.”
Revelation 15:1-8 I saw another great and marvelous sign in the sky: seven angels having the seven last plagues , for in them God's wrath is finished. (2) I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who overcame the beast, his image, and the number of his name , standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God. (3) They sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, "Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God, the Almighty! Righteous and true are your ways, you King of the nations. (4) Who wouldn't fear you, Lord, and glorify your name? For you only are holy. For all the nations will come and worship before you. For your righteous acts have been revealed." (5) After these things I looked, and the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened. (6) The seven angels who had the seven plagues came out, clothed with pure, bright linen, and wearing golden sashes around their breasts. (7) 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. No one was able to enter into the temple, until the seven plagues of the seven angels would be finished.
Those standing on the sea of glass sing the song of Moses. The song of Moses can be found in Exodus 15. But it’s not the same words. The point is that the celebration of these people is of a similar nature to the celebration of Moses’ people. The people of Moses were delivered from Pharaoh. The song of Moses is in celebration of the fact that Pharaoh’s army was destroyed in the Red Sea. This song in Revelation is in celebration of God’s people being delivered from the two beasts of Revelation. The song also celebrates the fact that Christ’s kingdom will replace the kingdom of the antichrists. Christ will be “King of the nations.” All the nations will come and worship before Christ the King of Kings.
We should also note the connection between this song of Moses and the song sung by the 144,000 on Mount Zion. The song of the 144,000 was a song that nobody else could learn. They are given spiritual bodies at the beginning of the tribulation because they will have overcome sin before Christ returns. But here at the end of the tribulation, we have a countless number standing before the throne of God. They are given spiritual bodies after the great tribulation, on the last day of the 1290 days, at the time of the resurrection. Thus, the countless number have their own song which is in celebration of being delivered from the two antichrists.
In chapter 22 of this book we looked at the trumpet-plagues. The trumpet-plagues are similar to the bowls of wrath. But the bowls of wrath are more severe. The trumpet-plagues are a wake-up call to the Church and a warning to the world. The bowls of wrath happen after the resurrection. They are “seven last plagues, for in them God's wrath is finished.” Thus, the bowls of wrath is the wrath of God, on the Day of the Lord, spoken of in the Old Testament.
In chapter 22 we examined the parallelism between the trumpet-plagues and the seven days of the Creation. The trumpet-plagues is a reminder that God is the Creator. The trumpet-plagues also have a parallelism to the plagues on Egypt. As it turns out, the bowls of wrath have an even stronger parallelism to the plagues on Egypt. The new song that is sung by the countless number is symbolically equated to the song of Moses, which was in celebration of being delivered from Pharaoh. Combine this fact with the strong parallelism between the plagues on Egypt and the bowls of wrath. We can see that the Exodus, and God’s delivery of Israel from Pharaoh and Egypt, was a type and precursor for God’s delivery of his people from Satan and the antichrists. God is saying, “Let my people go.” God is delivering his people from the slavery of sin. And God’s wrath is poured out on those who enslaved his people Israel. (Gentile believers are grafted into Israel.)
Dispensationalists argue for the pre-tribulation rapture because after the rapture verse (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) Paul says, “For God didn't appoint us to wrath, but to the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9). They argue this under the assumption that the bowls of wrath will happen during the 42 month reign of the antichrist instead of after the post-tribulation last-day resurrection. But when we consider the strong parallelism between God’s wrath and the plagues on Egypt, we must point out that Israel was still in Egypt while the plagues were being poured out. God protected Israel in the midst of his wrath. The first six bowls of wrath will be after the resurrection but before the rapture. God’s people will have already obtained salvation and eternal-life spiritual bodies during these six bowls. Consider this verse in Isaiah:
Isaiah 26:19-21 ESV Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by. (21) For behold, the LORD is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain.
After the resurrection is the wrath of God, poured out on the world. When God returns, the dead are raised. Then the wrath of God is poured out on the world. Notice that God’s people are told to go into their houses and shut the doors while the wrath is poured out. The rapture is not until after the sixth bowl of wrath.
Obviously God will not pour out his wrath on those he has raised. That being the case, he is not going to pour out his wrath on any who might still be alive who have not intentionally become one of his enemies. Most of the world will have taken the mark of the beast. This explicitly declares one as an enemy of God by joining the antichrist in his blasphemy of God and of those who live in heaven, which is the New Jerusalem in orbit around the earth.
We can now look at the first six bowls of wrath and the parallelism to the plagues on Egypt. Pharaoh is symbolic of Satan (Ezekiel 31) and Egypt is symbolic of the world and slavery to sin. God's wrath is poured out on a world of sin ruled by Satan. The ten plagues are listed below for reference (Exodus 7 to 11).
1) plague of water changed to blood
2) plague of frogs
3) plague of gnats
4) plague of flies
5) plague on the livestock
6) plague of boils
7) plague of hail
8) plague of locust
9) plague of darkness
10) death of the firstborn
1) The first bowl is a plague of ugly and painful sores (Revelation 16:2). The sixth plague on Egypt was sores.
2) The second bowl is a plague of turning the water of the sea into blood (Revelation 16:3). The first plague on Egypt was changing water into blood.
3) The third bowl is a plague of turning the water of rivers and springs into blood (Revelation 16:4). The first plague on Egypt was changing water into blood.
4) The fourth bowl is a plague on the sun, and on people who are scorched with fire by the sun (Revelation 16:8-9). This plague does not have a corresponding plague on Egypt. It seems to be here to indicate that the bowls of wrath are also patterned after the Creation, just as the trumpets are patterned after the Creation. On the fourth day of the Creation, the sun, moon, and stars were created.
5) The fifth bowl is a plague of darkness (Revelation 16:10-11). The ninth plague on Egypt was a plague of darkness. The darkness covered Egypt for three days. No one could even see anyone else or leave his house. There was light, however, in places where the Israelites lived.
6) In the sixth bowl, the three evil spirits looked like frogs (Revelation 16:12-14). The second plague on Egypt was a plague of frogs.
Revelation 16:1-2 I heard a loud voice out of the temple, saying to the seven angels, "Go and pour out the seven bowls of the wrath of God on the earth!" (2) The first went, and poured out his bowl into the earth, and it became a harmful and evil sore on the people who had the mark of the beast , and who worshiped his image.
This first bowl is against people who have the mark of the beast and worship the image. The sixth plague on Egypt was sores. Contrast this with the fifth trumpet, where the plague is on everyone who does not have the seal of God on their foreheads (Revelation 9:4). Remember that the trumpets are a wake-up call for the Church. Anyone who considers himself to be a Christian, but does not have the seal of God, needs to get right with God by repenting and overcoming sin. But during the bowls of wrath, the people who have taken the mark of the beast are forever separated from God. They no longer have a chance to get right with God.
Revelation 16:3 The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man. Every living thing in the sea died.
This second bowl is against the sea. The water of the sea turns to blood. The first plague on Egypt was changing water into blood. This blood is described as being like a dead man. This wrath is final. Those who have received the mark of the beast are like dead men. The wages of their sin is death, and they have not believed on Christ to overcome sin. So, they have a final death sentence.
Revelation 16:4-7 The third poured out his bowl into the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. (5) I heard the angel of the waters saying, "You are righteous, who are and who were, you Holy One, because you have judged these things. (6) For they poured out the blood of the saints and the prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. They deserve this." (7) I heard the altar saying, "Yes, Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are your judgments."
This third bowl is against the rivers and springs of water. The first plague on Egypt was changing water into blood. Here we have the angel of the water agreeing with God that the judgments are just. He compares the water turning to blood with the blood of the saints. This is God's revenge for the killing of God’s people. The trumpets were a warning, not a final judgment or revenge. Now the bowls of wrath are a final judgment and revenge; no longer a chance to repent.
Revelation 16:8-9 The fourth poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was given to him to scorch men with fire. (9) People were scorched with great heat, and people blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues. They didn't repent and give him glory.
This fourth bowl is against the sun, created on the fourth day. This bowl causes scorching heat from the sun. God is the Creator, and He is righteous in all that He does. Yet the people do not repent. They curse God. At this point sin has so overtaken everyone with the mark that they could never come to repentance. God is not sending out His Holy Spirit to draw people to Himself. Sin completely blinds them to the truth. They know that God is doing these plagues, but they refuse to repent. They just curse God. How foolish it is to curse your own Creator.
Revelation 16:10-11 The fifth poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was darkened. They gnawed their tongues because of the pain, (11) and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores. They didn't repent of their works.
The fifth bowl brings darkness. The ninth plague on Egypt was a plague of darkness. Again, the people with the mark of the beast curse God. The world will know that all the plagues, from the first plague of sores to this plague of darkness, are from God. Yet they refuse to repent. They just curse God. No one turns to Christ during this time. Here we see that the plague of the sores has not gone away. This is the fifth plague, yet the sores from the first plague have not gone away. The fourth plague was scorching heat from the sun. In this plague, apparently the sun disappears and there is darkness. In Exodus 10:21-23, the darkness that fell on Egypt was a darkness that could be felt. No one could see anyone else. It lasted three days. This will be a time of terror, when no one will be able to do anything. Everyone will be literally blind, like the blindness of their sins. But the children of God will be able to see. In Exodus 10:23, the Israelites had light during the three days. God will protect His people. They will be able to literally see, because they are free of the sins that blind. The three days are probably symbolic of the three days and three nights that Christ was in the earth. Christ paid the price so that we can overcome sin and come into the light. But the world remains in darkness.
Revelation 16:12-14 The sixth poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates. Its water was dried up, that the way might be made ready for the kings that come from the sunrise . (13) I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits, something like frogs ; (14) for they are spirits of demons, performing signs; which go forth to the kings of the whole inhabited earth, to gather them together for the war of that great day of God, the Almighty.
The sixth bowl is against the Euphrates River. The three evil spirits look like frogs. The second plague on Egypt was a plague of frogs. During the plagues of the trumpets, the world had the two witnesses to blame. They celebrated by exchanging gifts when the two witnesses were killed. But for the bowls of wrath, the world has no one to blame except God. After the plagues of sores, blood, heat, and darkness, the world is furious at God. Satan (the dragon), the antichrist (first beast), and the false prophet (second beast) all encourage the nations to fight back. But how can you fight God? In their fury and anger, the world prepares to march against Jerusalem. The spirits that come out of the mouths of Satan, the antichrist, and the false prophet perform miraculous signs. This unholy trinity will perform miraculous signs that will convince the world that they will be victorious over God Himself, by marching against Jerusalem. And the world is eager to believe this lie.
This unholy trinity is a counterfeit for the Holy Trinity. Satan wants to be God and is always counterfeiting God. Satan (the dragon) is a counterfeit for God the Father. The antichrist (the first beast) is a counterfeit for Christ. The world is enticed to worship the first beast and his image. The false prophet (the second beast) is a counterfeit for the Holy Spirit. The false prophet entices the world to worship Satan and the image of the antichrist, just as the Holy Spirit draws people to the Father and to his Son Jesus Christ.
The great river Euphrates is dried up, so that the way for the kings of the east is prepared. This is similar to the sixth trumpet (Revelation 9:13-19), where four angels are released at the great river Euphrates to go out and bring the world into World War III. But the sixth trumpet war is a counterfeit Armageddon. The sixth trumpet is before the abomination of desolation, and before the antichrist (first beast) rules over every nation, tribe, people, and language for 42 months. World War III will convince the world that a one-world government is required for peace. But it won't be a lasting peace, as it will be when Christ is King of Kings. This war at the end of the great tribulation is the real Armageddon.
When armies from the east or north have attacked Jerusalem, they come from the north. That's because to the east of Jerusalem is the Dead Sea, and it's a huge climb up the mountains to reach Jerusalem from that direction. The Dead Sea is the lowest physical point on the earth, well below sea level. And all the land to the east of Jerusalem is dry desert. So, armies of the past have followed the Euphrates River from the east to wind up north of Jerusalem. Then they go south through the valley of Megiddo. The valley of Megiddo is where we get the name Armageddon. So attacks on Jerusalem are from the north through Megiddo.
Revelation 16:15-16 NIV "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." (16) Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
At this point we have the rapture. This is the thief in the night. Christ returns to steal his Bride during the night when no one can work (John 9:4). The rapture is after the sixth bowl of wrath, and before the armies of the world are gathered around Jerusalem for the battle of Armageddon. Even today, the world thinks of Armageddon as something like World War III. But Armageddon is the armies of the world gathered against Jerusalem as Christ returns to Jerusalem to set his feet on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4).
Revelation 16:17-21 The seventh poured out his bowl into the air. A loud voice came forth out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, "It is done!" (18) There were lightnings, sounds, and thunders; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since there were men on the earth, so great an earthquake, so mighty. (19) The great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered in the sight of God, to give to her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. (20) Every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. (21) Great hailstones , about the weight of a talent, came down out of the sky on people. People blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, for this plague is exceedingly severe.
The seventh bowl is Armageddon. How can we know? First, verse 16 mentions Armageddon. Second, the seven bowls of wrath are the “seven last plagues, for in them God's wrath is finished” (verse 15:1). So there can be no more wrath after this. Third, the great city is divided into three parts. This is similar to what we read when Christ’s feet stand on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4). The Mount of Olives is “split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south” (verse 4, quoted below).
In verse 16:20, we read that every island fled away and the mountains were not found. I do not believe this is literal. In Isaiah 66:19, we read that after Armageddon, people will be sent to "islands afar off, who have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the nations.” In other words, islands and mountains will still be around after Armageddon. In the Old Testament, a mountain can be symbolic of a nation. This verse is simply saying that the nations will lose their power. Christ will defeat the armies of all the nations.
Zechariah 14:1-9 NIV A day of the LORD is coming when your plunder will be divided among you. (2) I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it ; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. (3) Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle . (4) On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. (5) You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. (6) On that day there will be no light, no cold or frost. (7) It will be a unique day, without daytime or nighttime—a day known to the LORD. When evening comes, there will be light. (8) On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter. (9) The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name.
Verse 5 of Zechariah 14 says, “Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.” The “holy ones” can also be translated as “saints”, which means “holy ones.” Thus, we will be caught up in the rapture after the sixth bowl of wrath. After that, we will have the wedding banquet. Then we will return with Christ and Christ will fight against the nations who gather against Jerusalem.
Chapter 19 of Revelation gives us more detail about Armageddon. The armies of all the nations are gathered to fight against Jerusalem while we are having the wedding banquet. The nations will know that the six bowls of wrath are coming from Christ and the New Jerusalem. They won’t be able to directly attack the New Jerusalem. But they will know that Christ will return to Old Jerusalem. It will probably take several months for the nations to gather all the armies of the world. Again, chapter 19 of Revelation is about Armageddon. In verses 6-9 of chapter 19 we read about the wedding banquet. So again, we have the six bowls of wrath, followed by the rapture and the wedding banquet. Then we all return with Christ and Christ fights the nations at Armageddon.
The seventh bowl of wrath includes the destruction of Babylon. In verse 16:19, we read, “Babylon the great was remembered in the sight of God, to give to her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.” Babylon is the world-wide religious system of Islam that will come. Its destruction is detailed in the next two chapters of Revelation. Then chapter 19 of Revelation will be more about Armageddon. Just remember that the destruction of Babylon happens when Christ destroys the armies of the nations at Armageddon, which is after the wedding banquet. The destruction of the kingdom of Babylon is the destruction of the second beast and his kingdom. The destruction at Armageddon is the destruction of the first beast and his kingdom.