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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 16

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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J. The seven bowl judgments ch. 16

John revealed the outpouring of the bowls to enable his readers to understand the climactic judgments of the Great Tribulation. The setting of John’s vision in this chapter is the earth.

"These plagues are not the expression of God’s wrath against sin in general, nor are they punishments for individual wrongdoing. They are the outpouring of his wrath upon him who would frustrate the divine purpose in the world-the beast-and upon those who have given their loyalty to him.

"These plagues are God’s answer to Satan’s last and greatest effort to frustrate the divine rule." [Note: Ladd, p. 209.]

Verse 1

1. The commencement of the bowl judgments 16:1

The voice John heard was evidently God’s (cf. Revelation 15:8; Revelation 16:17). The fact that God told all seven angels to pour out their bowls seems to indicate that these judgments will follow each other in rapid succession.

The frequent use of the Greek adjective megales in this chapter indicates the unusual severity and intensity of the bowl judgments. The NASB translators rendered this word "loud" here and in Revelation 16:17; "fierce" in Revelation 16:9; "great" in Revelation 16:12; Revelation 16:14; Revelation 16:18 (twice), and 19 (twice); and "huge" and "severe" in Revelation 16:21. The word also occurs nine times in chapter 18, which is an elaboration on the seventh bowl judgment introduced in Revelation 16:17-21.

The relationship in time of the bowl judgments to the trumpet judgments has been a matter of disagreement among futurist commentators. On the one hand there are some similarities between them, as a side by side comparison reveals. [Note: See Beasley-Murray, pp. 238-39, and Beale, pp. 809-10.] However the differences make it most difficult to conclude that they are identical judgments. [Note: See Swete, p. 200; and Thomas, Revelation 8-22, pp. 525-43.]

Tribulation Judgments
Seals (ch. 6)Trumpets (chs. 8-9)Bowls (ch. 16)
2.WarMeteorBloody Seas
3.FamineBitternessBloody Springs
4.Death (¼ of Population)DarknessFire
6.EarthquakeHorses (1/3 of Population)Invasion
7.7 Trumpets7 BowlsEarthquake & Hail

It seems more likely that the bowls constitute the seventh trumpet, as the trumpets constitute the seventh seal. This would make the bowls the last plagues to come on the earth at the end of the Great Tribulation (Rev_15:1). Many details in the text, to be pointed out below, support the conclusion that this is the correct interpretation.

"The first four affect individuals directly either through personal affliction or through objects of nature, and the last three are on more of an international scale, leading the way to a final major confrontation." [Note: Ibid., p. 248.]

"After almost a century of insipid preaching from America’s pulpits, the average man believes that God is all sweetness and light and would not discipline or punish anyone. Well, this Book of Revelation tells a different story!" [Note: McGee, 5:1022.]

Verse 2

2. The first bowl 16:2

The first four trumpet judgments fall on man’s environment rather than on man himself, but the first bowl judgment falls directly on man himself. This plague resulted in some loathsome (bad) and malignant (evil) sores breaking out on the beast-worshippers (cf. Exodus 9:9-11; Leviticus 13:18-27; Deuteronomy 28:27; Deuteronomy 28:35; Job 2:7). The same Greek word, helkos, occurs in the Septuagint translation of these Old Testament passages. Beale argued that since the bowls are figurative, so are these sores. [Note: Beale, p. 814.] For him the sores represent afflictions. However the plague of boils in the Exodus was literal, so it seems this plague will be literal too. This appears to be some type of skin ulcer that breaks out on the surface of the body. Might this be the result of germ warfare (cf. Revelation 16:17)? Believers who apostatize and worship the beast may suffer from this plague (cf. Revelation 14:9-12), but the faithful will be in a safe refuge (cf. Revelation 12:13-17) or God may protect them in other ways.

"It is an awesome thought to consider almost the entire population of the world suffering from a painful malady that nothing can cure. Constant pain affects a person’s disposition so that he finds it difficult to get along with other people. Human relations during that period will certainly be at their worst." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:609-10.]

Compare the present spread of the AIDS epidemic.

Verse 3

3. The second bowl 16:3

This judgment resulted in the destruction of all sea life, not just one-third of it, as in the second trumpet judgment (Revelation 8:8-9). This may involve actual coagulated, rotting blood or a liquid that resembles blood (cf. Exodus 7:19-25). I think it probably means real blood. Some commentators interpret the sea as the masses of humanity, but there are no clues in the text that this sea is any more symbolic than the waters that Moses turned to blood.

"The sea is a great reservoir of life. It is teeming with life, and the salty water is a cathartic for the filth of the earth. However, in this plague, blood is the token of death; the sea becomes a grave of death instead of a womb of life." [Note: McGee, 5:1023.]

Verse 4

4. The third bowl 16:4

All the fresh water sources (springs, rivers, lakes, etc.) become blood in this plague (cf. Revelation 8:11; Exodus 7:24; Psalms 78:43-44). If the water is literal water, should we not understand the blood as literal blood too? People cannot exist long without any water to drink. However other cataclysmic changes follow that will evidently make water available again (cf. Revelation 16:17-21).

Verse 5

The "angel of the waters" evidently refers to the angel responsible for the sea and fresh water, the superintendent of God’s water department. Scripture reveals that angels affect the elemental forces of nature (cf. Psalms 104:4; Hebrews 1:7; Revelation 7:1; Revelation 9:11; Revelation 14:18). This angel attributes righteousness to the eternal God for judging in kind (cf. Revelation 15:3-4; Galatians 6:7). The holy and righteous God can judge humanity according to the lex talionis principle because He is eternal.

Verses 5-7

5. Ascriptions of angelic and martyr praise 16:5-7

John heard praise of God in heaven that interrupted his narration of the outpouring of the bowls of wrath briefly.

Verse 6

Specifically, God poured out blood on the earth-dwellers because they poured out the blood of His saints and prophets. He makes the punishment fit the crime (cf. Isaiah 49:26).

"Pharaoh tried to drown the Jewish boy babies, but it was his own army that eventually drowned in the Red Sea [Exodus 1:22; Exodus 14:28]. Haman planned to hang Mordecai on the gallows and to exterminate the Jews; but he himself was hanged on the gallows, and his family was exterminated (Esther 7:10; Esther 9:10). King Saul refused to obey God and slay the Amalekites, so he was slain by an Amalekite (2 Samuel 1:1-16)." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:610.]

At least an Amalekite claimed to have slain Saul. The saints refer to all believers, and the prophets are those who delivered messages from God to humankind (cf. Revelation 11:18; Revelation 18:24). The angel affirmed that those guilty of slaying the saints and prophets deserve what they get. They took lives contrary to God’s will, and now God is taking their lives in exchange.

Verse 7

The Tribulation martyrs offer their "amen" from under the altar (Revelation 6:9; Revelation 15:3-4). The altar was the personification of those associated with it earlier in John’s vision (cf. Revelation 9:13; Genesis 4:10; Luke 19:40; Hebrews 12:24). God always judges consistently with His character, which these martyrs describe as being almighty, true, and righteous.

Verse 8

The fourth trumpet judgment darkened the sun (Revelation 8:12), but this judgment increased the sun’s intensity. There is a definite article before "men" in the Greek text. The men in view are evidently the people who have the mark of the beast and who worship him (Revelation 16:2). The faithful will apparently escape this judgment. Similarly the Israelites escaped some of the plagues on Egypt.

Verses 8-9

6. The fourth bowl 16:8-9

Verse 9

Evidently climatic changes will take place resulting in the sun’s heat becoming much hotter than normal (cf. Deuteronomy 32:24; Isaiah 24:6; Isaiah 42:25; Malachi 4:1; perhaps the destruction of the ozone layer?). Nevertheless instead of repenting, the beast-worshippers curse God (cf. Revelation 16:11; Revelation 16:21). They recognize His sovereignty, but they refuse to honor Him as sovereign (cf. Romans 1:28; Romans 2:24; 1 Timothy 6:1; James 2:7). Deserved judgment hardens the callous heart even more, as it did Pharaoh. [Note: Ford, p. 262; Robertson, 6:422.]

"This is the only chapter in the visional portion of the book that speaks of widespread human blasphemy, the other references being to blasphemy from the beast (Revelation 13:1; Revelation 13:5-6; Revelation 17:3). These men have now taken on the character of the god whom they serve . . . They blame God for the first four plagues, rather than blaming their own sinfulness." [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p. 257.]

Previously some people repented because of the earthquake in Jerusalem (Revelation 11:13), but now none do. Giving God glory is the result of repentance.

Verse 10

The darkening of the (first) beast’s throne appears to be literal; light will diminish (cf. Exodus 10:21-23; Isaiah 60:2; Joel 2:1-2; Joel 2:31; Mark 13:24). Another possibility is that this may be a figurative darkening in which God somehow complicates the rule of the beast. [Note: Kiddle, pp. 321-22; Hughes, p. 175; Caird, p. 204.] Beale wrote the following.

"It is metaphorical for all ordained events designed to remind the ungodly that their persecution and idolatry are vein, and it indicates their separation from God." [Note: Beale, p. 824.]

Johnson also took this judgment metaphorically.

". . . in terms reminiscent of the ancient battles of Israel, John describes the eschatological defeat of the forces of evil, the kings from the East." [Note: Johnson, p. 550.]

The weakness of the figurative interpretations is that the fifth trumpet judgment apparently involved literal darkness (Revelation 9:2), as did the ninth Egyptian plague (Exodus 10:21-22). God also darkened Jerusalem when Jesus Christ died on the cross (Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44). Since the beast’s kingdom is worldwide, this darkening apparently amounts to a global judgment. Perhaps the faithful remnant will remain unaffected by this judgment, as it did earlier in Egypt (cf. Exodus 10:23).

This judgment of worldwide darkness inflicts excruciating pain on the beast-worshippers also. Just how darkness will cause so much pain is hard to understand, but the chaos that darkness caused in Egypt may suggest some ways.

Verses 10-11

7. The fifth bowl 16:10-11

Verse 11

The earth-dwellers still fail to repent and continue to blaspheme God. The title "the God of heaven" recalls the pride of Nebuchadnezzar and his successors (cf. Daniel 2:44). One indication that the bowl judgments will follow each other quickly is that the sores of the first bowl are still on people in the darkness of the fifth bowl. The bowl judgments come in swift succession, one right after another. In contrast, each of the seal and trumpet bowls ended before the next one began.

"The Scriptures plainly refute the notion that wicked men will quickly repent when faced with catastrophic warnings of judgment. When confronted with the righteous judgment of God, their blasphemy is deepened and their evil purpose is accentuated." [Note: Walvoord, The Revelation . . ., p. 235.]

Verse 12

The problem that this judgment poses for earth-dwellers is not a result of the judgment itself but its consequences, namely, war. It does not inflict a plague on people but serves as a preparation for the final eschatological battle. [Note: Ladd, p. 212.] The Euphrates River is the northeastern border of the land God promised to Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 15:18; Deuteronomy 1:7; Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:4). The Bible calls the Euphrates River (cf. Genesis 2:14), the eastern border of the Promised Land, the great river; and it calls the Mediterranean Sea, the western border of the Promised Land, the Great Sea. Now God dries up this river that had previously turned into blood (Revelation 16:4) so the kings of the East can cross with their armies (cf. Daniel 11:44; Isaiah 11:15). God earlier dried up the Red Sea so the Israelites could advance on the Promised Land from the west (Exodus 14:21-22; cf. Isaiah 11:16). He also dried up the Jordan River so they could cross over from the east (Joshua 3:13-17; Joshua 4:23). Elijah too parted the waters of the Jordan (2 Kings 2:8). Cyrus may have conquered Babylon by draining the Euphrates and marching into the city over the riverbed (cf. Jeremiah 50:38; Jeremiah 51:36). [Note: Herodotus, 1:191. But see Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah , 3:191.] All these previous incidents should help us believe that a literal fulfillment of this prophecy is possible. A figurative interpretation sees Babylon as the world system and the waters of the Euphrates River as the multitudes of Babylon’s religious adherents who, throughout the world during the inter-advent age, become disloyal to Babylon. [Note: See Beale, p. 828.]

Some interpreters believe this is an Oriental invasion of Babylon in the future that will be similar to Cyrus’ invasion of it in the past. [Note: E.g., Swete, p. 205.] However, these are probably the Oriental armies that will assemble in Israel for the battle of Armageddon referred to in Revelation 16:13-16. [Note: Walvoord, The Revelation . . ., p. 236.] The drying up of the Euphrates will be an immediate help to these advancing armies, but it will set them up for defeat, as was true of Pharaoh’s army.

". . . in the Old Testament a mighty action of God is frequently associated with the drying up of waters, as the Red Sea (Ex. xiv. 21), the Jordan (Jos. iii. 16 f.), and several times in prophecy (Isaiah 11:15, Jeremiah 51:36, Zechariah 10:2)." [Note: Morris, p. 197.]

"A more immediate suggested identification of the kings from the east (i.e., ’the rising of the sun’) could be the Parthian rulers who were a continual threat to Rome during John’s day, but this was hardly a factor in preparation for the battle of Harmagedon in Revelation 16:16." [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p. 263.]

Presently some sections of the Euphrates River are dry at certain times of the year due to dams that Iraq has built to create reservoirs. These dams generate power for the Middle East. Perhaps when the Euphrates dries up even artificial light will end in that region.

Verses 12-16

8. The sixth bowl 16:12-16

The final three bowl judgments all have political consequences.

Verse 13

Revelation 16:13-16 give further comments on the sixth bowl judgment. They are not an interlude between the sixth and seventh bowls (except Revelation 16:15). They reveal that rulers from all over the earth will join the kings of the East in a final great conflict.

The dragon, beast, and false prophet will evidently join in making a proclamation that will mobilize the armies of the world to converge on Palestine. Something proceeding from the mouth suggests a proclamation. This is the first mention of "the false prophet," but he is clearly the beast out of the earth (cf. Revelation 13:11-17). He deceives the people. What he urges them to do for their advantage results in their destruction eventually.

The three unclean spirits that proceed from their mouths, the agents of this diabolical trio, are demons (fallen angels, Revelation 16:14; cf. Matthew 10:1; Mark 1:23-24; Mark 3:11; Mark 5:2; Mark 5:13; Acts 5:16; Acts 8:7). They resemble frogs in that they are unclean and loathsome (cf. Leviticus 11:10-11; Leviticus 11:41). The second Egyptian plague involved frogs (Exodus 8:5), but these demons are only "like" frogs.

Verse 14

Here John identified the spirits as demons. The demons go out to the kings of the earth deceiving them to assemble their armies in Palestine for the battle of Armageddon. A deceiving spirit earlier lured King Ahab into battle (1 Kings 22:21-23). They will do this under the influence of Satan, the beast, and the false prophet. The demons persuade them, but their decision is something that God, the ultimate cause, puts in their hearts (Revelation 17:17).

It may also be the advancing army from the east that moves these kings to assemble for war. [Note: Moffatt, 5:447.] These kings from all over the world will gather to destroy Israel (cf. Psalms 2:1-3; Joel 2:11; Joel 3:2; Zechariah 14:2-3). Satan’s purpose in bringing all these soldiers into Palestine in the first place appears to be to annihilate the Jews. When Jesus Christ returns to earth, specifically to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:1-4), they will unite in opposing Him. However God’s sovereign hand will be regulating Satan’s activities (Zechariah 14:2). This will not be the day of Satan’s triumph but that of the Lord God Almighty. He will show Himself supreme in this climactic battle (cf. Joel 2:31). The description of this battle follows in Revelation 19:11-16.

Gundry believed that the day of the Lord includes the battle of Armageddon but not the Tribulation. [Note: Gundry, p. 92.] Most premillennial interpreters believe this distinction lacks convincing support, and I agree with them.

Verse 15

Jesus Christ Himself evidently gave this parenthetic invitation and warning (cf. Revelation 3:3; Revelation 3:18). His second coming will be as a thief in that it will be sudden, and His enemies will not expect it (cf. Matthew 24:43; Luke 12:39; 1 Thessalonians 5:2). Believers who understand the revelation of this book, on the other hand, will be expecting His return. Christ’s coming for the church will not be as a thief because the church is looking for His return (1 Thessalonians 5:4; Titus 2:13). Jesus Christ urged these faithful believers to be watchful and pure (cf. Matthew 25:1-30). [Note: Walvoord, The Revelation . . ., p. 238; Smith, A Revelation . . ., p. 235; Newell, p. 258.] The alternative is embarrassment (cf. Exodus 20:26; Leviticus 18:6-19; Deuteronomy 23:14; Isaiah 47:3; Ezekiel 16:37; Ezekiel 23:24-29; Hosea 2:10; Nahum 3:5). This is the third of the seven beatitudes in Revelation (cf. Revelation 1:3; Revelation 14:13; Revelation 19:9; Revelation 20:6; Revelation 22:7; Revelation 22:14).

Another interpretation sees this encouragement as directed to the Christian readers of this prophecy during the church age, before the Tribulation begins. Advocates of this view point out that by the sixth bowl believers who have not taken refuge (Revelation 12:13-17) will have suffered martyrdom (Revelation 13:15; Revelation 14:1-5; Revelation 14:13; Revelation 15:2). Therefore, according to this view, there will be no believers on the earth by the time the sixth bowl judgment occurs.

"The close similarity to Revelation 3:3; Revelation 3:18 and the parenthetical nature of the announcement favor the latter alternative [i.e., this view]." [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p. 267.]

I think this verse is a general word of encouragement addressed to believers in the Great Tribulation, in view of the context, but applicable to believers in the church age. If believers do not understand that Jesus Christ will return very soon, they may behave in ways that will be embarrassing when He does return, at the Rapture and the Second Coming.

Verse 16

"And" (Gr. kai) resumes the exposition of the sixth bowl judgment from Revelation 16:14. The demons will assemble the kings of the earth and their armies. They will go to what in Hebrew is called "Har-Magedon" (lit. mountain of Megiddo, Megiddo meaning either "place of troops" or "place of slaughter"). John was writing to Greek-speaking readers who were generally unfamiliar with Palestinian geography (cf. Revelation 9:11).

This mountain may refer to the small hill on the south-central edge of the Jezreel (Esdraelon) Valley in northern Palestine on which the town of Megiddo stood. Alternatively, "Har-Magedon" may refer to the mountain closest to Megiddo, namely, Mt. Carmel. There God humiliated the host of prophets of Baal who gathered to oppose Him in Elijah’s day (cf. 1 Kings 18:16-40). God and Elijah slaughtered them in the Valley of Jezreel. Mt. Tabor is another prominent hill (1,850 feet high) at the east end of this valley. Some believe it is the mountain in view here. [Note: Newell, p. 260.] Probably Har-Magedon refers to the hill country surrounding Megiddo that includes all the mountains that border the approximately 14 by 20-mile Valley of Jezreel. Earlier Deborah and Barak had defeated the Canaanites in this valley (Judges 4-5), and Gideon had routed the Midianites (Judges 7). King Josiah also died there when he opposed Pharaoh Neco (2 Chronicles 35:22-23).

"The plain of Megiddo is admittedly not large enough to contain armies from all over the world, so this must be the assembly area for a much larger deployment that covers a two hundred mile distance from north to south and the width of Palestine from east to west (cf. Revelation 14:20). Some decisive battles against this massive force will probably occur around Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:1-3)." [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, pp. 270-71. Cf. Walvoord, The Revelation . . ., pp. 238-39; and William Sanford Lasor, The Truth about Armageddon, p. 146.]

Ironically, the first battle in the history of military warfare took place at Megiddo, and the last one will take place there too. Less literal views see the name standing for an event rather than any single locality. [Note: E.g., Beasley-Murray, p. 246.] Some see it as representing the entire world. [Note: E.g., Beale, p. 838.]

Verse 17

This final judgment has the greatest impact of all since the air into which the angel pours his bowl is what humans breathe. [Note: Swete, p. 210.] The loud voice is probably once again God’s since it comes from the throne in the heavenly temple (cf. Revelation 16:1). With the outpouring of the final bowl God announced that His series of judgments for this period in history was complete. This statement is proleptic since it anticipates the completion of the seventh bowl judgment, which John had yet to reveal (cf. Revelation 21:6).

"The pouring out of the seventh vial into the air is probably a gesture pointing to the utter demolition of man’s greatest final weapon in human warfare, when once the wrath of God is poured out in the great day of God Almighty." [Note: Smith, A Revelation . . ., p. 236.]

"Men would not have the Savior’s ’It is finished!’ on Calvary; so they must have the awful ’It is done!’ from the Judge!" [Note: Newell, p. 262.]

The Greek words used are not the same.

Verses 17-21

9. The seventh bowl 16:17-21

Verse 18

Lightning, thunder, and the greatest earthquake this planet has ever experienced will accompany, and to some extent produce, the desolation that follows. The storm theophany again appears at the end of another series of judgments (cf. Revelation 8:5; Revelation 11:19). These are signs of divine judgment, but this earthquake is much larger than any previous one (cf. Revelation 6:12; Revelation 8:5; Revelation 11:13; Revelation 11:19; Haggai 2:6; Hebrews 12:26-27). It heralds the seventh bowl judgment and the end of the seals and trumpets judgments. All three series of judgments end at the same time.

Verse 19

A result of this unprecedented earthquake is the splitting of the great city into three parts. The "great city" could refer to Jerusalem (Revelation 11:8). Some believe it refers to Rome. [Note: Mounce, p. 304.] Still others identify it with Babylon on the Euphrates (Revelation 14:8; Revelation 17:18; Revelation 18:10; Revelation 18:21), to which this verse refers explicitly later. [Note: Ladd, p. 218.] Probably Jerusalem is in view. [Note: Moffatt, 5:449; Smith, A Revelation . . ., p. 237; Ford, p. 264; idem, "The Structure and Meaning of Revelation 16," Expository Times 98:11 (August 1987):327-31.] It contrasts with the cities of the nations, and the phrase "the great" described it before (Revelation 11:8). Zechariah’s prophecy of topographical changes taking place around Jerusalem at this time argues for a geophysical rather that an ethnographic change (Zechariah 14:4). [Note: Lee, 4:727, believed this would be a division into three groups of people.]

Evidently the earthquake will destroy virtually all the cities of the world. Babylon on the Euphrates is the most significant of these cities (Revelation 14:8). It is the special object of God’s judgment, which the cup of wine that she receives symbolizes. Chapters 17 and 18 describe the fall of Babylon in more detail.

"The fall of Babylon is the central teaching of the seventh bowl. It is an event already announced in Revelation 14:8 and prefigured in the harvest and vintage of Revelation 14:14-20. . . . Stages in Babylon’s downfall come in Revelation 17:16 and Revelation 18:8 . . ., but her ultimate collapse is in Revelation 19:18-21" [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p. 276.]

The government of Iraq under Saddam Hussein was trying to rebuild Babylon. [Note: Charles H. Dyer, The Rise of Babylon, pp. 26-32.] Literal interpreters have differed on the question of whether someone will rebuild the whole city completely or not. Some believe Iraq will rebuild Babylon mainly in view of what the prophets predicted would happen to Babylon in Isaiah 13, 14, and in Jeremiah 50, 51. They say this has not yet taken place. [Note: E.g., Kenneth Allen, "The Rebuilding and Destruction of Babylon," Bibliotheca Sacra 133:529 (January-March 1976):19-27; Charles H. Dyer, "The Identity of Babylon in Revelation 17-18," Bibliotheca Sacra 144:576 (October-December 1987):440-49; Newell, pp. 253, 265, 268; Henry M. Morris, The Revelation Record, pp. 348-49; Thomas, Revelation 8-22, pp. 290, 307; and McGee, 5:1036. Cf. 18:2; Zechariah 5.] Others hold that Scripture does not require the rebuilding of Babylon since they believe God has fulfilled these prophecies. [Note: E.g., C. I. Scofield, ed., The Scofield Reference Bible, 1917 ed., pp. 1346-47; Pentecost, Things to . . ., pp. 368-69; and Homer Heater Jr., "Do the Prophets Teach that Babylonia Will Be Rebuilt in the Eschaton?" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 41:1 (March 1998):23-43.] It seems to me that a literal city is in view in Revelation but that what the city has stood for throughout human history is also in view.

Verse 20

The earthquake will produce other effects. It will level mountains and cause islands to disappear. A less literal view is that it will only produce political turmoil. [Note: Caird, p. 209.] As the Flood produced global topographical changes, so will this earthquake. It will prepare the earth for the Edenic conditions that the prophets predicted would characterize the earth during the Millennium. These changes will be a foreview of the final disappearance of the old creation and the creation of a new earth (cf. Revelation 20:11; Revelation 21:1-2). A literal interpretation of these changes does not preclude an earthly reign of Christ, as some have claimed. [Note: E.g., Beasley-Murray, p. 247.]

Verse 21

The accompanying storm will include huge hailstones that will fall on the earth crushing people (cf. Revelation 8:7). Hail was often an instrument of divine judgment in biblical history (cf. Joshua 10:11; Job 38:22-23; Isaiah 28:2; Isaiah 28:17; Ezekiel 13:11-13; Ezekiel 38:22-23). In spite of all these judgments the hearts of earth-dwellers will remain hard, as Pharaoh’s did during the plague of hail in Egypt (cf. Exodus 9:24). They will know that God sent this calamity, but rather than repenting they will shake their fists in God’s face. God will stone these blasphemers with these huge hailstones (cf. Leviticus 24:16).

"We cannot emphasize too strongly that in the three series of divine judgments-first the seals, second the trumpets, third the vials (or bowls) of wrath-we have those preliminary hardening actions of God upon an impenitent world, by which He prepares that world for the Great Day of Wrath-at Christ’s coming as King of kings, as seen in Revelation 19:11-15. . . . [Note: Newell, p. 259.]

J. Dwight Pentecost believed that the bowl judgments describe the second advent of Jesus Christ to the earth.

"Since the bowl judgments must span some period of time, we must view the second advent of Christ as an event that encompasses a period of time. In that regard, we find an interesting chronological note in Daniel 12:11-12: ’From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.’ Twelve hundred ninety days span the second half of Daniel’s seventieth week, and that time period brings us to the end of the Tribulation period. But the blessings of Messiah’s reign are not enjoyed until some forty-five days later. Therefore, it is suggested that the forty-five day period is the period in which the judgments associated with the second advent of Christ are poured out on the earth. And that entire forty-five day period, then, could be called the second advent of Christ.

"Further, it is suggested that the 1,290 days come to their completion with the appearance of the sign of the Son of Man in heaven (Matthew 24:30). The judgments of Revelation 16 follow in a forty-five day period and are concluded with the physical descent of Jesus Christ to the earth. Hence, Revelation 11:15 brings us to the second coming of Jesus Christ back to the earth at which time He will experience the fulfillment of the Father’s promise . . . [in Psalms 2:8-9]." [Note: Pentecost, Thy Kingdom . . ., p. 301.]

It seems to me that the 45-day period may be the time of preparation for the beginning of the Millennium following Christ’s return. It seems unnatural to describe the return of the Lord as taking this long to happen (cf. Acts 1:9-11). Therefore I prefer the view that the bowl judgments describe what happens before Jesus Christ returns rather than when He returns. These judgments then set the stage for the return of Jesus Christ to the earth.

Before recording that event in chapter 19, God led John to give more revelation concerning the fate of Babylon in chapters 17 and 18.

Thomas viewed the description of the seventh bowl as extending through Revelation 22:5. [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, pp. 567-85. See Chilton, The Days . . ., p. 418, for a similar view.] He saw all that follows to Revelation 22:5 as a result of this final climactic judgment. More students of Revelation, however, have seen the description of the seventh bowl as limited to Revelation 16:17-21 with the consequences of that judgment following through Revelation 22:5.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 16". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/revelation-16.html. 2012.
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