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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 16

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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The Angels with the Last PlaguesPrelude to the Bowl JudgmentsThe Seven Bowls of the Wrath of GodThe Angels with the Last PlaguesThe Hymn of Moses and the Lamb
Revelation 15:1Revelation 15:1-1Revelation 15:1Revelation 15:1Revelation 15:1-4
Revelation 15:2-4Revelation 15:2-4Revelation 15:2-4The Seven Bowls of Plagues
Revelation 15:5-8Revelation 15:5-1Revelation 15:5-8Revelation 15:5-8
The Bowls of God's WrathThe Bowls of God's Anger
Revelation 16:1First Bowl: Malignant SoresRevelation 16:1Revelation 16:1
Revelation 16:2Revelation 16:2Revelation 16:2Revelation 16:2Revelation 16:2
Second Bowl: The Sea Turns to Blood
Revelation 16:3Revelation 16:3Revelation 16:3Revelation 16:3Revelation 16:3
Third Bowl: The Waters Turn to Blood
Revelation 16:4-7Revelation 16:4-7Revelation 16:4-7Revelation 16:4-7Revelation 16:4-7
Fourth Bowl: Men are Scorched
Revelation 16:8-9Revelation 16:8-9Revelation 16:8-9Revelation 16:8-9Revelation 16:8-9
Fifth Bowl: Darkness and Pain
Revelation 16:10-11Revelation 16:10-11Revelation 16:10-11Revelation 16:10-11Revelation 16:10-11
Sixth Bowl: Euphrates Dries Up
Revelation 16:12-16Revelation 16:12-16Revelation 16:12-16Revelation 16:12-14Revelation 16:12-16
Seventh Bowl: The Earth Utterly ShakenRevelation 16:15
Revelation 16:16
Revelation 16:17-21Revelation 16:17-21Revelation 16:17-21Revelation 16:17-21Revelation 16:17-21

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. The seven bowls which are introduced in Revelation 15:0 and described in Revelation 16:0 are the third in a set of three cycles of divine plagues sent for the purpose of redemption (cf. Revelation 9:20-21; Revelation 14:6-7; Revelation 16:9, Revelation 16:11). Each cycle gets progressively more severe: 1/4, 1/3, and total destruction (the judgment and isolation of evil). This is possibly based on "the cursing and blessing" section of Deuteronomy 27-28.

B. There is a literary relationship between these cycles. The seventh seal is the seven trumpets. The first four trumpets are also directly parallel to the first four bowls.

C. The seventh bowl is the fall of Babylon, which is a symbol of fallen human society organized and functioning apart from God. In John's day it was Rome. In Daniel 2:0 each successive world empire becomes more and more anti-God until the last world-wide, anti-God empire in which the Messiah is born which is Rome (see Introduction to Daniel 8:0, www.freebiblecommentary.org.

D. Chapters 15 and 16 draw their imagery from the Exodus experience of Israel (as did Rev. 12-14). This end-time deliverance from evil is seen as the ultimate Exodus (i.e., deliverance).

E. The beasts and the whore of Babylon (rebellious human society) are defeated at Armageddon (Revelation 16:12-16), while Satan is defeated along with Gog and Magog (rebellious humans) at the very end (cf. Revelation 20:7-10). The Second Coming of Christ in Revelation 19:0 is an extension and fulfillment of the seventh seal and the seventh trumpet and the seventh bowl judgments. This is God's answer to the martyrs' question of Revelation 6:9-11.

F. The difficulties in interpreting these end-time battles are:

1. The type of literature in which they are expressed, apocalyptic/prophetic.

2. They are dealt with in successive stages, cycles, or dramatic acts.

3. There is fluidity between the groups and symbols.

4. There is difficulty separating first century fulfillment from end-time fulfillment.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What does the "sea of glass" symbolize?

2. Why does God show John a vision of the heavenly tabernacle?

3. List the similarities between the seals, trumpets, the bowls, and the plagues of Egypt.

4. How are the kings of the east in Revelation 6:12 related to the kings of the whole earth in Revelation 6:14?

5. What or where is Armageddon? (Revelation 16:16)

6. To what does the "great city" refer? (Rev. 6:19)

Verse 1

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 16:1 1Then I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels, "Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God."

Revelation 16:1 "Then I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels" Revelation 15:8 shows that this must be the voice of God Himself. This last group of angels had ultimate authority to destroy God's earth. In the OT the death angel and the angel of destruction are God's servants, not Satan's.

"Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God" This is an OT symbol for the judgment of God on unbelieving nations (cf. Psalms 79:6; Jeremiah 10:25; Ezekiel 22:31; Zephaniah 3:8). This term is used often in this context for God's wrath on unbelievers (see note at Revelation 7:14, cf. Revelation 16:1, Revelation 16:2, Revelation 16:3, Revelation 16:4, Revelation 16:8, Revelation 16:10, Revelation 16:12, Revelation 16:17) because of

1. their blasphemy (cf. Revelation 16:9)

2. their persecution of believers (cf. Revelation 16:6)

3. their stubborn refusal to repent (cf. Revelation 9:20-21; Revelation 16:9-12)

For "wrath of God" see full note at Revelation 7:14.

Verse 2

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 16:2 2So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth; and it became a loathsome and malignant sore on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.

Revelation 16:2 This first bowl is very much like one of the Egyptian plagues (cf. Exodus 9:10-11). Some see this as related to Deuteronomy 28:35, which is in the cursing and blessing section of Moses' covenant renewal. It is to be noted that, like the Egyptian plagues, these plagues affected unbelievers.

Verse 3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 16:3 3The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood like that of a dead man; and every living thing in the sea died.

Revelation 16:3-4 The second and third bowls parallel the second and third trumpets (cf. Revelation 8:8-11) and also reflect the Exodus plagues of Exodus 7:17-21; Psalms 78:44.

Verses 4-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 16:4-7 4Then the third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters; and they became blood. 5And I heard the angel of the waters saying, "Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things; 6 or they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it." 7And I heard the altar saying, "Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments."

Revelation 16:5 "the angel of the waters" This may reflect the intertestamental Jewish apocalyptic terminology of I Enoch 66:2. In Revelation there has been an angel in charge of the wind (cf. Revelation 7:1) and an angel in charge of fire (cf. Revelation 14:8), so it is not unusual to see an angel in charge of the water. Again, angelic mediation and activity are common in intertestamental apocalyptic literature. We must interpret Revelation in light of its own genre, its own day, and not our modern western theological systems of eschatology.

"Righteous are You" This is an allusion to Moses' song in Deuteronomy 32:0 (especially Revelation 16:5) or possibly Psalms 119:137.

"who are and who were" Notice that there is no future element as in Revelation 1:4, Revelation 1:8; Revelation 4:8, because there is no future time (cf. Revelation 11:17). This is the end! This is purposeful; note the threefold designation of Revelation 1:4. Time is no more! The end (i.e., Parousia) is revealed several times in Revelation, not just Revelation 19:0. Each of the seals, trumpets, and bowls ends with the Second Coming and culmination of history. This is why I Think the recapitulation theory for the interpretation of Revelation is best!

Revelation 16:6 "saints" See Special Topic at Revelation 5:8.

"prophets" For OT Prophecy see Special Topic at Revelation 10:7. See Special Topic below.


Revelation 16:7 "And I heard the altar saying" The horns of the altar had already spoken in Revelation 9:13. This seems to refer to (1) souls that are under the altar (cf. Revelation 6:9; Revelation 14:18) or (2) the prayers of God's children (cf. Revelation 8:3-5). It may also be simply a personification for graphic emphasis.

"Lord God, the Almighty" See note of Revelation 15:3b and the Special Topic at Revelation 1:8.

"true and righteous are Your judgments" This may be an allusion to Psalms 19:9; Psalms 119:137. This is a helpful reminder in the midst of such terrible persecution toward Christians (cf. Revelation 16:4 and 19:2). God will set all things straight one day!

Verses 8-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 16:8-9 8The fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun, and it was given to it to scorch men with fire. 9Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory.

Revelation 16:8 This fourth bowl is similar to the sixth seal of Revelation 6:12 and very similar to the fourth trumpet of Revelation 8:12.

"it was given to it to scorch men with fire" The sun is personified as it is in Psalms 19:1-6. God controls the heavenly bodies (cf. Genesis 1:14-19). They are not gods. They do function as messengers (natural revelation) and signs for the seasons (for worship).


Revelation 16:9 "they did not repent so as to give Him glory" The purpose of God's wrath is redemptive in the seals and trumpets (cf. Revelation 9:20-21; Revelation 14:6-7; Revelation 16:9, Revelation 16:11), even though stubborn, rebellious mankind refuses to repent. In the bowls the hope of repentance has passed; only judgment remains!

Verses 10-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 16:10-11 10Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became darkened; and they gnawed their tongues because of pain, 11and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds.

Revelation 16:10 "the fifth angel poured out his bowl upon the throne of the beast" The throne of Satan was given to the beast in Revelation 11:7. His power is described in Revelation 13:2ff. This seems to refer to the capital city of his end-time, one world government.

"his kingdom" Satan mimics God. As God has a kingdom, so Satan has a kingdom. Throughout these remaining chapters the ministry of God in Christ is parodied by the evil trinity. Satan's kingdom, through the beast, is international (cf. Revelation 13:14-17).

"became darkened" This is another allusion to the Egyptian plagues (cf. Exodus 10:21-23). God controls the light (cf. Revelation 8:12; Revelation 9:2; Genesis 1:5, Genesis 1:14-18).

Revelation 16:11 "they blasphemed the God of heaven" These unbelievers recognized the source and reason for their pain, but would not repent and turn to Christ! The plagues on Egypt were sent to expose the false gods of Egypt and cause the Egyptians to trust the God of Israel. The "curses" of Deuteronomy 27-28 were sent to restore unbelieving Jews to faith and obedience. Judgment has a redemptive goal (except for the last one)!

The title "the God of heaven" was used earlier in Revelation 11:13 and reflects a Babylonian and Persian title for Deity used often by Daniel (cf. Daniel 2:18, see my commentary on Daniel at www.freebiblecommentary.org.

Verses 12-16

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 16:12-16 12The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east. 13And 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 like frogs; 14for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. 15("Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.") 16And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon.

Revelation 16:12 "the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates" This river was mentioned in Revelation 9:13-19 when the demonic army crossed its borders to torture mankind. The headwaters of the Euphrates were the northern boundary of the Promised Land and the outer limits of the Roman Empire. The possible historic basis for this metaphorical demonic army was the Parthian calvary. These fierce anti-Roman invaders were a terror to the Roman legions.

"its water was dried up" Quite often in the OT the drying up of the water was seen as an act of God as seen in

1. the Red Sea (cf. Exodus 14:21)

2. the Jordan River (Joshua 3:17)

3. several allusions in prophetic literature (cf. Isaiah 11:15-16; Isaiah 44:27; Jeremiah 51:36; Zechariah 10:11)

This physical act symbolizes that God is allowing the end-time conflict to culminate. It is theologically parallel to 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7, "what/who restrains."

"that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east" There has been much discussion as to how "the kings of the east" in Revelation 16:12 are related to "the kings of the whole world" in Revelation 16:14:

1. they are the same

2. they are antagonists (Nero Redivivus myth and the Parthian army)

3. the kings of the east refer to the army of God

If so, it is an allusion to God's calling His people from Babylon (cf. Isaiah 41:2, Isaiah 41:25; Isaiah 45:1-3; Isaiah 46:11). It is possible from the context that the kings of the east are God's tools to attack the armies of the beast (i.e., a historical allusion to Parthians attacking Rome). However, Revelation 16:14 and chapters 19 and 20 imply that there is only one human army and it is united against God (cf. Psalms 2:0; Jeremiah 25:15-26).

Revelation 16:13 "the dragon, the beast, the false prophet" This is the first time that the second beast (cf. Revelation 13:11) is called "the false prophet," but from now on he will be referred to by this name every time (cf. Revelation 16:13; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 21:10).

These three refer to a Satanic trinity which will be defeated in two stages: the two beasts in the valley of Megiddo (cf. Revelation 16:12-16) and Satan at the end of Christ's earthly reign (cf. Revelation 20:7-10).

"three unclean spirits like frogs" The term "unclean" is used in the NT gospels to refer to demons. Why they are characterized as frogs has been greatly disputed:

1. this is another reference to the Egyptian plagues (cf. Exodus 8:6)

2. in Zoroastrianism frogs are the symbol of ultimate evil

3. they refer to unclean animals (cf. Leviticus 11:10, Leviticus 11:31)


Revelation 16:14 "they are spirits of demons, performing signs" It is very interesting to note that these signs and wonders will lead all unbelievers astray, but not even the least of the children of God (cf. Revelation 13:13; Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11). This last literary unit (the bowls) is a comparison between what will happen to the children of God and what will happen to the inhabitants of the earth. Christ speaks words of truth, righteousness, and mercy to bring peace to the earth, but the demonic frog spirits speak lies and gathers the nations for war.

"which go out to the kings of the whole world" This may be an allusion to Psalms 2:2, which forms the imagery of these last chapters of Revelation.

"gather them together for the war of the great day of God" The description of an end-time battle appears in Revelation 6:2-8; Revelation 11:7-10; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 16:14; Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:19 and Revelation 20:8. It is possible these all represent one battle from different perspectives (i.e., parallelism).

Revelation 16:15 This parenthetical phrase contains the words of Christ which are interjected to encourage and warn the people of God. This is the third of the seven blessings to believers (cf. Revelation 1:3; Revelation 14:13; Revelation 16:15; Revelation 19:9; Revelation 20:6; Revelation 22:7, Revelation 22:14).

"I am coming like a thief" These words of Jesus (cf. Matthew 24:43-44; Luke 12:39-40) were used earlier in Revelation 3:3 and alluded to in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 and 2 Peter 3:10. It seems to refer to the any-moment, sudden coming of Christ in judgment at the Parousia (Second Coming).


"Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes" This is the third of seven blessings given to faithful believers (cf. Revelation 1:3; Revelation 14:13; Revelation 16:15; Revelation 19:9; Revelation 20:6; Revelation 22:7, Revelation 22:14). This almost seems to be a summary of the eschatological warning found in Mark 13:33-37; Luke 12:37. This verse must be out of place if the theory of a secret rapture of the Church before this time of persecution is affirmed. To whom, then, is Jesus speaking? See Matthew 24:37-42 online at www.freebiblecommentary.org.

"so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame" This may be an allusion to Revelation 3:18. In the OT nakedness was a symbol of judgment (cf. Ezekiel 23:29; Hosea 2:3; Amos 2:16; Micah 1:8). However, it refers not to the loss of salvation, but to Christians who will be ashamed of their activities and lack of lifestyle faith at Jesus' Second Coming. Jesus' coming as the Judge and Conqueror, which is exactly how the Jews expected the Messiah to return, is described in Revelation 19:11-16.

Revelation 16:16 "and they gathered them together" This is repeated in Revelation 20:8.

NASB"in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon" NKJV, NJB"in Hebrew, Armageddon" NRSV"in Hebrew is called Harmagedon" TEV"in Hebrew is Armageddon"

This word is spelled differently in several Greek manuscripts. There have been several theories to describe this name (which appears nowhere else in Hebrew or Greek literature).

1. it refers to "the mountain of Megiddo," a northern city in the tribal allocation of Manasseh, built on a hill

2. it refers to "the city of Megiddo," but the problem is that this is not the exact spelling of that city

3. it is a translation of a phrase "the mount of assembly" found in Isaiah 14:13, which refers to the ultimate mountain of Deity which Satan attacks

4. it refers to the whole Promised Land (cf. "the mountains of Israel" mentioned in Ezekiel 38:8, Ezekiel 38:20, Ezekiel 38:21; Ezekiel 39:2, Ezekiel 39:4, Ezekiel 39:17)

5. it refers to "the fruitful mountain" which would symbolize Jerusalem, the end-time site of many of these final battles between good and evil (cf. the prophecy of Joel)

6. the root meaning of "megiddo" might be "to cut or to attack," making this a reference to "the destroying mountain" of Jeremiah 51:25, a symbol of Rome's destruction.

John has chosen a city that was well known and has slightly changed its spelling (see Metztger, Textual Commentary, p. 755). This is similar to his inaccurate listing of the twelve tribes in Revelation 7:5-8 in order to show their symbolic nature. This symbolic interpretation is further seen in the use of the phrase "in Hebrew," which indicates symbolism, as in Revelation 9:11. It is true that the Valley of Jezreel or the Plain of Esdraelon was the site of many OT battles (cf. Judges 5:19-21; 2 Kings 9:27; 2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:22; Zechariah 12:11). This northern invasion route of Mesopotamian powers had become a cultural symbol of evil (cf. Isaiah 14:31; Jeremiah 1:13-14; Jeremiah 4:6; Jeremiah 10:22; Jeremiah 46:20-24; Jeremiah 47:2-7; Jeremiah 50:3, Jeremiah 50:9, Jeremiah 50:41; Jeremiah 51:48; Ezekiel 38:6, Ezekiel 38:15; Ezekiel 39:2).

Verses 17-21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 16:17-21 17Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, "It is done." 18And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. 19The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. 20And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. 21And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe.

Revelation 16:17 "Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air" This could be a reference to Satan's kingdom as found in Ephesians 2:2. The air above the earth was considered the realm of evil by the first century world. The battle with evil is finished (cf. Revelation 16:17-21).

Revelation 16:18 This imagery is used several times in Revelation (cf. Revelation 4:5; Revelation 8:5; Revelation 11:19; Revelation 16:18).

Revelation 16:19 "The great city" Some see this as a reference to Jerusalem because of Revelation 11:8. However, I think even Revelation 11:8 is a symbol of Rome (cf. Revelation 11:8; Revelation 16:19; Revelation 17:18; Revelation 18:10, Revelation 18:18-19, Revelation 18:21). Rome is described as the great whore of Babylon (cf. Revelation 14:8) which was the ancient seat of godless society. In John's day Rome was that center of the emperor cult that persecuted the Church. In the period of the end-time Antichrist it may be another world city. John continues to describe the destruction of the seat of fallen human, anti-God government in Rev. 17-18.

"was split into three parts" This possibly is an allusion to the vision of Ezekiel 5:0, which describes utter defeat.

"the cities of the nations fell" This shows the ineffective alliance of fallen human governments against our God and His Christ (cf. Psalms 2:0). See note at Revelation 10:11.

"Babylon the great was remembered before God" The phrase "then God remembered" is often a symbol of God's judgment (cf. Revelation 18:5; Revelation 19:15). This particular cup of judgment was discussed earlier in Revelation 14:10.

"the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath" Drunkenness was an OT metaphor for God's judgment (cf. Psalms 60:3; Psalms 75:8; Isaiah 51:17, Isaiah 51:22; Jeremiah 25:15-16, Jeremiah 25:27-28; see Special Topic at Revelation 14:10).

"Wrath" is the term orgç. See full note at Revelation 7:14.

Revelation 16:20 "every island fled away" This is similar to the sixth seal (cf. Revelation 6:14).

"the mountains were not found" These were OT symbolic phrases for cataclysmic end-time events (cf. Psalms 97:5; Micah 1:4; Nahum 1:5).

Revelation 16:21 "huge hailstones" Hailstones have always been the sign of God's judgment (cf. Joshua 10:11; Isaiah 28:2). This is another possible allusion to the Egyptian plagues (cf. Exodus 9:23-24). In Ezekiel 38:22 hail is used on the end-time enemies of God. The weight of the hailstones has varied.

"about one hundred pounds each" This is literally "a talent weight." The weight of "talents" in the Ancient Near East has varied from 45 to 138 pounds. Their exact weight is unknown, but these are obviously exaggerated weights to show the damage and death they will cause.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Revelation 16". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/revelation-16.html. 2021.
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