The plagues of the seven bowls
Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992
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Chapters 15 & 16
A Bible Study
Rev 15:1-8 - Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete. And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God. They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying:Here we have a "prelude" to the pouring out of the seven Bowls of God's wrath. The opportunity to repent has passed. The "door" has been closed. In heaven we are shown those who overcame the ordeal the Beast put them through. As the three Israelites overcame their ordeal of the fiery furnace in Dan. 3, so have these - as reflected in the "sea of glass mingled with fire." They praise God for the righteousness of His judgments against His enemies. "The temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened" - this is the prototype of the earthly tabernacle of the testimony that Moses was instructed to have built. It's purpose is to testify to God's presence and process of redemption through the covenant between Him and His people.
"Great and marvelous are Your works, lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested."
After these things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened. And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and having their chests girded with golden bands. Then 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. The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.
"The great disasters of human history are warnings of the final, total calamities which will overtake those who refuse to listen. The plagues John describes here vividly recall those which fell on Egypt at the time of the exodus. But first we see the joy and security of God's people. They are not subjected to the final terrors, which are specifically directed agaist evil (16:2, 9, 11). Again and again in Revelation heaven is seen as a place of song - not everlasting, lugubrious, dutiful hymn-singing, but spontaneous song. In heaven life is so good, people so utterly happy and carefree that they just cannot help singing. Praise, at last, comes naturally." The Seals have been broken, the Trumpets have been blown, and now the Bowls will be poured out. The Bowls are shallow and wide - as those the Israelites washed their hands in and then poured the water out of onto the ground. "Bowls are used because the contents can be poured out of them very suddenly, again leading us to accept the meaning of en táchei (Rev. 1:1), not as things that were to come soon, but suddenly. Rev. 16 records how they are poured out in quick succession. The tribulation of seven years is finished when the pouring of the bowls of God's wrath is completed. This period ends with the return of Christ at which time He brings an end to the final battle of Armageddon dealing definitively with the antichrist and the false prophet."  The pouring out of the Bowls will wreak devastation on the earth. The "pouring out of God's wrath" on Gentile nations is well-documented in the Old Testament (Ps. 79:6; Jer. 10:25; Eze. 30). "So these Bowls are poured out on nations because of what they did to Israel during the 70th week. Christ will come as King of the Jews and deal with the nations in relation to how they dealt with His people. The 70th week has three periods: (1) 'beginning of sorrows' (Matt. 24:8), (2) there is 'war in heaven' (Rev. 12) and Satan is cast down to earth, knowing that he has but 'a short time;' the 'great tribulation' (Matt:24:21) begins with the 5th Seal and is cut short (Matt. 24:22) (3) 'the day of the Lord.' The Lord returns at the end of the 70th week. At His return, Christ will judge the nations by pouring out the Bowls for a 30 day period. For an explanation of this, we must turn to Dan. 12 - one of the clearest, most insightful chapters about the second coming of Christ. Dan. 12:7 - '...a time, times and half.' (i.e.- 3˝ years, 42 months, or 1260 days.) Dan. 12:10 - literal translation: 'Many (things) shall be (clarified) and made (plain) and (tried), but the wicked shall do wickedly and none of the wicked shall understand, but the (wise) shall understand.' (Note 1 Thess. 5:1-11, especially vs. 9; Matt. 24:32, 37-39. These did not 'understand.') The wicked will have no concept the judgment is coming. The righteous will know it is coming, though not the 'hour' or the 'day.' Dan. 12:11 - The Antichrist will cause the daily sacrifice to cease (Dan 9:27 - middle of the 70h week) - part of the 'abomination of desolation' - literally: 'And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away (ceases) unto (or until) the time to desolate the abominator (the Antichrist) there shall be 1290 days.' If the abomination is occuring in the middle of the 70th week, from the middle to the end of the 70th week there are 1260 days (3˝ years). Here is an extension of 30 days. During those extra 30 days the Bowls will be poured out. At the end of the 70th week the 7th trumpet will sound and Jesus Christ will literally come to the earth at that time. Then he will pour out the Bowls for 30 days on the nations. At the '1335 days' (Dan. 12:12) - 45 days after beginning to pour out the Bowls - Christ's kingdom will be established on earth. During these 30 days Israel will 'mourn' (Zech. 12:8-12)" 
Note: - If there appears to be a discrepancy between what is said above concerning the timing of the various events occuring during the 70th week and what is presented elsewhere (in other chapters of this study) please understand that these are the viewpoints of various commentators and are not to be taken as dogma. They are put here for consideration. I personally do not even pretend to know or understand everything about the Book of Revelation, but I respect the views of those quoted here. And of course I even more respect the admonition to "heed the things which are written in (Revelation); for the time is near." (Rev. 1:3)
The earth is about to be purged and cleansed through God's intensive judgment.
Rev 16:1-7 - Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, "Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth." So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature in the sea died. Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying: "You are righteous, O Lord, the One who is and who was and who is to be, because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due." And I heard another from the altar saying, "Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments."During the series of Trumpet soundings there was a measure of restraint (1/3 of the land, sea, people etc. - partial judgment), but here there is a decided increase both in the tempo and intensity of the judgments - a more severe and harsh disclosure of God's wrath, very reminiscent of the plagues He sent on Egypt through Moses. The first object of His judgment is against those who submitted to the Antichrist - "the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image." The "sores" here can be likened to the "boils" the Egyptians were plagued with (Exo. 9:10-11). The Bowls of the second and third angels caused the sea, rivers and springs of waters to turn into blood (as the Nile was in Exo. 7:20-21). In the Old Testament the drinking of blood is forbidden because of its sanctified use. Lev 17:11 - "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul." But here God's judgment turns the waters into "blood as of a dead man.... 'For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due.'" The cries of the martyrs heard upon the breaking of the 5th Seal (Rev. 6:9-11) are being answered as God exacts His vengeance, giving those on earth what they deserved. It started with Cain (Gen. 4:10).
Rev 16:8-11 - Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory. Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.Like the Pharoah of Egypt, the men upon whom these judgments were directed refused to repent. They knew Who was doing it, but they were trapped in their own arrogance and rebellion and instead blasphemed God even more. "Their fury against God is increased by experiencing His judgment. Hell is a place where the hatred and enmity against God increases in direct proportion to their experience of His holy judgment."  These men, the Beast and his kingdom, all have only the capacity of rebellion in them - never the realization of how futile their rebellion is. "Shucks, I might as well just give up and surrender, who am I to oppose God and His Anointed One?" (John 12:37-41).
Rev 16:12-21 - Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.Things are really getting super-exciting now, as the "Conflict of the Ages" is barreling down the homestretch toward the finish line (please forgive my "mixed metaphors"). The unholy "trinity" of the dragon, the beast and the false prophet think they can use "the kings of the earth and of the whole world" to defeat God. So they send out a bunch of demon-possessed frogs to decieve the kings with signs. Sounds sort of silly to me. As well as the devil knows Scripture, you would think he would have read the end of the book by now. But he's such a liar and deceiver he has convinced himself otherwise, I suppose. Armageddon, or Har Magedon, I am told is literally translated "Mt. Megiddo" and is in the northern part of Palestine between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea in the valley of Jezreel and the Plain of Esdraelon. It is a site of classic military confrontations probably the most significant of which is recorded in Judges when Deborah led Israel against a coalition of pagan kings and accomplished a victory, then sang a "new song." (Judges 5:1) "It is done!" As emphatic as Christ's proclamation at the Cross, though using a different root word, it signifies essentially the same thing, and with the same degree of finality. The word Christ used was basically used in economic transactions, signaling that a final payment had been made on a bill. The word used here simply means that a task has been accomplished. "...the great city..." must refer to Rev. 11:8 - Jerusalem? "And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath."
"Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame."
And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon. Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, "It is done!" And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.
 Eerdman's Concise Bible Handbook - p. 383.
 The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible © 1984 by Spiros Zodhiates and AMG International, Inc.
 Marvin J Rosenthal - "Zion's Hope"
 R. C. Sproul - Ligonier Ministries