The Bowls of Wrath (Revelation
Keeping in mind that the book of Revelation was
written to the oppressed Christians of the time,
let's look at the bowls of wrath. Seven angels in
glorious array were given seven bowls of wrath and
directed by God to pour then out on the earth.
There is a lot of figurative language associated
with this, no doubt in view of the fact that the
means by which God would destroy the Roman Empire is
being laid out for all who can comprehend the
imagery to see. Let's briefly revisit the
consequences that would be wreaked on the already
oppressed Christians if the imperial authorities
could understand this letter. God's message of
perseverance and hope would turn into a death
sentence for the Christians, thus rendering the
message of Revelation a hindrance to the Christians
rather than a help.
bowls containing God's wrath are obviously
symbolic. Wrath is not a material substance that
can be contained in anything and be dispensed like
one would pour water out on a flower bed. The
numeral seven represents the completeness of divine
judgment upon an ungodly world. Note that the term
"wrath" is an affirmation that God will express his
holy and just nature in retribution upon rebellious
noteworthy that the first 4 bowls of wrath of John's
vision was poured out upon nature but the direct
effect was upon the ungodly men of the Imperial
Roman Empire. John used a lot of figurative
language to make this vision seem unreal thus
disguising the real meaning from the enemies of the
Christians. When the real is separated from the
figurative, the bowls of wrath represent the partial
destruction of the Roman Empire by natural
phenomena. The Roman historian Edward Gibbon
recorded in his book, The Decline and Fall of the
Roman Empire, chapter 71, page 891, that one of the
major reasons for the fall of Imperial Rome was a
series of natural calamities which caused great
unrest among the people throughout the Empire.
fifth and sixth bowls of wrath are poured out
directly on man, indicating that God will use
internal debauchery and external invasion to
complete the fall of the Empire. History bears out
that this was indeed the case.
First Bowl of Wrath
1 And I heard a great voice out of the temple,
saying to the seven angels, Go ye, and pour out the
seven bowls of the wrath of God into the earth.
2 And the first went, and poured out his bowl
into the earth; and it became a noisome and grievous
sore upon the men that had the mark of the beast,
and that worshipped his image.
first bowl of wrath was poured out upon the earth.
Poured out upon the Roman Empire, it affected only
those who bore the mark of the beast and worshipped
Domitian. This plague paralleled the boil plague of
Egypt in the days of Moses and caused grievous sores
to come upon those who bowed to worship the
Second Bowl of Wrath
And the second poured out his bowl into the sea;
and it became blood as of a dead man; and every
living soul died, (even) the things that were in the
Immediately following the first plague, the second
bowl of wrath was emptied out upon the sea. The
imagery paralleled the plague of Egypt where the
Nile was turned to blood. This is not to be taken
literally, as God promised to protect the Christians
who made their livelihood by the sea from His
wrath. What was intended here was to illustrate
that God would use natural calamities of the sea to
orchestrate, in part, the downfall of Rome. Keep in
mind that a significant portion of Rome's power lay
in its trade expansion through conquering
territories. Major trade routes to the east were
achieved by sea travel. Closing these would
seriously cripple Rome's ability to pursue trade in
this and other directions. Looking ahead briefly to
chapter 18, we see a reference to the merchants who
were said to weep and mourn over the loss of Roman
Third Bowl of Wrath
4 And the third poured out his bowl into the
rivers and the fountains of the waters; and it
5 And I heard the angel of the waters saying,
Righteous art thou, who art and who wast, thou Holy
One, because thou didst thus judge:
6 for they poured out the blood of the saints and
the prophets, and blood hast thou given them to
drink: they are worthy.
7 And I heard the altar saying, Yea, O Lord God,
the Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.
third bowl of wrath was poured out on the fresh
water. During this event, a voice was heard that
proclaimed God's righteousness in this act. The
Roman Empire slaughtered so many Christians. They
literally made their blood flow like water. It
could be said that they drank of the blood of the
Christians. This bowl of wrath surely gave comfort
to the Christians who had seen their blood spilled
mercilessly. God is assuring the Christians that
the Roman Empire will drink of the blood they shed.
God's final words of judgment to Edom speak
similarly of them suffering equally for what they
15 For the day of Jehovah is near upon all the
nations: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto
thee; thy dealing shall return upon thine own head.
16 For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so
shall all the nations drink continually; yea, they
shall drink, and swallow down, and shall be as
though they had not been.
Fourth Bowl of Wrath
8 And the fourth poured out his bowl upon the
sun; and it was given unto it to scorch men with
9 And men were scorched with great heat: and they
blasphemed the name of God who hath the power over
these plagues; and they repented not to give him
fourth bowl of wrath was emptied out upon the sun
which then sent out scorching rays to burn the
wicked. Those upon whom the rays fell were so
hardened in their hearts that they refused to see
this as an act of divine retribution and added
blasphemy to their already sin cursed lives. John
gives credit to God as having power over the plagues
that were coming. The Christians to who this was
written were here told that God is in charge of
what's going on.
significance also is the wording, "and they
repented not to give him glory". This reveals
that the oppressors were given the chance to
repent. This should bring great comfort to those
who believe they have gone too far and can never
repent and come back to God. Even after all the
horrible things done to the Christians, the people
of the Roman Empire still were given an opportunity
to avoid God's eternal wrath which is far more
severe and lasting than His wrath executed on
earth. We can see God's longsuffering and patience
at work here in His efforts to reach those who
worshipped under the beast and to present them with
every opportunity to avoid His eternal wrath. This
calls to mind God's reluctance to destroy Nineveh
when He sent Jonah to preach to them in hopes of
converting them from their evil ways.
they repented not and gave not any glory to God.
The subjects of the beast, (Imperial Rome), had so
taken in his spirit and absorbed his characteristics
that instead of repenting and turning to God, they
rebelled against God's efforts to turn them,
hardened their hearts just like Pharaoh and rebelled
against His efforts to soften them. Even the
scorching heat of God's wrath unleashed with the sun
could not mellow their rebellious hearts, rather it
fourth bowl completes the first section of plagues
involving earth, sea, waters and the sun.
Fifth Bowl of Wrath
10 And the fifth poured out his bowl upon the
throne of the beast; and his kingdom was darkened;
and they gnawed their tongues for pain,
11 and they blasphemed the God of heaven because
of their pains and their sores; and they repented
not of their works.
And now we see the fifth bowl of wrath being
poured out on the throne of the beast, (Domitian),
and his entire kingdom is darkened. This imagery is
reflective of Psalms 69:23-24,
"Let their eyes be darkened, so
that they cannot see; and make their loins
continually to shake. Pour out thine indignation
upon them, and let the fierceness of thine anger
overtake them." Beginning at the throne, the
kingdom is darkened so that the eyes of the leaders
lose their ability to see how their kingdom needs to
be managed. They are turning a blind eye to the
priorities of managing a world wide empire and
turning them instead to the inner pleasures of
wicked debauchery. They feel secure in their power
so they become blind to the needs of the empire.
The Roman Empire is by no means the only power on
earth that came to demise because of this.
Romans who are faithful to the Empire and its
emperor worship see it happening, they are in
anguish over it, yet in their stubborn pride, they
continue to refuse to accept that this internally
evil system of government cannot possibly be worthy
of their worship so they "repented not of their
works," rather choosing to blame and blaspheme
the one to whom they should have turned.
21 because that, knowing God, they glorified him
not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in
their reasonings, and their senseless heart was
22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became
23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God
for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and
of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping
24 Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of
their hearts unto uncleanness, that their bodies
should be dishonored among themselves:
25 for that they exchanged the truth of God for a
lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather
than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
Sixth Bowl of Wrath
And the sixth poured out his bowl upon the great
river, the (river) Euphrates; and the water thereof
was dried up, that the way might be made ready for
the kings that (come) from the sunrising.
sixth bowl of wrath was said to be poured out
directly on the Euphrates River causing it to dry
up. The Euphrates River formed the eastern boundary
of the Imperial Roman Empire. Beyond the river was
the Parthian nation which had been in rebellion to
the empire throughout its existence. The ancient
city of Babylon was finally destroyed in 539 B.C.
when the Persians diverted the Euphrates River and
entered the city underneath its protective walls,
(cf. Jeremiah 50:38; 51:36). That historical event
formed the imagery that the Christians would
identify the overthrow of God's enemies with.
Again, this imagery is used to conceal the real
meaning from the Roman authorities. The drying up
of the Euphrates signified to the oppressed
Christians that the Roman Empire was now vulnerable
to external invasion by the Parthian kings. The
external invasion did indeed occur, after which, The
mighty Roman Empire was reduced to a declining world
Vision of the Three Frogs
13 And 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, as it were frogs:
14 for they are spirits of demons, working signs;
which go forth unto the kings of the whole world, to
gather them together unto the war of the great day
of God, the Almighty.
15(Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that
watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk
naked, and they see his shame.)
16 And they gathered them together into the place
which is called in Hebrew Har-Magedon.
break is given between the sixth and seventh
symbols. God has provided a way for the Parthians
to attack the Roman Empire. The Parthian kings were
Rome's bitterest most aggressive enemies. The text
of Revelation 17:14 indicates that the kings of the
earth are being gathered to do battle. Rome
recognized the danger of a Parthian invasion and was
moving to ally the nations within the Roman empire
to battle against this deadly foe.
read that three unclean spirits in the form of frogs
appear through the mouths of the dragon, (Satan),
the sea beast, (Domitian), and the earth beast, (the
Roman Concilia). The frogs were not literal and had
a significant meaning to the Christians of the day.
A study of Leviticus 11:9-12 reveals that all
animals that lived in the water but did not have
fins or scales were to be regarded as an abomination
to the Israelites. They were loathsome creatures
not to be eaten nor touched in any way. Thus we see
that the three frogs represent to the Christians of
the time vile creatures who are to be rejected and
viewed as abominations.
three symbolic frogs are said to be "spirits of
demons" which are sent out by the dragon, the sea
and the earth beast to deceive and rally the kings
of the world to defeat the coming invasion by the
Parthian kings. They are successful in deceiving
the kings and they all unite in a place called "Har
Megadon" to do battle against the invading force.
Only the gathering of forces is mentioned here. The
actual battle does not take place until later in
words "Har-Megedon" more familiarly known as
"Armageddon" means the "mount of Megiddo." John was
describing the mustering of forces at a place called
the Mount of Megiddo. This was a Hebrew battlefield
which had historical significance because this was
where Gideon defeated the Midianites, King Saul was
defeated by the Philistines, Barak and Deborah
overthrew Jabin, (Judges 5:12-19), Jehu killed
Ahaziah with an arrow, (2 Kings 9:27), and Josiah
was defeated by Pharoah-Necho, (2 Chronicles
35:22). In the minds of the Hebrew Christians,
Megiddo was a place where decisive conflicts took
place. Therefore Har-Megedon fitly symbolizes to
the Christians of the day, a battlefield where the
forces of God and the forces of evil meet in deadly
conflict to determine the earthly future of God's
people. A more extensive study of the battlefield
of Megiddo and Armageddon will follow after we have
concluded the study on the bowls of wrath.
(Behold, I come as a thief.
Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his
garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his
entire core message of Revelation is for the
Christian to persevere against all persecution no
matter what the personal consequences to their
earthly persons. God remains in charge and those
who endure and remain in righteousness will be
victorious in the end. This message is repeated
over and over throughout the text and Revelation
16:15 is a repetition of this exhortation. The
coming as of a thief, (cf Revelation 3:3), was
imagery introduced by Jesus during His earthly
ministry to encourage constant watch and
preparedness for His coming, (cf Luke 12:39). This
imagery was used by the apostles as well in
reference to the day of the Lord, (1 Thessalonians
5:2-4; 2 Peter 3:10). It is therefore impossible to
know the day of the Lord's coming for the final
"Blessed is he that watcheth"
42 Watch therefore: for Ye know not on what day your
43 But know this, that if the master of the house
had known in what watch the thief was coming, he
would have watched, and would not have suffered his
house to be broken through.
44 Therefore be Ye also ready; for in an hour that
Ye think not the Son of man cometh.
45 Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom
his lord hath set over his household, to give them
their food in due season?
46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he
cometh shall find so doing.
47 Verily I say unto you, that he will set him over
all that he hath.
48 But if that evil servant shall say in his heart,
My lord tarrieth;
49 and shall begin to beat his fellow-servants, and
shall eat and drink with the drunken;
50 the lord of that servant shall come in a day when
he expecteth not, and in an hour when he knoweth
51 and shall cut him asunder, and appoint his
portion with the hypocrites: there shall be the
weeping and the gnashing of teeth.
"and keepeth his garments"
Christian "puts on Christ" or clothes himself with
Christ at baptism, (Galatians 3:27). In scripture,
the inspired writers illustrated Christ and God's
righteousness as something the Christian
figuratively wears upon His person. Sin is
illustrated as spots and blemishes on one's
garments, (Jude 23). The Psalmist referred to
cursing as being like a garment that clothed the
unrighteous, (Ps 109:18-19), so the imagery of
garments represents to the Christian that which he
adorns himself with be it righteousness or
unrighteousness. A blessing is given to those
Christians who keep their garments in the state it
was when they clothed themselves with Christ.
"lest he walk naked, and they see his shame"
1 For we know that if the earthly house of our
tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from
God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the
2 For verily in this we groan, longing to be
clothed upon with our habitation which is from
3 if so be that being clothed we shall not be
present tense of the verbs, "watcheth" and "keepeth"
indicate a continuous effort necessitating a daily
watchfulness. The Christians were exhorted to be
continuously on guard, watching and keeping
themselves clean in all appearance. The application
of this for us today is that since this was required
of the Christians to which Revelation was written,
so also must it apply to all Christians thereafter.
God is no respect of persons, (Romans 2:11). God is
not going to require Christians who were being
slaughtered for their faith to remain righteous and
let all the rest of the Christians living afterwards
to slide by. Let us also watch and keep our
garments lest we be be found naked and in shame.
Seventh Bowl of Wrath
17 And the seventh poured out his bowl upon the
air; and there came forth a great voice out of the
temple, from the throne, saying, It is done:
18 and there were lightnings, and voices, and
thunders; and there was a great earthquake, such as
was not since there were men upon the earth, so
great an earthquake, so mighty.
19 And the great city was divided into three
parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and
Babylon the great was remembered in the sight of
God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the
fierceness of his wrath.
20 And every island fled away, and the mountains
were not found.
21 And great hail, (every stone) about the weight
of a talent, cometh down out of heaven upon men: and
men blasphemed God because of the plague of the
hail; for the plague thereof is exceeding great.
seventh bowl poured out upon the air symbolizes the
complete retribution of God through the use of
natural elements, earth water, fire, (the sun) and
air. The previous natural disturbances were not as
severe as the ones after the outpouring of the
seventh bowl. There can be no doubt that there is a
great deal of figurative language used here and so
it would be in that God is describing the downfall
of the Roman Empire and must protect the Christians
from added persecutions by concealing the real
message from the Roman authorities.
clue to figurative significance of the outpouring of
the final bowl of wrath on the air may be found in
Ephesians 2:2, "wherein Ye once walked according
to the course of this world, according to the prince
of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now
worketh in the sons of disobedience;" The
prince of the powers of the air spoken of by Paul is
undoubtedly Satan. In view of the gathering forces
for the upcoming battle of Har-Megedon mentioned
earlier, it is reasonable to conclude that the final
bowl of wrath will be poured out directly on the "powers
of the air", or the powers of Satan. The fifth
bowl was poured out on the throne of the beast, the
sixth bowl opened the way for invasion from hostile
countries followed by a gathering of forces by the
allies of Satan to his evil cause, followed then by
the outpouring of God's wrath upon the entire sphere
of Satan's operation. Air would be an appropriate
symbol representing the prevailing influence
surrounding the Roman Empire. Thus the course of
the Empire which was evil to the core, characterized
by lives of trespass and sin, ruled by the Satan,
(prince of the powers of the air), who controlled
his subjects by a spirit of rebellion and
disobedience to God, is now going to brought under
the pouring of the seventh bowl, the Christians are
again reminded that the forces of evil cannot win
the battle. With the outpouring of this last bowl
of wrath, we are told that thunder and lightning
from heaven and an earthquake unlike any other
shakes the earth, all of which are manifestations of
divine retribution. The city of Rome is divided
into three parts, (the divine number) which
symbolizes God's involvement in the overthrow of the
city. When this final action is finished, God's
wrath on the beast and the false prophet is
seven bowls of wrath represented three things which
historian Edward Gibbons attributed to the ultimate
fall of the Imperial Roman Empire: 1) natural
calamity, 2) internal rottenness, and 3) external
invasion. All three of these were works of God
which ultimately caused the doom of the Roman
Empire. It did no good for Rome to rally help from
other nations, for God would destroy Rome
irregardless of any help Satan may recruit. The
vision of the bowls of wrath were designed to set
forth the assurance of ultimate triumph of
righteousness over any and all evil that may be
hurled at it. The message to the Christians of of
the day was that God is ruling and they must
persevere and keep themselves in righteousness and
in so doing they will achieve the ultimate victory.
The message for us is the same. God cares for us
and as long as we live in righteousness we too can
triumph over any evil which can be hurled at us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or
famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 Even as it is written, For thy sake we are
killed all the day long; We were accounted as sheep
for the slaughter.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than
conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor
life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things
present, nor things to come, nor powers,
39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature,
shall be able to separate us from the love of God,
which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.