Then 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.”
A loud voice from the temple told the angels to begin the bowl judgments and to pour God’s wrath out upon the earth. These judgments were so severe that, if they had not been cut short, nobody would have survived (Matthew 24:22). But God cut them short on account of the elect (Matthew 24:22), for some did turn to Christ and were still alive. They were not the target of God’s wrath, and God wanted them to receive the kingdom as soon as possible.
2 So 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.
The first bowl judgment was to give those who had taken the mark of the beast and who had worshipped his image a loathsome and malignant sore. This sore could be similar to the boils that afflicted the Egyptians during the plagues (Exodus 9:9-11) and to the sores which Job was afflicted with (Job 2:7). The beggar Lazarus also had open sores which the dogs were licking (Luke 16:21). These sores would have been extremely hideous, gross, painful, oozy, and foul. It is possible that the sore erupted precisely where the mark had been placed as a direct sign from God that He was taking His just revenge.
3 The 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.
The second angel poured out his bowl judgment into the sea, and it turned to blood. Every living thing in the sea died, whether person or creature. That amount of death and blood is unimaginable and far worse than what Egypt suffered when the Nile was turned to blood (Exodus 7:20-25). This plague took place over the seas of the entire earth, and the stench and devastation would have been felt everywhere. Earlier, God only targeted one third of the water by turning it into blood (Revelation 8:8-9), but now that His wrath upon the earth was in its final stage, all of the seas were turned to blood and made undrinkable and unsurvivable. Things were coming to an end, and the earth would have to be recreated (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22; 2 Peter 3:10, 13; Revelation 21:1).
4 Then the third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters; and they became blood. 5 And 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 for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.” 7 And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.”
The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and springs of waters, and they became blood. Reserves of drinking water were thus removed, and death by thirst became very real. The angel of the waters praised God for being eternal and the only Holy One. He praised God for being just in all things including this bowl judgment because those who suffered during it deserved it, having poured out the blood of the saints and prophets of God. A voice came from the altar in heaven confirming the reality of God’s justice saying that this plague, like all the other judgments, was true and righteous. The world regards sin and the mocking of God and the persecution of His people as a light matter or even a sport (Proverbs 10:23), but God will pay them back for their deeds. The coming tribulation will happen as will the casting of the wicked into the lake of fire because these judgments are true and righteous.
8 The fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun, and it was given to it to scorch men with fire. 9 Men 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.
The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it made the earth extremely hot such that the people on the earth were scorched with fierce heat. Yet people didn’t turn to God and beg for mercy. Interestingly, they were well aware of Who it was who was bringing the plagues. They didn’t have their deities confused or suppose that the antichrist was doing all of this. They knew that it was the God of the Bible, and still they chose to retain their allegiance to the beast. None of them could claim ignorance, for they all were blatantly guilty before God for rejecting the revelation of the gospel that they had all heard from the two witnesses (Revelation 11:3) and directly from the angel who spoke from heaven (Revelation 14:6-7). Foolishly and arrogantly, they mocked and rejected the only One Who could stop the plagues and save them (see also Isaiah 8:21). They refused to acknowledge Him and submit to Him, choosing rather to endure great pain and even death. Sometimes people think that an eternity in hell is not fair, but if these plagues were not enough to make people repent, hell is likely not going to sway their minds either. They will have an eternity to blaspheme God, and they will be punished forever for doing so.
10 Then 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, 11 and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds.
The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom which was throughout the earth was darkened. This was foretold in Isaiah 60:2 which says, “For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the Lord will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you” (see also Amos 5:18-20, Mark 13:24-25). This is reminiscent of the plague of darkness that happened in Pharaoh’s kingdom, a darkness so severe that it could be felt (Exodus 10:21-23), but this time the darkness will extend throughout the whole domain of the antichrist. The God of heaven Who put the plague into place could save the people who were suffering greatly if only they would change their ways, but they would not. Even though the pain that they were in was so great and only made worse by the darkness which made their predicament seem even more inescapable and frightful, they would not worship the God of heaven. They would rather chew on their own tongues in agony and thirst than be saved by a God Whom they hated.
12 The 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. 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 like frogs; 14 for 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.”) 16 And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon.
The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the Euphrates River and dried it up. This was a judgment on the antichrist and his kingdom because it paved a way for the kings from the east to come and rebel against God (Micah 4:11-13, Revelation 17:14) with him at which point God would lay them all waste. The final battle would take place on the plains of Armageddon, the Hebrew name for Mt. Megiddo, which is sixty miles north of Jerusalem. The battle would extend southeastward for 1600 stadia, which approximates to 200 Roman miles or 184 modern miles (Revelation 14:20). 184 miles would include both the Megiddo valley (Har-Mageddon) and the valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:1-2, 12-13), which, based on the battle Jehoshaphat fought, would continue south just east of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives down toward Engedi near the Dead Sea (2 Chronicles 20). Taken altogether, this 184 miles stretch will be the scene of the final battle, the valley of decision (Joel 3:14), in which Christ comes out victorious. The real purpose of God here was to gather the armies of the earth (Revelation 19:20-21) so that they could be taken out in one fell swoop (Revelation 19:19). This is why the blood from the slain will be as high as the horse’s bridle (Revelation 14:19-20). John saw coming out of the mouth of the unholy trinity (beast, dragon, false prophet) three unclean spirits that looked like frogs, spirits of demons sent to perform signs and go to the kings of the whole world to gather them together for the war in which Jesus would slaughter them all. This is the day of the Lord, the great day of the Almighty when Jesus would finally be not just the sacrificial Lamb but the King of Kings on the earth as well as in heaven (Daniel 11:45). Joel 3:1-2, 12-13 says, “For behold, in those days and at that time, When I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations And bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there On behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; And they have divided up My land. Let the nations be aroused And come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat, For there I will sit to judge All the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, tread, for the wine press is full; The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great” (see also Zephaniah 3:8 and Revelation 19:15). When Christ comes with a sword proceeding from His mouth, the victory will come quickly and easily. Zephaniah 1:17 speaks of the armies being struck with blindness. Zechariah 14:12-13 says, “Now this will be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the peoples who have gone to war against Jerusalem; their flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, and their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongue will rot in their mouth. It will come about in that day that a great panic from the Lord will fall on them; and they will seize one another’s hand, and the hand of one will be lifted against the hand of another.” Jesus’ judgment at Armageddon will be to allow the armies of the earth which He has gathered (Satan thought he was doing it against God, but this was ultimately God’s plan for destruction- see Micah 4:11-13, Revelation 17:14) to have their flesh literally rot, blinding them, deluding them, and making their boastful tongues fall out. Zechariah 12:4 adds, “‘In that day,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will strike every horse with bewilderment and his rider with madness. But I will watch over the house of Judah, while I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness.’” The plague is actually a judgment that reflects their spiritual condition. Those who boasted in their flesh saw their flesh rot away. Those who thought they had eyes to see turned blind. Those who blasphemed God were silenced as their tongues rotted in their mouths. Those who thought they were clever and wise were made mad. Those who thought that they were mighty warriors and could defeat God turned against each other and self-destructed. In that day, the Lord will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, make them strong, and destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:8-9). This has always been God’s plan in the end, to wipe out those who hate Him, to exalt Himself and His people, and to give His people a heart for Him in the new millennial kingdom. The sifting of Israel is the most important aspect of the final seven year tribulation period, and, as it comes to a close, a righteous remnant with hearts that love Jesus will be saved and blessed (Amos 9:15). Amos 9:9-10 says, “For behold, I am commanding, And I will shake the house of Israel among all nations As grain is shaken in a sieve, But not a kernel will fall to the ground. All the sinners of My people will die by the sword, Those who say, ‘The calamity will not overtake or confront us.’” Though the seven year process will be horrible, it will end with a righteous remnant. Zechariah 13:8-9 says, “‘It will come about in all the land,’ Declares the Lord, ‘That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; But the third will be left in it. And I will bring the third part through the fire, Refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The Lord is my God’” (see also Micah 2:12). The picture of Jesus coming as a thief is a warning to the peoples of the earth not to get caught in a state of spiritual nakedness, emptiness, and depravity when the day of the Lord comes. 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 says, “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape” (see also Matthew 24:43). Unbelievers must prepare themselves before Christ returns by turning to Him for salvation and by repenting of sin so that they can be wrapped in His robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). Otherwise, they will face His just wrath and be shamed for eternity. Jesus’ return shouldn’t be a surprise given that it is all throughout the Bible, but sadly many ignore the truth that God has revealed to them in the Scripture. When the day of the Lord comes, they won’t be ready, and they will suffer the consequences.
17 Then 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.” 18 And 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. 19 The 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. 20 And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. 21 And 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.
The seventh angel poured out the seventh and final bowl judgment upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne declaring that the judgments of God’s wrath upon the earth during the great tribulation were complete. There were flashes of lightning and thunder, and there was the greatest earthquake of all time (see Isaiah 24:19-20). The earthquake was so strong that every city on earth was destroyed. Jerusalem was affected also, but was not leveled, only split into three parts. Zechariah 14:4, 10 says, “In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south. All the land will be changed into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem; but Jerusalem will rise and remain on its site from Benjamin’s Gate as far as the place of the First Gate to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s wine presses.” The topographical changes in Jerusalem will be for the better. Joel 3:18 says, “And in that day The mountains will drip with sweet wine, And the hills will flow with milk, And all the brooks of Judah will flow with water; And a spring will go out from the house of the Lord To water the valley of Shittim.” Water will flow out from Jerusalem to the east, and it will be healing to the creation (Ezekiel 47:1-12). Babylon the great, likely a reference to the specific empire and chief city of antichrist’s domain (Revelation 17-18), was remembered by God specifically to face the greatest intensity of His wrath in the earthquake (c.f. Isaiah 13:6-13). The earthquake changed the topography of earth so dramatically that the islands sunk or were flooded, and the mountains were leveled. Jerusalem, however, would rise (Isaiah 2:2-4, 40:9; Zechariah 4:10; Psalm 48:2). The seventh plague did not end with the earth-reshaping earthquake, but huge hailstones, weighing one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven. Whether this was purely a supernatural event or a result of the weather being affected by the plagues and the earthquake is not given, but what is sure is that it will be a divine punishment of God and that it will happen. The plague of the hail will be extremely severe as hailstones fall like bombs from heaven (Isaiah 32:19), but still those who survive will not repent. Instead, they will blaspheme God even to end.