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09 September 2019

The First Four Bowls of Wrath - (Revelation 16:1-9)

The seven bowls represent God’s final wrath on the Beast and all those allied with it. Like the plagues of Egypt, the seven trumpets prepared the new exodus of God’s people from bondage (15:2-4). In contrast, the seven last plagues follow the exodus of the saints; their combined destructive force corresponds to the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea.
The First Bowl (16:1-2)
(Revelation 16:1-2) – “And I heard a great voice out of the temple, saying to the seven angels, Go and pour out the seven bowls of the wrath of God into the earth. 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.
The “great voice” from the Temple is probably the voice of God; at this point, no one can enter the Temple until the seven last plagues are exhausted.
Pour out” translates the Greek verb ekcheō. It is used in Leviticus 4:12 in the Greek Septuagint for the ashes from burnt offerings that were “poured out.” This verb occurs only in the series of seven bowls each time an angel “pours out” the contents of his bowl, and when God is praised for punishing those who “poured out the blood of the saints and the prophets.” This is a link to the martyrs under the altar (Revelation 6:9-11); since the wicked “poured out” the blood of the martyrs, God has “given them blood to drink.”
There is overlap with the seven trumpet “plagues.” Both series echo the original plagues of Egypt; both affect the earth, sea, freshwater, heavens, the Abyss/Beast’s kingdom and the Euphrates River, and in the same sequence. But the seven bowl series is more complete. The seven trumpets a third of their respective targets; whereas, the seven bowls destroy theirs completely.
The “noisome and grievous sore” alludes to the sixth plague inflected on ancient Egypt (Exodus 9:8-11). Irony may be intended; men who took the mark of the Beast are now marred by terrible sores.
This plague is based on the plague of boils in Egypt (Exodus 9:9-11Deuteronomy 28:27). The mark of the Beast is linked to economic participation; all who refuse it are hurt economically. All men who received the mark now partake of their just deserts - “grievous sores.” This and the subsequent bowl judgments afflict all who have the Beast’s mark. This is not a separate group from the rest of mankind but is inclusive of all who do not belong to the Lamb.
The Second Bowl (16:3)
(Revelation 16:3) – “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 sea.
The second bowl echoes the first Egyptian plague when the waters of Egypt were turned to blood and its fish killed (Exodus 7:14-24).  In Revelation, the sea becomes like the blood of a dead man. The second trumpet turned a third of the sea into blood and destroyed a third of its living creatures. The second bowl now turns the entire sea into blood and kills every living thing in it.
Since the “inhabitants of the earth” do not live in the sea, why a plague that targets sea creatures?  The “sea” symbolizes the mass of humanity hostile to God, the nations from which the Beast ascends. It is parallel to the Abyss, the source of the Beast and demonic forces (cp. Daniel 7:1-2Revelation 7:1-39:1-1012:1213:120:8).
The destruction of life in the sea may point to the cessation of sea-borne commerce of vital importance to the nations and the economic health of the Roman Empire. Note well Revelation 9:9-19, “Woe to the great city in which all that had their ships in the sea were made rich by reason of her costliness, for in one hour is she made desolate.”
This plague anticipates the judgments against “Babylon” that sits on “many waters,” that is, “peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues” (17:15). Note the following:
[17:6] - “I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.”
[18:6] - “Render unto her even as she rendered, and double unto her the double according to her works: in the cup which she mingled, mingle unto her double.”
[18:24] - “In her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all that have been slain upon the earth.”
The cessation of maritime commerce results in economic hardship, commodity, and food shortages. The second bowl’s contents point to economic upheaval in the Beast’s empire with and the resultant death, chaos and destruction.
The Third Bowl (16:4)
(Revelation 16:4) – “And the third poured out his bowl into the rivers and the fountains of the waters; and it became blood.
The third bowl also alludes to the first Egyptian plague (Exodus 7:14-24), only this one affects all sources of freshwater. Both the second and third bowls turn water “into blood,” indicating a relationship between the two.
The second bowl affected the sea; the third impacts inland freshwater sources. Most likely, this plague also causes economic hardship. The sea is necessary for maritime commerce; freshwater is necessary not only to quench the thirst, but also to sustain agriculture.
The ships of Rome carried a variety of goods to the “eternal city”; most importantly, the large grain-carrying ships from Egypt. Without the supply of Egyptian grain, the city experienced food shortages, inflated prices, and famine.
The “Angel of the Waters” (16:5-7)
(Revelation 16:5-7) – “And I heard the angel of the waters saying, Righteous are thou, who are and who was, thou Holy One, because thou did thus judge: for they poured out the blood of the saints and the prophets, and blood have you given them to drink: they are worthy. And I heard the altar saying, Yea, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and just are your judgments.
An interjection is now made, the “angel of the waters.” This is the third angel who just poured out his bowl on the “fountains of the waters.” His declaration sums up the first three bowls and their justification (“they were given blood to drink because they poured out the blood of saints and prophets”). Note that in verse 9 “plagues” is plural.
The angel’s words anticipate the judgment pronouncements against Babylon; she persecuted the saints and caused the nations of the earth to drink the “wine” of her fornications. Her downfall will result from the seventh bowl of wrath (16:17-21).
They are worthy” refers not to followers of the Beast but to the martyrs. Elsewhere, in Revelation, “worthy” is positive and refers either to God, the Lamb or his followers (3:44:115:9-12). Because the martyrs overcame, they are now vindicated by the plagues against their persecutors.
God is addressed as the one who “is and who was,” the same appellation given to Him previously (cp. Revelation 1:41:8, 4:8, 11:17). Only earlier, God was the One “who is and who was and who is coming.” The third reference was dropped in Revelation 11:17, the seventh trumpet and also here, since He no longer “is coming”; final judgment has arrived.
The altar’s voice is a link to the plea of the martyrs for vindication and to the prayers of the saints that unleashed the trumpet plagues (6:9-11, 8:3-5). The “voice” confirms that the seven last plagues are God’s response to the prayers of the martyrs. The description of God as the “righteous and holy one who judges” echoes the plea of the martyrsHow long, O Master, holy and true, do you not judge and avenge our blood” (6:10).
The Fourth Bowl (16:8-9)
(Revelation 16:8-9) – “And the fourth poured out his bowl upon the sun; and it was given unto it to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat: and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues; and they repented not to give him glory.
The fourth bowl parallels the fourth trumpet and echoes the ninth plague of Egypt (Revelation 8:12Exodus 10:21-29). In both cases, the sun was darkened but now the fourth bowl causes scorching heat that burns the followers of the Beast. This contrasts with the martyrs who came out of the tribulation to be sheltered from the sun and guided by the Lamb to “fountains of waters of life” (7:16-17).
Rather than repent, men blaspheme “the name of God who has power over these plagues.” They deny that their sufferings are due to God’s sovereign acts. “Blasphemy” or “slander” connects the “inhabitants of the earth” with the Beast; they have taken on its nature. Elsewhere, “blasphemy” is attributed to the Beast and the Satan (13:6).

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