"Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."
Revelation 16 - Quick Links
Revelation 16:1 - 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."
Revelation 15 was a prelude to the last of the Tribulation judgments that complete the wrath of God described in chapter 16. Recall that seven angels emerge from the heavenly temple, and one of the four living creatures gives each one a bowl filled with God's wrath:
Revelation 15:6-8 - 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 smoke from God's glory prevents anyone from entering the temple. So, the loud voice that John hears coming from the temple is presumably God's voice who directs the angels to pour out their bowls filled with the wrath of God.
The living creatures announce the first four Seal judgments, but the last three Seal judgments have no formal proclamation (Revelation 6). Then the seven angels who stand before God receive seven trumpets, and as they blow them in turn, they initiate all seven Trumpet judgments (Revelation 8:2). God directs all the judgments - Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls - but the Bowl judgments are different, in that God initiates them with His voice instead of using ministering spirits to proclaim the judgments, as He did in the Seal and Trumpet judgments.
Recall from Revelation 8:13, an angel calls the last three Trumpet judgments "woes," because of the greater severity and broader scope compared to the previous judgments. The last woe is the seventh Trumpet judgment and consists of all seven Bowl judgments.
Some scholars suggest that the first four Trumpet judgments are a call to repentance because they are partial and extend to only a third of the earth. The time for repentance ends before the fifth, sixth, and seventh Trumpet judgments. When the angel sounds the seventh Trumpet, God's judgment becomes unrestrained and extends to the entire globe. These last judgments are for vengeance and recompense (Isaiah 34). This notion has support in that the earth dwellers blaspheme God in response to His wrath and refuse to repent in the sixth Trumpet judgment and two of the Bowl judgments (Revelation 9:20-21, 16:9-11). It appears that the decisions for or against Christ are made by this point near the end of the Tribulation, and those who continue to reject the Lord are given over to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28), or a hardened heart like Pharaoh (Exodus 10), and God's longsuffering turns to judgment when the iniquity of the people is complete (Genesis 15:16).
God directs the seven angels with the bowls of His wrath to "pour out" the bowls on the earth. Recall from Revelation 15:1, these bowls are vial-like containers like a dipper, which is shallow and its contents can "pour out" quickly. There are several references from other times of God's judgment that describe the "pouring out" of God's wrath as something that devours or consumes to "fulfill His fury" against transgression and sin:
Jeremiah 7:20, 10:25, 42:18, 44:6 - Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, My anger and My fury will be poured out on this place - on man and on beast, on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground. And it will burn and not be quenched...." Pour out Your fury on the Gentiles, who do not know You, and on the families who do not call on Your name; for they have eaten up Jacob, devoured him and consumed him, and made his dwelling place desolate.... "For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: 'As My anger and My fury have been poured out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so will My fury be poured out on you when you enter Egypt. And you shall be an oath, an astonishment, a curse, and a reproach; and you shall see this place no more....' So My fury and My anger were poured out and kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they are wasted and desolate, as it is this day.'"
Lamentations 4:11 - The LORD has fulfilled His fury, He has poured out His fierce anger. He kindled a fire in Zion, and it has devoured its foundations.
Ezekiel 7:8; 20:8, 13, 21; 21:31; 22:22, 31; 36:18 - Now upon you I will soon pour out My fury, and spend My anger upon you; I will judge you according to your ways, and I will repay you for all your abominations.... But they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me. They did not all cast away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said, 'I will pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt....' Yet the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness; they did not walk in My statutes; they despised My judgments, 'which, if a man does, he shall live by them'; and they greatly defiled My Sabbaths. Then I said I would pour out My fury on them in the wilderness, to consume them.... "Notwithstanding, the children rebelled against Me; they did not walk in My statutes, and were not careful to observe My judgments, 'which, if a man does, he shall live by them'; but they profaned My Sabbaths. Then I said I would pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the wilderness.... I will pour out My indignation on you; I will blow against you with the fire of My wrath, and deliver you into the hands of brutal men who are skillful to destroy.... As silver is melted in the midst of a furnace, so shall you be melted in its midst; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have poured out My fury on you....' " Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads," says the Lord GOD.... Therefore I poured out My fury on them for the blood they had shed on the land, and for their idols with which they had defiled it.
Daniel 9:11 - Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him.
Recall from Revelation 15:7, that the golden bowls given to the angels are full of incense which represent the prayers of the saints. These are prayers for justice and judgment on the wicked (Psalms 141:1-5). Incidentally, in the prayer in the passage below, Asaph asked God to judge the nations and "pour out" His wrath on them because they destroyed Jerusalem and devoured his people. God will answer Asaph's prayer when the angels "pour out" the Bowl judgments of His wrath on the earth:
Psalms 79:1-7 - O God, the nations have come into Your inheritance; Your holy temple they have defiled; they have laid Jerusalem in heaps. The dead bodies of Your servants they have given as food for the birds of the heavens, the flesh of Your saints to the beasts of the earth. Their blood they have shed like water all around Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them. We have become a reproach to our neighbors, a scorn and derision to those who are around us. How long, LORD? Will You be angry forever? Will Your jealousy burn like fire? Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You, and on the kingdoms that do not call on Your name. For they have devoured Jacob, and laid waste his dwelling place.
While "pouring out" of God's judgment causes complete devastation, it is comforting to note that the "pouring out" of His Spirit brings restoration and salvation:
Titus 3:3-6 - For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Joel 2:28-32 - "And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. "And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the remnant whom the LORD calls."
Note that as the angels "pour out" God's judgment on the earth, there are similarities between the Trumpet and Bowl judgments, as discussed in Revelation 8:6:
Each judgment increases in severity and the scope changes from partial to global, as mentioned earlier. It is also interesting to note that six of the seven Bowl judgments, along with four Trumpet judgments are the same plagues God poured out on Egypt ahead of the Exodus, which shows that these judgments are literal:
These plagues will not only affect a region like when God judged Egypt - they will serve to judge the whole earth.
Revelation 16:2 - 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.
The first angel pours the contents of his bowl out on the earth and "foul and loathsome" sores break out on everyone who bears the mark of the beast. The Greek words translated "foul" and "loathsome" describe a sore that has an "inner evil," meaning it is rotten from within or foul in appearance, accompanied by an agonizing pain like the boils Satan inflicted on Job:
Job 2:4-7 - So Satan answered the LORD and said, "Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life." So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.
The first time in Scripture we see "boils" is in the fifth plague against Egypt:
Exodus 9:8-12 - So the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Take for yourselves handfuls of ashes from a furnace, and let Moses scatter it toward the heavens in the sight of Pharaoh. And it will become fine dust in all the land of Egypt, and it will cause boils that break out in sores on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt." Then they took ashes from the furnace and stood before Pharaoh, and Moses scattered them toward heaven. And they caused boils that break out in sores on man and beast. And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils were on the magicians and on all the Egyptians. But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh; and he did not heed them, just as the LORD had spoken to Moses.
God warned Israel they would suffer from the same boils of the plague on Egypt if they disobeyed God:
Deuteronomy 28:15, 27, 35, 58-60 - "But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.... The LORD will strike you with the boils of Egypt, with tumors, with the scab, and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed.... The LORD will strike you in the knees and on the legs with severe boils which cannot be healed, and from the sole of your foot to the top of your head.... If you do not carefully observe all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, THE LORD YOUR GOD, then the LORD will bring upon you and your descendants extraordinary plagues - great and prolonged plagues - and serious and prolonged sicknesses. Moreover He will bring back on you all the diseases of Egypt, of which you were afraid, and they shall cling to you."
Leviticus 13 gives instruction to the priests on how to deal with these boils, which suggests that God indeed punished Israel with these boils at times they rejected Him throughout their history. Similarly, boils afflict the beast worshippers for rejecting God. In a sense of irony, God puts an "evil" or rotten mark of disease on those who take the evil mark of the beast. These boils are only a taste of God's wrath for these beast worshippers, as eternal wrath is their destiny:
Revelation 14:9-11 - Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."
Some speculate that the material used to make the "mark of the beast" causes the sores. The beast implements the mark sometime in the middle of the Tribulation over the course of the next 3 ½ years, and not everyone will get the mark at the same time. However, the boils come on the beast worshippers at the same time when the angel pours out the first Bowl judgment at the end of the Tribulation. So, it does not make sense that the material used to make the "mark of the beast" causes the boil on each beast worshipper, otherwise people would get boils at various times in the second half of the Tribulation. The fact the beast worshippers all get the plague of boils at the same time suggests this is a supernatural judgment poured out by God's angel at an appointed time near the end of the Tribulation.
Revelation 16:3 - 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.
The next two Bowl judgments turn all of the earth's bodies of water to blood like the first plague on Egypt where Moses turned the Nile River to blood (Exodus 7:14-25), and like the second Trumpet judgment where a third of the sea becomes blood (Revelation 8:8-9).
As discussed in Revelation 6:13, the Greek word for "blood" is "haima," which is where we derive our words like "hemoglobin" in human blood. Blood consists of iron, and "hematite," which describes the blood-red color of iron oxide (source). Iron oxide can cause water to look like blood (sources: 1 2 3). Iron oxide in dust particles have formed blood rain (source). Iron oxide is also found in comets (sources: 1 2 3 4). Therefore, comet fragments entering the atmosphere could look like hail and fire, mingled with blood (Revelation 8:7), and a sizable fragment could make a large body of water become like blood (Revelation 8:8).
John specifies that the sea becomes blood like a "dead man," which is a very dark red color that is almost black, caused by lack of oxygen from the blood not circulating in the body (source). Oxygen in the blood sustains life and explains why life is in the blood:
Leviticus 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.'
The water turning to blood kills all the sea creatures, causing an ecological disaster. The sea creatures escaped demise the global flood in Noah's day, but they do not survive in the second Bowl judgment. As discussed in Revelation 8:9, the creation suffers in God's judgment against man (Romans 8:20), and even the fish of the sea are not spared:
Hosea 4:1-3 - Hear the word of the LORD, you children of Israel, for the LORD brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land: "There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land. By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed upon bloodshed. Therefore the land will mourn; and everyone who dwells there will waste away with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air; even the fish of the sea will be taken away."
Zephaniah 1:2-7 - "I will utterly consume everything from the face of the land," Says the LORD; "I will consume man and beast; I will consume the birds of the heavens, the fish of the sea, and the stumbling blocks along with the wicked. I will cut off man from the face of the land," Says the LORD. "I will stretch out My hand against Judah, and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. I will cut off every trace of Baal from this place, the names of the idolatrous priests with the pagan priests - those who worship the host of heaven on the housetops; those who worship and swear oaths by the LORD, but who also swear by Milcom; those who have turned back from following the LORD, and have not sought the LORD, nor inquired of Him." Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD; for the day of the LORD is at hand, for the LORD has prepared a sacrifice; He has invited His guests."
Revelation 16:4 - Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.
In the third Trumpet judgment, a third of the rivers and springs of water become bitter from the star Wormwood:
Revelation 8:10-11 - Then the third angel sounded: And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter.
But in the third Bowl judgment, all the rivers and springs are completely corrupted and turned to blood. The water, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirt and life (Isaiah 55:1, John 4:14, John 7:37-39, 1 Corinthians 12:13) literally turns into corruption and death.
The window of opportunity to accept eternal life appears closed at this point, because God pours out His final wrath on the unrepentant in retribution for shedding the blood of His saints and prophets, which we will discuss more in the next section:
Revelation 16:6 - "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 fact that the second and third Bowl judgments contaminate all the earth's water sources show that the angels pour them out at the very end of the Tribulation, because no one on the earth could survive without fresh water for more than a few days.
Revelation 16:5-7 - 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."
John calls the angel who turned the rivers and springs of water to blood in the third Bowl judgment the "angel of the waters." In Revelation 14:18, we saw an angel who had power over fire, and Daniel 10:20-21 shows that other angels have responsibilities over different geographical areas. In addition to delegating judgments to angels, God also entrusts angels with the care and administration over different parts of His creation.
The "angel of the waters" praises the Lord for His justice on those who shed the blood of His saints and prophets. This is the justice the martyred saints were waiting for:
Revelation 6:9-11 - When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.
As discussed in Revelation 6:9-10, the harlot religion "Babylon the Great" will slaughter the saints in the first half of the Tribulation (Revelation 17:5-6), Satan and the antichrist will slaughter them in the second half of the Tribulation (Revelation 12:11, 17, 13:10-12, 15), and the "earth dwellers" who reject the Lord will do their bidding. The Lord avenges the blood of His saints by giving them blood to drink in the second and third Bowl judgments. But the Lord also avenges His saints when He judges the harlot religion "Babylon the Great," and the city of Babylon, the capital of the antichrist's global government:
Revelation 19:1-3 - After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, "Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her." Again they said, "Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!"
Revelation 18:10, 20 - ...Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.... "Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!"
The "angel of the waters" says "their just is due," which means the punishment is fitting and they deserve it. The earth dwellers shed the blood of the saints, so they will only have blood to drink as punishment - the Lord will repay according to their deeds:
Isaiah 59:17-18 - For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, fury to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies; the coastlands He will fully repay.
Psalms 28:4-5 - Give them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavors; give them according to the work of their hands; render to them what they deserve. Because they do not regard the works of the LORD, nor the operation of His hands, He shall destroy them and not build them up.
Romans 2:5-11 - But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who "will render to each one according to his deeds ": eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness - indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.
The "angel of the waters" calls the Lord "the One who is and who was and who is to be," like His title in the following passages:
Revelation 1:4-6 - John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Revelation 1:8 - "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End," says the Lord, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."
Revelation 4:8 - The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"
Revelation 11:16-17 - And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: "We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned."
Recall from Revelation 1:4, the title: "Who is and who was and who is to come" describes the eternal nature of the Lord (Micah 5:2, Isaiah 9:6, John 17:24). The Old Testament version of this eternal title for God is "from everlasting to everlasting" (1 Chronicles 16:36, Psalms 41:13, 90:2, 103:17, 106:48).
Another angel praises the Lord from the altar. Perhaps this is the angel who offered the prayers of the saints from the golden altar (Revelation 8:3-5), and the same angel with power over fire that came out from the altar (Revelation 14:18). Like the "angel of the waters," the angel from the altar also praises the Lord for His judgments and calls Him "Lord God Almighty." As discussed in Revelation 1:8, the Greek word translated "Almighty" can mean ruler of all, the one who holds all, the one exercising absolute dominion with unrestricted power, or "omnipotent," as translated in Revelation 19:6. In short, the title "Almighty" shows God's sovereignty.
The angel of the waters says the Lord is righteous. The Lord is righteous because His judgments are "upright," meaning they are just:
Psalms 119:137 - Righteous are You, O LORD, and upright are Your judgments.
The angel of the waters calls the Lord righteous because He carried out justice and avenged the blood of His saints. The Apostle Paul also said it is a righteous thing for God to avenge His people:
2 Thessalonians 1:6 - ...it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you....
We should not try to avenge ourselves, as God said vengeance is His:
Romans 12:19 - Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.
Hebrews 10:30-31 - For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. And again, "The Lord will judge His people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
King David praised the Lord in the following psalm for judging in righteousness and avenging His people:
Psalms 9:7-12 - But the LORD shall endure forever; He has prepared His throne for judgment. He shall judge the world in righteousness, and He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness. The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You. Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion! Declare His deeds among the people. When He avenges blood, He remembers them; He does not forget the cry of the humble.
The angel from the altar also proclaims God's judgments as righteous, and adds that they are true. Later we see that the Lord's judgements are righteous and true because He will avenge the saints for their shed blood, as He promised in Revelation 6:10-11, which supports what Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 1:6, mentioned earlier:
Revelation 19:2 - For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her."
As an aside, Israel did not understand that Jesus was the "truth" and they rejected Him and killed him like an unrighteous criminal, but some day Israel will return to the Lord and He will keep His promise to rule over them in His kingdom in "truth, in judgment, and in righteousness," and the nations will have blessing and peace through Him:
Jeremiah 4:1-2 - "If you will return, O Israel," says the LORD, "Return to Me; and if you will put away your abominations out of My sight, then you shall not be moved. And you shall swear, 'The LORD lives,' In truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; the nations shall bless themselves in Him, and in Him they shall glory."
Isaiah 9:6-7 - For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Revelation 16:8-9 - 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.
The earth dwellers continue to suffer in agony from boils and they have no water to drink after the first three Bowl judgments. Then, the fourth angel adds "fuel to the fire" and pours his bowl on the sun to scorch men with fire. The misery from all four Bowl judgments combined is unimaginable and one could compare it to the torment on those in Hades described in the following parable:
Luke 16:19-24 - "There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. "Then he cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.'"
Lazarus found relief from his sores, but the rich man experienced continual torment in the flame with no water to ease his suffering. As discussed in Revelation 7:16, the saints who live and die during the Tribulation will not suffer the judgments slated for only the beast worshippers, such as the foul and loathsome sores in the first Bowl judgment, but they will suffer through most of the Tribulation judgments along with the wicked. While we saw that the sun burns those who blaspheme God, note that earlier one of the twenty-four elders suggests that the Tribulation saints on the earth are also subject to suffering from the heat of the sun, possibly alluding to the fourth Bowl judgment:
Revelation 7:16-17 - "They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
But like Lazarus, the Tribulation saints will find relief from their torment on the earth after they die, and the Lord will comfort them in Heaven. However, on the earth, any hope for fresh water sources will quickly fade as snowpacks and glaciers will surely melt from the blast of the sun in the fourth Bowl judgment and flood the coastal regions with the contaminated bloody water from the second and third Bowl judgments. This "global warming" from the sun will create unimaginable catastrophes, and make the supposed "climate change" caused by humans look foolish.
The fourth Bowl judgment and the fourth Trumpet judgment both affect the sun, and these two judgments could be related to each other. When the fourth angel sounds his trumpet, the sun darkens by a third, and when the fourth angel pours out his bowl the sun erupts with "fire" or solar flares that reach the earth. Sunspots, which harbor energy that can produce solar flares and coronal mass ejections (source) might be the phenomena that darken the sun in the fourth Trumpet judgment, and later erupt in the fourth Bowl judgment, before the sun is completely darkened along with all the other luminaries after the Tribulation judgments when Jesus returns:
Isaiah 13:10-13 - For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine. "I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, a man more than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts and in the day of His fierce anger."
Matthew 24:29 - "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken."
Mark 13:24 - "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light...."
Joel 3:14-15 - Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will grow dark, and the stars will diminish their brightness.
God is going to scorch men with the great heat of the sun, because they transgressed the "everlasting covenant":
Isaiah 24:1, 4-6 - Behold, the LORD makes the earth empty and makes it waste, distorts its surface and scatters abroad its inhabitants.... The earth mourns and fades away, the world languishes and fades away; the haughty people of the earth languish. The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left.
Recall from Revelation 15:5, the Lord will judge the world based on the "everlasting covenant" He made with all flesh on the earth:
Genesis 9:16-17 - "The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth." And God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth."
This everlasting covenant defiled by the inhabitants of the earth is also known as the "natural law" that God placed in nature to help guide the conscience, which acts as a law for those not under the Mosaic Law, and God will judge the world for breaking this covenant:
Romans 2:12-16 - For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
Those scorched with the heat of the son blaspheme the "name of God" like the beast whom they follow:
Revelation 13:4-6 - So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?" And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.
As discussed in Revelation 13:6, the Lord's name describes His character and who He is. Blaspheming God's name is to reproach or discredit God. The fourth Bowl judgment on the sun is the only plague that does not find a parallel in the plagues of Egypt. As discussed in Revelation 13:14, each plague against Egypt may have served to defeat and judge their gods and show that the God of Israel was the one true God (source). So, it is interesting that after the plague not represented by a false Egyptian god, the earth dwellers recognize that the God of Israel is behind the plague because they call Him by His name as they blaspheme Him. Incidentally, the punishment for blaspheming the name of God in the Mosaic Law was death:
Leviticus 24:11-16 - And the Israelite woman's son blasphemed the name of the LORD and cursed; and so they brought him to Moses. (His mother's name was Shelomith the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.) Then they put him in custody, that the mind of the LORD might be shown to them. And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Take outside the camp him who has cursed; then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him." Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. And whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the LORD, he shall be put to death.'
Those who blaspheme the name of God in the Tribulation are not under the Mosaic Law, but they do break the "everlasting covenant," and will similarly be put to death (Isaiah 24:1, 4-6), as mentioned earlier. All who worship the beast and bear the "mark of the beast" will pass the point of repentance, so God will burn them with fire from the sun in the "Great Tribulation" right before the "Sun of Righteousness" - the "LORD of hosts" Jesus Christ comes and destroys them all:
Malachi 4:1-3 - "For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up," says the LORD of hosts, "That will leave them neither root nor branch. But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this," says the LORD of hosts."
Those scorched by the sun also do not repent, which shows their pride and hardness of heart. God gives opportunities for people to repent, but like Jezebel, God's longsuffering turns to judgment after they harden their hearts past the point-of-no-return:
Revelation 2:20-22 - Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.
Defiance in the face of judgment, even to the likes of the fires of Hades, proves that man will not come to repentance on their own:
Proverbs 27:22 - Though you grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his foolishness will not depart from him.
Romans 1:22-27 - Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man - and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
Romans 1:28-32 - And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
Only through Jesus Christ can the foolish repent and turn toward God:
Titus 3:3-7 - For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
But many refuse the offer of salvation in the Tribulation. The Tribulation judgments will refine the righteous who accept the Lord, but destroy the wicked who reject the Lord:
Daniel 12:10 - Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.
Revelation 22:11 - "He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still."
John said the men scorched with fire also do not give glory to God. Recall from Revelation 4:9, to give glory comes with the idea of acknowledging magnificence and splendor and giving credit where credit is due. God deserves all the glory because He is the holy, righteous Judge who created everything in existence:
Psalms 96:8-13 - Give to the LORD the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come into His courts. Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth. Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns; the world also is firmly established, it shall not be moved; He shall judge the peoples righteously." Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and all its fullness; let the field be joyful, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the LORD. For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with His truth.
Revelation 4:9-11 - Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: "You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created."
Revelation 14:7 - ...saying with a loud voice, "Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water."
In addition to verbal praise to give glory to God, standing up for the Lord in the face of persecution also glorifies the Lord, even when the persecutors blaspheme God:
1 Peter 4:12-14 - Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.
Jeremiah warned unrepentant Judah to put away their pride and listen to the Lord's admonishment to repent and glorify the Lord before the darkness of judgment fell:
Jeremiah 13:15-16 - Hear and give ear: Do not be proud, for the LORD has spoken. Give glory to the LORD your God before He causes darkness, and before your feet stumble on the dark mountains, and while you are looking for light, He turns it into the shadow of death and makes it dense darkness.
While the darkness that overcame Judah was spiritual, as we will see in the next section that a spiritual and literal darkness will engulf the kingdom of the beast in response to his followers refusing to give glory to God, even though they recognize He is the one behind their misery.
Revelation 16:10-11 - 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.
The fifth Bowl judgment plunges the throne and kingdom of the beast into darkness. It is not known how far the beast's kingdom extends, and if this includes most of the world or just the center of his kingdom in Babylon. The cause of the darkness is not stated, but if it is from the sun and luminaries going dark then it would cover the world. However, other Scripture says that the sun and luminaries go dark "after" the Tribulation is over (Isaiah 13:10-13, Joel 3:14-15, Matthew 24:29, Mark 13:24) and it is not over until after all of God's judgments are complete, as discussed in the last section.
If the darkness that descends on the throne and kingdom of the beast is not from the darkening of the luminaries, then it might be like the darkness that came over the land of Egypt:
Exodus 10:21-23 - Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt." So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another; nor did anyone rise from his place for three days. But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.
Note that this darkness only covered the dwelling places of the Egyptians and they could feel it. The inhabitants of the beast kingdom also feel pain in the darkness, which supports the idea that it is the same kind of darkness that covered Egypt. This darkness could come from an extreme dust storm, which can engulf an entire area into pitch blackness (Video 1, 2, 3). And the water sources contaminated with blood may compound the problem because electricity is dependent on water (source). So, there likely would not be much in the way of artificial light available either.
Another possibility is that the darkness might be like the "dark mist" that came upon the sorcerer that blinded him:
Acts 13:9-11 - Acts 13:6-11 - Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, "O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time." And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand.
Just as the sorcerer was both spiritually and physically blinded, the inhabitants of the beast's kingdom are also blind and the kingdom itself is spiritually dark. Recall from Revelation 8:12, the number "four" relates to the earth and the creation and the interaction between the physical and spiritual realms. The first four Bowl judgments physically affect the earth, but the fifth, sixth, and seventh Bowl judgments, like the Trumpet judgments, extend beyond the physical realm into the spiritual realm and serve to destroy the kingdom of the beast:
While there are certainly spiritual applications, the pain and darkness are also literal. The fourth Bowl judgment scorches men with fire, which was a picture of eternal torment. This Bowl judgment also pictures eternal torment, as Jesus called it "outer darkness":
Matthew 8:12 - "But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Matthew 22:13 - Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
Matthew 25:30 - 'And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
The pain of those tormented causes them to weep and gnash their teeth. The Greek word translated "gnashing" denotes "extreme anguish and utter despair of men consigned to eternal condemnation" (source). Similarly, the pain from the darkness and the sores on those who dwell in the beast's kingdom make them gnaw their tongues because they are in a state of anguish and despair.
Ironically, those who dwell in the beast's kingdom bite their tongues in pain, but then use their tongues to blame God and continue to blaspheme Him because of the pain of their sores. They recognize that it is the God of Heaven who has power over His creation to scorch men with the sun and who gave them their sores as they sit in darkness, but they refuse to repent of their deeds. As discussed in Revelation 9:21, the purpose of God's judgment is to bring repentance, but God will cripple the spiritual perception of those who have hardened their hearts toward him. Rebellion and impenitence in the face of judgment is foolishness because of their hardened hearts. The reason God blinds them to truth and understanding is because they do not want it:
Jeremiah 5:3-4 - O LORD, are not Your eyes on the truth? You have stricken them, but they have not grieved; You have consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to return. Therefore I said, "Surely these are poor. They are foolish; for they do not know the way of the LORD, the judgment of their God."
Isaiah 26:9-10 - With my soul I have desired You in the night, yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early; for when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. Let grace be shown to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he will deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the LORD.
Their hearts are so hardened that nothing will bring them to repent toward God and their defiance will grow:
Continued defiance in the face of corrective punishment eventually turns to destruction, just like what happened to Israel:
Amos 4:9-12 - "I blasted you with blight and mildew. When your gardens increased, your vineyards, your fig trees, and your olive trees, the locust devoured them; yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD. "I sent among you a plague after the manner of Egypt; your young men I killed with a sword, along with your captive horses; I made the stench of your camps come up into your nostrils; yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD. "I overthrew some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning; yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD. "Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!"
Recall from Revelation 13:2, the throne of the beast is a counterfeit to God's throne of authority, so in a way it is poetic justice that the Lord will plunge the beast's kingdom of "iron and clay" into darkness right before the Lord's symbolic "great mountain" overshadows the beast's kingdom that shows the Lord will destroy it before He sets up His kingdom:
Daniel 2:31-35 - "You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. This image's head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth."
Daniel 2:44 - And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.
Revelation Flow Chart:
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