Revelation 16:1-16 The Final Warnings to Come to Christ
When you know that someone will soon be in danger, you take the time warn them about that danger. Here, we see that God knows that there are people who don’t know Jesus Christ. The last people who have made a decision for Jesus under the time of Tribulation are getting ready to experience the greatest set of warnings to remind them of their need for God.
In this case, the good Person is God. The bad person is the Antichrist. God represents the system of eternal good. Babylon represents the system of bad. This is the reason that the Antichrist will rule this system from Babylon. This chapter deals with the warnings from God. Chapter 17 and 18 deal with the “Seven Dooms of Babylon.”
The verbal thread “great” (megas) occurs eleven times in chapter 16 to emphasize the cosmic magnitude of the battle between God and the forces of evil.1 With the pouring out of the seventh bowl, God gives Babylon the Great the cup filled with the wine of his wrath (16:18–19), but the details of Babylon’s downfall await Revelation 17–18.2
“Then I heard a loud voice from the sanctuary saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.”” (Revelation 16:1, HCSB)
We come to the final plagues that God uses. God is involved from beginning to end.
We are told in 16:9 that God has control over the plagues. In 16:1 the temple voice of God initiates the plagues, while in 16:17 the voice from the throne completes them (i.e., “It is done!”).3
THE FINAL WARNINGS FROM GOD TO COME TO CHRIST
1. Sores on People (Revelation 16:2)
“The first went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and severely painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.” (Revelation 16:2, HCSB)
2. Blood on the Sea (Revelation 16:3)
“The second poured out his bowl into the sea. It turned to blood like a dead man’s, and all life in the sea died.” (Revelation 16:3, HCSB)
3. Blood on the Rivers and Springs (Revelation 16:4)
“The third poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood.” (Revelation 16:4, HCSB)
These three bowl judgments start out in a similar way as the judgments in Egypt. The point of the plagues of Egypt was retribution by God for the way Egypt treated God’s people. Here, we see a similar case. God is exacting retribution for the way that the world system has betrayed God’s people. In this case, the judgments are against people who will not repent – people who have totally bought into the system of the Antichrist.
INTERMISSION: PRAISE FOR GOD’S JUDGMENTS (Revelation 16:5-7)
“I heard the angel of the waters say: You are righteous, who is and who was, the Holy One, for You have decided these things. Because they poured out the blood of the saints and the prophets, You also gave them blood to drink; they deserve it! Then I heard someone from the altar say: Yes, Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.” (Revelation 16:5–7, HCSB)
Here, we have an intermission. Here, we see God’s angel who is in charge of the waters praise God for what He has done. These warnings come with a reminder that God is truly Almighty.
4. The Intense Sunburn (Revelation 16:8)
“The fourth poured out his bowl on the sun. He was given the power to burn people with fire, and people were burned by the intense heat. So they blasphemed the name of God, who had the power over these plagues, and they did not repent and give Him glory.” (Revelation 16:8–9, HCSB)
Also noted, the first four bowls correspond largely with the first four trumpets—on the land, sea, rivers, and sun. In this case, they are directed especially against those who bear the mark of the beast and have worshiped its image (Revelation 2).4
We see the praise by God’s angel about God’s judgments in heaven. We see the opposite – rebellion and unrepentance – by unbelievers on Earth. God warns the people with His judgment, but it doesn’t change them.
These judgments have echoes of the same judgments from Pharaoh in Egypt. In that case, started with a hardened heart. Yet, as the plagues continued, his heart would soften.
“Pharaoh responded, “I will let you go and sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness, but don’t go very far. Make an appeal for me.”” (Exodus 8:28, HCSB)
But after Moses’ prayer for Pharaoh, Pharaoh hardened his heart.
“But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also and did not let the people go.” (Exodus 8:32, HCSB)
By the sixth plague, God is keeping Pharaoh’s heart hardened.
“But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had told Moses.” (Exodus 9:12, HCSB)
By the eighth plague, Pharoah is wanting to change, but God keeps His heart hardened.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may do these miraculous signs of Mine among them,” (Exodus 10:1, HCSB)
“Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his land.” (Exodus 11:10, HCSB)
After the ten plagues, the Egyptians are begging for God’s people to leave.
“Now the Egyptians pressured the people in order to send them quickly out of the country, for they said, “We’re all going to die!”” (Exodus 12:33, HCSB)
The contrast in Revelation to Exodus is that God is not taking His people out. He has already done that. Instead, the people are who left could change. But they don’t repent. We will see this as we continue through the next three bowl judgments.
5. Darkness Over the Beast’s Kingdom (Revelation 16:10-11)
“The fifth poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues because of their pain and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, yet they did not repent of their actions.” (Revelation 16:10–11, HCSB)
This is very similar to the ninth plague against the Egyptians (Exodus 10:21-29). Again we are reminded that the people do not repent. No matter how intensely God warns them with this plague, they don’t turn back to Him.
6. Preparation for the Final Battle (Revelation 16:12-14)
“The sixth poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the east. Then I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming from the dragon’s mouth, from the beast’s mouth, and from the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons performing signs, who travel to the kings of the whole world to assemble them for the battle of the great day of God, the Almighty.” (Revelation 16:12–14, HCSB)
The purpose of the sixth bowl of judgment is to prepare the evil force to come and fight against God. God won’t deliver people from judgment. He is going to fight them so that they can’t overthrow His kingdom. So supernaturally, God will dry up the Euphrates river. The beast’s kingdom will use demonic words and they will perform demonic works. That is the point of the frogs.
The magicians were able to use occult practices to produce frogs.
“But the magicians did the same thing by their occult practices and brought frogs up onto the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 8:7, HCSB)
That the three spirits looked like frogs emphasizes their uncleanness and perhaps their endless croaking. Charles Williams5 takes the final phrase in an adverbial sense and supplies a verb—“Then I saw three foul spirits leap like frogs from the mouths of the dragon.”6 The evil spirits in Revelation work their spell on world rulers rather than ordinary people.
Jon Courson makes the following observation:
The phrase translated “kings of the east” is literally “kings of the rising sun” in the original text. The “land of the rising sun” traditionally and historically referring to both Japan and China, the pieces of the puzzle of prophecy begin to fall into place—for the technology of Japan and the sheer manpower of China could easily produce the two-hundred-million-man army prophesied in Revelation 9:14–16.7
At the same time, the “kings of the east” literally means coming from the “rising sun” which could mean these two countries, but it could also mean countries coming up on the horizon. Like in the old Westerns when the group would rise up from the horizon and come down to save the day. So they don’t have to be all the way from China and Japan to fit this description. The point is that they are gathering to battle.
INTERMISSION: REMINDER TO BE READY (Revelation 16:15-16)
““Look, I am coming like a thief. The one who is alert and remains clothed so that he may not go around naked and people see his shame is blessed.”” (Revelation 16:15, HCSB)
This statement by Jesus is very similar to His warning in Matthew 24.
“So they assembled them at the place called in Hebrew, Armagedon.” (Revelation 16:16, HCSB)
Again, Jon Courson makes an interesting observation, this time about Armageddon:
Located sixty miles north of Jerusalem, the Jezreel Valley has been filled with warfare. When Gideon and three hundred men overcame the Midianites, it was at the valley below a little hill called Megiddo. When Samson took on the Philistines, one of the key battles was at Megiddo. King Josiah was killed at Megiddo. Deborah and Barak defeated Sisera at Megiddo.
The Turks, Muslims, Syrians, Egyptians, and the Europeans have all waged war in this valley. In his disastrous excursion into Egypt, Napoleon passed through the Jezreel Valley. “If ever there is a place on earth where the last war must be fought,” he declared, “it is here.”
The armies of the world will indeed gather at Armageddon. And Antichrist, the false prophet, and Satan himself will meet them there.
First, to devour Israel. The ultimate anti-Semite is Satan. If He can destroy Israel, Bible prophecy will fail, for how can Jesus return to rule and reign from Israel if Israel ceases to be?
Second, to destroy believers. Having wiped out the nation Israel, Satan would then wipe out all who oppose him.
Finally, to determine who will rule. Satan knows he will ultimately encounter God at Megiddo.8
Armageddon is symbolic of the final overthrow of all the forces of evil by the might and power of God. The great conflict between God and Satan, Christ and Antichrist, good and evil, that lies behind the perplexing course of history will in the end issue in a final struggle in which God will emerge victorious and take with him all who have placed their faith in him.9
The battle and its outcome are reported in Revelation 19:11–21 and specifically in verse 20a, “But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet” (Revelation 17:14; and perhaps Revelation 20:7–10). Jesus returns and totally defeats his enemies, judging them by his word.10
1 Resseguie, Revelation, 212.
2 J. Scott Duvall, Revelation, ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, Teach the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014), 215.
3 J. Scott Duvall, Revelation, ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, Teach the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014), 215.
4 Gordon D. Fee, Revelation, New Covenant Commentary Series (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011), 216.
5 Charles B. Williams, The New Testament: A Translation in the Language of the People
6 Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 299.
7 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1759.
8 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1760.
9 Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 302.
10 J. Scott Duvall, Revelation, ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, Teach the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014), 217.