The fifth angel pours out his bowl on the “throne of the beast” (Revelation 16:10-110). There are a lot of beasts in Revelation. Which one is it?
The fact that it is in the fifth slot gives us a clue. God created swarming things on earth and in the sea on the fifth day, crowds and clouds. In Genesis 1, it specifically says that God created the great sea monsters on that day as well. They are singled out by the verb “create,” which is used only for the whole cosmos and for the creation of man. Satan appears as a serpent in Genesis 3, and throughout the rest of the Bible he retains his reptilian features. But he grows up into a sea beast, a dragon (as in Revelation 12:1-3).
Great empires and emperors who live and rule the Gentile sea are also sometimes pictured as sea monsters as well (cf. Jonah). So, the fact that this bowl is poured on the beast’s throne as the fifth bowl points to this as the sea beast.
Another line of reasoning from within Revelation supports this. The various sequences of seven in the book (seals, trumpets, bowls) match each other in various ways, and illumine each other. The fifth trumpet shows a star fall from heaven to the depth of the well of the abyss. He is given a key to open the abyss, and that unleashes a swarm of locust-scorpions, locorpions, that are a plague of darkness as well as a plague of locusts (only uses of σκοτοω in Revelation are in chapters 9 and 16).
That star is Abaddon or Apollyon, the king of the abyss. If we match the fifth trumpet with the fifth bowl directly, we would say that the beast of the fifth bowl is Satan, the king of the abyss, Destroyer and Destruction.But some things have happened between the fifth trumpet and the fifth seal. Things have moved ahead. After the seventh trumpet, we see Satan again, in a different guise, as a heavenly dragon preying on the woman who is bearing the child. That dragon is Satan, and he falls from heaven and then fails repeatedly to take out the woman and her children. He calls up the beast of the sea to do his dirty work, and gives this beast from the sea his “throne” (13:2).
So the beast from the sea, a Gentile beast, has a throne that comes from the dragon. Or, he has the dragon’s throne. Or, perhaps, he is the dragon’s throne, as the four living creatures are Yahweh’s throne.
So, we have this sequence in the career of the king of the abyss. First, he releases locorpions that do not kill but do cause torment. This is the “beast from the abyss” to which 11:7 refers. Then the king turns over his throne to the beast from the sea, who does kill. Now the fifth bowl is poured out on the throne of that beast, and causes a plague.
If this is the case, then we should see in the fifth bowl a judgment against Rome. Rome is entering an age of darkness. And that is historically fitting. During the latter part of the 60s AD, Rome was wracked by crises. The old Julio-Claudian dynasty was collapsing. Old Rome was falling apart. A new Rome was taking form, and did after the tumultuous year of four emperors, 69 AD.