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Buist Fanning: After a very brief introduction (v. 1) the seven angels pour out their bowls in numbered sequence, steadily visiting God’s wrath in the form of the most severe plagues seen yet: plagues on the beast’s followers (v. 2), the natural world (vv. 3–9), and the beast’s throne (vv. 10–11), preparing the way for the ultimate eschatological battle (vv. 12–16) and the destruction of Babylon itself (vv. 17–21). . .

The numbered sequence of seven angels pouring out bowls of judgment begins here in v. 2 and follows a consistent pattern of presentation until its conclusion with the seventh angel in vv. 17–21. The pattern is: “The [ordinal number referring to one of the seven angels] poured out his bowl [on a location] and [certain effects] came about or appeared [ἐγένετο] and [further effects resulted with various verbs used].” In a few cases some of these elements do not appear and other elements are added, but the broad pattern is clear.

John MacArthur: Since they are the final outpouring of God’s wrath, the bowl judgments will be more severe than all the earlier judgments. Their severity is strong proof of how God feels about those who persistently, willfully reject Him. This particular epoch in human history will be a fitting time for God’s wrath to reach its apex, for mankind’s rebellion against God will also then be at its apex. Despite years of horrific judgments (which they will acknowledge as coming from God—6:15–17), sinners will stubbornly cling to their sin and persist in their rebellion (9:21). Nor will the powerful preaching of the gospel by the 144,000, the two witnesses, countless other believers, and an angel from heaven bring them to repentance (vv. 9, 11). Instead, their rebellion, defiance, and rejection of God will increase until the final judgments fall. This worldwide rebellion of sinful mankind will bring the worldwide judgments of holy God.

These “seven plagues, which are the last” (15:1), had precursors in two other sets of plagues in Scripture: the plagues God brought upon Egypt (Ex. 7–12) and the seven trumpet judgments (chaps. 8–11). There are similarities and differences between the three sets of plagues. The first plagues were very localized, affecting only Egypt. The second set of plagues destroyed one third of the world (8:7–12; 9:15, 18). The final plagues will affect the entire world. All three sets of plagues include hail, darkness, water turned to blood, and an invasion from the east, whether by insects, demons, or men. The seven bowl judgments will gather together all the horrors and terrors from all the previous judgments of God. They will completely inundate the world, bringing it to the brink of utter ruin.

John Walvoord: The seven bowls have often been compared to the seven seals and to the seven trumpets, especially the latter. One interpretation has been to view the bowls as merely an enlargement on the trumpet judgments, corresponding numerically to them. There are undoubtedly many similarities between the trumpet judgments and the judgments inflicted by the pouring out of the bowls. . .

The principle is often overlooked, however, that similarities do not prove identity. A careful study of the seven bowls as compared to the seven trumpets will reveal numerous differences. The first four trumpet judgments deal only with one-third of the earth, while the bowl judgments seem to be universal in their application and greater in intensity. Therefore, this exposition understands the bowl judgments as being subsequent to the trumpet judgments, proceeding out of and constituting the seventh trumpet.

John Miller: Chapter 16 is perhaps not only the darkest chapter in Revelation, but it is one of the darkest chapters in the entire Bible. Not only do preachers not want to preach Revelation, but very few preachers who preach Revelation will preach chapter 16. They want to skip over that.

In chapter 16, we move from the parenthetical section of chapters 10-15 to the chronological section of chapter 16. Then chapters 17-18 will be the next parenthetical section. The narrative or chronological section picks up again in chapter 19 with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

James Hamilton: The main point of this text is that God is glorified in justice as he brings awesome wrath that fits the crimes human beings have done. . .  God is glorified in awesome wrath that shows the bankruptcy of the false gods people worship, and the punishments God brings on his enemies fit their crimes. This calls the wicked to repentance, and it serves to encourage the righteous as they persevere.

David Harrell: These seven bowl judgments can be divided into two parts.

The first four target men directly through a specific plague as well as the eco systems of the earth, which will cause them to suffer even more.

And the last three target the kingdom of the antichrist and the topography of the earth in preparation for God’s final confrontation with man in the battle of Armageddon.


And I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels,

‘Go and pour out the seven bowls of the wrath of God into the earth.’

Daniel Akin: John hears “a loud voice,” a phrase occurring 20 times in Revelation. It is certainly the voice of God. He commands the angels to “go and pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth” (see 15:1,7; 16:19). The fierce anger of God and His righteous judgment are to be poured out in full measure on an unrepentant world, a rebellious world.

John MacArthur: This loud voice is certainly that of God, since there was no one else in the temple (15:8). His loud cry of judgment is reminiscent of Isaiah 66:6: “A voice of uproar from the city, a voice from the temple, the voice of the Lord who is rendering recompense to His enemies.Megalē (loud) appears half a dozen times in this chapter (usually translated “great”), again emphasizing the magnitude of the judgments recorded here. His loud voice is heard again after the seventh bowl is poured out (v. 17).

Donald Barnhouse: The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceeding fine, and the last of the grist is now to go through. The machinery of judgment has been set in motion, and the Creator Himself has said that it shall not be arrested until the last plagues of His wrath are finished.


A. Target of Judgment = the Earth

And the first angel went and poured out his bowl into the earth;

B.  Malady = Terrible Sores

and it became a loathsome and malignant sore

Daniel Akin: This recalls the sixth Egyptian plague (Exod 9:9-11) and the stories of Job (Job 2:7) and Lazarus (Luke 16:21). Only unbelievers experience this foul and loathsome plague. Zechariah 14:12 teaches, This will be the plague the Lord strikes all the peoples with, who have warred against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths.

Grant Osborne: The judgment that comes in this first bowl is ἕλκος κακὸν καὶ πονηρόν (helkos kakon kai ponēron, a bad and evil sore), replicating the sixth Egyptian plague in which terrible boils broke out on both people and animals (Exod. 9:9–11). These terrible, painful sores are similar to the sores that plagued Job in Job 2:1–13 (so Mounce 1998: 293; Wall 1991: 197), but here it is the unrighteous suffering them. A ἕλκος is an abscessed or ulcerous sore, often caused by infection, of the kind that Lazarus had in the parable of Luke 16:19–31 (cf. 16:21). The thought of such a plague in any literal sense is fearsome indeed. Medical supplies would be exhausted in a few days with such a universal disaster. Moreover, those inflicted would be unable to walk, sit, or lie down without pain, as anyone who has had a boil can attest.

John Miller: If you’re not worshipping the true and living God, whatever god you worship can’t help you in your time of need. If you worship money, there’s a point at which your money can’t save you. If you worship materialism, it can’t deliver you in your hour of need. So because they are not worshipping the true and living God, they get this horrible sore.

C.  Identification of the Afflicted = Reason for the Judgment

upon the men who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.

John Walvoord: Confirmation that the bowl judgments occur late in the great tribulation is here in that this judgment falls on those who worship the beast’s image. This image apparently is established in the early part of the great tribulation, the last half of the seven-year period preceding the second coming (13:14–17). Almost everyone seems to comply with the demand that all people worship the beast and receive his mark. The bowl judgment, therefore, follows this edict. The only ones who escape the judgment are those who have refused to obey the edict, the few individuals who trust in Christ in those evil days. From 13:8, it would appear that only a small fraction of the earth’s population resists the beast. The warning given in 14:9–11 is now reinforced in a preliminary judgment that anticipates the ultimate doom of the beast worshipers.

Charles Swindoll: You might recall that the Beast and false prophet don’t even rise to power until the second half of the Tribulation (13:5), during which time they will begin a worldwide program of branding those who worship them and oppressing those who don’t (13:11-18). The Beast-followers will join the war machine that will hunt down, persecute, and kill the nonconforming citizens who believe in Christ. Although those who receive the mark of the Beast and worship his image will think they have spared their lives and saved their families, the reality is that they will have bought themselves only about three years —and earned eternal death!


A.  Target of Judgment = the Sea

And the second angel poured out his bowl into the sea,

J. Hampton Keathley, III: The Greek text here is very graphic. Literally it reads, “And it (sea) became blood as of a dead man,” i.e., like a dead man wallowing in his own blood. Every living thing (sea creature) in the sea will die. Some would try to limit this to the Mediterranean Sea. However, these judgments are global and the same word qalassawould be used whether it was one sea or all the water masses.

Here the judgment is universal. This is global catastrophe. Under the second trumpet one-third was affected, but now, in keeping with the nature of this judgment, the rest of the sea and marine life is struck. It will wreck fishing and it is bound to affect ocean navigation, transportation and shipping.

B.  Malady = Transformed into Putrid Blood

and it became blood like that of a dead man;

John MacArthur: The transforming of the world’s seas into putrid pools of stinking death will be graphic testimony to the wickedness of man.

James Hamilton: There has never yet been an act of God like this in the world’s history. The blood of a corpse is partially coagulated, thick, dead, and disgusting. Imagine the smell and the horror of the waters of the oceans of the world being made into something like the blood that remains in a dead body, and in the filthy liquid are the dead creatures of the deep. So in addition to the “painful sores” there is this worldwide stench, no doubt accompanied by heretofore unknown bacteria and infections and unexpected consequences.

C.  Catastrophic Result

and every living thing in the sea died.

Daniel Akin: The oceans, which occupy 70 percent of the earth’s surface, become a pool of death, a toxic wasteland of water. The term watery grave will take on a whole new and tragic meaning.

Andy Davis: We have no idea how many living creatures are in the sea. Billions? Trillions? Think of all the krill and plankton; the Great Barrier Reef, said to be the largest single living entity, if it is indeed single; all the beautiful tropical fish that swim in schools through the clear water of the Caribbean; all the stingrays and sharks and orcas. Biologists estimate 50% to 80% of all living creatures live in the sea — that is a wide range. How could they possibly give a more precise percentage? We do not know what is in the depths of the sea, but they will all die because of human sin. Let me intensify, because of our sin, they will die. It is incalculable and unimaginable.

They did not die in the flood; in fact, they prospered. But at the end of history, they are the first creatures to die. After the sea dies, we die. This must be the end of human history. There is no way to survive if the ocean is dead. From the sea we get 70% of our oxygen and 83% of our rain water. Billions of people cannot survive long without that level of oxygen and rain water. Given the fact that God will soon pollute all the fresh water, we will have no water to drink, no rain, nothing. The end will come quickly.


A.  (:4) Target of Judgment = Fresh Water Sources

And the third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters;

John MacArthur: The destruction of what is left of the earth’s fresh water will cause unthinkable hardship and suffering. There will be no water to drink; no clean water to wash the oozing sores caused by the first bowl judgment; no water to bring cooling relief from the scorching heat that the fourth bowl judgment will shortly bring. The scene is so unimaginably horrible that people will wonder how a God of compassion, mercy, and grace could send such a judgment. And so there is a brief interlude in the pouring out of the judgments while an angel speaks in God’s defense.

B.  (:4b) Malady

“and they became blood.

C.  (:5-7) Doxology of Justification

Grant Osborne: Aune (1998a: 864–65, building on Deichgräber 1967: 56; see also Betz 1969: 139) calls this a “judgment doxology” that begins with an affirmation of the righteousness of God (Ps. 119:137; Jer. 12:1; Dan. 3:27 LXX; Tob. 3:2; Apoc. Mos. 27.5) and then focuses on the justice of divine punishment (Josh. 7:19–21; 2 Chron. 12:6; Ezra 9:15; Neh. 9:33; Ps. 7:11; 9:4; Jer. 46:28; 3 Macc. 2:3). The only problem is that there are no examples that combine the two elements apart from this one, so a form-critical designation is problematic. In 2 Chron. 12:6 and Neh. 9:33, the people declare the justice of God in a judgment context, but there is no hymn. The closest parallels are Ps. 7:11; 9:4, 8, where God “judges righteously” in destroying the wicked, but there does not seem to be a “judgment doxology” there. In reaction to the label “judgment doxology,” Staples (1972: 281) argues that this is not an apocalyptic motif but has a prophetic-theocratic origin and should be called a “vindication formula.” Yarbro Collins (1977: 369) responds that Staples overstates his case and that we have here an apocalyptic transformation of traditional forms that should be labeled an “eschatological vindication formula.” Yarbro Collins is largely correct, but it is still questionable how extensively “traditional forms” have been followed. Aune (1998a: 885) notes correctly that it is not so much a literary form as a “theological motif.” The purpose in this context is theodicy (see Osborne 1993: 63–77), upholding the justice of God in pouring out his judgment on the evildoers.

  1. (:5-6)  Voice of the Angel with Jurisdiction over the Waters

a.  The Holy God is Righteous in Judgment

And I heard the angel of the waters saying,

‘Righteous art Thou, who art and who wast, O Holy One,

because Thou didst judge these things;’

J. Hampton Keathley, III: This apparently refers to an angel who has jurisdiction over the waters of the earth as one of the varied ministries of angels. As the one in charge of this area he makes an important statement vindicating the holiness of God and setting forth the reason in this judgment (vss. 5-6).

Robert Mounce: The lyric utterance of the angel closely resembles that of the overcomers in 15:2–4 who sang the song of Moses and the Lamb.

You are just in these judgments”                  “Just and true are your ways

you who are and who were”                         “King of the ages

the Holy One”                                               “you alone are holy

because you have so judged”                        “for your righteous acts have been revealed

The judgment of God is neither vengeful nor capricious. It is an expression of his just and righteous nature. All caricatures of God that ignore his intense hatred of sin reveal more about human nature than about God. In a moral universe God must of necessity oppose evil. “Righteous are you, O LORD,” declared the Psalmist, “and your laws are right” (Ps 119:137).

Andy Davis: These devastating judgments are displays of God’s perfect wisdom, justice and righteousness. Note how angels think. As Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” How is God’s will done in Heaven? These angels display how immediately and with great zeal the will of the king is executed in Heaven. There is no hesitation, no squeamishness, just vindication of God. The angel does not shrink back or question; he celebrates what God is doing“You are just in these judgments, you who are and who were, the Holy One…”

b.  (:6)  God’s Judgment Is Fair Retribution

for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets,

and Thou hast given them blood to drink. They deserve it.

Daniel Akin: The eternal God (“who is and who was”) is just in bringing these judgments because He is the Holy One. The earth dwellers “poured out the blood of the saints and the prophets” so He gives them “blood to drink” in return. Indeed, He gives them what they deserve (16:6). Verse 7 provides a word of confirmation: the judgments of the “Lord God, the Almighty” are “true and righteous.” Genesis 18:25 teaches, “Won’t the Judge of all the earth do what is just?Psalm 19:9 says, “The ordinances of the Lord are reliable and altogether righteous.” The Apocalypse is fully in agreement: God is never arbitrary, capricious, or vengeful in His judgment. He is always fair, just, and true. His is the only bar of perfect justice. There is a logic and rightness in His judgment. We glorify Him in His righteous wrath.

Charles Swindoll: At this point you may be thinking, “How awful! What kind of God would do this? Do these people really deserve these extreme judgments?” So it’s fitting that the angel who had authority over the waters should break into a brief doxology to set the record straight (16:5-7). John heard him reaffirm that God will demonstrate His perfect righteousness and holiness through these judgments (16:5). The angel reminded everyone that God’s wrath was falling on those who had been personally responsible for a global holocaust against His people. They had martyred the saints and murdered the prophets (16:6), spilling these people’s holy blood upon the earth. Because justice means a person getting what he or she deserves, true justice will be served upon the wicked of the world. In fact, the angel’s praise concluded, “You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.” Like a responsive refrain, a voice from the altar reiterated this truth: “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments” (16:7). Neither the angel nor those around the altar left any room for questioning the righteousness and goodness of God.

  1. (:7) Voice of Affirmation

And I heard the altar saying, ‘Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty,

true and righteous are Thy judgments.’

Grant Osborne: The altar now responds by affirming the justice of God’s response (16:7). Yet it is not the personified altar itself that speaks (as R. Charles, Kraft, Roloff, Mounce, and Giesen believe), for the genitive τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου (tou thysiastēriou, of the altar) presupposes a voice, “(one) from the altar.” In 6:9 the saints under the altar cry out for vengeance, so it is fitting that the voice now comes from the altar. Thus, some (Aune 1998a: 888; Beale 1999: 820) think this is the voice of the martyred saints crying out. But this is very similar to “the voice from the horns of the altar” in 9:13, and there the voice is more likely the angel who presented the prayers of the saints to God in 8:3–5 than the martyrs themselves.

Robert Mounce: A second voice confirms the justice of God’s retributive act. The speaking altar is obviously a personification (cf. 9:13). It represents the corporate testimony of the martyrs in 6:9 and the prayers of the saints in 8:3–5.  It is significant that throughout Revelation (except in 11:1) the altar is connected with judgment (6:9; 8:3–5; 9:13; 14:18; 16:7). The principles of sacrifice and judgment are inextricably interwoven. Like the angel in charge of the waters, the voice of the altar echoes the song of Moses and the Lamb (15:3–5), whose judgments are true and just.  Both reflect OT passages such as Ps 19:9 (“The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous”). God’s acts of judging are in accordance with truth and are absolutely just.

John Walvoord: This is further evidence that these final plagues must be poured out just before Christ returns, because the earth could not sustain life very long in this condition.

John Miller: In the book of Esther, Haman built a gallows to hang Mordecai on, but Haman and his own sons ended up dying on the very gallows he built for Mordecai. So we see that God judges righteously with equity and truth. “True and righteous are Thy judgments.”


A.  (:8a) Target of Judgment = the Sun

And the fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun;

B.  (:8b-9a) Malady

and it was given to it to scorch men with fire.

And men were scorched with fierce heat;

Grant Osborne: The literal picture here is not simply one of massive sunburns but of actual tongues of fire “burning people.”

C.  (:9b) Defiant Unrepentant Response

  1. Continued to Blaspheme God

and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues;

  1. Stubbornly Refused to Repent

and they did not repent, so as to give Him glory.

Buist Fanning: The godless humans who suffer this punishment, however, respond with slanderous defiance (v. 9b–c). They “blasphemed the name of God” instead of repenting of their rebellion against the great God they themselves know to have judged them in this way (this seems to be the point of John’s description, “blasphemed . . . God who had authority over these plagues”; v. 9b–c).  Mention of “these plagues” alludes also to the judgments on Egypt and to Pharaoh’s stubborn resistance against the God of Israel despite the blows he and his nation were suffering (e.g., Exod 7:13, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 12, 34–35). Like Pharaoh, the humans in John’s vision failed to repent before God and “give him glory” (δοῦναι αὐτῷ δόξαν; an infinitive of result). To give God glory (i.e., to acknowledge him as God; cf. Rom 1:21–23) is the appropriate response in such a situation (cf. Rev 11:13; 14:7; also Job 16:4), but as we have seen (e.g., Rev 9:20–21), this will be rare in those future days.

John MacArthur: Until this point, only the Antichrist has been described as blaspheming (13:1, 5–6); here the world adopts his evil character. Neither grace nor wrath will move their wicked hearts to repentance (cf. 9:20–21; 16:11). In 11:13 the earthquake brought some to repentance, but not in this judgment series. Such blind, blasphemous hardness of heart is incredible in the face of the devastating judgments they will be undergoing. But like their evil leader, Antichrist, they will continue to hate God and refuse to repent, which would give glory to God as a just and righteous Judge of sin (cf. Josh. 7:19–25).

Tony Garland: Here again is recorded the unrepentant nature of the earth dwellers of the time of the end. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence of the reality and power of God, their hearts are so set against Him in hatred that all they can do is continue their pattern of cursing in response to His intervention in their lives (Rev. 16:9+, Rev 16:11+, Rev 16:21+). Those who have taken the mark are irredeemable (Rev. 14:9-11+) for God knows that they, like Jezebel in the church of Thyatira (Rev. 2:21+) will not repent (Rev. 9:20-21+). Instead, they follow in the ways of the one whom they worship (Rev. 13:5-6+; Rev 17:3+).God’s testing is not always to elicit a repentant response. When those being tested have passed the point of return, God continues to test them to provide abundant witness of their unwillingness and inability to return (Rom. 1:26, 28). This is one purpose for this “hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Rev. 3:10+). In the same way the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to show Who He was, so now God tests those who have already taken the mark and are beyond redemption (Rev. 14:9-10+). Like Pharaoh, their consistent response is not to change their mind but to harden their heart (Ex. 8:15; 9:34-35). Each time they respond in blasphemy, they unwittingly underwrite and testify of the justice of God’s judgment.