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Revelation 16: Seven Plagues (Bowls of Wrath)

by Bob Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

Reading: Revelation 16

Text
1Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, "Go pour out the seven bowls of God's wrath on the earth." 2The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly, festering sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.... 3The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died.... 4The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.... 8The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was allowed to scorch people with fire.... 10The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness.... 12The sixth angel 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.
13Then I saw three impure spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14They are demonic spirits that perform signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. 15"Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed." 16Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
17The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, "It is done!" (Revelation 16, selected verses)

Reflecting and Thinking
The seven bowls of wrath which bring God's plagues on the earth follow the same pattern as the trumpets (6+break+1). These are bowls or vials of judgment (wrath).
The interlude is brief (vs. 13-16) and tells about the gathering of the three frogs (kings) for battle.
The sequence of the bowls of wrath is earth, sea, waters, sky, throne of the beast (Abyss?), and Euphrates, followed by the victory of the seventh bowl. Sound familiar? Hint: check out the sequence of the trumpets, which is exactly the same!
In some sense, this is the completion of God's wrath (against Rome?), meaning that those who were persecuted under this enemy are delivered. The wording of the seventh plague indicates that the judgment is being rendered in some way against Babylon.

What do you make of the parallel between the trumpets and the plagues? Is this possibly a way of saying that God's judgments are complete or total-that is, what is being represented is God's judgment against everything? Where can we see God's judgment at work today? What problems come when we think "end of time" every time we read about God's judgment? Can you think of judgments of God in the Bible that do not involve the end of time? (Remember that Jesus promised to come quickly-in judgment?-upon the churches who did not repent in the letters of chapters 2-3.)

Prayer
Dear God, guide our thoughts and study as we contemplate your magnificent and marvelous ways. Instill in us faith, confidence and hope, as we think about your great work in this world. Show us our ways so that we might walk by your side and on your side, we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.


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Last updated September 3, 2011