14.  The Seven Bowl Judgements

(Revelation 14 to 16)

Revelation 14 is a prelude to the seven last plagues, or bowl judgements, that will culminate in the great battle of Armageddon. From this chapter it is evident that the Second Coming is at hand, and that Jesus is ready to enter into judgement against the nations of the world. He will tread the winepress of the anger and wrath of God alone, and kill the wicked with the sword that proceeds from His mouth. John describes this action as follows:

“Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud: Thrust in your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe. So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.

“Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying: Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe. So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great wine-press of the wrath of God. And the wine-press was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the wine-press, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs” (Rev. 14:14-20).

The nations are here described as grapes that are ripe. They will be trampled in the wine-press of God’s fury until their blood flows as a thick stream in the valley of decision outside Jerusalem. The stream of the blood of God’s enemies will also flow in the plain of Megiddo and in Bozrah. Isaiah referred as follows to the Messiah’s day of reckoning:

“Who is this who comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, this One who is glorious in His apparel, travelling in the greatness of His strength? – I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like one who treads in the wine-press? I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the people no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in My anger, and trampled them in My fury; their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, and I have stained all My robes. For the day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redeemed has come… I have trodden down the peoples in My anger, made them drunk in My fury, and brought down their strength to the earth” (Is. 63:1-6).

Edom and Bozrah are part of the present Jordan. In 1922, Sir Winston Churchill united the territories of Edom, Bozrah, and Ammon, and called them Jordan. Just south of Bozrah is Petra, which means Rock. It is the city carved out of solid rock, currently uninhabited and a famous tourist attraction. People from Israel will take refuge here during the great tribulation. This area will remain free from the direct domination of the Antichrist. Daniel says:

“He [the Antichrist] shall also enter the Glorious Land [Israel], and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon” (Dan. 11:41).

During the great battle of Armageddon the remnant of Israel who took refuge in Petra will move towards the Mount of Olives in anticipation of the Messiah’s coming. When they are surrounded and cut of in Bozrah (in southern Jordan) by the forces of the Antichrist, Jesus will come and deliver them from their enemies whom He will destroy in Bozrah.

In Revelation 16, a very dark picture is painted of God’s judgements during the Second Coming of Jesus. In the events just prior to and during the battle of Armageddon the followers of the Antichrist will be afflicted with obnoxious sores while the natural resources of the earth will be destroyed. In an ecological disaster of unprecedented proportions all marine life will die and fresh water sources will be totally polluted and undrinkable. People, animals, and plants will first be scorched with a great heat, after which the light of heavenly bodies will be extinguished.

In the darkness of God’s judgements devastating earthquakes will occur while massive hailstones will ravage the world and its inhabitants. In the awesome earthquakes, large buildings will collapse. Mountain ranges will be flattened and islands vanish under the surface of the sea. In the midst of these apocalyptic disasters the armies of the nations will be deployed in the Middle East under demonic provocation. They will be intent on destroying the remnant of Israel and achieving 'the final solution' against this troublesome nation which has been a thorn in the side of the world for so long. They will also be foolish enough to prepare for war against the coming Messiah of Israel.

John describes the seven bowls as follows:

“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. 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 worshipped his image. 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. Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. 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…

“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. 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. And they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.

“Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty… And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.

“Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying: It is done! And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And great hail from heaven fell upon men, every hailstone about the weight of a talent (50 kg.). And men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great” (Rev. 16:1-21).

The first bowl is a judgement which is aimed at people, and it strikes the followers of the Antichrist. Obnoxious sores appear on those who received the mark of the beast and worship his image. That includes all the deceived people who, for the sake of economic survival, concluded a covenant with Satan’s representative on earth, the Antichrist, to receive his number in exchange for their souls. They worship the beast, and before the Second Coming they will already have received the penalty of their wickedness in their bodies which were marked by Satan.

The second bowl strikes all the oceans of the world – not only a third of them as in the case of the trumpet judgements. Its water becomes like blood and all animals and other living organisms in it die. A disaster of this magnitude will deprive mankind of an important food source, promote famine, cause pestilence because of the decomposing marine animals, force people to move away from the contaminated coastlines, and render shipping virtually impossible.

The third bowl is poured out on the rivers and springs and their water becomes blood. Through this plague the survival chances on land are also drastically reduced and millions of people and animals are faced with certain death.

The fourth bowl is poured out on the sun and causes unprecedented heat-waves on earth. Big explosions will occur on the surface of the sun, and by that time the ozone layer will be destroyed. Apart from the tremendous heat, it will cause skin cancer in people who are directly exposed to the harmful ultra-violet rays of the sun.

The fifth bowl is poured out upon the world empire of the beast, and engulfs it in total darkness. People will be terrified as they grope in darkness while God’s judgements are poured out upon them. Because they have already sold their souls to Satan by accepting the number of the Antichrist, their hearts will be totally hardened and they will blaspheme God because of the plagues. They will be past the point where they can be convicted of their sins as they will already have fallen under the power of delusion to believe the lies of Satan through the false prophet.

The sixth bowl is poured out over the Euphrates River to dry up its water so that the kings and their armies from the East can cross through it dry-shod on their way to Armageddon. They will be among the many enemies for the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Under demonic instigation a mighty army of 200 million men will march as sheep to the slaughter to be destroyed by the judgements of God. During their march they will annihilate a third of mankind, as described in Revelation 9:14-19. Consider the fact that there were barely 200 million people on earth when John received this vision; yet, today, China alone can mobilise more than 200 million men for war!

The seventh bowl causes the greatest earthquakes of all time. The cities of the nations will collapse and in various parts of the world – including Israel – the landscape will be drastically changed by the earthquakes. Jerusalem will be divided into three parts and Babylon, now being restored, will be totally destroyed. The rumbling quakes will coincide with hailstones of 50 kilograms. For such big hailstones to form unusually high temperatures must prevail causing hot, moist air to rise to great heights. The prevalence of such heat waves is confirmed in Revelation 16:8-9. Isaiah says about this time:

“The light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord binds up the bruise of His people and heals the stroke of their wound” (Is. 30:26).

The day when the Lord comes to save the remnant of His people and to judge the nations, will be a day of terror when the powers of heaven will be shaken. Many Old Testament prophecies describe the Day of the Lord. People will be afflicted by great heat and droughts, by ominous darkness and the rumbling of devastating earthquakes. The wicked who hardened their hearts will be given over to ruin, together with all their possessions. This present world, which they wrongly regarded as a safe haven, will be severely devastated:

“Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. 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” (Is. 13:9-13).

Other similar warnings about the judgements of the Lord on that day have been recorded so that people should not lightly brush them aside and disregard them. The global extent of the destruction and the reason for these judgements, namely, an excessively wicked generation of people like that in the days of Noah and Lot, is time and again emphasised:

“Behold, the Lord makes the earth empty and makes it waste, distorts its surface and scatters abroad its inhabitants.... The land shall be entirely emptied and utterly plundered, for the Lord has spoken this word..... 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” (Is. 24:1-6).

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Behold, disaster shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the farthest parts of the earth. And at that day the slain of the Lord shall be from one end of the earth even to the other end of the earth. They shall not be lamented, or gathered, or buried; they shall become refuse on the ground” (Jer. 25:32-33).

“For this is the day of the Lord God of hosts, a day of vengeance, that He may avenge Himself on His adversaries. The sword shall devour; it shall be satiated and made drunk with their blood; for the Lord God of hosts has a sacrifice in the north country by the River Euphrates” (Jer. 46:10).

Joel says the following about the great battle of Armageddon, which will clearly be God’s judgement against the wicked and unruly nations:

“The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord… For behold, in those days and at that time, when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgement with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up My land… 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” (Joel 2:31; 3:1-2, 14-15).

The Valley of Jehoshaphat refers to the Kidron Valley in Jerusalem. Many of the armies of the Antichrist will be deployed there in anticipation of the coming of Jesus at the end of the seven year reign of the beast. Other armies will be deployed in North and Central Israel, while there will be a large concentration at the River Euphrates. When the darkness of God’s judgements engulfs them, many of these soldiers will according to Zechariah 14:13, kill one another.

In His prophetic discourse, the Lord Jesus referred to this terrible time before His Second Coming:

“And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Lk. 21:25-27).

The Lord will reveal Himself in glory to the remnant of Israel but avenge Himself greatly upon His enemies. He will bring down and crush the wicked kingdoms of the world and reign in their place during the millennium.

In the two chapters after Revelation 16 the destruction of the false, Babylonian religion, as well as of the restored city of Babylon, the capital of the Antichrist’s future kingdom, are discussed in more detail. The reasons for God’s judgement upon Babylon and its evil system are given in these chapters and fully explain the destruction of Babylon as briefly described in Revelation 16:19. The climax of God’s judgements on the day of Jesus’ return is the subject of Revelation 19.

Preparations for His coming

All who profess to be Christians should heed the Bible's solemn warnings of impending disaster for the world when God's judgements come upon it for its increasing wickedness. They should seriously ask themselves whether they are indeed born again, have truly repented of sin before God and placed their faith in Jesus Christ and His one perfect sacrifice for sins at Calvary. This is the only way of escape from God's coming judgements against all unbelievers. Tragically, the faith of many people is only a nominal one, trusting in their own righteousness and works to please God and escape judgement. Because of their unregenerate hearts, they will be left behind when Jesus comes for His bride.

Truly born again Christians should all follow Noah's example in earnestly and repeatedly warning our contemporaries of the coming judgements even if they ignore or mock us, as Noah's did, otherwise their blood will be on our hands. Noah's contemporaries perished in the judgement (the Flood), as ours will unless they repent and believe.

Lot also had to be spiritually worthy to escape the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. According to God’s will, which was clearly revealed to Lot, he and his family had to take drastic measures to hastily flee from the doomed city. If he had not really believed that these judgements would be executed, and had not been in his heart fully prepared to part from his possessions, he would have been destroyed with them and with his wicked contemporaries in the flames that engulfed them.

We are not the subjects of God’s wrath, but then we have to be spiritually worthy to be caught away to His wonderful presence shortly before the dark days of judgement:

“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Lk. 21:34-36).

“Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God?” (2 Pet. 3:11-12).

We must "abide in Him, that when he appears we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming" (1 Jn. 2:28).

In Revelation 16, where the great judgements of the Day of God are announced, the Lord Jesus reminds us to be vigilant and live holy lives with a view to His sudden coming before this Day of terror that will engulf the entire world:

“Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame” (Rev.16:15).

After the heavenly Bridegroom has come like a thief in the night to take away His bride to heavenly places, the spiritual nakedness and bankruptcy of those who are not truly born again will be evident to all. Among those who remain behind there will be many nominal Christians who were not ready because they only had a form of godliness, but not the real thing.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1).

Have you made the necessary preparations to escape the coming judgements, like Noah and Lot did, and like Israel also had to do in their exodus from Egypt, when they had to take shelter under the blood of the lamb? Double-minded people who think they can serve the Lord and the passing pleasures of sin with the world will, like the wife of Lot, not qualify to escape judgements. The tragedy is that she only paid lip service to the kingdom of God and wrongly assumed that she was safe. It is not without reason that we are reminded of Lot’s wife! (Lk. 17:28-32).