Exegetical look into Revelation 16:1-6

 

  • Seven angels. This comes from an ancient Jewish belief system, not from Scripture. They believed that angels had control over elements and were assigned positions by God. This may be true or not, an image John uses to make his point, or a metaphor for the elements and behavior of nature that God controls and directs (Psalm 148:1-12; Zech. 6:5; Rev. 7:1).
  • Pour out….God’s wrath. The Bowls, in conjunction with God’s wrath, may be symbolic referring to God’s judgment and not necessarily a specific attack plan although God can do as He pleases so this could be literal. This theme is used heavily in Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Far more important than the specifics or theories of how God will do this is the point that God will have His reckoning, that judgment is coming, and that it will be a reality. However, as Christians who trust in Him, we have hope and assurance through Christ and His righteousness (Is. 59:15-18; Joel 2:11; Mal. 3:2-10).
  • On the earth/land is a contrast of the first four bowls with the first four trumpets, referring to death (Rev. 8:7-12; 11:6; 17:15).
  • Bowl is an image of God’s action and His holiness in so doing, which simply means as this passage says, “God is pouring out.” These bowls are nothing esoteric or cryptic; they symbolize God’s wrath. It is not necessary to take this to mean literal, giant basins. It is a Jewish image of the Temple and the precious instruments and utensils used for worship. The point is, just as God delivered the Israelites from oppression using the plagues against Egypt, so will He deliver those who are His! This is also a call for us to be fragrant and poured out to our Lord, for that is what pleases Him. What does not please Him is our disobedience and refusal of His love (Deut 33:10; Psalm 141:1-3; Gal. 2:20-21; Phil. 3:1-14; Rev. 8:3-4). 
  • Ugly and painful/Noisome and grievous/loathsome. Obviously something painful, it also means bad, evil (from context, not that God is doing evil), and harmful, and then serious and painful, from whence we get our word “malignant.”
  • Sores/boils broke out. Means “ulcer;” this is reminiscent of the sixth plague of Egypt (Ex. 9:8-12; Job 2:7-8, 13; Luke 16:21).
  • Bowl on the sea…Rivers and springs. This is reminiscent of the first plague of Egypt (Ex. 7:20-21; Rev. 8:8). The term used means the ultimate destiny of mankind as being judged and the preparation for the Second Coming and/or the Last Judgment, similar or the same as the “Trumpet” judgments in Rev. 8:6-13. This is called “eschatological;” it is from God and His judgment, not necessary from the pollution from man’s industrial machine. Volcanic upheavals can also produce this effect from God’s direction. (see Revelation chap 6 notes; Is. 15:9; Psalm 78:44; 2 Pet. 3:10-12; Rev. 6:13; 8:10-11; 9:1).
  • Every living thing/souls. This is where we get “psych,” the Greek concept of mind and body and soul and/or the vital, living force of a person from which come our personality and expressions. Hence, the word is used for “psychology.” Thus, everything in the sea died—complete destruction.
  • Holy One/Lord. “Greek “kyrios” is the word used and usually translated as Lord; however, here it is “hosios” meaning “holy,” thus holy is the correct translation.
  • You are just means God’s ways are pure and without fault of any sort. God is never vindictive for reason of spite, but to defend His faithful, He seeks “payment” to remove sin. This is a Hebrew call of the oppressed seeking God’s mercy and judgment upon the oppressor. It is a plea for vindication by also praising God for Who He is. This is seen in the Psalms, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. Thus, this angel/theme agrees with God; His ways are best, regardless of personal cost (Ex. 3:14; Rev. 15:3; 19:2-11).
  • Have shed the blood of your saints. Jewish tradition says that God turned the Nile into blood as punishment for shedding the blood of the children from which Moses escaped. This also refers to those who have been martyred because they remained faithful to Christ. It denotes suffering, injustice, and persecution, but the application is that they remained true to the faith, regardless of circumstances. In context, this image indicates that the martyrs are like sacrifices, just as Christ was when he represented the Passover Lamb, innocent and undeserving, whose blood was shed. In Christ’s case, it was for our redemption; in the case of the martyrs, it was seemingly in vain, but in reality, it glorified God (Pseudepigrapha book, Wisdom of Solomon chaps.16-17; Phil. 2:6-11).
  • Given them blood to drink. This is also reminiscent of the first plague of Egypt (Ex. 7: 14-24; 9:10) and is a metaphor for shedding blood and the blood crying out for justice and vengeance. (Apocrypha book, Tobit 3; Rev. 6:9).
  • As they deserve/worthy means “befitting.” It is not a commendation (praise) but rather a condemnation (a sentence to punishment) as “they deserve it.” This is also a saying that the wicked will fall by their own hand and means, or God will just wait and let the wicked destroy themselves. It also means “the punishment fits the crime.” God has the right to destroy what He created and does not need or is obligated to save; what He does anyway for us is offer Grace to us all who do not deserve it. However, the grace must be received and repentance must come forth. If no repentance, judgment is more than just and completely and totally appropriate (Isa. 49:26; Matt. 23:31-36). 
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