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). 

Revelation 16:1-11: What are the Contexts?

 

This passage continues the theme of judgment and uses the imagery of the plagues God poured on Egypt, where Pharaoh was offered an easy way out and grace, but he hardened his heart and refused to repent just as the recipients of the bowls of wrath do. Then, God warns the Jews to be loyal; if they are not, He will inflict them of the boils and plagues He did to Egypt (Deut. 28: 25-29). In contrast, this is also about how God protected His people from the plagues and judgments; thus, this passage is also about great comfort to others in persecution. This is in relation to the love and forgiveness of God being offered but then refused by those who need it the most. They sought to deliver themselves but they failed; instead of reaching for God, they cursed Him instead. The contrasting aspect here is that God’s provision and grace can be received and He will protect the faithful from His wrath just as He demonstrated in Egypt. We can take comfort in God’s love and protection and not fear His Judgment when we are in Him. But, we need to also take heed; God will not tolerate disloyalty and being cursed! This is about “what goes around comes around;” what we sow, we will, in return, reap. Our attitudes and ideas will result in the application of our deeds and actions. In other words, as this Book has been saying, we bring judgment upon ourselves by what we do and refuse to do. So, do not sin; but if we do, we must repent, seek, and accept His love and forgiveness. If we do not repent, we will be in our own “darkness” where there is the absence of peace and contentment. These bowls of God’s wrath are brought upon those who are evil and who seek after those who are evil. We can be reassured that there is no need for a Christian to fear God’s wrath; if you are not evil and manipulative and are loyal to Christ, you have no qualms to bear or reason to fear (Is. 57:15-21; 59:1-21; Rev. 15:1-16:21).

Revelation 16:1-11

Introduction 

The First Bowls of God’s Wrath 

John continues to get his incredible glimpse of the hope and wonder we will get for eternity. Now he hears a shout to the seven angels to go and empty the bowls of God’s wrath, and they are being poured out. The first bowl gives horrible pain and sores upon the wicked who refused Christ and took the mark of the beast. They received what they deserved, as they showed their disloyalty and contempt for God and those who are faithful. Then, the second angel poured out his bowl and the sea became dead along with everything in it. The third angel had his turn and did the same to the rivers. Now, the angel who was in charge of the earth’s waters agreed and said these judgments were just displaying his trust in God when all that he was in charge of was wiped out. He further testifies that the evils and unfaithfulness of God’s people and His creation of humanity judged themselves and thus doomed themselves. God is only giving them what they wanted and deserved. 

The fourth angel pours out his bowl upon the sun and it becomes more intense and scorches the earth; what is left is not burned up. Under intense judgment, the people still refuse to repent and seek God’s love and grace; they become even more belligerent and curse His Holy name! Saying what is good is evil and what is evil is good seems to be the everlasting work of Satan and evil people. So, the fifth angel pours out God’s wrath upon the beast and his minion of evil and the anguishes and pains of judgment are felt. However, responsibility is not heeded and repentance is still not sought. Indeed, God is patient and just!  

How would you symbolize these Bowls? Have you ever been through a natural disaster?