Revelation 16: Seven Bowls, Armageddon and Jesus Returns as a Thief

The First Six Bowls of Wrath

The prior chapter in Revelation, chapter 15, introduces the coming bowls of God’s wrath. A final sign appears in heaven. Those believers who overcame the Antichrist stand in heaven on a sea of glass and sing praises to God. The temple in heaven is opened and the seven angels come out from the temple ready to pour out their seven bowls of God’s wrath. Chapter 16 speaks to these seven judgments delivered by the seven angels.


First Bowl of God’s Wrath: Grievous Sores on those with the Mark of the Beast

Revelation 16:1-2

16:1 And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.
16:2 And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.


The first bowl of God’s wrath is poured out on the earth. Those who have received the Mark of the Beast or worshiped his image are given loathsome and malignant sores on their bodies.


An interesting parallel to the first five bowls of wrath are the miracles performed by the two witnesses in Revelation 11 and the miracles performed by Moses and Elijah.

These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will. (Revelation 11:4-6)


The two witnesses are given power to strike the earth with fire, drought, the ability to turn water into blood and the plague. One wonders if the angel gives power to the two witnesses to command the plague to strike those on the earth.


Moses inflicted a plague of boils on the Egyptians in Exodus 9:11. The  Egyptians had boils all over their bodies; however, the Israelites were not touched with the plague.


Second Bowl of God’s Wrath:  Sea Turned into Blood

Revelation 16:3

16:3 And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.


The second angel pours out the wrath of God and all the oceans and seas are turned to blood. All the fish in the oceans die.


One wonders if the angel gives power to the two witnesses to command the sea to turn into blood.  The two witnesses have this power to perform this miracle, “These … have power over waters to turn them to blood” (Revelation 11:6). The first miracle Moses performed was to turn the Nile river into blood (Exodus 7:14-25).


Third Bowl of God’s Wrath:  Rivers and Springs Turned into Blood

Revelation 16:4-7

16:4 And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood.
16:5 And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus.
16:6 For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.
16:7 And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.


The third angel pours his bowl of wrath upon the earth and the rivers and springs turn to blood. As the previous bowl of God’s wrath on the sea, the two witnesses may be given power by the angels to  turn the rivers and springs into blood. This was the first of the ten plagues Moses performed in the land of Egypt.


The angel speaks of God’s righteousness for judging the earth. The wicked killed the saints and prophets. Now the wicked will drink the blood of the saints and prophets. The Lord is the righteous judge and He takes vengeance on the wicked.

“Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord (Romans 12:19 NASB).


Fourth Bowl of God’s Wrath: Men Scorched with Fire

Revelation 16:8-9

16:8 And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.
16:9 And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.


The fourth angel bowl scorches men with fire. The heat is severe and instead of repenting and turning to God they choose to curse God.


A number of passages speak of this intense heat at the end of the tribulation. Isaiah says the sun will be seven times brighter when the Lord comes for His people,

“Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound” (Isaiah 30:26).


Israel is protected in that day when He saves them,

“They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them” (Israel 49:10).


Those on the earth are burned up and few are left,

“Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left” (Isaiah 24:6).


Many believe the burning on the Day of the Lord in 2 Peter speaks of the destruction of the earth by fire at the end of the millennium. Yet this passage says this burning “will come as a thief in the night.”  Jesus Christ comes as a thief in the night at His Second Coming, not at the end of the millennium.

 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? (2 Peter 3:10-12)


Fifth Bowl of God’s Wrath:  Darkness

Revelation 16:10-11

16:10 And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain,
16:11 And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.


The fifth angel pours out his bowl upon the kingdom of the Antichrist and there was darkness, not on the whole earth, but only on the realm of the Antichrist. The darkness is so severe that those in the Antichrist’s kingdom chew their tongues in pain. They curse God because of their sores and pain. Yet, they do not repent and trust in Jesus.


Amos tells us that the Day of the Lord will be one of darkness,

“Shall not the day of the Lord be darkness, and not light? Even very dark, and no brightness in it?” (Amos 5:20).


Sixth Bowl of God’s Wrath: War of Armageddon

Revelation 16:12-16

16:12 And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.
16:13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
16:14 For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
16:15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
16:16 And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.


The sixth angel pours out his bowl of wrath on the earth and the EuphWar of Armageddonrates River dries up. This allows the nations east of Israel to march into the land of Israel. The War of Armageddon is described as the War of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38-39. The nations which invade Israel include Rosh (Russia), Meshech and Tubal (Georgia), Persia (Iran), Ethiopia (Ethiopia and Sudan), Put (Algeria and Libya), and Gomer and Beth-togarmah (Turkey).


The drying of the Euphrates serves two purposes: 1) to enable the nations east of Israel to invade and 2) to allow the remnant of Israel to return to Israel after the Battle of Armageddon. The prophet Isaiah prophecies the Euphrates River drying up and a highway from Assyria to Israel,

“And the Lord shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with his mighty wind shall he shake his hand over the (Euphrates) river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over dryshod. And there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.” (Isaiah 11:16-17)


Three demonic spirits which look like frogs come out from Satan, the Antichrist and the False Prophet. The false spirits perform miracles and manipulate the leaders of these nations to array for battle against Israel on the great Day of the Lord.


Jesus returns as a thief sometime during the Battle of Armageddon. Blessed are those who keep watch and stay ready for His return.

Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. (Revelation 16:15)


When the Battle of Armageddon takes place those who know God’s Word and know when to look for His return will watch and be ready. Saints who are ready for His return and keep their garments clean will receive the third of the seven blessings in Revelation.


The nations gather at the Valley of Megiddo also called the Jezreel Valley. This is where we get the word “Armageddon”.  Megiddo is a “Tell” just south of the Jezreel Valley.


A Thief in the Night

Jesus’ Second Coming is as a “thief in the night.”   He comes as a thief during the Battle of Armageddon.  As the nation of Israel is being annihilated by many nations, Jesus Christ returns to save the Jews.


Many believe He comes as a “thief in the night” at the Rapture of the Church. But this is not what the Bible teaches. He comes as a thief in the night at His Second Coming, at the end of the Great Tribulation. Lets look at a few verses.

  • For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2)
  • But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10)
  • Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. (Revelation 3:3)
  • But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. (Matthew 24:43)


I tend to think the Rapture of the Church follows His Second Coming. Those who are ready for His return will receive the blessing described in verse 15.


Note:  Additional details on the timing of the Second Coming, the Rapture and the seven plagues in the discussion on chapter 15. See Revelation 15: The Third Sign, Seven Plagues and Heaven Opened.


The Seventh Bowl of God’s Wrath:  The Great Earthquake

Revelation 16:17-21

16:17 And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.
16:18 And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.
16:19 And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.
16:20 And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.
16:21 And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.


It is Done

The seventh bowl is poured out not on the earth but into the air. A great voice sounds from the temple of God saying, “It is done.” All is finished. The great wrath of God is complete. This is the end of the Great Tribulation. By this time Jesus Christ has returned to earth and His destruction of the wicked is finished. With the completion the seventh bowl of God’s wrath we move into the start of the 1000 year millennial kingdom.


Lightning, Thunder and a Great Earthquake

There is thunder, lightning and the greatest earthquake ever to shake the earth. The earthquake is so severe every island disappears into the ocean and every mountain is leveled. This event is spoken of many times in the Old and New Testament. The seventh seal in Revelation 8:5 likely speaks of the same event,

“And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.” (Revelation 8:5)


Isaiah speaks of the heavens shaking and the earth being removed out of her place.

Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger. And it shall be as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man taketh up: they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into his own land. (Isaiah 13:13-14)


The city of Jerusalem splits into three sections. All the cities of the world are wiped out including Babylon. This is when Babylon falls. Hail falls from the sky, each of about 100 pounds each. Men curse God because of the hail and the severity of God’s wrath.


Written by Timothy Brown

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