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The Bowls of Wrath, 16:1 to 20:10

This has been called by some a wild and fantastic vision.
It is not a figurative setting forth of actual events which the Asian Christians had seen.
It symbolizes swiftly executed wrath of God as it falls on the Roman Empire in mighty consummation.

The empire was as yet strong and evidently in no danger of falling.
But, to one enlightened as John was by the Spirit of God, the State was doomed.
So here the apostle leaves history behind and soars in imagination into the yet undiscovered future.
When permission is given, the angels go in swift succession to execute the wrath of God
on the great enemy of His cause and people..

There are many similarities between these and the trumpet plagues.
Lack the trumpets, they represent woes upon nature and upon man.
And, like the trumpets, a part of their symbolism is parallel with the Egyptian plagues.
But there are marked differences between the bowls and the trumpets.

The trumpet judgments were calls to repentance.
The bowl judgments are visitations of punishment when hope of repentance is passed.

The trumpet judgements were partial, touching only a third part of their objects.
The bowl judgements are final, touching the whole of the object.

The trumpet judgments did not reach man until the sounding of the fifth trumpet.
The bowl judgments fall upon man from the very first.

The symbolism of the bowls and that of the trumpets are parallel.
There is a difference in the symbolism of the fifth in each series, but the thing symbolized is the same.
As bowl after bowl is tempted, the judgment increases until it finally reaches the imperial city.

No attempt to determine the special meaning of the objects thus visited by the wrath of God
-- land, sea, rivers, sun -- has yet been or is ever likely to be successful.
The general effect of God's final retributive wrath alone appears to be important.
The bowls are grouped four, two, interlude, and one -- just as were the seals and the trumpets.

(1) The first bowl (16:1-2) was poured out upon the land.
It did not scorch the earth as did the blowing of the first trumpet.
Rather it fail upon men marked with that name of the beast and caused to come upon them
grievous and loathsome sores.

(2) The second bowl (16:3) was emptied upon the sea.
The water was turned to blood, and every living thing in contact with the sea perished.

(3) The third bowl (16:4-7) was poured out upon the fresh water, and it, too, became blood.
A voice was heard proclaiming the righteousness of God in this act.
He visits punishment in accordance with sin.
Once the Empire had made the blood of the martyrs run like water;
now all the Empire can find to drink is blood -- and they deserve it.
God's judgments are righteous.

(4) The fourth bowl (16:8-9) was emptied upon the sun.
It sent out scorching rays to burn wicked men with fire.
They were so perverted that they blasphemed God in the mist of the punishment
and refused to turn from their perversion.

While the first four plagues were upon nature ,but brought their effect upon man,
the next two are poured out particularly upon man.

(5) The fifth bowl (16:10-11) was poured out upon the throne of the beast.
The kingdom of the beast was darkened.
Great pain came upon the people of the kingdom, so that they gnawed their tongues
in great anguish; but in their perversion, they refused to turn from their idol worship.

(6) The sixth bowl (16:2) was emptied upon the Euphrates River.
The river was dried up and the way opened for the coming of the great eastern enemies of the Empire.

Next: The Three Frogs, Satan's Recruiting Agents, 16:13-16