Join us as we study through Revelation verse by verse. Our Bible study guides contain discussion questions, teaching points, and applications which can help you or your small group get the most out of this book as you grow in understanding and obedience.
Revelation 16:1-7 Bible Study Guide With Questions – The Seven Bowl Judgments Unleashed
I. The First Bowl Judgment (1-2)
II. The Second Bowl Judgment (3)
III. The Third Bowl Judgment (4-7)
IV. The Fourth Bowl Judgment (8-9)
V. The Fifth Bowl Judgment (10-11)
VI. The Sixth Bowl Judgment (12-16)
VII. The Seventh Bowl Judgment (17-21)
I. The First Bowl Judgment (1-2)
- What temple is referred to here?
- What were the angels commanded to do?
- Are these bowls figurative or symbolic? Why?
- What is the first bowl judgment?
- Who will be affected by it?
- What historical judgment in the Bible is this similar to?
Exodus 9:8-9 – And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from the kiln, and let Moses throw them in the air in the sight of Pharaoh. It shall become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and become boils breaking out in sores on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt.”
Exodus 9:11 – And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils came upon the magicians and upon all the Egyptians.
1. A loud voice coming from the temple – It is the voice of God. Throughout Revelation, we see that God speaks in a loud voice many times. The loud voice shows us His power and authority. His commands and judgments are firm.
In chapter 15, we saw that there is a heavenly temple. The earthly temple is a shadow (copy) of the heavenly one. During this time of judgment, God’s presence will be in the temple. No one will be able to go in. That is why His command issues forth from within.
2. “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.” – God initiates the final set of seven judgments upon the earth. Already seven seal judgments and seven trumpet judgments have been unleashed. The final set of seven will be even worse as the judgments escalate in response to the continued rebellion and refusal to repent.
The imagery depicted is that of bowls being filled with the wrath of God. Wrath is intangible. It cannot be seen or touched. Here it will take physical form. Just as at the very word of God, the universe was created, so at His very expression of divine anger, that same world will face plagues. And those plagues will be tangible.
3. The first bowl judgment – The first of the seven bowl judgments is a plague of “painful sores.” It is not the first time that God has sent a plague of boils in the Bible. In Exodus 9, He did the same thing. That plague only afflicted the Egyptians. God’s people were spared. We see that same division here.
Though believers who are still alive at this point in the future will face many difficulties during the tribulation, there is still a separation in how God deals with the believer and the unbeliever. A number of the plagues will only affect unbelievers. In this case, it is specifically aimed toward those people who take the mark and worship the beast and its image.
The beast will be unable to counter this plague, just as the priests of Egypt were unable to reverse the effects of the boils in the time of Moses.
It is a very quick reversal for those who decide to take the mark. Many will do so because of the benefits offered. The propaganda machine of the evil world government will sell all the advantages of getting the mark. It will provide protection, convenience, prestige, and a sense of belonging. Even more important, those who take the mark will have the added benefit of not being killed for refusing. Very likely that government will market a new era of utopia for its loyal citizens.
Yet God warned the earth that taking the mark would result in eternal judgment. And those who take it will discover very quickly the truth of His words. Not long will go by until God sends this plague. It is hard to imagine the utter despair that will be experienced by those who realize that their eternal doom has been sealed. The continuous night-and-day pain of the skin sores will serve as an ever-present reminder of their terrible choice. It will be like a small taste of hell.
The rebellious will discover the hard way that Satan is the father of lies. All of the grand promises that they were told, were lies. Choosing the world’s way will not lead to utopia, security, or joy. It will instead lead to agony, shame, guilt, and despair.
Reflect: This chapter is very dark. It is very sad. Why does God record these awful things?
God tells us what is going to happen as a warning. God is truth. And the truth will set you free. He told Adam and Eve that if they ate the fruit in the garden, they would die. And they did. Similarly, He records ahead of time the results of choosing the mark (and the world) as a warning of the consequences of sin.
Application: Sin always comes with consequences. Temptation appeals to the flesh. It lures believers with promises of thrill, excitement, freedom, and pleasure. But the results do not live up to the promises. It only brings about guilt and death. Let the truth about sin open your eyes so that you can see through those lies and choose the right path, not the path of instant gratification.
James 1:14-15 – But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
II. The Second Bowl Judgment (3)
- How is this similar to a previous judgment? Which judgment?
- How is this different than that judgment?
- What would the effects of this judgment be for the world?
1. Comparison to the second trumpet judgment –
2nd Trumpet Judgment
Revelation 8:8-9 – The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
2nd Bowl Judgment
Revelation 16:3 – The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea.
We see that these judgments are similar. Both of them target the sea. Both involve the sea becoming blood. And both involve sea creatures dying.
A number of the other trumpet and bowl judgments are similar as well.
The third judgment targets freshwater (Revelation 8:10-11). The fourth involves the sun (Revelation 8:12). The fifth brings about darkness (Revelation 9:1-2). And the sixth involves the Euphrates river.
There are two general views to explain these similarities. Some hold that the bowl judgments and the trumpet judgments describe the same events. They are repeated to show different perspectives. Those who hold this view, look at the book of Revelations as cyclical. Rather than purely a chronological timeline, the same events are repeated from different perspectives.
Others hold to a chronological timeline, where the events of Revelation move forward linearly. They view each set of judgments not as the same events, but as similar events which escalate in intensity.
For example, the seal judgments affect one-fourth of the population, the trumpet judgments one third, and the bowl judgments affect all.
We see that pattern emerging in the second bowl judgment. Though similar to the second trumpet judgment, there is a clear difference. In the second bowl judgment, all ocean-dwelling creatures die, not just one-third.
Reflect: What does this escalation of intensity show us about God’s character?
This escalation is consistent with God’s character. Because He is merciful, He doesn’t pour out all of the contents of His wrath at the beginning. Instead, He gives a warning. First, He gives a taste of the things to come. At the same time, He sends messengers, both angelic and human witnesses. Then He pauses to give time for people to contemplate and repent. Ideally, they will take heed of the warning and turn to Him before worse judgments come.
When people do not repent, the judgment gets worse. In fact, many judgments are repeated, only the next time they are more intense. In addition to highlighting His mercy, it also shows His judgment. People who have disregarded warnings are more culpable for their actions. Thus, a more severe penalty is reasonable.
The criminal justice system often works like this. A sentence for a first offense may be light. But it will increase with each subsequent infraction.
Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that these series of judgments are distinct and chronological. God’s mercy and justice can be seen in the way He starts off giving a taste of what is to come before releasing the full wrath.
Application: The clear application is that it is better to repent earlier than later (or never). Some people think, “I will enjoy myself (and sin) now. Later when I have lived my life, I will repent.” Such thinking is a grave mistake. Sin over time increasingly hardens the heart, many times to the point of no return. And the more times God’s warnings are ignored and willful sin takes place, the more serious the consequences will be. Today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).
III. The Third Bowl Judgment (4-7)
- How is the third bowl judgment similar to the third trumpet judgment?
- How is it different?
- What do the judgments show us about God’s character?
- How can an agent of God’s wrath praise Him even while executing His judgment?
- If you were in the angel’s place, could you praise God while doing this? Why or why not?
Isaiah 61:8 – For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Deuteronomy 32:4 – The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.
1. The third bowl judgment – This judgment targets freshwater. The second judgment already turned the oceans to blood, killing all of the creatures who lived there. Now we see the same will happen to rivers and lakes. Fish and other freshwater creatures cannot live in blood. Presumably, they too will die.
The combined effects of these two judgments will be catastrophic. A huge amount of the world’s food supply (seafood and fish) will be instantly gone. Following soon after that, many crops will fail since they won’t be able to be irrigated. An even bigger problem will be a lack of drinking water. Rain should still be drinkable. And perhaps small amounts of water elsewhere will be unaffected. But it will be a catastrophe of truly global proportions. One can easily imagine how quickly things will descend into anarchy as people fight and kill for the little bit of water there is.
The stink and decay will be everywhere. Plant life will be drastically affected. Many species will die out. That in turn will affect oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, which will, in turn, affect temperature and weather patterns. It will be climate change worse than ever dreamed of. No longer will the world be a beautiful reminder of God’s goodness. Instead, it will be a visible reminder of God’s wrath and displeasure against sin, which is what will bring about this curse.
2. Just are you, O Holy One – As the angel pours out God’s wrath on the world, he will praise God for His justice.
This chapter depicts very sad and sobering events. When we read it, we can’t but help feel sorrowful that things will come to this.
Reflect: How can an agent of God’s wrath praise Him even while executing His judgment?
The angel realizes that God is wholly just in these judgments. He does blame God or ask, “why?” There is no incrimination or doubting God’s character. God’s character and reasoning are above approach. It is evident to the angel, and to all, that God is right in His sentence of punishment upon the earth.
In Genesis 18:16-33, Abraham pleads with God to show mercy upon Sodom and Gomorrah. He negotiates with God, asking that God spare the cities if as little as ten righteous people are found there. God agrees. But He goes even further. Ten righteous people were not found there. Lot was the only one (and God used a very merciful standard in evaluating him). Therefore, God rescues Lot and his family before sending the judgment.
Here in the book of Revelation, it is similar. Any who sought God’s rescue, could have received it.
After WWII, Nazi war criminals were tried for their crimes in the Nuremberg trials. But before their sentences, the allies sent chaplains to share the gospel with the Nazi leaders, some of whom actually repented. The Nazis who genuinely repented will be forgiven by God and can enter heaven. Still, all of those found guilty were sentenced to execution.
How would you feel watching those trials if you were a family member of a Jewish victim of the holocaust? Would you want the Nazis set free or would you want justice served?
Most would want justice. And justice demands a penalty. If a judge set them free, surely many would rise up in anger and say that the judge was corrupt or unfair. When the judge did his job and gave them a righteous sentence, no one will blame the judge. The Nazis got what they deserved. As sad as it is, it is also right.
That is exactly what this angel said.
Revelation 16:6 – For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!
Application: Some cast stones at God and claim that He is too harsh of a judge. Let us not fall into the trap of setting ourselves up as a higher authority than God, judging Him for His decisions. God is perfectly just and holy. We should praise Him for His righteous judgments, even when those judgments are very serious and sad to behold. The alternative is a tolerant God who allows unchecked sin. Murdering His saints is not allowed to go unpunished, nor should it be. Do not judge God. God is the judge, not you. Behold Him for who He is.
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