Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
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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.
[16:1. The vials of the wrath of God represent the climax of God's punishment of sinners during the Tribulation period. No repentance is invited or shown. The emptying of the bowls takes place very rapidly in a short period of time. The judgments are somewhat parallel both to the 10 plagues on Egypt (cf. Ex. 7-12) and to the trumpets, and generally affect people more directly.]
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.
[16:2. The first vial produces a painful sore on all the followers of the beast, wherever they are. This parallels the boils of the sixth plague on Egypt (Ex. 9:9-11; cf. Deut. 28:27; Job 2:7-13).]
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.
[16:3. The second vial turns the entire sea to blood, and produces the death of all sea life. The blood of a dead man is coagulated and rotting. No evaporation for rain would be possible. This judgment parallels both the first plague on Egypt (Ex. 7:20, 21) and the second trumpet (8:10, 11).]
4: And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood.
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.
6: For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.
7: And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.
[16:4-7. The third vial turns all fresh waters to blood, so that no pure water for drinking is left on earth. This again parallels the first Egyptian plague, but also the third trumpet (8:10,11). That it is righteous for God to judge the earth thus is shown by the fact that the Beast and his followers have shed the blood of saints and prophets. Those who shed the blood of God's people must now drink blood (cf. Is. 49:26).]
8: And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.
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.
[16:8,9. The fourth vial scorches the earth with fire from the sun. This is the opposite of the fourth trumpet (8:12). The followers of the Beast are scorched as well (contrast 7:16). Since they have by now made a permanent decision to reject God and follow the Beast, they blaspheme the name of God and refuse to repent. Like Pharaoh, their hearts have become hardened (cf. Ex. 7:13, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 34, 35).]
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,
11: And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.
[16:10, 11. The fifth vial produces darkness on the seat and kingdom of the Beast. His seat is his throne or headquarters - probably Rome or Jerusalem. His followers suffer pain, agony, and fear. There are parallels with both the ninth plague on Egypt (Ex. 10:21-29) and the fourth trumpet (8:12) The sores of the first vial continue, and the Beast's followers continue to blaspheme God and refuse to repent of their sins.]
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.
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.
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.
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: And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
[16:12-16. The sixth vial results in the gathering of the armies of the whole world together in Palestine for the battle of Armageddon. The river Euphrates, at the northeastern boundry of the promised kingdom of Israel, is dried up, so that the kings of the east may come into Palestine. These kings are unidentified (perhaps they are from China, India, or other Oriental nations), but there may be a parallel with the sixth trumpet (9:13-21) and it's 200,000,000 horsemen (9:14, 16). The three unclean spirits are demons who support the activities of Satan, the beast, and the False Prophet. By means of miracles, they will convince the eastern "kings" and all the armies and kings of the earth and of the whole world to gather in Palestine to fight against the second coming of Christ (cf. 19:19). This is Satan's final attempt to prevent Christ's return. Verse 15 is an exhortation to the surviving believers to be watchful and alert (cf. Matt 24:32-25:13), and to remain faithful and loyal to Christ during a time of intense persecution. To have garments, rather than be naked, relates to spiritual preparedness. Verse 16 identifies the place of the final battle as Armegeddon, from the HebrewHar Megiddon (the hill of Megiddo). The battles of Megiddo and the adjacent valley of Esdraelon have been the site of many important battles (cf. Judg. 5:19; 2 Kings 9:27; 23-29).]
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.
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.
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.
20: And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.
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
[16:17-21. The seventh vial produces the destruction of Babylon, the great city. Babylon is further described and identified in chapters 17 and 18. The statement it is done shows that with this vial and the return of Christ Himself, the judgments are now finished. A tremendous earthquake destroys the great city and the cities of the nations. The cup symbolizes the wrath of God (cf. 14:10). The large hail (a talent weighs about 60 - 100 pounds) may help to destroy the "cities" (cf. Josh. 10:11; Ezek. 38:18-22). But unbelieving mankind still blasphemes God and has no opportunity for repentance. The seventh vial is the last of the seven plagues (15:6-8), and also completes both the seventh trumpet (11:15) and the seventh seal (8:1).]