Pouring Seven Bowls (Rev. 15.1-16.21)

"Come, Lord Jesus" (CFP white cover) by Watchman Nee

Chapters 15 and 16 do not follow 14.17-20 chronologically for the latter agrees with 19.15.

15.1 "THE LAST SEVEN PLAGUES"

In 12.1 the term used is "a great sign"; here in 15.1 the term is a "sign . . . great and marvelous . . ."

15.2-4 DOXOLOGY

15.2 "A sea of glass"—This has been mentioned once before in 4.6, though neither people nor fire are seen. Here in 15.2 both people as well as fire are mentioned. Since the sea of glass spoken of in 4.6 is before the throne, that is to say, in heaven, the people on the sea of glass mentioned here in 15.2 must have therefore been taken to heaven. So that this portion of Scripture tells us of a people who have passed through the Great Tribulation and who have also seen the beast, his image, and his number. Inasmuch as 14.14-16 shows us how they are raptured from earth, 15.2 discloses how they are received in heaven.

15.3 Why do they sing the song of Moses as well as the song of the Lamb? It should be noted that had they worshiped the image of the beast they would have violated the law of Moses and the commandment of God. But they have not worshiped the image of the beast: therefore, they sing the song of Moses. He who commands them not to worship idols is Moses, and so they sing the song of Moses. He who gives them strength not to worship idols is the Lamb, and hence they sing the song of the Lamb. What they sing is clearly recorded in 15.3,4. It is evident that it is not the same song of Moses that was sung at the time of Exodus 15.

The first clause in the song refers to the works of God, while the second refers to the ways of God. Works are outward acts, but ways are inward principles. "Lord God" is a name which shows how God is related to man. "King of the ages" can also be translated as "King of the nations" (mg.). "Righteous" pertains to principle, whereas "true" pertains to promise.

15.4 The word "holy" describes God’s nature; the words "righteous acts" describe the ways of God’s working.

15.5-8 "THE TEMPLE OF THE TABERNACLE"

15.5 "The temple of the tabernacle" is in heaven, yet it is not permanent since it is described as a tabernacle temple. The tabernacle of Moses was made after the heavenly pattern (Heb. 8.5). After the holy temple was built by Solomon, the tabernacle passed away. So in like manner, when in eternity the Lamb shall become the temple, even this temple of the tabernacle in heaven will pass away.

15.6 These seven angels are priestly angels since they wear priestly garments. Perhaps they serve God in the heavenly temple. According to the order of the Old Testament, the drink offering is poured out before the burning of the sacrifice. Their action seems to follow such an order.

15.8 This verse means that hereafter no one may enter the temple of God to intercede. At that hour the wrath of God is beyond the point of return (cf. Lam. 3.44).

16.1-21 "THE SEVEN BOWLS"

The plagues in bowl 1 to bowl 6 seem to be quite similar to the plagues in trumpet 1 to trumpet 6; the only difference lies in their intensities. The six bowls re-enact the plagues of the six trumpets, but with much greater severity. Since the seventh trumpet includes all seven bowls, the weight of woe must be tremendously heavy.

16.2 "The First Bowl"

The men who suffer in this plague are those that have upon themselves the mark of the beast and who worship his image. This sore is similar to that which the poor man Lazarus once had. It is not cured even to death. One of the ten plagues of Egypt was this boil. Job was attacked by sore boils, so too, Hezekiah once had this sore. The Philistines at one time were punished with a sore. God sometimes uses the sore to judge people (Deut. 28.15,27). Since these men bear the mark of the beast, they are also given a sore by God as their mark.

The first trumpet only hurts the trees and grass on earth, but the first bowl hurts people directly.

16.3 "The Second Bowl"

The plague in the second bowl is more severe than that of the first one since it is larger in scope and becomes blood as of a dead man. Maritime business comes to a complete stop (Ps. 105.29; Is. 50.2).

16.4-7 "The Third Bowl"

In the third trumpet only the third part of the waters becomes bitter to the taste; but now all of the water is turned into blood which cannot be drunk. The reason why God gives them blood to drink is because they have persecuted the Christians as well as His prophets.

In 16.5 there is an angel who is in charge of all the waters.

In 1.8 and 4.8 God is called the one "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty"; but after both 11.17 and 16.5 the phrase "who is to come" is no longer used. Thus it shows that the return of the Lord must be after the time of chapter 4 but before that of 11.17.

In 16.7 the word "righteous" pertains to God’s principles, while "true" pertains to God’s promises.

16.8,9 "The Fourth Bowl"

In the fourth trumpet the third part of the heavenly bodies is smitten with darkness, but now the sun scorches men with fire (see also Luke 21.25). Isaiah predicts that "the inhabitants of the earth are burned" (24.6). Most likely they will be burned by the heat of the sun (Is. 42.25; Deut. 32.24; Mal. 4.1). People remember how they suffer but fail to ponder why they suffer. They take no heed of the message proclaimed by the angel as recorded in 14.6,7.

16.10,11 "The Fifth Bowl"

This is related to the angel of the abyss in the fifth trumpet. The pain mentioned in verse 10 is due to the sore of the first bowl and the scorching of the sun in the fourth bowl. In addition to the plagues of the former bowls is this terrible darkness.

16.12-16 "The Sixth Bowl"

Note that 16.12 is the sixth bowl, while 16.13-16 is an interpolated vision.

16.12 "The great river, the river Euphrates"—The land which God had promised to the children of Israel extended from the river of Egypt to the great river Euphrates (Gen. 15.18). History also tells us that during the most prosperous period of the ancient Roman Empire, her boundary reached the great Euphrates River. In the future there will arise two confederacies; one of the West, taking the Mediterranean Sea as its center with the territory covered by the ancient Roman Empire as its domain (including England, France, the northern coast of Africa, Spain, Portugal, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Greece, and even reaching to India and the Persian boundary); one of the East, with Soviet Russia as its center, and including the Persians, the Cushites, the Turks, and so forth. It may also include China, Japan, Afghanistan, etc.*

* In his latter years the author spoke of three confederacies arising in the world before the coming of Christ; namely, the so-called revived Roman Empire or the confederacy of the West, the Northern confederacy as outlined in Ezekiel 38.1-6, and the confederacy of the Kings of the East as alluded to in Revelation 16.12.—Translator

The river Euphrates is wide and its current swift. But at the pouring of the sixth bowl its water is dried up, thus easily crossed.

16.13 "Unclean spirits"—These unclean spirits are in direct opposition to the Holy Spirit. The word "frogs" symbolizes mischievousness.

16.13,14 The gathering together of the kings of the whole world has no other reason than to war. We can see how they are instigated by the spirits of demons to war. Eventually they will be destroyed by the appearing of the Lord.

16.15 Here are still some words spoken to Christians. "Behold, I come as a thief are words spoken by the Lord to His church. These words may be spoken to those mentioned in Revelation 14.14-16 who are waiting to be harvested, or they may be spoken to the Christians who are left to be gleaned. The vintage spoken of in 14.17-20 is the same as the battle of Har-Magedon spoken of in 16.16. Therefore, 16.15 may refer either to the harvest of Christians before the battle of Har-Magedon or to Christians waiting to be gleaned after the harvest is gathered and before the battle is fought.

16.16 "Har-Magedon"—Magedon is the name of a place, while "Har" means mountain. Hence it is the mountain of Magedon, the same as Jezreel cited in the Old Testament.

16.17-21 "The Seventh Bowl"

16.17 The words "It is done" may also be translated "It is enough". "The air" is where Satan once ruled. Perhaps there is yet some residual satanic influence in the air, hence this final punishment.

16.18 "A great earthquake"—See Ezekiel 38.20.

16.19 "The great city" means Jerusalem. The Babylon cited here points to the actual Babylon (14.8 "fallen, fallen is Babylon" happens before the battle of Har-Magedon and is synchronized with 17.16-19. "Babylon the great" is the actual Babylon whose fall is complete after the battle of Har-Magedon, and so it coincides with the latter half of chapter 18). The verses in 14.8 and 16.19 give a sketch concerning Babylon while chapters 17 and 18 furnish the details.

16.20 Every island flees away and all the mountains vanish. How very severe must be this earthquake! According to the Psalms, there will still be islands and mountains during the millennium (Ps. 72.3,10; 97.1).

16.21 A Greek talent is about 56 English pounds, while a Jewish talent is equivalent to approximately 114 English pounds. Along with the great earthquake there is great hail.