To begin this section, I must first tell you clearly that to fully comprehend this chapter, we must stop thinking as the world around us thinks, and look at this with a heavenly perspective. As we will see, when the bowls of God’s wrath are poured out, God’s judgment will take place. The text tells us that the wrath of God applies only to those who have followed the dragon or the beast, but as we will see, followers of Christ can be caught up in the same events that are judgment upon the unbeliever standing next to the Christian, and both of whom might be killed at the same time. To illustrate, we might hear someone say that so and so (a Christian) lost their battle with cancer yesterday. We are sad because so and so has died of that dread disease, as though their story has ended! Yet in truth, that person’s story hasn’t ended at all; it’s only just begun, and now they get to the good part. If you happened to read my story, then you understand how I can say this with such a degree of certainty; if you missed that post, click here.
In our discussion of chapters 8-11, I set out the parallels between the Exodus story and Revelation, and these apply once again in Revelation 16. I won’t go over the details again, but I will give the Exodus verses where applicable as we go along…
The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly, festering sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. (16:2)
Throughout this age, people will be afflicted by diseases and other physical ailments, some of which are quite terrible, think of Herod for instance. For the believer, they are not judgments because Jesus has overcome death, and through Him so have we (Rom. 8:28), but for the non-believer they can be either God’s warning (trumpet) or God’s judgment (bowl). See Rev. 16:2; cf. EX 9:10; Deut. 28:27; Acts 12:23.
The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died. (16:3)
This is very much like what we have seen earlier with the trumpets. It conveys images of maritime disasters, destruction of food supplies, and we should also recall that the sea represents this world that is so full of war, death and destruction. (Cf. EX 7:17-21; 15:1; Ps. 48:7; 78:53).
The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say:
“You are just in these judgments, O Holy One, you who are and who were; for they have shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.”
And I heard the altar respond:
“Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments.” (16:4-7)
Fresh water supplies are compromised (cf. EX 7:24; 1 Ki. 17:1; 18:5, 40). Then the angel cries out that God’s judgments are entirely just, for the wicked have made martyrs of God’s holy people, and the voice of the martyrs from underneath the altar, an image we saw in earlier passages, sound forth their agreement (cf. Rev. 6:9; 8:3-5).