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What Are the Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath in Revelation?

What Are the Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath in Revelation?

Dear Roger,

I’ve been studying the book of Revelation, and I think I have a pretty good handle on what the seals and the trumpets mean. However, the bowls of God’s wrath are spread over many verses all the way to the end of the book. Could you please give me a simplified version of the bowls of God’s wrath?

Sincerely, Darcy

Dear Darcy,

God felt really good about His creation when He first finished.

When God made man, he said, “This is very good.” “I did a really good job!” (See Genesis 2). He walked with Adam in the Garden. He created woman, the perfect companion for man. Again and again, He said “It is good.”

Unfortunately, it did not take long for God’s thoughts to change.

In Genesis 6:5-8, we read, “The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become … the LORD was grieved that he had made man. … So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth. … For I am grieved that I have made them."

So, God decided to start over. He sent a flood! Faithful Noah and his family were saved, and evil was wiped off the face of the earth … except for the sin still in the heart of humankind.

Wickedness has overtaken the world once more. In Revelation, God reveals that he is going to again wipe the slate clean.

Looking at the Book of Revelation, the Seven Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls encompass all seven years of the Tribulation, or the time of suffering that will precede the Second Coming of Christ. When the last Bowl is poured out Armageddon will begin.

Let me share a short review of the Seven Seals and the Seven Trumpets, and then we will look more closely at the Seven Bowls of God’s wrath.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/showcake

The Seven Seals and the Seven Trumpets

The Seven Seals Are Destructions That Humankind Brings upon Themselves (Revelation 5-8)

The four Horsemen of the apocalypse ride forth.

The Antichrist Is revealed.

War, famine, and death encompass the earth.

The martyrs under the altar in heaven plead with God to avenge their deaths.

A nuclear holocaust brings about incredible suffering.

The Seven Trumpets of God’s Wrath Are Destructions That Satan Brings upon Humankind (Revelation 8-11)

Fire mixed with blood is hurled onto the earth.

One-third of vegetation, freshwater, and seawater are destroyed.

Man’s food supply is devastated.

Commerce uproots supply lines all over the world.

Meteors, missiles, and radioactivity are slaughtering everything.

The sun, moon, and stars are darkened.

The keys to the prison-house abyss are given to Satan so that demonic hordes may be released against humankind.

The voice of Christ thunders forth from the golden altar.

The Euphrates River is bound, awaiting the call for Armageddon.

The Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath Are Destructions That God Himself Brings upon Humankind (Revelation 15-16)

The seven bowls are like the seven seals on steroids!

John begins, “Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, ‘Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God’” (Revelation 16:1).

The First Bowl of God’s Wrath

So the first angel went and poured his bowl on the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image” (Revelation 16:2).

This rash of malignant sores could easily be caused by the tremendous radioactive pollution in the atmosphere. After atomic bombs decimated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thousands of people died, while others developed hideous sores because of radioactivity.

Consider the sweeping plagues throughout human history which have killed millions: smallpox; typhus; bubonic plague; polio, whooping cough; mustard gas; tuberculosis, and now, COVID-19. Now, imagine all these coming together at the same time all over the earth!

Turnabout is fair play. Satan had the number of his name as 666. This satanic symbol brought death to all those Christians who didn’t have this mark branded on their forehead or on their hand.

We see here the flipside. God seals his people with a mark as well. Whoever fails to have this mark is destroyed by God. By the way, the number of Jesus’ name is 777. This is perfection.

red water swirling to signify Plagues of Revelation

The Second Bowl of God’s Wrath

“The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died” (Revelation 16:3).

When all living creatures in the seas die, they will float to the top, their decaying bodies discharging an unbearable stench and inaugurating potential disease.

Once again, our food supply is severely damaged.

The Third Bowl of God’s Wrath

“The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the water say, “’You are just in your judgment. Since they have shed the blood of saints and prophets you have given them blood to drink. It is their just due!’” (Revelation 16:4-7).

This plague on freshwater is God’s earthly vindication of the suffering martyrs from earliest times to the present. He is answering the prayers of the martyrs to avenge their deaths.

The Fourth Bowl of God’s Wrath

“Then fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat, and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him” (Revelation 16:8-9).

This plague describes men and women tasting the torments of hell as described by Jesus in Luke 16.

The thirst will be incredible. Humans can live without food for 40 days. But we can only live without water for three to four days.

This plague may be caused by the greenhouse effect of global warming and/or ozone depletion. Of course, as the ozone is depleted, ultraviolet rays ravage mankind.

Perhaps, with all the shaking, the earth will actually tilt on its axis in such a way that the sun’s heat is increased. Of course, this plague may simply be one of the earth’s periodic cycles between hot and cold.

Here is where they begin to curse the name of God. But the most startling thing is that men and women will still not repent!

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/myshkovsky 

The Fifth Bowl of God’s Wrath

“The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done” (Revelation 16:10-11).

Christ’s own prediction was: “In those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give its light” (Mark 13:24).

It may well be that the darkness causes a nuclear winter as massive amounts of dirt and dust overwhelm our atmosphere. Once again, lack of sunshine means poorly growing crops. Once again, famine threatens all existence.

Still, humankind refuses to repent. These judgments are clearly supernatural. But instead of falling down before Him to become the recipients of His mercy, they not only blaspheme God, but refuse to change their ways.

The Sixth Bowl of God’s Wrath

“The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; … They are spirits of demons, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. …Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon” (Revelation 16:12-16).

The sixth bowl reveals a horde of 200 million people from the East poised on the banks of the Euphrates. In the book of Ezekiel, God says that he will place fishhooks into the mouths of Kings to pull them to Armageddon.

Their way is cleared for a rapid forced march into Israel. This drying up is now possible because of the recent Russian construction of a dam near the headwaters of the Euphrates.

The horrible carnage of Armageddon commences.

Zechariah 14:12 predicts the astounding course of the battle: “Their flesh will be consumed from their bones, their eyes burned out of their sockets, and their tongues consumed out of their mouths while they stand upon their feet.” It will take seven years to cleanse the land.

For hundreds of years, students of Bible prophecy have wondered what kind of plague could produce such instant ravaging of humans while still on their feet. Until the advent of the atomic bomb, such a thing was not humanly possible. But now everything Zechariah predicted could come true instantly in a thermonuclear exchange!

lightning storm thunderstorm thunder clouds sons of thunder

The Seventh Bowl of God’s Wrath

“The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’ Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. Every island fled away, and the mountains could not be found. And they cursed God.” (Revelation 16:17-21)

While this great battle is raging, every city in the world is going to be leveled. This will take place by what is called an “earthquake” (Greek “seismos”). The word itself means, “a great shaking of the earth.” The earth could be shaken either by a literal earthquake or by a full-scale nuclear exchange of all remaining missiles.

Thus begins the horrible carnage of Armageddon.

What Does This Mean to Me?

We are not in the tribulation yet, but we face difficult times every day. Let’s learn from them. I want to draw a few lessons from the book of Hebrews. His readers were suffering great turmoil. Read the book. The writer has a lot to say to us.

1. Submit to God no matter the circumstances: “Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the father of spirits and live?” (Hebrews 12:9).

2. While we may not face the terror of the bowls, we will experience difficult things in life.

3. Remember that difficult things can produce good things as well: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

4. Don’t quit: “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 12:3).

5. Don’t become bitter: “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God and that no root of bitterness spring up and cause trouble” (Hebrews 12:15).

6. God is committed to the process of restoration. He will move heaven and earth if that’s what it takes to bring us to Christ. He will never stop reaching out to everyone.

Darcy, I hope that my answer is clear and simple.

Love, Roger

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Trifonov_Evgeniy 

Ask RogerDr. Roger Barrier went to be with the Lord on Friday, February 16th, 2024. He was a faithful servant of Christ with a lifetime worth of ministry and mentorship. Dr. Barrier held degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. He used his immense expertise daily to guide and mentor others in their spiritual walks. He had a global impact with his book Listening to the Voice of God, which is available in both Thai and Portuguese. His newest book, written with his daughter Brianna Barrier Wetherbee, is Look Like Jesus: A Guide to Spiritual Growth. He and his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier, founded Preach It, Teach It, a pastoral teaching site that provides countless resources, including articles, sermons, podcasts, sermon starters, Bible studies, and devotionals. His family will honor Dr. Barrier’s legacy by continuing the ministry of Ask Roger and for years to come as they share more than two thousand still-unpublished sermons and Ask Roger articles. 

This Ask Roger article features insights from Roger's daughter, Brie Barrier Wetherbee, a sought-after Bible teacher and conference speaker, author, analyst, and Christian theologian.