In Revelation 12, there were two signs in heaven (the woman in 12:1 and the dragon in 12:3). We see a third sign in Revelation 15.
“Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete” (Revelation 15:1).
The third sign is the seven angels, who have the seven plagues (bowls), which will complete the wrath of God on Jerusalem, which is a response to the martyrdom of the saints.
“And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God. They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested’” (Revelation 15:2-4).
The saints have been martyred. They are now in heaven, worshiping God. Next, the attention returns to the seven angels with the seven plagues.
“After these things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened. And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and having their chests girded with golden bands. Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever. The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed. Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, ‘Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth’” (Revelation 15:5-16:1).
One of the four archangels gives each of the seven angels a bowl of the wrath of God and commands them to pour them out. As we shall see, the first four bowls are similar to the first four trumpets.
The First Bowl
“So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image” (Revelation 16:2).
The first bowl of wrath is poured out upon the earth (geo = land of Israel). This is against the unbelieving Jews who worshiped Caesar instead of Jesus.
The Second Bowl
“Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature in the sea died” (Revelation 16:3).
The second bowl of wrath is poured out on the sea, which is a symbol of the Gentiles. The Gentiles who participated in the persecution will be judged.
The Third Bowl
“Then 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 waters saying: ‘You are righteous, O Lord, The One who is and who was and who is to be, Because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, And You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due.’ And I heard another from the altar saying, ‘Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments’” (Revelation 16:4-7).
The third bowl of wrath is poured out on the rivers and the springs of water, which are symbols of the Temple. The priests and the Levites led the Jewish persecution of the saints. The saints who cried “How long?” in 6:10, now say “Even so” (amen) in 16:7.
The Fourth Bowl
“Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory” (Revelation 16:8-9).
The fourth bowl is poured out on the sun, which is a symbol of Jewish rulers, particularly the high priest.
The Fifth Bowl
“Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds” (Revelation 16:10-11).
The fifth bowl is poured out on the beast, Nero (Rome). Nero dies in torment and pain.
The Sixth Bowl
“Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. ‘Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.’ And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon” (Revelation 16:12-16).
The sixth bowl is poured out on the Euphrates. When Rome surrounded Jerusalem with her armies, they were supported by troops from the east.
John also sees three demons coming out of the dragon (Satan), the beast (Nero/Rome), and the false prophet (the high priest). These demons deceive the people into a battle royal.
The battle is going to take place at “Armageddon.” Armageddon does not mean “apocalypse.” It is a place. In Hebrew, it is actually Harmagedon, which is made up of two words: har meaning mountain and maged meaning festival assembly.
Harmagedon is a reference to Mount Sinai. There will be a final battle at the temple on Mount Sinai. This battle will be further described in chapter 19.
The Seventh Bowl
“Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’ And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great” (Revelation 16:17-21).
The seventh bowl is poured into the air. The full wrath of God has been poured out. The language of cosmic destruction is the final destruction of the temple, the city, and the entire Old Covenant system.
The Seven Bowls (Revelation 15:5-16:21)
1) Judgment against Land (Israel)
2) Judgment against Sea (Gentiles)
3) Judgment against Waters (Temple)
4) Judgment against Heavens (Jewish Rulers)
5) Judgment against the Sea Beast (Rome/Nero)
6) The Battle of Armageddon (Mount Sinai)
7) The Destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple