A Study in the Word: Revelation 16:1-21


Final judgment on the unrepentant is announced (16:1). The first six bowl judgments reflect the plagues on Egypt during the Exodus. The first leaves “marks” on the unrepentant who were marked by Satan (16:2). No longer is the judgment partial; now it is full (vs. 3). These judgments are deserved because the unrepentant persecuted God’s people without mercy (16:5-7).

Warnings contained within the first six bowls have gone unheeded; the unrepentant remain stubbornly rebellious (16:8-9). The throne represents the seat of power of evil. People under Satan’s rule could still turn to the true God of heaven and earth. Still, like their chosen leader, “they did not repent of their deeds” (16:10-11).

The Euphrates River represents the territorial extension of God’s people (16:12; Joshua 1:4). This obstacle is removed so that the kings of the East can be used by God to carry out His wrath (9:13-21). In the Old Testament sinful nations regularly were instruments of God’s judgment (Isaiah 45).

John then sees three evil spirits come out of the mouths of the unholy trinity (16:13-14). Hebrews thought frogs were disgusting creatures (Exodus 8). “Out of the mouth” indicates reprehensible and deceptive speech by these master blasphemers. Their deception aims at gathering all the forces of evil for a great battle on the Day of the Lord.

The church is urged to remain “clothed in faith” (16:15). Satan gathers forces to do battle with God at a place called Har-Magedon (16:16, NAU; Armageddon, NIV, KJV). Har-Magedon refers to “Mount Megiddo.” Megiddo overlooks a plain. Many historically significant battles were fought there; Judah’s King Josiah was killed there (2 Kings 23:29). This battle will decide who will hold ultimate authority over heaven and earth. The battle is detailed in 19:17-21.

The seventh bowl of the wrath of God’s final judgment is poured into the air, perhaps indicating its all-encompassing effect (16:17-21). The final judgment of God upon humankind is not intended to bring about the repentance of the rebellious: “It is all over” (16:17, Goodspeed). The judgment of the cross of Jesus Christ is now brought to completion. Tremendous convulsions of nature accompany the seventh judgment (16:18 and 20). “The great city” refers to Babylon the Great, which God “remembers” as the prime symbol of great evil (16:19).

God’s final act on the unrepentant will be of the greatest severity (16:21; Exo. 9:13-26). The next four chapters unfold this judgment.

Dr. David Moore is a university online instructor in Bible and theology. Email: dm5867se@outlook.com