[This is an excerpt from my book, Mankind’s Final 7 Years Before Christ Returns: A verse-by-verse explanation of the book of Revelation]
16 And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.
If God is the only one in the temple (Rev. 15:8), then the voice, and command, must be His. We should remember that the bowls of wrath will only affect unbelievers. All believers will, at this point, be in their resurrected bodies and, therefore, unaffected (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10).
2 And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.
At the first bowl, the worshipers of the beast receive horrible sores. Details of the fifth bowl mention the ongoing pain from the sores.
3 And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.
The effects of the 7 bowls somewhat resemble those of the 7 trumpets, which lead many people to believe they are the same events. Yet, we shall see that this is not a repeated proclamation of the same events, despite any similarities. The similarities are quite logical, since the trumpets were a proclamation of the coming judgment. At the second trumpet, a third of sea life died. This bowl affects all sea life.
4 And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood.
At the third trumpet (Rev. 8:10-11), one third of the rivers became bitter. This bowl affects all the fresh water.
5 And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus.
The angel declared God to be righteous because of His judgment against the wicked. If God refused to give them the judgment they deserve, He would be contradicting His holiness.
6 For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.
The phrase “they are worthy” shows that the seven bowls of wrath are directed at the wicked. We will see their steadfast refusal to turn from their wickedness.
7 And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.
Some translations follow the Greek text, which says the alter spoke. We saw, however, in Revelation 6:9-10, the fifth-seal martyrs speaking from beneath the alter, and in Revelation 14:18, an angel came out from the alter. I think, therefore, that the KJV is correct in its assumption that this must be the voice of an angel.
8 And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.
The fourth trumpet (Revelation 8:12), also affected the sun. Yet, it darkened a third of the sun, along with the moon and stars.
9 And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.
Isaiah says that the sun will be seven times hotter than normal, though that is most likely symbolic rather than literal (Isaiah 30:25-28). Even in the face of God’s judgment, the wicked refuse to turn away from their wickedness.
10 And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain,
This is referring to the power and authority of the beast-kingdom, not to the destruction of Babylon, the headquarters of the Antichrist, which is portrayed in chapters 17 and 18. The destruction of Babylon occurs during the seventh bowl, as we shall see in verses 17-19. (See also- Isaiah 8:19-22) At the fifth trumpet (Revelation 9:1-11), the demonic locusts were released.
11 And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.
12 And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.
At this point, chronologically, Jesus has come to earth to claim His kingdom, believers have been raptured and resurrected, the wrath of God is being poured out on the wicked, and now Satan will gather his followers for the great battle of Armageddon. The sixth trumpet also affected the river Euphrates, and led to the deaths of a third of mankind. There is no mention of how many die at Armageddon, but the following verses show that many will remain.
13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
From the mouths of Satan, the beast-kingdom, false prophet. Not from the mouth of the Antichrist. The three unclean spirits come from Satan and his two world organizations (Revelation 13).
14 For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
We saw, in Revelation 3:3, that “come as a thief” is referring to the wrath of God. (See also- Mark 13:33-37; 1 Thessalonians 5:2-10)
16 And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
The three evil spirits gather the armies together. But it is God who prepared the way so they could go meet their doom. (See also- Joel 3:9-16)
17 And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.
18 And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.
There were great earthquakes at the sixth seal, at the giving of the seven trumpets, at the resurrection of the two witnesses, and at the seventh trumpet. This one, however, is unparalleled in all history.
19 And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.
The great city was identified in Revelation 11:8 as Jerusalem. Chapters 17 and 18 will give more details of its judgment.
20 And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.
Unlike the earthquakes in which we are familiar, this one is worldwide. (See also- Zechariah 13:7-14:21). At the sixth seal, every island and mountain were moved, but they did not disappear.
21 And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.
There is some debate as to the weight of a talent, but most suggest that it is about 75 pounds.