Bible Study with Jairus

Revelation 16, part 2

Seven Bowls of the Wrath of God


The judgment in the book of Revelation begins with the judgment of the church, then proceeds to the judgment of the world and the judgment of evil spirits. God’s judgment begins with the house of God (1 Peter 4:17), which is why the book begins with the seven letters to the churches. These letters to the churches not only contain words of encouragement, but also pronounce judgment on the churches. Judgment leads to repentance, and repentance leads to forgiveness. However, refusal to repent results in more severe judgment. This is a fundamental principle: judgment should lead to repentance and increased holiness and maturity.


The judgment of the church and its resulting growth leads to the next stage of judgment: judgment of the world. The seven seals and seven trumpets represent God’s judgment of the world, including the judgment of believers. This judgment helps believers detach from the world and offers unbelievers the chance to be saved. As the judgment intensifies with the bowl judgments, God begins his judgment of evil spirits. Our destiny as believers is to judge angels and evil spirits (1 Corinthians 6:3), and only a mature church can judge angels and evil spirits.


The bowl judgments not only serve to execute vengeance on angels and evil spirits, but also to demonstrate the maturity of the church’s spiritual life. When understanding the Book of Revelation, many focus on the timing of the miraculous events, but this is not the central theme. The focus of Revelation is the maturity of the church. The Bible says that believers are called to bear witness to Jesus and testify together about Him. “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). Rather than just focusing on God’s judgment or the astonishing details of a particular vision, we should focus on the extent to which the church and the body of Christ are growing spiritually. The church, as the Bride of Christ, is continually sanctifying itself. When the church sanctifies itself, the world is judged. You can see the truth of this in your individual life. When you reject an invitation to engage in sinful or worldly activities because of your Christian values, you are actually passing judgment on the friends who invited you. They may feel convicted and repent because of your judgment. If they follow the Holy Spirit’s call, they may grow in sanctification. However, if they refuse to repent, they may resent you and continue on the path of sin.


While this is an example from the life of an individual believer, the principle holds true for the collective destiny of humanity portrayed in the Book of Revelation. In the Book of Revelation, the church continually sanctifies itself, while the sinful and unrepentant persist in impurity. Ultimately, the righteous enter eternal life and the presence of God, while the unrepentant face judgment in the lake of fire. The central theme of Revelation is the increasing maturity of the church. When the church matures, she is ready to become Christ’s bride and celebrate the marriage feast of the Lamb. Only then will the New Jerusalem, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband, come down from heaven. If we ignore the theme of the maturing bride of Christ, the entire Book of Revelation is pointless. When reading Revelation, we should focus less on the disasters and beasts and more on our own personal growth and maturity.

The Significance of the Seven Bowls from the Perspective of the Spiritual Growth of the Body of Christ


In our last devotional, we learned that the body of Christ must mature to a point where it can move from the outer court to the Holy Place and eventually the Holy of Holies, so the “sanctuary of the tent of witness” can be opened (Revelation 15:5). After the completion of His redemptive work on the cross, Jesus, the High Priest, tore the veil in the earthly temple from top to bottom. When he opened the veil that separated the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, this symbolized that we have access to God through the redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ on the cross. We can now boldly enter the Holy of Holies through the precious blood of Jesus (Hebrews 4:16).


However, just because Jesus opened the way to God does not mean that everyone has entered the Holy of Holies. To enter the Holy of Holies, we must first accept the redemption of Jesus Christ. Secondly, we must live in holiness, for without holiness no one can see God (Hebrews 12:14). God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).


After the heavenly sanctuary was opened, the seven angels who would administer the seven plagues came out of the temple (Revelation 15:6). They were dressed in clean, bright linen (like a bride), with golden sashes around their chests (like the Lord wore). One of the four living creatures handed the seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God to the seven angels (Revelation 15:7).


The four living creatures are either angels or some other type of created being that live near God’s throne. Revelation 4:6 says, “Around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures.” The book of Ezekiel also describes the four living creatures (Ezekiel 1:5-25) that Ezekiel saw in his vision of God (Ezekiel 1:1). Evidently, the four living creatures serve God around His throne, which is located inside the heavenly Holy of Holies. In Revelation 4, John saw a vision of God’s throne and the four living creatures. In that vision, John saw that the One seated on the throne held a scroll that no one could open (Revelation 5:1-4). John wept because no one was found worthy to open the scroll, but the elders told him that the Lamb of God could open the scroll. Only Jesus Christ could open God’s scroll.


And only the bride of Jesus Christ, the mature Church, could unveil God’s final judgment on angels and evil spirits. Paul told the Corinthian believers that our destiny was to judge angels. Revelation 5 discusses the “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Revelation 5:8). While the victory of Jesus Christ is the ultimate source of power for the events in Revelation, the prayers of the saints play a significant role in the unfolding of the judgments on the church, the world, and evil spirits. These events come from God’s authority and reign, but the prayers of the saints facilitate and expedite the progress of God’s work. When reading Revelation, it is essential to understand not only God’s authoritative work from the throne, but also the power of the prayers of Jesus’ witnesses.


The Glory of God and Its Relationship To Deliverance Ministry


In 2015, I attended a special meeting seeking the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in my life. During that gathering, I personally experienced the filling of the Holy Spirit. Along with two other brothers, I was praying that when the Holy Spirit was poured upon me, I would not be able to stand. When we experienced the Holy Spirit’s power, we staggered backward and fell on the chairs behind us. The filling of the Holy Spirit and God’s glory, whether in individual experiences or in tents, temples, and heavenly places, typically leads to the same result – people being unable to stand as they enter the presence of God (15:8). In this particular meeting, before the two brothers and I were filled with the Holy Spirit, we prayed for an African American sister. I witnessed the Holy Spirit being continuously poured out upon her, and she began coughing as an evil spirit was being cast out. Then, the Holy Spirit continued to fill her until she could no longer stand. She collapsed on the ground. Wow! This was the first time I had witnessed firsthand a person being delivered from an evil spirit and simultaneously being filled with the Holy Spirit!


The image described at the end of Revelation 15 is similar to what I witnessed with this sister. It involves casting out demons from a person and inviting the Holy Spirit to fill them. The difference is that what I saw in this sister was a small-scale deliverance ministry, while in Revelation 15 and 16, we read of a large-scale, cosmic deliverance ministry. All evil spirits and demons will be cast out of their hiding places in people, animals, and other created beings and things. This is because when God’s bride matures, the glory of God’s sons will be revealed. At that time, all created things will be liberated from the bondage of corruption and enjoy the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:21). In this verse, Paul says that not only humanity has been corrupted by Satan’s betrayal and Adam’s sin; all created beings have been corrupted. They are all waiting for God’s sons to be revealed in glory. When believers become the bride of the Lord, after the wedding feast is over and the bride is sitting on the throne with the Lord, all things will be released from corruption.


The seven disasters of the seven bowls recorded in Revelation 16 represent a cosmic-scale deliverance ministry. This is closely connected to the end of Revelation 15, where God’s glory fills the temple. Only God’s glory can expose and cast out demons. The seven bowls achieve this objective by judging and exposing the evil spirits that have dominated and corrupted all things. After this final cleansing, God’s glory will fill the heavens and the earth; the old heavens and earth will pass away, and the new heavens and earth will come.


The Evil Spirits Are Cast Out in the Seven Bowl Judgments


When God sent the ten plagues upon Egypt, he not only judged the Egyptians and the natural elements like the Nile River, but also the evil spirits behind them. Similarly, the seven bowl judgments will not only judge certain elements of the natural world but also the evil spirits lurking behind these elements. Understanding this principle helps us comprehend why God pours out His seven bowls of wrath. These evil spirits have corrupted all things, killing countless people. They are covered in the blood of saints, and many created beings have been harmed at their hands. Let’s examine each of the seven bowls and the evil spirits they are designed to judge.


The first angel pours out the first bowl judgment on the earth to judge the ground which is contaminated by Satan and evil spirits. The earth is filled with human beings, so the judgment affects them as well. When the first bowl is poured out, “harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image” (16:2). Although this judgment is directed at the earth, the people on the earth are affected as well, especially those who worship the beast. Are there evil spirits on the earth? Definitely. Evil spirits live on Earth as well as in the bottomless pit below. It is likely that the people on earth, especially those who worship the beast, are indwelt by evil spirits.


As I mentioned before, after the harvest in Revelation 14 and the victory on the sea of glass in Revelation 15, there is no record of anyone repenting. Instead, Revelation 15 says that the people did not repent, even when they were scorched with intense heat or had to bite their tongues for pain. Instead of repenting, they blasphemed God of heaven (16:9-10). Perhaps there are no righteous people left on earth because those who did not worship the beast were already martyred as described in chapters 14 and 15. Perhaps the survivors were all worshipers of the beast.


At this point, God no longer had mercy on the earth but executed severe judgment. God told Abraham that if there were ten righteous people in Sodom, He would not destroy the city for their sake. In Matthew 24, Jesus tells us, “And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Matthew 24:22). Revelation 7 describes four angels with the authority to harm the earth and sea, but another angel stops them, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads” (Revelation 7:3). These servants are the 144,000, who are mostly the same group of people mentioned in Revelation 15. A process is involved as God seals them, calls them, and takes them to heaven. The angel’s intervention shows that God was shortening the days they would have to suffer. God’s servants were saved, and God’s mercy towards the earth has been replaced by severe judgment.


The second bowl is poured into the sea, turning it into blood like that of a corpse, and every living creature in the sea dies (16:3). There may be many evil spirits in the sea. The Old Testament mentions the sea monster Rahab (Job 9:13), a dragon standing on the shore of the sea (Revelation 12:18), and a beast rising out of the sea (13:1). Daniel also saw in a vision of four great beasts coming up from the sea (Daniel 7:2). Jesus allowed a legion of demons to enter a herd of pigs, which then drowned in the sea (Matthew 8:32). Moreover, in the parable of Jesus, unclean spirits fail to seek rest in waterless places (Matthew 12:43). These accounts clearly indicate that many evil spirits dwell in the sea and water.


The third bowl is poured into the rivers and springs of water, and the water turns into blood. This judgment is perhaps similar to the second bowl judgment. After this judgment, the angel in charge of the waters declares that God’s judgment is just because they have shed the blood of the saints and prophets (16:4-5). Since there are no people in the water, it is plausible to conclude that God’s judgment on the water is a judgment against evil spirits.


In that moment, a voice comes from the altar saying, “Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments” (16:7). This echoes the words of the conquerors beside the sea of glass, and satisfies the plea of the saints under the altar mentioned in the fifth seal in Revelation 15.


The fourth bowl is poured upon the sun, which scorches people with intense fire. This is a judgment on the sun and also on people. I do not know if there are evil spirits in the sun, but people still refuse to repent; instead, they blaspheme God.


The fifth bowl is poured on the throne of the beast, definitely a judgment on the evil spirits because the beast is an evil spirit. This bowl also judges unrepentant people. They refuse to repent, even as they gnaw their tongues because of the painful sores.


The sixth bowl is poured on the great river Euphrates, and its waters dry up to prepare the way for the kings from the east. I believe this is still a judgment on evil spirits because three unclean spirits come out of the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophets to deceive the kings of the earth, gathering them for the great battle on the day of God Almighty (14). Jesus says he is coming like a thief (vs. 15). Jesus can now return because the bride is mature and ready to get married. The bride, who is also the Lord’s army, will defeat all evil spirits and kings on the earth on that great day. This judgment helps lure the enemies into a strategic position.


The seventh bowl is poured into the air, and a voice comes from the throne, saying, “It is done!” (16:17). What is done? When Jesus was crucified, He said, “It is finished” because He accomplished God’s plan of redemption. But what is finished here? It is God’s plan that is completed, which is to say that all things work together, God’s sons enter into His glory, and the bride of Christ matures.


At that time, a great earthquake will occur, greater than any that has happened before. God also judges Babylon for being a harlot, a counterfeit of the bride, and the spouse of Satan. Therefore, in God’s final judgment, He starts with Babylon, then the beast and the false prophets, and finishes with Satan. This is like cutting down a tree, starting with branches and leaves, then the trunk, and finishing with the roots. We will delve into this insight further in the study of Revelation 18.