corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Revelation 16



Other Authors
Verses 1-21

The First Bowl Poured Out

(vv. 1-2)

A great voice from the temple now commands the execution of judgment.

Grace has been patient; justice has not been hasty, but is to be apportioned out precisely according the measure of guilt. Yet when it comes, it cannot spare: it will be swift, unerring, awesome. The first angel pours out his bowl on the earth with a resulting loathsome and grievous sore upon those who receive the mark of the beast and who worship his image (Revelation 13:15-16). Since the image is set up at the middle of the week of seven years, the bowl judgments begin after this. This sore is worse than a mere physical sore. Note that it is singular (not sores), for it represents a general moral condition everywhere by which people are affected: it is the breaking out of the inward corruption that has moved people in their defiance of God. Their moral and spiritual state will be loathsome and repulsive. This condition is exposed by God's judicial action. It reminds us of the plague of boils upon the Egyptians in Moses' day when the Egyptian magicians could not stand before Moses because they themselves were afflicted (Exodus 9:10-11).

The Second Bowl Poured Out


The second bowl is poured on the sea which became as the blood of a dead person. Death claimed every living thing. This is not blood that has been shed, but blood still in the body of one who has died. This speaks of the putrid stagnation of death which affects the Gentile nations. They have refused the truth of the gospel of grace and become like Nabal, the husband of Abigail, of whom it is recorded when told of his having been nearly killed by the hand of David, "his heart died within him and he became as a stone" (1 Samuel 25:37-38). Because man wilfully hardens himself against God, God eventually judicially (governmentally) hardens man's heart so that he is impervious to the grace of God: he becomes dead while he lives.

The Third Bowl Poured Out

(vv. 4-7)

The poured out bowl of the third angel reminds us of Moses turning the water of the Nile River into blood (Exodus 7:20). Rivers and fountains, sources of refreshment, are turned into death's corruption. Again, this is not literal, but indicates that whatever remains of "religion" will have no refreshment in it whatever, but being totally given up to Satan's falsehood, will exude only the corruption of spiritual death.

God's judgment has thus turned man's false religion into the corruption that is its actual character, exposing it for what it is, and the angel of the waters absolutely justifies God in this. It is a perfectly righteous judgment because those who propagate the religion of falsehood and idol worship are guilty of shedding the blood of saints and prophets. They merit the resulting judgment of being given blood to drink, again speaking of their own blood being required.

The Fourth Bowl Poured Out

(vv. 8-9)

The fourth angel's bowl is poured on the sun, and men are scorched with fire (vv. 8-9). The sun, the supreme source of light, heat and blessing, is a marvellous friend, but can be a relentless enemy in a desert land. This plague again is worse than literal heat: it is God's burning anger against man's defiant rebellion. We have seen before the sun turned into darkness (Revelation 6:12), speaking of the light of God withdrawn because of man's "apostasy," man's complete giving up the truth of God. The two conditions of the sun can be true at the same time only in a spiritual sense, not literally.

People even today recognize that God is dealing with them, for there are many inflictions that they designate as "acts of God," but they don't honor Him and they won't at this later time either. Rather, they will blaspheme the God of heaven. What folly to think that they can defy God and prosper! Their foolish pride keeps them from repenting.

The Fifth Bowl Poured Out

(vv. 10-11)

The fifth angel pours his bowl upon the throne of the Beast. This is the Beast from the land, the political military leader who has his throne over the revived Roman empire. His kingdom became darkened. This is spiritual and moral darkness. The Beast and his followers have chosen darkness rather than light. Therefore, God afflicts them with more intense darkness that brings with it such pain as to cause people to chew their tongues. This is surely a warning of the more awful darkness of eternal judgment that will engulf those who do not repent.

However, no repentance is seen here at all. Rather than having sense enough to acknowledge their sins before God and seek His mercy, they blaspheme the God of heaven. Their pains and sores ought to make them cry to God for mercy, but instead they only cry out against their great Creator.

The Sixth Bowl Poured Out

(v. 12)

The pouring out of the sixth bowl embraces a wide scope. It is poured upon the Euphrates River, drying up its waters. This does not appear to be literal, but refers to God's opening the way for the kings of the East. The Euphrates River is a natural dividing line between Israel and the East, just as it is also a dividing line between Israel and the King of the North. Revelation 9:14 mentions the Euphrates where the loosing of four angels speaks of God's loosing the Assyrian, the King of the North, to invade Israel. At that time the King of the North will come against Israel like a whirlwind and will "overflow them and pass through" (Daniel 11:40). After causing terrible desolation in the land of Israel, he will continue down to Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia, and bring those nations into subjection (Daniel 11:42-43).

Then "news from the east and the north shall trouble him" (v. 44) and he will rush back to Jerusalem. The "news from the east" seems to refer to the kings of the East in motion,- perhaps just what we read of here in Revelation 16:12. The King of the North considers the East a challenge to him, as he also considers news from the north a challenge. Israel will be north from him at that time since he has invaded North African nations, and the Beast and his armies will be coming to Armageddon at the same time in order to help Israel against the King of the North. This movement of the Beast and his armies is likely the news from the north that reaches the ears of the King of the North while in Africa. He will come back to Jerusalem when the Beast and his Western-allied armies and other armies with them will be massing in the valley of Armageddon, about 60 to 80 miles north of Jerusalem.

While the way of the kings of the East has been prepared, we do not read of what significance they are in the actual conflicts. Since they are found in connection with the sixth bowl, the context seems to connect them with being gathered by the spirits of demons to the place called Armageddon, where the western European armies will gather under the Beast. But I don't know of any scripture that speaks directly of the kings of the East coming either to Armageddon or to Jerusalem.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Revelation 16:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. 1897-1910.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology