Seventh Bowl of Wrath

Synopsis - The seventh “bowl of Wrath” produces the final overthrow of Babylon, the Great CityRevelation 16:17-21


Lightning over city - Photo by Krzysztof Kotkowicz on Unspla
Krzysztof Kotkowicz on Unsplash
The seventh “bowl of wrath” anticipates the fuller description of the judgment and destruction of end-time “Babylon” in chapters 17 and 18 of Revelation. The primary Old Testament background behind this “bowl” is the plague of hail inflicted at the word of Moses on ancient Egypt. The emptying of the contents of this bowl “upon the air” prepares for the “hail” with which this last “plague” concludes - (Exodus 9:22-34).
  • (Revelation 16:17-21) – “And the seventh poured out his bowl upon the air; and there came forth a great voice out of the temple, from the throne, saying, It is done: and there were flashes of lightning, and voices, and thunders; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since there were men upon the earth, so great an earthquake, so mighty. And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and Babylon the great was remembered in the sight of God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And great hail, every stone about the weight of a talent, cometh down out of heaven upon men: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof is exceeding great.
  • (Exodus 9:22-23) – “And Yahweh said unto Moses, Stretch forth thy hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, upon man, and upon beast, and upon every herb of the field, throughout the land of EgyptAnd Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and Jehovah sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down unto the earth; and Yahweh rained hail upon the land of Egypt.”
A “great” voice from the Throne declared - “It is done!” With the “seventh bowl,” the final judgment of God against “Babylon” is consummated. The word “great” occurs seven times in this paragraph, and the number ‘7’ in Revelation symbolizes completion. The sevenfold repetition of “great” stresses the finality of this last plague; it brings the entire series of the “last plagues” to completion.

The “voice” from the Throne parallels the “great voice out of the throne” heard after the “Great White Throne of Judgment” when John saw “New Jerusalem” descending to the earth. With the completion of the “wrath of God” the existing creation will be replaced by the “New Heavens and the New Earth” - The promised redemption of the Cosmos:
  • (Revelation 21:3-6) – “And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them, and be their Godand he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed awayAnd he that sits on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he says, Write: for these words are faithful and true. And he said unto me, It is done!”
The “flashes of lightning, voices, and claps of thunder” allude to the story of Israel gathered before Mount Sinai in the Wilderness where similar phenomena accompanied the presence of Yahweh. Previously in Revelation, the same description was employed in the visions of the Throne, the seventh seal, and the seventh trumpet. When the seventh trumpet sounded, these manifestations accompanied the final judgment when a voice also declared - “It is finished!” - (Exodus 19:16-18, Revelation 4:58:5, 11:19).

The description of the final great earthquake - “Such as was not since there were men upon the earth, so great an earthquake, so mighty” - Alludes to two Old Testament passages:
  • (Exodus 9:18) – “Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as has not been in Egypt since the day it was founded even until now.”
  • (Daniel 12:1-2) – “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who stands for the children of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the bookAnd many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
The book of Daniel described the future tribulation when God would deliver and resurrect faithful martyrs and the wicked, the latter for “reproach and everlasting shame.” This verbal link demonstrates that the “seventh bowl” points to the final judgment at the end of the age, and to the preparation for the arrival of the New Heaven and Earth.

The great earthquake caused islands to “flee away and mountains not to be found.” This also occurred in the sixth seal, the “day of the wrath of the Lamb.” The same “great earthquake” was portrayed also when the “seventh trumpet” sounded - (“There were flashes of lightning, and voices, and thunders, and an earthquake, and great hail” – Revelation 6:17-21, 11:18-19).

The same description occurs also in at the Great White Throne of Judgment. When God is seated - “The earth and the heaven fled from his face and place was not found for them.” The verbal parallels indicate the same final event is in view, not to multiple “final” Judgments executed at different points in time - (Revelation 20:11).

The several verbal overlaps at the end of the series of seals, trumpets, and bowls demonstrate that the three sevenfold series are not in chronological sequence - All three culminate in the final judgment. The cosmic chaos and terrestrial upheaval at the end of each series point to the cessation of the existing created order and anticipate its replacement by the New Creation - (Compare - 2 Peter 3:8-12).

The description - “Babylon the Great” - is derived from the book of Daniel. In response to the boast pf King Nebuchadnezzar, God intervened to remove his sovereignty for a period of “season seasons.” The clause is used here to stress that end-time “Babylon” has the same kind of arrogance and presumptuousness as its ancient predecessor:
  • (Daniel 4:30-31) – “The king spoke and said, Is not this Babylon the great which I myself have built as the home of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the dignity of my majesty? While yet the word was in the mouth of the king, a voice out of the heavens fell, Unto thee is it said, O Nebuchadnezzar the king, the kingdom has departed from you.”
The “great hail” descended on all the nations of the earth, not on ancient Egypt. The hail is compared to “talents coming down out of heaven upon mankind” (anthrōpous). The description parallels the one given in the assault by “Gog and Magog” at the end of the thousand years - “Fire came down out of heaven and devoured” the “nations from the four corners of the earth” that were gathered to attack the “camp of the saints” - (Revelation 20:8).

Thus, the draining of the “seventh bowl” anticipates and prepares for the fuller judgment of Babylon described in the next two chapters of the book of Revelation.

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