The Messianic Judgments, 6:1-16:21

4. The judgment of the seven bowls, 15:5-16:21

ii] The outpouring of the first four bowls


The judgment of the bowls begins with a command from the temple instructing the first angel to pour out his bowl of divine wrath. This entails a judgment on the land of a disease infecting all those who carry the mark of the beast. The second angel pours out his bowl on the sea, turning the sea into blood and killing every living thing in it. The third angel pours out his bowl on the rivers and springs and they too turn into blood. The the fourth angel pours out his bowl on the sun which then explodes in fire, searing with intense heat.


The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe.


i] Context: See 15:5-8.


ii] Background: See 1:1-8.


iii] Structure: The outpouring of the first four bowls:

The judgment of the seven bowls:

The angels receive their orders, v1;

The first judgment - the earth, v2;

The second judgment - the sea, v3;

The third judgment - the rivers and springs, v4;

A hymn of divine justice, v5-7;

The fourth judgment - the sun, v8-9.


iv] Interpretation:

The interrelation between the judgment of the seven bowls and that of the seals and trumpets is certainly not clear in time terms. Most commentators agree that they speak of a single event, the day of judgment, the Great Day of the Lord, although the seals and trumpets carry a sense of warning about them, a touch of the not yet, of inaugurated eschatology, whereas the bowls emphasize the now of realized eschatology - the judgement is complete, not partial, and covers the whole of creation; See The Three Judgments of the Seven Plagues, 15:5-8. Although the judgment is horrific, it is appropriate, an "appropriate response to the evil that results from the rejection of God's rule and the persecution of those who witness to that rule", Boring. So, John now takes us to the eschaton, "the end."

The first judgment falls on the earth and takes out all those who carry the mark of the beast. They are the ones who worship the beast, who have given themselves to the ideology of the secular city, and by implication, the red dragon / Satan; they are the unbelieving ones.

The second and third judgments fall on the sea and "waters". The judgment is complete, and in a hymn sung by the third angel, we are told that the judgments are just; "just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was. "It is what they deserve", "for they have shed the blood of saints and prophets" - persecution instigated by the associats of the beast, the secular city / Babylon.

The fourth judgment energizes the power of the sun. In this judgment the sun bursts into a blazing heat which scorches the children of the beast, but there is no repentance as the terrible day engulfs them. There is no repentance on the Day of the Lord, but even if there was, the citizens of Babylon would choose to curse God rather than glorify him.


The danger of a literal reading of the apocalyptic metaphor of shedding and drinking blood. Given that the judgment is complete, some commentators (eg., Blount) note that those with the mark of God and the Lamb, the redeemed, those who persevere in faith / those who conquer, must necessarily be caught up in the horrors of this judgment along with those who have the mark of the beast. This entails a literal reading of an apocalyptic image. John is describing the last day, the day of judgment, the Great Day of the Lord, a day that must be faced by those who have rejected Christ. He crafts numerous images of this day, illustrating over and over again its horror, even describing it as an unfolding horror, but in essence, it is just the end, the day when God says "Game over boys and girls!", a day cut short for the sake of the elect. So, those who are forced to drink the putrified blood of death are those with the mark of the beast, unbelievers, not believers, not the 144,000, 7:3. Yes, the realized nature of eschatology means that believers taste something of the coming judgment in the present moment, even possibly with greater force as the day draws near, but we will not drink the putrified blood of death.

Aune suggests that the drinking of blood represents physical suffering and economic disaster. It is certainly true that we taste these elements of the day of judgment in part today, harbingers of the terrible day to come , but we can't neatly package apocalyptic metaphors of the day of judgment. Drinking the putrified blood of death is but one way John chooses to describe the horror of the coming day. And what is that horror? Is it being forced to drink the undrinkable, or is it to shrivel under a scorching sun (the 4th judgment), or ....? The horror of the day of judgment lies in what is lost. In Christ, through faith, humanity becomes as God, higher than the angels, and yet the majority of those created in the image of God choose to align with a BEAST with an expiry date. Now that's a horror!

Text - 16:1

The outpouring of the first four bowls, v1-9: i] The angels receive their orders, v1. They are to leave the heavenly sanctuary / temple and pour out a pestilence of divine wrath on the creation.

kai "then" - and. Here serving to indicate a step in the narrative.

fwnhV (h) gen. "[I heard] a [loud] voice" - Genitive of direct object after the verb "to hear." The unidentified voice is likely to be that of God, cf., 16:17.

ek "from [the temple]" - expressing source / origin.

legoushV (legw) gen. pres. part. "saying" - The participle may be classified as the complement of the object of the verb "I heard", "a voice saying", as NIV, or adjectival, attributive, "a loud voice which said ..."; "I heard a mighty voice from heaven say to the seven angels", Berkeley, cf., legwn 1:17.

toiV ... aggeloiV (oV) dat. "to the [seven] angels" - Dative of indirect object.

kai "-" - [go] and [pour out the seven bowls]. Coordinate use of the conjunction. Smalley argues it is consecutive here, expressing result, and Aune that it is final, expressing purpose. Mathewson argues that it "simply indicates continuity." Note that both verbs, "go" and "pour out" are present tense. Osborne makes much of their imperfective / durative aspect (an ongoing judgment), while Smalley classifies them as conative / tendential (the action is contemplated / attempted), although if the beginning of the process is in mind we would classify them as ingressive. Imperatives resist such classifications; "the present tense simply looks at the action as a process", Mathewson.

tou qumou (oV) gen. "[God's] wrath" - of the wrath [of god]. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / content; "the seven bowls full of the wrath of God." Possibly "wine" is assumed, in which case "of wrath" is epexegetic / appositional, "full of wine, which is / namely the wrath of God." The verb "to pour out" is used in the LXX of pouring out a libation of wine, Isa.57:6. The genitive of God may be taken as adjectival, possessive, expressing a derivative characteristic, "God's holy anger", or verbal, subjective, the holy anger God enacts against sin. "Wrath" = holy anger, "Divine anger shows outrage at the presence of evil", Koester, although Smalley argues that it is "God's salvfic wrath" (there is no evidence that salvation is the purpose of this divine action).

eiV + acc. "on [the earth]" - to, into [the earth]. Spacial, expressing motion toward.


ii] The first judgment, v2. Like the judgment of the trumpets, the first judgment falls on the earth, but unlike the trumpets, the judgment is universal.

egeneto (ginomai) aor. "broke out" - [and went out the first angel and he poured out the bowl of him into the earth, and a bad sore and evil] became. Aune notes the repeated use of the verb "became" (what came about / happened), cf., v2, 4, 10, .... "And what happened was .....", Cassirer.

epi + acc. "on [the people]" - on [the men]. John's favorite spacial preposition, when followed by a genitive, usually expresses "on, upon", so does he mean something like "over" here? "Then a loathsome and malignant virus attacked those ....." Swete argues that the sores parallel the plague of boils inflected on the Egyptians, Ex.9:11, particularly the magicians. He sees a similar physical punishment falling on the cult leaders of Babylon (Rome etc.), but John is using apocalyptic imagery and so specific applications are unwise.

touV econtaV (ecw) "who had" - the ones having [the mark of the beast and the ones worshipping the image of it]. As with "the ones worshipping / doing obeisance", the participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "men", as NIV.

tou qhriou (on) gen. "[the mark] of the beast" - The genitive is adjectival, probably possessive, expressing a derivative characteristic, or attributive / idiomatic, "the mark which is bestowed by the beast", etc.....

th/ eikoni (wn onoV) dat. "[worshiped its] image" - the image [of it]. Dative of direct object after the participle "worshipping". "All who had taken the mark of the beast and worshipped its image", Peterson.


iii] The second judgment, v3. Like the second judgment of the trumpets, this judgment alludes to the first plague upon Egypt where the river Nile turned to blood, Ex.7:17-21, but unlike the trumpets, its effect is not partial, but complete - "every living thing in the sea died."

wJV "[blood] like" - [and the second angel poured out the bowl of him into the sea, and it became] as, like [blood]. Comparative.

nekrou adj. "that of a dead person" - of a dead person. The adjective serves as a substantive, with the genitive probably ablative, source / origin; "as if from a dead person", ie., the blood is putrified. "Like the blood of a corpse", Barclay.

zwhV (h) gen. "[every] living [thing]" - [and every soul] of life [died]. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "soul / self"; "every living creature."

ta art. "-" - the things [in the sea]. The article serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrase "in the sea" into a substantive standing in apposition to "living creature", "every living creature died, namely, the creatures living in the sea."


iv] The third judgment, v4. As with the second judgment, this judgment alludes to the Egyptian plague where the river Nile turned to blood. In turning to blood, the Nile turned bitter, with famine and economic disaster following on. These consequences are assumed in the Revelation.

twn uJdatwn (wr atoV) gen. "[springs] of water" - [and the third angel poured out the bowl of him into the rivers and the fountains] of the waters [and it became blood]. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, "water springs", Cassirer, or just "springs"; "the third angel poured his bowl on rivers and springs", Peterson. Note that egeneto, "it became", is singular, presumably to harmonize "rivers and springs", the point being that not only did the sea turn to blood, but all the fresh water in the world turned to blood as well.


v] Hymn of divine justice, v5-7. This vindication doxology addresses the danger of God "losing the war of public relations. What kind of crime can possibly be worthy of such total destruction? Can a God who exacts such extreme judgment be just?", Blount. Alluding to the hymn of Moses and the Lamb, 15:2-4, we are reminded that "the divine punishments meted out by God are both just and appropriate", Aune.

tou aggelou (oV) gen. "the angel" - [and i heard] the angel. Genitive of direct object after the verb "to hear."

twn uJdatwn (wn atoV) gen. " in charge of the waters" - of the waters. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / subordination, limiting "angel", as NIV, Cassirer; "who presided over the waters", Barclay; "who has power over the waters", CEV. Is this the same angel who poured his bowl out into / on the waters? Koester argues that he is a different angel, one of the angels in charge of the elements of wind, fire, water, etc., in line with Jewish tradition of the time.

legontoV (legw) gen. pres. part. "say" - saying. Technically the participle is the complement of the object "angel", of the verb "I heard", standing in a double genitive construction, "I heard the angel who is in charge of the waters exclaiming ....", Cassirer. As a matter of form John introduces speech in a vision with the participle "saying"; cf., legwn 1:17.

oJ wn (eimi) pres. part. "you who are" - [you are righteous] the one being. The participle serves as a substantive, nominative standing in apposition to the subject "you".

oJ art. "who [were]" - [and] the one [was, the holy one]. The article serves as a nominalizer turning the imperfect verb to-be hn into a substantive, "the one who was." Again nominative standing in apposition to the subject "you", so also oJ oJsioV, "the holy one." God says of himself that he IS = "I am", and so it is said of him that he is the "one being" = "the who is." John doesn't leave it at that, for God is the God of the past, "the one who was", and also the future, "the one coming", 4:8. Above all, God is "the Holy One", a holiness evident in his just judgments.

oJti "-" - because [these things you judged]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why it can be said of God that he is "righteous, the Holy One, the one who is and who was"; it is because God has given "these judgments." Judgments with respect to what? The following oJti clause, v6, explains. The judgment on those with the mark of the beast, a judgment which entails being made to drink bitter putrified blood, is the consequence of having shed the blood of God's saints and prophets. If this is what John intends then the antecedent of tauta, "these things", is the second and third judgments, the judgments involving blood, or better, just the third, given that we don't drink seawater. Note that Smalley argues for all 7 judgments, Aune for the first three. God is a righteous God because he applies justice in his judgments - "God's judgment is not arbitrary but is give to those who deserve it", Koester.


oJti "for" - that. We are best to follow Osborne who argues that the oJti clause here "expands the judgment of v5b and identifies explicitly what these things were that caused God's mighty hand to fall upon the nations. This is not a separate reason, but clarifies the more ambiguous reason of verse 5:b", ie., it is epexegetic; "That is, they have shed the blood of the saints and prophets and you have given them ......" Contra Smalley who argues that it begins "a new, if related sentence."

aJgiwn (oV) gen. "[they have shed the blood] of your holy people" - [they shed blood] of holy [and prophets]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive. The word "holy" is used of the saints / believers. To shed / pour out blood literally means to commit murder

kai "and" - Following Semitic form the conjunction serves to introduce a main clause following a subordinate clause, cf., Zerwick.

autoiV dat. pro. "[you have given] them" - [you have given blood to drink] to them [they are worthy = deserving of it]. Dative of indirect object. The antecedent is usually the closest referent, but "holy and prophets" is clearly not the antecedent, rather, those given blood to drink, so Aune, those with the mark of the beast. They murdered the redeemed and as a consequence are forced to drink the putrified blood of death. Note that the sense of "they are worthy" is "they got what they deserved", NET.

piein (pinw) aor. inf. "[blood] to drink" - The infinitive is adverbial, expressing purpose; "in order to drink."


tou qusiasthriou (on) gen. "[I heard] the altar" - Variants exist, probably seeking to articulate the assumed ellipsis, "I heard a voice (fwnhn) saying", and "I heard [someone] from (ek) the altar saying", source / origin, or partitive. As it stands "altar" is a genitive of direct object after the verb "to hear", but as indicated by the variants, John probably has in mind something other than the altar speaking. Osborne thinks the someone is an angel, Beale an angel or Christ, Smalley (so also Koester) opts for one of the martyrs under the altar, 6:9-10; "The martyrs demanded that God bring judgment against those who shed their blood", Koester.

legontoV (legw) gen. pres. part. "respond" - saying. The participle serves as the genitive complement of the direct object "the altar", of the verb "I heard", standing in a double genitive construction, although in the Revelation this participle often serves as a finite verb, cf., legwn 1:17; "I heard the altar utter these words."

oJ pantokratwr (wr oroV) "Almighty" - [yes lord, the god,] the almighty. As with oJ qeoV, "God", this noun stands in apposition to "Lord".

sou gen. pro. "[true and just are] your [judgments]" - [true and just are the judgments] of you. The genitive is adjectival, probably possessive, they are His judgments, but the verbal sense of the noun "judgments" suggests that it is verbal, subjective, "the judgments you enact / sentences you impose"; "true and just ("honest and fair", CEV) thy sentences of doom", Moffatt.


vi] The fourth judgment, v8-9. The fourth judgment involves fire, the scorching heat of the sun withering all life. Fire is a standard image of judgment, a judgment which aligns with the plague of fire that fell on Egypt, Ex.9:23. Note how Koester gets tangled in the issue of time by stating that the "traditional penalty for blasphemy was death. It is significant that those who curse God are not killed at this point. There is restraint in divine justice." It is true, that with our God, justice and mercy go hand in hand, yet on the day of judgment, justice, not mercy, applies to those who have refused to accept his offer of forgiveness. John's apocalyptic metaphor for the day of judgment stretches over the judgment of the seals, trumpets and bowls as a blow-by-blow countdown of events of the final day of judgment. From the perspective of realized eschatology it is an inevitable moment in time where the outcome is already determined by a person's standing with God prior to the terrible day. Only from the perspective of inaugurated eschatology, where the nature of that terrible day bleeds into the present and interacts with the Christian Community, is there "restraint in divine justice" for those who repent.

epi + acc. "[poured out his bowl] on [the sun]" - [and the fourth angel poured out the bowl of him] onto [the sun]. The first three bowls were poured eiV + acc, "into", now we have a change in preposition, but there seems no particular reason behind the change.

autw/ dat. pro. "the sun [was allowed]" - [and to scorch men in fire was given] to it / him. Dative of indirect object of the passive verb "to give." The antecedent is probably "the sun". Note that the passive "it was given [to it (the sun) / him (the angel)" is taken to be a divine passive, although John's use of the passive reflects the use of the passive in Daniel, cf., Mounce on this issue.

kaumatisai (kaumatizw) aor. inf. "to scorch" - to scorch [men]. The infinitive serves as a substantive, subject of the verb "to give" = to allow. The infinitive is modified by the adverbial phrase "in/by fire", and it's object is "men"; "to scorch humanity with fire ("its fiery blaze", Phillips) was given to it."

en + dat. "with [fire]" - in [fire]. Instrumental, expressing means; "by fire."


kai "-" - and. Possibly an adverbial use of the conjunction, concessive; "although they were burnt up by the raging heat of the sun, they blasphemed God and refused to repent and give him glory", cf., Boring.

kauma (a atoV) acc. "[they were seared] by the [intense] heat" - [and the men were seared great] heat. The accusative, "great heat", can be classified as a cognate accusative of content, the sense of which is derived from the verb it completes, or more simply as an adverbial accusative of manner; "they were scorched by/with a great scorching" = "they were severely burned", REB.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the name] of God" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive. The "name" represents the person, and when used of God, his authority is in mind; "they cursed the Lord God."

tou econtoV (ecw) gen. pres. part. "who had [control]" - the one having [authority over these plagues]. The participle serves as a substantive introducing a noun clause standing in apposition to "God"; "God, the one who has ultimate authority over these plagues."

epi + acc. "over [these plagues]" - John's favorite spacial preposition, here + acc. to express "over".

douinai (didwmi) aor. inf. "-" - [and did not repent] to give [glory]. The infinitive is adverbial, possibly consecutive, expressing result, "they did not repent and as a result did not give glory to him", so Zerwick, Mathewson, ... but it could be final, expressing purpose, "they did not repent in order that / so that they might give glory to him", so Osborne. The two elements are coordinate, as expressed in the NIV with "and"; they involve the same thing. As Job said, "I glorified God and did not blaspheme". Those marked with the beast refused to change their ways and continued to worship the beast; they blaspheme God rather than glorify him.

autw/ dat. pro. "[glorify] him" - to him. Dative of indirect object.


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