The seven “bowl judgments,” which are God’s final judgments upon the earth, will surpass the seal and trumpet judgments in their severity. It is difficult to believe that there will be any believers on the earth then, as the judgments seem to be world-wide. However, as I mentioned in the previous commentary, John does specify that the first bowl judgment affects those “who had the mark of the beast” (16:2), perhaps implying that there will be some on earth without that mark. Additionally, between the sixth and seventh bowl judgments, and not long before Jesus’ return, He reminds his readers that He is coming like a thief, and states that those who stay awake and keep their clothes are blessed, as they will not be found naked and shamed when He comes (16:15). It would seem odd that He would warn people to remain ready for His coming if no one who believes in Him will be on the earth when He comes.
Although these bowl judgments seem quite severe, God is just in pouring them out, because they will afflict those who will have served the antichrist in the martyrdom of perhaps millions of followers of Christ. Because they “poured out the blood of saints and prophets” (16:6), God will give them blood to drink by turning the water of the sea, rivers and springs into blood. An angel declares, “They deserve it” (16:6).
Twice we read today the report that those who suffer the bowl judgments will not repent of their deeds (16:9, 11), which indicates that they will possess the capacity to repent. They will, however, blaspheme God and seal their doom.
During the fifth bowl judgment, darkness will cover the beast’s kingdom, and its citizens will experience great pain to the degree that they will gnaw their tongues in anguish (16:10). Amos, Nahum and Zephaniah all foretold the time of darkness during the “day of the Lord.” If you have the time, you might want to read Amos 5:18, Nahum 1:6, 8, and Zephaniah 1:15.
The sixth bowl judgment will result in the drying up of the Euphrates River “that the way might be prepared for the kings from the east” (16:12). This will be a preparation for the battle of Armageddon, when, through the divinely-permitted deception of evil spirits, nations will gather for one final battle in the valley of Megiddo, located in central Israel. When the 1,780-mile Euphrates River is dried up, it will give easier access for any nation east or north of Israel to invade.
When the final bowl judgment is poured out, it will result in the greatest earthquake in human history, so that “the cities of the nations” fall (16:19). Imagine all the world’s cities crumbling at the same moment. Zechariah, Haggai, Joel and Isaiah all spoke of a great earthquake during the time of God’s future wrath (Zech. 14:4-5; Hag. 2:6-7; Joel 3:1-16; Is. 24:18-20). John specifically mentions “the great city” being split into three parts as a result of that earthquake, which is apparently “Babylon the Great,” mentioned in the very next sentence as being “remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath” (16:19). It will become even more clear as we read the next two chapters that Babylon is a reference to a very wicked city, the capital of an empire. Which city might it be? Stay tuned!