Seven Bowls - Overview

Chapter 15 introduces the seven angels who unleash the “seven last plagues on the earth,” and chapter 16 describes their effects. These plagues are labeled “last” because they complete God’s “wrath.” The “seven bowls” comprise the third sevenfold series of the book. Each series concludes with “flashes of lightning, voices, and claps of thunder.”

The “seven bowls” use images from the Exodus story, including the ten plagues of Egypt, Israel’s exodus, the overthrow of Pharaoh in the Red Sea, the “Song of Moses,” and the “Tent of Testimony” in the wilderness, and each of the “plagues” corresponds to one or more of the Egyptian plagues.

The targets of the “plagues” include the “inhabitants of the earth” that take the “mark of the Beast,” the political authority of the “Beast,” and the “great city, Babylon.”

The “seven last plagues” refers to their literary, not their chronological sequence.  They are the “last ones” because they complete God’s “wrath.” The destruction unleashed previously by the “seven trumpets” was partial, but that of the “seven bowls” is total.

The punishments of the “inhabitants of the earth” and “Babylon” announced in chapter 14 are detailed and enacted in chapter 16 by the “seven bowls of wrath”:

  • The hour of judgment is come.”
  • Fallen is Babylon the great.”
  • If any man worships the beast and receives a mark on his forehead, he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God.”


The first paragraph is transitional and introduces the “bowls of wrath.” It concludes the literary unit that began after the “seventh trumpet” sounded - (Revelation 11:15-19, 12:1, 15:1-4).

The series of “bowls” is the final segment of the larger literary unit, which consists of seven visions. The commencement of each vision is marked by the formula, “and I saw,” or, “and behold”:

  • The Dragon’s war against the woman and “her seed” - (12:1-17).
  • The “Beast from the sea” - (13:1-10).
  • The “Beast from the earth” - (13:11-18).
  • The Lamb and the 144,000 “males” on Mount Zion - (14:1-5).
  • Three angels announce the impending judgment - (14:6-13).
  • The final judgment and the Son of Man’s “harvest” - (14:14-20).
  • The “seven bowls of wrath” - (15:1-16:21).

The “seven trumpets” and “seven bowls” are parallel.  In both, the first four judgments affect the earth, sea, fresh water supplies, and heavenly bodies, the fifth judgment causes darkness and pain, the sixth judgment unleashes malevolent hordes from beyond the Euphrates River, and the seventh concludes with the final judgment. Both series use language from the plagues of Egypt.

Chapter 15 is structurally parallel to the “seventh seal,” which introduced the seven angels with the “seven trumpets.” Before the angels began to sound, a worship scene ensued in preparation for the sounding of the “seven trumpets.” The “prayers of the saints” were offered on the “golden altar,” then the angel hurled fire from the altar onto the earth, resulting in “claps of thunders and voices and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.”

Likewise, in chapter 15, the victorious saints “sing the song of Moses and the Lamb” before the “seven angels” are released to empty the contents of their bowls - (Revelation 8:1-6).

And there are structural parallels between the “seven seals” and the “seven bowls of wrath.” In both series, the first four “seals” or “bowls” form a distinct group.

In the “fifth seal,” the martyrs “under the altar” plead with God for vindication against the “inhabitants of the earth.” In the “fifth bowl,” the “inhabitants of the earth” are judged and curse God in response. The “sixth seal ushers in the day of the “wrath of the Lamb and of the one who sits on the throne.” Likewise, the “sixth bowl of wrath” results in the “battle of that great day of God the Almighty.”

The “seventh seal” produces a “half hour of silence in heaven,” followed by “voices, claps of thunder, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.” Likewise, the “seventh bowl” causes the “great voice from the sanctuary of heaven” to declare, “It is finished,” which is followed by “claps of thunder, flashes of lightning, and a great earthquake.”

The thrice repeated series of thunder, lightning, voices, and the great earthquake demonstrate that all three series terminate at the same point.


The “seven bowls of wrath” conclude when a “great voice from the sanctuary of the heavens” declares, “It is finished!” This is followed by the overthrow of the “great city, Babylon” and the “cities of the nations,” accompanied by a “great earthquake” and “great hail.”

Likewise, the “seven trumpets” conclude when “great voices in the heaven” declares the victory of the “Lamb” over the “kingdoms of the world” and the time of judgment, all followed by “flashes of lightning and voices, and claps of thunders and an earthquake and great hail.”

The “great hail” is the common element added to the thunder, lightning, and voices in both the “seven trumpets” and the “seven bowls of wrath” series.

When the seventh angel empties the “seventh bowl of wrath,” end-time “Babylon” falls, and “EVERY ISLAND FLEES, AND MOUNTAINS are not found.” This and the description of the “GREAT EARTHQUAKE CAME, such as came not since men came upon the earth,” provide verbal links to the opening of the “sixth seal,” the unveiling of the “day of the wrath of the Lamb” when:

  • A GREAT EARTHQUAKE CAME, and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood, and the stars of the heaven fell to the earthas a fig tree casther winter figs, being shaken by a great windand the heavens departed as a scroll rolled up, and EVERY MOUNTAIN AND ISLAND WERE MOVED out of their places.” - (Revelation 6:12-14).

All three series move inexorably to the conclusion - the time of judgment when God overthrows His enemies and vindicates His saints. And each adds new elements to the picture. For example, the “sixth bowl” introduces the attack by “Gog and Magog,” the battle of “Armageddon” – (Revelation 11:7, 12:17, 13:7).

The death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus liberate the people of God from bondage in “Egypt” - (“he freed us from our sins”). At present, the “saints” are in the “wilderness” as they journey to the greater “promised land” in “New Jerusalem.”

In the interim, the saints are summoned to persevere through whatever comes, bearing faithful witness along the way while awaiting God’s final victory over the “Dragon,” the “beast from the sea,” the “False Prophet,” and end-time “Babylon.”


Destruction of Babylon

Gog and Magog