Chapter 16 of Revelations: Seven Bowls and Armageddon

CloudsBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

“Pour out your wrath on the nations that know you not, and on the peoples that call not on your name,

for they have devoured Jacob; they have devoured him and consumed him,

and have laid waste his habitation” (Jer 10:25).

Where God’s wrath is in view, there is normally a hardened heart. Who has a hardened heart here in Revelation?

Revelation 16 is all about God’s wrath and we know it is important because normally when the Bible repeats important topics. The seven bowls in judgment parallel the seven trumpets that we saw earlier in Revelation 8-10 and both reiterate the plagues on Egypt seen in Exodus (7-10). In each case, the parallelism is in the object of wrath: earth, sea, rivers, sun, realm of the wicked, the Euphrates, and the world.

For example, the first bowl is a plague on the earth. Earlier we read: The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth (Rev 8:7). Now we read: So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image (Rev 16:2). In Exodus we read: Then the LORD said to Moses, Stretch out your hand toward heaven, so that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, on man and beast and every plant of the field, in the land of Egypt (Exod 9:22).

The other topic in Revelation 16 that generates much discussion is the battle at Armageddon. The problem is that Armageddon is mentioned nowhere else in scripture. The Hebrew suggests a reference to Har Mageddon which means Mount Mageddon. Two prominent interpretations are often cited.

First, several OT passages mention the battle in the plain of Megiddo—old Hebrew leaves out the vowels so the spelling is the same as Mageddon. Because the righteous King Josiah was killed there, it would poetic justice to have Satan’s armies defeated there (I Chr 35:22-23).

The problem that a plain is not a mount suggests a subtler translation of the Greek transliteration of Armageddon as the Mount of Assembly ( הַר־מוֹעֵ֖ד (Isa 14:13 WTT)) or, in other words, God’s holy mountain, Mount Zion or Jerusalem. This interpretation is interesting because God’s holy mountain is attacked by Satan, the king of the pit referenced in Revelation 9:11P1F2P. Thus, the parallelism between the trumpets and the bowls includes an interesting twist.

In Exodus, Pharaoh’s harden heart that is the target of God’s wrath (Exod 7:3-4). If a hardened heart brings wrath, how do we acquire a softened heart and keep it soft?

Object Trumpets Bowls Exodus

1 Earth Rev 8:7 Rev 16:2 Exod 9:22
2 Sea Rev 8:8 Rev 16:3 Exod 7:17
3 Rivers Rev 8:9 Rev 16:4 Exod 7:17
4 Sun Rev 8:12 Rev 16:8 Exod 10:21
5 Realm Rev 9:1 Rev 16:10 Exod 10:4
6 Euphrates Rev 9:13-14 Rev 16:12 Exod 8:2
7 World Rev 10:7 Rev 16:17 Exod 9:22, 19:16-19


Beale, G.K. 1999. The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Book of Revelations. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Pages 808-810


  1. What prompts the angels to begin pouring the bowls? (v 1)
  2. Who is the beast? (Rev 13:1-2, 11)a.Where is he from? (Rev 11:7) b. What is his mark? (Rev 13:16-18; 14:9-11) c. Who opposes the beast? (v 1)
  3. Who are the unclean spirits? (vv 13-14) What do they look like?
  4. What is verse 15? (Matt 24:43)
  5. How do we understand Armageddon (v 16)
  6. What happens after the seventh bowl is poured out?
  7. What happens in verses 18-21?

Chapter 16 of Revelations: Seven Bowls and Armageddon

Also see:

Chapter 15 of Revelation: Heavenly Songs 

Chapter 1: Alpha and Omega 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

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