Revelation 16:1-21 – The Seven Bowls


Revelation 16:1-21


The last set of plagues ends with the same result: fear, but no repentance.


The seven bowls of plagues follow the familiar pattern of the other two. The plagues of the seven bowls, however, contain a stronger resonance with the plagues of Egypt, a resonance reinforced by the reference to the song of Moses (Revelation 15:1). The people are covered in sores (16:2; Exodus 9:10). The rivers are turned to blood (16:4; Exodus 7:17). There is darkness over the land (16:10; Exodus 10:22). Frogs play a role in both. In Exodus, they are literal frogs and one of the plagues (Exodus 8:6), but in Revelation, they are demon frogs, sent by the beast to rally his troops for the battle at Harmageddon (16:13). Finally, there is hail (16:21; Exodus 9:18). The parallels with the Exodus plagues reinforce the same point: plagues do not cause repentance; they only harden hearts. 

The cycle of the seven bowls differs from the previous two cycles in two key features. One, there is no pause for praise between the sixth and seventh bowls. Instead, the praise comes before the plagues even start (see Revelation 15:1-8 – Praise before Plagues). Two, the seventh bowl does not release a surprise or anticlimax. Instead, it releases the worst plague of all, earthquakes, thunder, lightning, and giant hail. This great and terrible plague serves to summarize all of the others. Despite its ferocity, it only causes people to curse God (16:21). Over and over, John repeats the same point. Plagues, no matter how fearsome, cannot cause faith.