The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2

Page 118

The Seven Last Judgments

(Revelation 16)

     The seven chosen angels have been selected, appointed, and equipped as God’s final messengers of judgment.  The last half of the seven-year tribulation period is getting under way and rebellious men and women still can avail themselves of God’s saving grace, even though few will do so.  The Jewish remnant has fled to the wilderness, and the fierce purges of the beast are under way.  Those who are refusing to be branded with the mark of the beast are fleeing for their lives, but multitudes are being caught and executed.  The long drought and famine are still plaguing the earth, and food supplies are critically short.  This is the world scene as the plagues recorded in Revelation 16 get under way.

Overflowing Bowls of Wrath

     The seven angels not only have the ability and authority to impose seven unprecedented plagues on the earth, but also their great bowls have been filled to overflowing with the wrath of God.  That is, the plagues are no longer primarily for the purpose of conviction and conversion but are a pure expression of the vengeance of a holy God.

Revelation 16:1.     And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.

     The angels are given their final marching orders, as it were, signaling, by a great voice rolling out of the heavenly temple itself, the final attack of God on the earth.  This voice can be nothing less than that of Deity, the same as the “great voice” which John heard at the beginning (Revelation 1:10).  It is the voice of the glorified Christ, and it is He who is full of wrath.  Again and again He has spoken to men in mercy and love, offering forgiveness and salvation, but finally His cup of wrath is full, and it must overflow.

     No longer will God’s wrath be restrained.  With no further delay, the bowls of wrath must be poured out and the awful plagues must infest the earth.  Yet each of the plagues, though deadly and painful to men in it own right, still has its own specific purpose.  Each must be poured out in proper order and the cumulative effect of all seven will finally be the complete purging of human rebellion form the earth.

Revelation 16:2.     And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.

     As the first angel goes forth from the temple in heaven, his great bowl overflowing, he flies swiftly around the earth, tilting the bowl here and there until every portion of the earth has received some of its bitter contents.  Finally the bowl is drained and the awful mixture proceeds to accomplish its ordained mission.

     That work is to spread a hideous and painful infection on the bodies of men and women everywhere.  This infection manifests itself as a loathsome ulcer of some kind, eating into the skin, seemingly malignant and unresponsive to medical treatment.

     The record does not specify the exact nature of these sores, probably because they are unprecedented and therefore unnamed.  The most amazing aspect of them, however, is that they (like the trumpet judgments, which did not affect those who had received God’s seal) will not affect those who have refused the mark of the beast.

     Although it is impossible to be certain, it may well be that the very process by which men had received this mark had rendered them susceptible to these unique sores.  The mark had been permanently affixed to the skin, like a tattoo, and something in the chemicals or in the marking process (possibly a process of irradiation, because of the government’s mandate to mark billions of people rapidly and permanently) may have entered the bloodstream.  The angel with the plague, knowing the nature of this poison, could then release some other agent into the atmosphere which would specifically and quickly react with all human bodies so affected, causing them to break out in these “loathsome and penetratingly painful” sores.

     This plague did not affect merely “a third part of men,” as had some of the earlier plagues, but absolutely every person who had received the beast’s deadly mark.  Because they had refused to worship the true God and Creator, Jesus Christ (Revelation14:6, 7), choosing rather to worship the great image of the beast, and its replicas throughout the world, the “hour of His judgment” had come on them.  Would they be identified with the beast by his mark?  Then God would add His own mark to their bodies, noisome sores which by their revolting appearance would truly reflect the character of the humanistic god they preferred.  Were they fearful of the persecutions they would endure by refusing to worship the beast?  Then God would send them far more intense suffering, of which the grievous sores were merely a painful surety of that which is to come.  From this point on, no one who had received the beast’s mark would be able ever to forget the consequences of the awful choice he had made.

     And all of this will only infuriate them still more against the Lord Jesus Christ who has inflicted these judgments upon them.  Since they cannot harm Him directly, their anger will be vented with great bitterness against those men and women who are not yet suffering as they are.  Great pressures will be exerted – social pressures, business pressures, intellectual pressures – on all these to persuade them to join the crowd and receive the deadly mark.  When these measures do not avail, they are summarily hunted down, arrested, tried, and executed if they will not yield.

     Marvelous it is, therefore, that even out of this worst period of persecution in world history, this greatest tribulation of all, will come a “great multitude” of believers who refuse the mark of the beast and are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:9-14).

Revelation 16:3.     And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.

     Under the judgment of the second trumpet, a “third part of the sea became blood,” and one third of all living creatures in the sea died.  This had resulted from the fall of a great burning mountain into the sea (review the discussion under Revelation 8:8, 9).  Now, however, all of the sea will become blood, and every living creature in the sea will perish.

     On that previous occasion the blood-poisoning of the sea had been accomplished by the propelling of a giant cometary or meteoritic body of some kind into it.  Perhaps the same type of phenomenon is again induced, though this time on a grander scale. Instead of only one “burning mountain,” possibly an entire swarm of these bodies attacks the earth, blasting into all the oceans of the world and thus rendering all waters bloody and noxious.  If so, the metaphor of an angelic “pouring-out” of God’s wrath into the sea would be singularly fitting.

     Since such a heavenly bombardment is not specifically mentioned, however, it may be that some more subtle transmutation of the waters is implied.  It should be remembered that, chemically speaking, the composition of sea water is almost identical to that of blood, so that only a relatively small modification would be necessary.  Of course, the red color of blood flowing in human veins is imparted to it by the hemoglobin in the red corpuscles, due largely to its component of iron.  In living flesh, these corpuscles transmit oxygen and other materials to all the cells of the body so that, truly, “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11).  In no way could sea water substitute for the blood of living flesh, but in this case the waters of the sea became as the blood of a dead man.  It is merely a chemical solution, water containing iron and other chemicals which give it a blood-red appearance, but there is no longer life therein.  In fact, it brings death to every living creature in the sea.

     Exactly what chemical reactions take place to produce this lethal transformation of the waters of earth’s vast oceans we do not know, though chemists could offer speculative suggestions.  We can be sure, however, that the “angel of the waters” knows far more about water chemistry than any modern organic chemist and is well able to initiate and maintain such reactions until, indeed, all the earth’s great and wide seas are filled with a deadly solution having the appearance and chemical components of the noxious blood of a human corpse.

     In this toxic ocean nothing can survive, and soon all the billions of fishes and marine mammals and marine reptiles and the innumerable varieties of marine invertebrates will perish, thus still further poisoning the oceans and contaminating the sea shores of the world.  The oceans will have effectively completed their age-long function in earth’s physical economy, and will die.  As God had created every living soul in the waters (Genesis 1:21), so now every living soul died in the sea.

     In the new earth, there will be “no more sea” (Revelation 21:1), and thus no more sea animals.  In the present world, sea organisms provide the basis for the world’s great “food chains,” and the ocean itself (at least in the postdiluvian world) is the anchor of the earth’s essential hydrologic cycle.  But this will be unnecessary in the new earth, and apparently the millennial earth is to be, in considerable measure, a prototype of the new earth, combining in some degree features of both the old and the new.

     The transition, however, will be exceedingly traumatic for the earth and its inhabitants.  When men who know of the true existence of God refuse to glorify Him as God and are not thankful for the great gifts of His creation (Romans 1:20), God will finally give them up (Romans 1:24), so that even the creation itself turns against them.  The sea and its creatures had once been a spring of life; now it becomes a turgid pool of death.

Revelation 16:4.     And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood.

     The poisoning of the ocean would not in itself destroy human water supplies, for the hydrologic cycle could still function to maintain a fresh water supply for the rivers and springs of the world.  However, the hydrologic cycle itself had malfunctioned throughout the first half of the tribulation period, as God’s two witnesses had caused the rains to be restrained (Revelation 11:6) and the angel of the winds had caused the movements of the atmosphere to cease (Revelation 7:1).  To some degree, at least, the cycle had resumed its activity when the ministry of the witnesses ceased as there had at least been a fall of hail at that time (Revelation 11:19).

     It is thus possible, at least, that there had been a brief ending of the drought, though in the form of violent thunderstorms and hail, and this would have helped to replenish depleted stream and groundwater levels so that water storage reservoirs had been partly refilled.  Evaporation from the oceans would remove its harmful solutes, so that any precipitation would have been pure water.  The rivers and springs may thus at this time again be flowing with fresh water.

     But now comes a third angel, an “angel of the waters,” and his bowl of wrath is emptied on all the rivers and springs so that they also become blood.  Again, whether this transmutation is effected by introducing a shower of particles from space or simply by new chemical reactions between the waters and the organisms and boundary materials in contact with them is not known, but we can be confident this mighty angel of the waters will be able to accomplish it.

     Apparently, the water of the rivers and springs, even though transformed effectively to the composition of blood, will not be as toxic as the waters of the ocean, since people will still be able to drink it (verse 6). It will be biter and repulsive, but perhaps by expensive treatment can be made potable.  Possibly some fresh water can still be salvaged by use of cisterns to catch such rain as falls. At best, human survival will be made far more difficult than it has ever been before, when all the waters become blood.

Revelation 16:5.     And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus.

     Men may fret and whine when they receive the just reward of their deeds, but all who truly know God are intensely aware that the great Judge of all the earth invariably acts in perfect righteousness (Genesis 18:25).  In fact, what God does is the very definition of righteousness.  No doubt there will be a great outcry of bitter complaint and resentment against their Creator, when men are forced to drink blood to survive, and these recriminations will be laced with blasphemies (verse 9).  But complaining is not repenting, and so will avail them nothing.

     The powerful angel equipped by God with the understanding necessary to induce this strange reaction in the waters will clearly see the justice of such a remarkable plague.  He will give a great testimony, a doxology ascribing to his God all praise for the unique appropriateness of the judgment rendered.  Not blinded by sin and self-interest, as are fallen men and fallen angels, he can comprehend and eulogize the mighty Creator and Judge.

     And John hears his testimony, and would have us know that he hears it.  It is a testimony that every man needs to hear and to burn into his heart.  God is a righteous God, and He will judge unrighteousness in a wholly righteous way.

     Since He is also a merciful God, He is willing to forgive man’s wickedness, but only because the terrible penalty of wickedness has been exacted already, when the Son of God died in substitutionary propitiation as God’s sacrificial Lamb.  But when men proceed to despise this sacrifical blood of God’s sanctifying covenant (Hebrews 10:29), there remains no more sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 10:26) and God’s holy wrath must be poured out.

     There are no dispensational distinctions in either righteousness or mercy.  The God who was is the God who is and the God who will be.  “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).  Saved men have always been judged in righteousness and saved by grace.  To refuse grace is to choose unrighteousness, and God will allow this for a time, but men should remember the final consequences of such a foolish choice.  God is not mocked.

Revelation 16:6.     For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.

     The peculiar righteousness of God’s vengeance is attested in the peculiar nature of His punishment.  Not only had men despised the atoning blood of the Lamb; they had also shed the blood of His saints and prophets.  As the Lamb had been acclaimed worthy to receive the eternal inheritance because He had offered His blood for its redemption (Revelation 5:9), so now those who refuse Him are held worthy to drink a pseudoblood for their own wretched survival a few days more.  They did not hesitate to shed righteous blood; now they must drink the blood of judgment.

     Even though most men had not participated directly in the act of bloodshed, they had done so vicariously. The people of the earth had rejoiced when God’s two witnesses were finally slain by the beast (Revelation 11:10), and had uttered no protest when the beast instituted his campaign of destroying all who would not worship his image.

     So it has always been.  The effete religious leaders of the Jews were too dainty to drive the nails themselves when they urged the crucifixion of Jesus, but they cried, “His blood be on us, and on our children” (Matthew 27:25).  So said all the people.  The Lord Jesus said that the people of His own day were guilty of the blood of the righteous men even of previous generations.  “That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias” (Matthew 23:35).

     Men and women who recoil in righteous indignation against capital punishment, and who deplore the crime of murder and the horror of war, are nevertheless guilty in God’s sight of bloodshed if they reject Jesus Christ and the Word of His grace.  “They crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6:6).  Even professing Christians, who mock the Lord’s supper by retaining known sin in their lives while they partake of the communion elements “shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27).

     Similarly those who acquiesce – even by their silence – whenever His witnesses are scorned and repudiated and silenced, are in effect exhibiting the attitude of persecutors.  To the most imposingly educated and religious people of His earthly generation, Jesus said: “Ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in . . . [Ye] say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.  Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.  Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.  Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:13, 30-33).

     Many and fierce have been the persecutions of believers and witnesses in both past and present, but none have ever been so universal and unremitting as will be those conducted by the beast in this final period.  Therefore it is peculiarly fitting that this final generation should be compelled to drink the blood which they so exulted in shedding.  They will especially deserve it.

Revelation 16:7.     And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.

     Not only does the angel who executed this judgment bear witness to its righteousness.  John immediately hears still another voice proclaiming the same testimony.  This voice is not identified, thought it does not seem to be that of another angel.  No doubt every other angel in heaven could and would say “Amen” to the testimony of the angel of the waters, so there would be no point in thus recording the affirmation of some unknown angel at the altar.

     Some of the manuscripts, in fact, omit the words “another out of,” so the text in these reads: “I heard the altar say.”  Obviously a physical altar cannot speak, but this could well be an appropriate metaphor for a great voice arising from the multitude under the altar, sounding to John indeed as though he were hearing “another voice” emanating from the altar itself.

     In Revelation 6:9-11, John had described as “under the altar” the souls of the martyrs of the early part of the tribulation.  They had “cried with a loud voice,” imploring God to avenge their blood, but had been told to rest a while longer.

     Since that time their numbers had been greatly augmented, with multitudes more yielding up their blood in the persecutions of the last part of the tribulation.  One can easily imagine their mounting excitement as this final series of divine judgments is poured out over the earth.  Then, as they observe the sudden turning of the oceans and rivers and springs into blood, everywhere, always, reminding men on earth of the blood they had shed, the waiting souls under the altar cannot restrain themselves.  In unison a great cry ascends from their resting place under the heavenly altar: “The judgments of God, though long delayed, are true judgments and righteous judgments when they finally come!”

     The appropriate name they ascribe to the great Judge is “Lord God Almighty,” the same as in the great song at the glassy sea (Revelation 15:3) and in the song of the cherubim (Revelation 4:8).  Seven times in Revelation is Jesus called both “Lord” and “Almighty.”  In the first (Revelation 1:8), He introduces Himself as “the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”  In all the others (Revelation 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7; 19:6; 21:22), He is simply addressed in praise as “Lord God Almighty,” or “Lord God Omnipotent” (same Greek word).  Because of who He is, His judgments and ways are what they are – true and righteous altogether (Psalm 19:9).

Revelation 16:8.     And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.

     Hitherto all the plagues have affected only the earth and its atmosphere.  God, however, owns the sun as well as the earth; He made it, and can do with it what He wills.  As a matter of fact, He is Creator of heaven and earth and all things that therein are (Revelation 10:6).

     Though the sun is not part of the earth, it serves the earth.  It was created specifically to “give light upon the earth” and to “be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years” (Genesis 1:14, 15).  The sun has indeed been a good servant to man, and all of earth’s physical and biological processes derive their energy ultimately from the sun.  “His [out-radiations] are from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof” (Psalm 19:6).

     But the sun, like the Lord Jesus Christ, whom it symbolizes as “the light of the world” (John 8:12) can be an enemy as well as a servant.  It can both quicken and slay with its enormous power.  And now is the time for judgment, when those plants without root or fruit will be revealed for what they are: “And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away” (Matthew 13:6).

     There was an angel of the winds, an angel of the waters, and now an angel of the sun.  To this angel has God entrusted the great energy conversion processes of the solar engine.  Whatever the ultimate fuel is (scientists today, convinced at one time that it was atomic fuel, functioning through the process of thermonuclear fusion are now for various reasons uncertain; except that it would indicate the sun’s age as much too short for evolution, the current weight of evidence strongly favors actual gravitational shrinking and chemical burning processes), this angel understands the components of the process and how to accelerate or decelerate it, thus either warming or cooling the earth.

     When he pours out the contents of his great bowl on the sun, it will heat up to great intensity and the solar radiation will pour forth in great waves of scorching heat on the earth.  The prophet Malachi, in the last chapter of the Old Testament, wrote of this: “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch” (Malachi 4:1).  Isaiah adds this comment: “Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left” (Isaiah 24:6).

     This is probably also the time of which Isaiah writes when he says: “Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound” (Isaiah 30:26).  The night will be as bright as day, with the moon reflecting the seven-times greater light from the sun.

     The inhabitants of the earth are thus tormented still more.  The burning heat is bad enough in itself, but it becomes like coals of fire on the ulcerous sores in their skin.  Furthermore, there is little relief at night and it is difficult to rest or sleep.  Some can retreat to air-conditioned buildings, perhaps, but these offer only partial and shortlasting benefits.  Water supplies are critical and must be allocated only to the most essential uses, and then only after expensive purification treatments.  The whole situation will be traumatic and maddening, and it will be difficult for men even to think rationally anymore.

     Futhermore the intense solar radiation will again evaporate great quantities of water from the oceans and other water surfaces, lowering sea level and water tables everywhere.  Even if the angels of the winds (Revelation 7:1) are no longer restraining the winds, the temperatures everywhere will soon become constantly hot and this in itself will inhibit the normal functioning of the water cycle.  Thus, more and more water vapor will remain aloft, strengthening the greenhouse effect and still further slowing any atmospheric movements.  Such rain and hail as do reach the surface will probably be in the form of violent thunderstorm and tornado cells, adding yet more to earth’s misery.

     The general lowering of water levels will also render the lands more unstable, especially along the great continental shelves and continental slopes, which have been somewhat unstable ever since the postdiluvian uplift of the continents.  Extensive submarine coastal earthslides will ensue from time to time, each not only creating havoc in coastal cities but also generating devastating tsunami waves that also attack the coasts.

     However, the intense heat of the sun will also produce another effect which will, at least for a time, somewhat compensate for oceanic evaporation. That is, the great ice sheets on Greenland and the continent of Antarctica will melt.  There is enough ice stored in these great reservoirs, it is estimated, to raise the world’s sea levels about 200 feet if it were all melted.

     Such melting is imminent even under present environmental conditions, as the global greenhouse is being augmented by the burning of fossil fuels.  It is probable that the ice sheets would melt before the sea level could be lowered much by evaporation.  Thus the most immediate hydrologic effect of this fourth bowl of wrath would likely be a rapid rise of sea level, to be followed later by the great drop in level already suggested.

     This phenomenon may be intimated in certain Scriptures.  “He casteth forth his ice like morsels. . . He sendeth out his word, and melteth them . . .” (Psalm 147:17, 18).  “Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?” (Job 38:22, 23).  The word “treasures” in the latter passage could as well be translated “storehouses,” so the verse refers to great storage reservoirs of snow and hail which have been reserved for “the time of trouble” (the period of tribulation?).

     Also consider Amos 9:5, 6: “And the Lord God of hosts is he that toucheth the land, and it shall melt, and all that dwell therein shall mourn: and it shall rise up wholly like a flood; and shall be drowned, as by the flood of Egypt. It is he that buildeth his stories in the heaven, and hath founded his troop in the earth; he that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord is his name.”

     Although the writers of the Bible presumably had never seen an ice sheet and thus could not write of them in the language of their own experience, as is the case in other parts of Scripture, such references could well refer cryptically to far-off storehouses of snow which will someday be melted and sent forth by the Lord to cause the waters of the sea to pour out in judgment along the sea coasts of the world.

     If, indeed, the great ice caps should suddenly melt one day, many of the world’s greatest cities (such as New York, Tokyo, London, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Amsterdam, Leningrad, Rome, Athens, Beirut, Calcutta, Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, and numerous others) would be largely inundated and destroyed.  Most of these large coastal shipping metropolises have been notorious centers of corruption and immorality, and would be appropriate candidates for divine judgment, especially after their complement of believers has been removed by the rapture.

Revelation 16:9.     And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.

     Again a tragic commentary on human nature.  No longer could there be a possible doubt by any one on earth that these shattering judgments afflicting the earth are from its offended Creator God.  But they have elected to believe that the old dragon, together with his two evil allies, the beast and the false prophet, can somehow defeat and dethrone

     Because they refused to love the truth that they might be saved, they are under the spell of a deadly delusion, believing an incredible lie (2 Thessalonians 2:10, 11).  Not even the awful plagues on the earth or the pain in their bodies will bring them to repentance.  Knowing that only God could remove the plagues, they nevertheless continue to defy and blaspheme His holy name.  Maddened by a terrible conglomerate of sin-darkened minds, oppressive evil spirits, addiction to drugs, devastated environment and now intense pain and heat, all they can think of is hatred of God, pressing forward to a final confrontation which they yet believe will deliver them from His power and judgment, freeing them to live in the wickedness which they love.

Revelation 16:10.     And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain.

     Secure in his Babylonish capital (the two great cities of Jerusalem and Babylon are at sufficient elevation to be safe from the sea level rise occasioned by melting ice caps), the beast himself, and his immediate coterie, have hitherto been spared at least the worst of the suffering experienced by most men.  With the best medical attention both human and demonic, with the best food and water still available, with air-conditioned palaces, and safe behind powerful armies and impregnable walls, the beast and his prophet continue to direct their global campaign of enslavement and consolidation.  Not even the unprecedented sunlight and moonlight impress them, confident that their satanic master is himself a mighty angel of light and could duplicate such miracles if it served his purpose.

     But now a fifth bowl of wrath is emptied, this time spilling its contents on the very throne of the beast himself.  The result is a thick darkness beginning in the throne room and then permeating the palace and other administration buildings, finally covering the whole of the capital city until a heavy darkness fills the royal city everywhere, night and day.

     How such a region of thick darkness can be produced, especially in the midst of a world which everywhere else is brilliant with sevenfold sunlight, is a mystery as impenetrable as the darkness itself.  In Pharaoh’s Egypt, the demon-possessed magicians could imitate certain of Moses’ miracles, but their enchantments could not generate the supernatural darkness which distinguished between the Egyptians and the Israelites (Exodus 10:21-23).  Perhaps some kind of energy barrier will be erected invisibly surrounding and covering the city, able to reflect all incoming radiation.

     Regardless of how this remarkable phenomenon is produced, it constitutes a striking testimony, even to the beast, of the power of the God he hates.  Neither he nor his master, Lucifer, can bring light to his dwelling.  While all the outside world is almost blindingly illuminated with God’s searing sunlight, the kingdom of the beast is in gross darkness.  Such an obvious spiritual parable can hardly be escaped by the earth-dwellers.  They know beyond question that God is light and Satan is darkness.  Nevertheless, men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil (John 3:19).

     Some writers prefer to interpret the darkness as worldwide rather than as limited to the capital of the beast.  The Scripture says only that the bowl was poured out on the throne of the beast and the darkness filled his kingdom.  The first bowl had been poured on the earth, the second on the sea, the third on the rivers, the fourth on the sun.  If the darkness of the fifth bowl were intended to cover the whole earth, parallel usage would seem to require the bowl to be emptied on the earth rather than on merely the beast’s throne.

     Actually “the kingdom of the beast” does not refer to the whole world but only to his own particular kingdom, the base from which he later will acquire control over all other kingdoms.  The national background of the beast and the identity of his original kingdom have long been a matter of controversy among Bible commentators.  Rome, Greece, Syria, Assyria, Russia, the United States, and others have all had their advocates.  The fact is that it is impossible to make such an identification at this time.  The Bible specifically says that “then shall that wicked [One] be revealed” (2 Thessalonians 2:8).  A number of events must occur before this takes place, most important of which is the resurrection of the dead and the translation of living saints when Christ returns to the earth’s atmosphere (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).  The Scriptures have intentionally left this matter unrevealed (a fact abundantly proved by the very number of speculative identifications that have been published), probably to avoid the opprobrium that would otherwise attach itself to that kingdom and its people before the Wicked One arises among them.

     Wherever he comes from, it does seem that, after he gains world dominion, he will build a great world capital at Babylon (see the discussion in Chapters 17 and 18).  There his throne will be centered, and thus it is there that the supernatural darkness will fall.  Whatever may be the extent of his kingdom at this time (as distinct from all the kingdoms of the nations over which he acquires control), the darkness surely will center particularly upon the capital city.  It may extend somewhat further, but the context makes it unlikely that it will extend throughout the world.

     In any case, it will constitute one more, very powerful, evidence that God is still God; the reign of the beast is outwardly impressive and global in extent but will be soon forgotten, when Christ finally establishes His kingdom on the earth.

     The tongues that now speak blasphemies against God’s name will soon be silenced.  Even at this time, their tongues can hardly frame rational words of blasphemy while they are gnawing these same tongues for pain.  The torment of the loathsome sores and the bitter water, the burning heat and then the heavy darkness, are becoming almost unbearable to many, and there is gnashing of teeth and gnawing of tongues.

Revelation 16:11.     And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.

     Despite all the pain and trauma, almost incredibly, the blasphemous vituperations continue.  There are some today who believe that ungodly men will have a second chance after death to repent and believe, and that the sufferings of hell (or purgatory) may lead them to such repentance.  This passage, however, should certainly disabuse anyone of such a notion.

     Note also that the men who were afflicted with sores when the first bowl was poured out are still suffering with the same sores after the fifth bowl.  This is an obvious refutation of the historical theory of interpretation, which would refer all these bowls to various historical events occurring over the centuries since Christ.

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