DISASTERS AND TROUBLES: 7 SEALS – 7 TRUMPETS – 7 SIGNS – 7 BOWLS
The seven seals, seven trumpets, seven signs and seven last plagues [bowls] form an outline of prophetic events that will occur before and at the time of coming of Jesus Christ in clouds with great power ang glory. Jesus’ most comprehensive explanation of what will occur in the end times is found in His Olivet Discourse (also called the Olivet Prophecy) found in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. The setting for Jesus’ teaching to His disciples is found in Matthew 24:3 (also in Mark 13:3 & Luke 21:7): “Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’” Then he told them the end time sign and his coming (Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21). However, he told them that except Father no one knows when that day and hour will come – neither the angels nor the Son (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32 and Luke 17:26:).
When a mighty angel announced in a loud voice about who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll. When there was no one in heaven or on earth or in the world below who could open the scroll and look inside it. “And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof” (Revelation 5:4-5).
The opening of vision tells us that Jesus Christ would be able to open those seals. Christ is the one who can show us all this revelation that has been sealed. He alone can do so. But what does it mean that He “prevailed to open the book”? It shows that loosing these mighty seals was not a simple matter. In order to reveal this prophecy, Christ had a titanic battle with Satan the devil, and He won. He qualified to replace Satan on his throne, and now He—and only He—is qualified to open those seals.
Since the book of Revelation focuses on end-time events, we can gain additional clarity on these events by noting what Jesus Christ said about these same events to His disciples when He was on earth. Each symbol is used to describe God’s judgment upon sinful men and women of the earth for rejecting Christ. Each judgment is progressively worse and culminates in the battle of Armageddon, the defeat of the world’s armies. Each set of judgments are separated by a scene that occurs in heaven. The scenes in heaven describe God’s presentation of the gospel to the peoples of the earth and warning of eternal judgment. There are also three woes (Revelation 8:13; 9:12; 11:14; 18:10, 16, 19). The first two woes describe progressively worse demonic activity; the third woe, which is repeated three times, is about the battle of Armageddon. The chart below illustrates the sequence of these events in the book of Revelation.
2.0 THINGS WILL GET MUCH WORSE BEFORE THEY GET BETTER [BIG TROUBLE / WORSE]
The second part of the vision of the seven seals is the opening of the seals themselves in Revelation 6:1–8:1. It presents the opening of six seals, followed by an interlude, and then the opening of the seventh seal. The first five of the seven seals represent Satan’s wrath against God’s people and mankind in general. The sixth seal announces the wrath of God (Revelation 6:12-16). The seventh seal represents the Day of the Lord—the major theme of the book of Revelation. This seventh seal includes God’s judgment upon disobedient mankind in the form of seven trumpet plagues (Revelation 8-9) and seven last plagues (Revelation 15-16).
2.1 Seven Seals [Man Made Disasters]
The Seven Seals are the first set of judgments. The seals provide an overview of the terrors that will occur in the Tribulation period. The description of the Tribulation period begins in chapter 6 and ends in chapter 19. The first six seals are described in Revelation 6:1-17. The first seal describes peace which corresponds to the first 3.5 years of the tribulation (Daniel 9:27; 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3). The remaining seals describe the general punishments that will occur during the last part of the tribulation. The seventh seal is mentioned in Revelation 8:1, but it telescopes into the seven trumpets.
The first seal reveals false prophets; the second, war; the third, famine; the fourth, pestilence; the fifth, tribulation; the sixth, heavenly signs; and the seventh, seven trumpets. If you understand those seals, they lead you step by step to the return of Jesus Christ: He returns at the last of those seven final trumpet blasts. So, the Second Coming concludes those seven seals.
2.1.1 The First Seal [False Prophet]
The first seal Christ opens reveals the first horseman of the apocalypse. Seal 1: “…a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer” (Revelation 6:2). The first seal allows the Antichrist to come into the world. As the white horse and crown symbolize, he promotes peace and is someone with power. However, the bow reveals that he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing with the intent of deceiving and conquering the world. This first seal introduces the antichrist onto the scene as a rider of a white horse. This rider wears a crown and will deceive many with talks of peace, but he will wage war against the saints. The image of the white horse is similar to the one used to describe Jesus’ second coming in Revelation 19:11-15. However, Jesus will come wielding a sword with the intent of bringing justice to the world not with a bow.
And when you see what this white horseman actually does, you realize that even though he looks like Christ, it isn’t Christ at all! This is a false Christ who has deceived the world—the Christian world and the non-religious—about the prophecies of Revelation!
Note how our understanding of this seal is aided by comparing it to Jesus’ earlier teaching. Without this comparison, one might wrongly assume that this horseman was Christ, since He is also pictured in Revelation 19:11 as returning on “a white horse.” Christ unseals and explains this to us in Matthew 24. “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world [or age]?” (Matthew 24: 3). If you read through the chapter, you see that the main sign is the gospel being preached around the world (Matthew 24: 14). Christ was saying that His true gospel message would not be preached—but then, right before the end, it would be. That commission being completed would mark the world’s entering into the very last end.
That was the main sign Christ gave, but there are others here. The very first thing Christ said was this: “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24: 4-5).
This is what Christ revealed: It is the white horseman of religious deception. This horseman proclaims a lying message about Christ. This false religion proclaims that Christ was the Messiah, but it is deceiving people about what He said! This horseman comes first because he causes the most suffering by far. He is a false teacher of Christ’s message, one who “went forth conquering, and to conquer.” This deceitful ministry conquers by deceiving, and it has deceived the whole world (Revelation 12:9). This is the deadliest of all the horsemen.
Religious deception has been around for a long time. It began in the first century (Galatians 1:6; Jude 1:3-4) and will intensify prior to Christ’s return via the efforts of a man identified in Scripture as “the man of sin,” “the Antichrist” and “a beast” (2 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 John 2:18; Revelation 13:11).
2.1.2 The Second Seal [War]
Despite the promises of peace from the antichrist, warfare will break out after this seal breaks. A red rider on a horse slays a great number of people. Here is what Revelation says about the second seal: “And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword” (Revelation 6:4). The second seal reveals the horseman of war. It marks the start of intense war on the earth. This war is worse than any war we have experienced so far.
What did Christ say about this in the Olivet prophecy? This parallels Christ’s explanation that people would “hear of wars and rumors of wars” and that “nation will rise against nation”: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet” (Matthew 24:6-7).
There will be all kinds of wars from the first coming of Christ to the Second Coming—but those right at the very end before His Second Coming will be about 100 times worse than any ever on this planet! That is what Christ is telling us. This is the same period that the Prophet Daniel called “the time of the end”. It is the worst crisis ever on this Earth!
2.1.3 The Third Seal [Famine]
The third seal is described in Revelation 6:5-6): “And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.” Seal number three reveals the horseman of famine. It depicts a famine on the earth and people working hard for little profit.
This was a graphic depiction of Christ’s teaching that “there will be famines” prior to His return (Matthew 24:7).
A rider on a black horse will spread famine throughout the earth. With whatever population is left on the earth from after the warfare, they will have to survive by bare means of food.
2.1.4 The Fourth Seal [Death due to Pestilence or disease epidemics]
“And I looked and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell,” or the grave, “followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6: 7). The fourth of these seven seals is the horseman of death.
Christ’s prophecy in Matthew 24 goes on to explain the fourth seal. This description pictures the “pestilences” or disease epidemics Jesus said would come to earth’s inhabitants prior to His return (Matthew 24:7). “All these are the beginning of sorrows,” Christ warned (Matthew 24: 8). Death, riding upon a pale horse, wipes out one-fourth of the earth. The fourth seal will allow death to kill a fourth of the world’s population through war, famine, and wild animals.
The events pictured by the first four seals—religious deception, war, famine and pestilences—have already been occurring. Listed as signs of Christ’s second coming and “the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8), these frightening events will intensify at the time of the end.
These are the conditions and events Jesus Christ said to look for right before His return!
2.1.5 The Fifth Seal [The Great Tribulation – persecution & prayers of believers]
Revelation 6: 9-11 describe the next of these seven seals. This passage begins, “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them, that were slain for the word of God …” (Revelation 6:9). This is discussing God’s own people—people who knew God and the true gospel—being killed. This seal is describing the Great Tribulation, a 2½-year period of Satan’s great wrath (Revelation 12:12). This isn’t the time of the wrath of God—that one-year “Day of the Lord” comes right after the Tribulation, making a total of 3½ years of unprecedented suffering before Jesus Christ returns (Revelation 11:2-3; 13:5; Daniel 12:7).
“When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed” (Revelation 6:9-11).
Notice how Christ describes this same prophetic event in Matthew 24:9: “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.” Christ aimed this directly at “you”—His own disciples. This is a world-shaking event!
The fifth seal shows all the people martyred for God asking when He will avenge them. He dresses them in white robes and promises to avenge them after the final people are martyred in His name.
2.1.6 The Sixth Seal [Heavenly Signs – Tremors & Terrors of unbelievers]
The sixth seal reveals mighty heavenly signs: “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place” (Revelation 6:12-14). These signs are an indication of the fearsome things about to come next.
Christ explains this sixth seal in Matthew 24:29: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days [which was the fifth seal] shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.” Those are the same heavenly signs. You can also read them prophesied in Joel 2:2; 2:31; 3:15-16: “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.” This confirms that these signs mark the end of the Tribulation—the 2½ years of Satan’s wrath—and signal the beginning of the Day of the Lord—the year of God’s wrath.
As these awesome events transpire, mankind will realize that God will soon bring punishment upon earth’s inhabitants because of disobedience to His laws. “And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’” (Revelation 6:15-17).
The sixth seal causes an intense earthquake that moves both mountains and islands. It also effects the sun, moon, and atmosphere. The people hide in caves from the wrath of God.
2.1.7 The Seventh Seal [The Seven Trumpets – Silence then Earthquake]
Revelation 6:17 introduces the seventh seal: “For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” That seventh seal is spoken of in Revelation 8 and 9. It consists of those seven trumpets.
Here is where Christ explained the seventh seal: “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31). That seventh seal includes seven trumpet plagues that God pours out on mankind (Revelation 8). This seal, which is also called the Day of the Lord, is the predominant theme of the book of Revelation.
There are only a handful of scriptures about the Great Tribulation in Matthew 24 and Revelation, but there are over 30 about the Day of the Lord, which is the day of God’s wrath on this Earth. Joel says the Day of the Lord is at hand, as destruction from the Almighty. God is sick of mankind’s sin and lawlessness, which plunges us into the greatest crisis ever. The world has never seen anything like the wrath of God that it is about to see! Yet sadly, throughout these plagues, mankind will refuse to repent.
The seventh seal represents both “the wrath of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:16), which Christ will bring upon mankind because of disobedience to God’s laws, and the mercy of God, which will eventually come through the return of Jesus Christ to this earth to establish the Kingdom of God.
Prior to the beginning of the seventh seal, God is going to seal a group of 144,000 people (representing the 12 tribes of Israel) and a great multitude from all nations (Revelation 7:3-4, 9). God’s faithful people are thus going to be protected from the punishments soon to come upon the rest of mankind, people who are in rebellion against God. As the seventh seal begins, seven trumpets, representing a series of punishments, prepare to sound (Revelation 8:6). By the time of the fifth trumpet, the punishment will be so severe that “men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them [temporarily]” (Revelation 9:6). During the sixth trumpet, a third of mankind will be killed (Revelation 9:18).
The mercy of God soon follows when the seventh trumpet sounds to announce that “the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ” (Revelation 11:15).
Although there will still be “seven last plagues,” also called “bowls full of the wrath of God,” until “the wrath of God is complete” (Revelation15:1 and 7), events on earth are now destined to improve. When Christ returns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Kingdom of God will be established and 1,000 years of peace and prosperity will begin.
Silence fills heaven. Reminiscent of the Sabbath day of rest God took on the seventh day after creation, a brief pause occurs before the following judgements. The seventh seal contains the second series of God’s judgments, the seven trumpets. These judgments are even worse than the first set as the end of the world draws nearer.
2.2 Seven Trumpets [Natural Disasters]
When the seventh seal was opened, John saw seven angels with seven trumpets. As each angel blew his trumpet, John saw terrifying plagues unfold, and he used powerful symbolic language to try to describe what he was witnessing. The vision of the seven trumpets consists of a series of angels blowing trumpets. Each time a trumpet is blown, another judgment falls on the earth. It’s important to see that the vision of seven trumpets is structured in a similarly to the vision of the seven seals. The vision presents six trumpets, followed by an interlude, and then the seventh trumpet.
The first six trumpets occur in Revelation 8:1-9:21. The effects of the first six trumpets will include an ecological disaster of epic proportion. And as the planet struggles to support life, humans will have to endure such intense pain that they will desire to die (Revelation 9:6); and many will indeed die, as noted in the description of the sixth trumpet (Revelation 9:13-19).
The first four trumpet blasts in Revelation 8:2-13 signalled a series of specific judgments through the angelic armies on the four major regions of creation, and the last two trumpets describe the release of demonic forces upon the earth. These trumpets recall the trumpets in Old Testament prophetic passages like Hosea 5:8, Joel 2:1, Amos 2:2 and Zechariah 9:14. They’re trumpets that sound when God comes with his angelic armies, calling the heavenly host to war against God’s enemies.
2.2.1 The First Trumpet [Scorched Earth]
When the first trumpet was sounded, hail and fire mixed with blood was hurled on dry land. “… hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth” (Revelation 8:7). The first trumpet sends hail and fiery blood to the earth, destroying one third of the trees and grasses on earth. This is similar to the seventh plague God brought upon Egypt (Exodus 9:13–35).
2.2.2 The Second Trumpet [Polluted Sea]
The second trumpet sounded and something like a huge mountain was thrown into the sea. “… a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood” (Revelation 8:8). The second trumpet sends a fiery mountain into the sea killing a third of sea life and destroying a third of the ships on the water. This is similar to the first plague God brought upon Egypt (Exodus 7:14–25).
2.2.3 The Third Trumpet [Contaminated Water]
The third trumpet sounded, and a blazing star was thrown into fresh water sources, making them bitter and undrinkable. “… a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water” (Revelation 8:10). The third trumpet sends a star named Wormwood to the earth. It poisons the water and makes it bitter, causing many people to die.
2.2.4 The Fourth Trumpet [Reduced Sunlight]
And with the sounding of the fourth trumpet, the sky was damaged; a third of the day and a third of the night were without light. “… a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night” (Revelation 8:12). The fourth trumpet takes away a third of all light and makes part of both the day and night completely dark. But, as bad as these judgments were, only a third of each region was destroyed. At the end of this section, though, an eagle warned that even worse judgments were coming.
2.2.5 The Fifth Trumpet [Insect Plague]
The fifth trumpet blast is recorded in Revelation 9:1-12. It set in motion an army of unnatural locusts. “They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone” (Revelation 9:5). The fifth trumpet will send a fallen angel with a key to open the Abyss. From the Abyss will come an army of locusts led by a king named Abaddon. They will look like horses with human faces and women’s hair, breastplates of iron, lions’ teeth, and scorpion tails. For five months they will torment anyone who is not a believer with the seal of God on their foreheads. Some commentators believe this to be a description of a type of machinery such as helicopters or possibly a description of barbaric warriors, whereas others believe it to be a description of literal creatures from the pit of hell.
The first woe occurs in Revelation 8:13. The verse reads, Then I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!” (Revelation 8:13). Moreover, Revelation 9:12 tells us that the first woe is past. A review of Revelation 9:1-11 reveals that demonic forces were released from the bottomless pit (Luke 8:31; 1 Peter 3:19; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6) between Revelation 8:13 and Revelation 9:12. That is, the woe was about increased demonic activity upon the earth. The next “woe” is finished in Revelation 11:14. The final one occurs at the time of the battle of Armageddon.
2.2.6 The Sixth Trumpet [Oriental Invasion]
The sixth blast of a trumpet is recorded in Revelation 9:13-21. “So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind” (Revelation 9:15). The sixth trumpet releases four fallen angels who had been bound at the Euphrates River in order to lead a great number of troops [200 million] into battle to kill a third of humanity. They ride horses and wear red, blue, and yellow breastplates symbolizing the plagues they inflict upon humanity: fire, smoke, and sulfur.
These first six trumpets are followed by a two-part interlude in Revelation 10:1–11:14. In a scenario that resembled God’s revelation of judgment to Ezekiel in Ezekiel 2:9–3:9, John received a little scroll containing prophetic messages, and he was told to eat it. The scroll tasted as sweet as honey, probably representing the good news that God’s plans for the world would be consummated without delay. But the scroll also turned his stomach sour, probably indicating that suffering would attend the consummation of God’s plans.
The second woe is referenced in Revelation 11:14 and occurs at the end of the second scene. The verse reads, The second woe is past; behold, the third woe is coming quickly. Revelation 11:14 This second woe refers to the massive demonic activity described in Revelation 9:13-21.
The second part of the interlude records John’s vision of two witnesses, but then they were slain by God’s enemies. They performed miracles, called people to repentance, and warned of coming judgment. Even after these terrible judgments many people will not repent of their sins, but will continue living in their immorality. Just as the Egyptians’ hearts were hardened when God used Moses to bring plagues upon Egypt, so will their hearts be hardened against God. Yet God continues to fight for the salvation of humanity. John’s vision of the two witnesses highlighted the most fundamental conflict in history: the conflict between Jesus Christ and his enemies. The two witnesses were supremely powerful, but their opponents were extremely hostile and they murdered the witnesses. The beast will eventually kill them, but three days later God will resurrect them and take them up into heaven. It is after this that the seventh trumpet is sounded.
This stark contrast highlights the reality that there is no middle ground in the conflict between Jesus and his enemies. Every human being is either for Jesus or against Jesus. After the interlude, the seventh angel sounded the seventh trumpet in Revelation 11:15-19, closing this vision series.
2.2.7 The Seventh Trumpet [Kingdom Come]
Revelation 11:15 records this proclamation in heaven at the sounding of the seventh trumpet: “There were loud voices in heaven, saying ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). The seventh trumpet opens the temple of God in heaven and John sees the ark of the covenant. The people in heaven rejoice knowing that Jesus will soon conquer Satan and bring an end to the evil on earth, establishing His everlasting kingdom.
The seventh trumpet introduces the worship that will take place in God’s throne room when his victory over all the kingdoms of earth is secure and when he renders his final judgment on all creation. Christ will return to renew the earth; his glory will be fully revealed; and God’s reign will be fully manifested throughout all creation.
The sounding of the seventh trumpet signals the long-awaited arrival of the Kingdom of God on earth. This trumpet, which is also called the third “woe” (Revelation 9:12; 11:14), will be one of the most important announcements in human history. The establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth is the fulfillment of biblical prophecies recorded throughout the Bible.
In the interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, God through the prophet Daniel revealed that eventually a kingdom would arise that would destroy all the human governments that preceded it. Most important, God said this kingdom “shall never be destroyed … and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44).
Years later, Daniel also had a dream in which God confirmed the coming of this eternal kingdom. In his vision Daniel saw “One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven,” who “was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.”
And again, Daniel noted that His dominion “shall not pass away, and His kingdom [is] the one which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).
This seventh trumpet telescopes into seven signs, which lead the seven last plagues. But why does God need seven terrifying plagues to bring people to repentance? At the end of Revelation 9 is a prophecy of what will happen even after the first six destructive plagues have occurred. “But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Revelation 9:20-21). If one plague would wake everyone up, that’s all God would use. But obviously it will take all seven trumpet plagues to finally bring this world to repentance. Satan has done his best since the time of Adam and Eve to inoculate humanity against feeling guilt for breaking God’s laws. He has worked to convince people that God’s laws are not valid, and to make repentance seem pointless, ridiculous or foolish. Because of mankind’s disobedience to His holy and beneficial laws, God will bring this severe punishment upon earth’s inhabitants. While one would think that such intense punishment would cause people to repent of their sins, this will not occur.
Humans are going to be so set on their freedom to break God’s laws that they will be willing to die for their way of life rather than repent. What a truly sad state of deception Satan has perpetrated upon mankind (Revelation 12:9)! Because people will not repent, seven additional punishments called “the seven last plagues” (Revelation 15:1) will come upon mankind.
2.3 Seven Signs [Wonders]
The seventh trumpet occurs in Revelation 11:15 and telescopes into seven signs. It is commonly believed that the seven trumpets telescope into the seven bowls, but a close examination of Revelation reveals that a sequence of seven signs follows the trumpets.
2.3.1 The First Sign [Woman]
Beginning in Revelation 12:1, the first sign is given to us. A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth. Revelation 12:1-2.
2.3.2 The Second Sign [Dragon]
The second sign is a dragon in Revelation 12:3: “And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.”
2.3.3 The Third Sign [Male Child]
The third sign is a male child in Revelation 12:5-6: “And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.”
2.3.4 The Fourth Sign [Michael Archangel]
The fourth sign is Michael the archangel (Revelation 12:7-17): “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,…And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
2.3.5 The Fifth Sign [Anti Christ]
The fifth sign is the antichrist (Revelation 13:1-10): “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy … He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.”
2.3.6 The Sixth Sign [False Prophet]
sixth sign is the false prophet in Revelation 13:11-18): “And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon … Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.”
2.3.7 The Seventh Sign [Telescopes into the seven bowls]
The seventh sign telescopes into the seven bowls, the last horrible plagues.
2.4 Seven Bowls [Unbearable Final Troubles]
The seventh sign telescopes into the seven bowls (Revelation 15:1, 7). The first six bowls occur in Revelation 15:1-19:21. They describe horrible plagues that occur on the planet, the universe, animals and human life. The final bowl is the battle of Armageddon.
The vision of the seven bowls presents seven angels that pour out seven golden bowls of God’s wrath against the wicked. This vision follows the same structure as the visions of the seals, trumpets and histories: six bowls are followed by an interlude, and then the seventh bowl is poured out. And there are also other parallels worth noting. For instance, like the first four trumpets, the first four bowls devastated the four major regions of the world: dry land, sea, fresh water, and sky. But while the judgments of the trumpets affected only a third of the earth, the bowls affected the entire world. Revelation 15:1, which is part of the vision of the seven bowls, we’re told that when the seven bowls are poured, God’s wrath will be finished.
The seven bowl or vial judgments are the final judgments of the tribulation period. They will be the most severe judgments the world has ever seen. The seven bowls are described in Revelation 16:1–21, where they are specifically called “the seven bowls of God’s wrath” (Revelation 16:1). Under the Antichrist, the wickedness of man has reached its peak, and it is met with God’s wrath against sin. The seven bowl judgments are called forth by the seventh trumpet.
Similarities between the trumpet and bowl judgments have led some scholars to believe that they will take place simultaneously. Others teach that the two series will occur successively. The successive view is correct for the following reasons:
- First, there can be no overlap between the trumpet and bowl judgments because the latter will proceed from the seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:15).
- Second, the bowl judgments will affect the entire earth, but the first four trumpet judgments will affect only one-third of the earth.
- Third, the bowl judgments will occur near the end of the Great Tribulation (Revelation 15:1), but the trumpet judgments will begin at the midpoint of the Tribulation period.
- Fourth, the trumpet and bowl judgments will not follow in the same sequence. The first four will be poured upon nature and will affect mankind globally. The final three bowls will affect only the kingdom of the beast.
2.4.1 The First Bowl [Boils on Skin]
The first bowl inflicted a plague of painful sores on all those who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. When the first angel “poured out his bowl upon the earth…there fell a foul and painful sore upon the men who had the mark of the beast, and upon them who worshiped his image” (Revelation 16:2). The first bowl only affects those who have chosen to follow the Antichrist and not those who have chosen to follow God. The first angel poured out his bowl of poison on the land and ugly and painful sores broke out on everyone who had the mark of the beast, but the saints were not affected. When the wicked realized that their food supplies were the source of their boils, they rushed to the ocean to find food. Then Jesus said, “Neither shall the sea provide food for the wicked. Poison the oceans of the world!”
This plague could be anthrax, which causes boils on both people and animals. Israel is spared these sores because only people having the mark of the beast are afflicted. This event is similar to the plague of boils Moses brought against Egypt. So they took soot from a kiln, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses threw it toward the sky, and it became boils breaking out with sores on man and beast. (Exodus 9:10)
This judgment will involve a foul-smelling, malignant ulcer (like a boil) that is extremely painful and will not heal. It is similar to the sixth plague poured out upon Egypt (Exodus 9: 8-12). The plague will be limited to those who took the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. Their destiny is damnation in the Lake of Fire. But before that day of suffering, they will suffer from this judgment during the Great Tribulation (Revelation 14: 9-11).
2.4.2 The Second Bowl [Blood in Sea]
When the second angel poured out his bowl, “the sea…became like the blood of a dead man; and every living soul died in the sea” (Revelation 16:3). This refers to all saltwater seas. The text does not say that the sea became the blood of a dead man, but became like the blood of a dead man. The sea will turn into a thick, coagulated mass of blood producing a putrefying stench like that of a decaying corpse. This condition will cause unimaginable disease and death.
This judgment is similar to the first plague upon Egypt that God delivered through Moses. Thus says the Lord, “By this you shall know that I am the Lord: behold, I will strike the water that is in the Nile with the staff that is in my hand, and it will be turned to blood (Exodus 7:17–21), when all the fish died. It is also similar to the second trumpet judgment, when a fiery mountain will be cast into the sea, turning one-third of the sea to blood and killing one-third of the sea life (Revelation 8:8–9). A third of sea life has already been killed by the second trumpet. The second bowl kills the remaining life in the sea. All marine life will be destroyed, severely affecting the world’s food supply.
When the second angel will pour out his bowl upon the oceans, the water will turn into a thick blood-like fluid, like the blood of a dead man. Every living creature in the sea will die. The remaining of the sea creatures will float to the surface and wash onto the shores. Nothing from the sea could be eaten, but again, the saints will not be affected. God will provide food for them.
2.4.3 The Third Bowl [Blood from Spring]
The third bowl turned the fresh water of the rivers and springs [i.e. all sources of fresh water] to blood. When the third angel “poured out his bowl upon the rivers and fountains of waters…they became blood” (Revelation 16:4). This judgment will affect all of the world’s freshwater springs, rivers, and lakes. God has assigned various angels over the elements that He has created. In Revelation 16:5, He mentioned an “angel of the waters.” Other angels are over the wind (Revelation 7:1; Jeremiah 49:36; Zechariah 6:5), the abyss (Revelation 9:11), and fire (Revelation 14:15,18, 20; Joel 3:13). This judgment is similar to the third trumpet judgment, when a meteor will fall upon one-third of the freshwater, turning it to Wormwood. Many people who drink the water will die (Revelation 8:10-11). Like the Egyptians (Exodus 7:24), people in that day will dig for freshwater, only to find that it has turned to blood and is unfit for human consumption. Without water, people will go mad and stop at nothing to quench their thirst. We can only imagine the severe agony, panic, and health problems this will create.
The third angel poured his bowl of poison on the rivers and springs of water, and the springs of water became like blood, just like the oceans. Even more, the drinking water became poisonous for everyone who had participated in the murder of God’s people. The agony suffered by the murderers was intense. They were hungry and thirsty, and the agony they suffered was unbearable. After the third bowl was poured out, the wicked were in great anguish all over the world. The devil, who pompously masqueraded as Almighty God, could not prevent or cancel the effects of the first three bowls. To keep his masquerade intact, the devil stalled for time by promising to improve food supplies and the availability of fresh water, but his promises remained unfulfilled. To further divert the attention of the wicked from his failure to save them, Lucifer directed the wicked to utterly destroy the remaining saints because, he claimed, they were aligned with “the devil.” Lucifer cleverly led the wicked into thinking the saints were the reason for the great curse upon Earth and if the saints were eliminated, the curse would end. Immediately, the wicked agreed to kill the saints on a specific day (the 1,290th day of the Great Tribulation) and great rewards were promised to everyone who captured and killed one of God’s saints. Instead, Jesus protected His saints. Not one single saint perished. Jesus said, “The wicked intended to kill my people, now let them feel the heat of my wrath.”
Then comes a great angelic proclamation: “Thou art righteous, O Lᴏʀᴅ, who art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus” (Revelation 16:5). The angel declares that God is just in His judgment because the evil people of the earth have shed the blood of believers; they will now drink that blood. The martyrs under the altar are satisfied with this judgment. Remember the martyrs had cried out at the fifth seal: they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10b) Martyrs respond with approval upon hearing that this judgement was in response to their being killed.
Often people question God’s judgment upon them, but the angels do not. The angels confirm that an eternal God is justified in pouring out His wrath upon the ungodly. Further confirmation is made on this point by “another out of the altar say[ing], Even so, Lᴏʀᴅ God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments” (Revelation 16:7). The angel also affirmed that the wicked are worthy to have “blood to drink” because “they have shed the blood of saints and prophets” (Revelation 16:6; 7:14; 11:7–8). The altar in Revelation is often associated with the prayers of God’s people, who are crying for vengeance and judgment on their persecutors.
2.4.4 The Fourth Bowl [Burning by Sun]
The fourth angel “poured out his bowl upon the sun, and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire” (Revelation 16:8). The fourth bowl causes the sun to burn people with its fierce heat and they curse God, but still do not repent and give God glory. This judgment is similar to the fourth trumpet, yet quite different. Under the fourth trumpet, one-third of the sun will be darkened (Revelation 8:12). The sun will become so hot that it will scorch people [earth] with unbearable and intense heat; it is likely that natural protections in the atmosphere will have been destroyed. The stench rising from the dead sea creatures was so unbearable that no one wanted to go outdoors, but the situation indoors was worse. There was no water or electricity. Objects became so hot that people were badly burned by merely touching them. Millions of wicked people, exhausted from their efforts to survive, died from hunger, thirst, and heat exhaustion. Even the devil’s highest ranking officials had no food, water, or protection from the searing heat. Nevertheless, the wicked refused to repent of their wickedness and worship the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the only true God. They cursed the saints along with their God and refused to glorify Him.
The wicked cried out to Lucifer, “If you are Almighty God as you claim, stop these curses. Ever since you became king of kings and lord of lords (during the sixth trumpet), our condition has only become worse and worse. Use your miracle working powers to end the suffering! Show us again that you are Almighty God!” These requests put the devil in a predicament. He no longer had power to stop anything, including the effects of the first four bowls. People respond by cursing God. With hardened hearts these enemies of God are incapable of repenting. This type of hardening occurred in ancient Egypt—when the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 10:27).
Here the sun’s intensity will be supernaturally increased by God, causing it to scorch people with fire. The scorching heat will not result in unbelievers crying out to God for mercy. They will “[blaspheme] the name of God, who hath power over these plagues; and they [will repent] not to give him glory” (Revelation 16:9). Not even God’s wrath will produce repentance in the hardened hearts of wicked people.
2.4.5 The Fifth Bowl [Darkness]
The fifth bowl was poured out on the throne of the beast. From Revelation 13, it seems clear that this beast is the beast from the sea, whose rule was supported by the beast from the earth. This bowl plunged the beast’s kingdom into darkness, but its followers still cursed God and refused to repent. The fifth angel “poured out his bowl upon the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain” (Revelation 16:10). The throne of the beast is the one spot where Satan’s power resides on earth. Up to this point, nothing will touch the throne of the beast, but now God will center on Satan’s earthly seat of power. This bowl judgment is similar to the fifth trumpet (Revelation 9:2) and the ninth plague upon Egypt (Exodus 10:21–23), with one exception: it will cover the entire earth. The darkness will be so thick that it will cause intense psychological pain to people already in agony because of their boils and burning flesh. This will cause them to “[gnaw] their tongues for pain.” This is a preview of the outer darkness of hell that unbelievers will suffer (Matthew 25:30). They will continue to “[blaspheme] the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and [will repent] not of their deeds” (Revelation 16:11).
The fifth bowl covers the Antichrist’s kingdom in darkness. The darkness is so agonizing that the people gnaw their tongues in pain. However, they continue to curse God and not repent. LORD delivered a similar judgment against Egypt: Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even a darkness which may be felt.” (Exodus 10:21)
The fifth plague, directed specifically at Lucifer’s government, stunned the remaining wicked. Suddenly, they began to question the identity of the glorious being who claimed to be Almighty God. Why would he give a curse of painful blindness to his officials and employees? Why would he destroy his entire work force and kingdom with painful blindness? Why would he treat his loyal followers with such horrifying contempt . . . unless he really was an imposter? Could he actually be the devil?
The fifth bowl will force the wicked to discover their true condition before God, the Creator of the universe. In an attempt to lessen the impact of this awful discovery, Lucifer will send miracle working demons to the ten kings of Earth during the sixth bowl. These demons will perform miracle after miracle before the kings of Earth and then, with sophisticated cunning, they will present their demonic proposal. They will tell the kings that Jesus will arrive soon to ultimately destroy the entire world. They will suggest to the kings of Earth that they must join forces with Lucifer to stop Jesus! They must make war on Jesus as He appears – the demons contend it is their only chance of survival.
Two interesting facts will emerge: First, the Bible predicts that Earth’s ten kings will join forces with Lucifer’s demons, even though they know that Lucifer is the devil and his angels are demons. Consider the ramifications of this union for a moment. To save self, sinners would rather join forces with the devil and attempt to destroy the Creator of the universe than to confess their sins and repent.
2.4.6 The Sixth Bowl [Armageddon]
When the sixth angel “poured out his bowl upon the great river, Euphrates…its water was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared” to invade God’s Promised Land. (Revelation 16:12). The sixth bowl dries up the Euphrates river preparing a way for Satan, the Antichrist, and the false prophet to deceive the remaining leaders of the world and prepare for the final battle against Jesus at a place called Armageddon. The river is called “great” because of its significant location. It is the longest river in Western Asia, flowing almost 1,800 miles from Syria to Babylon and emptying into the Persian Gulf. It forms a natural eastern boundary for the Roman Empire. The kings of the east will flood across the dried-up Euphrates River to take part in the battle of Armageddon. It may not take a supernatural event for the Euphrates River to become dry. Turkey has a dam that can stop the flow of the Euphrates; the Ataturk Dam dried this river while filling a large reservoir in 1990. Since then draught and water mismanagement have at times markedly reduced the flow of the Euphrates.
The vision in Revelation 16:13-16 is not a parenthetical section between the sixth and seventh bowls, as some teach. Rather, it provides needed insight into this gathering of nations for the battle of Armageddon. John saw “three unclean spirits, like frogs, come out of the mouth of the dragon…the beast, and…the false prophet” (Revelation 16:13). These demonic spirits will perform miracles that will entice all nations to bring their armies to Israel for “the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:14).
Next, John’s vision paused for an interlude in Revelation 16:15, where we read this announcement: Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed (Revelation 16:15). This is the third of seven beatitudes in Revelation. It is also a warning for the saints living in the Tribulation to stay alert in light of Christ’s soon return. The word garments is symbolic of the righteousness of the saints (Revelation 19:8). Those who are walking in sin before God (Revelation 3:18) and the world are considered to be spiritually naked. This is shameful at any time, but especially in light of Christ’s soon return. Believers must guard their lives from evil at all times and be clothed in God’s righteousness as they anticipate Christ’s return. Recalling his letter to the church in Sardis in Revelation 3, Christ exhorted his followers to remain vigilant and faithful at all times.
According to Revelation 16:16, a decisive battle between the kings of the east and God’s people would be fought at Armageddon or the Mount of Megiddo. In ancient Israel, Megiddo was a key city along a major trade route between the kingdoms of Mesopotamia and Egypt. Huge armies could assemble in the neighbouring Jezreel Valley, or as it’s sometimes called, the Plain of Esdraelon. And God’s people had previously achieved military victories in Megiddo. So, it was a fitting symbol to describe the climactic battle between God’s servants and his enemies. Upon arrival these armies will attempt to destroy Jesus as he returns to earth. It will be an extra planetary event of unfathomable proportions. The battle of Har-Magedon is the final battle of this Age (Zechariah 14:2-9; Revelation 19:11-21).
The word battle does not mean a single conflict but a campaign of battles at the end of the Tribulation (Daniel 11:45). This will set the stage for a climactic conflict with Christ at His Second Coming. Why will all the nations gather at Mount Megiddo (Revelation 16:16)? They will come to challenge the Antichrist’s worldwide dominion, which has begun to deteriorate, and to annihilate Israel. Mount Megiddo will be the staging area and focal point of the battle, but the conflict will extend for a radius of about 200 miles around Jerusalem (Revelation 14:20). While the nations are engaged in conflict, Christ will suddenly appear and destroy them with the sword of His mouth (Revelation 19:15).
The third woe is repeated three times in Revelation 18:10, 16 and 19. Revelation 18 describes the final aftermath that will occur on the earth which is the battle at Armageddon. Revelation 19 describes the second coming of Christ and a summary of the battle at Armageddon. The armies of the world will be defeated (Revelation 19:17-19), the antichrist and false prophet will be defeated (Revelation 19:20-21) and Satan and the demons will be put into the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:1-3). The seven bowls and the third woe conclude the description of the Tribulation period in the book of Revelation (Revelation 6:1-19:19).
2.4.7 The Seventh Bowl [Universal Catastrophe]
After the interlude, the seventh bowl triggered the final destruction of the wicked. When the seventh angel “poured out his bowl into the air…there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done” (Revelation 16:17). What is done? The completion of God’s wrath being poured out prior to Christ’s Second Coming. Thunder and lightning rained down. An earthquake shattered the cities of the nations. Islands sank. Mountains crumbled. And giant hailstones crushed humanity. This was the end of the age — the destruction of the present world that will take place when Christ returns. The seventh bowl announces the end of the judgments on the world. There will be a great earthquake as the earth has never seen before. Jerusalem will split into three parts and the cities of the nations will fall. Mountains and islands will disappear and giant, hundred-pound hailstones will fall on people. The people curse God, but do not repent. This bowl has interesting parallels to the moment of Jesus’ death on the cross. In His final breath He says, “It is finished” (John 19:30) and the earth shakes and the veil in the temple is torn in two (Matthew 27:51).
After the final bowl has been poured out John is shown the fate of Babylon, then he sees “a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war” (Revelation 19:11). The one on the white horse is Jesus and He is coming to destroy Satan once and for all and to establish His kingdom on earth.
Immediately John heard “voices…thunders…lightnings; and…a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth” (Revelation 16:18). The great earthquake will affect the earth in four ways. First, the earth will convulse (Revelation 16:18) in an unprecedented magnitude, causing great damage, disruption, death, and distress upon mankind. Second, cities will be destroyed worldwide: “The great city [Jerusalem] was divided into three parts…cities of the nations fell; and great Babylon…[drank] the cup…of the fierceness of his [God’s] wrath” (Revelation 16:19). The “great city” seems to be a reference to Jerusalem’s destruction (Revelation 11:8). It is possible that the new areas outside the old city walls of Jerusalem will be divided by the earthquake at Christ’s return (Zechariah 14:4), but the old city itself seems to remain intact. People stand in awe at what mankind is able to create and construct, but one day it will all collapse and crumble when God pours out His wrath on the nations of the world. Third, continents will be severely changed by the earthquake as “every island fled away, and the mountains were not found” (Revelation 16:20). The earth’s topography will be radically altered during the earthquake, causing massive flooding and great destruction. Fourth, climatic changes will impact the earth as “there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent” (approximately 100 pounds) (Revelation 16: 21). The velocity of these stones peppering the earth will have a devastating impact on whatever is not destroyed by the preceding judgments. This judgment will be similar to the seventh plague upon Egypt (Exodus 9:23–24) and the first trumpet judgment (Revelation 8:7). The consequences of these cataclysmic changes will crush the Antichrist’s kingdom, but his followers will not repent. In fact, the opposite will take place: “men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail” (Revelation 16: 21).
The series of seven bowls completed John’s vision of coming events. The seals, trumpets, signs and bowls all demonstrated God’s commitment to intervene in history to ensure the safety and blessing of his people. In John’s day, the Roman Empire seemed invulnerable to the churches of Asia Minor. And many modern enemies of the church can seem equally powerful. But God is determined to destroy his enemies and our enemies.
How does all this end? At the last trumpet, Jesus Christ Himself is going to return to this Earth! “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord …” (Revelation 11:15). Jesus Christ is about to take over this world in crisis, rule it with a rod of iron and bring peace, joy, happiness and success to everybody on Earth. That is the kind of prosperity mankind really wants, but has never been able to achieve. In Revelation 11:15, which is part of the vision of the seven trumpets, loud voices declare, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever!”
If you are willing to look into God’s Word with an open mind, you will see that all Christ talked about 2,000 years ago is coming to pass—the bad news and the good!
It is important to realize that throughout the tribulation period while God calls men and women to repent of their sins, the people will respond with anger against God rather than repentance (Revelation 9:20-21; 16:9-11).
The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts. Revelation 9:20-21.
Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory. Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became darkened; and they gnawed their tongues because of pain, and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds. Revelation 16:9-11.
Yet, some individuals will understand that they are sinners who have rejected God and that God’s judgment is deserved. They will respond to God’s call to repent and believe in Christ (Revelation 7:4-8). Sadly, most of the believers will die during the tribulation as martyrs.
When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, John saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also. Revelation 6:9-11.
After these things John looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9-10.
In the midst of judgment God will be calling men and women to repent and be saved. What about you? Have you become a believer in Jesus Christ?