What are the seven bowls / vials of Revelation?

In the book of Revelation, John describes a vision God gave him of the end times. That time includes a seven-year tribulation during which God will pour out His wrath as judgment for the world's sin and as a final call for humanity to repent and worship Him. A large part of this judgment comes in three separate series of sevens: the seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls. The seven bowls (or vials) of God's wrath are described in Revelation 16:1–21.

John sees "seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished" (Revelation 15:1). He hears a voice from heaven tell the seven angels, "'Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God'" (Revelation 16:1).

Bowl 1: "…harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its 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.

Bowl 2: "…it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea" (Revelation 16:3). The second bowl kills the remaining life in the sea. A third of sea life has already been killed by the second trumpet.

Bowl 3: "…into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood" (Revelation 16:4). The third bowl turns all the sources of fresh water into blood. 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.

Bowl 4: "…on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people 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.

Bowl 5: "… the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness" (Revelation 16:10). 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.

Bowl 6: "… the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east" (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.

Bowl 7: "… into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, 'It is done!'" (Revelation 16:17). 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).

One of the angels who had one of the bowls shows John the judgment of new Babylon (Revelation 17—18). The people of earth mourn Babylon's destruction, but the people in heaven rejoice that God "has given judgment for you against her" (Revelation 18:20) for "all the nations were deceived by [Babylon's] sorcery. And in [Babylon] was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth" (Revelation 18:23–24).

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.

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