The word bowls in some versions is translated from the word vials which we read in the KJV. Vial comes from the Latin word phiala, and it can be a broad shallow cup (phial)—or bowl. This suggests it can be emptied rapidly. The emptying of the bowls represents the final series of judgments whereby God’s full wrath is poured out upon the wicked nations:
Previous to the seven bowls will first be the seven seals, which only the Lord Jesus is worthy to open. The seals reveal the beginning of wrath. After the seven seals, the angels will be appointed to sound the seven trumpets which portray the forthcoming expansion of God’s wrath due to the people not heeding the previous warnings. The prophecy is written by John in past tense since he writes of what he saw in the God-given-vision:
20But 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 not hear nor walk. 21And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
Revelation 16:9, 11
9And the men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory. …
11They blasphemed God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.
When the Lord Jesus opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for bout half an hour (Revelation 8:1), because God’s wrath is going to be intensified with the sounding of the trumpets. And when the seventh angel sounds it will begin the Great Tribulation:
Revelation 11:15a, 19
15aThen the seventh angel sounded: …
19And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.
Revelation 15:1, 6-8
Then I [John] saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete. …
6And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and having their chests girded with golden bands. 7Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever. The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.
Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the bowls [seven vials] of the wrath of God on the earth.” 2So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast [the Antichrist] and those who worshiped his image. 3Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature in the sea died. Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.
8Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. 9And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory. 10Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast [the Antichrist], and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. 11They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds. 12Then sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Eūphrātēs, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. …
16And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon. Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. 19Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. 20Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. 21And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent [80 to 100 pounds]. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.
After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. 2And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!
19And I saw the beast [Antichrist], the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse [the Lord Jesus Christ] and against His army [angels and His body, the saved Church]. 20Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone [the fire is never quenched]. 21And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.
The seven plagues are also in the bowls; these plagues are the subject of the upcoming blog.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.