Events of the Tribulation: The Last Three and a Half Years (Part 1)
The Midpoint of the Tribulation
The Seven Bowls
Bowl 1. Incurable Skin Sores
The first went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and severely painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped its image. (Revelation 16:2)
Those who follow the Antichrist and received his mark will be inflicted with open, ulcerated, oozing sores. Moses had prophesied about the curse of the sores when he said, “The Lord will afflict you with the boils of Egypt, tumors, a festering rash, and scabies, from which you cannot be cured. … The Lord will afflict you with painful and incurable boils on your knees and thighs—from the sole of your foot to the top of your head” (Deuteronomy 28:27, 35).
Scripture never indicates that this prophecy was ever fully fulfilled in Israel’s history. It appears the fulfillment of this curse will be experienced by those on planet earth who rejected Christ, refuse to repent, and chose to follow the beast.
Bowl 2. Death of All Sea Creatures
The second poured out his bowl into the sea. It turned to blood like that of a dead person, and all life in the sea died. (Revelation 16:3)
This bowl causes the sea to turn into blood. If you remember, the second trumpet caused a third of the sea creatures to die (Revelation 8:9). This bowl, however, causes the death of every remaining sea creature. Just imagine what that will be like. The stench will undoubtedly permeate the earth and itself be quite unbearable; disease will afflict all who live in communities along the seashore. The decay of all those sea creatures will cause the ocean’s water to become thick and dark, and like the blood of a corpse, it will coagulate.
David Jeremiah writes,
The reason for these judgments is that the blood of saints and prophets was shed. The altar will be the shelter of the martyrs in Revelation 6, and now their cry for revenge is being answered.1
The pouring out of this bowl will have devastating and deadly effects, not only on the people on planet earth, but on nature.
Bowl 3. Fresh Water Turned to Blood
The third poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. I heard the angel of the waters say, You are just, the Holy One, who is and who was, because you have passed judgment on these things. Because they poured out the blood of the saints and the prophets, you have given them blood to drink; they deserve it! I heard the altar say, Yes, Lord God, the Almighty, true and just are your judgments. (Revelation 16:4–7)
The prolonged drought (Revelation 11:6) had already reduced the water supply around the world. The pouring out of this bowl causes whatever fresh water the earth had left to turn to blood as well. This would cause any living freshwater creatures to die, as well as sores resulting in stench, disease, worldwide dehydration, and an inability to clean the sores they were inflicted with from the pouring of the first bowl. Again, this is the consequence the world must deal with because of killing the saints and prophets.
Bowl 4. Humans Scorched by Great Heat
The fourth poured out his bowl on the sun. It was allowed to scorch people with fire, and people were scorched by the intense heat. So they blasphemed the name of God, who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent and give him glory. (Revelation 16:8–9)
This bowl causes the sun to bring terrible heat on the earth, resulting in intense suffering. Scripture doesn’t say either way, but some would argue that the wars and natural disasters, along with everything else, will cause enough damage to the earth’s atmosphere that it no longer offers any protection from the sun. The planet’s water has been polluted, so people will find little, if any, relief from this intense heat. Imagine what other possible consequences there may be from this intense heat; for example, all polar ice caps will completely melt, causing the seas to rise so much that entire cities and even countries could find themselves under water.
The text makes clear that these judgments come from God. Despite people being aware of that fact, rather than repenting and seeking God’s face, they blaspheme Him (Revelation 16:9, 11, 21).
Bowl 5. Worldwide Darkness
The fifth poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues because of their pain and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they did not repent of their works. (Revelation 16:10–11)
This bowl brings a supernatural darkness over the kingdom of the Antichrist, over his entire dominion. Jesus Himself said that during the Tribulation, “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not shed its light”(Mark 13:24). Human beings will gnaw their tongues to alleviate the suffering caused by the sores, drought, and fierce heat.
Despite all the suffering, people will remain loyal to the Antichrist and express their anger to God by cursing Him and refusing to repent.
Bowl 6. Armageddon Anticipated
The sixth poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the east. Then I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming from the dragon’s mouth, from the beast’s mouth, and from the mouth of the false prophet. For they are demonic spirits performing signs, who travel to the kings of the whole world to assemble them for the battle on the great day of God, the Almighty. “Look, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who is alert and remains clothed so that he may not go around naked and people see his shame.” So they assembled the kings at the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon. (Revelation 16:12–16)
With this bowl, God will supernaturally cause the Euphrates to dry up (Isaiah 11:15), which will, in turn, allow the armies of the kings of the east to cross the river (Daniel 11:44). The sixth bowl is far more than a plague; it is a prelude to the gathering of the troops for Armageddon. John then states that the unholy trinity (Satan, the Antichrist, and the False Prophet), spew out three vile, powerful, and deceitful demons who induce this immense oriental army. Along with the kings of the world, they make their way to Armageddon to march against Israel and defeat God’s purposes on earth.
The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers conspire together against the Lord and his Anointed One: “Let’s tear off their chains and throw their ropes off of us.” (Psalm 2:2, 3)
I will gather all the nations and take them to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. I will enter into judgment with them there because of my people, my inheritance Israel. The nations have scattered the Israelites in foreign countries and divided up my land. They cast lots for my people; they bartered a boy for a prostitute and sold a girl for wine to drink. And also: Tyre, Sidon, and all the territories of Philistia—what are you to me? Are you paying me back or trying to get even with me? I will quickly bring retribution on your heads. (Joel 3:2–4)
Look, a day belonging to the Lord is coming when the plunder taken from you will be divided in your presence. I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem for battle. The city will be captured, the houses looted, and the women raped. Half the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be removed from the city. Then the Lord will go out to fight against those nations as he fights on a day of battle. (Zechariah 14:1–3)
The battle of Armageddon is the great war with God and Christ that ends when Jesus returns.
Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he called out in a loud voice, saying to all the birds flying high overhead, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of military commanders, the flesh of the mighty, the flesh of horses and of their riders, and the flesh of everyone, both free and slave, small and great.”
Then I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and against his army. But the beast was taken prisoner, and along with it the false prophet, who had performed the signs in its presence. He deceived those who accepted the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image with these signs. Both of them were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. (Revelation 19:17–20)
Armageddon is the Hebrew name for Mount Megiddo, located six miles north of Jerusalem.
Bowl 7. The Day of the Lord
Then the seventh poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, “It is done!” There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder. And a severe earthquake occurred like no other since people have been on the earth, so great was the quake. The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the Great was remembered in God’s presence; he gave her the cup filled with the wine of his fierce anger. Every island fled, and the mountains disappeared. Enormous hailstones, each weighing about a hundred pounds, fell from the sky on people, and they blasphemed God for the plague of hail because that plague was extremely severe. (Revelation 16:17–21)
This final judgment brings about the greatest convulsions in nature yet. A massive moving of the earth’s crust will be accompanied by huge hundred-pound hailstones falling from heaven. People who survive will persist in blaspheming God rather than turning to Him.
The conclusion of this judgment will bring us to the end of the Tribulation and to the Second Coming of Christ to begin His reign over earth. Only one more part of the picture remains to be completed.
1 David Jeremiah, Escape the Coming Night (Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 1999), 320.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Christian Standard Bible. Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.
Dr. Miguel J. Gonzalez is the Founder and President of Reasons for Faith International Ministries. He served as a pastor for ten years in Charlotte, NC and has taught in churches and conferences throughout the United States. He currently hosts the Time in the Word and Truth To Live By podcasts and writes at KnowingChristianity.blogspot.com.
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