What are the seven bowls/vials of Revelation?Question: "What are the seven bowls/vials of Revelation?"
Answer: 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” (verse 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.
The first bowl. The first angels pours out the first bowl on the land, “and ugly, festering sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image” (Revelation 16:2). This plague is targeted at those who have committed themselves to the Antichrist; tribulation saints will not be affected by these sores.
The second bowl. The second bowl is poured out on the sea, turning the water “into blood like that of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died” (Revelation 16:3). A third of the sea life had already perished with the sounding of the second trumpet (Revelation 8:9), and now the rest of the sea life is gone. The oceans are dead.
The third bowl. When the third bowl of God’s wrath is poured out, the rivers and freshwater springs also to turn into blood (Revelation 16:4–5). The angel in charge of the water says, “You are just in these judgments, O Holy One,
you who are and who were;
for they have shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets,
and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve” (verses 5–6).
The altar in heaven responds,
“Yes, Lord God Almighty,
true and just are your judgments” (verse 7).
The fourth bowl. The fourth angel pours out his bowl on the sun, “and the sun was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat” (Revelation 16:8–9). Rather than repent of their sin, the wicked inhabitants of the earth “cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him” (verse 9).
The fifth bowl. The fifth of the seven bowls causes the kingdom of the beast to be plunged into great darkness. The pain and suffering of the wicked intensify, so that people gnaw their tongues in agony (Revelation 16:10–11). Still, the followers of the Antichrist “refused to repent of what they had done” (verse 11).
The sixth bowl. The sixth angel pours out his bowl of judgment on the Euphrates River. That river is dried up in preparation for the kings of the East making their way to their own destruction (Revelation 16:12). John then sees three unclean spirits “that looked like frogs” coming from the mouths of Satan, the Antichrist, and the false prophet (verse 13). These demons perform miracles and deceive the kings of the earth and gather them to the final battle on the Day of the Lord (verse 14). Under demonic influence, “the kings [gather] together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon” (verse 16).
The seventh bowl. The seventh bowl is emptied into the atmosphere. A loud voice in heaven says, “It is done!” (Revelation 16:17). The seventh bowl results in flashes of lightning and an earthquake so severe that “no earthquake like it has ever occurred since mankind has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake” (verse 18). Jerusalem is split into three parts, and the cities of the world collapse (verse 19). Islands are flooded, and mountains disappear (verse 20). Giant hailstones, “each weighing about a hundred pounds, fell on people” (verse 21). Those under judgment “cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible” (verse 21).
One of the angels of the seven bowl judgments then shows John the fate of Babylon the Great (Revelation 17), as God avenges “the blood of prophets and of God’s holy people, of all who have been slaughtered on the earth” (Revelation 18:24). The world mourns the fall of Babylon (chapter 18), but heaven rejoices (chapter 19). Jesus Christ then returns in glory to defeat the armies of the Antichrist at Armageddon (Revelation 19:11–21) and to set up His kingdom on earth (Revelation 20:1–6).
Recommended Resources: Understanding End Times Prophecy by Paul Benware
Dig into this topic more with Logos Bible Software—Get 10% off any base package.
Are the sky trumpets people have been reporting signs of the end times?
Do the news reports of rivers turning blood red have anything to do with the end times?
What do the seven thunders in Revelation 10:1-7 mean?
Is the last trumpet of 1 Thessalonians 4 the same as the seventh trumpet of Revelation?
What are the three woes of Revelation?
Questions about the End Times
What are the seven bowls/vials of Revelation?