Osborne, Grant R. Revelation. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002. Location: Ellis BS 2825.53.O73 2002
III. God in Majesty and Judgment (4:1-16:21) pp. 218-602.
B. Great Conflict between God and the Forces of Evil (12:1-16:21) pp. 451-602
2. “Great Conflict Culminated (15:1-16:21)” pp. 558-602.
“b. Seven Last Bowl Judgments (16:1-21)” pp. 576-602.
Osborne observes that Revelation chapter 16 brings some events to their climax, while it sets the stage for others. The “bowl” judgments are poured directly on the earth and on people, while the earlier seals and trumpets tended to allow partial survival and work through natural results rather than direct harm (Osborne 2002, 576). The plagues follow patterns which are familiar to those who have read the earlier text, building on the values and themes seen previously.
In Revelation 16:1 a loud voice from the temple gives commands to seven angels holding bowls (Osborne 2002, 578). Osborne takes this to be God’s voice, as it comes from the temple. The bowls are discussed as drink offerings, poured out, but what is poured out is the wrath of God. Osborne again notes parallels to the judgments inflicted on Egypt prior to the exodus, with the first bowl of Revelation 16:2 serving as a parallel to the sixth plague of Egypt, terrible sores (Osborne 2002, 579).
In Revelation 16:3 the sea becomes blood and all life in it dies. Osborne observes that this is more severe than the judgment in Revelation 8:8-9, and that it parallels the first plague of Egypt from Exodus 7:14-21 (Osborne 2002, 580). The extent of this plague would certainly bring the end of society as it is known.
Osborne observes that the third bowl, of Revelation 16:4, is more similar to the first plague of Egypt, as it applies to inland waters instead of the sea. Again, this would be entirely devastating to life and society (Osborne 2002, 580).
Revelation 16:5-7 contains a doxological hymn. Osborne describes numerous scholarly attempts to find a parallel hymn structure but concludes that this one is unique in its expression (Osborne 2002, 581). God is described as the righteous one who is and was. Osborne suggests the future element is missing here because we are at the end of time and there is no future left (Osborne 2002, 582). God is also described as acting in holiness to reap vengeance on those who killed the saints and prophets (16:6). Osborne briefly traces the theme of suffering Christians as a continuation of the suffering of Christ and the prophets as expressed in the New Testament (Osborne 2002, 583). The plagues of blood are especially appropriate for use on the earth-dwellers who have poured out the blood of God’s people. The hymn yields a response from the altar, either from the martyred saints near the altar or from the angel presenting prayers on the altar (Osborne 2002, 584-585).
The fourth bowl, of Revelation 16:8-9, is not based on an Egyptian plague, as here the sun, elsewhere a sign of majesty, becomes a blazing tool to burn people (Osborne 2002, 586). Osborne emphasizes that we cannot know if this is to be taken literally or metaphorically, but it is certainly an horrific image.
The fifth bowl shifts the focus of God’s judgment, as it pours out God’s wrath on the beast’s throne, this time with darkness and pain (Osborne 2002, 587). This, the only place the beast is said to have a throne, is in contrast to God’s throne at the altar. Osborne notes that the beast’s kingdom lasts only for a brief time, while God’s kingdom is eternal. This fifth bowl is a parallel of the ninth plague on Egypt, from Exodus 10:21-29, as well as being an intensification of the foufth trumpet judgment in Revelation 8:12 (Osborne 2002, 588). Osborne does observe that this darkness is accompanied by intense pain, which he sees as a possible foreshadowing of the eternal torment of the condemned. The response to all these plagues is that the people of the earth blaspheme and curse God, further expressing their rejection of him (Osborne 2002, 589).
The sixth bowl, in Revelatino 16:12-16, is a more complex judgment, in four parts, working together to prepare for final war. In verse 12, the Euphrates is dried up, allowing God’s people to escape their enemies (Osborne 2002, 590). Osborne takes the description to be highly figurative, especially since the Euphrates is no longer an insurmountable barrier, but he is quite unsure what the figures point to (Osborne 2002, 591). At this point the “false trinity” he has described gathers together, in opposition to the triune God. They send out evil spirits from their mouths into the world, deceiving people and gathering them for war. An interruption in the narrative in Revelation 16:15 cautions God’s people that they should be watchful, as the Christ says he is going to come as a thief. Osborne ties this theme to that of the letters to Sardis and Laodicea, where the churches are told to be watchful (Osborne 2002, 593).
At length, the kings of the earth are gathered to a place for a final battle. Osborne notes that the location is difficult to deal with, as it appears the word used may refer to a moutain of Megiddo, but that there is no mountain near the city or plain of that name (Osborne 2002, 594). Osborne reviews a number of attempts to explain the location, but concludes that no answer is satisfactory. It probably refers to an acceptable place of war, wherever that may be (Osborne 2002, 596).
In the seventh bowl of Revelation 16:17-21, the plague which was prepared by the sixth bowl actually arrives. Osborne sees this as the actual close of history (Osborne 2002, 596). The plague is poured out on the air, rather than on the ground, and is accompanied by a voice from above. It is presided over by God, who declares, “It has happened,” reminiscent of Christ’s cry from the cross (Osborne 2002, 597). A great storm with an earthquake is poured out, reminiscent of the plague of hail and the stormy presence of God ad Sinai (Osborne 2002, 598). In this judgment the cities of the earth fall under divine judgment as God remembers “Babylon the great” (16:19) (Osborne 2002, 599). God’s wrath results in the flight of even land masses, which disappear from their places. Enormous hailstones fall on the nations in this storm. Osborne notes that once again, now for the last time, people refuse to repent but instead commit blasphemy against God (Osborne 2002, 600).