The first four “bowls” destroyed the economic structure of Babylon. The next “bowl” targets its political sphere – Revelation 16:10-11.
The first “four bowls of wrath” attacked the economic infrastructure of the empire used to dominate the “inhabitants of the earth” and to wage war on the “saints,” leaving the global commerce on which the “beast” depended destroyed. Now, the “fifth bowl” targets its political power and prestige.
The destruction of the economic and political power structures sets the stage for the final “war” between the earthly forces of the “Dragon” and of the “Lamb,” the “battle of the day of God Almighty” at “Armageddon,” which occurs when the sixth “bowl of wrath” is emptied – (Revelation 16:12-16).
- (Revelation 16:10-11) – “And the fifth poured out his bowl upon the throne of the beast; and his kingdom was darkened; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they repented not of their works.”
Previously, the “beast” received its “throne and power and great authority” from the “Dragon” – It is the earthly agent and vassal of the Devil. But the real conflict is between the “Dragon” and the “Lamb.” Just as Jesus reigns from his “Father’s throne,” so the “beast from the sea” sits on Satan’s throne to do his bidding – (Revelation 3:21, 13:2).
“Satan’s throne” was seen first in the letter to the church at Pergamos, and Revelation wants the reader to make that connection. Pergamos was the administrative center of the provincial government and the regional center of the Roman imperial cult:
- “I know where you dwell, even where Satan’s throne is; and you are holding fast my name, and did not deny my faith, even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells” – (Revelation 2:13).
“Darkness.” The plague of “darkness” targets the political authority of the “beast” – his “throne.” This is a literary link to the sounding of the “fifth trumpet” when the sun was “darkened” by the “smoke from the Abyss,” and the imagery is drawn from the ninth plague of Egypt:
- (Exodus 10:21-22) – “And Yahweh said to Moses: Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt. And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days.”
Likewise, the “pain” that caused men to “gnaw their tongues” echoes the earlier plague of “locusts” when the followers of the “beast” were “tormented for five months.” So here, the “inhabitants of the earth” who give allegiance to the “beast” are tormented by “their pains and sores.” The plague harms both the “beast” and the “inhabitants of the earth” who render homage to its image. – (Exodus 10:21-29, Revelation 9:1-3).
However, just as with the “sixth trumpet,” the men who take the “mark of the beast” refuse to repent. Instead, they “blaspheme the God of heaven.”
In Revelation, “blaspheme” denotes “slander,” false accusations and legal charges against the “saints.” This behavior is another link between the “beast” and the “inhabitants of the earth,” for the “beast” also “slandered the name of God, and his tabernacle, even them that tabernacle in heaven” – (Revelation 2:8-9, 13:6-7).
In the “fifth bowl of wrath,” the political power center and structures of the “beast” are under direct attack, the authority and state power necessary for the maintenance of power over humanity. With the destruction of the economic and political means, the final downfall of the World-Power has become inevitable, as well as imminent.