SYNOPSIS – The first four “bowls” undermined the economic structure of the World-Power; now, the fifth “bowl” targets its political dimension – Revelation 16:10-11.
The first “four bowls of wrath” attacked the economic infrastructure so vital to the ability of the “Beast” to dominate the “inhabitants of the earth,” and to wage war “against the saints.” At this point, the system of global commerce on which the World-Power depends is either destroyed or greatly weakened – (Revelation 16:1-9).
The fifth “bowl of wrath” will now weaken the political authority of the “Beast” in preparation for the final “battle” between the earthly forces of the “Dragon” and the “Lamb.” This event will occur at a place called “Armageddon” after demonic forces are released by the “sixth bowl of wrath” that gather the “kings of the earth” and their armies to the “Great Day of God the Almighty” – (Revelation 16:12-16).
The description provided in the present passage employs language and imagery from the prophecy of an invasion of ancient Israel by the forces of “Gog and Magog” in the book of Ezekiel, as well as the long-ago, predicted overthrow of ancient Babylon by a Persian force.
The Fifth Bowl
(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.”
“Darkness…and they gnawed their tongues for pain.” This description calls to mind the ninth plague of Egypt. This “darkness” targets the very political authority of the “Beast” – The “Throne of the beast.”
This “darkness” is a literary link to the sounding of the fifth trumpet when the sun was “darkened” because of the “smoke that ascended out of the Abyss.” Likewise, the “pain” that causes men to “gnaw their tongues” recalls the earlier plague of “locusts” when the followers of the “Beast” were “tormented five months.” So now, the men and women who gave allegiance to the “Beast” are tormented by “their pains and their sores” – (Exodus 10:21-29, Revelation 9:1-3).
As with the sixth trumpet, despite the torment, the men and women who took the “mark of the Beast” refuse to repent and, instead, “blaspheme the God of heaven.” In Revelation, the term “blaspheme” or blasphémeô carries the sense of “slander, defamation.” The idea is not engaging in profanity but accusation – The bringing of false charges. For example, the “Beast from the sea” blasphemed God by “blaspheming his name, and his tabernacle, even them that dwell in heaven,” that is, the “saints.” Previously, the Church at Smyrna experienced the “slander of them that say they are Jews, and they are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” – (Revelation 2:8-9, 13:6-7).
Likewise, the fourth and fifth “bowls of wrath” are linked verbally – Both affect the sun, both allude to the ninth Egyptian plague, and both result in men blaspheming God. Additionally, the fourth “bowl” caused the sun to burn men, and now, the fifth “bowl of wrath” darkens the sun. This demonstrates the plagues are not descriptions of literal events – The sun does not scorch men when it is darkened.
The “throne of the Beast” is a verbal link to the “throne of Satan” described in the letter to the Church at Pergamos, the administrative headquarters of the Roman provincial government, the center of the imperial cult for the province of Asia, and the home of “Antipas, my faithful witness, who was killed where Satan dwells.” At the time, regardless of how egregious the charge may have been, a man or woman could not be executed without the approval of the Roman authorities – (Revelation 2:13).
The plague of darkness produced anguish – Men began to “gnaw their tongues for the pain.” Darkness suggests political upheaval. The fifth trumpet also caused the darkening of the “sun and the air,” as well as mental anguish (“torment”) for the followers of the Beast – (Revelation 9:4-6).
Like Pharaoh and the citizens of Egypt, this “torment” causes the followers of the “Beast” to harden their hearts – It does not lead to repentance.
They repented not from their works.” This clause is almost verbatim from the sixth trumpet when, despite the “plagues” of the first six trumpet blasts, the “inhabitants of the earth” refused to “repent from the works of their hands,” even hardening their hearts further as they continued in their idolatry – (“Worship of demons and idols of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of stone, and of wood” – Revelation 9:20).
And there are verbal links to the pronouncement against the “woman Jezebel” who was active in the Church at Thyatira, the false prophetess who seduced Christians “to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols.” Jesus “gave her time that she should repent, and she wills not to repent of her fornication,” therefore he was about to cast her and her followers into great tribulation – (Revelation 2:20-22).
Thus, the effects of the “fifth bowl of wrap” overlap with the “plagues” of the first four bowls. The sores of the first plague continue to have an effect on the impenitent through the second, third, fourth, and fifth bowls. Each successive plague accumulates more punishments for the “inhabitants of the earth.” The economic and political aspects of the World-Power are inextricably linked.
But especially under attack in the plague of the “fifth bowl of wrath” are the power centers of the “Beast” – The and political authority necessary for the maintenance of its power.