Imagine what it will be like on earth once all the Christians have been raptured and only unbelievers remain to deal with the worst catastrophes the world has ever endured.
We catch a glimmer of what the world will be like during that period of time in Revelation 16. The chapter opens with God commanding the seven angels to pour out their bowls. The Bowl Judgments are universal—they affect the entire planet.
The Bowl Judgments are more intense than any other judgment thus far meted out on the earth. John makes it clear that these judgments are reserved for those who “had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.”
Bowl 1: Skin Boils (Revelation 16:2)
The first Bowl Judgment targets humans directly, which results in a “loathsome [bad] and malignant [evil] sore.” It seems this sore is some kind of skin abscess that breaks out on the surface of the body.
Bowl 2: Destruction of Sea Life (Revelation 16:3)
When the second bowl is poured out, the entire oceanic ecosystem will die. Every fish, mammal, crustacean, invertebrate, coral reef—and any other creature that lives in the sea will become extinct. All the oceans of the earth will become “blood.” Somehow, the oceans’ water will coagulate and be filled with rotting, putrid, slimy, thick blood—like that from “a dead man.”
Imagine the ecological ramifications for the rest of the earth. Eighty percent of all life on earth is found in the world’s oceans. It provides vital sources of protein, energy, and minerals we need and use every day. Some cultures will be virtually unsustainable without fishing. Half our oxygen comes from the rolling of the waves. The ocean controls weather patterns and keeps the earth livable for humankind.
Bowl 3: Pollution of Fresh Water (Revelation 16:4-7)
When the third angel pours out his bowl, the entire water supply of the earth will be undrinkable. The fact that the earth’s drinking water will be polluted is an indication that the end of the last days is drawing to a rapid conclusion, since the average human can go about forty days without food but can only go three or four days without water.
Bowl 4: Scorching Sun (Revelation 16:8-9)
The fourth Bowl Judgment will increase the sun’s intensity. Those who have the mark of the beast and worship him (Revelation 16:2) will feel the intensity of the sun’s heat. The faithful apparently escape this judgment.
You would think the ice-cold hearts of these sore-inflicted, starving, thirsting, burning people would melt. They recognize that God is behind all these calamites—that He “has the power over these plagues.” But they refuse to honor Him or give glory to Him.
Bowl 5: Worldwide Darkness (Revelation 16:10-11)
The fifth Bowl Judgment will bring darkness. Specifically, John said the darkness would cover the “throne” and the “kingdom” of the “first beast”—Antichrist (Revelation 16:10). His capital will be Jerusalem, but since his kingdom is global—and the Bowl Judgments are poured out on “the earth” and are aimed at “the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image” (Revelation 16:1–2)—the judgment of darkness is worldwide.
Since the Bowl Judgments are directed at the beast-worshipers, I assume the faithful will somehow remain in the light. The darkness that descends will also bring with it pain. The pain will be so excruciating that unbelievers will literally “[gnaw] their tongues” (Revelation 16:10).
Bowl 6: Dried Up Euphrates (Revelation 16:12-16)
When the sixth bowl is poured out on the Euphrates the consequence to “the great river” is immediate: it instantly dries up (Revelation 16:12). However, the consequences to mankind are delayed.
The Euphrates has been turned to blood, all its fish dead and rotting (Revelation 16:4), and is now dried up. John tells us in verse 12: “so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east.”
A vast army will march across the Euphrates’ dry river bottom on their way to Jerusalem. Joining these kings from the east are rulers from all over the world, summoned by “the dragon [Satan] and . . . the beast [the Antichrist] and . . . the false prophet” (Revelation 16:13).
These worldwide kings—or nations—will gather, intent on destroying Israel for a final and climatic showdown between the armies of Satan and the armies of God—“the war of the great day of God, the Almighty” (Revelation 16:14).
Bowl 7: Final Destruction (Revelation 16:17-21)
At the immediate emptying of the seventh bowl: “a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne.” The voice of God, and He declares: “It is done”—His judgment on the beast-worshipers and His patience with evil has come to an end. In Greek, God’s declaration is one word, in the perfect tense, stressing a present effect of a past event, indicating that “the judgment of God has already occurred, and we are at the end of history.”
God’s declaration of “It is done” in Revelation 16:17 does not mean that the judgment is complete. Rather, God’s declaration means that the seventh Bowl Judgment is the last one but has yet to run its course in full. The Battle of Armageddon and the Great White Throne Judgment are still to come and are included in the judgment of the seventh bowl.
What does come immediately following the pouring out of the last bowl are “flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and . . . a great earthquake . . . and huge hailstones” (Revelation 16:18, 21).
The results of this unprecedented earthquake will split the “great city . . . into three parts” (Revelation 16:19). The “great city” probably refers to Jerusalem, which was earlier designated as the “great city” (Revelation 11:8) and is contrasted with “the cities of the nations.”
All the other cities in the world are completely destroyed by this mega quake. The most significant of those cities—and the one that receives special attention from God—is Babylon. The earthquake will also produce massive tsunamis that will literally wipe away islands, as well as level mountains (Revelation 16:20).
It will bring about the end of the world as we know it and will prepare the earth for the conditions that the prophets predicted would characterize the earth during Christ’s millennial reign.
Ecclesiastes 8:11 says, “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are fully given to do evil.”
We think that just because God doesn’t immediately judge sin in the world—or in our lives—that perhaps He will not judge us at all. We confuse God’s patience with God’s tolerance of sin. Revelation 16 reminds us that the only reason God has delayed His judgment is because He does not desire that any perish but all come to repentance. But there will come a day when God’s patience will end and all that will remain will be the fury of God’s wrath.