The Third Bowl – Judgment on the Fresh Water (Revelation 16:4-7)

This third bowl-plague will come after the second bowl-plague of death to the sea; probably after it has affected human kind to its fullest extent. We don’t really know when this plague will begin; but I don’t think there will be any time between these bowl-plagues to relax.

This plague is another plague on water, but this time it will come on the rivers and the springs—on all the fresh water; water that is for drinking. It will all become blood. I suppose it will be much like the first plague of Egypt (Ex. 7:14-25), the blood in the water coming from the death of all the fish in the river (the Nile). But in this third bowl judgment all the fish and all that is living in all the rivers and the springs on the earth will die.

I am wondering how wide-ranging it will be? That is, in Egypt they were able to dig anywhere around the Nile and find fresh water; but I have a feeling that in the Tribulation even the underground water will be polluted. I don’t know. I am wondering also if they will be able to rely on fresh fruit for a source of water. Or will that be polluted too—since fruit trees have to be nourished from fresh water?

How will people survive without water? They may have to rely on bottled water or coke that they have stored away. But what will they do when that is used up? Perhaps they will be able to purify the water or somehow sanitize it.

As we ponder these questions let’s hear what an angel, “the angel of the waters” has to say. He says,

Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things; for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.

Here, this angel, who apparently has been charged with guarding the waters of the earth, praises God for His righteousness and holiness in respect to what He has done: for His judgment on the rivers and the springs in polluting it with death and blood, so that the people will have to drink it. It is well deserved, he said, because of what they have done in “pouring out the blood of saints and prophets.”

I’m not sure if we can be certain of who “they” (in verse 6) is referring to. Most directly, I think, it would be the leaders: the Antichrist, the false prophet, and the false church (the harlot) during the seven-year Tribulation. But it seems that this guilt, the guilt of the blood of the saints and prophets is also on all those who worship the Antichrist and Satan—all unbelievers. Hence, it seems that they all are guilty by association; for all will be given blood to drink. Yes, the angel of water says that they deserve it. Hence, they all will drink the bloody water. Yuck!

But indirectly, and for many years, the Catholic inquisition as well as the corrupt Roman government, corrupted by Babylonialism, has barbarically persecuted and killed many Christians, as we know; and God, I’m sure will deal with them justly in eternity.

Those in the seven-year Tribulation, however, may top that murder-rate and barbarism. During the first part of the Tribulation, the false church (or the Great Harlot) will be most guilty; for in Revelation 17:6 John sees her as “the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.” This false church is pictured in Revelation 17:4-5 as a woman…

clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality, 5 and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”

Hal Lindsey writes of this woman,

When the angel told John that he would tell him the mystery of the woman, he meant that this Harlot, the false religious system, would have as its main teachings the same occultic practices as ancient Babylon. It would include black magic, demon contact, seances, miraculous materializations, witchcraft, astrology, and sorcery. Her luxurious external appearances of jewels and royal clothes meant that she would have a great appeal to the sensual nature of men, but her gold cup filled with abominations represented her corrupt and perverse teachings. Her drunkenness with the saint’s blood shows how she had successfully eliminated all who opposed her.3

Then also, after the Antichrist destroys the Harlot (Rev. 17:16), he, with his armies, will make war with the saints and overcome them (Rev. 13:7; Dan. 7:21). We don’t know to what extent he will kill and persecute them. John MacArthur writes that “the Antichrist will be allowed to massacre those who are God’s children.”4

Now in verse seven a very strange thing occurs. John hears the altar speak, saying that indeed God’s judgments are true and righteous. The altar here is probably the same as in Revelation 6:9, the altar of incense in heaven. And, I think, just as in chapter 6, in the fifth seal, the speaking of the altar is actually the voices of martyrs expressing their approval of God and His judgments. According to Barnes in his Barnes Notes, on Revelation 6:9,

This is one of the incidental proofs in the Bible that the soul does not cease to exist at death, and also that it does not cease to be conscious, or does not sleep until the resurrection. These souls of the martyrs are represented as still in existence; as remembering what had occurred on the earth; as interested in what was now taking place; as engaged in prayer; and as manifesting earnest desires for the divine interposition to avenge the wrongs which they had suffered.5

We also have a familiar occurrence in Genesis 4:10, when God says to Cain after he had slain his brother Abel, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.” Hence, this is yet another proof that the soul does not die after the body dies. It lives on, and the believer’s soul naturally cries out to God for vengeance, and also praises and approves of God’s good judgments.


3 Ibid., p. 224.

4 John MacArthur, John MacArthur’s notes on Revelation 13:7.

5 Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes, Electronic Database, 1997, Biblesoft.

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