Advent with Revelation (Ch 16)
December 12, 2022
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.

Chapter 16 (Monday of the Third Week of Advent)

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, ‘Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.’ 

So the first angel went and poured his bowl on the earth, and a foul and painful sore came on those who had the mark of the beast and who worshipped its image. 

The second angel poured his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing in the sea died. 

The third angel poured his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters say,
‘You are just, O Holy One, who are and were,
   for you have judged these things;
because they shed the blood of saints and prophets,
   you have given them blood to drink.
It is what they deserve!’
And I heard the altar respond,
‘Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty,
   your judgements are true and just!’ 

The fourth angel poured his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire; they were scorched by the fierce heat, but they cursed the name of God, who had authority over these plagues, and they did not repent and give him glory. 

The fifth angel poured his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness; people gnawed their tongues in agony, and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and sores, and they did not repent of their deeds. 

The sixth angel poured his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up in order to prepare the way for the kings from the east. And I saw three foul spirits like frogs coming from the mouth of the dragon, from the mouth of the beast, and from the mouth of the false prophet. These are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. (‘See, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and is clothed, not going about naked and exposed to shame.’) And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Harmagedon. 

The seventh angel poured his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’ And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a violent earthquake, such as had not occurred since people were upon the earth, so violent was that earthquake. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. God remembered great Babylon and gave her the wine-cup of the fury of his wrath. And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found; and huge hailstones, each weighing about a hundred pounds, dropped from heaven on people, until they cursed God for the plague of the hail, so fearful was that plague. 


The individual outpourings of wrath show symbolically how the divine anger penetrates the sinner’s whole interior and exterior milieu: it is a psycho-physical abscess; it is something that changes the living water into dead water, which the living human being has to drink; it is something that scorches and burns. Nor do these things lead to conversion but—as in the case of the Egyptian plagues, which in many ways serve as a “type” here—to an ever-greater hardening of heart. The plagues are not institutions of mercy: they are judgment; they lay bare the presence, in souls, of the essence of evil. Bowls five to seven deal directly with the beast-principles that lie behind men: the beast’s throne is attacked, and his kingdom, the prestige of sin, is thrown into darkness: sin becomes unbearable torment. Then (when the boundary river dries up) a path is opened up for the powers of chaos to enter in and prepare for the final battle against God. Finally, the entire atmosphere linking heaven and earth is affected; all the signs of the end take place (16:18-20), and the last things become actuality: “It is done” (16:17). 

The wrath of God that continues to pour forth right to the end (in the seven bowls of chapter 16) is introduced by a particularly solemn heavenly liturgy (15:5-8), and the total destruction of Babylon (18:21-24) is greeted in heaven with thunderous jubilation (19:1-8). At the end, there is a stark polarization between the lake of fire, into which devil, Death and Hades disappear, and the new world in which there is neither mourning nor crying nor pain any more, “for the former things have passed away” (21:4). Just as the drama originated in the liturgy (at the handing-over, traditio, of the sealed scroll to the Lamb), so now it returns to it. 

From God’s self-involvement, manifest in the slaying and the subsequent reign of the Lamb, light is shed on the inseparable unity of God’s wrath and his love. Even if the beasts’ blasphemies cannot injure God’s “inner” honor, they do affect his “exterior” honor, which he has invested in his world, and so they provoke his anger. No doctrine of atonement may ignore this reality, which is attested a thousand times in Scripture; the Book of Revelation, which concludes the Old and the New Scriptures, once more sets this motif prominently at the center.

However, this parallelism between the martyrs and the beasts’ followers does not say everything there is to be said. We must continually remind ourselves that the increasingly terrible things that are unleashed once the seal of the book of world history has been broken have already been preceded by the victory of the Lamb; it is this victory that renders him “worthy” to break the seals (5:5). All the instances of judgment that now become necessary are the result of this victory. Why? Because even the No that echoes through the world is a result of God’s Yes. 

Musical Selection

All nations will draw near and fall down before you because your just and holy works have been revealed.

O ruler of the universe, Lord God,
great deeds are they that you have done, *
surpassing human understanding.
Your ways are ways of righteousness and truth, *

O King of all the ages
Who can fail to do you homage, Lord
and sing the praises of your Name
for you only are the Holy One.

All nations will draw near and fall down before you
because your just and holy works have been revealed. 

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen. (Joe Cox)

All nations will draw near and fall down before you because your just and holy works have been revealed.


God of mercy,
open your ears to our cries
and light up the dark places of our hearts
with the grace of your Son,
who will visit us and set us free.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever. Amen.