Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.” The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly, festering sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died. The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say: “You are just in these judgments, O Holy One, you who are and who were; for they have shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.” – Revelation 16:1-6
The first few of seven bowls of wrath are on tap for today’s passage. These bowls contain all manner of chaos and calamity. The first bowl contains something that causes festering sores on those “who had accepted the mark of the beast and worshiped its image”. This sounds very unpleasant. It sounds like this bowl of wrath contains some sort of plague, harmful radiation, or perhaps some sort of chemical or contaminant in the atmosphere. This first bowl makes something go wrong with the world and the way it operates that in turn impacts the humans living there. Whatever the reason it does not sound like a pleasant time to be on earth.
The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea “it turned into blood like that of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died.” The description of this second bowl of wrath contains an interesting detail. The sea is turned into something akin to “dead person’s blood” What is unique about the blood of a dead person – there is no life in it. The “life ” in the blood of a living person is oxygen. Bodies of water like lakes and seas also require oxygen to live. This property of water is called dissolved oxygen and levels too low can cause anoxic conditions deadly to aquatic organisms.
The Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico near New Orleans. There are frequent news stories about a “dead zone” at this location. The dead zone is due to the excess nutrients and organic matter in the Mississippi River. Whatever this second angel is releasing it creates a “dead zone” in the entire ocean system. The most likely way for this to happen, from a scientific perspective, would be something raining out of the atmosphere. This could cause an algal bloom. Some algae is actually red in color like those that create “red tides”. I am not saying that this wrath is not a supernatural judgement from God, but it certainly could happen within the natural laws that God created.
Another way for widespread ocean death would be a rain of radioactive fallout which could kill all the creatures in the seas. The third angel focuses wrath on the rivers and springs and they also “became blood”. This is truly a global breakdown of the ecologic and hydrologic functions of the earth, both of which keep us humans alive.
Then comes this interesting angel described as “the angel in charge of the waters”. I do not remember reading about this angel or the idea that angels could be in charge of earthly events before anywhere in the bible. The idea that there is an angel in charge of waters is somewhat confusing. How does God, the Father of the rain fit in here? Perhaps these angels have been given dominion by God over these things only during the end times being described here. I do not know.
In the end these judgments are deemed “just” because “they have shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets”. This is the consequence for these people marked with the beast and choosing to worship his image. I am not sure if there will be any opportunity for these people to choose differently at this point. It may be too late. The mark of the beast may be indelible. My sense is that God gives us every opportunity to follow the Lamb for our journey home to the undiscovered country. Those who do not end up there have chosen their own way.
Prayer: God help us to choose to follow the Lamb as we go about our journey here on earth so that we can avoid the wrath to come for those who choose not to follow You.