Bowl

Revelation 15:1: “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.’

These seven bowl judgments take us to the end of the world. In Gill’s prophetic history, they are yet future and commensurate with the latter day glory to come. 

Gill’s Prophetic Timeline

A brief review of Gill’s timeline. The seven trumpets gradually ruined Rome Pagan sometime after the blaze of Constantine’s pro-Christian reign cooled.1See Gill’s comments on Rev. 8:5. The popes released Antichrist from the bottomless pit, bringing into the world two antichristian religions: Roman Catholicism (Papalism) and Islam (Mahometism).2See Gill’s comments on Rev. 9:1. The Roman empire then split into two empires: (1) eastern and (2) western. The spirit of Antichrist mediates his rule through the false religions of Roman Catholicism in the western empire and through Islam in the eastern empire. Each empire has two beasts: (1) civil power and (2) eccleciastical power. These bowl judgments crush those two beasts, rendering Antichrist powerless.3See Gill’s comments on Rev. 16:1. What will these judgments look like?

The Seven Bowl Judgments

A few points are important to remember. One, these bowls judgment are, in some sense, a duplication of the Egyptian plagues on a larger, global scale. Gill sees Egypt as a precursor to the Romish Babylon. Two, these judgments are intended, specifically, to punish reprobate earth dwellers, though the residual effects will impact Christian saints on some level. Three, the latter day glory begins at this time as well, with the Jewish nation born at once and the Gentile saints assisting them in evangelizing the world. Therefore, Gill sees the angels who administer the bowls as Christian Protestant world rulers: kings, queens, princes, magistrates, etc.4See Gill’s comments on Rev. 16:2.

Bowl #1

Painful sores on followers of the Popish religion. Possibly literal boils, but more likely internal agonies as the gospel torments their hardened consciences. 

Bowl #2

Great wars which ruin the “sea” of Popish doctrines and councils. 

Bowl #3         

Terrible wars in response to Protestant writers who refute Popish writings with the power of the gospel; the Popish writing representing the “rivers” and “streams” that feed into the “sea.”

Bowl #4

The destruction of Antichrist by the light of the gospel. This commences the latter day glory. Gill summarizes:

Zion’s light will be come, and the light of the sun will be seven-fold, and Christ alone will be exalted . . . yet will convict and confound the antichristian party; they will be scorched with beams of heat and light, which will dart from hence; these will torture them, and fill them with envy, rage, and malice, because they will not be able to obscure the progress of it.

John Gill, comments on Revelation 16:8

Bowl #5

This extinguishes the civil and ecclesiastical power of Antichrist. His followers writhe in agony and lust for revenge, yet have no power because Antichrist has been emasculated. Gill states they “will bite their tongues in madness.”5See Gill’s comments on Rev. 16:11.

Bowl #6         

The river of Islam will dry up and the gospel will race, unhindered,throughout the world—from “sea to sea.” The dragon = Satan; the beast = civil powers; the false prophet = ecclesiastical powers; and, the frogs = the cardinals, priests, etc. Gill describes it beautifully:

[T]he Gospel will be carried into the eastern parts of the world, into those vast kingdoms and countries which lie in those parts, when they will become the kingdoms of our Lord, and the kings and princes of them will come to the brightness of Zion’s rising; so that the ruin of this monarchy will pave the way for the spread of Christ’s kingdom from sea to sea, and from river, the Euphrates, to the ends of the earth; and this also will prepare the way, and lead on for all the saints, who are kings, and shall reign with Christ a thousand years.

John Gill, comments on Revelation 16:12

Bowl #7         

The destruction of the powers of the air, which takes us all the way to the glorious 2nd coming of our King, Jesus Christ. Gill specifies this bowl is poured out on the kingdom of Satan. Here is why:

[B]ecause he is the prince of that posse of devils, the principalities and powers of darkness, that have their dwelling in the air; hence the air, encompassing the whole earth, stands for the kingdom of Satan all over the world. 

John Gill, comments on Revelation 16:17

This seventh bowl takes us to the end of the age. To Gill, this “age” extends beyond the Millennial Kingdom, even to the casting of Satan with all the wicked into the lake of fire (Rev 22:10). As such, the great “earthquake” = the upheaval of Rome’s civil and ecclesiastical power; every “island fled” = the dissolving of antichristian nations; and, “hailstones” = God’s judgment on the antichristian parties.

Reflections

Though Gill is an historical premillennialist, the postmillennialist will find much to like in his eschatology. The latter day glory aligns nicely with the postmillennial concept of progressive gospel advancement.6Note, however, Gill does envision a brief falling away at the end of it; namely, the Laodicean church era. 

That said, we’re not as certain as Gill about Antichrist’s co-regency being Roman Catholicism and Islam; and the corrupting effect those works-based religions have on civil structures and society. Perhaps Satan’s secular and material world system, centered on self-idolatry, infiltrates all man-made religions and turns them toward him. From our vantage point in time and history, that seems possible. 

Yet, we can’t entirely discount Gill’s perspective, either. All of us are jaded by our time and place in history. I had a conversation with another Christian after an Isaiah study concerning eschatology. He commented, “I just don’t see the Pope ever garnering that much power.” 

“Yes,” I replied, “I understand your point completely. My critique of Gill is that he gives the pope too much credence. At the same time, Popish authority has ebbed and flowed throughout history. Today, he doesn’t wield the influence he once held. Yet, I could see how a pope could rise up, harness the civil and ecclesiastical powers under his authority again (add in the modern media/social media monster these days), and use them to persecute the saints violently.”

Things can change quickly these days. I prefer the “wait and see” approach. I “think” I do agree with Gill on this point, though: these seven judgments are yet future. 

References

References
1 See Gill’s comments on Rev. 8:5.
2 See Gill’s comments on Rev. 9:1.
3 See Gill’s comments on Rev. 16:1.
4 See Gill’s comments on Rev. 16:2.
5 See Gill’s comments on Rev. 16:11.
6 Note, however, Gill does envision a brief falling away at the end of it; namely, the Laodicean church era.
Author Bowl

Chip Thornton

Pastor of FBC Springville, Alabama. Chip is a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he earned his Ph.D. in expository preaching. He enjoys spending time with his family, has a passion for discipleship, and is committed to biblical exposition.

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