Summary: First Bowl Judgment
Revelation 16:2, “So the first angel left the Temple and poured out his bowl over the earth, and horrible, malignant sores broke out on everyone who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his statue.”
As we have already established in 15:7 these bowls are actually saucers. The contents in these saucers would not be poured out slowly or gradually poured out, but dumped out all at once. Horrible, malignant sores refers to the pain they caused. Horrible is actually a bad translated word of loathsome (NKJV). The two works loathsome and malignant come from two Greek words for evil (kakos and poneros). These words used together point out to the fact that the sores will be festering, painful, and incurable. Sore comes from the Greek word translated helkos, which is the Greek equivalent of the Latin word which the English word ulcer comes from. This word describes oozing, inflamed, ulcerous sores such as those that affected the Egyptians (Exodus 9:9-11; Deut 28:27, 16:21), Job (Job 2:7), and the ones that covered Lazarus the beggar (Luke 16:21).
These sores point to the fact that those who willfully Christ and His Gospel during this period will experience the physical torment for their decision. Ulcers are caused mainly by stress although they can be genetic in some cases as well. This then could possibly mean that the stress caused by prior judgments of God could then have given them sores, but this then would deny the heart of this verse which is the fact that the angel poured out the bowl. Yet it could also point out to the fact that the angel poured out this bowl and the people of earth then experienced such stress that they had sores or ulcers. It could also mean more possibly that as a result of this bowl that the people had ulcers, but it seems more likely that this bowl caused the sores on the people as a direct result of those who had taking the mark of the beast and worshipped his image. This then would lead us to see that these sores are caused directly not by the stress of the judgments but as a result of the angel’s pouring out of the contents of the bowl upon the earth, which would then be the most appropriate way to understand the meaning of the verse.
These ulcerous sores will not affect believers because their names have been “written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain (13:8). These sores will only come upon those who willfully and deliberately choose to receive the mark to show their allegiance to Satan (13:16-17), and worship his image (13:12). Revelation 14:9-11, an angel described their ultimate demise, “9Then a third angel followed them, shouting, "Anyone who worships the beast and his statue or who accepts his mark on the forehead or the hand 10must drink the wine of God’s wrath. It is poured out undiluted into God’s cup of wrath. And they will be tormented with fire and burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb. 11The smoke of their torment rises forever and ever, and they will have no relief day or night, for they have worshiped the beast and his statue and have accepted the mark of his name.”
This passage describes the damnation that would come upon those who willfully rejected Christ but also describes only temporary judgment while this one (Revelation 16:2) describes permanent judgment. Antichrist’s followers are suffering the consequences of having rejected the preaching of the gospel and the warning of the angel in 14:7 to, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come.” These inflamed incurable sores may be similar perhaps to those Zechariah wrote about: “Now this will be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the people who have gone to war against Jerusalem; their flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, and their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongue will rot in their mouth” (14:12).