Summary: Third Bowl Judgment
Revelation 16:4-7, “4Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs, and they became blood. 5And I heard the angel who had authority over all water saying, "You are just in sending this judgment, O Holy One, who is and who always was. 6For your holy people and your prophets have been killed, and their blood was poured out on the earth. So you have given their murderers blood to drink. It is their just reward." 7And I heard a voice from the altar saying, "Yes, Lord God Almighty, your punishments are true and just."”
Similar to the previous bowl judgment this angel then pours out his bowl on the rivers and springs, and they became blood. The difference however between the two is that the other bowl judgment was upon the sea while this bowl is on the rivers and springs. While similar to what happened to the Nile in Egypt (Exodus 7:20-24; Ps 78:43-44), now happens instead to the whole’s entire supply of fresh water. The contamination of the world’s oceans will ruin the world’s economy since the world’s oil is transported through the oceans, but the destruction of the world’s fresh water supply will be a strike to humanity, because one cannot survive very long without water.
The water supply will already be in short supply during this time as a result of the third trumpet judgment (8:10-11), which will result in the poisoning of one third of the world’s fresh water. Yet the two witnesses will also have, “the power to shut up the sky so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying [the last three and one half years of the tribulation]; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood” (11:6). Yet also as if this wasn’t bad enough is the fact that the temporary restraining of the world’s winds (7:1) will cause drought as well. The result of this will be that with no winds to move clouds the weather systems, the hydrological cycle will be disrupted and no rain will fall.
What does this then lead us to see? The destruction of the earth’s fresh water will cause unthinkable hardship upon humanity. There will be no fresh water to drink; no clean water to wash the oozing sores caused by the first bowl; no water to bring relief from the scorching head that the fourth bowl judgment will shortly bring. The scene here is then so bad that one would then be correct in asking, “How can a God who is compassionate and loving do this?” The answer is that God has restrained His justice and now is doling out His holiness for the whole world to see. God retrains His justice and holiness so that all humanity will have a chance to experience His love and compassion. Here now we see that God will give a brief break so that an angel can speak in God’s defense.
In Jewish thought it was thought that the elements of nature were held to be under the jurisdiction of appropriate angels to which Sweet points out, “In contemporary thought spiritual powers represented and controlled earthly realities. In Revelation 7:1 we learned of angels who restrained the four winds of the earth, and in 14:18 of an angel who had charge of fire. 1 Enoch 66:2 tells of angels of punishment who held the subterranean waters in check. Whether such an angel is here referred to is uncertain. Lenski then points out, “There is some (but not much) merit in the suggestion that the “angel in charge of the waters” is simple the angel of the previous verse who poured out his bowl upon the waters.” Lenski, 469).