KEY TEXT: Revelation 16:2-8 So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea. The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, "Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!" And I heard the altar saying, "Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!" The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.
KEY THOT: The first four bowls of God's wrath were directed at all inhabitants of the earth who remain because they "bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image" (v.2). The last three bowls of God's wrath was directed at the Beast himself and his kingdom. By this time, those who have refused the mark of the Beast would have been resurrected or raptured when the seventh and last trumpet was sounded: "And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands" (Rev. 15:2). So the saints who refuse the mark of the beast are already in heaven when the seven bowls of God's wrath are poured out.
The seven bowls were released after the seventh and last trumpet sounded, which means that the Church of true believers would have been taken up out of the earth. According to 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, the rapture of believers will occur at the last trumpet sound: "Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed." So, the church will be taken out of the way before God's final outpouring of wrath upon all inhabitants of the earth that are left behind.
Some modern believers may have problem reconciling God's wrath with their understanding of God's love. The reason for this is their own presumption, viz., that wrath and love are irreconcilable attributes. Consider what the angel said about God: "Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!" (vv.5-6). "God is love" (1 John 4:8) is his foundational attribute. But God's love is holy love and it is expressed both as mercy and wrath. God's love is experienced as mercy by the penitent and as wrath by the impenitent.
His wrath towards the impenitent is therefore as much an expression of his love as his mercy towards the penitent. If there is no wrath in love, there would be no necessity for Him to offer his Son as the propitiation (something that appeases God's wrath) for our sins. So, at the Cross, we see God's love expressed as mercy and wrath. It's like the holy father who loves his children so much that he would not spare the rod when his children have done something evil: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten." (Revelation 3:19).
Those who refuse to accept the truth of God's wrath against impenitent believers and unbelievers alike as part of his love are rejecting biblical revelation. Or worse, they may be guilty of theological idolatry. Mind-made idols are as corrupting as hand-made ones.
The first four bowls of God's wrath will bring: (1) harmful and painful sores, (2) death in the sea, (3) blood in the rivers (4) scorching heat and fire. And according to the angel, "it is what they deserve!"
Abba-Father, we thank You that in Your love You have shown us mercy and wrath, so that we may turn from evil and turn towards You. Amen.