These 3 chapters are somewhat short and reasonably straightforward as they follow the same pattern as previous chapters. There are a few concepts worth noting, however.
In the first verses (1-5) of this chapter, we again see the 144,000 from chapter 7 that were sealed from each of the tribes. Again, this seems to be the first Jewish converts to Christianity that were found blameless because they had been redeemed by Jesus’ blood.
In the next several verses, we see three angels flying through heaven, one after the other, each with a proclamation.
The first angel proclaims the eternal Good News, that the hour of judgment has come, and that God should be worshiped (v6-7).
The second angel states that Babylon the great, which as up to this point seems to symbolize Jerusalem, has fallen (v8). This angel states her sin is unfaithfulness to God which corrupted all the nations, an opposition to her intent as the salt and light of the earth.
The third angel makes a proclamation that those who worship the beast and receive the mark will also drink of God’s wrath (v9-10).
In verse 11, a pause is needed to clarify a concept that seems often confused. Here we see that “The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. They have no rest day and night.” As is explained in more detail here, this isn’t a concept of eternal torment. This is a type of punishment that will go on as long as it has to—day and night and age of ages. Like in other parts of the Bible, such as Isaiah 34:10 and 66:24, the emphasis here is that the punishment will in no way cease, the fire will in no way be put out, until completion.
Verse 12 calls for the Christians here to persevere until the end of the tribulation and verse 13 states those that die in the Lord will be blessed and rest from their labors.
In the rest of the chapter, we see the harvest of the ripe grapes, their being trodden in the wine press of God’s wrath. This seems to symbolize the final invasion of Jerusalem where there was an unprecedented slaughter at the hands of the Romans (ref). It seems there was also a case where many were pursed to the Jordan, slaughtered, and thrown into the river, possibly causing the “river of blood” effect in verse 20 (ref).
This is a short chapter that introduces the next set of 7—the plagues. There is an important concept in the first verse—“the seven last plagues, for in them, God’s wrath is finished.” Here, we see that there is a cessation to God’s wrath; it doesn’t continue on for all eternity.
The rest of this chapter is fairly straightforward as a view of heaven and the angels being dispatched with the seven plagues.
This chapter shows the dispersion of the 7 plagues (v1). As with the seals and trumpets, these seem to be happening at the same time, a sort of paralleling of occurrences.
The first plague was harmful sores on those who had the mark of the beast and worshiped it (v2).
The second bowl is poured out into, what appears to be, the sea of Galilee (v3) as recorded by Josephus (ref).
The third bowl is poured into the rivers and streams (v4-5). As mentioned above, this effect could have been caused by the mass slaughter going on in Palestine. This is correlated in verse 6 with the blood of the prophets that was spilled by the Jewish people as also in Matt 23:35-36.
The fourth bowl is poured out on the sun and men were scorched with fire, blaspheming against God and remaining unrepentant (v8-9). It would seem this relates to much of Palestine being burned by the invaders.
The fifth bowl is poured on the throne of the beast—which would be Rome, and his kingdom is darkened—possibly representing the death of Nero and the chaos that ensued. Meanwhile, it seems the physical ailments continued within Palestine though they remained unrepentant (v10-11).
The sixth bowl is poured out on the Euphrates, drying up the water to allow the kings to cross (v12) as we also see correlating with the sixth trumpet. Verse 13 seems to be the dispatching of agents of Rome to gather the conscripted armies of the conquered lands (v13-14). Again, in verse 14, we see mention of the “great day of God, the Almighty.“
Again, in verse 15, we see more of the soon terminology being used by Jesus. “I come like a thief” and “blessed is he who watches” seems to be referencing, at this point in the text, Christians of this time period remaining ever watchful of the signs of Jesus’ coming.
Verse 16 mentions these armies gathering together at Megiddo, which we know as Armageddon. This is the place that the armies were to marshal for the invasion of Palestine. An interesting side-note here, in the 15th century BC, the city of Meggido was surrounded for seven months, similar to the Roman encampment against Jerusalem. However, when the supplies of the city began to falter, the inhabitants surrendered, unlike in the Jerusalem siege where the inhabitants descended into depravity (ref).
In verse 17, we see the final bowl poured out into the air and a loud voice proclaiming “It is done!” Verse 18 again has the same events of lightning, sounds, thunders, and a great earthquake referencing the correlation of the seals and trumpets that had the same. Verse 19 sees the city divided by the earthquake and being called Babylon. In verse 20, we have similar symbolism as listed out previously in chapter 6.
In verse 21, we see another interesting symbol of a plague of hail coming from the sky. Here, we see something specific enough to be historically verified—the weight and color. Josephus records very similar (ref). In this verse, we see unrepentant Israel still blaspheming God.
This closes out this chapter. So far, the timing and society still seems to match with that of Israel during the Roman invasion, of which the destruction of the temple was the climax. Again, I encourage everyone to research these things for themselves to find the meanings as relevant to their personal walk with God.