The land in the first vial
The seven vials or bowls of God’s wrath in Revelation 16 were to be poured out on the earth, [Revelation 16:1] but the first one was to especially target the land, while others were poured on the sea, rivers and fountains, the sun, the seat of the beast, Euphrates, and the air. In the KJV, and several other English translations, the first angel pours out his vial upon the earth, but the NIV, and Young’s Literal translation, say land rather than earth. Barnes Notes on the second verse states: “In Revelation 16:1, the word earth is used in the general sense to denote this world as distinguished from heaven; in this verse it is used in the specific sense, to denote land as distinguished from other things.” The NIV says:
Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.”
The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly, festering sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.
The significance of the word land in this context is that it may refer to the promised land, which is a factor to consider when interpreting the prophecy.
The woman who flees to the wilderness in Revelation 12:14, represents the saints who escape from the world, and from the power of the beast, and who seek “a better country, that is, a heavenly one.” [Hebrews 11:16] The figure of the church fleeing to the wilderness implies that the saints seek a promised land, but it is not the literal land of Canaan. Rather, Israel’s land promise foreshadowed a more permanent, spiritual inheritance; the “better country” that the saints are to inherit. One of the things that the land typifies is the truth to which Jesus said the Spirit will guide his saints. [John 16:13]
In Numbers 12, the disease of leprosy fell upon Miriam, when she criticized Moses for marrying an Ethiopian. The servant of Elijah, who went after Naaman the Syrian, after he had been healed of his leprosy, and solicited a talent of silver, and two changes of garments from him in the name of Elijah, was smitten with leprosy. [2 kings 5:27]
A plague afflicts those who fight against the Lord at Jerusalem. [Zechariah 14:12] Similarly, the hordes of Gog and Magog are threatened with pestilence, and blood. [Ezekiel 38:22] Revelation 20:8-9, where deceived people come against the camp of the saints and the beloved city, which is the church, alludes to these prophecies. The plagues in Revelation 16 are spiritual, and they affect individuals, since they will be added to those who add to the words of the Apocalypse. [Revelation 22:18]
The first vial being poured out on the land may relate to how the land is understood in prophecy. Misunderstanding the land promises, and insisting that the land has to be literal obscures the spiritual significance of the land as a figure and type of the spiritual inheritance of the saints.