Revelation 16

Revelation 16  •  17 min. read  •  grade level: 7
“AND I heard a great voice out of the temple saying tp the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth." The seven angels appointed to execute the fury of God upon the earth, having come out of the temple in heaven, a great voice of authority, proceeding from the same place, commands them to pour out the bowls. The earth here evidently refers to the prophetic sphere in a general way, whilst in the-details which follow, particular portions of it are mentioned.
“And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image." (Ver. 2.) In this verse the earth, that is, the prophetic earth, or that portion of the world which is in an outwardly ordered state, becomes the subject of divine judgment. The angel having emptied the first bowl, a terrible plague breaks out. An evil and grievous sore in the righteous government of God comes upon the men, who, renouncing their allegiance to Him, have accepted the mark of Satan's man, the beast, and worship his image.
“And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea." (Ver. 3.) As we have before remarked, the sea, figuratively represents men in an agitated, unsettled and revolutionary condition. The second angel having poured out his bowl upon them, a deadly plague overtakes them. As early as Gen. 9:44But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. (Genesis 9:4) we read of flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof. The sea becomes blood, as of a dead man. All vitality is completely paralyzed. Moral darkness and death reign, and the profession of life dies out.
“And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments." (Verses 4-7.) Rivers and fountains of waters represent the currents and movements, sources and springs of thought and opinions which influence men. Through their departure from God and the truth, men have become utterly corrupted. Who can cast his eye around and not perceive the enormous impetus given to the production and the flooding of light and corrupt literature through the misuse of the printing press? Shall man give rein to the lusts of the mind with impunity? Is there not a reckoning day? God is very patient, but grace will not forbear forever. He has forewarned us. Men are without excuse. Here we get the execution of His holy judgment, now rapidly approaching. He is strong who executeth His word. When the third angel pours out his bowl, the rivers and fountains of waters become blood. Such awful perversion of the privileges and blessings of Christianity and civilization can only end in moral and physical death. It is impossible for anyone acquainted with Old Testament scripture to read this passage and not be struck with the analogy between the physical plagues in Egypt (Ex. 7:19-2419And the Lord spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone. 20And Moses and Aaron did so, as the Lord commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. 21And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. 22And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the Lord had said. 23And Pharaoh turned and went into his house, neither did he set his heart to this also. 24And all the Egyptians digged round about the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the river. (Exodus 7:19‑24)) and these moral plagues which shall shortly break out in the world.
And when this judgment takes place the angel of the waters, one apparently who acts from God in relation to them, vindicates His righteousness in its execution. He says, "Thou art righteous, who art and wast, the holy one, that thou hast judged so." So it should read. The victim's who suffer under this plague are verily guilty. They had offended against the holiness of the holy One, the high and lofty One, whose name is Holy, who inhabiteth eternity, having persecuted His saints. (Isa. 57:1515For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. (Isaiah 57:15).) He is the eternally existing One, He ever was the One who is infinite in holiness, doing wonders. "For," adds the angel, "they have poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; they are worthy." The rivers and fountains, that is, the moral currents and springs of popular thought and movement among the masses, are said by the angel who communicates the thought of God to become blood. All alike are held to be guilty of the blood of His saints and prophets. And what a terrible record, both in scripture and in history, there is, as everyone knows who has thought upon the subject! Therefore God is righteous in judging so, in vindicating His holiness, and in avenging the martyrdom of His people by giving the guilty to drink blood in their turn. They suffer moral death. "They are worthy." That is, they are worthy of such a judgment. Their actions proclaim their guilt.
And there is a second witness. Not only the angel of the waters, but also the altar proclaims God's righteousness in so judging. The altar in the vision is said to speak. It was a place of judgment, the witness of God's righteous dealings against sin and the sinner. "Yea," says the altar, when God's fury is poured out, "Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments." Reader, are you carried away by the awful currents of human opinion in the last days? Are you going with, and imbibing the streams of infidelity, corruption and blasphemy which are so rapidly taking the place of God and His holy word? Stop ere it be too late, lest the Lord, ere long, having called His heavenly saints on high, and grace having ceased to flow, give you blood to drink!
“And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory." (Verses 8, 9.) The sun, looked at figuratively, represents supreme ruling power in relation to the earth. Power is given to, it to scorch men with fire, which shows that the ruling power becomes excessively oppressive. They are scorched with great heat. It is a time of great suffering. But instead of repenting of their evil deeds and sin and rebellion against God, they blaspheme the name of Him who has authority over these awful plagues. It is the hour of the execution of His judgment, richly merited, which is poured out without mercy. The only, way of escape is by true repentance towards Him. But notwithstanding that the suffering is manifestly at God's hand, they repent not to give Him glory; and instead of turning to Him in their misery, who alone could deliver them, blaspheme His holy name. Failing to give glory to God, which involves self-judgment, they suffer the scorching of the fiery sun to the bitter end.
“And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds." (Verses 10, 11.) This fifth plague falls upon the seat (or throne) of the beast himself. And the kingdom of Satan's man becomes full of darkness. Men boast to-day of the diffusion of light and knowledge through the progress of education, civilization, science, etc. One is far from undervaluing these things. No doubt, on the one hand, men reap great benefits from them. But, alas, is it not equally true on the other, that the moral effect is insubjection to God and His word, and the exaltation and glory of men? Instead of glorifying God, whose wisdom and providence bestow these boons, men, deceived by Satan and by their own hearts, take the credit of this advancement to themselves. It is putting darkness for light. And woe, like that of Isa. 5:2020Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20), will soon come upon all who are carried away by it. Those who refuse the Lordship of Christ and the rule of God will fall under the lordship of the beast and the rule of Satan. They will be involved in the awful moral darkness which will pervade his kingdom in the hour of God's fury. Any little light which may still have flickered will be extinguished. Having believed the lie of Satan, through strong delusion, their hearts and minds will become completely darkened, and they shall gnaw their tongues with distress and pain. They use that little but boastful and unruly member to blaspheme instead of to glorify God. It is a fire, a world of iniquity. It defileth the whole body. It setteth on fire the course of nature. And it is set on fire of hell. It is untamable, an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:1-121My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. 2For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. 3Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. 4Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. 5Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 6And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. 7For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: 8But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. (James 3:1‑12).) Having wrought incalculable mischief through the unruly use of their tongues, men will gnaw them with pain. But again, instead of repenting of their ungodly deeds, they will use them to blaspheme. The beast himself is blasphemous, and so are the subjects of his kingdom. Having sought to shut out the God of the earth, they blaspheme the God of heaven, because of their pains and their sores. Suffering both morally, mentally and physically from dire distresses and sores, through their own wicked wills, they vomit out their maledictions upon Him whose name they have utterly dishonored, and whose glory they have trampled underfoot.
“And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared." (Ver. 12.) The river Euphrates was one of the four heads (or main streams) into which the river which flowed from the Garden of Eden was parted. (Gen. 2:10-1410And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. 11The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. 13And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. 14And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates. (Genesis 2:10‑14).) Later on in scripture it is given as the boundary of the land to be possessed by the children of Israel. (Josh. 1:1-41Now after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord it came to pass, that the Lord spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying, 2Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. 3Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. 4From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. (Joshua 1:1‑4).) It was also partly the eastern boundary of the old Roman Empire. Now we know that the judgments detailed in the Revelation are preparatory to the establishment of the kingdom in the hand of Christ, and mount Zion at Jerusalem will be the earthly center of His rule. Here we get the breaking down of the eastern barrier, that the way, of the kings of the east (or from the rising of the sun) might be prepared. God will thus open the way providentially for them to come up to battle ere Christ's manifestation in power. The waters of the great river will be dried up. This great barrier between western and eastern powers, which has so often played an important role in the conflicts of nations in the past, will be effectually, removed by divine power, and the oriental nations will appear to take part in the awful conflict against Christ and His rights.
“And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty." (Verses 13, 14.) In this remarkable passage the anti-trinity of evil is brought distinctly together. Satan is viewed in his draconic character, in relation to ruling power; the beast, as hitherto, who occupies his throne on the earth, savage, conscienceless and blasphemous; and the false prophet or antichrist, who now assumes a false prophetical character, in mimicry of Christ. The power of Satan being then fully established upon the earth, from each of their mouths emanates an unclean spirit, in the similitude of a frog, reminding us again of the plague of frogs in Egypt. (Ex. 8) They are said to be the spirits of demons, working signs by satanic power, whereby the rulers of the world are deceived. The original does not distinguish between the kings of the earth and of the whole world. It reads simply "the kings of the whole habitable world." It is a universal judgment. The kings then in power throughout the length and breadth of the world become the prey of these demon spirits. They are drawn to the great center of the gathering of the nations in opposition to the rights of Christ. The end of this present age is at hand. The great day of God the Almighty is about to dawn. The most awful crisis that the world has ever known will shortly ensue.
Christ and His heavenly armies are arrayed on the one hand, and all the hosts of Satan's power on earth under demon influence on the other. We shall see later on with what result. (Chaps. 17:14; 19:19-21.)
“Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon." (Verses 15, 16.) The Holy Ghost had already testified that Christ would come as a thief. (1 Thess. 5:22For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2).) Christ, too, had threatened Sardis in the same manner. (Rev. 3:33Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. (Revelation 3:3).) Here in view of this gathering together of the kings of the world for the awful conflict, He repeats again, "Behold, I come as a thief." Suddenly, unexpectedly, these vast hosts of men will be overtaken in their wickedness and destroyed. Is there no hope for any of them? None whatever. But the same voice pronounces blessing upon him who watches and keeps his garments in view of His return. Not one such, even at that dread moment of the world's history, shall either be exposed or put to shame.
Though demoniacal power will have assembled the kings of the whole habitable world, verse 16 shows that behind these dread scenes-the workings of Satan, demons and men-there is a higher power moving. We read that He gathered them together. The place of assembling for the judgment is called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon, or the mountain of Megiddo. Megiddo is said to signify "The place of multitudes." It has already been the scene of many conflicts, as recorded in the scripture, namely, Gideon with the Midianites; the kings of Canaan (Judg. 5:1919The kings came and fought, then fought the kings of Canaan in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo; they took no gain of money. (Judges 5:19)); Saul with the Philistines; Josiah with Pharaoh; and in later times the Tartars with the Saracens. Christ will come as a thief, destroying His foes, and establishing His kingdom.
“And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.",(Ver. 17.) The air is the sphere of Satan's power, and he is now said to be its prince. (Eph. 2:22Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: (Ephesians 2:2).) The very moral atmosphere which men breathe has been corrupted by his presence and power. Judgment is now poured out. It is followed by a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne of God, announcing, It is done (or it is over or past). God will have executed His fury. It is the last of the plagues, though details of other judgments follow.
“And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great. (Ver. 18.) John hears and sees these terrible symbols of judgment. Jeremiah has said (chap. 51:16),":When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens; and he causeth the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth: he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures." A great earthquake, unparalleled in the world's history, shatters everything to its very foundations. Men have been again and again horrified at the awful earthquakes which have been allowed of God in His government to take place in different countries and cities; but this great earthquake which, judging by the further description, we look at morally (although it may be accompanied by great physical effects), will far eclipse them all in its solemn and widespread results.
“And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found." (Verses 19, 20.) We take the great city here to set forth the great city of the world in general. Through this judgment of God, European civilization in the west is divided into three parts. "And the cities of the nations fell." Great cities, renowned among men for their progress, enlightenment, opulence and power, come down with a terrible crash. The vanity of men's congeries is fully exposed. And then great Babylon came into remembrance before God. Would that it were for His blessed heart's joy! But, alas, this vast system, having its origin at Babel, lauded by men, is hateful in His holy sight. We shall see its awfully corrupt character in the next chapters, so that we will not dwell upon it here. We have already remarked that it does not refer to a literal city, but to a vast, immoral and apostate system, prefigured by the ancient city. It is the corrupt professing church, and the moment has come for the execution of God's sentence of judgment upon her. He will give to her a full cup. Her cup of iniquity will then be full, and the cup of the wine of the fury of His wrath will be poured out upon her.
“And every island fled away." An island or land in the midst of the sea illustrates that which is fixed and stable in the midst of all that is unsettled, agitated and revolutionary. So at this moment everything that partakes of that character will disappear. There will be no refuge for safety in the midst of the waves and forces of human strife. Likewise the mountains, figures of great established powers in the earth, which tower above the masses (Dan. 2:3535Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. (Daniel 2:35)), will no longer be found. They will be utterly overthrown.
“And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great." (Ver. 21.) In Job 38:22, 2322Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, 23Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war? (Job 38:22‑23) the Lord said to him, "Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?”
Again in Isa. 28:22Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand. (Isaiah 28:2), "Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the' hand." Here we get the breaking out of the tempest, and the discharge from the hail treasuries. Like as the Lord cast down great stones of old from heaven upon the enemies of Israel (Josh. 10:1111And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Beth-horon, that the Lord cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword. (Joshua 10:11).), so in this day a great hail of stones as of a talent weight will fall upon men. But, alas, the Spirit has to record again that the judgment of God, like His goodness, fails to bring about humbling and repentance before Him; men blaspheme God instead on account of it. It is the last of the plagues, and exceeding great.