INTRODUCTION TO REVELATION 16
This chapter gives an account of the pouring out of the seven vials by the angels; their orders for it are in Revelation 16:1. The first angel pours out his vial on the earth, the effect of which is a noisome and grievous sore upon the followers of antichrist, and the worshippers of his image, Revelation 16:2. The second pours out his upon the sea; the events of it are, the sea became blood, and every living creature in it died, Revelation 16:3. The third pours out his upon the rivers and fountains of water, which thereby became blood; upon which the angel of the waters applauds the justice of God, declaring the righteousness of his judgments, and giving a reason for it; and which is confirmed by another angel from the altar, Revelation 16:4. The fourth angel pours out his vial on the sun, the effects of which are, scorching men with heat, their blasphemy against God, and impenitence, Revelation 16:8. The fifth pours out his on the seat of the beast, the consequences of which are darkness in his kingdom, men gnawing their tongues because of their pains, their blasphemy of the name of God because of them, and their impenitence, Revelation 16:10. The sixth angel pours out his on the river Euphrates, and what followed upon it are, the drying up of that river to make way for the kings of the east; there unclean spirits are seen, described by their original, coming out of the mouths of the dragon, beast, and false prophet; by their form, like frogs; by their internal nature, spirits of devils; by their works, doing miracles; by the errand they are sent, and go upon, to gather the kings of the earth to the battle of God Almighty, which they succeed in; but before this is done, a declaration is made of the suddenness of Christ's coming, exciting the saints to watchfulness, and to keep their garments, that they might not be naked, and exposed to shame, Revelation 16:12 Then the seventh angel pours out his vial into the air, the consequences of which are, a voice from heaven declaring it is done: other voices, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake; a rupture of the great city into three parts; the fall of other cities; the remembrance of Babylon before God; the flight of every island and mountain, and a great hail storm, which causes men to blaspheme God, Revelation 16:17.
And I heard a great voice out of the temple,.... The church, which in the preceding chapter is said to be opened; this was either the voice of God, whose temple the church is, and where he dwells, and who, has power over these plagues, Revelation 16:9 and who, when he is about to bring judgments on the earth, is said to roar out of Zion, Revelation 16:16 or of Christ, who is always in the midst of his church and people, and whose voice is as the voice of many waters; see Revelation 16:15 or it may be of one of the four living creatures, the ministers of the word, in and by whom Christ often speaks; and the rather, since one of these gave the seven angels the golden vials of the wrath of God, they are now bid to pour out.
Saying to the seven angels, go your ways and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth; for though these angels had the seven last plagues to inflict, and the seven vials of God's wrath to pour out, and were in a readiness to do it, yet they did not move without an order, which is here given them; and they are bid to go their ways, from the temple, the church, where they were, and of which they were members, to the several parts of the antichristian empire; and there pour out all the wrath and vengeance of God upon his enemies, and theirs, and leave nothing behind, but give them the dregs of every cup of his fury: the earth here is to be taken in a larger sense than in the following verse, and includes the land and sea, the fountains and rivers, and even the ambient air, and also the sun in the firmament, as the pouring out of these vials upon them show; and designs the whole apostate church, consisting of earthly men, all the inhabitants of the earth, that worship the beast. The Alexandrian copy, the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions, and the Complutensian edition, read, "the seven vials of the wrath of God"; these seven vials are not contemporary, much less the same with the seven trumpets; there is indeed a likeness between them in some things, especially in the first four; for as the first four trumpets affect the earth, the sea, the fountains, and rivers of water, and the sun, so the first four vials are poured out on the same, and that in the same order; first on the earth, and then on the sea, &c. and which will give some light, and be a direction to observe the several parts of the antichristian empire, which will suffer by these vials, and the in which their ruin will proceed; and as the trumpets were so many gradual steps to the ruin of the Roman empire, eastern and western, when become Christian, so these vials are so many gradual steps to, and which issue in the ruin of, both the eastern and western antichrist; though they do not respect the same things, nor the same times: the trumpets respect the Roman empire as Christian, under the government of emperors, after the downfall of Paganism in it; and the vials respect the antichristian powers in their several branches, under the pope and Turk. Antichrist did not appear until the fifth trumpet sounded, whereas the first vial is poured out upon his followers and worshippers, Revelation 16:2 from whence it is a clear point, that the first trumpet and the first vial cannot be contemporary; and the same judgment may be made of the rest: and it may be further observed, that these vials are only poured out on the enemies of God and of Christ, and of his church and people; for no wrath can be poured out upon the saints, not the least drop of it can fall upon them; this would not be consistent with God's everlasting love to them, with the satisfaction of Christ made for them, nor with the blessings of justification, pardon, adoption, &c. bestowed on them; not but that they may meet with trouble in the of these vials, through the wars that will be in the world, and through the struggles of the beast of Rome, especially its last, which will be the hour of temptation, and that time of trouble than which never was the like; yet all will work for, and issue in their good, and they will rejoice in God's righteous judgments; the blow will be upon antichrist, the vengeance of God will fall upon those that have the mark of the beast, and the worshippers of his image, upon the seat of the beast, even upon Babylon, and the whole Romish jurisdiction, as appears from Revelation 16:2 and also upon the Turkish empire, and all the nations engaged in the interest of both pope and Turk, Revelation 16:12 and it is easy to observe, that there is in many of these vials an allusion to the plagues of Egypt; in the first, Revelation 16:2 to the plague of boils, Exodus 9:8 in the second and third, Revelation 16:3 to that of turning the waters of Egypt into blood, Exodus 7:19 in the fourth, Revelation 16:10 to the darkness that was over all the land of Egypt, Exodus 10:21 and in the fifth there is a manifest reference to the frogs that distressed the Egyptians, Exodus 8:5 and in the seventh, to the plague of hail, Exodus 9:23 and they have much the same effect, even the hardening of those on whom they fall, being far from being brought to repentance by them, Revelation 16:9 and this confirms the application of the vials to the destruction of Rome, which is spiritually called Egypt, Revelation 11:8 and may assure that they will issue in the ruin of antichrist, and in the salvation of God's people, as the plagues of Egypt did in the destruction of Pharaoh, and in the deliverance of the children of Israel; and may also lead us to conclude, that there will be a like quick execution of the one as of the other; for as the plagues of Egypt came very quick one after another, so it seems as if the pouring out of these vials would be in like manner; the angels receive them together, and have their orders at the same time; and they go forth immediately, one after another, if not together, to the respective parts where they are to pour them forth, and which they do directly; see Revelation 16:8. Moreover, these vials will affect antichrist both with respect to his civil and ecclesiastic capacity, or both in temporals and spirituals, and, both antichrists, eastern and western: whether they are begun to be poured out or not, is a question. I am ready to think they are not, because they seem to me to refer to the seventh trumpet, which as yet has not sounded, and are the same with the wrath of God, and the time of the judging the dead, or avenging the blood of the saints, which will be come when that sounds, Revelation 11:18. Besides, the outer court is not entirely given to the Gentiles, nor the witnesses slain, which must be before this time of wrath upon antichrist; not but that there has been some manifest marks of the divine displeasure upon the whore of Rome, and she has been sinking ever since the Reformation, at which time some begin these vials, or before; and she is reduced to a low estate; yet I think not to such a degree as these vials express.
And the first went,.... The Arabic and Ethiopic versions read, "the first angel", and who undoubtedly is meant, who readily and cheerfully obeyed the orders given him, as did the rest; by this angel cannot be meant Pope Adrian, as Lyra, a Popish interpreter, imagines; for a pope would never hurt the worshippers of the beast, as this angel does; rather some Christian Protestant prince or magistrate is designed, and Brightman applies it to Queen Elizabeth; though a set of kings and princes yet to come seem to be intended:
and poured out his vial upon the earth; not upon the whole earth, and the inhabitants of it; not upon the temple or church of God, and the worshippers in it, which are measured, hid, and protected; nor upon the Roman Pagan empire, which was destroyed under the sixth seal, and which never had any worshippers of the beast and his image in it, for then he was not risen; nor upon the whole apostate church, only a part of it: some think the meaner and vulgar sort of Papists are meant, who were reformed by the Waldenses, Wycliff, Huss, and others before Luther; but rather the antichristian powers on the continent are designed, and particularly Germany; for as the first trumpet affected the earth, Revelation 8:7 and brought the Goths into Germany, and other inland countries on the continent; so this first vial affects the earth, and brings distress upon the Popish party in the same place: and this respects not the Reformation by Luther, as some have thought, nor the wars of the Turks here in the last age; though were it not for some things unfulfilled, which are to precede these vials, one would be tempted to think that this vial was now pouring out upon the empire; but I rather think this refers to a time of distress yet to come on those parts, and which will issue in a reformation from Popery again; for it should be observed, and it may be observed once for all, that though these vials are so many plagues upon antichrist, they are each of them so many steps to the advancement of Christ's kingdom and glory:
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; that is, who were professors of the Popish religion, and adherents of the pope of Rome in those parts; see Revelation 13:15 who will only feel the effects of this vial, and that by a noisome and grievous sore falling on them, in allusion to the plague of boils in Egypt, Exodus 9:8 by which may be meant, either literally something external, but not the plague in Dioclesian's time, for then the beast was not risen; and there were none that could have his mark or worship his image: some have thought the French disease is intended, which first appeared in the world in 1490, among the Papists, as a just judgment upon them for the horrible and unnatural lusts and uncleanness of the Romish clergy; and others understand it of a very great heat, which will be before the burning of the world, and will raise blisters and boils upon men: or rather this may design something internal, either the remorse of their consciences, reflections on their past practices, and black despair and horror of mind; and their madness, wrath, and fury, their malice and envy at the success of the preachers of the Gospel, and of Protestant states and princes against them; see Deuteronomy 28:27. Moreover, their secret and wicked practices, both in political and ecclesiastical affairs, will be discovered, and they will appear with boils and blotches upon them all over, which will render them odious to the people, and be the means of a general reformation. Mr. Daubuz thinks the curse of wickedness in the ninth and tenth centuries, after the invocation of saints and angels, and the worship of images were settled, is meant.
And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea,.... Not literally; and so does not design the stagnation of it, which it is thought will be before the general conflagration; see Amos 7:4 nor is it to be understood of the sea of this world, and the men of it, who are like a troubled sea; but rather of Popish doctrines and councils, which are a sea of errors, and will now be confuted and put an end to. Brightman applies it to the council of Trent, and makes this angel to be Chemnitius, a German divine, who wrote a confutation of it; but as the sea is a collection of many waters, and many waters in this book signify the people and nations under the Romish yoke, sea here may design the whole jurisdiction of Rome, or mystical Babylon; see Jeremiah 51:36 and particularly its maritime powers, Spain and Portugal: and as the second trumpet affected the sea, Revelation 8:8 and brought the Vandals into Spain and Portugal, so this second vial affects the sea, and brings great wars, slaughter, and bloodshed into these parts, when they also will be reformed from Popery:
and it became as the blood of a dead man; thick, clotted together, and putrid, and so never to be returned to their former state:
and every living soul died in the sea: those, that are not reformed will either die by the sword, or fly into other parts; for there will be no comfortable living for the Popish party in those countries where now they live in power, ease, and affluence. This, and the following vial, are referred by Mr. Daubuz, the one to the first crusades, or holy wars, for the regaining of the holy land, and the other to the latter of them.
And the third angel poured his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters,.... Which also is not to be literally understood of a stagnation of them, before the burning of the world; nor of the destruction of Popish fleets and navies, such as the Spanish armada in 1588, and others since; but rather of Popish writings, of the most learned and subtle men among them, who like rivers and fountains, which supply and fill the sea, support and keep up the Romish jurisdiction and hierarchy; and of the confutation of them by Protestant writers; and of the utter destruction of their principal orders, and chief men among them, as cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests, Jesuits, &c. though it seems chiefly to design the places near to Rome, such as Italy and Savoy; for as the third trumpet affects the rivers and fountains, Revelation 8:10 and brings in the Huns into Italy, and issued in the destruction of the empire; so the third vial affects the same, and brings terrible wars, and great effusion of blood, where so much of the blood of the saints have been shed: hence it follows, and they became blood; these countries will be covered with blood, and a reformation will ensue upon it; the allusion is to Exodus 7:19.
And I heard the angel of the waters say,.... So we read in Jewish writings
Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shall be: which may be understood either of God the Father, who had power over these plagues, Revelation 16:9 and sent them; or of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all, and is righteous in all his ways and works, in all his judgments on antichrist, and is the eternal "I AM", which is, and was, and shall be; see Revelation 1:8. The Alexandrian copy, and most others, and the Vulgate Latin and Syriac versions, read "holy", instead of "shalt be"; for the purity and holiness of Christ will be seen in the judgments which he will exercise, as follows:
because thou hast judged thus; or "these things"; or "them", as the Ethiopic version reads; that is, has brought these judgments upon the men signified by rivers and fountains, and made great havoc and slaughter of them, expressed by their becoming blood; the justice of which appears from the following reason.
For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,.... Which shows that rivers and fountains cannot be literally understood, but men are designed, wicked and bloody men; and it is notorious to all, how much of the blood of the saints, of the preachers of the Gospel, of the prophets and witnesses, have been shed in Italy, Savoy, and other places near Rome, as well as in Rome itself; see Revelation 17:6.
And thou hast given them blood to drink; sent the sword among them, making great slaughter and devastation; see Isaiah 49:26
for they are worthy; or deserving, to have their blood shed by the law of retaliation.
And I heard another out of the altar say,.... That is, another angel that came out of the altar; see Revelation 14:18 and who represents the souls under the altar, whose blood had been shed by the above persons; compare with this Revelation 6:9 though, there, such whose blood had been shed by Rome Pagan are described; the Ethiopic version calls this angel as before, "the angel of the fountains of water"; and the Alexandrian copy, and Syriac and Arabic versions, read, "I heard the altar saying": as follows,
even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments; the same as in Revelation 15:3. This angel joins the other, and approves and confirms what he says; applauding the judgements of Christ upon the worshippers of the beast, from the verity of them, being what were threatened, and from the justice of them, being what they deserved.
And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun,.... Not literally; and so designs not a violent heat, which shall go before, and be a preparation for the burning of the world; nor any sore famine arising from it, which would be common to all, good and bad; but mystically: some understand this of Christ, the sun of righteousness, not of any wrath that shall be poured forth on him again, being now justified in the Spirit; but either of that clear shining of Christ in the ministry of the word, in those times this vial refers to; when Zion's light will be come, and the light of the sun will be seven fold, and Christ alone will be exalted; which clear ministration of Christ, though it will not savingly enlighten, yet will convict and confound the antichristian party; they will be scorched with the beams of heat and light, which will dart from hence; these will torture them, and fill them with envy, rage, and malice, because they will not be able to obscure this light, or stop the progress of it; they themselves will be so enlightened by it, as to see and know the truth of Christ's person, and offices, and grace, and yet will sin against it, and so be guilty of blasphemy against the Spirit of God, a sin which will greatly prevail among them; and they will, like the clay, be the more hardened by this light and heat, and will not repent of their sins and errors, nor confess them, nor own the light and conviction they have received: or else of the wrath of Christ, which he will be moved by this angel to stir up against the antichristian party, and which they will be sensible of, and be fearfully looking for. Others, and which comes much to the same sense, understand this of the Scriptures, the fountain of spiritual light, and of the clear interpretation of them in those times; when the watchmen shall see eye to eye, and when the day shall declare and make manifest every man's work, and the fire reveal and try it; and the same effects upon the antichristian party shall follow as before: but I rather think this refers to some part of the antichristian state, as in the other vials, or to something belonging to it; some have thought that the house of Austria, the chief family in the empire, or the king of Spain, or the emperor, who were both formerly of that house, or Germany itself, is meant; but the empire, as we have seen, seems to be designed by the earth in the first vial; wherefore, rather as the smiting of the third part of the sun, moon, and stars, under the fourth trumpet, signifies the utter extirpation of the Roman emperor, and all other Roman magistrates, who were the sun, moon, and stars in that empire; so this vial upon the sun refers to the pope, and his creatures, the cardinals, &c. who is the sun in the antichristian kingdom; and this angel may design the kings of the earth, who will be stirred up against him, by whom he and his dependents will suffer sorely, if not destroyed.
And power was given unto him to scorch men with fire; which may either respect the burning of Rome, and the adjacent parts; or rather the filling of the antichristian party with rage and malice, at the destruction of the pope, and his creatures; for these men are the same with those in Revelation 16:2.
And men were scorched with great heat,.... Burned with rage against the followers of Christ; were filled with envy at the success of his Gospel, and with fury and madness at the ruinous condition of the antichristian state, being deprived of its head, and chief officers:
and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues; plagues or judgments are from God, when and wherever they come; they are sent and inflicted by him, and he can lessen or increase them, continue or remove them, as he pleases; and these, unless sanctified, will not reform men, but harden them, and set them a blaspheming the author of them. And this blasphemy may either respect the nature and perfections of God, charging him with inequality in his ways, and with injustice and unfaithfulness; or the Gospel, and the truths of it, which declare his glory, and his greatness; and which will now have a general spread, to the great mortification and confusion of the followers of antichrist:
and they repented not to give him glory; that is, they did not repent of their wicked deeds, their idolatries, murders, sorceries, fornications, and thefts, as in Revelation 9:20 so as to own and confess them, which is, the meaning of giving glory to God in repentance; see Joshua 7:19. This shows that repentance is not in man's power, but in the gift of God's grace; for though he may give space, yet if he does not give grace to repent, no man will repent; nor will any means of themselves produce it; as not the most powerful and awakening ministry, as the ministry of John the Baptist, and of Christ, and of the Gospel preachers that will be in those times, this vial refers to, nor the greatest mercies and favours, so not the severest judgments; see Amos 6:6. The event of this vial, or the plague of it, is applied, by Mr. Daubuz, to the wars between the emperors and the popes, and between the Guelphs and Gibelines.
And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast,.... The beast is the same with that in Revelation 13:1 and which again shows that to be one and the same: the seat or throne of the beast is Rome, which, when the empire was Pagan, was the seat of Satan, or the dragon, Revelation 2:13 and when the beast or antichrist was risen, the dragon gave this seat, as well as his authority to him, Revelation 13:2 and is that city which is so often called, in this book, the great city, and is manifestly pointed out by its seven mountains, on which the city of Rome stood, Revelation 17:9 and the pouring out of this vial upon it denotes the destruction of it, when it will be burnt down, and become desolate, an habitation of devils, of every foul spirit, and hateful bird, Revelation 18:2 and this corresponds with the fifth trumpet; for as that brings in the rise of antichrist, both eastern and western, who rose much about the same time, so this vial affects him particularly; the western antichrist, his seat and kingdom. Mr. Daubuz refers this plague to the expulsion of the western and eastern emperors from their capital cities, Rome and Constantinople, and to the mischiefs caused by the antipopes in the west, and to the quarrels and schism in the Greek churches in the fourteenth century.
And his kingdom was full of darkness; not only of the darkness of false doctrine and superstition, for so it was always, being filled with the smoke of the bottomless pit; nor only of judicial blindness and darkness, which the subjects of the antichristian state are given up unto; but rather of a discovery of all this, with all their hidden works of darkness, which will now be brought to light; though it seems chiefly to design the great affliction and distress the antichristian state will be in at this time, which darkness sometimes signifies; see Isaiah 9:1 it having lost its sun, the pope, under the preceding vial, and its seat, the city of Rome, under this: the sense is, that it will be greatly obscured in its glory and magnificence, in its traffic and riches, Revelation 18:11 its power and authority will be greatly diminished, and it will be had in contempt by the princes of the earth; though it will not as yet be utterly destroyed, for its utter destruction is reserved for the seventh and last vial. The allusion is to the plague of darkness in Egypt, Exodus 10:21. And they gnawed their tongues for pain; these are the men of the antichristian party, the subjects of the antichristian kingdom, now become full of darkness, the worshippers of the beast, and his image; these will gnaw their tongues, which expresses their inward anguish and distress, their anger, wrath, and fury, their being filled with revenge, and yet in an incapacity to execute it, and will even be afraid to express it; and therefore will bite their tongues in madness; and this for pain, for the pain of their mind, at the sad and low estate of the antichristian kingdom.
And blasphemed the God of heaven,.... Who made it, and dwells in it, and from whence wrath is revealed, and comes upon the seat of the beast, upon the kingdom of antichrist, and the subjects of that kingdom; they will curse him who is of right their King, and their God, and look upwards to heaven, where he is, Isaiah 8:21 and this,
because of their pains and their sores: see Revelation 16:2 the inward frettings and distresses of their minds, the gallings and gnawings of their consciences, the horror and terror of their souls, and their fearful looking for of judgment, which the present face of things upon antichrist will bring upon them; just as the Egyptians, in the time of their darkness, were distressed with internal guilt, and black horror of mind, and with evil spirits, which were sent among them, and haunted them during that season; see Psalm 78:49 and repented not of their deeds; their antichristian works of darkness; see Revelation 9:20.
And the sixth angel poured his vial on the great river Euphrates,.... Which is not to be understood literally of the river Euphrates, which ran through Mesopotamia and Chaldea, and by the walls of Babylon; and of the drying of it up to make way for the Jews in the eastern parts of the world, to pass into their own land, and possess it; when a like miracle will be wrought for them as was when they came out of Egypt, by dividing the Red sea for them; and as when they entered into Canaan's land, by laying the waters of Jordan on heaps, so that they passed over as on dry land; in favour of which sense the passage in Isaiah 11:15 is thought to be, which the Targum interprets of God's smiting the river Euphrates; though the river Nile in Egypt seems rather to be meant: but it does not appear that there is any number of Jews beyond the river Euphrates; the far greater number of them is in the western and northern parts of the world; so that there will be no need for the drying up of this river for their passage into their own land; nor, if there were any in those parts, can any reason be given why they should be called the kings of the east, who, wherever they are, are a poor contemptible people, and have never had any ensigns of royalty among them for many hundreds of years; nor can that river be thought much to hinder, were all other impediments out of the way, nor the drying of it up much facilitate their passage to Judea, and much less affect their conversion: besides, this vial, as the rest, is a plague on antichrist, in some branch or other, or on some part or other, of the antichristian state; which, if not designed here, is nowhere in the account of this vial, and therefore this must be understood mystically; there is no doubt an allusion to the draining of this river at the taking of Babylon by Cyrus, according as was predicted in prophecy, Isaiah 44:27 who, making sluices and drains, turned the river another way, and marched through it with his army, and surprised and took the city at once, while Belshazzar and his nobles were indulging themselves in rioting and drunkenness, as Daniel relates, Daniel 5:1. Now some, because that Babylon was situated upon the river Euphrates, and Rome, or the Romish antichrist, is mystical Babylon, think that is here designed, and is the object of this vial; and that the drying up of this river designs the withdrawing of nations and kingdoms, signified by waters, Revelation 17:15 from its jurisdiction and power, which will bring on its ruin; and also the stoppage of dues and tithes, annates, Peter's pence, and of all its traffic in indulgences, pardons, &c. whereby it will be greatly impoverished, and brought to nothing: but it should be observed, that the fifth vial affects Rome, the seat of the beast; and as for the beast himself, he will not be destroyed till the battle of Armageddon; and mystical Babylon, or the antichristian state, in the whole compass of it, will not be destroyed until the pouring out of the seventh vial; wherefore rather the eastern antichrist, the Turks are meant, in whose dominions this river is; for as the Assyrian monarch is signified by the waters of this river, when he was in his glory, and had his seat at Babylon, by which this river ran, Isaiah 8:7 so may the Turks, who inhabit by this river, be intended by it; and the rather, as this sense exactly corresponds with the sixth trumpet; for as the sounding of that trumpet looses the four angels bound in the great river Euphrates, which founded the Turkish empire, as we have seen; so the pouring out of this sixth vial affects the same empire, and brings it to ruin. Mr. Daubuz is of opinion that this plague refers to the depopulation and destruction of the Grecian empire, and the bringing of the Turks into Europe, who have greatly distressed and tormented the corrupted Christians or Papists.
And the water thereof was dried up; the Ottoman empire will be extinct, just as the destruction of the Babylonish monarchy is expressed by the drying up of its sea, Jeremiah 51:36 so the destruction of the Turkish empire is signified by the drying up of the water of this river, which is in the heart of it: and this is the passing away of the second woe, Revelation 11:14
that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared; which some understand of Christians in general, who are made kings and priests unto God, and of Christian kings in particular, whose way will be prepared, by the declining state of antichrist, to express their hatred to the whore of Rome, and burn her flesh with fire; but the Romish antichrist is not here intended: others think, as before observed, that the Jews are designed; that the Jews will be converted in the last days seems manifest from Hosea 3:5 and other places; and that they will return to their own land is suggested in abundance of prophecies, particularly in Ezekiel 37:21 Amos 9:14 and it must be allowed that the eastern, as well as the western antichrist, is a stumbling to them; and especially the advantage which the Turks have gained over the powers that go under the Christian name, and their possession of their land is an hinderance to their return to it; so that the destruction of the Turkish empire will undoubtedly make way for their conversion, and restoration to their own land; but then this will be equally advantageous to the Jews in the west as to those in the east, if there be any numbers of them there, which does not appear, and therefore there seems no reason why they should be pointed at, and be called the kings of the east: rather therefore to me it seems, that, through the fall of the Ottoman empire, way will be made for the kings and princes of the east, literally understood, to have and embrace the Gospel of Christ; for, the Turks being destroyed, the Mahometan religion will decline, the Gospel will be carried into the eastern parts of the world, into those vast kingdoms and countries which lie in those parts, when they will become the kingdoms of our Lord, and the kings and princes of them will come to the brightness of Zion's rising; so that the ruin of this monarchy will pave the way for the spread of Christ's kingdom from sea to sea, and front the river, the river Euphrates, to the ends of the earth; and this also will prepare the way, and lead on for all the saints, who are kings, and shall reign with Christ a thousand years, who is said to come from the east, Revelation 7:2 or from the rising of the sun, as these are said to do, as the words may be rendered, to possess the kingdom under the whole heaven: Philo the Jew
And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs,.... Rome, the seat of antichrist, being destroyed, and the kingdom of the beast darkened, and brought into great contempt, Mahometanism greatly declining, the Gospel succeeding everywhere, the Jews being converted, and resettled in their own land, the devil bestirs himself more than ordinary; and dispatches his, and the emissaries of antichrist, to the kings of the whole earth, that can any ways be engaged on their side, and against the saints; and these are no other than the creatures of antichrist, such as cardinals, priests, and particularly Jesuits, as their original from the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet, show. Mr. Daubuz thinks these "three" are the "monks", the "religious knights", and "secular clergy": and these are called "spirits"; not because they are what are called familiar spirits, or devils themselves, for they are the spirits of devils, as in the next verse; but either because they pretend to be spiritual men, ecclesiastics, men in spiritual offices, and indeed are spiritual wickednesses in high places; or because of their agility, swiftness, and expeditiousness in going to and fro, Satan like, to do mischief: and they are said to be "unclean"; as the evil spirits and devils are, being so by nature, and delighting in uncleanness, and giving themselves up to work it with greediness: and they are "like frogs"; the allusion is to the plague of frogs in Egypt, Exodus 8:5 and these antichristian emissaries are fitly compared to them, for their impurity, and pleasure they take in it, as frogs do in dirt and filth; and for their being talkative, impudent, and troublesome, like the noisy croaking frogs; so "rhetoricians" are by Cicero
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; by the dragon is meant the devil, Revelation 12:9 not as acting in Rome Pagan, which has been long ago destroyed, rather as in the Pagan parts of the world, and as in the Turkish empire, now ruined; who, seeing his cause declining everywhere, bestirs himself to support and revive it, though this issues in the binding of him for a thousand years, Revelation 20:2. By the beast is meant the first beast, in Revelation 13:1 and so the Ethiopic version renders it; the antichristian civil state, now sadly shattered and weakened, by the pouring out of the fifth vial: and by "the false prophet" is meant, not Mahomet, or the supporters of his religion, but the second beast in Revelation 13:11 or the antichristian ecclesiastic state, as appears from the description of this prophet in Revelation 19:20 compared with that: so then these spirits manifestly appear to be the emissaries of antichrist, under a diabolical influence; his creatures, that are made, and sent forth by him, have their commissions and orders from him, to act for him in every shape, to support his interest, civil and religious, by lies, murders, and false doctrine; a further account is given of them in the next verse.
For they are the spirits of devils,.... They are of their father the devil; they are acted and influenced by him, he works effectually in them, and leads them captive at his will; they do his lusts, and are murderers and liars, and false teachers, like him:
working miracles; lying ones, to deceive men; this clearly points out who are meant, namely, the followers of antichrist, who, as they spread the doctrines of devils, endeavour to confirm them by signs and lying wonders:
which go forth unto the kings of the earth: those who have committed fornication with the Romish antichrist, such of them as will remain:
and of the whole world; as many Pagan princes as they can come at, and engage by any ways and means in their interest; they will go forth to them like the lying spirit to Ahab's prophets, 1 Kings 22:22
to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty; that is, they will persuade them to gather together, to fight against the saints, the Gentile Christians in the several parts of the world, and the Jewish Christians, now settled in their own land; and this will be the battle of the Lord, who is God Almighty, and it will be fighting against him; and therefore the attempt must be vain and fruitless, and issue in the ruin of those who are gathered to it, who will be deceived and drawn into it by these diabolical spirits: and this is called "the battle of that great day of God"; not of the day of judgment, for it will be before that time; but of that day of vengeance upon all the remains of his and his church's enemies, both Pagan, Papal, and Mahometan, who will for this purpose be gathered together; "which", as the Ethiopic version renders it, "God has appointed".
Behold I come as a thief,.... These are the words of Christ, inserted in a parenthesis in this account, before it is concluded, to acquaint his people with his near and sudden approach, and to give them a word of caution and exhortation in these times of difficulty; for he is the Lord God Almighty, who sent forth these angels to pour out their vials, and whose judgments are applauded as righteous, Revelation 16:1 and who so often in Revelation 22:7 says "I come quickly"; and which is to be understood not of his spiritual coming, which will be already at this time, but of his personal coming: and which will be "as a thief": as it is often expressed, 1 Thessalonians 5:2 not in the bad sense, to steal and kill, and to destroy, though Christ's coming will issue in the everlasting destruction of the wicked; but the phrase is designed to express the suddenness of his coming, and the surprise of it:
blessed is he that watcheth; against sin, the lusts of the flesh, and the cares of this life, lest they bring a sleepiness upon him, and so the day of the Lord come upon him at an unawares; and against Satan and his temptations, who goes about seeking whom he may devour; and against his emissaries and false teachers, who lie in wait to deceive; and blessed is he also who is wishing and waiting for the coming of Christ, and so, being ready, will enter with him into the marriage chamber, and partake of the supper of the Lamb:
and keepeth his garments: either his conversation garments, unspotted from the world, and whenever defiled washes them, and makes them white in the blood of the Lamb; and keeps them from being stripped of them, by those who would lead them into sinful ways; or that keeps and holds fast the robe of Christ's righteousness, and garments of his salvation, which are the righteousness of the saints, that fine linen clean and white, that white raiment which only can cover their nakedness, that the shame thereof does not appear, Revelation 19:8
lest he walk naked; ערום מן המצות
and they see his shame; or lest, being naked, he be exposed to shame and confusion, yea, to everlasting ruin and destruction; see Matthew 22:12 the allusion is to the burning of the garments of those priests who were found asleep when upon their watch in the temple: the account that is given is this
"the man of the mountain of the house (the governor of the temple) goes round all the wards (every night) with burning torches before him; and in every ward where the person does not stand upon his feet, the man of the mountain of the house says to him, peace be to thee; if he finds he is asleep, he strikes him with his staff, and he has power to burn his clothes; and they say (in Jerusalem) what voice is that in the court? (it is answered) the voice of a Levite beaten, and his clothes burnt, because he slept in the time of his watch; R. Eliezer ben Jacob says, once they found my mother's brother asleep, and they burnt his clothes:'
now imagine with what shame the poor Levite so served must appear the next morning among his brethren, with his clothes burnt, and he naked; and with greater shame and confusions must he appear at the last day that is destitute of the righteousness of Christ.
And he gathered them together,.... Or rather "they gathered them together", as the Syriac version renders it; for though the verb is singular, a noun plural goes before it, as in Revelation 16:14 and the same spirits that are there said to go forth, to gather the kings gether, these will gather them together; will persuade the Papal, Pagan, and Mahometan powers, the remains of them in the several parts of the world, to join together, and make one effort for the reviving of their declining, and almost ruined interests: for which purpose they will be brought together,
into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon; which may be the same with Har-megiddo, the mountain of Megiddo; for the Hebrew word הר is read "Ar" by the Greeks; so the city Argarize is interpreted the mountain of the most High
And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air,.... Or "upon the air", as the Alexandrian copy, Syriac and Arabic versions, read; by which is meant the kingdom of Satan, he being the prince of the power of the air, Ephesians 2:2 not that he has power over the air, to raise or lay winds and storms in it at pleasure; but he is so called because he is the prince of that posse of devils, the principalities and powers of darkness, that have their dwelling in the air; hence the air, encompassing the whole earth, stands for the kingdom of Satan all the world over: and this vial differs from all the rest; that whereas the rest only affect some part or branch of the antichristian state, this will affect all the remains of the Pagan, Papal, and Mahometan powers, gathered and united together at Armageddon; and the pouring out of this vial is the execution of divine wrath and vengeance upon them all at once; and the effects of this vial will not only reach to the kings of the earth, and of the whole world, and their armies, or the united forces of the remains of Pagans, Papists, and Mahometans, who will be slain, and their flesh given to the fowls of the air; and not only to the beast and false prophet, who will be taken in this battle, and cast alive into the lake of fire, which is expressive both of their temporal and eternal punishment, Revelation 19:17 but to the binding of Satan upon the second coming of Christ, of which notice is before given, Revelation 16:15 and even to the destruction of Gog and Magog at the end of the thousand years' reign; yea, to the casting of the devil into everlasting fire, since this vial is the last plague, in which the wrath of God is filled up, and so brings to the end of all things, Revelation 20:1. The first accomplishment of this vial will be the decisive battle at Armageddon, when the remains of all Christ's and his church's enemies will have a total defeat; and this will be the third and last woe, which will utterly destroy those that have destroyed the earth, Pagans, Papists, and Mahometans, even all the open enemies of Christ, so that nothing will lie in the way of his kingdom; now will the spiritual reign of Christ, which has been gradually advancing by the pouring out of each vial, be in its full glory: but though antichrist will be no more, and Satan will have no more in form an open kingdom upon earth; yet, towards the close of this reign, great lukewarmness and coldness will seize professors of religion, and immorality and profaneness will abound again; which will bring on the times of the coming of the son of man; who, upon his personal descent from the third heaven into the air, will drive Satan and his posse of devils from their territories, and quickly will the general conflagration begin, when the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; and which is no inconsiderable part of the pouring out of this vial into the air.
And there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne; this voice is said to come "out of the temple of heaven", that is, out of the temple which is in heaven, which will now be opened, as under the sounding of the seventh trumpet, with which this vial corresponds, and indeed is contemporary; and which designs the church, enjoying the pure worship of God, the word and ordinances, and the free exercise of religion; and this shows that when this voice will be uttered, as yet the Jerusalem church state will not be begun, since there will be no temple in that; see Revelation 11:19 the words, "of heaven", are left out in the Alexandrian copy, and in the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions, which read, "out of the temple from the throne"; the seat of government in the church, described in Revelation 4:2 the voice came with power, authority, and majesty; not from any of the four and twenty elders, or four living creatures, or angels about the throne; but either from God the Father that sits upon it; or from Christ the Lamb in the midst of it, and rather from the latter, since a like phrase was used by him on the cross, John 19:30 and the same is expressed by him who is the Alpha and Omega, Revelation 21:6 and this voice is called a great one, being the voice of a great person, the King of kings, and coming with great power, and was spoken aloud:
saying, it is done; what the angel swore should be in the days of the seventh angel, namely, that time, antichristian time, should be no more, and the mystery of God in his purposes and providences should be finished, and all the glorious things spoken of his church and people be accomplished; See Gill on Revelation 10:6, Revelation 10:7 the word γεγονε may be rendered "it has been", or "it was", and the sense is, but now is not; and the meaning may be, Babylon was, but is not, it is now fallen; the beast and false prophet were, but now are not; the Turk, or Mahomet, was, but is no more; all the antichristian powers are destroyed; Christ's body, the church, will be completed, the Jews will be converted, and the fulness of the Gentiles brought in, all the elect called, and the new Jerusalem prepared as a bride for her husband; and when the utmost effects of this vial will take place, the end of all things will be; by the same "fiat" that made the heavens and the earth, they will disappear, and new heavens and earth succeed in their room.
And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings,.... As at the giving of the law, Exodus 19:16 and at the sounding of the seventh trumpet; see Gill on Revelation 11:15 and may intend either the pure ministry of the Gospel in the spiritual reign, the voices of Christ's ministers, and the effects of them, who will be "Boanergeses", sons of thunder, and will be the means of enlightening the minds of many, as well as of shaking the consciences of men, signified by the earthquake following; or rather, the tremendous and awful judgments of God upon the remains of the antichristian party, as the very great commotions and changes that will be made in the world are expressed in the next clause:
and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great: for as the changes made in the Jewish state, civil and ecclesiastical, are signified by the shaking of the heavens and the earth, and as the fall of Paganism is expressed by an earthquake, and the fall of the tenth part of the city is the effect of another; so the destruction of all the antichristian powers, and the mutations made in the earth thereby, are designed by this; see Hebrews 12:26 Joel 3:16. Mr. Daubuz applies the whole of this vial to the, Reformation, when such a revolution was made in a short time, as has not been known since the world was, or men became worshippers of the beast; at which time Christendom was divided into three parts, the eastern or Greek church, the western or Latin church, and the reformed churches.
And the great city was divided into three parts,.... By which is meant not Christendom, distinguished into Protestants, Papists, and neutrals, which has been long the case; nor the city of Jerusalem, as inhabited by Christians, Jews, and Turks; nor the city of Rome itself, the seat of the beast, which will have suffered under the fifth vial; but the whole Romish jurisdiction, which is the great city, that reigns over the kings of the earth, as it will now be; though some think the Turkish empire is meant, which they suppose was only afflicted under the preceding vial, but will now be divided into three parts, and afterwards into six, Ezekiel 39:1 and so come to ruin; and others are of opinion that it is included in this great city at least; and doubtless the remains of it are to be taken into this account, and probably are considered in the following clause; wherefore it is better to understand this of the Romish jurisdiction, so often called the great city in this book, Revelation 11:8 and its division into three parts is either in reference to the three heads of it, the dragon, beast, and false prophet, or to the three unclean spirits that come out of them, which will lead on to this ruin; though the allusion seems rather to be to the destruction of Jerusalem, Ezekiel 5:2 and denotes the utter ruin of the Romish antichrist, in all its branches and remains; a tenth part of this city will fall towards the close of the sixth trumpet, Revelation 11:13 and now all the other nine parts will fall, a threefold division will be made of the city, each division containing three parts: the Jews
and the cities of the nations fell; of the Pagans and Mahometaus; or as there will be an utter extirpation of the Papacy, so of Paganism and Mahometanism, in the several nations where they have obtained, and where there will be now any remains of them;
and great Babylon came in remembrance before God; not Constantinople, as Brightman thinks, because that Rome, the seat of the beast, is affected under the fifth vial, and the great city under this; but since no other is called Babylon in this book but the Romish antichristian state, it must be meant here; see Revelation 14:8 for many hundreds of years Babylon seemed to be forgotten by God, no notice being taken of her sins and iniquities in a judicial way; but now God will remember her sins, Revelation 18:5 and inflict deserved punishment upon her:
to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath; as a just retaliation for the wine of her fornication, with which she has intoxicated the kings and inhabitants of the earth; the wrath of God is sometimes signified in the Old Testament by a cup, a wine cup, a wine cup of fury, see Psalm 75:8 and here the exceeding greatness of his wrath is expressed by the phrases used, and intends the pouring out of all his vengeance, to the utter ruin of the Romish antichrist.
And every island fled away,.... This may be understood either of the dissolution of the world, the present heavens and earth, when there will be no more sea, Revelation 21:1 and so consequently no islands:
and the mountains were not found; for the earth and the heaven will be fled away at the appearance of Christ the Judge, and there will be no place found for them, Revelation 20:11 and new heavens, and a new earth, without sea or mountains, will succeed: or rather this may signify the utter extirpation of all the antichristian powers in every shape, whether on islands or on the continent; for this day of the Lord will be upon every high mountain and hill, to bring them low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted, Isaiah 2:14 and may particularly respect the dissolution of monasteries, and the plundering them of their riches and revenues.
And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven,.... Which must be understood not as after the fall of the cities, and the flight of the islands and mountains, but at the same time; and it looks as if such men that shall escape at the battle of Armageddon, that hail stones from heaven will fall upon them and destroy them; just as the kings of the Amorites and their men were killed by hail stones, cast down by the Lord from heaven, as they fled before Joshua, when more were killed by the stones than were slain by the sword, Joshua 10:11 the allusion seems to be to the plague of hail in Exodus 9:23
every stone about the weight of a talent; which is threescore pound weight, a prodigious weight indeed for a single hailstone! such hail stones were never known to fall; the largest I have read of is what Caspar Wesserus assured Mr. Broughton
and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; the plague of hail brought down the hard heart of Pharaoh, and humbled him, so that he acknowledged his wickedness, and the sin of his people, and owned the justice of God; but this more terrible storm will have no effect upon these men, to convince and reform them, but, on the contrary, they will break out into blasphemy against God, who caused it to fall on them; it will have the same effect as the fourth and fifth vials:
for the plague thereof was exceeding great; it must beat down all before it, and be intolerable: whether this hail storm may not also have some regard to coldness and lukewarmness, as Naplet suggests, and so may point at the close of the spiritual reign of Christ, or the Laodicean state, which will bring on the second coming of Christ, and so this effect of the seventh vial will end where the seven churches and seven trumpets do, may be considered; See Gill on Revelation 11:15.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Revelation 16". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany