Lectionary Calendar
Friday, December 1st, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 16

Godbey's Commentary on the New TestamentGodbey's NT Commentary

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Verses 1-21

IF you will compare the 8th chapter, you will find a striking similitude between the seven trumpets and these seven bowls of wrath. The trumpets proclaimed the Dark Ages, when blood, death, and destruction were the order of the day. The infection began with the earth; it then reached the sea, then the fountains and rivers, and finally the sun, moon, and stars, culminating in a general disruption of society from its foundation. In the seven last plagues, we see a similar order and concatenation.

2. When the first angel pours out his bowl on the earth, “ a destructive and pernicious sore comes on the people having the marks of the beast and worshipping his image.” Daniel applies this word “beast” Greek, Theerion; i. e., a bloodthirsty wild beast to all the human governments which succeed the theocracy and rule the world during the Gentile Age;

i. e., the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Grecian, and Roman. Hence it represents the Nimrodic world-rulers, usurpatious of the divine prerogative. John and Daniel classify the pope and Mahomet along with them, the latter rising out of the Greek kingdom in the East, and the former out of the Roman in the West. The image of the beast is worldly religion, fashion, pomp, and pageantry. No wonder the infection comes on the devotees of the beast, as the members of the bridehood have already been taken up in the cloud. (Revelation 14:14.) This carnal beast marks his victims in many ways; e. g., tobacco, strong drink, licentiousness, corset, jewelry, and needless ornamentation, et cetera.

3. Sea symbolizes the people. (Revelation 17:15.) “ It became as the blood of a dead man, and every living soul in the sea died.” This is certainly an appalling description of a sweeping destruction coming on the people. Doubtless the most pestilential moral influences, as well as physical calamities, are here involved.

4. The infection now reaches the rivers and fountains of water i. e., the states, proconsulates, dukedoms, and satrapies so flooding the people with an insurrectionary spirit as to render them utterly ungovernable by the subordinate rulers.

5-7. All these premillennial judgments come on the world as just retributions for their maltreatment of God’s people. They have slain His prophets, murdered His Son, and martyred two hundred millions of His saints. God has forgotten none of their tears. Their groans still resound in His ears. Hence these awful judgments will all come in answer to the martyrs’ prayers, and as a righteous retribution to the wicked.

8, 9. As in case of the trumpets, the fourth angel pours out his bowl on the sun. Now the infection in progress has reached the heads of governments, typified by the sun. The first effect is to fearfully augment his heat, so he scorches men horrifically. This indicates an awful state of tyranny on the part of rulers. Is not this pre-eminently true at the present day? Behold the growing dissatisfaction in all the governments on the globe. When I traveled in Asia, Africa, and Europe, last year, I found this discontentment everywhere. You certify me that it is ripe in America, the best government on the globe our people everywhere crying because of oppression. The Administration can’t please them a year, till they are eager to vote it out and put in another party. In the old world the tyranny is incredible. Methinks this angel has already poured out his bowl of wrath on the rulers of the world, so the spirit of tyranny and oppression has come upon them. What a significant fact, as we here read, all of these troubles do not bring the people to repentance, but apparently harden them the more! The tribulation will be the time of retribution.

12. The sixth angel pours out his bowl upon the River Euphrates. Old Babylon stood on the Euphrates. She was the headquarters of Satan’s persecutions waged against the ancient people of God. She was conquered and destroyed by Cyrus, the Medo-Persian. Cyrus, in the Persian language, means sun. Hence, he symbolizes the Son of God coming to destroy modern Babylon, and deliver His people. Cyrus turned the Euphrates out of the city, thus taking away the water supply. So God is going to cut off the ream of carnal vitality which supplies the Babylon of fallen Churches and bring them to utter desolation. Babylon has been without an inhabitant for ages. So the spiritual Babylon, whose sorceries belt the globe, already totters to her hopeless and irreparable fall, that the way of the kings from the rising sun may be prepared. The Euphrates is the center of Moslem influence. So here is a prediction of Turkdom’s fall, which will culminate the issues of the great Eastern question and hasten the general conflict of the Oriental powers, so long anticipated. Turkey is but a dead man already. God has killed him (Daniel 8:25). His life is merely perpetuated artificially by the jealousy of his neighbors. The prophetical time for him to drop dead is very near. The presumption is, he will die without the fire of a gun, slain by the hand of God. Yet there is every probability that the nations will fight over the spoils.

13, 14. I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. They are the spirits of devils working miracles, which go forth to the kings of the whole earth to gather them into the war of the great God.” The 16th verse calls it the great battle of God Almighty! The name of this battle is Armageddon. It has but one other mention in the Bible, and that is in the 5th chapter of Judges, where Deborah, a mother in Israel, and Barak, led their little band against Sisera, the greatest military chieftain on the earth, in the leadership of a mighty host equipped with nine hundred formidable scythe-armed chariots, drawn by fleet steeds, and all other belligerent equipage. Deborah and Barak, with their scantily-armed braves, evacuate their quarters on Mt. Tabor, march down, cross the River Kishon, flowing at the base of the mountain, and proceed to meet the enemy on the plain of Megiddo. Har is a Hebrew word, and means mountain. Add that word to Megiddo, the name of the plain where the battle was fought at the base of the mountain, and you have Armageddon. While Deborah and Barak, accompanied by the little band of heroic stalwarts, are on the march to meet the formidable foe, God sends a great hail-storm to pour down the fatal icy cannon-balls on the heads of Sisera’s men. They fall in piles, heaping the plain with mountains of the dead, affrighting and rendering unmanageable the chariot- horses, so they leap like kangaroos, hurling their drivers headlong and dashing furiously through the phalanx, cutting the men to pieces with the sharp scythes attached to the chariots. Thus the plain of Megiddo is heaped with the slain, and the River Kishon flows with blood. Meanwhile, Deborah’s army have nothing left for them to do but roar out the shout of victory. Sisera sees his army ruined, flees for his life, and is slain by Jael, the Kenite, a heroic maiden, with her own hand. Since the terrible wars against God Almighty during the tribulations are called Armageddon, I take it for granted His enemies will kill one another as Sisera’s men did. We also read much about hail, earthquakes, lightning, and all the powers of nature utilized in the conflict to sweep the wicked into eternity. In what sense are we to understand these wars to be against the Almighty? God justly claims the right to rule the world in righteousness and love. The Bible is the only law-book. Jesus is coming to reign over the world. He has a right to rule it, for He has redeemed it by His blood. The world powers, political and ecclesiastical, are unwilling to surrender the reign into His hand. Hence they will fight to hold the power they now possess and get more; but, as in case of the ancient Armageddon, they will kill one another, such as survive hail, lightning, and earthquake. “Behold, I come as a thief.” We are here reminded that our Savior will come about the time of these awful conflicts and steal away His bride. A thief always comes to steal. Our Savior wants nothing in this world but His bride till the devil is cast out of it; then He will take possession. He frequently speaks of coming as a thief, since the thief is always unknown and unexpected. These characteristics of the thief will our Savior verify to His enemies. A wicked world and slumbering Church will have not the slightest anticipation of His coming till He has come and taken away His bride. 1 Thessalonians 5:4, Paul assures us that to His saints He will not come as a thief in the night. No, we are on the outlook, and will not be surprised if He comes at noonday or at midnight.

What about those unclean spirits, like frogs which came out of the mouth of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet? Frogs live in low, filthy places; hence, they emblematize Satanic influences. The devil, Romanism, and Mohammedanism constitute the unholy trinity in the stygian administration of the world. You see these three unclean spirits come out of the mouth of the dragon ( i. e., the devil),the beast ( i. e., Romanism), and the false prophet ( i. e., Mohammedanism). These unclean spirits are invisible, diabolical agencies, which will form a triple alliance and unite the world, political and ecclesiastical, against God. Perhaps the dragon also symbolizes paganism, the devil’s oldest son. Some think spiritualism is one of those unclean spirits already come out of the devil’s mouth. I think it highly probable the first five angels have already poured out their bowls of wrath on all lands, the people, the subordinate rulers, and the heads of all the world powers. These vials, however, are still running, and will continue till the end. I don’t believe the sixth angel has yet poured out his vial. I am looking for it constantly. Where he does, these revolutionary influences will break out, immediately interpenetrating all nations and ecclesiasticisms, everywhere infusing an insurrectionary spirit. The Moslem power wields a predominant influence in Asia and Africa, and Romanism in Europe and America. Paganism is more magnitudinous than either, though much less aggressive and influential. As these three supernatural agencies are all demoniacal, of course they will unitedly conserve the cause of Satan. We see from these Scriptures they will all unite against the Almighty. It is a question of sovereignty. Each one of these devils will stir up his department of Satan’s government against God. As Romanism is the most intellectual, cultured, and influential of this tri-diabolism, it is inferable she will lead the way. Further out in these prophecies, we find


Will rise, concentrate the world powers, and take the lead in the Armageddon wars. This word is from Christ, and anti, which means instead of. Hence antichrist means the rival of Christ; i. e., one who takes the place of Christ. Of course, such a one would be the greatest of all the enemies of Christ. This definition would at present apply to both pope and Mahomet, and in a prominent sense to their subordinate clergy. Since antichrist is the uncompromising enemy of Christ, we may expect the antichristhood in successive ages to be progressive, like the Christhood. Hence, in the grand culmination and the final conflict, when Christ comes to claim His kingdom, antichrist will stand up and oppose Him as never before. 2 Thessalonians 2:4:

“He that opposeth and exalteth himself above everything that is called God or divinity, so that he sitteth in the temple of God, and showing off himself that he is God.”

Here is a scene destined to transpire in the last days. The application of this chapter to the pope is quite unmistakable. Hence we conclude that antichrist will rise very early in the tribulation in a prominence the bygone ages have never seen, and hold out persistently, claiming and exhibiting himself as the real Christ. We see he holds on after Babylon falls and all the kings are swept away, finally, with Mahomet, to he cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 19:20.) Amid the universal agitation of these three unclean spirits, doubtless Romanism will transcend, lead the way, draw in Islamism and paganism, and all three promote the pope to the supremacy!

17. We find the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, whereas the first angel poured out his upon the earth, thus in the most general way inaugurating the great infection. The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea i. e., the people thus illustrating the invasion of the popular masses by the social, political, and ecclesiastical malady. The third angel pours out his bowl upon the rivers and fountains of water i. e., the subordinated departments of the government filling them with anarchy, insurgency, and insubordination. The fourth pours out his upon the sun i. e., the heads of governments so that all the kings and queens begin to totter on their thrones. As the sun emblematizes the sovereigns of the earth, this prophecy had a fulfillment in the days of Napoleon Bonaparte, when nearly all the kings of the earth were shaken down from their thrones. The fifth angel pours out his bowl upon the throne of the beast. This was literally fulfilled in 1870, when Victor Immanuel took the pope from his temporal throne, which he’s never regained, and never will. How many of these vials have been poured out? The preponderant argument decidedly favors the conclusion that five of the angels have actually descended and poured out their vials. The presumption is that the contents of these vials are still flowing, the effect intensifying in all the earth.

The presumption is that the sixth and seventh angels still reserve the contents of their vials. We are on the constant lookout for the sixth angel to pour out his bowl. Geometrical progression is a universal law of prophetical fulfillment. The sixth angel, pouring out his bowl upon the River Euphrates, and stirring up all the Eastern kings to a bloody conflict, will doubtless be verified in the fall of the Turkish Empire, which is in daily anticipation.

The three frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet, represent direct Satanic intervention throughout pagandom, Romanism, and Islamism, which jointly represent fourteen hundred millions of people, and constitute the worldwide kingdom of Satan. All these vials, having once begun, will continue to flow with constantly increasing volume, even down to the end of the tribulation. The presumption is that it will not be long after the sixth till the seventh angel will pour out his bowl. “ It is done!” This is the proclamation rung forth In a great voice from heaven. The meaning of it is wonderful in the extreme. For the last six thousand years the world has been under a terrible administration of castigatory judgments. The trend to wickedness has been so powerful that God, in mercy, has been constrained to resort to constant stratagems to arrest its impetuosity to ruin for time and eternity. The great Flood, which swept a world into eternity, was His signal mercy, because they had become so awfully wicked and incorrigible that prolonged existence simply meant the population of hell. They had passed the borne of hope and redemption. So it was with Sodom and Gomorra. The Lord has been compelled to environ the world with providential chastisements in all ages. How transcendently significant to hear the proclamation, “ It is done!” But remember that the proclamation is anticipatory, because it is highly probable that the big end of the great tribulation is yet to come. It means the simple fact that no other castigatory judgment is ever to come upon the earth; but the disciplinary curriculum is forever complete. So when these seven vials containing the seven last plagues shall have been poured out, and these maladies shall have run their course and exhausted their force, then the divine chastisement of sin upon the earth will have an end. At the end of the tribulation the millennium will at once be ushered in, bringing back the halcyon times of Edenic prosperity, purity, and glory.

18. And there were lightnings, voices, and thunders, and a great earthquake, such as was not from the time man was upon the earth, such and so great was the earthquake.”

19. And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell.” There is no doubt but the powers of nature will be largely utilized in the infliction of the castigatory judgments destined to come on the earth in the closing days of the present age. Of all calamities, the earthquake performs the work of death in the most wholesale and expeditious manner, burying whole cities and nations alive. In this 19th verse, the city of Babylon is specified, which is an ancient name of Rome, as well as symbolically identical, since Babylon was the persecuting power against the Church in the former dispensation, and Rome in the present. The apostle Peter dates one of his letters at Babylon, which is believed to have been written at Rome. In this prophecy, we find that Rome will he divided into three parts by the earthquake, and many metropolises of the different nations will be shaken down and utterly destroyed. Perhaps our New York, and many other great American cities, will he destroyed by these earthquakes. It is highly probable that the time- honored capitals of the old world, with innumerable places of smaller notoriety, will be destroyed in these earthquakes.

20. Every island fled and the mountains were not found.” As it says these earthquakes will be such as the world never saw before, and never will again, of course the normal effect would be to sink the islands out of sight, and so disrupt the mountains as to destroy their identity.

The 21st verse speaks of such hail as the world never saw before. The Hebrew talent weighed ninety three pounds avoirdupois. Of course such a hailstorm would be like mill-stones falling from heaven, not only killing ever person and animal in its course, but smashing cities and demolishing every superstructure of human art. No wonder the Holy Ghost certifies that the world never saw calamities comparable with the great tribulation, which will immediately precede our Lord’s coming. Here we have the sad statement again that the people, instead of repenting under these terrible judgments, only give way to wrath and blasphemy. When Noah’s Flood was coming on, it seems that the Holy Ghost retreated away from the ungodly Antediluvians. Genesis 6:3: “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” When the Lord comes in the rapture, takes up His saints with Him into the cloud, and leaves this wicked world without the light of a holy example or testimony, the Scriptures descriptive of the oncoming tribulations invariably corroborate the conclusion of the withdrawal of the Holy Spirit. Really this is one of the present signs of the Lord’s near coming because “iniquity doth abound and love of many doth wax cold.”

Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Revelation 16". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ges/revelation-16.html.
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