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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 16

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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Verse 1

And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.

The trumpets shook the world-kingdoms in longer process: the vials swiftly and suddenly overthrow the kingdom of the beast who invested himself with the world-kingdom. The Egyptian plagues were inflicted with but a month between them severally (Bengel, referring to Seder Olam). As Moses took ashes from an earthly furnace (Exodus 9:8), so angels, as priestly ministers in the heavenly temple, take holy fire in sacred vials from the heavenly altar, to pour down (cf. Revelation 8:5). The same heavenly altar which would have kindled sweet incense of prayer, bringing down blessing upon earth, by man's sin kindles the fiery descending curse. Just as the Nile, ordinarily the source of Egypt's fertility, became blood and a curse through Egypt's sin.

A great voice - namely, God's. These seven vials (the detailed expansion of the vintage, Revelation 14:18-20) being 'the last,' must be just when the beast's power has expired (whence reference is made in them all to the beasts worshippers as objects of the judgments), close to the coming of the Son of man. The first four are distinguished from the last three, as in the case of the seven seals and seven trumpets. The first four are general-affecting the earth, sea, springs, and sun: not merely a portion of these natural bodies, as the trumpets, but the whole; the last three are particular-affecting the throne of the beast, the Euphrates, and the grand consummation. Some of these judgments are given in detail, Revelation 17:1-18; Revelation 18:1-24; Revelation 19:1-21; Revelation 20:1-15.

Out of the temple. B, Syriac, omit; but 'Aleph (') A C, Vulgate, Andreas, support.

The vials. So Syriac, Coptic; but 'Aleph (') A B C, Vulgate, Andreas, read, 'the seven vials.'

Upon - `unto.'

Verse 2

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.

Went - `away.'

Poured out. So the angel cast fire into the earth previous to the series of trumpets (Revelation 8:5).

Upon. So Coptic; but A B C, Vulgate, Syriac, read, 'into.'

Sore upon the men - antitype to the sixth Egyptian plague. "Noisome" - `evil' (cf. Deuteronomy 28:27; Deuteronomy 28:35). [ Helkos (G1668) is used in Septuagint, as here.] The reason why the sixth Egyptian plague is first here, is because it was directed against the Egyptian magicians, Jannes and Jambres, so that they could not stand before Moses; so here the plague is upon those who, in the beastworship, practiced sorcery. As they submitted to the mark of the beast, so they must bear the mark of the avenging God. Contrast Ezekiel 9:4; Ezekiel 9:6; Revelation 7:3. "Grievous" - distressing.

Which had the mark of the beast. Therefore this first vial is subsequent to the beast's rule.

Verse 3

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.

Angel. So B, Andreas; but A C, Vulgate, omit.

Upon - `into.'

Became as the blood - answering to another Egyptian plague Became as the blood - answering to another Egyptian plague.

Of a dead man - putrefying.

Living soul. So 'Aleph (') B, Andreas: but A C, Syriac, 'soul of life' (cf. Genesis 1:30; Genesis 7:21-22).

In the sea. So B, Andreas; but A C, Syriac, 'as respects the things in the sea.'

Verse 4

And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood.

Angel. (Exodus 7:20.) So Syriac, Coptic, Andreas; but 'Aleph (') A B C, Vulgate, omit it.

Verse 5

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.

Angel of (presiding over) the waters. O Lord. Omitted by 'Aleph (') A B C, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, Andreas.

And shalt be. 'Aleph (') A B C, Vulgate, Andreas, for this clause, read, '(which art and wast) holy' [ hosios (G3741) for ho (G3588) esomenos]. The Lord is no longer He that shall be, for He is come in vengeance; therefore the third of the three clauses, Revelation 1:4; Revelation 1:8; Revelation 4:8, is here, and in Revelation 11:17, omitted.

Judged thus - `these things.' 'Thou didst inflict this judgment.'

Verse 6

For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.

(Genesis 9:6; Isaiah 49:26; Revelation 11:18, end.) Anticipation of Revelation 18:20; Revelation 18:24: cf. Revelation 13:15. For. A B C, Andreas, omit: 'Aleph ('), 'of which (blood) they are worthy.'

Verse 7

And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.

Another out of. Omitted in 'Aleph (') A C, Syriac, Coptic. 'I heard the altar (personified) saying.' On it the prayers of saints are presented before God: beneath it are the martyrs' souls crying for vengeance on the foes of God.

Verse 8

And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.

Angel. So 'Aleph ('), Coptic, Andreas; but A B C, Vulgate, Syriac, omit.

Upon. Not as Revelation 16:2-3, 'into.'

Sun. Whereas by the fourth trumpet the sun is darkened (Revelation 8:12) in a third part, here, by the fourth vial, the sun's bright scorching power is intensified.

Power was given unto him - rather, 'unto it:' the sun.

Men - `the men;' those who had the mark of the beast (Revelation 16:2).

Verse 9

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.

Men - `the men.' Repented not to give him glory - (Revelation 9:20.) Affliction, if it does not melt, hardens. Compare the better result on others (Revelation 11:13; Revelation 14:7; Revelation 15:4).

Verse 10

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,

Angel So Coptic, Andreas; omitted by 'Aleph (') A B C, Vulgate, Syriac.

Seat - `throne of the beast:' set up in arrogant mimicry of God's: the dragon gave his throne to the beast (Revelation 13:2).

Darkness - parallel to the Egyptian plague, Pharaoh being type of Antichrist (cf. Revelation 15:2-3, notes: cf. the fifth trumpet, Revelation 9:2).

Gnawed their tongues for pain - `owing to the pain' of the previous plagues, rendered more appalling by the darkness. Or, as 'gnashing of teeth' is one of hell's accompaniments, so this 'gnawing of their tongues' is through rage at the baffling of their hopes and overthrow and overthrow of their kingdom. They meditate revenge, but are impotent to effect it; hence, their frenzy. Those in anguish, mental and bodily, bite their lips and tongues.

Verse 11

And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.

Sores. Therefore each fresh plague was accompanied with the preceding plagues: there was an accumulation, not a mere succession, of plagues.

Repented not - (cf. Revelation 16:9.)

Verse 12

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.

Angel. So Coptic, Andreas; but 'Aleph (') A B C, Vulgate, Syriac, omit.

Kings of the east - `the kings who are from the rising of the sun.' So the Euphrates is referred to in the sixth trumpet. The drying up of the Euphrates is figurative, as Babylon itself, situated on it, is undoubtedly so, Revelation 17:5. The waters of the Euphrates (cf. Isaiah 8:7-8) are spiritual Babylon's, the apostate church's spiritual and temporal powers. The drying up of Babylon's waters answers to the ten kings' stripping, eating, and burning the whore. The phrase 'way prepared for' is applied to the Lord's coming (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:3; Luke 1:76). He shall come from the east (Matthew 24:27; Ezekiel 43:2, "the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east"): not alone, for His elect transfigured saints of Israel and the Gentiles accompany Him, "kings and priests unto God" (Revelation 1:6). As the anti-Christian ten kings accompany the beast, so the saints accompany as kings the King of kings to the last decisive conflict.

DeBurgh, etc., take it of the Jews, also designed to be a Kingdom of priests to God on earth. They shall, doubtless, become priest-kings in the flesh to the nations in the flesh at His coming. Abraham from the east (if Isaiah 41:2; Isaiah 41:8-9 refers to him, and not Cyrus), conquering the Chaldean kings, is a type of Israel's victorious restoration to the priest-kingdom. Israel's exodus after the last Egyptian plagues typifies Israel's restoration, after the spiritual Babylon, the apostate Church, has been smitten. Israel's promotion to the priest-kingdom after Pharaoh's downfall, at the Lord's descent at Sinai to establish the theocracy, typifies the restored kingdom of Israel at the Lord's more glorious descent, when Antichrist shall be destroyed utterly. Thus Israel secondarily may be meant by "the kings from the east," who shall accompany the "King of kings," returning "from the way of the east" to reign over His ancient people. As to the drying up again of the waters opposing His people's assuming the kingdom, cf. Isaiah 10:26; Isaiah 11:11; Isaiah 11:15; Zechariah 10:9-11. Israel (Genesis 32:28) implies a prince with God (cf. Micah 4:8). Durham, 200 years ago, interpreted the drying up of the Euphrates the wasting away of the Turkish power, which has heretofore held Palestine, so the way being prepared for Israel's restoration. But as Babylon is the apostate church, not Mohammedanism, the drying up of the Euphrates (answering to Cyrus' overthrow of Babylon by marching into it through the dry channel of the Euphrates) must answer to the draining off of the apostate church's resources, the Roman and Greek apostasies having been heretofore the greatest barriers, by idolatries and persecutions, in the way of Israel's restoration and conversion. The earthly kings of the earth (Revelation 16:14) stand in contrast to the kings from the east, who are heavenly.

Verse 13

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.

Unclean spirits like frogs - antitype to the frogs sent on Egypt. The 'unclean spirit' in the land (Palestine) is foretold, Zechariah 13:2, in connection with idolatrous prophets. Beginning with infidelity, as to Christ's coming in the flesh, men shall end in gross idolatry of the beast, the incarnation of all that is self-deifying and God-opposed in the world-powers of all ages. Having rejected Him that came in the Father's name, they shall worship one that comes in his own (John 5:43), really the devil's representative, As frogs croak by night in marshes, so these unclean spirits in dark error teach lies amidst the mire of filthy lusts. They talk of liberty (2 Peter 2:19), not Gospel liberty, but license for lust. There being three, as also seven, in the last and worst state of the Jewish nation (Matthew 12:45), implies a parody of the two divine numbers, three of the Trinity, and seven of the Holy Spirit (Revelation 1:4). Threes frogs were the original arms of France, the center of infidelity, socialism, and false spiritualism. 'Aleph (') A B read, 'as it were frogs,' instead of "like frogs." The unclean spirit out of the mouth of the drayton symbolizes proud infidelity opposing God and Christ. That out of the beast's mouth is the spirit of the world, which in politics, whether lawless democracy or despotism, sets man above God. That out of the mouth of the false prophet is lying spiritualism, which shall take the place of the superseded harlot.

The dragon - Satan, who gives his Vower and throne (Revelation 13:2) to the beast.

False prophet - distinct from the harlot, the apostate church (of which Rome is the chief, though not sole, representative) (Revelation 17:1-3; Revelation 17:16); identical with the second beast: compare Revelation 19:20 with Revelation 13:13; ultimately consigned to the lake of fire with the first beast; also the dragon a little later (Revelation 20:10). The dragon, beast, and false prophet, "the mystery of iniquity," form a blasphemous antitrinity, counterfeit of "the mystery of godliness," God manifest in Christ, witnessed to by the Spirit. The dragon personates the Father, assigning his authority to his representative, the beast, as the Father assigns His to the Son. They are accordingly jointly worshipped: cf. as to the Father and Son, John 5:23: as the ten-horned beast has its ten horns crowned with diadems (Revelation 13:1), so Christ has on His head many diadems (Revelation 19:12). While the false prophet, like the Holy Spirit, speaks not of himself, but tells all men to worship the beast, and confirms his testimony by miracles, as the Holy Spirit attested Christ's divine mission.

Verse 14

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.

Devils - ` demons.'

Working miracles - `signs.'

Go forth unto, [ epi (G1909)] - 'for,' i:e., to tempt them to the battle with Christ.

The kings of the earth and. 'Aleph (') A B, Syriac, Andreas, omit "of the earth and." [ Oikoumenees (G3625)], 'Kings of the whole habitable world,' 'of this world,' in contrast to "the kings of (from) the east" (the sunrising); Revelation 16:12, the saints to whom Christ has appointed a kingdom (Luke 22:29), "children of light." God, in permitting Satan's miracles, as in the Egyptian magicians His instruments in hardening Pharaoh's heart, gives the reprobate up to judicial delusion preparatory to their destruction (1 Kings 22:22). As Aaron's rod was changed into a serpent, so were those of the Egyptian magicians. Aaron turned the water into blood; so did the magicians. Aaron brought up frogs; so did the magicians. With the frogs their power ceased. So, whatever is antitypical to this, will be the last effort of the dragon, beast, and false prophet.

Battle - `war:' the final conflict for the kingship of the world (Revelation 19:17-21).

Verse 15

Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.

The gathering of the world-kings with the beast against the Lamb presages Christ's coming; therefore He here gives the charge to be watching for His coming, clothed in the garments of justification and sanctification.

Thief - (Matthew 24:43; 2 Peter 3:10.)

They - saints and angels.

Shame - `unseemliness' [ ascheemosuneen (G808), 1 Corinthians 13:5; different from Revelation 3:18, aischunee (G152)].

Verse 16

And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.

He - rather, 'they (the three unclean spirits) gathered them together.' "He" (if retained) will refer to God giving them over to the delusion of the three unclean spirits, or else the sixth angel ( Revelation 16:12).

Armageddon - Har, a mountain, and Megiddo, in Manasseh of Galilee, the scene of overthrow of the Canaanite kings by God's miraculous interposition under Deborah and Barak; the great plain of Esdraelon. Josiah, too, as ally of Babylon, was defeated and slain at Megiddo; and the mourning of the Jews just before God shall interpose for them against all nations confederate against Jerusalem, is compared to the mourning for Josiah at Megiddo (Zechariah 12:11). [Megiddo comes from gaadad (H1413), 'cut off' - i:e., slaughter. Compare Joel 3:2; Joel 3:12; Joel 3:14, where "the valley of Jehoshaphat" (i:e., 'judgment of God') is mentioned as the scene of God's vengeance on the God-opposing foe. Probably some great plain, antitypical to the valleys of Megiddo and Jehoshaphat, will be the scene.]

Verse 17

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. Angel. So Andreas; but 'Aleph (') A B, Vulgate, Syriac, omit.

Into. So Andreas [ eis (G1519)]; but's 'Aleph (') A B, 'upon' [ epi (G1909)].

Great. So 'Aleph (') B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, Andreas; but A omits.

Of heaven. So B, Andreas; but 'Aleph (') A, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, omit.

It is done, [ Gegonen (G1096)] - 'It is come to pass.' God's voice as to the consummation, as Jesus' voice on the Cross, when the expiation was completed, "It is finished" [ Tetelestai (G5055)] (John 19:28).

Verse 18

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.

Voices, and thunders, and lightnings. A has the order, 'lightning ... voices ... thunders.' The same close as that of the seven seals and seven thunders; with the difference, that they do not merely form the conclusion, but introduce the consequence, of the last vial-namely, the destruction of Babylon, then of the anti-Christian armies.

Earthquake - often preceded by a lurid air, such as would result from the vial poured upon it.

Men were. So 'Aleph (') B, Vulgate, Syriac, Andreas; but A, Coptic, read, 'a man was.'

So mighty - `such.'

Verse 19

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.

The great city - capital of the apostate church, spiritual Babylon (of which Rome is the representative). The city, in Revelation 11:8 (note), is distinct-namely, Jerusalem under Antichrist (the beast, distinct from the harlot, or apostate church). Compare Zechariah 13:8-9, as to Jerusalem, "two parts shall die, but the third shall be left." In Revelation 11:13, only a tenth falls of Jerusalem; whereas here the city (Babylon) 'became into three parts' by the earthquake. Panslavism, Panteutonism, and Pan latinism are the three divisions into which Christendom tends, the precursory sign of Babylon's fall. Cities of the nations - other great cities in league with spiritual Babylon.

Great Babylon came in remembrance - `Babylon the great was remembered' (Revelation 18:5). Now the last call to escape from Babylon is given to God's people in her (Revelation 18:4).

Fierceness - the boiling over of His wrath [ thumou (G2372) orgees (G3709)] (note, Revelation 14:10).

Verse 20

And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.

Parallel to Revelation 6:14-17; by anticipation descriptive of the last judgment.

The mountains - `there was found no mountains.'

Verse 21

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.

Fell - `descends.'

Upon men - `the men.'

Men - not those struck who died, but the rest. Unlike the result in Jerusalem (Revelation 11:13), where "the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven."

Was - `is.'

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 16". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/revelation-16.html. 1871-8.
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