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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 16

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-21

Revelation 16:1 . Pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth. The catastrophes of nations have their origin in heaven. “Oh Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff of my indignation. I will send him against a hypocritical nation Howbeit, he meaneth it not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy, and cut off nations not a few.” Isaiah 10:5-7.

Revelation 16:2 . The first angel went, and poured out his vial on the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men who had the mark of the beast. God is pleased sometimes to invade nations with new diseases, as the malignant cholera, associated with other visitations of his arm. Mr. Faber applies this vial spiritually to the curse of atheism and blasphemy, which fell on France and other powers under the beast. His words are “At the pouring out of the first vial on the thirty first of August 1792, the noisome sore of atheism broke out, or publicly made its appearance in France, and throughout the whole Latin earth.”

Revelation 16:3 . The second poured out his vial upon the sea. “This was in the beginning of September 1792, when the horrible and long-protracted massacres were perpetrated, during what was called the reign of terror, and were continued till the figurative sea, or population of France, resembled the blood of a dead man.”

Revelation 16:4-7 . The third poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of water. “The regularly established governments of the Latin empire, represented by the rivers and fountains of water, experienced dreadful devastation from the arms of republican France, during a series of bloody and successful campaigns; the issue of which was a tremendous aggrandizement of that infidel power. Note here the conspicuous retaliation of providence on those nations, for the part they had formerly taken in slaughtering the protestants. Thou art righteous, oh Lord, said the angel of the waters, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink, for they are worthy. And I heard another (angel) out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.”

Revelation 16:8-9 . The fourth poured out his vial upon the sun. “The Latin firmament, or the principal government of the divided papal Roman empire, which scorched men with the burning fire of a systematic military tyranny. This was the government of France under the late despotic Usurper; and the blaze of his tyranny extended not merely to France, but likewise to Holland, Swisserland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and all the west of Germany. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, who hath power over these plagues; and they repented not to give him glory. So little were the nations that were afflicted with those plagues reformed by them.”

Revelation 16:10 . The fifth poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast. “The Bonapartean monarchy was completely overthrown on the eighteenth of June 1815, by the entire defeat of the army at the battle of Waterloo; and a few days after the allies took possession of Paris. No doubt can be entertained for a moment of the fulfilment of the prophecy contained in this verse, by any one who attentively considers the moral state of France, here called the seat of the beast, and which is emphatically said to be full of darkness.

“In perfect accordance with this are all the accounts which have been given of that unhappy country, by credible persons who have visited it with the express purpose of appreciating the morals and manners of the people. Gross darkness, in general, has covered their minds; and infidel principles have infected all ranks and orders, insomuch that their churches are very little frequented, and the day of the Lord is most scandalously profaned. What was said of Israel in the days of Hosea, “There is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land,” is mournfully exemplified in modern France.”

Revelation 16:10-11 . They gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven. “That this was literally the case towards, and at the termination of the war in 1814, and afterwards on the renewed termination of hostilities in 1815, might be fully ascertained by those who beheld the vast numbers of their wounded soldiers in the fields of battle, and afterwards in their public hospitals, blaspheming God, and cursing the author of their calamities. And that they do not yet repent of their deeds, is too plainly manifested by the hitherto unavailing attempts to reclaim them from their vices. “Furthermore, considering the pains that had been taken to instruct the French prisoners, both in our prisons and prison-ships, while in England, and the apparent good impressions made on the minds of several, with the additional advantage of a French bible, which was given to almost every individual to take back with him on his return home, it might have been expected that a foundation was laid for the successful progress of the gospel in France. And we would still cherish the hope of the future triumphs of divine grace there, where the gospel-word was so early received, and many christian churches planted; yea, where not a few obtained through death a martyr’s crown.”

Revelation 16:13 . I saw three unclean spirits go out of the mouth of the dragon, in every form of pride; and out of the mouth of the beast, in the horrors of blasphemy, as mystery infallible vicar of God. And out of the mouth of the false prophet, in lies, in absolutions, in librations from purgatory. This character equally applies to Mahomed, the false prophet, on whose empire blood must be avenged with blood. Yea, with slaughter like Armageddon. Ezekiel 38:0.

Revelation 16:15 . Behold, I come as a thief, when the least expected. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments from being set on fire by the officer, who on going his rounds in the temple was used to take the candle out of his lantern, and set the linen clothes of the levite on fire, when he found him asleep at his post, lest he walk naked, and his shame be seen.

Revelation 16:16 . And he gathered them together. The pronoun “he” destroys the sense. The Mons version supplies the proper antecedent. Et ces esprits [the three unclean spirits above] assemblerent ces rois au lieu, &c. And those spirits gathered these kings to a place called Armageddon, celebrated for the slaughter of the king of Canaan’s army, when not a man escaped. Judges 4:0. So again, Satan, compelled by divine power, shall infatuate his victims to final destruction.

Revelation 16:19 . And the great city was divided into three parts; say till we have clearer light, catholics, protestants, infidels. The latter race, full of blasphemy, will endeavour to strip religion of all her wealth; and chase away superstition by satire, enmity, and contempt.


The four preseding verses properly belong to this chapter. They contain a preparation for the vials of vengeance on the nations, who have not learned righteousness by the judgments of heaven on the beast, and on his image. Now, it is very remarkable that no nation has been happy after extensive conquest for any length of time. The nine years conquests of Sesostris were all lost, and almost as soon as gained. The bloody Assyrian conquests presently recoiled in carnage by the fall of Nineveh. It was the same with Babylon. And Alexander had scarcely completed his career before he lost his life, and his empire. The French have conquered, but they are not reformed. Perhaps the first four vials in this chapter menace the French empire. I speak with deference, conscious that the temple of God is filled with smoke, for darkness for a time conceals the ways of God.

But if this conjecture be well founded, the first vial seems to portend a sore pestilence on infidel France, and her dependencies. The second tinting the sea with blood, may import a contest for the sovereignty of the seas, such as the world never beheld before. The third on the rivers, may indicate continental wars renewed again. The fourth on the sun may import the tyranny of the French monarchy, and the blasphemy of the infidel nation, who have the last mark of reprobation, not to repent at the judgments of God. This infidel empire is not likely to be happy; for happiness is connected with virtue. The fifth vial betokens farther scourges on the seat of the beast, or the powers of the continent, and the dissolution of the Gaulic empire. The sixth obviously refers to the fall of mahomedanism. And blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth the garments of righteousness and a good conscience, lest he should be in the situation of a levite, sleeping at his post, in the temple, or of a sentinel placed on a watch tower to guard the city. The want of piety is a greater shame than the want of clothes. The seventh vial is the last vengeance of God on the antichristian state. A voice came from the temple saying, It is done. Hence popery is to fall by repeated strokes, and a better church shall rise out of its ruins.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Revelation 16". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/revelation-16.html. 1835.
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