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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 16

Hawker's Poor Man's CommentaryPoor Man's Commentary

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Verse 1


In this Chapter we behold all the Angels, one after another, pouring out their Vials. The awful Consequences which followed are related. The sudden coming of Christ is noticed. A Blessedness is pronounced on him that watcheth.

Revelation 16:1

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.

As in the opening of this Chapter we are called upon to the observation of the ministry of the Vials, which contain the last plagues of our God, upon the enemies of the faith; I shall beg to do upon this occasion, as I did before the opening of the ministry of the Seals, and the ministry of the Trumpets, give some short statement, according to my view, of the Vials themselves.

And, first. I think it will not admit of a question, but that the opening of the vials, took place at that period, be that period fixed by the different calculations of men, at whatever time it may, when, after the Church had been long persecuted, and darkened, under the Pope and his confederates, the pure Gospel of Christ began to hold up its head. There may be, and indeed there is a diversity of opinion, at what period to place this; whether when this kingdom first began to emerge from popery, or at a more remote period, from the present. I have said before, that though I have here and there spoken in round numbers of years, such as the time that Pagan Rome continued, after Christ's return to glory; and the probable time, that Arius arose, with his awful heresy: yet I do not mean that this Poor Man's Commentary shall have anything to do with calculating times, or seasons, as the probable period, when the predictions in this book, remaining to be fulfilled, may be expected to be accomplished. I know that it would much gratify curiosity, for all men by nature love to be supposed, as seeing more into future events than their neighbors. But though this is very natural, yet it is not from grace. I therefore have confined myself to form judgment of the facts, and not of the times. These will all open in due course, as the Lord hath appointed. I therefore, on this subject, of the ministry of the vials, would make this one general observation, namely, that they certainly opened, when the pure Gospel, after the long obscurity under which it had lain in popish legends, and the trumpery of that heresy, began to lift up its head. Then it was, according to my view, when John saw that angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth; and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue and people, Revelation 14:6 .

Secondly. It is important, for the right apprehension of the ministry of the vials, to remember, that though they are placed last, its point of order, in this book; yet the opening of the seals were not all finished, neither the sounding of the trumpets all over, before the first vial, and indeed several of the succeeding ones, had performed their ministry. This is abundantly evident, for the greater part of the vials have done their office; indeed all have finished excepting the two last: yet the seventh trumpet is not yet sounded, neither will it, (as is most, probable,) before the seventh vial comes to be poured out.

And, thirdly. It may be proper to make one general observation more, on the subject of those vials, before we go on, to look at each of them particularly; and to remark, that the plagues which follow each vial poured out, do not so totally pass away, as that the whole wrath is expended of one, before the next vial which was to succeed, comes to be poured out. Not so. For we behold the consequences of some of the early vials, even operating now; and, therefore, we are not to conclude, that one woe is past, in all those instances, before another comes. The whole ministry of the vials is directed by the Lord, as his last plagues, to bring down the enemies of his salvation; and, therefore they are so directed by the Lord, as shall best accomplish this purpose. Having thus stated, in a general way and manner, the subject of the ministry of the vials, at large, we will now prosecute the Chapter, and attend to what may be supposed, under each, as particularly intended.

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.

There can be no doubt, but that it was the Lord Jesus Christ, whose voice John heard, as mentioned in the former verse, thus sending forth his servants on their employment; or God the Holy Ghost, whose office it is to ordain to the ministry. In either sense, it is blessed. For in either point of view, it must be attended with success. And most blessed was the success of it. For the effects of the pouring out of the first vial was, that a noisome, and grievous sore, fell upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.

The Reader will remember that I do not speak decidedly upon any point of doubtful meaning, but I venture to believe that it was the pouring out of this first Vial, which is said to have been poured upon the earth, that is, the empire of the Pope, which produced a change upon the minds of numbers, concerning him and his heresy. For what is a noisome and grievous sore, in a spiritual sense, but a sense of dissatisfaction. And when the eyes of the common people, here called the earth, through grace, were opened to see the folly of bulls, and grants, and licences, and pardons, all for money, what could sour the mind more, than the having been long hoodwinked by such iniquity.

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.

We have here the second Angel's ministry, and the effect of the second vial poured upon the sea. Perhaps, as the earth might mean the home of the Pope, so the sea might mean the distant parts, where his influence extended. As the sea opens a turnpike for commerce and trade, by the sea, it is probable might be meant, death to the Pope's interest abroad, as well as at home. For, as those vials poured out, were full of God's wrath, so wherever they came, they brought destruction to his heresy. And it is possible, that this vial had respect to the death of the Pope's interest in this kingdom. Death I am sure it must be, to all that do receive the image of the beast in future. And death it is, to all that have received it, in all that is past.

Verses 4-7

(4) And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood. (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. (6) For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. (7) And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.

The love of money is the root of all evil. And those who have hired themselves out for the sake of gains (and no other cause could ever influence any man, to write or speak, on the side of such glaring folly as popery,) to send forth pamphlets in justification of the beast or her whelps, may be supposed to be the rivers and fountains of waters here spoken of, on whom the third Angel poured out his vial. And the acknowledgments of God's justice, at the pouring out of this vial is very sweetly introduced, as well as confirmed by another angel. What can be more awful, than the contemplation of the unnumbered murders, perpetrated under the inquisition, and other engines of that detestable monarchy, which sheltering itself under the title of holiness, hath been productive of more horrid acts of cruelty, than all the paganism of the world.

Verses 8-9

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

By the pouring the fourth vial upon the sun, some have thought that the Pope's power is meant to have been thereby eclipsed. Indeed, as all the vials are directed to the overthrow of Antichrist, in every way, and by every direction, we may suppose this point under everyone hath been accomplishing. And the awful effects of blaspheming God is as might be supposed, the sure result of vials of wrath, poured out upon the ungodly.

Verses 10-11

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

As this is the last vial poured out specially upon the beast, so it is worthy the Reader's observation, that it is said to have been poured out upon the seat of the beast, meaning his whole empire. And I leave the Reader to his own thoughts to consider, whether the wonderful events which the last thirty years have brought forward, in humbling the whole papal authority, may not have been what is here said. Certain it is that the sixth vial is not yet poured out. And when it is, the Turkish dominions, as the river Euphrates proves, will receive its contents. It will be said, perhaps, that the Pope is lately recovered from his palsyed state. To which it may be answered, yes, he is. But when the seventh trumpet comes to be sounded, and the seventh vial to be poured out, the whole influence both of Pope, Turk, and devil will fall to rise no more, and all will be summed up, in the everlasting triumphs of Christ.

Verses 12-16

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

The pouring out of the sixth vial is yet to come. And when it comes, the chief ministry of it, will be upon the kingdom of the false prophet. This blessed event; brings on the total overthrow of that Anti-Christian power. The river Euphrates implies his whole territory. And what a wonderful effect will it produce? Isaiah the prophet evidently alluded to this in one of his Chapters, where he saith; And the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day. And the Lord shall smite Egypt, he shall smite and heal it. And they shall return even to the Lord, and he shall be entreated of them, and he shall heal them. In that day shall there be an highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt, and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, blessed be Egypt my people; and Assyria the work of my hands; and Israel Mine inheritance. Isaiah 19:21-25 . Hence, if this Scripture be in reference to this event, as I venture to believe it is and the sixth trumpet overthrow, as I believe it will, the false prophet and totally destroy his empire, the Lord will bring out his Chosen ones that are new there, and by the sovereignty of his grace, will cause the Jews to return and the redeemed to be together, and the Lord will open an highway for all his people, both Jew and Gentile, bond and free, to return to Zion with everlasting songs upon their heads, and when all these Anti-Christian heresies are destroyed, his redeemed out of all nations shall come and flow together, and Christ will prepare his people for his reign upon earth.

And in confirmation of this, let the Reader further observe that in the close of what is here said, under the sixth vial, the Lord Jesus Christ himself is said to come, and to come suddenly. The Lord will strike the last deadly blow to all the powers. And when the unclean spirits, that is, the spirits of devils, are seen coming out of the mouth of these Anti-Christian powers, and are gathering to the battle of the great day of God, that is, not the day of judgment, for that is not yet, but to this which is before it, and are drawn there to their own ruin, then will Christ's power be known, and felt, and acknowledged by all.

The place of battle called Armageddon, is only specified by way of confirmation. It seems to have been taken from Megiddo, the valley Ar, or more properly Haar, signifying the mountain of the same place. I think the name is only used, to show how open and exposed, as an high mountain it shall be.

Verses 17-21

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

Here ends the pouring out of the vials, and a tremendous pouring out it is. It is said to he into the air, meaning the empire of Satan, who is emphatically called, the prince of the power of the air, Ephesians 2:2 . But we must include the whole territories of Pope, and Turk, also, because Satan's empire is over them, and the air takes in the whole of their empire and Satan's together. And as this puts an end to all the struggles, which for so many hundreds of years have been carried on by hell and its auxiliaries, against the kingdoms of our God, and of his Christ, we may well suppose, that the decision which is final, will be most strikingly glorious. I shall not in this place, anticipate what is said, in allusion to this great day of Christ, in the latter part of this book of prophecy; but if the Reader will read what is delivered on this subject, Revelation 19:11 to the end, he will see the best explanation of the transactions of this sixth vial.

I beg the Reader, however, that he will not too hastily pass away from this most blessed view of Christ, under the seventh vial. If voices, thunderings, and lightening bespake the manifestations of the Lord Jesus, and a great voice came forth from the temple, that is the Church, saying, it is done. Oh! how ought we to hail the glorious event! Jesus had before been seen standing upon the earth, and upon the sea, and swearing by him that liveth forever and ever, that in the days when the mystery of God shall be finished, there should be time no longer; and here we behold the confirmation, of the same, and Christ himself coming to finish it, Revelation 10:1-7 .

Oh!, the unspeakable joy, when the Church shall see the blood of the saints avenged, the whore and all her cursed crew, which from age to age, have been drunken with the blood of the saints, cast down to rise no more. And hell repaid his numerous temptations, whereby the saints of God through the whole time-state of the Church, have been assaulted with his devilish cruelties. How will that hymn of praise burst forth from ten thousand times ten thousand souls, in unceasing love and thanksgiving to our adorable Lord; We give thee thanks, Lord God Almighty, which art, and which was, and art to come, because thou host taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned, Revelation 11:17 .

Verse 21


Look up, and contemplate the Lord, sending forth from his Church, the seven Angels, and messengers with his seven last plagues, to take vengeance on his enemies, and to deliver his people. Then let the Reader consider, how sure, how everlastingly sure, is the Lord's Church and people. What though for a while the enemy seems to triumph, and the redeemed of the Lord are oppressed by the mighty, yet the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord, who is also their strength in the time of need.

How awful are these pourings out of the vials of divine wrath? One after another, arising higher and higher in the scale of judgment. But so desperately hardened in sin, are the enemies of our God, and of his Christ, that though the sinner is scorched with fire and great heat, yet he only blasphemes the name of God, and repents not to give the Lord glory.

My soul! learn from hence, to trace all thy mercies to their source. It is God's everlasting love, which hath chosen thee in Christ, and preserved thee in Christ, and accepted thee in Christ, before the foundation of the world. Hence, all thy mercies in Jesus, by which the vials of wrath, poured out upon the ungodly cannot come nigh thee. Blessed Jesus! let my soul be on the lookout for thy coming, that no midnight hour may surprise me, no blasphemies of men or devils may alarm me. And, when Babylon shall come into remembrance before God, and our God shall give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath, thy Church may shout aloud in her destruction, and both heaven and earth praise God with exceeding joy.

Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Revelation 16". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pmc/revelation-16.html. 1828.
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