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In this chapter is represented the pouring out of the seven vials of God’s destructive vengeance upon antichrist: the first upon the earth, producing grievous sores, Revelation 16:1 , Revelation 16:2 ; the second on the sea, turning it into blood, and killing the fish, 3; the third on the rivers and fountains, rendering the waters blood, to punish the Popish persecutions and murders, Revelation 16:4-7 ; the fourth upon the sun, causing him to scorch men with his heat, Revelation 16:8 , Revelation 16:9 ; the fifth on antichrist’s seat, darkening his kingdom, and tormenting his subjects, Revelation 16:10 , Revelation 16:11 ; the sixth on the river Euphrates, followed by the ruinous battle of Armageddon, Revelation 16:12-16 ; and the seventh into the air, the seat of Satan’s power, issuing in the universal and complete destruction of all antichristian enemies and opposition, Revelation 16:17-21 .
This chapter contains the judgments themselves, signified by the seven vials full of the wrath of God; and gives us a prophetic representation of each of them in their order, being an exact description of the greater and more eminent judgments of God on the inhabitants of the earth for their enmity to true religion, and persecution of the saints during this third and last period; and especially on the Papacy and its dominions, or the antichristian kingdom. For, as the events comprehended under the trumpets raised antichrist up, those that occurred under the vials must bring him down. And, as he began to be brought down in a particular manner at the first rise of the Reformation, and his power has declined more and more ever since; insomuch that the Protestant religion is now established in many of the countries of Europe, and in the United States of America, why may we not suppose that the vials, which are the appointed instruments of effecting this happy change, began to be poured out at that time? This view of the vials was given by Mr. Robert Fleming, in his “Apocalyptical Key,” entitled, “An extraordinary Discourse on the Rise and Fall of Papacy; or the Pouring out of the Vials in the Revelation of St. John, chap. 16., containing Predictions respecting the Revolutions of France; the Fate of its Monarch; the Decline of the Papal Power: together with the Fate of the surrounding Nations; the Destruction of Mohammedanism; the Calling in of the Jews; the Restoration and Consummation of all Things,” &c., &c., published in the year 1701; some particulars of which have been remarkably verified by the events which have since taken place. Of his scheme of interpretation, which is not here maintained to be, in all respects, the true one, but which certainly carries with it, in several points, some striking marks of probability, the substance is given below.
Revelation 16:1. And I heard a great voice out of the temple All things being prepared, the angels having received their instructions from the oracle, and the vials being filled with the wrath of God, by one of the four living creatures, (see on Revelation 15:7,) I heard the word of command given to the seven angels to pour out their vials in their order, the inhabitants of the earth being ripe for those judgments which the justice of God had appointed for their punishment. The epistles to the seven churches are divided into three and four; the seven seals, and so the trumpets and vials, into four and three. The trumpets gradually, and in a long tract of time, overthrow the kingdoms of the world; the vials destroy chiefly the beast and his followers, and that with a more swift and impetuous force. The four former affect the earth, the sea, the rivers, the sun: the rest fall elsewhere, and are much more terrible.
Revelation 16:2. And the first poured out his vial upon the earth This, according to Mr. Fleming, denotes God’s judgments upon the foundation of the Papal kingdom; the earth being that on which we walk, and by the fruits of which we are supported. By this, therefore, he understands the Popish clergy, and the Papal dominions and revenues, by which they were upheld. This vial, he thinks, began with the Reformation, and continued until the time when these agents of Popery were thrown out of as many countries of Europe as embraced the Reformation. And we may easily conceive what a mortification it was to that party, when the pretended sanctity of their bishops, priests, monks, and nuns was discovered to be a mere cheat, and their miracles nothing but lies or tricks; and when their tales of purgatory were exposed to public contempt, and their pardons and indulgences would sell no longer; and consequently, when the pope and his mitred officers saw themselves driven out from so great a part of their dominions, their seminaries for training up their advocates and defenders, of all denominations and orders, pulled down, and so much of their yearly revenues lost. Whence they are said to fall under a noisome and grievous ελκος , ulcer, or sore Being by this means pained and vexed inwardly, and rendered contemptible to the whole world, which looked upon them as no better than the plagues of mankind. So that this vial began with the rise of Zuinglius and Luther, and the other reformers, in the years 1516 and 1517, and continued to the year 1566; that is, about forty or fifty years; for by that time all the reformed churches were settled, and had published their creeds and confessions of faith against Rome, in opposition to the determinations of the Popish council of Trent, published A.D. 1563, and the creed of Pope Pius IV., which added twelve antichristian articles to the twelve primitive Christian ones, A.D. 1564.
Revelation 16:3. And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea, &c. This, says the same pious author, must begin where the other ended, as to the period of time. Now I find that in the year 1566 the wars between the king of Spain and the states of the Netherlands began. The Spaniards, indeed, were often victorious at first, yet they were at length compelled to declare them free states. It was then that the sea became blood to the Romanists, their votaries being miserably defeated in their expectations. For after their cruelties under the duke of Alva, in the Low Countries, and their massacre of the Protestants, in France and other places, the scene was changed very quickly; so that, in the year 1588, the Spaniards lost their vast armada, and ever after declined in their power. And the duke of Guise, the inveterate enemy of the Protestants, was killed the same year; and A.D. 1598 Philip II. of Spain died, being eaten of vermin: the edict of Nantz was also issued the same year in France in favour of the Protestants. So that, as the Reformed interest was in peace everywhere, and conquered in Holland and England, the Popish party, on the other hand, saw Spain, the late terror of the Protestants, brought to a languishing condition, and all their allies weary of wars and persecutions. And as in the year 1609 the truce was made between the Spaniards and the Dutch, so the war, though renewed and carried on afterward, became languid and faint, so as hardly to be regarded by either party, especially the Dutch, who were generally victorious and successful. Hence, as the period of this vial began in 1566, so we may reckon it continued about fifty years, namely, till the year 1617, when the third vial began.
Revelation 16:4-7. And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers a fountains of waters, &c. Or those territories of the Papacy which were as necessary to it as rivers and fountains are to a country: the kind of plague under this vial being the same as that of the former. For, as the former destroyed the living creatures, or living souls, that were in or upon the sea, namely, the Spaniards, the great mariners of the world at that time, as to their maritime power, who after the year 1588 lost their former sovereignty of the seas, it being transferred to the English and Dutch; so this latter plague makes it difficult for the Popish party to subsist and maintain their ground, even in the inland countries, particularly in the several dominions of Germany and the neighbouring countries. For in the year 1617, Ferdinand being forced upon the Bohemians by the Emperor Matthias, and crowned king, the foundation of new quarrels was thus laid. For, a little while after, another most bloody religious war ensued, which shook all the empire, and excited the terror of all Europe. And, though the Protestants lost Bohemia, the Palatinate in part, and were driven out of Moravia, Austria, and Silesia, at this time, and were not only persecuted in many places, but were in danger of being extirpated and rooted out universally; yet the tide turned all on a sudden. For after the emperor had ruled Germany with a veteran army for a considerable time, Gustavus Adolphus entered it in the year 1630, and conquered everywhere. And though he was killed about two years afterward, yet his army continued to be victorious; until at length all things were settled at the peace of Munster, A.D. 1648; with which therefore the period of this vial, consisting of thirty- one years, must be supposed to end. Now, as this began with persecutions against, and cruelties upon the Protestants; so at length the angel of the waters is heard to give thanks to God for causing the enemies of his people at last to drink of their own blood. To which song of praise another angel says, Amen: all which seems to denote the joy of the Protestant states and churches on the success of the Swedish arms against the emperor.
Revelation 16:8-9. And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun Namely, of the Papal kingdom; and power was given unto him Unto the angel; to scorch men with fire Alluding to the heat of the sun, namely, the men who had the mark of the beast. And they were scorched with great heat; nevertheless, they repented not to give glory to God, who had power over these plagues; but blasphemed his name the more “Now as this vial,” says Fleming, “must begin where the other ends, namely, at, or a little after, A.D. 1648, so I cannot see but it must denote, first, the French wars in Flanders, that followed the peace of Munster, inflamed, after they had been apparently quenched, by the seizure of Lorraine, the new conquests of the French in Burgundy and Flanders, the wars in Germany, and invasion of the Low Countries; to which may be added the French king’s quarrels with several popes, about the restitution of Castro, the rights of the duke of Modena, &c. Now, seeing the bombarding of towns and cities was chiefly made use of in these later wars, we may see how properly the scorching, or burning men from above, (as if the sun had sent down fire and heat from his own body,) is made use of to characterize the time of this vial. But the chief thing to be taken notice of here is, that the sun, and other luminaries of heaven, are the emblems of princes and kingdoms; therefore, the pouring out of this vial on the sun must denote the humiliation of some eminent potentates of the Romish interest, who cherished and supported the Papal cause. And these, therefore, must be principally the houses of Austria and Bourbon, though not exclusively of other Popish princes. Now it is not unusual with God to make his enemies crush and weaken one another, which has been done in that part of the vial which is already fulfilled, and will be perhaps more so afterward. [Reader, mark this: how manifestly has it been accomplished!] As, therefore, France was made use of, in the instances given, to vex and scorch the Austrian family, in both branches of it, so afterward the French king himself was vexed when he saw himself forced to leave Holland, which he was so near surprising, A.D. 1672; and especially when he was compelled to resign all his conquests in Flanders by the peace of Ryswick. The effect of this vial is also seen in darkening the glory of King James, (from whom the Papists expected new conquests,) by the hand of King William; by whom also God put a stop to the career of the French monarch in his conquests in Flanders and on the Rhine. And we see it further poured out by the eclipse of the Austrian family, in the loss of Spain and its dependant principalities. As to the remaining part of this vial, I do humbly suppose that it will come to its highest pitch about A.D. 1717; and that it will run out about the year 1794.” [Mr. Fleming states at large his reasons for this conjecture, which, however, cannot be inserted here.] “At which time I suppose the fourth vial will end, and the fifth commence, by a new mortification of the Papacy, after this vial has lasted one hundred and forty-eight years, which is indeed a long period in comparison of the former vials; but if it be considered in reference to the fourth, fifth, and sixth trumpets, it is but short, seeing the fourth lasted one hundred and ninety, the fifth three hundred and two, and the sixth three hundred and ninety-three years.” It seems probable, if Mr. Fleming had lived in our time, instead of fixing the termination of the fourth vial in the year 1794, he would have extended the period of it till after the battle of Waterloo, in the middle of the year 1815.
Mr. Faber, it may be observed, considers the French revolution, with all its consequences, as being comprehended in the fourth vial; for which he assigns the following reasons: “In the language of symbols, the sun of a kingdom is the government of that kingdom; and the sun of an empire, if it be a divided empire, is the government of the most powerful state within that empire. When the political sun shines with a steady lustre, and yields a salutary warmth, it is a blessing to a people. But when it glares with a fierce and unnatural heat, scorching all the productions of human industry with the intolerable blaze of a portentous tyranny, it is the heaviest curse which can befall a nation. Since the whole prophecy relates to the Roman empire, the sun mentioned under this vial must be the sun of the Roman firmament: since the pouring out of all the vials takes place long posterior to the division of the empire, this sun must be the sun of the divided empire; or the government of that state within the limits of the empire, which at the present era is the most powerful. The prediction then of the fourth vial obviously intimates, that the frantic scenes of the harvest should be succeeded by a systematic military tyranny, which should be exercised over the Roman empire by the government of the most powerful state then existing within its limits. The world, exhausted with the miseries of the symbolical harvest, and wearied with the wild struggles of licentious anarchy, should tamely submit to the lawless domination of an unrelenting despot. In pointing out the particular government intended by this scorching sun of the Latin or Papal firmament, the reader will doubtless have anticipated me. The present Popish states are France, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Naples, Sardinia, and Etruria. Of these, I apprehend, no one will be inclined to deny that France is by many degrees the most powerful, and consequently that its government must inevitably be esteemed the sun of the system. To observe then the accurate completion of the prophecy of the fourth vial, in which it is said that power was given to this sun to scorch men with fire, and that they were scorched with great heat, we have only to cast our eyes over the continent. A system of tyranny hitherto unknown in Europe, except in the worst periods of the Roman history, has been established, and is now acted upon, by him who styles himself emperor of the French: and the scorching rays of military despotism are at this moment felt, [namely, in 1804, when this was written,] more or less, throughout France, Holland, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and the west of Germany. A regular plan of making each man a spy upon his neighbour destroys all the comfort and all the confidence of social life: and France, with her degraded provinces, or, as they are termed, with diplomatic mockery, allies, groans under the weight of endless requisitions, levies, and extortions, at once tormented herself, and the savage tormentor of others. But the effect produced, both by these plagues and by the following ones, will only be blasphemy and hardness of heart, instead of a reformation of principles and practice. The earthquake which overthrew the tenth part of the city, (chap. Revelation 11:13,) caused the remnant of the seed of the woman to give glory unto the Lord; but the effusion of the vials upon God’s enemies produces not the least tendency to repentance. We must not therefore look for any further reformation from Popery; for the vials are instruments of God’s wrath, not of mercy. France accordingly has nominally returned, like a dog to its vomit, to her old alliance with the blasphemous corruptions of Popery; but, according to every account of eye-witnesses, she still really and individually strengthens herself in the yet more blasphemous abominations of antichrist. Yet, although there will be no further reformation, it does not appear that the inspired writers give any intimations of some still more dreadful persecution of the witnesses than that which they have already undergone from the two Latin beasts; on the contrary, Scripture seems to me rather to lead to a directly opposite opinion. I mean not, indeed, to deny that individual Protestants, those, for instance, who reside in Popish countries, may experience persecution; these will continue to prophesy in sackcloth to the very end of the twelve hundred and sixty days: I would only be understood to intimate, that I can discover no warrant for expecting that Protestantism in general, as nationally professed, will ever be so far subdued by Popery as to undergo throughout the whole world a grand universal persecution resembling those of the pagan emperors, or the Roman pontiffs in the plenitude of their power.”
But to return to Mr. Fleming. “Let the reader,” says he, “call to mind what I premised to the consideration of these vials, namely, that seeing they suppose a struggle between the Popish and Reformed parties, every vial is to be looked upon as the event and conclusion of some new periodical attack of that first party upon the other, the issue of which proves at length favourable to the latter against the former. For if this be duly considered, it will convince us that a great declining of the Protestant interest for some time, and great and formidable advances and new degrees of increase in the Romish party, are very consistent with the state of both these opposite interests under the vials. For as Rome pagan was gradually ruined under the seals, under many of which it seemed to increase, and to become more rampant than before, when yet it was indeed declining, so must we suppose it will be with Rome Papal. For monarchies, as they rise gradually and insensibly, wear out so likewise. And therefore we must not entertain such chimerical notions of the fall of the Papacy, as if it were to be accomplished speedily or miraculously, as many have done. For as it rose insensibly, and step by step, so must it fall in like manner. For it is with the church as it is with particular Christians, who are often sorely buffeted by Satan, and sometimes brought even to extremities by temptations; but do ever carry the victory at last. Who would have believed that the Christian Church was about to triumph over the Roman pagan empire when the dreadful persecutions under Dioclesian and his collegiate emperors was at its highest pitch? But the darkest time of the night ushers in the dawning of the church’s day, in the usual way of God’s providence. And this is very conspicuously to be observed in the period of the third vial. Who would have thought that the loss of Bohemia, and the Emperor Ferdinand’s ruling all Germany with a formidable army, were likely to issue in the victories of the Swedish arms, and the future security of the Protestant interest through the empire and elsewhere? So that we must not wonder if for sixteen years [this was published in 1701] the house of Bourbon be raised up to be a further terror and scourge to the world, and to Protestant nations particularly. And, as a confirmation of this conjecture, let it be observed further, that it is something very extraordinary, and peculiar in some sense to this vial, ‘that the sun, upon which it is poured out, should yet be made the executor of the judgment of it upon others at the same time that he is tormented with it himself.’ So that whosoever is denoted by the sun here, (as I suppose the house of Bourbon principally is,) is made use of, as the devil is, both to torment others, and to be tormented himself in so doing. And if the king of France, therefore, be denoted by this principally, I fear he is yet to be made use of in the hand of God, as Nebuchadnezzar was of old against the Jews, namely, as a further severe scourge to the Protestant churches everywhere. And besides this characteristical mark, which seems to forebode his further exaltation and our humiliation, there is yet another thing that I cannot think upon but with dread and trembling of heart, namely, that it is further said, ‘that while this sun of the Popish world is running his fatal and dreadful career, and scorching men with fire, they are so far from being bettered by these judgments, that they go on more and more to blaspheme the name of God, who has power over these plagues. And while this continues to be the state of the Protestant world, and while atheism, deism, socinianism, irreligion, profaneness, skepticism, formality, hatred of godliness, and a bitter persecuting spirit continue and increase among us, what can we expect but new and desolating judgments? For while we continue to walk thus contrary to God, we cannot but expect that he should walk contrary to us also. It is in vain for us to boast of our privileges, or plead exemption from judgments on this account. For where there is no national reformation and repentance, national sins are like to pull down miseries upon us so much the sooner and more certainly, in that we have been so singularly and peculiarly privileged. For we may in this case expect that God will say to us, as to the Israelites of old, (Amos 3:2,) You especially have I known of all the families, or nations, of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. And therefore if we go on in sin as we have hitherto done, let us take heed to ourselves lest vengeance be near. I pray God I may be mistaken in my fears, but I am afraid I have but too just reason to turn prophet here, by applying to ourselves what Peter said to those of his time, 1 John 4:17, &c., The time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God. Though I do also conclude with him, that if it begin at us, dreadful will be the end of our enemies at last: and if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore, if we be called to suffer for our holy religion, let us do so according to the will of God, committing the keeping of our souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator. Should it be asked, When will the tide turn for the Protestant Church? I answer, when they turn more universally to God, and no sooner. But if it be inquired further, Whether the sun of the Popish kingdom is not to be eclipsed himself at length? I must positively assert he will, else this vial were not a judgment upon him and the Romish party. But if yet again the question be, When this is to fall out, and how? I must say, I have nothing more to add to what I have said, as to the time. But as to the manner how this is to be done, our text lays a foundation of some more distinct thoughts. And we may suppose, lastly, that the French monarchy, after it has scorched others, will itself consume by doing so; its fire, and that which is the fuel that maintains it, wasting insensibly, till it be exhausted at last toward the end of this century, as the Spanish monarchy did before toward the end of the sixteenth age.” Thus Mr. Fleming: and it is remarkable that in 1793 the French king was beheaded by the National Assembly; and great and unparalleled miseries fell upon the French nation, which nearly extinguished all their nobility, and brought about a war that has lasted twenty-three years, and has nearly ruined that country and all the nations of Europe.
Revelation 16:10-11. And the fifth angel poured out his vial on the seat, or throne, of the beast The reader will recollect that mention has been made of two beasts, (see Revelation 13:1; Revelation 13:11,) the secular and the ecclesiastical; and, as Mr. Faber observes, “it might be doubted which of the two was here intended, were we not assisted in our inquiries by the general context of the whole prophecy. Whenever the beast is simply mentioned, by way of eminence, as it were, it will invariably be found that the ten-horned or secular beast is meant, not the two-horned or ecclesiastical beast. In addition to this general proof, the particular context of the present passage may be adduced. The angel pours his vial on the throne of the beast. Now the first beast is expressly said to have had a throne given him by the dragon; because, although nominally Christian, he exercised his secular authority like his predecessor, the pagan empire, in persecuting the church of God: (see Revelation 12:2:) whereas no mention is made of the throne of the second beast, and for this plain reason; the secular authority of the pope [and his clergy] was confined within the narrow limits of an Italian principality, and all the persecutions which he ever excited against the faithful were carried into effect by the first beast, through the instrumentality of his last head, or his ten horns. Hence it is manifest that the beast, upon whose throne the present vial is poured, is the first or secular beast. What is precisely meant by this judgment, it is impossible at present to determine with any certainty, inasmuch as it is yet future. If, however, we may argue from analogy, since the great city means the Roman empire, and since the throne means the authority exercised within that empire by its head, the pouring out of a vial upon the throne of the beast, so as to fill his whole kingdom with darkness, seems most naturally to mean some severe blow aimed directly at his authority, which should fill his whole kingdom with confusion.” This judgment, which Mr. Fleming supposed would begin about A.D. 1794,
(but which probably did not begin till after the termination of the horrors of the French Revolution by the battle of Waterloo, in the year 1815,) that pious divine thought would not expire till A.D. 1848. For, says he, “since the pope received the title of supreme bishop no sooner than the year 606, he cannot be supposed to have any vial poured upon his throne, so as to ruin his authority as signally as this judgment must do, until the year 1848, when the twelve hundred and sixty years in the prophetical account may be considered as ending. But yet we are not to imagine that this vial will totally destroy the Papacy, (though it will exceedingly weaken it,) for we find it still in being and active when the next vial is poured out.” Bishop Newton thinks the judgment here intended will fall upon Rome itself, and will darken and confound the whole antichristian empire. But still the consequences of this plague are much the same as those of the foregoing one; for the sufferers, instead of repenting of their deeds, are hardened like Pharaoh, and still persist in their blasphemy and idolatry, and obstinately withstand all attempts of reformation.”
Revelation 16:12-14. And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates Affected also by the sixth trumpet; and the water thereof was dried up And of all the rivers that flowed into it. The Turkish empire seems to be here intended, lying chiefly on this side the Euphrates. The Romish and Mohammedan affairs ran nearly parallel to each other for several ages. In the seventh age rose Mohammed himself, and a little before him Boniface III., with his universal bishopric. In the eleventh, both the Turks and Gregory VII. carried all before them. In the year 1300 Boniface appeared with his two swords at the newly-erected jubilee. In the self-same year arose the Ottoman Porte; yea, and on the same day. And here the vial poured out on the beast is immediately followed by that poured out on the Euphrates; that is, as appears, on the Mohammedan antichrist, as the former were on the Papacy. And as the sixth trumpet brought the Turks from beyond the Euphrates, from crossing which river they date their rise, this sixth vial dries up their waves, and exhausts their power, as the means and way to prepare and dispose the eastern kings and kingdoms to renounce their heathenish and Mohammedan errors, in order to their receiving and embracing Christianity. To nearly the same purpose Mr. Faber interprets the effects of this vial. “Under the sixth trumpet,” says he, “the four Turkish sultanies, the mystic waters of the Ottoman empire, issued from the river Euphrates: under the sixth vial the waters of the same Euphrates are to be dried up. We cannot, therefore, reasonably doubt that the symbolical Euphrates means, in both cases, the same power. Rivers typify nations; and when a particular river is specified, the nation immediately connected with that river is obviously intended. Such being the case, as the issuing forth of the four sultanies, those mystic waters of the Euphrates, which deluged the eastern empire, denotes the rise of the Turkish power, so the drying up of those waters must evidently denote its subversion.” As a prelude to this, if we advert to the present state of the Turkish power we shall be convinced that, for several years, it has gradually been upon the decline; and the approaching termination of the Ottoman empire is so manifest, that even those whose attention is solely directed to politics, are sufficiently aware that the time of its extinction cannot be far distant. Of late it has been preserved rather by the jealousy of the great European powers than by any physical strength of its own; and it doubtless will be preserved by the hand of Providence, until his own appointed season shall approach for preparing a way for the kings of the east, and for gathering together the kings of the Latin world to the battle of the great day of God Almighty By the kings of the east are probably meant the kings or kingdoms lying east from the Euphrates, namely, in Persia, India, and perhaps also China, for the conversion of whom to the Christian faith, it seems the removal of the Mohammedan empire will prepare the way. But though this seems probable, there can be no certainty of it; nor can the matters here predicted be more than the subjects of conjecture. Whoever these kings or kingdoms may be, they appear, Bishop Newton thinks, to threaten the ruin and destruction of the kingdom of the beast; and, therefore, the agents and emissaries of Popery, (Revelation 16:13-14,) of the dragon, the representative of the devil, and of the beast, the representative of the antichristian empire, and of the false prophet, the representative of the antichristian church, (that is, as some think, the Dominicans, Franciscans, and Jesuits,) as disagreeable, as loquacious, as sordid, as impudent as frogs, are employed to oppose them, and stir up the princes and potentates of their communion to make their united and last effort in a religious war. These three unclean spirits, it is said, are the spirits of devils working miracles Namely, pretended miracles, to impose upon the weak and credulous; which go forth to the kings of the earth Της οικουμενης ολης , of the whole Roman world, or empire, as the expression frequently means; to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. That is, they use all their evil arts and wicked policy to excite the princes and great men of the world to unite more firmly against all who aid and abet the cause of truth and righteousness, of God and religion.
Revelation 16:15-16. Behold, I come as a thief Suddenly and unexpectedly. Observe the beautiful abruptness; I, Jesus Christ. Hear him! Thus, when it is foretold that these evil agents will use great art and address in support of their bad cause, the Spirit of wisdom adds a useful caution, warning the faithful servants of Christ to be on their guard against the emissaries of hell, lest they should be deceived to their own destruction. Blessed is he that watcheth That looks continually for him that comes quickly; and keepeth his garments on him Which men usually put off when they sleep; that is, that keepeth himself clothed with the robe of righteousness, the garment of salvation; lest he walk naked, and they see his shame Lest he lose the graces which he takes no care to keep, and others see his sin and punishment. And he gathered them together The true construction is, And they gathered them together; that is, the evil spirits and agents, before mentioned, gather all the forces of the Popish princes together; into a place called, in the Hebrew tongue, Armageddon That is, the mountain of destruction. Mageddon, or Megiddo, is a place frequently mentioned in the Old Testament, well known in ancient times for many memorable occurrences; in particular, the slaughter of the kings of Canaan, related Judges 5:19. Here the narrative appears to break off, but is resumed again chap. Revelation 19:19.
Revelation 16:17-21. And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air The seat of Satan’s residence, who is emphatically styled, (Ephesians 2:2,) the prince of the power of the air, and is represented (Revelation 16:13,) as a principal actor in these latter scenes; so that this last period will not only complete the ruin of the kingdom of the beast, but will also shake the kingdom of Satan everywhere. Upon the pouring out of this vial, a solemn proclamation is made from the throne of God himself, It is done In the same sense as the angel before affirmed, Revelation 10:7, that in the days of the seventh trumpet the mystery of God should be finished. Of this vial, as indeed of all the former, the completion is gradual; and the immediate effects and consequences are, (Revelation 16:18-21,) voices, and thunders, and lightnings, and an earthquake, and great hail Events portending great calamities. Voices, and thunders, and lightnings, are the usual attendants of the Deity, especially in his judgments. Great earthquakes, in prophetic language, signify great changes and revolutions; and this is such a one as men never felt and experienced before; such as was not since men were upon the earth. Not only the great city is divided into three parts, or factions, but the cities of the nations fall from their obedience to her. Her sins are remembered before God, and, like another Babylon, she will soon be made to drink of the bitter cup of his anger. Nay, not only the works of men, the cities, fall, but even the works of nature; the islands flee away, and the mountains are not found; which is more than was said before, Revelation 6:14, that they were moved out of their places; and can import no less than an utter extirpation of idolatry. Great hail, too, often signifies the judgments of God, and these are uncommon judgments. Diodorus, a grave historian, speaketh of hailstones which weighed a pound and more; Philostorgius mentions hail that weighed eight pounds; but these are about the weight of a talent Or about a hundred pounds; a strong figure, to denote the greatness and severity of these judgments. But still the men continue obstinate, and blaspheme God because of the plague of the hail They remain incorrigible under the divine judgments, and shall be destroyed before they will be reformed. This vial of consummation was supposed by Mr. Mede to synchronize with the vintage, mentioned Revelation 14:18-19, the conclusion of the grand drama of one thousand two hundred and sixty years, the time of the end. When it shall be poured out, says Faber, “the great controversy of God with the nations will commence; his ancient people will begin to be restored; and the sentence of destruction will go forth against the beast and the false prophet, even while they are in the midst of their temporary success, and while they are vainly flattering themselves with the hope of a complete victory over the church of God. Such being its contents, it is said to be poured out into the air, in allusion to the dreadful storms of political thunder and lightning which it will produce. Four important events are comprehended under it: the earthquake, by which the great city is divided into three parts; the symbolical storm of hail; the overthrow of Babylon, and the battle of Armageddon, to which the kings of the earth had begun to gather themselves together under the preceding vial.” On these particulars we may observe as follows: 1st, The earthquake, by which the great city is divided into three parts, manifestly signifies, according to the usual import of prophetic language, some great revolution by which the Latin empire shall either be divided into three sovereignties, or prefectures, like the ancient Roman empire. But what the precise meaning of this prediction is, and how the city will be divided into three parts, time alone can discover. 2d, The hail-storm seems to denote some northern invasion of the Roman empire. Since the northern incursions of the Gothic nations, under the first trumpet, are typified by a storm of hail, it is only natural to conclude, from analogy, that the hailstorm of this vial, which synchronizes with the time of the end, likewise typifies a northern invasion. 3d, The fall of the spiritual Babylon, described at large in chap. 18., seems to be the same as the destruction of the little horn of Daniel’s fourth beast; they both equally relate to the complete subversion of the Papacy. 4th, Exactly contemporary with the fall of the spiritual Babylon, or the adulterous Church of Rome, will be the overthrow of its supporter, the secular Babylon, or the ten-horned Roman beast. The power of both will be broken in the same battle of Armageddon, which is abundantly manifest from the concurring testimony both of Daniel and St. John. Thus also Fleming, “This vial brings down thunder, lightning, hail, and storms; which, together with a terrible earthquake, destroys all the antichristian nations, and particularly Rome, or mystical Babylon. And as Christ concluded his sufferings on the cross with this voice, It is finished, so the church’s sufferings are concluded with a voice out of the temple of heaven and from the throne of God and Christ there, saying, It is done: and therefore with this the millennium, or thousand years of Christ’s spiritual reign on earth, begins. Now how great and remarkable this last destruction of the Papal antichrist will be, we may guess by the representation given of it Revelation 14:19-20, (where see the note,) in which it is set forth under the emblem of the great wine-press of the wrath of God, which can refer to nothing so properly as the event of the seventh vial.”
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Revelation 16". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26