The angels pour out their vials full of wrath. The plagues that follow thereupon. Christ cometh as a thief. Blessed are they that watch.
Anno Domini 96.
Revelation 16:1. I heard a great voice, &c.— In obedience to the divine command, the seven angels pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth: and as the trumpets were so many steps and degrees of the ruin of the Roman empire, so the vials are of the Roman church. The one, in polity and government, is the image of the other: the one is compared to the system of the world, and has her earth, and sea, and rivers, and sun, as well as the other; and this is the reason of the similitude and resemblance of the judgments in both cases. Rome Papal has [chap. Revelation 11:8.] been distinguished by the title of spiritual Egypt, and resembles Egypt, in her punishments as well as in her crimes, tyranny, idolatry, and wickedness.
Revelation 16:2. The first went, and poured his vial, &c.— The first vial is poured out upon the earth; and so the hail and fire of the first trumpet, ch. Revelation 8:7 were cast upon the earth. it produces a noisome and grievous sore, and in this respect resembles the sixth plague of Egypt; Exodus 9:10. This is inflicted upon the men who had the mark of the beast; which is to be understood of the others also, where it is not expressed. Whether these sores and ulcers are natural or moral, the event will shew.
Revelation 16:3-7. The second angel poured out his vial, &c.— This vial is poured out upon the sea, and the sea becomes as the blood of a dead man, or as congealed blood; and, in like manner, under the second trumpet, ch. Revelation 8:8 the burning mountain was cast into the sea, &c. The third vial (Revelation 16:4.) is poured upon the rivers, &c. and in like manner under the third trumpet, ch. Revelation 8:10 the burning star fell upon the rivers, &c. There is a close connection between the two vials; and the effects are similar to the first plague of Egypt, Exodus 7:17. Seas and rivers of blood manifestly denote slaughter and devastation; and hereupon, Revelation 16:5-6 the angel of the waters celebrates the righteous judgments of God in adapting and proportioning the punishment of the followers of the beast to their crime; for no law is more just and equitable, than that they who have been guilty of shedding the blood of saints and prophets, should be punished in the effusion of their own blood. Another angel out of the altar declares his assent in the most solemn manner, Revelation 16:7.
Revelation 16:8-9. The forth angel poured out his vial upon the sun, &c.— As the fourth trumpet affected the sun, ch. Revelation 8:12. so likewise the fourth vial is poured out upon the sun. An intense heat ensues, &c. Revelation 16:9. Whether by this intense heat of the sun, is meant literally uncommon sultry seasons; or figuratively, a most tyrannical exercise of arbitrary power, by those who may be called the sun in the firmament of the beast—the Pope, or emperor—time must discover. Men shall be tormented, and complain grievously; they shall, like the rebellious Jews, fret themselves,&c. Isaiah 8:21 <swordsearcher://bible/Isa8.21>. They will not have the sense or courage to repent, and forsake their idolatry and wickedness, though sufficient grace is offered to them. When the events shall take place, and these things shall all be fulfilled, not only these prophesies ofthe vials shall be better understood, but also those of the trumpets, to which they bear some analogy and resemblance. See as above.
Revelation 16:10-11. The fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat, &c.— The fifth vial is poured out upon the seat or throne of the beast, and his kingdom becomes full of darkness, as Egypt did under her ninth plague, Exodus 10:21. This is some great calamity which shall fall upon Rome itself, and shall darken and confound the whole antichristian empire. But still the consequences of this plague are much the same as those of the foregoing; for the sufferers, instead of repenting of their deeds, are hardened like Pharaoh, persist in their blasphemy, and obstinately withstand all attempts of reformation.
Revelation 16:12-16. The sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates, &c.— Whether by Euphrates be meant the river so called, or only a mystic Euphrates; and whether by the kings of the East be meant the Jews in particular, or any eastern potentates in general, can be matters only of conjecture, till the event shall make the determination. Whoever <sshoverclick:Whoever> they be, they appear to threaten the ruin and destruction of the kingdom of the beast, and therefore of the agents or emissaries of Popery;—of the dragon, Revelation 16:13-14. the representative of the devil; and of the beast, the representative of the antichristian empire; and of the false prophet, the representative of the anti-christian church; as disagreeable, as loquacious, as sordid, as impudent as frogs. These are employed to oppose the kings of the East, and to stir up the princes and potentates of their own communion to make their united and last effort in a religious war. Of necessity these must be times of great trouble and affliction; so that an exhortation is inserted, Revelation 16:15. by way of parenthesis, of the suddenness of these judgments, and of the blessedness of watching, and of being clothed, and prepared for all events. This parenthesis has led our translators, as well as several others, to render the following words, Revelation 16:16. And HE gathered them together, when the true construction is, And THEY gathered them together; 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. That Megiddo had been a place remarkable for slaughter, appears from Judges 5:19 <swordsearcher://bible/Jg5.19>. 2 Kings 9:27 <swordsearcher://bible/2Ki9.27>. 2 Chronicles 35:22 <swordsearcher://bible/2Ch35.22>. Zechariah 12:11 <swordsearcher://bible/Zec12.11>. To express the certain destruction of the antichristian powers, they are described as brought together to this mounta.
Revelation 16:15. Keepeth his garments— This may be an allusion to what that Jewish officer, called the man of the mountain, (that is, of the Lord's house) used to do, when taking his round in the temple to examine the watch: if he met with any asleep, they were beaten by the provost, and had their garments taken away, and burnt; or, according to others, this officer had the liberty to set fire to their garments. Perhaps, in this case, the person might be obliged to appear in the fragments of his burnt garments the next day, which would be a great disgrace. See Ainsworth on Numbers 18:4-5 <swordsearcher://bible/Nu18.4-5>.
Revelation 16:17-21. The seventh angel poured out his vial, &c.— The seventh vial is poured into the air, the seat of Satan's residence, who is emphatically styled, the prince of the power of the air, Ephesians 2:2 <swordsearcher://bible/Eph2.2>. 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 every where. 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 affirmed, ch. Revelation 10:7. that in the days of the seventh trumpet the mystery of God should be finished. Of this vial, as of all the former, the completion is gradual, and the immediate effects and consequences are voices, &c. Revelation 16:18-21. These portend 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. Not only the great city is divided into three parts, or factions, but the cities of the nations fall from their obedience. Her sins are remembered before God, and, like another Babylon, she will soon be made to drink of the bitter cup of his anger, Revelation 16:19. Nay, not only the works of men, the cities, fall; but even the works of nature, the islands fly away, and the mountains are not found; (Revelation 16:20.) which is more than was said, ch. 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, Revelation 16:21. signifies the judgments of God, and these are uncommon judgments. Diodorus speaks of hailstones which weigheda pound or 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 for the hail; they remain incorrigible under the divine judgments, and will be destroyed before theywill repent, or be reformed. See as above. "The seven vials poured out," says Mr. Burton, "are to be the seven last plagues; (see Revelation 15:1 <swordsearcher://bible/Re15.1>.) for in them is to be filled up the wrath of God." Here, as in every other part of the Apocalyptical descriptions, the number seven seems to be the prevailing number by which to calculate their appearance. As yet the five first vials only, I apprehend, are poured out, and the two last are yet to come. It becomes us therefore to draw a veil over the judgments that are still future, lest by our rashness we provoke a judgment upon ourselves: it becomes us likewise, as men actuated by reason, seriously to reflect on the part we are to act, while the judgments of God are visiblyupon the earth. God's promises are ever conditional with respect to us; and distant events are never pointed out to us with any degree of certainty, but for very apparent and wise reasons, that the almost may become an altogether Christian; and that the infidel and unbeliever may be afforded an opportunity of shunning the folly of impiety; and by being guarded against the means of exercising fruitless endeavours to thwart the divine decrees, he may not thereby add sin to sin, but learn betimes to repent of his impious folly, and become wise unto salvation.
Inferences and REFLECTIONS.—How manifestly righteous are the judgments of God, which shall be executed, in due season, upon antichristian idolaters and persecutors, and all the wicked and ungodly of the earth! They act under the influence of unclean diabolical spirits, which deceive the nations, and set them as in battle-array against the Almighty: and, instead of being reformed by one and another judgment, they obstinately persist in their iniquitous courses, and blaspheme the name of God, as though he dealt unjustly in punishing them. But, how long soever he may bear with them, he will call their sins to remembrance, and pour out the vials of his righteous wrath upon them. And, ah! how dreadful are the calamities, which he, sooner or later, will inflict upon them! They are as grievous and tormenting as the sorest ulcers; as nauseous and mortal as seas and rivers of blood; as distressing <sshoverclick:distressing> as the most scorching heat of the sun, which burns up all before it; as doleful as the thickest darkness; as exposed to every invading misery, as a country that has no barrier for its defence; and as terrifying and overwhelming, as inexpressible tempests of thunder, lightning, earthquakes, and the heavier storms of hail, beyond all that ever was felt on the earth. In this manner shall the worshippers of the beast, and all antichristian enemies, drink of the wrath of God, till, at length, they, together with the whole kingdom and power of Satan, shall be utterly destroyed. And who must not say that they are worthy of all this, as a just return upon them for the blood of the saints, which they have shed; and for all their abominable idolatries, and other multiplied corruptions in doctrine, worship, and manners? God will be applauded, as holy, righteous, and true, in these executions of wrath; and his church must say Amen to his judging thus, concerning all that oppressed and tyrannized over them during the reign of the beast! With what sudden and unexpected surprise will this tremendous day of the Lord come, like a thief in the night! Blessed are they that shall then be found upon their watch, and appear with spotless robes of righteousness and honour before him.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Revelation 16". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany