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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Good and Evil; Miracles; Temple; Wicked (People); Scofield Reference Index - Armageddon; Thompson Chain Reference - Demons; Evil; Lying Wonders; Magic; Satan-Evil Spirits; Spirits, Evil; Wonders; The Topic Concordance - Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; Day of the Lord; Gathering; Israel/jews; Nations; War/weapons; Wrath; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Devil, the; Miracles through Evil Agents;
Pouring out the seven bowls (16:1-21)
The bowl judgments are similar to the trumpet judgments, only much more severe. The judgments announced by the trumpets affected only one third of the various areas (see 8:7-12), but here the judgments are total and final. The first judgment brings disease on the earth, the second death in the sea, and the third death in the waters on the land (16:1-4). God acts justly by inflicting the persecutors with punishments suited to the evil they have done (5-6). The voice from the altar confirms that the judgments are God’s answer to the prayers of his persecuted people (7; cf. 6:9-10; 8:1-5; 9:13-14; 14:18).
When the angel pours out the fourth bowl there is unbearable heat, but instead of repenting, people curse God all the more (8-9). The fifth plague brings darkness and pain, but people still will not change. Earlier, in the series of trumpet judgments, people had refused to repent (see 9:20-21), but now they also curse God, indicating an increasing hardness against him (10-11).
With the outpouring of the sixth bowl, demonic spirits from the satanic trinity entice the rulers of the world to make war with one another. What results is not just a battle between nations, but the great day of battle for the Almighty himself when he destroys his enemies (12-14). Without warning God acts. The unexpectedness of his intervention is good reason for believers always to be prepared, so that they are not ashamed when he comes (15-16).
As with the seventh seal and the seventh trumpet, so with the seventh bowl there are flashes of lightning, peals of thunder and an earthquake (17-18; cf. 8:5; 11:19). Like the great city Babylon, the ungodly world has become so proud of its achievements and power that it has chosen to ignore God and build a civilization solely to suit itself. Therefore, like Babylon, it is destroyed in a terrible judgment from the all-powerful and all-holy God (19-21). (This judgment will be described in greater detail in Chapters 17 and 18.)
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Revelation 16:14". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/revelation-16.html. 2005.
for they are spirits of demons, working signs; which go forth unto the kings of the whole world, to gather them together unto the war of the great day of God, the Almighty.
With the barrier breached and Satan's propagandists able to operate in the church itself, the ultimate crisis will soon arrive.
They are spirits of demons ... Their teaching is satanic, motivated by the hatred of God and of his truth.
Working signs ... Not merely the priests of the ancient emperor cult, but the Medieval apostate religion with its bleeding and speaking images, and its miracles, such as driving the snakes out of Ireland, are examples of the "signs" done by the frogs. The lying miracles of the man of sin are meant (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).
To gather them together unto the war ... This refers to the kings of the earth who are thus gathered. Plummer identified these as, "those who sin and delight in the possession of the pleasures of this world." Thus, the frogs had the spirit of the devil, and the people had the spirit of the world. The result was a foregone certainty. They joined forces for the great spiritual battle. This brings us to the threshold of Armageddon.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Revelation 16:14". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/revelation-16.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
For they are the spirits of devils - On the meaning of the word used here, see the notes on Revelation 9:20. It is used here, as it is in Revelation 9:20, in a bad sense, as denoting evil spirits. Compare the notes on Matthew 4:1-2, Matthew 4:24.
Working miracles - Working what seemed to be miracles; that is, such wonders as to deceive the world with the belief that they were miracles. See the notes on Revelation 13:13-14, where the same power is ascribed to the “beast.”
Which go forth unto the kings of the earth - Which particularly affect and influence kings and rulers. No class of people have been more under the influence of pagan superstition, Muhammedan delusion, or the papacy, than kings and princes. We are taught by this passage that this will continue to be so in the circumstances referred to.
And of the whole world - That is, so far that it might be represented as affecting the whole world - to wit, the pagan, the Muhammedan, and the papal portions of the earth. These still embrace so large a portion of the globe, that it might be said, that what would affect those powers now would influence the whole world.
To gather them - Not literally to assemble them all in one place, but so to unite and combine them that it might be represented as an assembling of the hosts for battle.
To the battle of that great day of God Almighty - Not the day of judgment, but the day which would determine the ascendency of true religion in the world - the final conflict with those powers which had so long opposed the gospel. It is not necessary to suppose that there would be a literal “battle,” in which God would be seen to contend with his foes; but there would be what might be properly represented as a battle. That is, there would be a combined struggle against the truth, and in that God would appear by his providence and Spirit on the side of the church, and would give it the victory. It accords with all that has occurred in the past, to suppose that there will be such a combined struggle before the church shall finally triumph in the world.
These files are public domain.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Revelation 16:14". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/revelation-16.html. 1870.
In the fifteenth chapter of the book of Revelation, we had sort of the introduction to chapter sixteen, as we saw the seven angels in heaven who are given the seven final plagues which complete the judgment of God upon the earth. And these seven angels came out of the temple and they were clothed in pure white linen. And one of the cherubim gave to the angels these vials of wrath to pour out upon the earth. And the temple of God was filled with the smoke from the glory of God and it was closed now to man. No man was able to enter in during the time that these seven plagues are being poured out upon the earth.
I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the eaRuth ( Revelation 16:1 ).
And so that awesome command is now given from the temple of God, and these angels are dispatched with the seven final plagues, with which God will smite the earth prior to the sending of His Son to take dominion and control and to rule over the earth.
And the first angel went forth, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the man which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image ( Revelation 16:2 ).
It would seem that God now makes a distinction that this noisome, which literally is a running sore, an ulcer type of a sore that doesn't heal, much like one gets from radiation burns, that God makes a distinction between who that are faithful to Him and those who have worshipped the beast and taken his mark. For the fact that it comes upon those, which have the mark and those that worship his image, does seem that God is now making a difference.
We remember when God poured out His plagues upon the Egyptians that God made a difference at that time, and that the judgments fell upon the Egyptians, but God protected the Israelites from those judgments. Though there was darkness over all the land of Egypt, there was light in the camp of Israel. And God made provisions to protect His people. He had them put the blood upon the lentils and the doorposts of their house so that they would not be grieved with the loss of the firstborn, as were the Egyptians when the Lord past through Egypt that night and killed the firstborn of the whole land. God was making the difference between those that were His and those that are not His.
And such is the case as this first angel pours out his vial and men break out with these horrible sores.
And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea ( Revelation 16:3 );
Notice that the first angel touches the earth and the second now touches the sea.
and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea ( Revelation 16:3 ).
Just how God is to accomplish this is a matter of speculation. And as we study some of the natural phenomena of the past, we realize that there are many ways by which these things could happen.
Immanuel Velikovsky's book, "Worlds In Collision", a book whereby his premise that he seeks to prove is that the planet Venus was introduced into our solar system within the last ten thousand years, within the period of recorded history. And according to his premise, the plagues that came upon Egypt were a result of a near miss with the planet Venus, as it was coming in an erratic orbit into the solar system. And it passed close by the earth, and that the earth was moved from its orbit that it had at that time.
You see, they used to predicate time on a three hundred and sixty-day year, and then suddenly we started moving from three hundred and sixty-five and a quarter, for we realized that that is how much time it takes for us to make our orbit around the sun. But it is his premise that this three hundred and sixty-day year was a correct year. Of course, if you figured on a three hundred and sixty-day year within five years, all of your seasons would be totally fouled up. In every twenty years or so, you would be completely off in your seasons. So, the three hundred and sixty-day year must have been an accurate calculation. But the three hundred and sixty-five and a quarter, he does believe that the earth used to rotate in the opposite direction of the present rotation.
There are a lot of interesting things that he presents in that book which challenges your thinking, but he does feel that the near miss caused a tremendous amount of debris to be brought into our atmosphere. And that as it disintegrated into our atmosphere, as the meteorites do, they turned into a red dust that fell over all the earth. And as it fell into the waters, it turned them to a bloody red, as the waters of Egypt were turned to a bloody red and made undrinkable.
Interesting premise. It is also interesting that one of the concerns that the scientists have today is that of a large asteroid, perhaps getting caught in its orbit within the earth's gravitational pull and being drawn to the earth, and the tremendous devastation that would come if we were to have a collision with an asteroid that was, say, five miles or more in diameter. And presently they are watching an asteroid whose orbit is bringing it, as far as the astronomical calculations go, it is going to bring it into a fairly close orbit. It is about a seventy-five mile wide asteroid, which would do tremendous devastation to the earth, should we collide with such an asteroid.
There are several thousand asteroids in the solar system, most of them around the planet Jupiter. There is that asteroid belt there. And they have calculated the orbits of many of these asteroids. Some two thousand of them have an orbit that at some time is apt to interact with the earth. So, the chances of asteroids hitting the earth are three in a million every year.
There have been in the past asteroids that have collided with the earth. The crater that is out there near Windslow, Arizona that is three miles in diameter, they feel that that was probably an asteroid. And they also feel that an asteroid of that size impacting the earth is enough to tilt the earth or push the earth. In other words, if it hit at the right angle, it would flip the earth.
And there is a lot of speculation now that the physicists who believe that an asteroid, such as the one that hit in the desert in Arizona there, would have been capable of pushing the earth. So that suddenly, say we were living here in this pleasant Southern California climate, but if the asteroid would hit the earth at the right angle, it could suddenly push us under the Arctic mass of air in just a minute's time. We would be under this arctic air and everything in a moment would be flash frozen. Instead of sitting in this balmy weather of fifty degrees or so, which it will go down to tonight, we would suddenly be in fifty-degree below zero weather and everything would just be frozen.
And they believe that's perhaps what has happened in the past and that explains the Mammoths that are frozen in Siberia, who evidently at the time that this catastrophe took place were munching on tropical vegetation. For they in cutting their stomachs open, they found tropical vegetation in their digestive tracks, but suddenly they were frozen in place. And they feel that perhaps an asteroid hit and pushed the earth so that it twisted and an area that was once tropical was suddenly pushed under the mass of Arctic air and frozen in place. So, the change was not a gradual change, but sudden and catastrophic.
And so by what means, God is going to bring to pass these judgments is left to speculation, what kind of phenomena, whether it be an asteroid or what, is something that we do not know. Of course, our scientists are so concerned about this that our government and Russia are spending millions of dollars in the research of this program. They are putting up a new telescope on Kit Mountain near Tucson, and its purpose will be just to track the asteroids and to alert the world of the dangers. And there is talk of if it becomes an eminent danger of a particular asteroid coming into our gravitational field, that we would send perhaps a space shuttle on out to the asteroid and try to divert its orbit.
Or they have talked about blowing the thing up with an Atom bomb, but on further study of that they realized that we would be colliding with a lot of debris and that didn't seem to be too pleasant a thought. So, it is a major scientific project right now, the protecting of the earth from the possibility of impacting with asteroids that exist out here in our solar system, thousands of them. There are over two thousand that are already charted to, at some point, interact with us here on the planet earth. Who knows?
Next year we ought to have an interesting experience as Halley's Comet returns and unfortunately this time around we probably won't be able to see it, as far as seeing the tail as it makes its orbit. They predict now that the orbit will be made outside the sun, or before it gets to the sun, and as it moves away will probably not be visible to the earth. The tail of the comet is caused by the gravitational pull of the sun as it begins to move away. A lot of the debris. It has this million-mile tail of junk, just junk flying through the sky. We will be coming into orbit with that junk that is in the tail of Halley's, Comet and we'll have some interesting meteorite showers. After next year, though, we may not see the actual comet tail, and all. We will probably have some spectacular displays of what are commonly called falling stars, but are debris from space that come into our atmosphere.
There are some eighteen thousand meteorites that come into our atmosphere every minute and are burned as they come into our atmosphere. Small particles of space junk God has designed to dissolve, for the most part, as they heat up through friction as they come speeding into the denser atmosphere around the earth. And they, of course, disintegrate or burn out most of the time before they hit the earth. Some of them hit the earth and you have probably seen some of the meteorites that have fallen and hit the earth.
But God is going to bring these judgments. By what natural phenomena, we do not know. It could be that God will bring to pass something that man has not yet seen up to this point, but you can be sure it is going to happen. And whatever causes the seas to turn red like blood? We have even seen here, during those years where we have what is known as the red tide, the plankton as it multiplies it gives the water a reddish hue. This is the result of the plankton taking the oxygen out of the water and it is quite deadly to the fish, as the oxygen within the water is depleted by the red tide. It makes for spectacular viewing.
Whenever there is a red tide, I love to go to the beach at night and watch the surf, because it looks like neon tubes. When the surf breaks the plankton, which has a lot of phosphorous in it, and as the waves roll, the phosphorous lights up and it looks like neon tubes lighting up in the ocean. It is spectacular to watch, but horrible to swim in. The surfing is bad in a red tide. The water tastes horrible if you happen to swallow it and your eyes really burn if you get water in them with that red tide, but oh, how beautiful at night.
So, it could be a massive red tide depleting the water of the oxygen and causing those souls within the sea to die.
And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and the fountains of waters; and they became as blood ( Revelation 16:4 ).
So, not only will the ocean be turned as blood, but now also the rivers and fountains of water, also. The similar thing happened in Egypt, as you recall, and the water became undrinkable. So, when this happens on a worldwide scale, imagine what this is going to do to man when suddenly all your fresh water supplies are polluted. They are about half polluted now. In this particular plague, the water supplies being polluted is going to be devastating for man.
And as the waters are turned to blood and made undrinkable,
I heard the angel of the waters say ( Revelation 16:5 ),
Now, later on we are going to have an angel standing in the sun. Here is an angel that God has put over the charge of the fresh waters.
Interesting, these angels. They are going to be interesting persons to meet. I am sort of anxious to meet the angel that God is given charge to watch over me. The Bible says that "He will give His angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways, to bear thee up at any time, lest you dash your foot against a stone"( Psalms 91:11-12 ). So, it is going to be interesting to meet the angel that has been watching out over me. I want to know what happened to him on a few occasions. He was sleeping on the job or something. But that is all right. I forgive him. I want him to know before I get there that I don't hold anything against him. But it will be fun to meet him.
Now, here is an angel that God has put in charge of the waters. And the angel of the waters declares,
Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus ( Revelation 16:5 ).
It is just sort of right on God. What a perfect judgment! One thing about God is that His judgments are right. And here is the declaration of the righteousness of God's judgment and all the way through this whole period of judgment we find the voices that are declaring the righteousness of God's judgment.
It is interesting that though through heaven there comes the continual testimony of the righteousness of God's judgment. This is the thing that many people are concerned about and worried about is will God be fair. Would it be fair for God to condemn forever a man who never had the opportunity of knowing Jesus Christ? Would it be fair for God to condemn forever a baby who died without ever having knowing or heard or making a decision et cetera, et cetera? Whatever God does will be absolutely fair. God will not be unfair. He will not be unjust. You don't have to worry about that.
Here, as God turns the fresh water into blood, the angel says "righteous God". That is right on.
For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and now you've given them blood to drink; they deserve it ( Revelation 16:6 ).
They have shed so much blood. What a righteous judgment. They like blood so much, give it to them to drink.
And I heard another angel out of the altar say, Amen, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments ( Revelation 16:7 ).
So, the affirmation during the period of judgment of the righteousness of God's judgments.
Abraham, when the Lord announced to him that He was going to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham said, "Shall not the Lord of the earth be just?" Shouldn't God be fair? "What if there are fifty righteous people in that city. Would you destroy the righteous with the wicked? Shouldn't God be fair?" The Lord said, "If there are fifty righteous, we will spare the city." "What if there are forty righteous?" "Forty righteous, we will spare the city." "What if there are thirty?" "For thirty, I will spare the city." "What if there are twenty? What if there are ten?" The Lord said, "If there are ten righteous persons, we will spare it for the ten"( Genesis 18:22-32 ). The angels got to the city of Sodom and found one righteous man. So what did they do? They lead him out and they said, "Hurry get out of here. We can't destroy this thing until you are out."
God is righteous. God is fair. The judgments of God are righteous and true. You can count on that.
And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God ( Revelation 16:8-9 ),
A lot of times we have the concept that if God would only send his judgment that people would turn from their wickedness. That is generally not the case. When God sends His judgment, the righteous, who have turned from their righteousness, turn back to God. And we do read in the Old Testament where the judgments of God caused the righteous to turn to the Lord. But the judgments of God so often just harden the heart of the impenitent. And such is the case during the great judgment period. Rather than turning these people to the Lord, they blaspheme God. These preachers who think their sermons on hell, fire, judgment, brimstone and all are going to turn people to the Lord are really not that versed in the scripture.
For the scripture says, "Know ye not that it is the goodness of God that bringeth a man to repentance"( Romans 2:4 ). That is the thing that really gets me. I know what I deserve. You don't have to tell me. But to tell me that God loves me and is willing to forgive me, willing to pardon me, willing to make me His child and to share His eternal kingdom with me, that is the thing that gets me. He causes me to turn my heart and life to God and to change. The goodness of God leads a man to repentance.
So, as God's judgments fall, and as the sun is now scorching men. Now again how this is accomplished is a matter of speculation. We know that the sun shall be darkened before the day of the Lord comes. The moon turns as blood and the sun into darkness. It could be before the sun goes into darkness; it could be that the sun goes into a super nova condition. This is a phenomena that we have observed in the universe, as stars that go into this super nova condition where they heat up for a few days and increase in their intensity and light as they are sort of burning out and then they just seem to die out.
The death of the stars is a super nova condition. It is sort of like a light bulb when the glass is broken suddenly. It will go very bright because the oxygen is now hitting those filaments. But because of the extreme brightness and the oxygen hitting the filaments, the filaments gets so hot that they burn in two and the thing goes out. With the stars it is a different principal. We don't know what causes a super nova yet. They become extremely brilliant and then apparently have burned out or something, but it is a super nova condition. It could be the sun will come into a super nova condition. Imagine what that would do to the people on the earth, if the sun became as a super nova. We do know that there is going to be a dimming effect. And the sun will shine for a third part and so forth during that part of the tribulation. So, this could be a super nova.
It could be that what is happening during these seven last plagues, this could be that there is a major nuclear holocaust upon the earth. That Russia and the United States and everybody else lets go all of their nuclear weapons. And we know one of the effects of the nuclear weapons being detonated in our atmosphere is the destruction of the ozone blanket which has already been depleted by all of the fluorocarbon gases that were used to pressurize the different shaving creams, and so forth, that we used to have in pressurized cans. And these fluorocarbon gases went up into the stratosphere combined with the ozone gases, which is a very unstable gas at best, and as they combine with the ozone, broke it down, and so the prohibition against the fluorocarbons in pressurized cans.
We know also that the atom bombs have the same effect on this ozone blanket, which is a protective blanket, which does shield us from much of the ultraviolet rays of the sun. And that seems to be the purpose for God putting the ozone blanket there to protect the earth from the sun's ultraviolet rays, for the exposure to these ultraviolet rays causes running sores. It causes noisome pestilences, really, if you are exposed to ultraviolet rays. It creates burns, skin cancer. So, maybe what we have here is a nuclear holocaust and these are the effects that would happen as a result of a nuclear holocaust.
God knows what man's folly will bring to past, as far as natural calamities. It is interesting that God predicted in Isaiah nineteen, the building of the Aswan Dam. Not only did He predict the building of the Aswan Dam, but He also said all of the ecological damage that would result from the building of that dam, the destruction of the fishing industry, the loss of farm land and crops and so forth, and the ecological problems that would result from the building of the Aswan Dam; He said that the counselors were fools because they did not take into the account the ecological damage.
Actually, there has been talk of blowing up the dam to cure the ecological damage that they have created by the building of the dam. They have, of course, lost the fishing industry completely. That used to be a great fishing industry around the mouth of the Mediterranean, because all of the debris brought by the Nile River fed the fish. With the dam now, all of these nutrients and all are not brought along the Nile River anymore into the Mediterranean.
As a result of the dam, they do not have any longer the silt build up, so you are getting the salt water intrusion into all of that rich delta farm land that used to exist there at the mouth of the Nile where it came into the Mediterranean. Because you see, tons of sand would be brought by the Nile River every year into the Mediterranean and it formed this beautiful delta of farmland and all, but that is not happening anymore; in fact, you are starting to get salt-water intrusion. And they have lost more agriculture acreage than they have gained by their ability now to irrigate with the water, but they have lost more acreage than they have gained. And they have lost the richest kind of acreage.
And so God knows the damage that will take place. And it could be that the Lord here is describing the damage that will result from a massive nuclear holocaust.
Men were scorched with the great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory. And the fifth angel poured out his vial on the throne of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain ( Revelation 16:9-10 ),
So even as God brought darkness upon Egypt, so God brings darkness upon the kingdom of the beast. And again, this could indicate a super nova condition of the sun where it becomes extremely bright for a few days and then becomes dark.
And blasphemed the God of heaven ( Revelation 16:11 )
Man continuing to blaspheme God.
because of their pain and their sores, and they repented not of their deeds. So the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof were dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared ( Revelation 16:11-12 ).
So, God is going to gather together the nations into the area of Israel from the valley of Maggedo to Edom. And so God dries up now the river Euphrates to prepare the way for the kings of the east, China and all of her vast hordes of people, India, Pakistan, Japan moving in from the east.
And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs [demons] that 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 ( Revelation 16:13 ).
Interesting thing here. Those who have seem to have had an out of body experience, where their spirits have left their bodies, and they were presumed dead, and had this conscious out-of-body state in which they looked back into the room and saw the activities that were going on in the room, but they were out of their body observing it; it is interesting that for the most part, these that have had these out-of-body type experiences are aware that as their spirit left their body, it left their body through their mouth.
It is interesting when you go back through the Old Testament and you read that God breathed into man and he became a living spirit, and those that have these out-of-body experiences will usually testify of their awareness that their spirit left through their mouth; and when their spirit came back, it came back in through their mouths. It is most common among those that have had these experiences to express it as the spirit going forth out of their mouth.
Now, the interesting thing is that these demonic spirits go forth out of the mouths. It is also interesting that when Jesus cast out many of the demons, there were the loud screamings from the mouths of the individuals as the demons departed. I don't think it would do any good to keep your mouth shut. It is just an interesting observation. That out of the mouth of the antichrist and his false prophet and out of Satan, out of their mouths go these spirits like frogs, demonic spirits.
For they are spirits of devils, [we are told] 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 ( Revelation 16:14 ).
And so by these demonic forces, the kings of the earth will be gathered together unto the area of Armageddon where they are going to seek to make war against Jesus Christ at His return, seek to thwart God's rule over the earth.
It is interesting how that men in high places of government today are many of them are controlled by demonic spirits. I don't think that you can really explain their actions apart from demonic spirits. The things that Hitler did and those that were in authority with Hitler cannot be explained except by demonic forces taking over their minds. They could not do the inhuman things that they did to man apart from control by demonic forces. And it is very common knowledge that Hitler was directed and guided by men who were masters in what was known and called white magic. The masters of the spiritist type of movements actually guiding and controlling Hitler. That is really the only explanation for the horrible atrocities that these men were able of committing against fellow man.
And as we look at what is happening in the world today we see that actions can only be explained many times by demonic forces. The going in and slaughtering of people is unthinkable to us in our right minds. How could you do it? How could you order such a thing? But the fact that they are controlled by these demonic forces is the answer.
Now, Jesus said,
Behold, I come as a thief. [He is talking about His return, the Second Coming.] Blessed is he that watches and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame. And He gathered them together in a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon ( Revelation 16:15-16 ).
So, the Lord declaring His coming, coming soon as a thief. Watch and keep your garments. John says, "Lest we be ashamed at Him at His coming"( 1 John 2:28 ).
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 finished ( Revelation 16:17 ).
This is it, the final plague of this Great Tribulation period, the final judgment of God upon the earth. It is over now. Now the time has come for Jesus to return in glory and establish God's kingdom.
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. 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. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent [sixty to ninety pounds]: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great ( Revelation 16:18-21 ).
This describes a tremendous cataclysmic upheaval upon the earth, probably a polar-axis shift. And again a collision with an asteroid could be a possible culprit.
We do know that in times past there have been tremendous geographical changes where, for whatever reason, in the polar-axis shift, the waters are changed, the ocean floors are changed. And suddenly great canyons open up and water comes pouring in and the weight of the water breaking the earth's crust and causing other thrust areas to be pushed up into the air. New mountains are formed and new mountain ranges form.
In his book, "Earth's in upheaval", Immanuel Velikovsky, again brings many interesting phenomena from around the earth that show tremendous cataclysmic changes in the historic period of man that have created tremendous thrust, mountain ranges and so forth. There is an interesting thing that he brings out about Lake Titicaca down in Peru high up there in the Andes, and how that there is a tilt and all on that thing that happened sometime during the period of man's history upon the earth. "Earth's in Upheaval" is a fascinating book also by this man filled with interesting research. Though I don't necessarily go along with the conclusions that he has drawn, I find that the research that he has done is fascinating indeed. And I enjoy reading his books because of the tremendous research that was done.
Thunders, lightnings and a great earthquake; this is not a localized event. Now, we have earthquakes around here. We are existing on a couple of fault lines. There is the Newport fault line. And we are close enough to the San Andres fault line that whenever there is any shift there, we get the effects of it here. But these are local earthquakes. The epicenter is ten miles off Newport Beach or epicenter is down in Imperial Valley, and they can pick out the epicenter in localized earthquakes. But this is not a localized earthquake. This is a worldwide shaking. The earth itself is just going to shake.
Now, Isaiah the prophet also describes this same earthquake in the twenty-fourth chapter of Isaiah beginning with verse seventeen. He said, "Fear, and the pit, and the snare, or the trap, are upon thee, inhabitants of the earth." Three things: fear, snare and the trap. "And it shall come to pass, that he who flees from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that comes up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the trap: for the windows from on high are open and the foundations of the earth do shake." This is not just the movement of the plates in a local area, but the whole foundations of the earth are going to shake.
"The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall and not rise again. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, but after many days, a thousand years, they shall be visited," and shall stand, of course, before the Lord for the Great White Throne Judgment. But here Isaiah describes this condition.
Now again from a scientific kind of an observation, this does sound much like a polar-axis shift as the earth wobbles to and fro like a drunken man and then is moved like a cottage. They believe that these polar-axis shifts take place about every five thousand years. It is a phenomenon that is well known to science. What we call the North Pole today has not always been the North Pole of the earth. The earth has shifted on its axis in the past. This polar axis shift does create tremendous cataclysmic upheavals around the earth, as we have told you about the different change of the ocean floors. They have found fossils high up in the Himalayas, which indicates that it was once covered by water. You go up to the south rim of the Grand Canyon and there at seven thousand feet you see the fossils of shells, mollusks and so forth, there in the strata which indicates that that was at one time an ocean floor. That was at one time below sea level, because the water covered the thing.
So, there have been these cataclysmic changes. It is going to happen again. The earth is going to go into what they call, "the wobble." The earth does wobble all the time. I think you know that. There is what they call the wobble affect and it cycles every seven years. It seems to peek out and then it sort of levels off for awhile, and has just a slight wobble, but then it begins to build up and every seven years the thing peeks out on this wobble. They feel that sometimes the wobble gets so erratic, that the thing like a top flips over. When this does that, then there is this tremendous cataclysmic change, islands fleeing away.
I said many times that Hawaii probably will not be here in the kingdom. So, if He gave me Hawaii to reign, it could be ten thousand feet under the water. So, I am not too strong on insisting that I get Hawaii during the kingdom as my sphere of reign.
Inasmuch as the whole earth will be restored into the endemic type of condition, it will probably be just as beautiful and lush and tropical in Alaska as it would be in Hawaii. So no matter where you are, it will be gloriously beautiful. "The whole earth filled with His glory." Out in the middle of the Sahara Desert there will be glorious streams and rivers and waterfalls and forests and all for the desert shall blossom as a rose and there will be rivers in dry places and all as God restores the earth.
So, I am for any place that He wants to put me. It is going to be beautiful to be here in that day when the Lord is reigning and righteousness covers the earth. And we see the earth as God intended it to be for man when He placed man upon it and told him to dress and to keep, be fruitful and to multiply.
But the judgments of God are coming before this great day of the Lord. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Revelation 16:14". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/revelation-16.html. 2014.
8. The sixth bowl 16:12-16
The final three bowl judgments all have political consequences.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 16:14". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/revelation-16.html. 2012.
Here John identified the spirits as demons. The demons go out to the kings of the earth deceiving them to assemble their armies in Palestine for the battle of Armageddon. A deceiving spirit earlier lured King Ahab into battle (1 Kings 22:21-23). They will do this under the influence of Satan, the beast, and the false prophet. The demons persuade them, but their decision is something that God, the ultimate cause, puts in their hearts (Revelation 17:17).
It may also be the advancing army from the east that moves these kings to assemble for war. [Note: Moffatt, 5:447.] These kings from all over the world will gather to destroy Israel (cf. Psalms 2:1-3; Joel 2:11; Joel 3:2; Zechariah 14:2-3). Satan’s purpose in bringing all these soldiers into Palestine in the first place appears to be to annihilate the Jews. When Jesus Christ returns to earth, specifically to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:1-4), they will unite in opposing Him. However God’s sovereign hand will be regulating Satan’s activities (Zechariah 14:2). This will not be the day of Satan’s triumph but that of the Lord God Almighty. He will show Himself supreme in this climactic battle (cf. Joel 2:31). The description of this battle follows in Revelation 19:11-16.
Gundry believed that the day of the Lord includes the battle of Armageddon but not the Tribulation. [Note: Gundry, p. 92.] Most premillennial interpreters believe this distinction lacks convincing support, and I agree with them.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 16:14". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/revelation-16.html. 2012.
THE SEVEN BOWLS OF THE WRATH OF GOD ( Revelation 16:1-21 )
It will be better to read through the whole chapter before we study it in detail,
16:1-21 1 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying to the seven angels: Go, and pour out the seven bowls of the wrath of God 2 upon the earth. The first angel went away and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and there came an outbreak of evil and malignant ulcerous sores on the men who had the mark of the beast and who worshipped his image. 3 The second poured out his bowl upon the sea; and it became blood, like the blood of a dead man, and every living thing died of the things in the sea. 4 The third poured out his bowl upon the rivers and the 5 springs of waters, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying: You are just, you who are and who were, O Holy One, because you have delivered this 6 judgment. Because they poured out the blood of God's dedicated ones and of the prophets, you have given them blood to drink. They well deserved it. 7 And I heard the altar saying: Yes, O Lord, the Almighty, true and just are your judgments. 8 The fourth poured out his bowl upon the sun, and it was given 9 power to scorch men with fire; and men were scorched with a great scorching. And men flung their insults at the name of the God who had authority over the plagues, but they did not repent to give him glory. 10 The fifth poured out his bowl upon the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was wrapped in darkness, and men gnawed their tongues in anguish. 11 And men flung their insults at the God of heaven for their pains and their sores, but they did not repent from their deeds. 12 The sixth poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, that the way for the kings from the east might be prepared. 13 I saw three unclean spirits, like frogs, come from the mouth of the dragon, and the mouth of the beast, and the mouth 14 of the false prophet, for they are demonic spirits who perform signs, which go out to the kings of the whole inhabited world, to bring them together for war on the great day of God, the Almighty. 15 (Behold, I come like a thief. Blessed is he who is awake, and who keeps his garments so that he may not walk naked and so that his shame may not be exposed to the gaze of men.) 16 And they gathered them to the place that is called in Hebrew Har Maggedon. 17 The seventh poured out his bowl upon the air and there came a great voice from the Temple.. from the throne, saying: It is done! 18 And there came flashes of lightning and voices and peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as never happened since mankind was upon the earth, so great was the earthquake. 19 And the great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. And the great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the wrath of 20 his anger. Every island fled and the mountains were not to be 21 found. Great hailstones, weighing as much as a hundredweight, descended from heaven upon men. And men hurled their insults at God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was exceedingly great.
Here we have the last terrible plagues. They have a certain connection with two things, the ten plagues in Egypt and the terrors which followed the sounding of the seven trumpets in Revelation 8:1-13; Revelation 9:1-21; Revelation 10:1-11; Revelation 11:1-19. It is worth while to set out the three lists in order to see the resemblances.
First, we set out the ten plagues when Moses confronted Pharaoh with the wrath of God.
(i) The water made into blood ( Exodus 7:20-25).
(ii) The frogs ( Exodus 8:5-14).
(iii) The lice ( Exodus 8:16-18).
(iv) The flies ( Exodus 8:20-24).
(v) The plague on the cattle ( Exodus 9:3-6).
(vi) The boils and sores ( Exodus 9:8-11).
(vii) The thunder and the hail ( Exodus 9:22-26).
(viii) The locusts ( Exodus 10:12-19).
(ix) The darkness ( Exodus 10:21-23).
(x) The slaying of the first-born ( Exodus 12:29-30).
Second, we set out the terrors which followed the sounding of the seven trumpets.
(i) The coming of hail, fire and blood, through which a
third part of the trees and all the green grass are
withered ( Revelation 8:7).
(ii) The flaming mountain cast into the sea, whereby one
third of the sea becomes blood ( Revelation 8:8).
(iii) The fall of the star Wormwood into the waters,
whereby the waters become bitter and poisonous
( Revelation 8:10-11).
(iv) The smiting of one third of the sun and the moon and
the stars, whereby all is darkened ( Revelation 8:12).
(v) The coming of the star who unlocks the pit of the
abyss, from which comes the smoke out of which come
the demonic locusts ( Revelation 9:1-12).
(vi) The loosing of the four angels bound in the Euphrates
and the coming of the demonic cavalry from the east
( Revelation 9:13-21).
(vii) The announcement of the final victory of God and of
the rebellious anger of the nations ( Revelation 11:15).
Third, we set out the terrors of this chapter.
(i) The coming of the ulcerous sores upon men ( Revelation 16:2).
(ii) The sea becoming like the blood of a dead man
( Revelation 16:3).
(iii) The rivers and fountains becoming blood ( Revelation 16:4).
(iv) The sun becoming scorchingly hot ( Revelation 16:8).
(v) The darkness over the kingdom of the beast, and its
agony ( Revelation 6:10).
(vi) The drying up of the Euphrates to open a way for the
hordes of the kings of the east ( Revelation 16:12).
(vii) The pollution of the air and the accompanying terrors
in nature, the thunder, the earthquake, the lightning
and the hail ( Revelation 16:17-21).
It is easy to see how many things these lists have in common--the hail, the darkness, the blood in the waters, the ulcerous sores, the coming of the terrible hordes from beyond the Euphrates. But in the Revelation there is this difference between the terrors which follow the trumpets and the terrors which follow the pouring out of the bowls. In the former the destruction is always limited, for instance, to one third of the earth; but in the latter the destruction is complete on the enemies of God.
In this final series of terrors John seems to have gathered together the horrors from all the stories of the avenging wrath of God and to have hurled them on the unbelieving world in one last terrible deluge of disaster.
The Terrors Of God ( Revelation 16:1-11)
The voice from the temple is the voice of God who is despatching his angelic messengers with their terrors upon men.
The first terror is a plague of malignant and ulcerous sores. The word is the same as is used to describe the boils and the sores in the plague in Egypt ( Exodus 9:8-11); the pains which will follow disobedience to God ( Deuteronomy 28:35); the sores of the tortured Job ( Job 2:7).
The second terror is the turning of the waters of the sea into blood; this and the following terror, the turning of the rivers and the springs into blood, is reminiscent of the turning of the waters of the Nile into blood in the days of the plagues in Egypt ( Exodus 7:17-21). It may be that the thought of a sea of blood came to John in Patmos; often there he must have seen the sea like blood in the dying splendour of the sunset.
In Hebrew thought every natural force--the wind, the sun, the rain, the waters--had its directing angel. These angels were the ministering servants of God, placed in charge of various departments of nature. It might have been thought that the angel of the waters would have been angry to see the waters turned into blood; but even he admits the justice of God's action. In Revelation 16:6 the reference is to actual persecution in the Roman Empire. God's dedicated ones are the members of the Christian Church; the prophets are not the Old Testament prophets but the prophets of the Christian Church ( 1 Corinthians 12:28; Acts 13:1; Ephesians 4:11), who, being the leaders of the Church, were always the first to suffer in any time of persecution. The grim punishment of those who have shed the blood of the leaders and of the rank and file of the Church is that the waters will be gone from the earth and there will be nothing but blood to drink.
In Revelation 16:7 the voice of the altar praises the justice of the judgments of God. This may be the voice of the angel of the altar, for the altar, too, had its angel; or the idea may be this. The altar in heaven is the place where both the prayers of his people and the lives of his martyrs are offered as a sacrifice to God; and the voice of the altar may be, so to speak, the voice of Christ's praying and suffering Church praising the justice of God when his wrath falls upon their persecutors.
The fourth terror is the scorching of the world by the sun; the fifth is the coming of the thick darkness, reminiscent of the darkness which came upon Egypt ( Exodus 10:21-23).
In Revelation 16:9; Revelation 16:11 and Revelation 16:21 we have a kind of refrain which runs through this chapter. The men on whom these terrors fell cursed God--but they did not repent, impervious alike to the goodness and to the severity of God ( Romans 11:22). It is the picture of men who had no doubt of the existence of God and even saw his hand in events--and who still went their own way.
We are bound to ask ourselves whether we are so very different. We do not doubt the existence of God; we know that God is interested in us and in the world which he has made; we are well aware of God's laws; we know his goodness and we know that sin has its punishment; and yet time and time again we go our own way.
The Hordes From The East ( Revelation 16:12)
This gives us a picture of the drying up of the Euphrates and the opening of a way for the hordes of the east to descend upon the world.
One of the curious features of the Old Testament is the number of times when the drying up of the waters is a sign of the power of God. It was so at the Red Sea. "The Lord drove the sea back...and made the sea dry land" ( Exodus 14:21). It was so at Jordan, when the people under Joshua passed through the river. "All the Israelites passed over on dry ground" ( Joshua 3:17). In Isaiah the act of the power of God is that he will enable men to pass through the Egyptian sea dry-shod ( Isaiah 11:16). The threat of God's vengeance in Jeremiah is: "I will dry up her sea, and make her fountain dry" ( Jeremiah 51:36). "All the depths of the Nile," says Zechariah, "shall dry up" ( Zechariah 10:11).
It may well be that here John is actually remembering a famous incident in history. Herodotus tells us (1: 191) that when Cyrus the Persian captured Babylon he did so by drying up the Euphrates. The river flows right through the centre of Babylon. When Cyrus came to Babylon her defences seemed so strong that her capture seemed impossible. Cyrus formed a brilliant plan. He left one section of his army at Babylon and another he took up the river. By a magnificent engineering feat he temporarily deflected the course of the river into a lake. The level of the river dropped and in the end the channel of the river through Babylon became a dry road; along that road there was a breach in the defences and by that road the Persians gained an entry into Babylon, and the city fell.
John is using a picture which was engraved in the minds of all in his generation. The greatest enemies of Rome, the one nation she could not subjugate, were the Parthians who lived beyond the Euphrates. Their cavalry was the most dreaded force of fighting men in the world. For the cavalry of the Parthians to come sweeping across the Euphrates was a thought to strike terror into the bravest heart. Further, as we have already seen, it was to Parthia that Nero was said to have gone; and it was from Parthia that Nero redivivus was expected to come back; in other words, it was from across the Euphrates that the invasion of Antichrist was expected.
The Unclean Spirits Like Frogs ( Revelation 16:13-16)
These four verses are full of problems which must be solved if their meaning is to become reasonably clear.
Three unclean spirits, like frogs, came out of the mouth of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet.
In the Greek there is a kind of play on words. The unclean spirits came out of the mouths of the evil forces. The mouth is the organ of speech and speech is one of the most influential forces in the world. Now the word for spirit is pneuma ( G4151) which is also the word for breath. To say, therefore, that an evil spirit came out of a man's mouth is the same as to say that an evil breath came out of his mouth. As H. B. Swete puts it, the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet "breathed forth evil influences."
It is said that the unclean spirits were like frogs.
(i) Frogs are connected with plagues. One of the plagues in Egypt was a plague of frogs ( Exodus 8:5-11). "He sent frogs...which destroyed them," says the Psalmist ( Psalms 78:45). "Their land swarmed with frogs even in the chambers of their kings" ( Psalms 105:30).
(ii) Frogs are unclean animals. Although not mentioned by name, they are included by definition in the list of unclean things in the water and the sea which begins in Leviticus 11:10. The frog stands for an unclean influence.
(iii) Frogs are famous for their empty and continuous croaking--brekekekex coax coax, as Aristophanes transliterated it. "The frog," said Augustine, "is the most loquacious of vanities (Homily on Ps 77:27). The sound the frog makes is the symbol of meaningless speech.
(iv) In Zoroastrianism, the Persian religion, frogs are the bringer of plagues and the agent of Ahriman, the power of darkness, in his struggle against Ormuzd, the power of light. It is fairly certain that John would know this bit of Persian lore.
So, then, to say that frogs came out of the mouth of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet is to say that their words were like plagues, were unclean, were empty futilities, and were the allies of the power of the dark.
The False Prophet ( Revelation 16:13-16 Continued)
Our next problem is to identify the false prophet. The dragon is identified as Satan ( Revelation 12:3; Revelation 12:9). The beast, the Roman Empire with its Caesar worship, has already appeared in Revelation 13:1. But this is the first time the false prophet has appeared upon the scene. Since he appears without any explanation, we must assume that John believes that the reader already has the key to his identity.
The false prophet was a figure whom God's people were well warned to expect both in the Old and in the New Testament. In the Old Testament men are forbidden to listen to the false prophet, however impressive his signs may be, and it is laid down that the punishment for the false prophet is death ( Deuteronomy 13:1-5). It was part of the regular duty of the Sanhedrin to deal with the false prophet and to condemn him to death. The Christian Church was warned that false Christs and false prophets would arise to seduce Christ's people ( Mark 13:22). H. B. Swete says of these false prophets that the name covers a whole class--"magic-vendors, religious impostors, fanatics, whether deceivers or deceived, regarded as persons who falsely interpret the mind of God. True religion has no worse enemies and Satan no better allies."
The false prophet is mentioned here and in Revelation 19:20 and Revelation 20:10; if we place two passages together, we will find a clue to his identity. Revelation 19:20 tells us that in the end the false prophet was captured along with the beast and he is described as the person who worked miracles before the beast, and deceived those who had the mark of the beast and worshipped its image. In Revelation 13:13-14 we have a description of the second beast, the beast from the land; it is said that this second beast does great wonders...and that he deceives those who dwell on the earth by means of those miracles which he was allowed to do in the presence of the beast. That is to say, the works of the false prophet and the works of the second beast are identical; so, then, the false prophet and the beast from the land are to be identified. We have already seen that that beast is to be identified with the provincial organisation for the enforcement of emperor worship. The false prophet, then, stands for the organization which seeks to make men worship the emperor and abandon the worship of Jesus Christ.
A man who tries to introduce the worship of other gods, who tries to make men compromise with the state or with the world, who tries to seduce other men from the exclusive worship of God is always a false prophet.
Armageddon ( Revelation 16:13-16 Continued)
__ Revelation 16:1-21 __
We have still another problem to solve in this passage. The evil spirits went out and stirred up the kings of all the earth to bring them to battle. The idea of a final conflict between God and the forces of evil is an old one. We find it in Psalms 2:2: "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and his anointed."
This battle was to take place at what the King James and Revised Standard Versions call Armageddon ( G717) . Moffatt has Harmagedon. The English Revised Version has Har-Magedon. Even the name is uncertain.
Magedon or Maggedon may well be connected with the name Megiddo ( H4023) . Megiddo is in the Plain of Esdraelon, which was part of the great highway from Egypt to Damascus. From the most ancient times to the time of Napoleon it was one of the great battle-grounds of the world. This was the plain where Barak and Deborah overthrew Sisera and his chariots ( Judges 5:19-21); where Ahaziah died by the arrows of Jehu ( 2 Kings 9:27); where the good Josiah perished in battle with Pharaoh Necho ( 2 Kings 23:29-30), a tragedy which burned itself into the Jewish mind and which the Jews never forgot ( Zechariah 12:11). It was a battle-ground, as H. B. Swete says, "familiar to a student of Hebrew history."
Armageddon ( G717) would mean the city of Megiddo; Harmagedon would mean the mountain (compare har, H2022) of Megiddo. It is most likely that the latter form is right, and yet the plain seems a much more likely battle-ground than the mountains. But there is another strand to add to this. When Ezekiel was describing the last struggle with Gog and Magog, he said that the final victory would be won in the mountains of Israel ( Ezekiel 38:8; Ezekiel 38:21; Ezekiel 39:2; Ezekiel 39:4; Ezekiel 39:17). It may well be that John spoke of the Mount of Megiddo to bring his story into line with the ancient prophecy.
By far the most likely view is that the word is Har-Magedon, and that it describes the region near Megiddo in the Plain of Esdraelon which was perhaps the most storied of all battle-grounds in Jewish history.
We must mention two other views of this strange word. Gunkel thought that it went back to the old Babylonian story of the struggle between Marduk, the creator, and Tiamat, the ancient power of chaos. But it is less than likely that John knew that story.
Another view connects it with Isaiah 14:13 where Lucifer is made to say: "Above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly." The Babylonians believed that there was a mountain called Aralu in the north country, which, rather like Olympus in Greece, was the home of the gods. Lucifer is going to take his seat among the gods; it has been suggested that the Mount of Mageddon is this mountain, and that the picture is of a last battle against the assembled gods in their own dwelling-place.
Nature At War ( Revelation 16:17-21)
The seventh bowl was poured out upon the air. H. B. Swete speaks of "the air that all men breathe." If the air was polluted, the very life of man was attacked at its source. Nature became at war with man. That was what happened. There came lightning and thunder and earthquake. The first century was notable for earthquakes, but John says that, whatever horror the world has known from the shaking earth, the earthquake to come will far surpass them all.
The great Babylon, that is Rome, is split into three. Rome had thought that she could do as she liked with impunity--but now her sin was remembered and her fate was on the way. The mills of God may grind slowly but in the end there is no escape for sin.
The earthquake sank the islands and levelled the mountains. The last of the terrible features was a deadly hail in which the hailstones weighed as much as a hundredweight. Here is another recurring feature of the manifestations of the wrath of God. A devastating hail was part of the plagues of Egypt ( Exodus 9:24). In the battle with the five Amorite kings at Beth-horon, under Joshua, there came a great hail upon the enemies of Israel so that more died by the hailstones than died by the sword ( Joshua 10:11). Isaiah speaks of the tempest of hail and the destroying storm which God in his judgment will send ( Isaiah 28:2). Ezekiel speaks of God pleading with men with pestilence and blood, and sending an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone ( Ezekiel 38:22).
The emptying of the seven bowls of wrath upon the earth ends with the chorus which has run all through the chapter. The men to whom these things happened remained impervious to any appeal of God's love or God's anger. God has given men the terrible responsibility of being able to lock their hearts against him.
Revelation 17:1-18; Revelation 18:1-24 tell of the fall of Babylon. Revelation 17:1-18 is one of the most difficult in the Revelation. The best way in which to study it is first to read it as a whole; then to make certain general identifications and so to see the general line of thought in it; and finally to study it in some detail. This will involve a certain amount of repetition, but in a section like this repetition is necessary.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Revelation 16:14". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/revelation-16.html. 1956-1959.
the spirits of demons . . The frogs, Revelation 16:13, from the mouths of the "unholy trinity."
performing signs . . Signs are for the purpose of providing credentials (authentication) that gain the approval or acceptance of the sign-worker. cf. Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:4; cf. Mark 13.22.
kings of the earth and . . whole world . . The army that Rome put together to come against Judah and Jerusalem was made up of units from all over the world. [cf. Josephus, Wars 5:1:6 and 5:2:1 ]
gather them to battle . . Titus overthrew Jerusalem with armies from all nations under Rome’s control.
that great day of God Almighty . . See Joel 2:11 (Joel 3:2, Joel 3:4) where it was a notable day of God’s judgment upon the nation of Israel and Jerusalem for their idolatry and other crimes (where God’s agent was rendering justice was the Babylonians).
On this occasion in Revelation, specifically for their rejection of Christ and shedding the blood of the saints and prophets whom God had sent Matthew 23:24-38; Luke 11:50-51 Revelation 16:6; Revelation 18:24 (where God’s agent was an army made up of the vassals of Rome.)
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Revelation 16:14". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gbc/revelation-16.html. 2021.
For they are the spirits of devils,.... They are of their father the devil; they are acted and influenced by him, he works effectually in them, and leads them captive at his will; they do his lusts, and are murderers and liars, and false teachers, like him:
working miracles; lying ones, to deceive men; this clearly points out who are meant, namely, the followers of antichrist, who, as they spread the doctrines of devils, endeavour to confirm them by signs and lying wonders:
which go forth unto the kings of the earth: those who have committed fornication with the Romish antichrist, such of them as will remain:
and of the whole world; as many Pagan princes as they can come at, and engage by any ways and means in their interest; they will go forth to them like the lying spirit to Ahab's prophets, 1 Kings 22:22
to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty; that is, they will persuade them to gather together, to fight against the saints, the Gentile Christians in the several parts of the world, and the Jewish Christians, now settled in their own land; and this will be the battle of the Lord, who is God Almighty, and it will be fighting against him; and therefore the attempt must be vain and fruitless, and issue in the ruin of those who are gathered to it, who will be deceived and drawn into it by these diabolical spirits: and this is called "the battle of that great day of God"; not of the day of judgment, for it will be before that time; but of that day of vengeance upon all the remains of his and his church's enemies, both Pagan, Papal, and Mahometan, who will for this purpose be gathered together; "which", as the Ethiopic version renders it, "God has appointed".
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Revelation 16:14". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/revelation-16.html. 1999.
|The Seven Vials.||A. D. 95.|
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 sixth angel poured out his vial; and observe,
I. Where it fell--upon the great river Euphrates. Some take it literally, for the place where the Turkish power and empire began; and they think this is a prophecy of the destruction of the Turkish monarchy and of idolatry, which they suppose will be effected about the same time with that of the papacy, as another antichrist, and that thereby a way shall be made for the conveniency of the Jews, those princes of the east. Others take it for the river Tiber; for, as Rome is mystical Babylon, Tiber is mystical Euphrates. And when Rome shall be destroyed her river and merchandise must suffer with her.
II. What did this vial produce? 1. The drying up of the river, which furnished the city with wealth, provisions, and all sorts of accommodations. 2. A way is hereby prepared for the kings of the east. The idolatry of the church of Rome had been a great hindrance both to the conversion of the Jews, who have been long cured of their inclination to idols, and of the Gentiles, who are hardened in their idolatry by seeing that which so much symbolizes with it among those called Christians. It is therefore very probable that the downfall of popery, removing these obstructions, will open a way for both the Jews and other eastern nations to come into the church of Christ. And, if we suppose that Mahomedism shall fall at the same time, there will be still a more open communication between the western and eastern nations, which may facilitate the conversion of the Jews, and of the fulness of the Gentiles. And when this work of God appears, and is about to be accomplished, no wonder if it occasion another consequence, which is, 3. The last effort of the great dragon; he is resolved to have another push for it, that, if possible, he may retrieve the ruinous posture of his affairs in the world. He is now rallying his forces, recollecting all his spirits, to make one desperate sally before all be lost. This is occasioned by the pouring out of the sixth vial. Here observe, (1.) The instruments he makes use of to engage the powers of the earth in his cause and quarrel: Three unclean spirits like frogs come forth, one out of the mouth of the dragon, another out of the mouth of the beast, and a third out of the mouth of the false prophet. Hell, the secular power of antichrist, and the ecclesiastical power, would combine to send their several instruments, furnished with hellish malice, with worldly policy, and with religious falsehood and deceit; and these would muster up the devil's forces for a decisive battle. (2.) The means these instruments would use to engage the powers of earth in this war. They would work pretended miracles, the old stratagem of him whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness,2 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:10. Some think that a little before the fall of antichrist the popish pretence of power to work miracles will be revived and will very much amuse and deceive the world. (3.) The field of battle--a place called Armageddon; that is, say some, the mount of Megiddo, near to which, by a stream issuing thence, Barak overcame Sisera, and all the kings in alliance with him, Judges 5:19. And in the valley of Megiddo Josiah was slain. This place had been famous for two events of a very different nature, the former very happy for the church of God, the latter very unhappy; but it shall now be the field of the last battle in which the church shall be engaged, and she shall be victorious. This battle required time to prepare for it, and therefore the further account of it is suspended till we come to the nineteenth chapter, Revelation 16:19; Revelation 16:20. (4.) The warning which God gives of this great and decisive trial, to engage his people to prepare for it, Revelation 16:15; Revelation 16:15. It would be sudden and unexpected, and therefore Christians should be clothed, and armed, and ready for it, that they might not be surprised and ashamed. When God's cause comes to be tried, and his battles to be fought, all his people shall be ready to stand up for his interest and be faithful and valiant in his service.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Revelation 16:14". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/revelation-16.html. 1706.
III. STUDY NOTES--Revelation 16:1-21
THE SEVEN BOWLS are closely similar to the 7 seals and the 7 trumpets in that they affect the same things. But the destruction that followed the seals and the trumpets was limited to one third for they were given as warnings pleading with men to repent. The destruction that follows the pouring of the 7 bowls is complete on the enemies of God. These are "the last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is ended." (15:1).
1. THE FIRST BOWL 16:2 IS POURED ON THE EARTH
As boils plagued Egypt (Exodus 9:8-11), so the moral and spiritual disease which has been an INNER corruption and decay in those who have worshipped and bore the mark of the beast now find that inner putrefaction breaking OUT on the surface of life. The quality of the inner life is bound to reach the surface at last.
2. THE SECOND BOWL 16:3 IS POURED ON THE SEA
This and the next bowl reminds us of the turning of the waters of the Nile into blood. (Exodus 7:17-21). If "the sea" is taken to mean nations as stated in 17:15, then this means that materialism, worldliness, kills all that is wholesome in the life of the people. It corrupts national life.
3. THE THIRD BOWL 16:4-7 PLAGUE IN THE RIVERS
There is "blood in the rivers and the fountains of water." The rivers that feed the sea are polluted--that is, all the powers and influences which are the springs of national life are corrupted. When the press, T.V. and radio, education, propaganda, literature become so polluted as to poison national life we will she this third bowl. Verse 6. This is just what men deserve. The prophets referred to are probably prophets of the church (see 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11). Verse 7. The Christian martyrs are depicted as being under the altar (6:9). They praise God for His judgments.
4. THE FOURTH BOWL 16:8, 9 PLAGUE FROM THE SUN
Men are scorched by the sun. The sun has power to BLESS with life, giving heat to promote life. But the sun also has the power to BLAST. In this fourth bowl the life-giving heat becomes torturing heat. Men whose burning passions had brought moral undoing burn with a fire that brings agony. It is true that Jesus is "The Sun of Righteousness," and that those who reject His blessing will find their own pride scorched and burnt.
5. THE FIFTH BOWL 16:10, 11 PLAGUE ON THE BEAST’S KINGDOM
The center and throne of worldly power is smitten with darkness like that on Egypt (Exodus 10:21-23). The kingdom of evil is "the kingdom of darkness," whilst God’s kingdom is "The Kingdom of light." (see 1 John 1:6; 1 John 2:11 ; Colossians 1:12-13 --"You have been translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light of His Son"). This fifth bowl brings darkness over earthly wickedness. None of the activities of life can go on. Yet, "they did not repent." To live at all man must have seas, fountains, sunshine and health. When these all turn against you life has become hopeless. In Revelation 16:10-11. All is darkness.
6. THE SIXTH BOWL 16:12-16 PLAGUE WHERE THE WORLD IS IN CONFLICT WITH GOD
"The sixth angel poured his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the East." There are many interpretations of this bowl. We are free of course to differ. We state one possible interpretation. "THE GREAT RIVER EUPHRATES" was the boundary separating the people of God from Babylon. (Genesis 15:18) IT STANDS FOR THE BOUNDARY SEPARATING GOD’S KINGDOM FROM THE WORLD. This sixth judgment causes the river Euphrates to dry up as God caused the Red Sea to dry up (Exodus 14:21), and the river Jordan (Joshua 3:17) so that God’s people who are in Babylon can come out of her (18:4). If we look at the verse in this way, "The kings of the East" may be the remnant of God’s people in Babylon (the city of confusion, godlessness and worldliness), and are distinguished from "the kings of the earth" in verse 14. Another view is that these kings of the East are the worldly kings who make war on God’s kingdom (17:14). Both may be referred to here. This verse is quite certainly a reference to a famous event in history. When Cyrus the Persian conquered Babylon he did so by drying up the river Euphrates which actually flows right through Babylon. When Cyrus came to Babylon her defences seemed so strong that her capture seemed impossible, but by a feat of engineering Cyrus temporarily changed the course of the river upstream into a lake. The channel of the river through Babylon became a dry road through which the invaders marched. This is referred to in Jeremiah 51:36. If we look at this verse in this light we can see it as a threat of God’s judgment on all worldliness. Babylon will be defeated. The drying up of the Euphrates becomes a picture of the deliverance of God’s people in the world and also a picture of the defeat of worldliness. Verse 13. THE THREE FOUL SPIRITS which come out of the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet could be described as the PRIDE of Satan, the HOSTILITY of worldly power, and the FALSE THINKING of the false prophet. These are described as "like frogs." What an appropriate picture! The croaking frog--a picture of the unclean, empty-headed, continuous, monotonous and plague-bringing propaganda of the world. What a picture of the world’s criticism of the church! Verse 14. These frog like demonic spirits gather "the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty" "And they assembled them at the place which is called in Hebrew Armageddon." (verse 16). It is important to note that this baffle and warfare is Spiritual. This is the conflict of the kings of the world against God. (Psalms 2:2; Revelation 17:14; Revelation 20:7-10). ARMAGEDDON. Armageddon is the mountain of Megiddo. It is in the plain of Esdraelon in Galilee, the high tableland surrounded by hills which was the great battlefield in Jewish history. The fortunes of kingdoms had been decided there. There Barak defeated Sisera (Judges 5:19-21), there Ahaziah and Josiah were slain (2 Kings 9:27; 2 Kings 23:29-30), there, there had often been great mourning (Zechariah 12:11). Some limit the meaning of the word "Armageddon" to this place, but we are not forced to limit this huge conflict to this small place. This small place would not hold even a small modern army. This small battle-ground is raised in meaning. IT BECOMES A SYMBOL OF DECISIVE CONFLICT. "Armageddon" is a type, not a locality. John uses the place "Armageddon" to symbolise GREAT DECISIVE CONFLICT in much the same way as we use the word "WATERLOO" to signify decisive defeat. It is well to remember that "Armageddon" signifies DECISIVE CONFLICT WHICH IS SPIRITUAL (NOT PHYSICAL).--It describes the overthrow of spiritual evil by Almighty God--not material battles with guns and bombs; human battles and bloodshed never settle matters regarding right and wrong. "Armageddon" is the REAL battle between God and evil, and it is going on now. It is not the picture of material armies on a material battlefield. We thank God that at Calvary evil met its Waterloo. There remains much "mopping up" to be done. We know that the final conflict will be terrible for the forces of evil as described by John in this passage.
7. THE SEVENTH BOWL 16:17-21 PLAGUE IN THE AIR--THE SHAKING OF THE WORLD
Verse 17. "The AIR" is regarded as the domain of Satan (Ephesians 2:2) God said "It is done"--The end of sin and suffering is at hand for the last of the plagues is come. Verse 18. The whole of nature becomes at war with sinful man in "A GREAT EARTHQUAKE." Verse 19. In this great earthquake "BABYLON"--the symbol of worldliness and godlessness is split into three. It lost its power of cohesion. There is no uniting power in evil. The effects of the earthquake are wide-spread, cities fall, islands and mountains disappear. There is only one kingdom which cannot be shaken--the Kingdom of God (see (Hebrews 12:26-29). Christians have realized this truth time and time again when the proud kingdoms of this world have been shaken--as in the fall of Rome, the collapse of the feudal system, the agrarian revolution, the industrial revolution, the French revolution, the Communist revolution, the fall of governments and civilisations. There is only one kingdom which cannot be shaken--The Kingdom of God. "Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou, who changest not, abide with me." The kingdoms of the world go by, in purple and in gold. They rise and flourish, and they die, and all their tale is told. One Kingdom only is divine, one banner triumphs still Its King--a servant, and its sign--a Cross upon a hill.
IV. MEDITATION--; Revelation 16:1-21
The seven bowls of judgment are symbolic pictures to tell us this truth--that if man sins against God, then the whole universe becomes man’s enemy. While the seven bowls describe evil as being destroyed everywhere Christians need to heed THE-WARNING GIVEN BY GOD HIMSELF IN VERSE 15.
"Lo I am coming like a thief! blessed is he who is awake, keeping his garments, that he may not go naked . . ."
1. We must WATCH
--Lest we become indifferent
--Lest we become merely nominal church members
--Lest we fall away from Christ.
We must watch for every opportunity to serve Christ--for every opportunity to serve our fellow men.
2. We must KEEP ON THE GARMENTS WHICH CHRIST GAVE US
--The garment of Salvation
--The garment of Righteousness
--The garment of Praise
--The garment of True humility
1 Peter 5:5
--else others will see our shame, for our own righteousness is only as filthy rags.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Norris, Harold. "Commentary on Revelation 16:14". "Norris' Commentary on the Book of Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/nor/revelation-16.html. 2021.
We begin now what may be called the second volume of the Revelation. The prophetic part of the book divides into two portions at this point. This is another land-mark that cannot be despised, if we would acquaint ourselves with its structure and the bearing of its contents. And it is absolutely requisite to have, at any rate, a generally correct understanding of its outline; else we are in imminent risk of making confusion, the moment we venture to put the parts together, or to form anything like a connected view of that which it conveys to us. The meaning will be made plainer, if I repeat that the seventh trumpet, which was the closing scene before us, brings us down to the end in a general way.
This is constantly the habit of prophecy: take, for instance, our Lord's prophecy inMatthew 24:1-51; Matthew 24:1-51, where, first of all, we are given the broad outline as far as verse 14 the "gospel of the kingdom" preached in all the world for a testimony to all nations; and then the end comes. Having thus brought us down to the close in a comprehensive manner, the Lord turns back, and specifies a particular part of that history in a confined sphere, namely, from the time that the abomination of desolation is set up in the holy place. This clearly is some time before the end. It does not indeed go back absolutely to the beginning, but it returns a certain way, in order to set forth a far closer and more precise view of the appalling state of things that will be found in Jerusalem before the end comes.
Just so is it in the Revelation. The seals and the. trumpets which follow one another conduct us from the time that the church is seen in heaven glorified till judgment closes, i.e. "the time of the dead, even that they should be judged," and the day of wrath upon the earth. Evidently this is the end. Then, in the portion which begins with the last verse of Revelation 11:1-19, we return for a special prophecy. The prophet had been told that he must prophesy again before many people and kings; and I suppose that this is the prophesying again.
So the temple of God is now seen to be open. It is not a door opened in heaven to give us the general view of what was to take place on the earth as regarded in the mind of God. This John did see, the general view being now closed; and we enter on a narrower line of things. The temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in His temple the ark of His covenant. It is the resumption therefore of the old links with His ancient people Israel. At the same time it is not yet the day of blessedness for the Jew. Nor is heaven itself opened for Jesus, attended by risen saints, to appear for the judgment of the beast and the false prophet with their train. It is a transition state of things. When God deigns to look upon and gives us to see the ark of His covenant, He is going to assert His fidelity to the people. Of old He gave promises, and will shortly accomplish all which had been assured to their fathers. The ark of His covenant is the sign of the unfailing certainty of that to which He bound Himself.
"And there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings," and besides not "an earthquake" only, but "great hail." In the first scene in the fourth chapter, when the door was seen open in heaven, there were "lightnings, and voices, and thunderings," but there was not even an earthquake. In Revelation 8:1-13 this addition appears. Now besides there is hail. Clearly, therefore, we are coming to far greater detail in the way of judgments from heaven on the earth.
Then the first sign was beheld above. "There appeared a great sign in heaven." We are not to suppose that when the prophecy is fulfilled, any woman will be seen either in heaven or elsewhere as its accomplishment. This is a fertile source of mistake in the interpretation of these visions. Her being seen in heaven shows that it is not a mere history of what is taking place on earth, but that it is all viewed in God's mind. Consequently it is seen above. In point of fact, what the woman represents will be Israel on the earth. The woman is a symbol of the chosen people viewed as a whole, for a future state of things that God means to establish here below. She was "clothed with the sun." Supreme authority is to be seen now connected with Israel, instead of her being in a state of desolation, down-trodden by the Gentiles. "And the moon under her feet" is an allusion, I suppose, to her old condition of legal ordinances, which, instead of governing her, are now subject to her under her feet. How aptly the moon sets forth the reflected light of the Mosaic system is evident to any thoughtful mind. In the millennium this will not be wholly out of sight as now under Christianity, but reappear only it will be in manifest subordination, as we may see in Ezekiel's prophecy. "And upon her head a crown of twelve stars." There is the evidence of human authority in the way of administration here below. In short, whether it be supreme, derivative, or subordinate authority, she is seen with all attached to her. Israel is therefore the manifest vessel of the mighty purposes of God for the earth; and God so looks at her and presents her to us. Thus it is as complete a chance as can be conceived for Israel. But this is not all. "She was with child, and crieth, travailing in birth, in pain to be delivered." It is not yet the day for joyous and triumphant accomplishment of the divine purpose, when before Zion travails she is to bring forth, and before her pain come she is to be delivered of a man-child. There is weakness and suffering yet, but all is secured, and the end is pledged.
Then there is another sign; namely, "a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads." It is Satan, but here invested with the form of the most determined and successful enemy that Israel ever had; for bad as was the tyranny of Nebuchadnezzar, it is evident that the Roman power trod down Jerusalem with a far more tremendous and permanent tyranny. This therefore makes the unfolding of this double sign so much the more striking. It is not that she is delivered yet; but she is seen by the prophet according to the mind of God. This is to be her place, a mighty encouragement, considering what she must pass through before it is all realized. Before this is effected, the enemy is shown in his character of rebellious apostate power. The dragon has seven heads i.e., the completeness of ruling authority; and ten horns, not exactly completeness, but at any rate a very large distribution approaching it, in the instruments of the power wielded in the west. Man is never thus complete. What God gave the woman we saw twelve stars. The dragon has only ten horns. There was a full succession of all the various forms of government, which I suppose to be referred to in the seven heads; but God would not give it that completeness of administrative power even in form which belonged to the woman. All will be in due order when the Lord Jesus takes the government of the earth into His hands in the age to come. "Verily I say unto you, That ye who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." The twelve apostles of the Lamb are destined to this special place of honourable trust.
"His tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven." Here is what seems to show that the third part has a distinct connection with the Roman empire. We saw the third part for the first time in the trumpets, both in the four earlier trumpets and also in the sixth. I have no doubt the Roman empire is particularly in view; and, by the Roman empire we are to understand what was properly Roman the western portion, not what the Romans actually possessed, because they conquered a great deal that belonged to Greece for instance, and Babylon, and Medo-Persia. This was far east; but the properly Roman part was western Europe. There the dragon's power was particularly felt. It "drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them unto the earth; and the dragon stands before the woman that was about to bring forth, that he might devour her child as soon as she should bring forth. And she brought forth a male son, who is about to shepherd all the nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and unto his throne."
There are some things that require explanation here. First of all, a notion prevails that the woman is the church. There may be some Christians now present who have been so taught. A few words, I think, are quite sufficient to dispel the illusion. The church is never represented as a mother in scripture: still less could it be the mother of Christ. Viewed as a woman, the church is the bride of Christ, not His mother; whereas the Jewish body may be truly represented as His mother in symbol. Christ, as man, came of the Jews after the flesh. Accordingly, it is very plain that He is the one here described as the male. The same truth is most evident from the scriptures, whether we take the psalms or the prophets. "Unto us," Isaiah says, "a child is born, a son is given." Again, in the second psalm, we find that the one who is not merely the child of Israel, but acknowledged and honoured by God Himself as the Son, was to rule the nations with a rod of iron. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the Lord Jesus is the one here prominent as the male child.
This, then, furnishes an unquestionable and important key to the meaning of the scene we are now entering upon. The woman represents Israel in the mind of God, Israel in its full corporate character.
Another remark seems to me just. Although Christ, I have no doubt, is referred to as the man-child born of Israel, it may be no small difficulty at first sight to, some minds how to bring in the birth of Christ in this chapter. Indeed, it is a very fair question, and ought to be met. Let it then be observed, that here the Spirit of God is not proceeding with the course of the prophecy. I have already explained that He goes back. Consequently, so far all is perfectly open as to the point of time to which He returns. And another thing should be taken into account that in this portion there is no date serving to fix the time when the birth of the man-child takes place. But then it may be asked, why should the birth of the man-child be introduced here, seeing that it was a patent fact that the Lord had been born, had lived, and died, and gone to heaven long before? There was nothing new to tell. All this was long and well known through the gospel, as well as in oral teaching to the Christians; why then should it be set forth so strangely in this prophecy? The reason I believe to be, that God desired in this very striking manner to rehearse it mystically, and not at all in full open statement, so as to combine it with His translation to heaven and to His own throne. There was a further link with the re-opening of God's dealings with the Jews, and the eventual restoration of the nation. All are introduced here together.
Thus it is plain that God is not at all disposing these matters now as a question of time, but of connection with Christ their centre. John is going to enter into the final scenes after this; but before this is done, we have God's counsel shown about Israel. This brings forward the devil in his evil opposition to that counsel; for it was surely what the adversary most of all feared. Satan invariably opposes Christ with greater tenacity of purpose and hatred and pride than any other. Recognizing in Him the bruiser of himself and the deliverer of man and creation, there is a constant antagonism between Satan and the Son of God that is familiar to us all. But there is more than this: Satan sets himself against His connection with the poor and despised people of Israel. Nevertheless, before God openly espouses the part of Israel, there is the remarkable fact that Christ is caught up to Him and to His throne. Not a word is said of His life; not a word even about His death and resurrection. As far as this passage goes, one might suppose the Lord caught up on high as soon as He was born. This shows us how remarkably mystical the statement is. It is history neither anticipated nor in fact. Had it been an historical summary, we must have had His life noticed with those mighty events on which all hopes for the universe depend. All this is entirely passed over. The reason, I think, is just this, that it intimates to us, as in Old Testament prophecy, how the Lord and His people are wrapped up, as it were, in the very same symbol; even as, in a yet more intimate way, what is said about Christ applies to the Christian.
On this principle then I cannot but consider that the rapture of the man-child to God and His throne involves the rapture of the church in itself. The explanation why it is thus introduced here depends on the truth that Christ and the church are one, and have a common destiny. Inasmuch as He went up to heaven, so also the church is to be caught up. "So also is Christ," says the apostle Paul, when speaking of the church; for we must naturally suppose the allusion is to the body rather than to the head. He does not say, so also is the church, but "so also is Christ." In a similar spirit St. John, in this prophecy, shows us first of all the male child taken to a place in heaven entirely outside the reach of Satan's malice. If this be so, and granted it has a remarkable bearing on what has been already asserted as to the book: we here begin over again, with a particular point of view as the object of the Holy Ghost in this latter portion. Before doing so, John gives us first the general purpose of God about the Jews.
This is strictly in order. We might have thought that the more natural way would be first of all to state the rapture of the man-child; but not so, God always does and describes things in the wisest and best method. The fact is that Christ being born of Israel, there is and ought to be first set forth the tracing of His connection with Israel. The next fact is the devil's opposition to the counsels of God, and hindrance for the time being, which gives occasion to the Lord Himself taking His place in heaven, and eventually to the church following Him into heaven, After this comes back on the scene the Lord's intention to make way for the effectuating of His counsels as to Israel and the earth. In short, therefore, the first portion of the chapter is distinctly a mystical representation of the Lord's relationship with Israel and of His removal out of the scene the effect of the antagonism of Satan; but it also gives room for God's binding up, as it were, with Christ's disappearance in heaven the church's following Him there in due time. For the church is united to Christ. In this way the rapture of the man-child is not a mere historical fact. Christ's ascension to heaven is brought in here because it contains as a consequence the church's subsequent removal to be with Him where He is, His body forming one and the same mystic man before God, "the fulness of him that filleth all in all."
If this then be borne in mind, the whole subject is considerably cleared. "She brought forth a male son, to rule all nations with a rod of iron." There is not the slightest difficulty in applying this to the man-child, viewed not personally and alone but mystically; and the less, because this very promise is made to the church in Thyatira, or rather to the faithful there. It will be remembered that at the end of Revelation 2:1-29 it was expressly said that the Lord would give to him that overcame power over the nations, and he should rule them with a rod of iron, just as He Himself received of His Father. Does not this most strongly confirm the same view? "And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should nourish her there a thousand two hundred [and] threescore days."
In verse 7 we have a new scene; and here we come much more to facts, not to counsels of God or to principles viewed in His mind, but to positive facts; and first of all from above, as later on we shall find effects and chancres on the earth. "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels to war with the dragon; and the dragon warred and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast [down], the ancient serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, who deceiveth the whole world, was cast unto the earth, and his angels were cast with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast [down], who accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by reason of the blood of the Lamb, and by reason of the word of their testimony, and loved not their life unto death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them." It is evident that at this time persons are spoken of as dwelling in heaven who sympathise deeply with their suffering brethren on earth. Such is the incontestable fact; and soon after Satan will have lost that access to the presence of God in the quality of accuser of the brethren that he had previously possessed; nor will he ever regain the highest seat of his power which is then lost. He is no longer able to fill heaven with his bitter taunts and accusations of the saints of God.
"Woe", however, it is added at this time, "to the earth and to the sea, for the devil has, come down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath a short season." This clearly connects the dispossession of Satan from his heavenly seat with the last crisis of Jews and Gentiles at the end of the present age. We find here the hidden reason. Why should there be such an unwonted storm of persecution? why such tremendous doings of Satan here below for a short time, for three years and a half, before the close? The reason is here explained. Satan cannot longer accuse above; accordingly he does his worst below. He is cast down to earth, and never regains the heavens. Again, he will be banished from the earth, as we shall find, into the bottomless pit by and by; and then, although let loose thence for a short time, it is only for his irremediable ruin; for he is cast then (not merely into the pit or abyss, but) into the lake of fire, whence none ever comes back.
Such is the revealed course of the dealings of God with the great enemy of men from first to last.
From verse 13 the history is pursued not from the heavens, but on the earth. "And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the male [child]. And to the woman were given two wings of the great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished there a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent." Thus power is given to escape, rapid means of flight from Satan's persecution. It is not power to withstand Satan, and fight the battle out with him, but the facility given to flee from his violence. This seems to be what is meant by the two wings of the great eagle a figure of vigorous means of escape. That which is in nature the most energetic image of flight is vividly applied to the case before us.
Then we find the enemy, baffled by God's provision, using other efforts. "And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood." That is, he here endeavours to stir up the nations (such as are, I suppose, in a state of disorganisation) to overwhelm the Jews. In vain; for "the earth" what was under settled government at this time "helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, that keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus." By these are meant such of the Jews as will be remarkable for their power of testimony. The woman represents the more general idea of that people. The remnant of her seed are the witnessing portion. You must bear in mind that all the Jews of that day will by no means have the same spiritual power. There will be differences. Some will be much more energetic and intelligent than others. Satan hastens therefore, and endeavours to put down those that seem most useful as the vessels of the testimony of Jesus.
This accordingly leads to the plans that Satan sets up for the purpose of accomplishing his long-cherished design of supplanting not only gospel and law, but the testimony to the kingdom of God in the world. And there are two especial methods which Satan will adopt, suited to catch a twofold class of men who are never wanting in this world natural men, some of Whom like power, as others like religion. I am not now speaking of any who are born of God; but it is clear that man's heart runs either after intellect and power, or into religious formality. The devil will therefore put forward two main instruments as leaders of systems that express human nature on either side, exactly suiting what the heart of man seeks and will have. Thus Satan has designed from the beginning to set up himself in man as God. For he too will work by man, as God Himself is pleased to develop all His wondrous ways and counsels in man. As the Lord Jesus is not only a divine person but the expression of the divine glory no less than of His grace; and as the church is the object of His love in heavenly blessedness, and Israel for the earth; so the enemy (who cannot originate but only corrupt the truth, and lie by a sort of profane imitation of the counsels of God) will have his beasts no less certainly than God has His Lamb. In Revelation 13:1-18 this is made plain. There are these two beasts; the first civil power, the second religion, and both apostate.
"And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns." The beast that emerges from the revolutionary Roman world is just adapted for the dragon to fill with opposition to the purposes of God. In Revelation 12:1-17 the dragon was seen similarly characterized as the beast. Both have the forms of power peculiar to the Roman empire. But there is a difference also: "And upon his horns ten diadems, and upon his beads names of blasphemy." The dragon has the diadems on his heads; the beast shows us more the actual facts the horns crowned. The dragon represents the enemy of Christ in his political employment of the Roman empire, and this from first to last; so that the heads or successive forms of power are said to be crowned, not the horns, which were only as a fact to be developed before the close of its history at the earliest not before the Gothic barbarians broke up the empire of the west. On the other hand, in the beast ofRevelation 13:1-18; Revelation 13:1-18 we see, not merely the hidden spirit of evil making use of the power of Rome in its various changes, but the empire in its final state when the deadly wound done to the imperial head was healed, and Satan shall have given to it thus revived his power, his throne, and great authority. Now this is the very time when the ten horns receive authority as kings; it is simultaneously and continuously with the beast, as Revelation 17:1-18 informs us; and hence the horns of the beast are seen crowned (not merely the heads, as in the dragon's case previously).
Further, the beast is described afterwards in remarkable terms, which allude to the beasts so well known in Daniel 7:1-28. "And the beast which I saw was like a leopardess, and its feet were as of a bear, and its mouth as a lion's." Here we have certain qualities that resemble the three first-named beasts of the prophet Daniel. Though Satan does not originate, he adopts whatever will suit of that which has been, and endeavours by this most singular combination to bring out the beast or fourth empire (for there is none to succeed) so as to surpass for the last days everything known of old.
What is meant by a beast? An imperial system or empire, but withal refusing to recognize God above. Man was made to own Him, and alone does, as taught of God. Man alone of all beings in the earth was made to look up to One above, and is responsible to do the will of God. The beast does not look up but down; it has no sense of an unseen superior. "The fool hath said in his heart that there is no God." In principle this is true of every unrenewed man; but here it is the more tremendous, because an empire ought to be the reflection of the authority that God in His providence has conferred on it. No empire has avoided the moral sentence implied in the symbols, but this beast will go beyond all that have ever arisen. At the time that the prophecy was given the fourth beast was in existence; but the prophet was given to see that out of a state of political convulsion, just before the last three years and a half, and connected with Satan's expulsion from heaven by the power of God, this beast rises up out of the sea. That is, there will be a state of total confusion in the west, and an imperial power will rise up. This is the one here described: "And I saw one of its heads as it were wounded to death; and its deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast." It is not hard to see sufficient grounds for gathering that the wounded head was the imperial form of power. The empire of the west will have been long extinct, when, strange to say, it reappears in the latter day. But there is a great deal more than simply the revival of imperialism, which draws out the astonishment of the world. They had thought it all over with the Roman empire. They could easily understand a new empire; they could readily conceive a Teutonic kingdom, or a Muscovite dominion, or any other of large space and population; but the revival of the Roman empire will take the world by surprise. This is a part of what is here referred to. The grounds of this assertion, however, depend on Revelation 17:1-18, so that I cannot now enter into minute evidence, nor do I wish to anticipate what will come before us in the next lecture. Let it suffice to give what I believe to be the truth revealed about it as we pass onward.
But then it is not simply that this empire had qualities of power that belonged to more than one of the previous empires, and that it had its own peculiarity in that it was marked by the revival of imperialism at the close. We are told that "they worshipped the dragon, because he gave authority to the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like the beast? and who is able to make war with him?" It is evident, therefore, that we have here an apostate and idolatrous state of the world. The dragon is worshipped, as is the beast; and2 Thessalonians 2:1-17; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 is plain that worship is paid to another personage connected with, but distinct from, these both, called "the man of sin," which is much more a religious power. The first beast is a political body; the religious chief will not be in the west at all, but in Jerusalem, and a very special object of worship in the temple of God there at the close.
This is a difficulty to some, because it is distinctly said that this man of sin will not tolerate any other object of worship. But then you must remember that they are all the same firm. Therefore to worship the one is pretty much to worship the other; just as in regard to the true God, there is no worship of one person in the Godhead without the same homage to the others. It is in vain for any to pretend to worship the Father without worshipping the Son, and he that worships the Father and the Son can only worship in the power of the Holy Ghost. When we worship God as such, when we say "God," we do not mean Father only, but Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. So precisely in this awful counterpart, the fruit of the energy of satanic craft and power at the close. The worshipping of the dragon and of the beast seems therefore quite consistent with divine worship paid to the man of sin. The fact is, they are, as often remarked with justice, the great counter-trinity the trinity of evil as opposed to the Trinity of the Godhead. The devil is clearly the source of it all; but then the public leader of his power politically is the beast; and the grand religious agent, who works out all plans and even miracles in its support, is the second beast or man of sin.
This appears to be the true and mutual bearing of all, if we bow to all these scriptures. I am aware that differences of thought exist here as in almost everything else. But this objection has no force at all. The only question is, what best satisfies the word of God, what most faithfully answers not merely to the letter of it, but to its grand principles? I am persuaded, therefore, that far from any real obstacle in the fact of these three different objects being combined in worship, on the contrary the force and nature of the case cannot well be understood unless this is seen.
Let us pursue the other points which the scriptures set before us. "And there was given him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given him to continue [or act] forty-two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that tabernacle in heaven." Here again it seems evident that there is a people in heaven removed from exposure to the power either of Satan or of the public instruments of his malice in the world. There are also saints here below. The tabernacle above may be blasphemed, and those that dwell there Satan may revile, but he cannot touch cannot even accuse longer before God. He turns therefore all his power to deal with man on the earth.
"And it was given him to make war with the saints" (clearly those that are not in heaven), "and to overcome them: and authority was liven him over every tribe, and people, and tongue, and nation. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him." It will be seen that there is an invariable distinction between the crowd of the Gentiles scattered over the world, and "those that dwell on the earth." The difference is that the former class is a larger term, embracing the world at large; whereas by the latter is meant a considerably narrower sphere, whose character of earthliness is the more decided, because it had known the heavenly testimony of Christ and the church. The name might be still held; but apostate hearts deliberately preferred earth to heaven, and would surely have their portion in neither, but in the lake of fire.
It is solemn to see that this is what Christendom hastens to become: infidelity and superstition are rapidly forming it now. All that is at work is bringing about this earthly and godless state of things. Never since the gospel was preached were men more thoroughly settling down in the endeavour to improve the earth, and consequently to forget heaven day by day, only thinking of it as a dismal necessity when they die, and cannot avoid leaving the world. But as to turning to heaven, both as a hope full of joy and as a home for the affections, whenever was it more thoroughly kept out of the minds of men? All this then prepares us for the designation given to the people that did hear of heaven but deliberately gave up all the hopes connected with it to settle down on the earth. They were dwellers on the earth. The others are "every tribe, and people, and tongue, and nation," that have heard comparatively little about the gospel. But he will endeavour to deal with both; and more particularly "all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose name is not written in the book of life of the slain Lamb from the foundation of the world."
Carefully bear in mind that "from the foundation of the world" belongs not to "slain," but to the writing of the name. John does not mean that the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world, but that the name was not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain. Compare Revelation 17:8.
"If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity." The importance of this statement was to guard the saints themselves from taking power peremptorily into their own hands. They might cry to God, they might ask Him to arise and judge the earth, but they were not to fight themselves. As the beast would take power, so should he suffer the consequence. He might lead into captivity, but into captivity he must go. He might kill with the sword, but he must be killed himself: indeed, his would be a still more awful doom. At the same time patience, with this retributive sanction annexed, is put in as a general principle, and stated in such a form as to apply to any one. It was surely and particularly meant to guard the saints from mistake and wrong. I do not think the direct application is to the beast, but rather warning to the saints of God. "Here is the patience and faith of the saints." This gives the application.
In the latter part of the chapter we have a second beast. This calls for more attention, because there has been and there is a danger of some confusion and difficulty on this subject. Let it be observed that the second beast it is which more particularly resembles in wickedness what the Lord Jesus was in goodness. It is indeed a "beast;" that is, it has a kind of imperial power, though very likely on a far smaller scale than the first beast. Still it has the character of empire attached to it. It is a beast, and not merely a horn. Then the horns that it has have a peculiar character. "He had two horns like a lamb." There was the pretence of resembling the Messiah. But "he spake as a dragon." It was really the expression of Satan. "And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence." It is, therefore, plain that the second beast is really the more energetic of the two, and the active instrument of evil.
And this is always the case in every form of wickedness that has ever been forged for this world. The promoters of it the persons that exercise the influence, sometimes unseen, sometimes publicly are as a rule those that put religion forward. The religion of the earth is the prolific source of all the worst evil that is done under the sun. The devil could not accomplish his plans if there was not such a thing as earthly religion. Is not this an awful thing to think of, and a solemn thing, too, for those that have the smallest connection with it?
Accordingly in this case, observe, the second beast which resembles Christ, and takes that place, does not come out of the sea, or the turbulent state of the nations, but out of the earth. It is a more settled state of things when this beast appears, who exercises all the authority of the first beast before him (that is, in his presence, with his full sanction: it is not usurpation; it is not in any sense something done without him; but it is done in his presence, as is here said); "and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast" (there is an understanding between them), "whose deadly wound was healed." It is remarkable that in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 we do not hear of his causing the world to worship the first beast; but that he compels or at any rate claims worship, and is himself worshipped as God. For he arrogates divine worship to himself.
It makes the whole matter plain, if we remember that the first beast means the Roman empire, and, consequently, its seat is the west. The second beast, on the contrary, is in the land of Palestine, and has a Jewish form. Any one who looks at2 Thessalonians 2:1-17; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 can see that we are in view of what will be in the land of Judea, and not in Rome. It is the temple of God that is particularly seen, where the man of sin sets himself up as an object of worship. Only we must remember that we must read scripture with scripture. Supposing I treat the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians as giving me all that the Bible tells about the man of sin, I foreclose scripture, and must have an imperfect account. On the other hand, if we take only what we have inRevelation 13:1-18; Revelation 13:1-18, we shall want certain elements necessary for completing the sketch. I believe that all this is arranged with consummate wisdom by God, because He does not want us to read only one part of His word; He wishes us thoroughly to search into all His word. He will not give a proper understanding of holy writ, unless there be a real confidence in and value for all that He has given us. Consequently it is only by putting together these scriptures, as to which there is ample light to show what is referred to, that we can really understand the subject.
Now it is quite plain in the first part of the chapter that we have before us a mighty political power. It is equally certain that 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 describes not a vast imperial system so much as a religious power. An utterly lawless personage is the man of sin, but still essentially a religious power. It claims to itself what belongs to God; and this is precisely what we find connected with the second beast.
We may remark another feature in the symbol here. It had two horns. The reason, as I suppose, is connected with the whole testimony of John. Any one who has looked into it will see that even as to our blessed Lord Himself, the general bent is to show what He was on earth not what He is in heaven. I admit there are exceptional passages in John; but while Paul's object is to direct us to Christ in heaven, as the characteristic point of his witness, John on the contrary draws particular attention to what He was on earth.
This seems to me of importance for the meaning of these two horns. The Lord Jesus, as all are aware, was a prophet on earth; and assuredly, as we know, He will reign as king over the earth. But what lies between? He is priest; but He is priest in heaven. Accordingly it is not the place of John but of Paul to bring out the heavenly priesthood of Christ. John never, as far as I know, develops the offices of Christ above. Not but that he points out what connects itself with them, as for instance, inJohn 13:1-38; John 13:1-38, and again inJohn 14:1-31; John 14:1-31, as well as inJohn 17:1-26; John 17:1-26 and John 20:1-31. But these are quite exceptions. The general strain of John is to dwell on Christ manifesting God here below. Paul's doctrine is man glorified in heaven.
Accordingly this I believe to be the key to the two horns of the beast. When the Antichrist appears, he will not take the place of being a priest; far higher will be his assumption. He will set up to be a prophet, and a king, yea, a king imitating what Christ will be to Israel. We have two horns, not seven; it is an imitation, but not of the full power of Christ. In the Lord we see perfection of power, just as could be said of the Holy Ghost in His fulness of power for government. In the Antichrist there is the pretension to what belonged to Christ connected with the earth, and with the most marked absence of what pertains to Him in heaven.
This is no mean evidence by the way, that the idea of applying all this to the papacy as its full meaning is a mistake; for the essential feature of the papacy lies in its assumption to be a living earthly representative of Christ's priesthood. It is precisely the corruption of what is heavenly and not Messianic. Popery is much more antichurch than antichrist. Such is the difference.
But when Revelation 13:1-18 is fulfilled, there is no question of the church any longer. The Christian body will be no more seen on earth. the saints of the high places are on high. Accordingly it is not a mere sham clothing with the priestly power of Christ which the antichrist makes, but a false assumption of His prophetical place which was on the earth, and of His kingly sphere which will be on the earth. This personage claims both powers. He has two horns like a lamb, and is active in the performance of great signs and wonders. He has a double activity. First of all, he borrows the controlling influence of the Roman empire, he exercises all the authority of the first beast. Besides this, he does a vast deal on his own account which the Roman emperor could not do. "And he worketh great signs, that he should even make fire to come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men." That is, he imitates the power not only of Christ but of God. He claims to be the Jehovah God of Israel. Just as Jesus is Jehovah as well as Messiah, so this vessel of Satan's power in Jerusalem will emulate what God did by Elijah to disprove the claims of Baal. Fire, we know, came down and consumed the sacrifice of old, and God demonstrated as clearly that Baal was not God, as that Jehovah was. So the second beast will do wonders, not really, but in appearance. "He worketh great signs that he should even make fire to come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by reason of those signs which it was given him to work in the sight of the beast."
All shows that this is the antichrist. The first beast does not work any miracles whatever. He astonishes the world by reviving imperialism; but this is a very different thing and cannot properly be called a sign. It may and will amaze men, but is not a miracle. But the beast out of the earth or land, which is incomparably more active and energetic than the first, does work great signs (no doubt by Satan's energy, but still he works them); and the consequence is that he "deceiveth them that dwell on the earth," saying to them especially "to make an image to the beast, which had the stroke of the sword, and lived." I am not prepared to say whether this is or is not the abomination of desolation set up in the holy place. It seems to resemble that idol, and may probably be the same thing.
"And it was given him to give life to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark on their right hand, or on their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast. for it is a man's number; and his number [is] six hundred threescore [and] six."
The various guesses that have been made respecting this number are most inadequate. It may be that it is one of those secrets that cannot be unravelled until the person appears, when we may be sure that at least the wise will understand it. That we are to understand it now is, I think, more than we ought to assume. To what moral profit could it possibly serve? Assuredly everything that can edify and refresh the soul, and that can be used by the Holy Ghost for real blessing in separating us from the world and attaching us to heaven, and, above all, to Christ, we may gather from the Revelation rightly understood now. Indeed, I believe we can gather a great deal more than those who are to be in the circumstances will be able to reap in their day. But there may be points of minute application kept back by the wise reserve of God, who does not indulge mere curiosity, as this would be. Such knowledge will be of practical importance only when the time comes; and therefore I do not doubt that this is just one of those points in which the Lord does not gratify men's minds now. I have heard no explanation that carries any force along with it. Many of those which have been offered entirely and obviously fail for instance, "apostacy" and such like explanations. "Apostacy" is not the number of a man; nor for similar reasons can "apostate" stand, nor, perhaps, "the Latin man" or kingdom, though certainly entitled to attention. Further, it does not seem, as generally thought, to be the number of antichrist, the second beast, but of the Roman empire, or rather Emperor, in final antagonism to Jehovah and His anointed.
Next we come to Revelation 14:1-20, where we have neither the counsels of God as opposed by Satan, first in heaven and then in earth; nor the plan and instruments by which Satan gives battle to those counsels. All this we have had in chapters 12 and 13. But now we enter on another line of things. What is God doing with His own? Nothing? Impossible! All must be active and good. God, therefore, is pleased to reveal to us a variety of ways in which He will put forth His power, and send both testimony and warning suited to the crisis; and this is given with remarkable completeness throughout the seven divisions into which this chapter naturally divides itself.
The first is a certain numbered multitude separated to the Lamb on mount Zion. The Lord Jesus is about to insist on His rights in the midst of Israel; and Zion is the known centre of royal grace. Royal, I say, because it is Christ asserting His title as Son of David; but it is also royal grace., because it supposes the total ruin of Israel, and that the Lord in pure favour begins there to gather round Himself once more. This accordingly is the first form in which God displays His action for the last days. The devil may have his beasts and horns; God has His Lamb; and the Lamb now is not seen on the throne in heaven, or taking a book. He stands on mount Zion. It is a notable point of progress toward the kingdom that is clearly brought before us before the close.
"And I looked, and, lo, the Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred and forty-four thousand, having his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads." They are not spoken of as conscious of any such relationship, as it is not a question of their Father, not of His Father and their Father. Nothing of the kind is ever found in the Apocalypse but "his Father's name on their foreheads." "And I heard a voice from heaven, as a voice of many waters, and as a voice of great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: and they sing [as it were] a new song in presence of the throne, and in presence of the four living creatures and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty-four thousand, which were bought from the earth. These are they who were not defiled with women; for they are virgins."
These saints had not corrupted themselves; and the name of the Lamb is coupled with them. With Babylonish wickedness here below they had nothing to do; they were pure, and are associated with the holy Sufferer. "These are they that follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were bought from among men, first-fruits to God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault" ["before the throne of God" is spurious]. Such is the first action of God. It is a complete remnant, not said to be from the twelve tribes of Israel, such as we saw inRevelation 7:1-17; Revelation 7:1-17; but this is particularly of the Jews. They were gathered out from those guilty of rejecting the Lamb. And now. God answers all that and other wickedness by this merciful and honourable separation to the Lamb, who is now about to be installed in His royal seat on mount Zion.
The next scene gives us an angel flying. "And I saw," it is said, "another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having [the] everlasting gospel to preach unto those that sit on the earth, and unto every nation, and tribe, and tongue, and people." Why is it called "everlasting"? We must remember that the gospel which is being preached now is a very special gospel, and in no way an everlasting gospel. Nobody ever heard the gospel that is preached now till Jesus died and rose and even went to heaven. That is to say, the gospel as it should be preached in and out of Christendom depends on the most stupendous facts ever accomplished here below, for which God waited more than four thousand years even of man's dwelling on the earth before He would or could righteously send it forth. Consequently the gospel of the grace of God, as we know, is not properly (never in scripture) called the "everlasting gospel." I suspect that most use these terms without thinking what is really meant. When they call the gospel now the "everlasting gospel," they have probably some vague notion that it connects us with eternity. They think it a fine-sounding epithet, conveying I really do not know what; but at any rate it is to be supposed that there is some idea in the mind of those that so characterize "the gospel of God." It is certainly a mistake, if scripture is to decide.
"Everlasting gospel" means what it says. It means those glad tidings that always have been and always will be true: whatever else God has made known to man, this has always abode unchanging. What is it then? The glad tidings of God always were that He purposes to bless man by the promised seed Christ Jesus, to set him up over the rest of creation, to have dominion as His image and glory. At the very beginning the first chapter of Genesis proves that this is God's mind for man here below. The end of all things will proclaim the selfsame thing. The millennium will be a grand demonstrative testimony to it. In the new heavens and the new earth man will be thoroughly and for ever blest.
The declaration of this I believe to be the everlasting gospel. In the latter day it will act as the setting aside of the lie of Satan, who puts and would fain keep man in a position of estrangement from God, who is morally forced to be the judge of man instead of being the blesser of all upon the earth, and consequently to cast him into hell. All this, it is plain, is the fruit of Satan's wiles; but the everlasting gospel presents God as the blesser of man and creation, as it always was in His mind, and as He will certainly bring it to pass; not, of course, for every individual man, because those who despise His mercy in Christ, and those especially who having heard despise the gospel of His grace, must be lost for ever. I am speaking now of what always was before Him, and always kept before man in His word.
The way in which the subject is spoken of here confirms this. "Fear God," is the message, "and give glory to him" (there is thus the evident contradiction of idolatry); "for the hour of his judgment is come." Then will be the downfall of all those that oppose God, not only of all the vanities of the nations, but of all those that heed or sustain them against God. "Worship him that made heaven and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." Clearly therefore it is the universal message of God to man, and connected with His creation glory. The solemn threat of His speedy judgments is a ground of pressing on the blinded consciences of man the claim of the honour solely due to Him.
There are no doubt many who think it an extraordinary circumstance that God should send out such a message as this in days rapidly approaching. Let me say why such a difficulty is felt. It is because men conjecture and judge out of their own position and their own relationships. But never earl we understand anything aright as long as we reason and conclude thus. It is not the way to understand any part of the Bible, least of all perhaps prophecy. If it be a question of our conduct or duty, it is indispensable to stand on our proper relationship; we must abide carefully in the place that God has given us, while bowing to the word of God that applies to us there. How can we act intelligently or rightly as Christians unless we, knowing what it means, believe we are Christians? We only glorify our God and Father just so far as we look up as children to Him as our Father, and as saints own Him as our God. This is surely true. But here no Christians are said to be on earth: we have elect Jews; we have nations, along with "those that sit upon the earth." That is, there are men, apparently apostates, under the latter designation, as well as the general mass of mere nations, tribes, tongues, and peoples. It seems then that God comes down, as it were, to meet them on the lowest possible ground of His own truth. And what is that? They are called to fear God and give glory to Him; and this is on the ground that He is Judge, just about to deal with His own world. He calls upon them to abandon all that idolatry into which they will have fallen, particularly in those days.
And I have not the slightest question myself that at this present moment there is the working of a leaven that will end in idolatry, especially (if there be in this a difference) for the higher orders of this country, who will drag in the lower also. In the humbler classes there is in another way that grossness of love for sensible objects and show that will prepare them for idolatry. But I repeat that there is the active instilling of a spirit, no doubt more subtle and refined in the educated classes, which, in my judgment, will infallibly school them into naturalistic idolatry before many years are over. There is, on the one hand, the material tendency of modern science and literature; there is, on the other, the condescending patronage of times that are past. On these dangerous tracks all that is now energetically leavening the world tends to bring man back to heathenism again; i.e., the apostacy.
However this may be judged by those who hear it, we must remember that there will be also another cause of a most solemn nature, which is plainly revealed: God is going to pour out a judicial delusion on Christendom. It is certain that He will not only inflict severe blows of judgment, but give men up to believe a lie the great lie of the devil. Here is the great truth of all times: that God, the God who has now revealed Himself in Christ and by redemption, alone is the due object of worship. So far then is this message, to my mind, from being a strange thing that it appears exactly suitable to man as then situated, and no less to God's wisdom and goodness.
Another consideration perhaps may help some as connected with this, and confirmatory of it, founded on Matthew 25:1-46, where the nations are called up before the Son of man when He sits as King upon the throne. It will be remembered that he tells those whom He designates as the sheep that, inasmuch as they did what they had done to His brethren, it was really to Him; as, on the other hand, the insults fell on Him which were aimed at them. These acts of kindness, or the contrary, will be owned by the Lord here. It is no use for people to call it the general judgment, or the judgment of our works. It is not. The one principle before us in this scripture is His dealing with the living Gentiles, or the nations according to their ways with His brethren; and it will require real power of God to act aright then. The pressure against His messengers will be enormous. If any receive them well, it will be from faith. I grant that the measure of their faith is small. That to honour His brethren is virtually to honour Himself, they do not themselves know. When they stand in presence of the King, how astonished they are that He should regard what was done to the messengers of His gospel in the last days as if done to His own.
Certainly these Gentiles were wrought in by divine grace, yet very evidently they will not be what you would call "intelligent." But then how often must we beware of making too much of this! What a constant snare it is to slip into an unconscious criticism! Men are apt to give themselves an exaggerated importance on the score of their knowledge. God, I am sure, always attaches a far higher value to the heed paid to the Lord Himself, and this too in those that He sends out. It is always a crucial test. It will be so then most of all, because these messages will go forth to the nations on the earth when, growingly lifted up and self-satisfied, they are summoned by messengers, poor and contemptible in their eyes, who will solemnly proclaim the kingdom just coming the King who is coming in person to judge the quick apart from and before the judgment of the dead. But some souls here and there will receive them, not only treating them kindly, but this because they receive the message. The power of the Spirit of God alone will give them this faith. None less than God Himself will incline their heart. Accordingly the Lord will refer to this reception, or the kindness that accompanied it, as an evidence of their heeding Himself in the persons of His messengers.
This I consider to be similar, if not the same, as the everlasting gospel; indeed it is called by Matthew the "gospel of the kingdom." I am inclined to infer that the "gospel of the kingdom" and the "everlasting gospel" are substantially identical; and that it was thus described because it was always in the purpose of God to establish this kingdom over the world, and to bless man himself here below. This Matthew, in accordance with his design, calls rather the "gospel of the kingdom," because Christ is going to be King. John, it would seem, calls it the "everlasting gospel," because it is in contrast with special messages from time to time, as well as with all that bad to do with man as he is here below. At this most corrupt time, then, the message will be sent forth, and certain souls will receive it by God's grace.
Thus the second scene in the chapter is the proclamation of the everlasting gospel unto those settled down on the earth, and to the nations, etc., as the first section was the separation of a remnant of Jews to the Lamb on mount Zion.
The third section, which may be passed over with comparatively few words, is a warning respecting the fall of Babylon. An angel comes forth, saying, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, the great city, which made all the nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication."
The fourth is a warning about the beast. "And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark on his forehead, or on his hand, he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mingled without mixture in the cup of his anger; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up unto ages of ages: and they. have no rest day and night, who worship the beast and his image, and if any one receiveth the mark of his name." So far these divine dealings all go in pairs: as the work among the Jews, and then a final testimony to the Gentiles; then the warning about Babylon, and another about the beast. "Here is the endurance of the saints, that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus."
Then we come to the fifth, which is rather different. It is a declaration, that "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord from henceforth." From this time nobody that belongs to the Lord is going to die, and those that die in the Lord ( i.e. in fact all who have thus died) are just on the point of blessedness, not by personal exemption but by the first resurrection and the reign with the Lord, which will terminate all further persecution and death for His name. The wicked must pay the wages of sin, and be destroyed by the judgments of God; but there shall be no more dying in the Lord after this. As a class these are to be blessed (not to die) henceforth. "And I heard a voice out of heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed [are] the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth. Yea, saith the Spirit, that they shall rest from their labours; for their works do follow with them." There is an end of such sorrow and labour: the Lord is going to take the world and all things in hand.
Accordingly in the next scene "I saw, and, behold, a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sitting like unto [the] Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Send thy sickle, and reap; for the hour is come to reap; for the harvest of the earth is dried. And he that sat on the cloud thrust his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped." It is not here a question of gathering in. The Son of man is seen with the crown of gold, King of righteousness, not yet manifested as King of peace.
And then the close of all the scenes comes. "And another angel came out of the temple that is in heaven, having himself also a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, that had authority over the fire; and called with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Send thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripened." This goes farther. For the harvest the call was out of the temple; here it is out of the temple that is in heaven. It is not only wrath on earth but from heaven. And another angel comes out from the altar ( i.e., the place of human responsibility, where God manifests Himself to sinners in the sacrifice of Christ, judging sins but in grace). So much the more tremendous His vengeance on the earthly religionists who despise Christ and the cross in deed if not in word. This angel has authority over the fire, the sign of detective and consuming judgment. In short, we have here the harvest and the vintage, the two great forms of the judgment at the close; the harvest being that judgment that discerns between the just and the unjust, and the vintage being the infliction of unmingled wrath on apostate religion, "the vine of the earth," which is the object of God's special abhorrence.
It is plain, therefore, that here we have seven distinct acts in which God will interfere in the way of forming a testimony, of warnings to the world and comfort to His people, and finally of judging the results as far as the quick are concerned.
But a very peculiar scene is described in Revelation 15:1-8, and Revelation 16:1-21. On this one need not now bestow more than a few words. "I saw another sign in heaven." It is clearly connected with what we have had inRevelation 12:1-17; Revelation 12:1-17. "And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having seven plagues, the last; for in them is filled up the wrath of God." You will observe that it is not yet the coming of Christ. This is of importance to show the structure of this portion of the book. We must carefully beware of supposing that the seven bowls are after the Son of man is come for the harvest and the vintage of the earth. We shall find, so far from this being the case, that the vision must go back, I do not say to the beginning ofRevelation 14:1-20; Revelation 14:1-20, but before the end of it. The very last of the bowls, the seventh, is the fall of Babylon. Now that act of judgment would correspond to the third dealing of God in chapter 14. The first was the separation of the Jews; the second the everlasting gospel to the Gentiles; and the third the fall of Babylon. Thus the last bowl only brings us up to the same point. Hence the bowls must not in any way be supposed to follow after chapter 14, but only after its earlier part at the utmost. This is important, because it may help some to gather a juster idea how to place chronologically the various portions of the book. The last bowl is also the last outpouring of God's wrath before the Lord Jesus Christ comes. Consequently it must precede the latter part of that chapter. It synchronizes, we have seen, with the third out of its seven consecutive sections. The end of chapter 16 does not in point of time fall lower than the third step in those of chapter 14. The fourth probably, but certainly the fifth, sixth, and seventh are events necessarily subsequent to all the bowls.
Let us look then a little into the subject. "I saw as it were a sea of glass." but here it is distinguished in its accompaniments from the description inRevelation 4:1-11; Revelation 4:1-11. There the elders were seen on thrones, with the sea of glass bearing its silent but strong testimony that these saints had done with earthly need and danger, that those who required the washing of water by the word are not contemplated in this scene. This is all intelligible and even plain. When the glorified saints are caught up to heaven, they no longer require what was set forth by the laver and its water to purify; for the sea of glass attests that the purity was fixed. The fact is, that they were beyond the scene where water was needed to cleanse their daily defilements.
Here it is not merely a sea of glass, but mingled with fire. What does this teach? It declares, in my opinion, that these saints passed through a time of fearful fiery tribulation, as did not the elders. The absence of the fire in connection with the elders is just as significant as the presence of fire in connection with the saints in collision with the beast and the false prophet, of whom we are now speaking. If people ask you, "Are the saints to pass through the time of tribulation? The right answer is, What saints do you mean? If you mean those that are presented by the elders caught up at Christ's coming, clearly they will not. Scripture is positive. If you only mean that some saints are to pass through that tremendous time, it is unquestionable. In short, we have only to distinguish, and all becomes perfectly plain: by confounding the two classes all is made a mass of obscurity. But scripture cannot be broken.
Here then we find a sea of glass mingled with fire. "And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and those that have gained the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God." The victory over the beast is never predicated of the elders in any sort; nor is there any connection with the elders here. It is a closing scene of fearful trial. This is important. The victories here are confined to the time when Satan's last plans become consummated. These were delivered from them probably before the beast falls. At any rate, the time does not seem of prime importance, but the fact is undeniable that these conquerors belong exclusively to the time of the last efforts of the devil through the beast and the false prophet. They are strictly speaking therefore Apocalyptic saints, and the final company of them. It will be recollected that in our last lecture we saw the first sufferers. Although these may have fallen under the hand of the Roman Empire, they really got the victory over it, and are here seen standing on the sea of glass having harps of God. Their melody in praise of the Lord was none the worse for the sea of tribulation through which they had passed into His presence.
"And they sing the song of Moses, servant of God, and the song of the Lamb." Thus it is plain that they are not Christians in the strict sense of the word. Assuredly they are saints in the most real sense, but not standing in the relations which now subsist; they are not to have that sort of bond which is made good by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in those who are now in association with Christ. So exclusive is it that those who may have been under Moses are under him no more; they own no master or head save Christ, Whereas the souls of whom we read here still retain their link with Jewish things, though beyond a doubt they serve God and the Lamb. Hence we hear of them "saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, O King" not "of saints," but "of nations." There is no such thing in scripture as "King of saints." This is one of the worst readings of the vicious received text of the Revelation. I do not hesitate to say, both that it is against the best witnesses, and that it conveys a heterodox meaning, and is consequently mischievous. For what can go more practically to destroy the proper relationship of the saints of the Lord? Elsewhere we never hear of such a thing as "King of saints," nor has it any just sense. To the saints the Lord Jesus stands undoubtedly as their Lord and master; but king is a relationship with a nation living on the earth. It is not at all a connection that pertains to the new man. Besides, these if martyred belong actually to heaven, where such a relationship would be strange indeed. Thus it is strange doctrine as well as a fictitious reading. The allusion is toJeremiah 10:7; Jeremiah 10:7. There you will find "king of nations," with other words which are cited here. If these saints were not exclusively Gentiles, at least they comprehended such; and this has to be borne in mind in reading the passage. The true title then is "king of Gentiles" or of "nations." No doubt King of the Jews He is; but those in particular who were Gentiles themselves would and ought to rejoice in being able to praise Him as the King of nations.
"Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee" (here again it is not Israel, but all nations shall come); "for thy judgments are made manifest." They are anticipating the triumph that is reserved for God in the day of the glory of Christ's coming.
"And after that I saw, and there was opened the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven: and the seven angels came out of the temple, that had the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles. And one of the four living creatures gave the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who liveth unto the ages of the ages. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no one was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled." It is not now the ark of God's covenant seen in the opened temple. It is characterised as the tabernacle of the testimony, and judgments follow on apostate Gentiles, not the revelation of the divine counsels touching Israel.
Then (Revelation 16:1-21) we have these seven bowls poured out. It is not now "the third" as under the trumpets, with which the analogy is close; there is no restriction to the western empire of Rome. The whole apostate sphere is smitten, and with yet more severity. The first, as we know, was on the earth; the second on the sea; the third on the rivers and fountains of waters; and the fourth on the sun. Thus all the different departments of nature, whatever may be symbolized by them (and their meaning seems to me neither indeterminate 'nor obscure), were visited by the bowls of God's wrath.
The three later bowls, like the three woe trumpets, come to closer quarters with men.
The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast. It is clear therefore that we have here a Gentile sphere before us, which fits in with the prefatory scene. "The fifth angel poured out his bowl upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds. And the sixth angel poured out his bowl upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings that are from the sun-rising might be prepared." The Euphrates was the boundary that separated the empire on its oriental frontiers from the vast hordes of uncivilized north-eastern nations destined to come into conflict with the powers of the west in the latter day. Thus the way is made plain for them to come forward and enter into the final struggle. This seems the meaning of the drying up of the great river. "And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of demons, working signs, which go forth unto the kings of the whole habitable earth, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God the Almighty." This gives proof of what I have just now referred to. There is about to be a universal uprising and fight to the death between the east and the west. But the Lord has designs which neither side knows nor regards, and He is no indifferent spectator. "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And they" (for I take it so) "gathered them together unto the place called in the Hebrew tongue Armagedon."
Lastly comes the seventh angel, who deals with the world still more decidedly and universally by pouring on the air. "And the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done. And there were lightnings, and voices, and thunders; and there was a great earthquake" and not only great but unexampled "such as was not since men were upon the earth, such an earthquake, so great." Clearly, therefore, judgment from heaven becomes yet more unsparing in its blows on man here below. "And the great city came ( ἐγένετο ) into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon was remembered before God." This accounts for the warning of the fall of Babylon referred to in the complete series of God's dealings inRevelation 14:1-20; Revelation 14:1-20. To that Revelation 16:1-21 now brings us up in point of time.
This must suffice for tonight, though no more than a sketch of the general bearing of this part of the prophecy.
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on Revelation 16:14". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/revelation-16.html. 1860-1890.
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26