As we saw in the last post, chapter 16 teaches us that God will execute
His final judgment on the Beast-worshipers by turning nature itself against them.
First Century believers saw this in terms of ancient Babylon’s fall and Rome’s future destruction. John uses these images to describe the final destruction of the world-system at the end. “[Beale] has argued that John’s vision takes the account of the historical fall of Babylon, relates it backward to the defeat of Pharaoh at the Red Sea, and uses it typologically to predict the fall of the latter-day Babylonian world system.” (see Beale, p. 351, below)
I. The final judgment strikes Beast’s throne, so that darkness descends upon the servants of the Beast. vss. 10-11
vs. 10 The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish 11 and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.
“Thrones” is used by John to symbolize the “stronghold of Satan” at Pergamum in Rev. 2:13 I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
The “beast’s throne” here is symbolic of “the seat of the worldwide dominion of the great satanic system of idolatry.” By this plague, this system is plunged into darkness. This may be: (1) physical darkness; (2) spiritual darkness. It seems that #2 option is the best. This spiritual darkness plunges the world into chaos and confusion.
Note carefully, the sores are still on the bodies of the beast-worshipers. This lends credence to the view that the bowls are poured out in rapid succession. Once again, the beast-worshipers “curse God.” The reason for their cursing is their pain (ponōn) and sores (helkōn). They refuse to pray for help. They are autonomous to the last. They also refuse to repent of their works. They persist in their wicked deeds. As Mounce points out, “they take on the character of the false god they serve.”
Compare Hosea 9:10—Like grapes in the wilderness, I found Israel. Like the first fruit on the fig tree in its first season, I saw your fathers. But they came to Baal-peor and consecrated themselves to the thing of shame, and became detestable like the thing they loved.
II. The final judgment strikes the servants of the Beast to deceive them into thinking they could fight God and annihilate His people. vss. 12-16.
vs. 12 The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east.
The Euphrates River was the location of the ancient kingdom of Babylon. Babylon is “the great anti-God throne.” It is symbolic of satanic opposition to God and his people. The Euphrates River was the location from which the Eastern hordes were to invade Israel—symbol of God’s people in the New Testament. In this passage the reference to the Euphrates dying up points to that time in the end when “the unseen rulers of this world” are preparing to do battle with God. He describes the last, great eschatological battle between Satan and God in terms of Israel’s ancient warfare and enemies. This passage does not describe a future invasion of the nation of Israel.
vs. 13 And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. 14 For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty.
The Second Coming has already begun at this point, the church has been removed, and the righteous dead raised before the wrath of God falls. The Beast and his servants haven’t had time or the sense to realize their “enemies” have slipped away.
“The world’s rulers gather for the war only because the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet have deceived them. From those three villains’ mouths spring three demonic spirits in the form of frogs.” (see Johnson, D. E., below.)
This is the description of a demonic invasion of this world by the spirits that drive Satan’s kingdom on earth. Frogs are unclean animals that were avoided by the Jews, and which symbolize demonic spirits. In this passage, the beast from the land is called “the False Prophet.” Under this Judgment, the evil forces are merely gathered for battle, not actually engaging in battle. This will come under the 7th bowl. “The unclean spirits proceed from the mouths of the unholy triumvirate, suggesting the persuasive and deceptive propaganda which in the last days will lead men to an unconditional commitment to the cause of evil.” (see Mounce, blow.) Compare I Kings 22:19-23—
19 And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; 20 and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. 21 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ 22 And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ 23 Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you.” (see ESV below; emphasis mine.)
The demons perform signs—sémeion, the standard word in the Gospels and Acts for “miracles.” The “signs” of the demons are “counterfeit miracles.” They entice the world’s leaders to do battle with God and his people. “World” is oikomenē—inhabited earth.” So this plague affects unrepentant men.
vs. 15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”)
This passage connects the Second Coming of Christ with the last Battle of Armageddon. “Nakedness” was a sign of shame in the Old Testament. There is a need for constant vigilance in order to be prepared for the Second Coming.
vs. 16 And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Har-mageddon.
The proper name in Hebrew referred to is Har (“hill of”) Megiddo. Megiddo was a city located in the northern Israel. It was geographically strategic in the ancient world. The problem facing the reader is that there is no literal place known as “the Hill (har) of Megiddo.” Armageddon, like Babylon, is a symbol. Armageddon is symbolic of the last, great eschatological battle. It is not a geographical location.
Picture of Megiddo today above. I have visited it 45 years ago. It is not a mountain, but a “tell”—a mound of dirt that has risen because city after city has been built on top of one another. (Image by
“Har-Mageddon is symbolic of the final overthrow of all forces of evil by the might and power of God. The great conflict between God and Satan, Christ and Antichrist, good and evil, which lies behind the perplexing course of history will in the end issue in a final struggle in which God will emerge victorious and take with him all who placed their faith in him. This is Har-Mageddon.” (see Johnson, D. E., below.)
III. The final judgment culminates in the total destruction of the world system along with the servants of the beast. Vss. 17-21.
vs. 17 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake.
Panoramic view of San Francisco after earthquake and fire damage from Stanford Mansion site, April 18–21, 1906. (public domain image from Wikipedia.)
These cataclysmic events “symbolize the destruction of all the anti-God forces at work in the world.” “Earthquake” is seismos—”shaking.” Compare Hebrews 12:26b-27—26 …“Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.
“The Seventh Vial: the earthquake and destruction on earth”
Public Domain Image from 13th Century
vs. 19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath.
“It is wrong to separate the great city from the cities of the nations. Nor does the subsequent reference to Babylon imply yet another city. The division of the great city into three parts indicates the completeness of its destruction. That all the cities of the nations fall with [the great city] indicates the dominant role of the great capital in its network of imperial communications.” (see Mounce, below.) This is the description of Babylon being judged for her wicked treatment of God’s people. The specific details will be given in chapters 17 and 18.
vs. 20 And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. 21 And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe.
“John signals the approach of the “new heavens and new earth” by describing the breakup of the old order. Compare the language here with Rev. 6:12ff.
We will move on to chapter 17 next week.
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation)
Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.
ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com
Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).
Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.
Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
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