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Revelation 16

SUMMARY.--The Seven Angels Directed to Pour Out God's Wrath. The First Vial and the Grievous Ulcers. The Second Poured Out upon the Sea. The Third Vial on the Rivers. The Fourth upon the Sun; Its Scorching Heat. The Fifth Poured on the Seat of the Beast. The Sixth on the Great River, Euphrates. The Three Unclean Spirits. Armageddon. The Seventh Vial Poured on the Air. The Great City Falls.

      Napoleon had broken the spell of Rome. He taught the world that the power of the Popes might be successfully dared; a noteworthy service to the human race. The Pope, from that time, ceased to be a powerful factor in the control of nations. But, notwithstanding these scourgings, the Papacy has not abated its exorbitant and blasphemous pretensions. "They repented not to give God glory."

      10, 11. The fifth angel poured out his vial upon the throne of the beast. By the throne of the beast must be meant the seat of his power. There are few students of the Bible, whether Catholic or Protestant, who deny that Italy and Rome are the throne of the great world power of which the seven-headed beast is the symbol. Then, the scene of the calamities of the fifth vial will be Italy and Rome. That has been the seat of the beast for 1300 years. In the very seat of his power the beast shall receive a blow that will fill his kingdom with darkness, and those who worship him with anguish. Something shall occur that will cause great dismay and anguish to the Roman priesthood and devotees. Have any changes occurred in Italy and Rome which have caused them to gnaw their tongues in pain?

      In the year 1848 the people of Rome arose in rebellion to the Papal authority and drove Pius IX. into exile. A few months later he was restored by a French army. Nor did he dare remain when restored, save under the protection of French bayonets. With a French garrison he continued to rule his circumscribed territory until 1870. In that year France was compelled to withdraw her soldiers to defend her soil from German invasion. That was the opportunity of Italy. The Papal army was scattered by the soldiers of Victor Emmanuel; the Pope shut himself in the Vatican, and Rome became the capital of new Italy. The temporal power of the Pope is gone forever. The Italian government has seized upon the overgrown possessions of the church. The lands it claimed have been confiscated, monasteries and convents have been closed, and universal religious toleration declared. Protestant churches and schools are founded in Rome itself, and statues have been erected under the shadow of the Vatican to martyrs whom the Papacy had slain. It is said they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not. What better illustration of this than that the Pope has been declared infallible!

      That the reader may see that there is beyond doubt something in the symbolism which points to such a fulfillment as has been suggested above I will quote an old work cited by Albert Barnes, written by Robert Flemming and published in 1701, nearly two hundred years ago. It is called the Apocalyptic Key, and contains the following on the fifth vial: "The fifth vial which is to be poured out on the seat of the beast, or the dominions which belong more immediately to, and depend upon, the Roman See; that I say this judgment will begin about A. D. 1794, and expire about A. D. 1848." As a matter of fact Bonaparte invaded Italy in 1796, and in 1848 the Pope was driven from Rome. Since that date, though returned and protected by the French until 1870, his temporal power has been at an end.

      12. And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up. The angel of the sixth trumpet is connected with the river Euphrates ( 9:14 ). There a movement is symbolized which ends in the overthrow of the Eastern Roman Empire, the old Roman world power. Here a movement is probably signified which will work to the same end in the case of the Roman dominion revived in the Papal world power. The river Euphrates was the seat of the great city which once oppressed Israel and carried God's people into captivity. It was taken by Cyrus, God's chosen agent, and the means employed was the drying up of the Euphrates. Cyrus turned the river, which ran through the city, unto new channels, dried up the old bed, then marched in this bed under the walls where they crossed the river on arches, and took the city. In some way the drying up of the Euphrates shall overthrow, or tend to overthrow, spiritual Babylon. Possibly this may be accomplished by the exhaustion of the resources of that power. The nations which once supplied them have been falling away. That the way might be made ready for the kings that come from the sunrising. In the infancy of the Christ, the wise men of the East, also called kings in the Psalms, came to offer homage to the kingly child. The prophecy implies that when this obstacle is removed, the way of the inhabitants shall be opened. The drying up of the Euphrates will, in some manner, open the way for those that are signified to come to Christ, as those of the old did to the manger.

      13-16. I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon. Let the reader observe there is an alliance of three powers described as the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. From their mouths came three unclean spirits, like frogs, who go forth to the kings of the earth, rally their forces under the banners of the three allied powers, and march them to the battle of the great day of the Almighty. We have met these three powers before, and know that these are really one, animated by one spirit, but appearing in different forms. The dragon, the Satan ( chapter 12 ), wars against the woman, in the form of old Pagan Rome; he then ( chapter 13 ) transfers this warfare to the seven-headed beast, the political world power shown both in the form of Imperial and Papal Rome; this power was supported, reanimated when about to perish, by the lamb-like dragon who is the false prophet ( 13:11 ). As it were frogs (Revision). Unclean, loathsome, suggesting the plagues of Egypt. 14. For they are the spirits of devils. The Greek is "demons." They are demoniacal influences, and will show forth false miracles by which to deceive men. Unto the kings of the whole world. They will marshal their forces for the last conflict. The conflict that shall then take place will decide the fate of Babylon. The drying up of the Euphrates will prepare the way for its destruction. For an account of the battle of that great day, see Revelation 19:11 Revelation 19:19 . 15. Behold, I come as a thief. This is interposed in order to give a place for exhortation to be always ready. The Lamb comes when men do not see him. 16. They gathered them (Revision). The three unclean spirits. To a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon. If this is a literal conflict of arms the place where it will take place is probably indicated. Probably the conflict will be moral and spiritual. The place named is not only Hebrew, but is a famous spot in Hebrew history. Armageddon means simply the hill Megiddo. Upon the Hill Megiddo was fought the battle in which King Josiah was slain. It was in the midst of the battle-ground of Israel. The plain of Esdraelon, the depression between Judea and Galilee, was tracked with armies. If Ezekiel 37:8-17 is understood literally, it signifies that Palestine will be the theatre of this struggle, but of all these passages I am inclined to believe that they have a spiritual signification. The Israel of Ezekiel represents the church, the true Israel. Armageddon, the battle-ground of Israel, is used metaphorically to describe the great conflict of the Israel of God.

      17-21. And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air. From Eph. 2:2 we learn that the air is the region of the power of evil The fifth vial was poured upon the seat of the beast; the seventh on the seat of the dragon. Came a great voice. The voice so often heard but not seen. Whether the divine voice or not, it speaks the divine will. It is done. It is finished. The work is complete. The seventh vial brings the work to an end. 18. There were voices, and thunders, etc. See Revelation 8:5 Revelation 11:19 . These features accompany the tremendous movements of the divine will. A great earthquake. A mighty agitation, and rupturing such as was never seen before. Society will be upheaved to its very foundations. 19. And the great city. The great spiritual Babylon, the woman that sitteth on the beast ( 17:5 ). Was divided into three parts. It was broken asunder, and shaken into pieces by the great upheaval. It is difficult to settle what is meant by three parts. Perhaps the three "evil spirits" ( verse 13 ), which represent the dragon, the beast and the false prophet, are henceforth parted from each other. If this should be signified, it would mean that worldly government would henceforth be rescued from Satan's influence, and that spiritual powers would never henceforth give homage to the world. Great Babylon came in remembrance. The wrath of God is poured out because of her sins. 20. And every island fled away. Islands and mountains denote earthly powers. Perhaps the meaning is that the old lines between states and nations shall pass away, and that henceforth there shall be one nation, one kingdom, one people, that of Jesus Christ. 21. There fell upon men a great hail out of heaven. Upon the men who were judged and punished. Hail is a symbol of God's judgment. Hailstones of such weight signify awful judgments. The men blasphemed God. Not all men, but the men punished. In Revelation 16:9 Revelation 16:11 it is declared that they repented not, and here it is again implied that they were incorrigible. The thought is that they perish in impenitence.

      It might be added that Robert Flemming, who in 1701 so accurately forecasted the fate of the Papacy (see statement in notes on the fifth vial) places the seventh in A. D. 1900.

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