Striking similarities between the trumpets and the
Men tormented... a sore on men.
Burning mtn falls into sea... sea
turned to blood.
Great star falls on rivers/wormwood... rivers turned to
Sun, moon, stars are smitten... sun scorches men with
Darkness, smoke from abyss... Beast's kingdom full of darkness.
great host is released at Euphrates... a great host is released at
"Your wrath is come"/lightnings, voices, thunders, quakes,
hail... "the wrath of God", quakes, hail.
Trumpets = expressions of God's judgments on Israel. Vials =
expressions of God's judgments on the persecutors of Israel (WRev
Similarities between the bowls and the plagues of Egypt: (1) A
grievous sore = boils. (2) The sea as the blood of a dead man = the destruction
of Pharaoh's army in the Red Sea. (3) Rivers and fountains become blood = waters
turned to blood. (4) Sun scorches men with fire = the Shekinah Glory bringing
destruction on the Egyptians. (5) Darkness in both. (6) Unclean spirits like
frogs = the plague of frogs. (7) Hail, with fire: A great hail out of heaven;
thunders, lightnings, "and the fire ran along the ground" (Exo 9:23).
The effect: they repented not (vv 9,11), they blasphemed God
(vv 9,11,21). The effect: Pharaoh hardened his heart: "Who is the Lord, that I
should obey him?"
This suggests the pouring of sacrificial blood at the base of
the altar. This was done with the blood of the burnt-offering. This figure is
also used for the self-consecration and martyrdom of God's witnesses (Rev
UGLY AND PAINFUL SORES: Cp affliction of Philistines --
who had ark in their midst (1Sa 5:9; Zec 14:12).
First bowl (CH): "This chapter outlines by symbol the
importance of the international events that followed the French revolution, and
which have played a part in the development of current events that are leading
to Armageddon... Foreign armies massed on the borders of France, forcing the
revolutionaries to take up weapons against their enemies. The most successful
French general was Napoleon. Despite revolution within and attacks without, his
military skill resulted in outstanding victories throughout Europe. Within the
borders of this Roman territory Napoleon gained his victories, particularly
against those countries 'which had the mark of the beast, or worshipped his
image', ie Roman Catholics. He invaded Catholic countries and wrought
devastation wherever he went" (ApEp).
SEA... BLOOD: Pharaoh's army in Red Sea.
Second bowl: (CH) "As the conquests of Napoleon and of France
extended throughout Europe, Great Britain took up the challenge. The French were
no match for the British on the seas, and Europe was blockaded by the Fleet. The
victories of Hood, Howe, and Nelson, from 1793 onwards, established the
supremacy of the British Navy, and Napoleon found himself shut up in Europe. The
circulation of sea-traffic stagnated as the British blockaded the seas against
Napoleon-dominated Europe" (ApEp).
RIVERS... OF BLOOD: Nile turned to blood.
" 'Rivers and fountains of water' is a phrase which points, as
it did there, to the Land of Palestine (cp Ezek 6:3, and also Rev 7:17, where
the type of a wilderness journey requires that 'fountains of water' be
associated with the Land of Promise).
So also Isa 30:25. The prophecy speaks of a time when 'the
people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem; thou shalt weep no more: he shall be
very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry... in the day when the Lord
bindeth up the hurt of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound (ct
here the First Vial).' Embedded in this picture of future blessing: 'there shall
be upon every high mountain, and upon every high hill, rivers and streams of
waters in the day of the great slaughter when the towers fall.' Since the
context speaks of such abundant blessing on Israel, this must surely be the
obverse side of the picture -- judgement on Israel's enemies. For them the
conquest of the Land of Promise is to mean not 'living fountains of waters' but
the drinking of their own blood, ie self-destruction by some of the foul
diabolical means in which the scientific staff of every 'great' nation
specializes in these days. This idea of the punishment of the nations by their
own fiendish weapons is to be found over and over again in the prophets: Hag
2:22; Zec 14:13; Ezek 38:21. It is implicit in the phrase: 'as in the day of
Midian': Isa 9:4; Jdg 7:22. It is enacted in type also: 2Ch 20:23; Joel 3:12. It
is not made clear how this tumult that is to be among them from the Lord will
come about, but they who have found pleasure in the death of saints and prophets
will now turn with equal zeal and efficiency to the destroying of their fellows"
FOUNTAINS: Nuclear, chemical, and/or biological
pollution of water sources?
(CH): Third bowl: " 'The rivers and fountains of
waters' = the Alpine districts of southern Europe. By 1796 Napoleon was
acknowledged as the saviour of France, and wielded tremendous influence. He
invaded Italy, and though opposed by an Austrian army in the Alpine district, he
decisively defeated it, and pressed on. His object was to open a highway from
France to Italy via Sardinia. The Papal States trembled before his power and
sued for peace. It was granted to them on ignominious terms. Austria (then the
most powerful nation of Central Europe) and Russia combined against Napoleon,
but their joint army was soundly beaten. By these means the Alpine districts
'became as blood' " (ApEp).
BLOOD TO DRINK: Their own blood (Isa 49:26)!
Vv 8,9: "The Fourth Vial describes the sun scorching men with
great heat so that they blaspheme God because of the plague. Apt as this may be
to Napoleon taking the horrors of war far and wide, it is still just as
appropriate to the evil ambitions of any other power-hungry dictator. The
Napoleonic wars were no more efficient than (say) World Wars I and II in their
encouragement of atheism and blasphemy. If anything, the reverse was true. For
in many parts of Europe the Napoleonic wars were followed by the biggest revival
of religion the world has ever known, with the possible (if doubtful) exception
of the Reformation. This Vial, then, must surely describe something so
sensationally different and horrible as to provoke an inevitable reaction of
blasphemy against the God of heaven. The precise form of fulfilment -- still
further -- is largely a matter of guesswork.
"In these days of feverish scientific research it may well
prove that either nuclear flash-burn or advances in laser-beam technique or the
diabolical harnessing of specially orbited satellites or devices for
concentrating the fierce heat of the sun in some horribly destructive way will
bring a fulfilment of this Vial prophecy which it was beyond the power of an
earlier generation even to imagine" (WRev).
Fourth bowl: (CH) "War engulfed Europe. On May 18, 1804,
Napoleon was proclaimed Emperor of France. The following year Austria, Russia
and England declared war on the French. Taking the initiative, Napoleon marched
against Austria, and on Dec 2, 1805, decisively defeated the Austrians and
Russians at Austerlitz. In 1806, the Holy Roman Empire (over which the Emperor
of Austria exercised civil authority) was dissolved, and replaced by the German
Federation comprising the powers of Central Europe.
"Prussia entered the lists against Napoleon and was defeated
at Jena on Oct 13, 1806. Russia, honoring its obligations, also marched against
Napoleon, but was also defeated and turned back. Everywhere the French were
victorious, notwithstanding the forces mobilised by Austria. Men were scorched
by the great heat of war thus generated" (ApEp).
Vv 10,11: Cp Mar 13:24; Joel 2:2,10,31; 3:15; Zec 14:6,7; Zep
1:14,15; Amo 8:9; Isa 13:9,10.
"Here is a darkness, which brings pains and sores on a
blaspheming multitude. Is this some 'back-room' device which has not been let
loose yet? Or is it the portentous effect of a Velikovskian comet? There are
other Scriptures, which lead the Lord's watchmen to look for a day of unnatural
darkness. 'The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light'
(Mark 13:24). 'A day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick
darkness' (Joel 2:2; and in three other places: Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15). 'And it
shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark; but
it shall be one day that shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night; but it
shall come to pass that at evening time it shall be light' (Zec 14:6,7). Other
similar prophecies are Zep 1:14,15; Amos 8:9; Isa 13:9,10; 5:30.
"This is understandable enough in itself, since for comparison
there is the period of intense darkness at the crucifixion of Jesus. Then, as in
the plagues on Egypt, darkness was an expression of heaven's anger. The point
hardly needs to be underlined here! (cp Rev 15:7). The darkness of the Fifth
Vial brings 'pains and sores', but no repentance. Perhaps there is connection
here with a mysterious passage in Zechariah which has commonly been explained
with reference to nuclear warfare: 'Their flesh shall consume away while they
stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and
their tongues shall consume away in their mouth' (Zec 14:12). Revelation says:
'they gnawed their tongues for pain' (Rev 16:10).
"But if Biblical resemblances go for anything, there is a more
particular application for this vial. For the only place where Scripture has
similar phraseology is in the parable of the sower!: 'Some fell upon stony
places where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they
had no deepness of earth. And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and
because they had no root, they withered away.' Jesus interprets thus: 'The same
is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he (it,
the word?) no root in himself, but endureth for a while: for when tribulation or
persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended' "
Fifth bowl: (CH) "The civil and religious authority of the
beast was vested in the Emperor of Austria and the Pope of Rome, respectively.
This joint authority was temporarily brought to an end by Napoleon, and the Holy
Roman Empire was dissolved. Pope Pius VI had supported England against Napoleon,
and in retaliation, Napoleon had seized the 3 Papal States of Italy. The Pope
protested and proclaimed an edict of excommunication against the
"Napoleon invaded Italy, and in 1798 arrested the Pope, and
took him prisoner to France.
"Then commenced a period of persecution against the Church.
Its territorial possessions and monastaries were confiscated, the sacerdotal
vestments of the Pope and his Cardinals were burnt, the Papal Palace was
"A new Pope was elected in 1800. On May10, 1809, having
brought the Austrian army to almost ruin, a triumphant Napoleon again entered
Vienna, and Pope Pius VII submitted and crowned Napoleon King of Italy -–
but afterwards excommunicated him.
"He, was also arrested by Napoleon, and taken prisoner to
Savona in 1809. The Temporal Power of the Papacy was abolished. Later the Pope
removed to Fontainbleu.
"Meanwhile, Napoleon invaded Russia where he had experienced
severe reverses. He had exceeded the commission Apocalyptically given him, which
was to torment Catholic Europe. So long as he did this he experienced successes,
but in invading Russia, he went beyond the limits of this, and sustained an
"With his army sadly reduced in Num, Napoleon was attacked by
a confederacy of nations including Britain, and decisively defeated in 1814. He
was banished to isolation, and with this imprisonment his power was brought to
"Meanwhile, the Pope was restored to Rome by Protestant Powers
who desired to see political stability in Europe once again. One Historian
wrote: 'Catholicity having deserted him (the Pope) four heretical kings (those
of Russia, Prussia, England and Sweden) bore the Pope back to Rome' "
"A parody of the Day of Atonement for those who worship the
Beast instead of God" (WRev 198).
The symbology of this section of the prophecy is based upon
the historical overthrow of Babylon by the Medes and Persians under Cyrus the
Great. They converged on the city, and diverted the course of the river
Euphrates which flowed underneath its walls. Confident that the city could
withstand any attack the people were taken off guard and were, in fact, engaged
in revelry ad feasting as the enemy secretly invaded it along the dry
watercourse (Dan 5).
KINGS FROM THE EAST: Jews, held in Russia and north
country, Egypt and Assyria, but delivered from captivity when the Euphrates is
dried up (ie Isa 11:15,16).
Vv 12-14: Sixth bowl (CH): "The 6th Trumpet saw the inundation
of the Euphratian flood over the Middle-East (Rev 9:13-14); the 6th vial
witnesses its evaporation.
"The great river Euphrates" = the Turkish Empire (cp Rev
9:13-14). The Euphrates is the principal river of Turkey, as the Nile is that of
Egypt, or the Thames that of England.
"The 6th vial commenced in 1820-1823. This was 1,290 years
after the decree of Justinian in 533 that helped so much to consolidate the
power of Babylon the Great (see Dan 12:11).
"At the height of its power, the Turkish Empire extended deep
into Europe, occupied part of southern Russia, dominated the whole of the Middle
East, including Egypt and Arabia, and extended as far as North Africa.
"But gradually the Empire 'dried up', nation after nation
revolted and gained its independence.
"In 1820, Greece rebelled against its Turkish overlords, and
in 1827, through the intervention of England, France, and Russia, it gained its
independence. This revolt sparked off a series of events which gradually reduced
the scope and influence of the Turkish Empire.
"In 1826, the Janisaries (professional Turkish soldiers) were
massacred in an effort to reform the army. In 1828, Turkey antagonised Russia
who annexed Wallachia and Moldavia, and assisted Serbia to gain her
independence. In 1829, France occupied Algiers in Africa which was until then
under Turkish power.
"In 1832 Egypt revolted, but the revolt was crushed by the
intervention of Britain, Russia, Austria and Prussia. In 1842 Algiers was
annexed by France. In 1853 the Crimean war commenced. In 1881 France annexed
Tunisia. In 1882 Britain occupied Egypt. In 1897 the Graeco-Turkish war broke
out. In 1908 Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Bulgaria
claimed her independence. In 1911 Italy occupied Tripoli. In 1912-1913 the
Balkan war commenced, which reduced the possessions of Turkey in Europe to a
limited zone around Constantinople and Adrianople.
"In 1914-18 the Great War was fought in which Turkey
unexpectedly sided with the Central Powers, and lost Arabia, Palestine, Syria,
etc. and had her European territory further reduced to Constantinople.
"As a result of this the doors of Palestine swung open to
receive Jews, and the return of the exiles commenced.
"Thus, slowly but surely, the once mighty Turkish Empire has
been dried up until now but a comparatively small stream flows. The final and
complete evaporation will take place when Russia moves south against Turkey as
is predicted in Dan 11:40. The Euphratean flood will then be completely dried up
and Russia will occupy Constantinople" (ApEp).
THREE EVIL SPIRITS THAT LOOKED LIKE FROGS: "The French
used 2 heraldic symbols: 3 Frogs and 3 Lilies. The 3 frogs constituted the
heraldic symbol of the French people as distinct from the 3 lilies, which were
used to represent the Bourbon rulers of France. The Bourbons adopted the symbol
of the 3 lilies over 3 frogs to indicate their power over the people.
"Pharamond, who reigned in Treves in 420, adopted the symbol
of 3 frogs on his shield; Childeric, king of the Franks, who reigned in 456,
struck a medal with the frog as his symbol; the Banner of Clovis (son of
Childeric and first 'Christian' king of France -- 466-511) used the symbol of 3
frogs as representing the army of France (Tapestry in the Cathedral of
"The Franks originated from the marshy lands of Westphalia, so
that the symbol of 'frogs' is appropriate to the origin of the people. 'Spirits
like frogs' relate, however, to the doctrine that emerged from the French
people, rather than the people themselves, for 'spirit' is sometimes used for
teaching (1Jo 4:1-3).
"The French Revolution gave opportunity for the French people
to manifest their teaching peculiar to them.
"Stemming from it, revolutionary ideas swept Europe, and gave
birth to the Communism of Karl Marx. 'Spirits like frogs' is an apt symbol for
Communism, for the noisy frog can well be likened to that type of vain
loquacious talker and agitator who fills the air with his croaking, deluding and
seducing the minds of men.
"France, like the revolutionary communistic doctrine it helped
to bring to birth, has been a disturbing factor in European politics during the
last 160 years. The '3 unclean spirits like frogs' thus denotes the doctrine of
Communism which is described in the successive verses of this chapter as being a
disruptive influence in European politics.
"The Dragon is emblematic of the Roman Empire (Rev 12) with
its headquarters in Constantinople. The time is coming when Russia will occupy
Constantinople (Dan 11:40). From it there shall then issue forth proclamations
that will play a part in the development of the war described in v 14.
"The 'beast of the earth' of Rev 13:11 is symbolic of the Holy
Roman Empire. This was Germanic in character, so that today, its 'mouth' can be
said to be in Berlin...
" 'The mouth of the false prophet' = Rome. Scripture indicates
that some alliance between Catholicism and Communism can be expected. This will
be followed by a 'frog-like spirit' leading to war, emerging from the
headquarters of the Church" (ApEp).
Jewish law: Men of temple guard, if they fell asleep on duty,
were stripped of clothing, beaten, and sent home naked thru streets.
BEHOLD, I COME LIKE A THIEF!: The words seem to be
decisive that the Vials, like the Thunders (Rev 14:13,14), belong to the time of
the return of Christ. There are several indications, which will be mentioned as
the exposition proceeds, that these just judgments will, in the main, be located
in the Land of Palestine. Yet they are being poured out on the enemies of God,
who have overrun and pour out the vials of the wrath of God 'upon the Land' (v
1). Several Scriptures use remarkably similar language, and help to fix the
application of this prophecy.
These seven angels are readily equated with the deliverers of
Israel foretold in Mic 5:5: 'And this man (the Messiah) shall be our peace, when
the Assyrian shall come into our Land: and when he shall tread in our palaces
then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men.' Here,
instead of saying 7 + 8 =15, it is more in accordance with Bible idiom to say 7
+ 1 = 8, the Messiah and his seven archangels.
Christ is portrayed often -- he even portrays himself -- as a
"thief" in the NT, in connection with his Second Coming (Mat 24:42-44; Luk
12:39,40; 1Th 5:2,4,6; 2Pe 3:10; Rev 3:3; 16:15). This may seem extraordinary,
since stealing is a sin, and a "thief" therefore must be a sinner -- and how
could Christ be a sinner? (A similar question might be asked: how could Christ
compare himself to a serpent: John 3:14; Num 21:7-9? But that's another story!)
However, there is one instance when a "thief" is not committing a crime, and
that is when he is simply reclaiming (by stealth or surprise) what is rightfully
his (cp David and his men, who followed the Amalekites and retrieved their
kidnapped families and stolen goods: 1Sa 30!). And that seems to be exactly the
point in these NT instances also: Christ when he returns will be merely taking
back what is rightfully his! The true "thieves" will be seen to be those
servants who ate his bread and drank his wine and enjoyed themselves in
leisurely consuming that which belonged to their Master (see the parable in Mat
24:48-51 and Luk 12:45-47). Their mistake -- and it was a crucial one -- was in
forgetting they were mere stewards or caretakers, and instead supposing that all
their Master's properties belonged to them, and acting accordingly! So, if we
are to be sure that Christ does not come as a "thief" to us, we must not act as
"thieves" ourselves now, stealing from him what is rightfully his. We must
remember that all we possess really belongs to the One who is our true Lord and
Master; that we merely hold it all in trust, to be used to serve him.
ARMAGEDDON: "Armageddon" probably signifies 'the
mountain of Megiddo". But other related passages -- many of them (eg, Joel 3;
Zec 12; 14; Eze 25; 36; Oba; Rev 11) -- point to Jerusalem (about 70 miles
south) as the site of the last great battle. The (probable) parallel account in
Joel 3 records the battle of "the day of the LORD" as occurring in the "valley
of Decision", which Joel 3:2 says is the Valley of Jehoshaphat, just outside
So will the last great battle be at Megiddo, or Jerusalem? Is
this a discrepancy? Or will there be two separate battles? Or is there another
explanation? Notice that this verse states only that the kings (who will fight
in the great battle described in Rev 16) will be assembled at Megiddo. This
accords well with the strategic importance of the Plain of Jezreel, where
Megiddo is situated. The order of battle of a large army coming from the north
-- or from the east or west, for that matter -- can be organized in detail in
this area. From Jezreel a force can advance by any one of three main routes: (1)
through the pass at Megiddo to the coast, (2) directly south across the central
range, or (3) through Bethshean south down the Jordan Valley. Or it can launch
three simultaneous attacks from different directions.
"The most significant passage in Bible prophecy where this
place is mentioned is in the LXX of Isa 10:28, where the progress of the great
Invader of the Last Days (foreshadowed by Sennacherib's Assyrian invasion) is
detailed: 'He cometh to Aiath; he is passed through Megiddo.' The context is
suggestive: 'And the Lord of hosts shall stir up a scourge for him according to
the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb' (v 26). The allusion is to Gideon's
rout of Arab invaders near Megiddo. That the Sixth Vial has to do with invasion
of Israel has always been clearly recognized" (WRev).
INTO THE AIR: "In the past generation much has been
made of the relevance of this phrase to the horrific development of aerial and
rocket warfare in recent years. This has a high degree of appropriateness to the
context: 'the cities of the nations fell.. and there fell upon men a great hail
out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent.' Even the language of v
20 is closely relevant to this theme, for whilst islands and mountains have not
literally 'fled away', it is palpably true that oceans are no longer barriers to
travel or to the transportation of armies, neither do mountain ranges provide
the protection from invasion which once made them a great defensive
"There is, perhaps, a further implication. In a somewhat
obscure passage (Eph 2:2) the apostle Paul refers to 'the prince of the power of
the air', in a context which stresses the depravity of mankind. In many places
in Greek literature the word 'air' is used in the sense of 'gloom'. This
particular association of ideas is encouraged by the parallel passage in the
twin epistle: 'the power of darkness' (Col 1:13).
"Perhaps, then, the Seventh Vial is introduced thus because it
represents a climax of judgement against all the powers of evil. The 'It is
done' is spoken even before these titanic events take place. The mere fact that
this angel of judgement has symbolically poured out his Vial, like blood at the
base of the altar, means the inevitability of these grim events. There will be
no Abraham to intercede on behalf of this godless civilization which has long
ago written its own indictment in the books of God" (WRev).
A SEVERE EARTHQUAKE: Earthquakes accompany awesome
manifestations of God: Exo 19:18; Jdg 5:4; Psa 77:18; 114:4; Isa 2:10-22; Jer
4:24; Eze 38:20; Joe 3:16; Amo 9:1,5; Zec 14:4; Rev 6:12; 11:19;