Revelation Chapter 16
Revelation chapter 16 describes the seven last plagues that happen just before the Second Coming. Many people see these future events as a very scary time. And while, in a sense, it may be that, and for the lost, it surely will be, for those who trust God it will be a time of great expectation and looking for the soon return of the Savior and a time to trust in Him completely. I would suggest that if you do find this topic scary that you read some of the Psalms such as Psalm 46 which includes:
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Psa 46:1)
Also, Psalm 91 which includes:
"A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee." (Psa 91:7)
An introduction to the plagues of Revelation chapter 16 is given in the preceding chapter. We are told that the seven last plagues have something to do with God's wrath which is explored in many places on this site. Let's now begin a verse-by-verse study of the plagues.
"And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth." (Rev 16:1)
Where are the Vials Poured Out?
While verse 1 says that they are poured upon the earth, let's consider where the vials are poured out in their individual descriptions:
In the case of the first plague, it could be understood that the vial actually contains sores because when it is poured out "there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men." But the rest of the plagues don't read that way.
In the case of the fourth plague, this looks like a contradiction. Verse 1 says that the vials are poured upon the earth and verse 8 says the fourth vial is poured upon the sun.
This can be understood by looking at the word "earth" in the phrase "upon the earth" in verse 1. It is translated from the Greek word "ge" which is also translated "world" in Rev 13:3 - "... all the world (ge) wondered after the beast." Of course, it is not the world as in the planet that is wondering after the beast but, rather, the people of the world. A similar understanding can be seen in many parables where "earth" represents the people of the earth. And this, of course, is very key to the understanding of that phrase "in the heart of the earth" connected to the resurrection that I speak of in my book In the Heart of the Earth: The Secret Code That Reveals What Is In the Heart of God.
So, really, the plagues are poured out upon the people of the earth. It is the people that feel the effects. It is the people who have rejected God. It is the people of the earth that God longs to have turn back to Him and trust Him.
What Do the Vials Actually Contain?
Here is what the verses say:
I say "apparent" contents because, while that is what is described as appearing or happening after each vial is poured out, we are actually told what they (all of them) contain:
"And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever." (Rev 15:7)
The plagues will literally happen but we need to recognize that there is much symbolism involved. The way it is written is that the contents of each vial are poured out - and they all contain the same thing - but then various things happen. So the question is still what do the vials contain?
Scripture says they contain "the wrath of God" and this wrath is explained in Romans 1 and other places. Men moved further from God's will and, in reaction, He "gave them up" (Rom 1:24, 26) and "gave them over" (Rom 1:28), allowing them to do what they wanted - they then reaped the consequences.
The wrath of God being poured out is Him taking, as it were, another step away from man. He withdraws His presence and protection yet more and the result that follows is further destruction.
This is similar to what happens with the sounding of the trumpets. God leaves man (honoring man's free will) to the choices he has made and Satan and/or nature brings the destruction that God has been shielding men from. Remember, at His command, four angels were "holding the four winds of the earth" preventing destruction (Rev 7:1). As those angels release the winds the results can be understood like this:
"The first angel sounded (the warning message is given), and (the next event that happened was that) there followed (after the warning message) hail and fire mingled with blood ..." (Rev 8:7)
Compare the above sequence of events of the first trumpet with that of the first plague:
What followed in each case was a destructive event. Remember who the destroyer is.
Another way to look at this is to ask if the sun or the Euphrates River are being, somehow, punished by God? Nature will surely feel the effects of the plagues but they are poured out because of the actions of men.
Further evidence that the vials are symbolic is that back in chapter 5, the 24 elders are described as having vials (the same original word) full of the prayers of the saints. The vials do not seem to include physical things; rather it is a way of describing something about our relationship to God - either our prayers going to Him or His stepping back and allowing us to have our own way.
"And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image." (Rev 16:2)
The words "noisome" and "grievous" are both most often translated as "evil." The Greek word translated as "grievous" is from a word associated with pain.
It is interesting here to compare the reaction of men who receive these sores with another incident in the Bible. They "blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores ..." (Rev 16:11). Remember the story of Job:
"So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes. Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips." (Job 2:7-10)
In spite of all his losses and the pain he was in, Job was proven to be faithful to God. We will see that the plagues will confirm the attitude of men who have refused God's mercy.
The plagues can be considered as being consequences of man's actions or choices.
"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." (Gal 6:7)
If men chose Satan as their master, they will feel the effects (reap the consequences) of that choice. When Satan afflicted Job with sores it was not because of Job's choices but, as the story shows us, it was a special situation allowed by God to prove Satan's position to be wrong. Satan's stated objective was to get Job to blame God.
"But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face." (Job 1:11)
He will have the same objective at the end only then he will, as this chapter of Revelation shows, be largely successful.
"And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea. And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood." (Rev 16:3-4)
We will see in Revelation 18 that the sea is very important for the commercial trade by which some men were made rich largely at the expense of others. The sea and other water sources will be affected to the point that nothing can live in them. This may well be due to the effects of pollution. "As the blood of a dead man" may be a reference to such blood losing it oxygen-carrying capacity and therefore its ability to sustain life. There are already vast areas of ocean that are affected like this.
"And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments." (Rev 16:5-7)
The changelessness of God is emphasized in light of the great changes taking place on planet Earth. God is seen to be just in allowing the plagues. This plague is seen as appropriate in light of the actions taken against God's people. The altar here would be the altar of incense in the heavenly sanctuary. The altar of sacrifice is never mentioned as being in heaven. There is good evidence that the altar of sacrifice of the heavenly sanctuary system is actually the earth itself and, more specifically, the cross of Calvary.
These verses are similar to what is said by Isaiah:
"And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and all flesh shall know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob." (Isa 49:26)
"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 blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory " (Rev 16:8-9)
Why does it say that the fourth vial is poured out on the sun when verse 1 says that the plagues are poured out on the earth? Again, the plagues are poured out primarily on the people of the earth. It is people who have rejected God. It is people who God has been trying to reach all this time and who God finally abandons to the results of their free-will choices. "Power was given" can be rendered "it was given" or "it was permitted." The power of the sun to scorch which was previously held back is now released.
What does it mean for the sun to have power to scorch mean with great heat? Well, we know that the sun undoubtedly has great heat. As we approach (it is now June 2013) the next solar maximum in the sun's 11-year cycle we are likely to see more significant effects from solar flares and other sun activity. Read more about that here.
The description of this plague is given in terms of what the sun has power to do but the damage could come to a large degree from the decreased ability of earth's atmosphere to protect us from the sun's damaging rays. And this could easily be a consequence of men's actions as man has been messing with the climate in various ways.
Why does the verse say "blasphemed the name of God"? rather than just "blasphemed God"? In verse 11, we will read "blasphemed the God of heaven." Is there a difference between blaspheming God and blaspheming the name of God? What is the name of God? Do most people even know what it is?
"For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written." (Rom 2:24)
"for the name of God because of you is evil spoken of among the nations, according as it hath been written." (Rom 2:24, YLT)
What would it mean for the name of God to be blasphemed or "evil spoken of" because of someone else? - because of their actions.
The Old Testament gives a specific example of an action of a person resulting in God being blasphemed. David, the king of Israel, a recognized representative of God, was not living up to what he should have. It was because of his deed that the blasphemy happened. The prophet Nathan said to David:
"Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die." (2 Sam 12:14)
In this verse, Paul is warning against the possibility that the "word of God" might be blasphemed as a result of improper conduct.
"To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed." (Titus 2:5)
Give Glory to God
We can see more evidence that name is referring to character when we look at what it means to do the opposite of blaspheming God.
"He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." (Psa 23:3)
Don't you think this is referring to the honor of His name, His reputation? What does good to or for His name is the righteousness (the righteous life) of the one being led. He helps His followers to do right so that people can see how good He is.
God's plan was to bless Israel that by their holy lives they could show what a wonderful God He is and thus attract other nations to follow His ways that He might bless them also.
"Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes." (Eze 36:22-23)
"And the fifth angel poured out his vial 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." (Rev 16:10-11)
The word "seat" used here is from the Greek word "thronos" and is the same word used in:
"And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority." (Rev 13:2)
Those who accept the dragon and his ways will be left in total (spiritual) darkness as a consequence of that choice. This is not likely a literal, world-wide darkness (as in no light to see by) but more of a spiritual darkness. Think of this verse:
"To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." (Isa 8:20)
However, a literal darkness certainly is possible as it happened previously in the plagues of Egypt:
"And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt. And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days: They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings." (Exo 10:21-23)
The word "gnawed" is from the Greek "massaomai" which is only used once. Think of "masticate." Strong's meaning is given as "to chew, consume, eat, devour." Could it be related to the idiom to "eat your words" which means to admit that what you said is wrong? If you eat your words, you accept publicly that you were wrong about something you said. Whether they will admit it or not, the words of the beast kingdom will, in teh end, be proven to be false.
Perhaps you have heard this little prayer:
"Lord, make my words as sweet as honey ... for tomorrow I may have to eat them."
They are blaming God for their pain which, no doubt, includes both physical and mental. Evidently, they are blaming God for their state. In that state of mind they are hardly likely to repent and turn to Him. Thus they are confirmed in their attitude toward Him.
The River Euphrates a Symbol of Babylon
"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." (Rev 16:12)
Historically, there was an event that involved the drying up of the River Euphrates. Cyrus (a king from the east relative to Babylon) was the founder and king of the Persian Empire. He led the armies of Persia in an attack on the city of Babylon around 539 BC. The city was so well fortified that its only weak point was where the Euphrates River flowed under the wall. The waters that flowed through Babylon were literally dried up when Cyrus had his soldiers dig channels to divert the water of the river away from the city and enter the city via the dry riverbed. The resulting fall of Babylon lead to God's people being able to return to the Promised Land.
That was the historical, literal drying up of the River Euphrates which, along with the role of Cyrus, was predicted by the prophet Isaiah many years earlier:
"That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers: That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid." (Isa 44:27-28)
The future, symbolic drying up of the River Euphrates will have an equivalent outcome in that it will lead to God's people going to the heavenly Promised Land. Waters in scripture often represent people:
"And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues." (Rev 17:15)
"And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth." (Rev 19:6)
So the waters of the symbolic Euphrates River could represent people who support the modern, symbolic Babylonian system. In chapter 9, we looked at how even the word Hebrew can refer to the Euphrates River marking a division between God's people and the wicked.
There are other cases of waters drying up to help God's people on their way to the Promised Land. Moses led the children of Israel across the Red Sea as they left Egypt:
"And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided." (Exo 14:21)
The Israelites marched on dry ground through the Jordan River in their approach to Jericho as they entered the Promised Land:
"And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan." (Josh 3:17)
Elijah also crossed the Jordan on dry ground just before he was taken up into heaven:
"And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground." (2 Kings 2:8)
The Drying up of the Euphrates River as a Consequence
How could the sixth plague, the end-time drying up of the Euphrates River be seen as a consequence of man's actions?
The false Babylonian system to have any power has to be backed by people. When the deceptions become more obvious people will withdraw their support for it, turn against that system and, ultimately treat it as described in chapter 17:
"And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire." (Rev 17:16)
We will discuss that more when we get to Revelation 17. People are being deceived and will turn against their teachers who have been telling them lies. Think of the false teaching of the secret rapture. Many people do not even concern themselves with end-time events because they have the false hope that they will be taken to heaven before the really serious trouble breaks out on planet Earth.
The Kings of the East at the Second Coming
The kings of the east could even be a reference to Jesus and the angels who come with Him at the Second Coming which occurs from the east to the west.
"For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." (Matt 24:27)
"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. 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." (Rev 16:13-14)
The dragon is Satan.
"And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years," (Rev 20:2)
The Beast is the papacy as shown in chapter 13. The false prophet is apostate Protestantism also explained in the study of chapter 13.
This is an interesting analogy in light of how frogs catch their prey - with their tongues. The tongue can also be an instrument of deceit and it is largely by deception that people are caught in the snare.
"Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit." (Psa 50:19)
"Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!" (Jam 3:5)
We will see this deception spoken of more in chapter 18 where it is written:
"... Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down ... for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived." (Rev 18:21, 23)
We are going to see great miracles in coming years. Many will be deceived by them because they are not familiar with the word of God.
"And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders," (2 Thess 2:8-9)
"And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live." (Rev 13:14)
Before getting into where they are gathered for the battle, we are given an admonition to do something as the time approaches.
"Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame." (Rev 16:15)
Come as a Thief
"Behold I come as a thief" is Jesus referring to His second Coming:
"For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night." (1 Thess 5:2)
Watching is needed because the time is unknown:
"Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." (Rev 3:3)
"Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." (Matt 26:41-42)
His coming is definitely at the end of the world:
"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." (2 Pet 3:10)
Keepeth His Garments
To keep your garments is to not let them become defiled by sins.
"Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy." (Rev 3:4)
"I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see." (Rev 3:18)
There may be an allusion here to the Roman army's practice of stripping the garments from soldiers who fell asleep on duty and sending them from their post of duty naked. If they watched diligently they could keep their garments.
A "Place" Called Armageddon
"And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon." (Rev 16:16)
The word "he" is better translated as "they" as is done in many versions. "They" would refer to the dragon. The beast and the false prophet who through their deceptions have gotten most of the world to go along with their false system. So virtually the whole world will be gathered because they were convinced by miracles rather than by the word of God; gathered not so much to a physical place as to agreement.
This is similar to the "Lake of fire" which the Bible defines as not a place but an experience:
"And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." (Rev 20:14)
Where is death? Death is not a place. Everyone dies somewhere.
The original word translated as "place" in verse 16 can also refer to a situation or an opportunity to act as in these verses:
"To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him." (Acts 25:16)
"For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears." (Heb 12:17)God's people will also be gathered but into the wilderness (Rev 12:14). While they will very likely be in literal wilderness areas to escape the enforcement of the mark of the beast, a wilderness situation is also a reference to divine protection. Thus, it is also referring to more of a situation than a single, literal geographic location.
So Where is Armageddon?
There is no physical location that has ever had this name. "Armageddon" is transliterated from the Hebrew, as John mentions; actually from a combination of two words.
The first word could mean "city" or, more likely, "mountain." The second is commonly thought to be "Megiddo" which is identified with the ancient city of Megiddo. Another theory is that "-meggedon" is from "moed" the Hebrew word commonly used in the Old Testament for congregation, for an appointed feast and for an assembly.
Gather is the same word used in v 14. If it means to physically gather into one place, then v 14 implies the whole world will be in one place. Gather can also be used in a sense other than to gather to a place:
"He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth." (Luke 11:23)
There is no mention in verse 16 of a war or fighting. The "battle" in v 14 is from the Greek word "polemos" which is the same word used in Rev 12:7 ("there was war in heaven"). It is where we get the English word "polemic" which refers to a dispute, strife or a quarrel.
Polemos is also used in these verses:
"These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful." (Rev 17:14)
"And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army." (Rev 19:19)
It is Done
"And 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 done." (Rev 16:17)
While verses 15-21 of this chapter are regarded as a description of the Second Coming, the actual Second Coming is not mentioned. However, the words spoken by the great voice out of the temple of heaven from the throne are very significant: "it is done." It seems this marks the end of the great controversy. "It is done" every decision is made. Where else is this said?
"When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost." (John 19:30)
Jesus, at this point, had gained the victory and was actually quoting from a Psalm which describes His experience on the cross.
"They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this." (Psa 22:31)
The "he hath done this," equivalent to "it is finished," is marking an important point in salvation history. It is also spoken in Revelation 21:6 after the creation of the new earth when all is restored and sin and sinners are no more.
"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." (Rev 16:18)
"Voices, and thunders, and lightnings" seem to be associated with important events. Three other times in Revelation all 3 are mentioned together: Rev 4:5, 8:5 and 11:19. Thunder is very definitely associated with the voice of God:
"The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook." (Psa 77:18)
Of course, this also sounds much like the giving of the Ten Commandments:
"And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off." (Exo 20:18)
What will this great earthquake register on the Richter scale? Its effects are further described in the next two verses.
"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." (Rev 16:19)
The great city must be Babylon from the context; the second part of the verse. Babylon is often referred to as "that great city" – We will cover it more in chapter 18 where the great city is mentioned five times and is definitely identified as Babylon.
"And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all." (Rev 18:21)
An obvious question pertains the state of Babylon today - it is not a great city. In fact, it is an ancient city in ruins. Here is a description of it:
"Babylon ... the remains of which are found in present-day Hillah, Babylon Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometres (53 mi) south of Baghdad. All that remains of the original ancient famed city of Babylon today is a large mound, or tell, of broken mud-brick buildings and debris in the fertile Mesopotamian plain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers." (Wikipedia)
The Bible makes a point of emphasizing that after the fall of the literal city of Babylon centuries ago it would never again be a great city.
"And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there." (Isa 13:19-20)
"And Babylon shall become heaps, a dwellingplace for dragons, an astonishment, and an hissing, without an inhabitant." (Jer 51:37)
"And they shall not take of thee a stone for a corner, nor a stone for foundations; but thou shalt be desolate for ever, saith the LORD." (Jer 51:26)
Since the references in Revelation very clearly are not referring to the literal city of Babylon they must be referring to Babylon in a figurative sense. In that sense, Babylon still exists and will thrive in the future. Babylon, if its origin is examined really refers to confusion and, in a spiritual sense, that is exactly what it is.
The "cities of the nations" where nations (Greek: "ethnos") is most often translated as "Gentiles" is referring to the cities of people not following God. Or is it cities other than Jerusalem or others in Israel? We will have to explore this further.
The city being divided into three parts could be a reference to the end-time system of Babylon coming apart as the alliance of the three powers that support it - the dragon, the beast and the false prophet - comes apart prior to the Second Coming.The Earth Destroyed
"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: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great." (Rev 16:20-21)
"Every island fled away" seems to be associated with the great earthquake. Earthquakes have the potential to move land masses and this will be an earthquake such as has never been felt before.
A similar statement is made earlier in Revelation and is closely associated with the Second Coming:
"And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places." (Rev 6:14)
We could ask what does "every island" mean? I used to wonder about this when I first started studying prophecy and lived on Vancouver Island on Canada's west coast. Having studied oceanography, I could make the distinction between oceanic islands and continental islands. The Earth's crust in the oceans is composed of basalt and is 5-10 km thick. Earth's crust on the continents is composed of less dense granite and is 30-50 km thick. An "island" like Vancouver Island is actually part of the continent, attached to it and, in that sense, is distinct from oceanic islands. Oceanic islands are mostly formed from volcanic activity where magma from the earth's mantle comes through the thinner oceanic crust and builds a volcano which protrudes above sea level. Such is the case with the Hawaiian Islands. So does "every island fled away" mean that Vancouver Island will sink? Not necessarily, but - considering what is coming - that is not impossible.
"The mountains were not found" - where do they go? Likely, they are sinking into the mantle. Earth's crust will be essentially breaking up. It is interesting to consider this along with these verses:
"Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us." (Luke 23:30)
"And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:" (Rev 6:16)
It seems that these statements are made right at the Second Coming. It is at this point that the mountains are moved leaving the wicked with no covering, with nothing to shield them from the face of the Savior.
The "great hail out of heaven" is not coming from heaven as in God's dwelling place but from the heaven as in the atmosphere of the earth. You might have seen this passage linked to the last great hailstorm:
"Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?" (Job 38:22-23)
Here, "reserved" is not like kids stockpiling snowballs before the other side launches the next attack in a snowball fight. Rather, it is more like God is holding back the hail as long as He can to protect even His rebellious children. But God will not impose His presence or protection on those who want nothing to do with Him. The word "reserved" is more commonly translated and used in the sense of to "spare," "keep back," or withhold."
When this hailstorm comes it will pulverize everything that has not already been destroyed. Estimates of the weight of a talent range from 26 to 36 kg (59 to 80 lb). That sounds pretty serious.
It can be useful to review the physical effects of the plagues. By the end of the plagues the major physical effects on the earth are:
The Earth and the Wicked Will be Destroyed
Besides that there are verses that speak of the destruction of the earth and even the destruction of those responsible for destroying the earth.
"And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth." (Rev 11:18)
"And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:" (2 Thess 2:8)
"The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein." (Nah 1:5)
"I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly. I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the LORD, and by his fierce anger." (Jer 4:23-26)
The phrase "without and void" is the same that is used in Genesis 1:2. The earth will have returned to the state it was in before creation week.
We could look at it this way: just as God started with a world that was without form and void and created a perfect world in seven steps (7 days), so in seven steps God turns the world over to Satan and all will see that when Satan is unrestrained, when Satan is "in charge" perfect order is turned back into chaos.
Also, note that, in the passage of Jeremiah above, it says that "there was no man." There will be no men living on earth during the millennium. The Earth will be waiting for its re-creation at the end of the 1000 years (Rev 21:1).
A Question About the Plagues
With the trumpets, we noted that each trumpet would sound and be followed by something else.
"The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up." (Rev 8:7)
"One may ask: "why would a loving God allow such horrible suffering as that associated with the last plagues?" It will have the effect of showing to all intelligent beings the evilness of Satan's sinister doings which will, by contrast, vindicate the actions of God."With the plagues, each vial is poured out and then some disaster strikes the earth. It is not that the vials contain disasters. (The vials contain the wrath of God.) God's wrath needs to be properly understood. A vial being poured out is equivalent to God taking a further step away from man. It is interesting that vials are also spoken of as containing the prayers of the saints - Rev 5:8. In both cases, the vials contain not physical things but could they be describing something about man's relationship with God? There is surely much more to understand about God's part in the plagues.
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