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Jamieson, Fausset & Brown :: Commentary on Revelation 16

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The Revelation of St. John the Divine

Commentary by A. R. FAUSSET

CHAPTER 16

Rev 16:1-21. THE SEVEN VIALS AND THE CONSEQUENT PLAGUES.

      The trumpets shook the world kingdoms in a longer process; the vials destroy with a swift and sudden overthrow the kingdom of "the beast" in particular who had invested himself with the world kingdom. The Hebrews thought the Egyptian plagues to have been inflicted with but an interval of a month between them severally [BENGEL, referring to SEDER OLAM]. As Moses took ashes from an earthly common furnace, so angels, as priestly ministers in the heavenly temple, take holy fire in sacred vials or bowls, from the heavenly altar to pour down (compare Rev 8:5 ). The same heavenly altar which would have kindled the sweet incense of prayer bringing down blessing upon earth, by man's sin kindles the fiery descending curse. Just as the river Nile, which ordinarily is the source of Egypt's fertility, became blood and a curse through Egypt's sin.

      1. a great voice--namely, God's. These seven vials (the detailed expansion of the vintage, Rev 14:18-20 ) being called "the last," must belong to the period just when the term of the beast's power has expired (whence reference is made in them all to the worshippers of the beast as the objects of the judgments), close to the end or coming of the Son of man. The first four are distinguished from the last three, just as in the case of the seven seals and the seven trumpets. The first four are more general, affecting the earth, the sea, springs, and the sun, not merely a portion of these natural bodies, as in the case of the trumpets, but the whole of them; the last three are more particular, affecting the throne of the beast, the Euphrates, and the grand consummation. Some of these particular judgments are set forth in detail in the seventeenth through twentieth chapters.
      out of the temple--B and Syriac omit. But A, C, Vulgate, and ANDREAS support the words.
      the vials--so Syriac and Coptic. But A, B, C, Vulgate, and ANDREAS read, "the seven vials."
      upon--Greek, "into."

      2. went--Greek, "went away."
      poured out--So the angel cast fire into the earth previous to the series of trumpets ( Rev 8:5 ).
      upon--so Coptic. But A, B, C, Vulgate, and Syriac read, "into."
      noisome--literally, "evil" (compare Deu 28:27, 35 ). The very same Greek word is used in the Septuagint as here, Greek, "helkos." The reason why the sixth Egyptian plague is the first here is because it was directed against the Egyptian magicians, Jannes and Jambres, so that they could not stand before Moses; and so here the plague is sent upon those who in the beast worship had practiced sorcery. As they submitted to the mark of the beast, so they must bear the mark of the avenging God. Contrast Rev 7:3 Eze 9:4, 6.
      grievous--distressing to the sufferers.
      sore upon the men--antitype to the sixth Egyptian plague.
      which had the mark of the beast--Therefore this first vial is subsequent to the period of the beast's rule.

      3. angel--So B and ANDREAS. But A, C, and Vulgate omit it.
      upon--Greek, "into."
      became as. . . blood--answering to another Egyptian plague.
      of a dead man--putrefying.
      living soul--So B and ANDREAS. But A, C, and Syriac, "soul of life" (compare Gen 1:30 7:21, 22 ).
      in the sea--So B and ANDREAS. But A, C, and Syriac read, "(as respects) the things in the sea."

      4. ( Exd 7:20.)
      angel--so Syriac, Coptic, and ANDREAS. But A, B, C, and Vulgate omit it.

      5. angel of the waters--that is, presiding over the waters.
      O Lord--omitted by A, B, C, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and ANDREAS.
      and shalt be--A, B, C, Vulgate, and ANDREAS for this clause read, "(which art and wast) holy." The Lord is now no longer He that shall come, for He is come in vengeance and therefore the third of the three clauses found in Rev 1:4, 8 4:8 is here and in Rev 11:17 omitted.
      judged thus--literally, "these things." "Thou didst inflict this judgment."

      6. ( Rev 11:18-19 Gen 9:6 Isa 49:26.) An anticipation of Rev 18:20, 24; compare Rev 13:15.
      For--A, B, C, and ANDREAS omit.

      7. another out of--omitted in A, C, Syriac, and Coptic. Translate then, "I heard the altar [personified] saying." On it the prayers of saints are presented before God: beneath it are the souls of the martyrs crying for vengeance on the foes of God.

      8. angel--so Coptic and ANDREAS. But A, B, C, Vulgate, and Syriac omit it.
      upon--not as in Rev 16:2, 3, "into."
      sun--Whereas by the fourth trumpet the sun is darkened ( Rev 8:12 ) in a third part, here by the fourth vial the sun's bright scorching power is intensified.
      power was given unto him--rather, "unto it," the sun.
      men--Greek, "the men," namely, those who had the mark of the beast ( Rev 16:2 ).

      9. men--Greek, "the men."
      repented not to give him glory-- ( Rev 9:20 ). Affliction, if it does not melt, hardens the sinner. Compare the better result on others, Rev 11:13 14:7 15:4.

      10. angel--omitted by A, B, C, Vulgate, and Syriac. But Coptic and ANDREAS support it.
      seat--Greek, "throne of the beast": set up in arrogant mimicry of God's throne; the dragon gave his throne to the beast ( Rev 13:2 ).
      darkness--parallel to the Egyptian plague of darkness, Pharaoh being the type of Antichrist (compare Notes, see on JF & B for Re 15:2, 3; compare the fifth trumpet, Rev 9:2 ).
      gnawed their tongues for pain--Greek, "owing to the pain" occasioned by the previous plagues, rendered more appalling by the darkness. Or, as "gnashing of teeth" is one of the accompaniments of hell, so this "gnawing of their tongues" is through rage at the baffling of their hopes and the overthrow of their kingdom. They meditate revenge and are unable to effect it; hence their frenzy [GROTIUS]. Those in anguish, mental and bodily, bite their lips and tongues.

      11. sores--This shows that each fresh plague was accompanied with the continuance of the preceding plagues: there was an accumulation, not a mere succession, of plagues.
      repented not--(Compare Rev 16:9 ).

      12. angel--so Coptic and ANDREAS. A, B, C, Vulgate, and Syriac omit.
      kings of the east--Greek, "the kings who are from the rising of the sun." Reference to the Euphrates similarly occurs in the sixth trumpet. The drying up of the Euphrates, I think, is to be taken figuratively, as Babylon itself, which is situated on it, is undoubtedly so, Rev 17:5. The waters of the Euphrates (compare Isa 8:7, 8 ) are spiritual Babylon's, that is, the apostate Church's (of which Rome is the chief, though not exclusive representative) spiritual and temporal powers. The drying up of the waters of Babylon expresses the same thing as the ten kings stripping, eating, and burning the whore. The phrase, "way may be prepared for," is that applied to the Lord's coming ( Isa 40:3 Mat 3:3 Luk 1:76 ). He shall come from the East ( Mat 24:27 Eze 43:2, "the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the East"): not alone, for His elect transfigured saints of Israel and the Gentiles shall accompany Him, who are "kings and priests unto God" ( Rev 1:6 ). As the Antichristian ten kings accompany the beast, so the saints accompany as kings the King of kings to the last decisive conflict. DE BURGH and others take it of the Jews, who also were designed to be a kingdom of priests to God on earth. They shall, doubtless, become priest-kings in the flesh to the nations in the flesh at His coming. Abraham from the East (if Isa 41:2, 8, 9, refers to him, and not Cyrus) conquering the Chaldean kings is a type of Israel's victorious restoration to the priest-kingdom. Israel's exodus after the last Egyptian plagues typifies Israel's restoration after the spiritual Babylon, the apostate Church, has been smitten. Israel's promotion to the priest-kingdom after Pharaoh's downfall, and at the Lord's descent at Sinai to establish the theocracy, typifies the restored kingdom of Israel at the Lord's more glorious descent, when Antichrist shall be destroyed utterly. Thus, besides the transfigured saints, Israel secondarily may be meant by "the kings from the East" who shall accompany the "King of kings" returning "from the way of the East" to reign over His ancient people. As to the drying up again of the waters opposing His people's assuming the kingdom, compare Isa 10:26 11:11, 15 Zec 10:9-11. The name Israel ( Gen 32:28 ) implies a prince with God. Compare Mic 4:8 as to the return of the kingdom to Jerusalem. DURHAM, several centuries ago, interpreted the drying up of the Euphrates to mean the wasting away of the Turkish power, which has heretofore held Palestine, and so the way being prepared for Israel's restoration. But as Babylon refers to the apostate Church, not to Mohammedanism, the drying up of the Euphrates (answering to Cyrus' overthrow of literal Babylon by marching into it through the dry channel of the Euphrates) must answer to the draining off of the apostate Church's resources, the Roman and Greek corrupt Church having been heretofore one of the greatest barriers by its idolatries and persecutions in the way of Israel's restoration and conversion. The kings of the earth who are earthly ( Rev 16:14 ), stand in contrast to the kings from the East who are heavenly.

      13. unclean spirits like frogs--the antitype to the plague of frogs sent on Egypt. The presence of the "unclean spirit" in the land (Palestine) is foretold, Zec 13:2, in connection with idolatrous prophets. Beginning with infidelity as to Jesus Christ's coming in the flesh, men shall end in the grossest idolatry of the beast, the incarnation of all that is self-deifying and God-opposed in the world powers of all ages; having rejected Him that came in the Father's name, they shall worship one that comes in his own, though really the devil's representative; as frogs croak by night in marshes and quagmires, so these unclean spirits in the darkness of error teach lies amidst the mire of filthy lusts. They talk of liberty, but it is not Gospel liberty, but license for lust. There being three, as also seven, in the description of the last and worst state of the Jewish nation, implies a parody of the two divine numbers, three of the Trinity, and seven of the Holy Spirit ( Rev 1:4 ). Some observe that three frogs were the original arms of France, a country which has been the center of infidelity, socialism, and false spiritualism. A and B read, "as it were frogs," instead of "like frogs," which is not supported by manuscripts. The unclean spirit out of the mouth of the dragon symbolizes the proud infidelity which opposes God and Christ. That out of the beast's mouth is the spirit of the world, which in the politics of men, whether lawless democracy or despotism, sets man above God. That out of the mouth of the false prophet is lying spiritualism and religious delusion, which shall take the place of the harlot when she shall have been destroyed.
      the dragon--Satan, who gives his power and throne ( Rev 13:2 ) to the beast.
      false prophet--distinct from the harlot, the apostate Church (of which Rome is the chief, though not sole, representative), Rev 17:1-3, 16; and identical with the second beast, Rev 13:11-15, as appears by comparing Rev 19:20; ultimately consigned to the lake of fire with the first beast; as is also the dragon a little later ( Rev 20:10 ). The dragon, the beast, and the false prophet, "the mystery of iniquity," form a blasphemous Antitrinity, the counterfeit of "the mystery of godliness" God manifests in Christ, witnessed to by the Spirit. The dragon acts the part of God the Father, assigning his authority to his representative the beast, as the Father assigns His to the Son. They are accordingly jointly worshipped; compare as to the Father and Son, Jhn 5:23; as the ten-horned beast has its ten horns crowned with diadems (Greek, Rev 13:1 ), so Christ has on His head many diadems. While the false prophet, like the Holy Ghost, speaks not of himself, but tells all men to worship the beast, and confirms his testimony to the beast by miracles, as the Holy Ghost attested similarly to Christ's divine mission.

      14. devils--Greek, "demons."
      working miracles--Greek, "signs."
      go forth unto--or "for," that is, to tempt them to the battle with Christ.
      the kings of the earth and, &c.--A, B, Syriac, and ANDREAS omit "of the earth and," which clause is not in any manuscript. Translate, "kings of the whole habitable world," who are "of this world," in contrast to "the kings of (from) the East" (the sun-rising), Rev 16:12, namely, the saints to whom Christ has appointed a kingdom, and who are "children of light." God, in permitting Satan's miracles, as in the case of the Egyptian magicians who were His instruments in hardening Pharaoh's heart, gives the reprobate up to judicial delusion preparatory to their destruction. As Aaron's rod was changed into a serpent, so were those of the Egyptian magicians. Aaron turned the water into blood; so did the magicians. Aaron brought up frogs; so did the magicians. With the frogs their power ceased. So this, or whatever is antitypical to it, will be the last effort of the dragon, beast, and false prophet.
      battle--Greek, "war"; the final conflict for the kingship of the world described in Rev 19:17-21.

      15. The gathering of the world kings with the beast against the Lamb is the signal for Christ's coming; therefore He here gives the charge to be watching for His coming and clothed in the garments of justification and sanctification, so as to be accepted.
      thief-- ( Mat 24:43 2Pe 3:10 ).
      they--saints and angels.
      shame--literally, "unseemliness" (Greek, "aschemosunee"): Greek, 1Cr 13:5 : a different word from the Greek in Rev 3:18 (Greek, "aischunee").

      16. he--rather, "they (the three unclean spirits) gathered them together." If English Version be retained, "He" will refer to God who gives them over to the delusion of the three unclean spirits; or else the sixth angel ( Rev 16:12 ).
      Armageddon--Hebrew, "Har," a mountain, and "Megiddo" in Manasseh in Galilee, the scene of the overthrow of the Canaanite kings by God's miraculous interposition under Deborah and Barak; the same as the great plain of Esdraelon. Josiah, too, as the ally of Babylon, was defeated and slain at Megiddo; and the mourning of the Jews at the time just before God shall interpose for them against all the nations confederate against Jerusalem, is compared to the mourning for Josiah at Megiddo. Megiddo comes from a root, gadad, "cut off," and means slaughter. Compare Joe 3:2, 12, 14, where "the valley of Jehoshaphat" (meaning in Hebrew, "judgment of God") is mentioned as the scene of God's final vengeance on the God-opposing foe. Probably some great plain, antitypical to the valleys of Megiddo and Jehoshaphat, will be the scene.

      17. angel--so ANDREAS. But A, B, Vulgate, and Syriac omit it.
      into--so ANDREAS (Greek, "eis"). But A and B, "upon" (Greek, "epi").
      great--so B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and ANDREAS. But A omits.
      of heaven--so B and ANDREAS But A, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic omit.
      It is done--"It is come to pass." God's voice as to the final consummation, as Jesus' voice on the cross when the work of expiation was completed, "It is finished."

      18. voice. . . thunders. . . lightnings--A has the order, "lightnings. . . voices. . . thunders." This is the same close as that of the seven seals and the seven thunders; but with the difference that they do not merely form the conclusion, but introduce the consequence, of the last vial, namely, the utter destruction of Babylon and then of the Antichristian armies.
      earthquake--which is often preceded by a lurid state of air, such as would result from the vial poured upon it.
      men were--so B, Vulgate, Syriac, and ANDREAS. But A and Coptic read, "A man was."
      so mighty--Greek, "such."

      19. the great city--the capital and seat of the apostate Church, spiritual Babylon (of which Rome is the representative, if one literal city be meant). The city in Rev 11:8 (see on JF & B for Re 11:8), is probably distinct, namely, Jerusalem under Antichrist (the beast, who is distinct from the harlot or apostate Church). In Rev 11:13 only a tenth of Jerusalem falls whereas here the city (Babylon) "became (Greek) into three parts" by the earthquake.
      cities of the nations--other great cities in league with spiritual Babylon.
      great. . . came in remembrance--Greek, "Babylon the great was remembered" ( Rev 18:5 ). It is now that the last call to escape from Babylon is given to God's people in her ( Rev 18:4 ).
      fierceness--the boiling over outburst of His wrath (Greek, "thumou orgees"), compare Note, see on JF & B for Re 14:10.

      20. Plainly parallel to Rev 6:14-17, and by anticipation descriptive of the last judgment.
      the mountains--rather as Greek, "there were found no mountains."

      21. fell--Greek, "descends."
      upon men--Greek, "the men."
      and men blasphemed God--not those struck who died, but the rest. Unlike the result in the case of Jerusalem ( Rev 11:13 ), where "the remnant. . . affrighted. . . gave glory to the God of heaven."
      was--Greek, "is."

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