B.—REAL EARTHLY WORLD-PICTURE OF THE SEVEN VIALS OF ANGER; OR, THE END-JUDGMENT IN GENERAL
1And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways [om. your ways], and pour out the [ins. seven] vials of the wrath 2[anger of God upon [into the earth. And the first went departed, and poured out his vial upon into] the earth; and there fell [came (
)] a noisome [an evil] and grievous sore upon the men which [who] had the mark of the beast3[wild-beast], and upon them which [who] worshipped his image. And the second angel [om. angel] poured out his vial upon [into] the sea; and it became as the [om. as the] blood [ins. as] of a dead man [man]: and every living soul [or soul of life (
)] died [ins., the things] in the sea. 4And the third angel [om. angel] poured out his vial upon [into] the rivers and [ins. the] fountains of [ins. the] waters; and they became blood [or there came blood (
)]. 5And I heard the angel of the waters say [saying], Thou art righteous, O Lord, [om. O Lord,] which [who] art, and [ins. who] wast, and shalt be [om. and shalt be—ins. the Holy]. [or who art and who wast holy,]9 because thou hast judged thus [didst6adjudge these things], [;] For [because] they have [om. have] shed [poured out] the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for7[om. for] they are worthy. And I heard another out of [om. another out of] the altar say [saying], Even so [Yea], [ins. O] Lord [ins. the] God [ins., the] Almighty 8[or, All-Ruler], true and righteous are thy judgments. And the fourth angel [om. angel] poured out his vial upon (
) the sun; and power [om. power9—ins. it] was given unto him [it] to scorch [ins. the] men with fire. And [ins. the] men were scorched with great heat [scorching], and [ins. they] blasphemed the name of God, which [who] hath power [the authority] over these plagues:and they repented not to give him glory. 10And the fifth angel [om. angel] poured out his vial upon the seat [throne] of the beast [wild-beast]; and his kingdom was full of darkness [became darkened]; and they gnawed their tongues for [because of (
)—ins. the] pain, 11and blasphemed the God of [ins. the] heaven because of (
) their pains and [ins. because of (
)] their sores, and repented not of (
) their deeds [works]. 12And the sixth angel [om. angel] poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of thekings of the east [who are from the sun-rising] might be prepared. 13And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come [om. three unclean spirits like frogs come] out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast [wild beast], and outof the mouth of the false prophet [ins., three unclean spirits as frogs]. [;] 14for they are the [om. the] spirits of devils [demons], working miracles [doing signs], which [that] go forth unto [upon (
)] the kings of the earth and [om. of the earth and] of the whole world [inhabited world (
)], to gather them [ins. together] to the battle [war] of that [the] great day of God [ins. the] Almighty15[or All-Ruler12]. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest [that] he walk [ins. not] naked, and they see his shame. 16And he [or they] gathered them together into a [the] place called in the [om.the] Hebrew tongue [om. tongue] Armageddon [or Harmagedon]. 17And the seventh angel [om. angel] poured out his vial into [upon] the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven [om. of heaven], from the throne, saying, It is done. 18And there were (
) [ins. lightnings, and] voices, and thunders, and lightnings [om., and lightnings]; and there was (
) a great earthquake, such as was not since [from the times when] men were [a man was] upon the earth, so mighty [such] an earthquake, and [om. and] so great.19And the great city was divided [became (
)] into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great [om. great] Babylon [ins. the great] came in remembrance [was remembered] before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of thefierceness [anger] of his wrath. 20And every island fled away [om. away], and the21[om. the ] mountains were not found. And there fell upon men [om. there fell upon men] a great hail [ins. as of a talent in weight descendeth] out of [ins. the] heaven [ins. upon the men], every stone about the weight of a talent [om. every stone about the weight of a talent]; and [ins. the] men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great [because great is the plague of it exceedingly].
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
The seven Vials of Anger embrace the collective Earth-picture of the world-judgment in general. Hence the seventh Vial is comprehended together with the rest, and not, like the seventh Seal and the seventh Trumpet, made the basis of a new Seven. The seven Angels of Anger follow each other in rapid succession and with terrible effect; only, between the third and fourth Vials, there occurs a double digression, in a sort as a theodicy of these fearful judgments and for the tranquillization of the startled mind. Now if we hold fast the idea that anger is an infliction of death, death being the decomposition, the dissolution of life, the explanation, in general, of the present section is already established;—especially if we further consider that the anger, or death-judgment, of God is operative through the medium of the anger of the heathen [nations], or the frenzy of false enthusiasm. Once more we are reminded of the lofty consciousness and teleology of the plagues. Only at the command of a great voice from the smoke-filled Temple—at the bidding of God, therefore—do the Angels begin their work. Each one knows, in his quality of Angel, his particular rank in the angelic series, and his particular mission. The following is the succession of the outpourings of anger:
1. Into the earth. This, therefore, is the death, the vital decomposition and dissolution of the New Testament Theocracy, the external phenomenal form of the Church (and relatively of the Christian State, inasmuch as the old Theocracy embraced both State and Church). (See the Introduction, pp. 33 sq.; 2 Thessalonians 2) The effect of this first Vial is a malignant sore, with which all the worshippers of the Beast are smitten. The consummate idolatrous world-spirit in the Church, in churchly dignities and forms, results in an incurable fiery sore of fanatical self-consumption and self-destruction (2Ti_2:17). The form of this sore is intoxication through the medium of the cup of anger, i. e., the confusing false enthusiasm or fanaticism which it inspires as the product of the denial of all religious and moral principles.
2. Into the sea. The worldly life of state and nations likewise becomes the subject of a process of decomposition which leads to death. Consummate passionate subjectivism and party-spirit, in all the forms of senseless self-intoxication, in mercantile, socialistic, absolutist and many other directions, finally rupture all social, popular, and political coherence. The sea becomes blood (Exodus 7), and this blood is as that of a dead man; dead blood. All the goods of the social life of the nations lose their vital value, because they have become the property of consummate egoism. They are dead like the men who determine their value, and operate fatally upon every one who would carry on his life in this sea of blood. Every living being, it is declared, died in the sea.
3. Into the rivers and fountains of waters. Self-empoisonment of mental currents, and, what is still worse, self-empoisonment of fountains, the original life of geniuses and men of talent. And there became blood [
]. It is not said that this blood was like that of a dead man. The life of minds, of mental culture—pouring forth in an unnatural state of obduracy and frenzied deification of self, frenzied deification and bestialization of man—becomes a nauseous and fatal death-draught for those who would quell their thirst at the fountains and streams of waters. The natural life-fountains and life-rivers of minds have, in the perversion of moral nature to unnaturalness, become fountains and rivers of deadly intoxication and mental distraction.—Now ensues a pause. The Seer hears the Angel of the waters speaking. And here let us avoid the pagan and also Rabbinical conception of spirits of nature,—water or fire angels in the literal sense of the term. The Angel of the waters, in this passage, is the Angel who brings anger upon the water, the Angel of the Divine rule as exercised over the surging, social nation-life of men; just as the Angel of the Altar (Rev_16:7) or of the fire (Rev_14:18) is the spirit or teleology of all fire of sacrifice on earth. The Angel of the waters adores the righteousness of God in this terrible judgment upon the waters. Men must now drink blood, because they have shed the blood of Saints and Prophets, i. e., also, because they have first turned the heavenly fountains of waters on earth, out of which it was designed that they should drink, into blood. The assent of the other Angel from the Altar designates the natural consequence of the ancient blood-guiltiness still more decidedly, in accordance with the idea of the Altar, as a righteous judgment of God.
4. Upon the sun. The sun of revelation itself; not in respect of its essence, but in respect of its shining and effect. The true shining of the sun is as vitalizing life; its effect is healthful vital heat. But how is it when men begin to make Christianity, in great part, a hot-blooded system of confession or negation, a thing of priesthood or of sects!—how is it when churchly fanaticism begins to produce Sicarii, as did Jewish fanaticism in the Jewish war! The fanatical heat of the one class calls forth increasingly the blasphemy of the other, instead of all being horrified at this frightful incapacity for receiving the simple sunshine of Christianity in purity, at this still more frightful capacity for converting the light of revelation into nothing but a misleading and infatuating power and a consuming passion.
5. Upon the throne of the Beast. The Beast must still be understood in the general sense, like the City of Babylon (Rev_16:19), for the branching of the one judgment into three judgments has not yet taken place. The throne of the Beast is the government, the system of Antichrist. His kingdom became darkened; this means, we think, that it became confused in its contradictions—it lost its consistency. For it was a sphere of spiritual and religious-moral darkness from the beginning. Such self-confusion is already to be seen where atheism and spiritism, bigotry and blasphemy, criticism and fanaticism hold high carnival together.—Then a mighty and poignant self-scorn comes over the haughty spirit of the associates of this kingdom, and they gnaw their tongues in the pain of their impotence and nothingness. They blaspheme the God of the Heaven because of their pains. In so far as they need an object for their blasphemy, therefore, they are still theists. They blaspheme God as the God of the Heaven—all that is transcendent is hateful to them because the Beast has become their god on earth. In so far, also, as Nature reflects the Divine lineaments of her Creator, she too, doubtless, becomes the object of their blasphemy; indeed she is occasionally blasphemed even now by some who make her the subject of their investigations. Because of their pains and because of their sores they blaspheme; the sores—i. e., the malignant ulcers which do not, as local focuses, eliminate the morbid matter from the system, but which overpower the life, changing it into morbid matter and consuming it—continue, therefore, from the first Anger-vial through all the stages of outpoured anger. This blasphemy of despair sets in instead of the repentance of faith.
6. Upon the great river, the Euphrates. Here also we look upon the Euphrates as the line of demarkation between the civilized world and the barbarous and savage world of the nations of the East (Revelation 20; Ezekiel 38. sqq.). We see, accordingly, that the army of horsemen (Rev_9:14) comes from the hither shore of the Euphrates, from the region of Babylon, the seat of the most ancient civilization, the type of all Antichristian world-monarchies (Daniel 7). On the other hand, the kings of the East [from the sun-rising] come from beyond the Euphrates, as the representatives of all the barbarism of the remotest world. The drying up of the Euphrates, therefore, signifies that the barrier-line between the civilized world and the rudest and roughest popular life is done away with, in a social as well as a terrestrial sense. In consequence of the mental confusion and distraction resultant upon a false over-refinement, the way is prepared for the hostile attack of rudeness and barbarism upon the seat of culture. Nevertheless, the Eastern barbarian kings come not uncalled. Three spirits, resembling frogs, proceed out of the mouth of the Dragon, and out of the mouth of the Beast, and out of the mouth of the False Prophet. Thus a frog-clamor with three variations is formed. The key of Satan is contempt of man (Job_2:4); the key of the Beast is the deification of man (2 Thessalonians 2); the key of the False Prophet is a bigoted training of man—a compound of the preceding two elements (Rev_13:13-14). Thus these modern nightingales, the frogs, announce the new spring-time of mankind. As spirits they are spirits of demons, of such demons as engender moral possession; with this effect they come upon the kings of the earth and set on foot the great revolt-alliance for the war of the great day of God, Who, as the All-Ruler, over-rules even this uprising (see Rev_19:19; Rev_20:8). As the greatest of catastrophes, this event shall come very suddenly and as in the night-time—hence the admonition of Rev_16:15. None should abandon himself to spiritual carelessness, as one that sleeps without his garments, for a man so doing might be cast out naked into the night. This admonition applies even to the pious, in reference to the last time. The rebel host gathers, as appointed by God the Judge, at a field of battle called Harmageddon [or, Armageddon].
The enigmatical name of Harmageddon or Harmagadon gives occasion for a precursory examination of the entire section. The three special judgments following, from chapter 17 on, are already visible in this general sketch of the judgment. This is manifestly the case with the incipient judgment upon the Beast (Rev_16:10), as compared with the consummate judgment upon the Beast, Rev_19:19. So, likewise, the judgment upon Babylon (chs. 17 and 18) is visible in the judgment of the first Anger-vial, poured out upon the earth. The second Vial of anger is annexed to the first; the third and fourth form a transition to the fifth. The reflection of the sixth Vial of anger we behold in the judgment upon Gog and Magog. When these are said to surround the camp of the Saints and the beloved City, it necessitates the reference of the name Har-Magedon (Mount of Decision or Sentence) to the Mount of Olives in accordance with Zec_14:4. The mountains of Israel shall in general, according to Ezekiel 38, 39, be mountains of decision. A more precise definition of the locality, the valley of the dead (Eze_39:11), leads us into the region between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea—likewise, therefore, into the vicinity of the Mount of Olives. Hence, the Seer may have merely borrowed the name from the northern waters of Megiddo, where the Israelites conquered the heathen kings of Canaan (Jdg_5:19), and from the southern plain of Megiddo (2Ki_23:29), where Josiah was defeated by the Egyptians,—possibly with the idea that the mountain of Megiddo puts an end to the fluctuations between victory and defeat in the wars of the people of God.
7. Upon the air. The air is the vital element of the earth, the sea, the sweet waters, and mankind. With the decomposition of this vital element—which cannot be understood simply of the common spirit-world of humanity, but must be regarded as having reference also to the cosmical vital conditions of men and of the earth, because the end in the former sense necessarily brings with it the end in the latter sense—the death of the old form of the world is decided. Hence a great voice resounds from the Temple of Heaven and from the Throne, saying: It is done. This end of the world (see Rev_20:9 sqq.), however, is not the annihilation of the world, but its setting, in order to a resurrection. Hence the dying of the old world is accomplished amid lightnings, and voices, and thunders, annunciatory of a new world, and together with these comes the great earthquake whose like has never been since men were on the earth (see 2 Peter 3). And now out of the great general judgment, the three special judgments develop (Rev_16:19). The great City is broken up into three parts. The judgment upon great Babylon consists, primarily, in the fact that it is divided into a small, specific, mock-holy Babylon, into the demonic Kingdom of the Beast, and into a brutal, Satanic mob-kingdom (comp. Eze_38:21-22). The cities of the nations [Gentiles] likewise fall—the ancient seats of worldly civilization; the islands of small and intimate communities vanish, as do also the towering mountains;—great, secluded churches, even proud, firm-based states are sought for now in vain. Equilibrium in the spiritual world as well as in nature is destroyed; all things waver betwixt fiery heat and deathly cold;—hence the formation of hailstones, of the weight of a talent, which fall upon men; these hailstones and their fall are, of course, not to be apprehended in a purely material sense, according to which they would dash all men to pieces, but they are still real and terrible enough to provoke the remnants of a recognition of God in the wicked to fresh blasphemy. With the partition of Babylon the Great, the judgment is in reality already decided, there being a reciprocal negation on the side of the parts, and the whole, consequently, being in process of complete dissolution; in like manner the tower-building of ancient Babel was put an end to, and, in its centrality, judged, by the Divine dispersion of those engaged therein.
We call attention once more to the fact that inRev_16:19the ramification of the great general End-judgment into the three special Judgments now following, is expressed.
[ABSTRACT OF VIEWS, ETC.]
By the American Editor
[Elliott: Chs. Rev_16:1-14; Rev_11:15-19; Rev_14:6-8; Revelation 15, relate to the same period (see on p. 281)—viz.: “The era of the French Revolution, as figured under the first six Vials of the seventh Trumpet,” a period extending from A. D. 1789 to A. D. 1848. Chs. Rev_11:15-19; Rev_15:1 to Rev_16:1 is the introduction and commencement of the Vial-outpouring.—(Note the similarity of the first four Vials to the first four Trumpets. See on p. 201). Rev_16:2. The first Vial. The
(expressive of the boil that broke forth on the Egyptians, comp. Exo_9:9,—probably the plague-spot or the smallpox) figures “some extraordinary outbreak of moral and social evil, the expression of deep-seated disease within, with raging pain and inflammation as its accompaniment—disease of Egyptian origin perhaps in the Apocalyptic sense of the word Egypt, and alike loathsome, deadly, self-corroding, and infectious—that would arise somewhere in Papal Europe, shortly after the cessation of the Turkish woe, and on the sounding of what might answer to the seventh Trumpet’s blast; an evil, too, which would soon overspread and infect the countries of Papal Europe generally and their inhabitants.” It symbolizes “that tremendous outbreak of social and moral evil, of democratic fury, atheism, and vice, which was speedily seen to characterize the French Revolution; that of which the ultimate source was in the long and deep-seated corruption and irreligion of the nation; its outward vent, expression and organ in the Jacobin clubs, and their seditious and atheistic publications; its result, the dissolution of all society, all morals, and all religions; with acts of atrocity and horror accompanying scarce paralleled in the history of man; and suffering and anguish of correspondent intensity throbbing throughout the whole social mass, and corroding it—that which from France as a centre, spread like a plague, through its affiliated societies, to the other countries of Papal Christendom; and proved, wherever its poison was imbibed, to be as much the punishment as the symptom of the corruption.”
Rev_16:3. The second Vial. A judgment on the maritime power, commerce, and colonies of the countries of Papal Christendom—i. e., Spain, France and Portugal. It symbolizes—(1) The great naval war which continued A. D. 1793–1815, in which “were destroyed near 200 ships of the line, between 300 and 400 frigates, and an almost incalculable number of smaller vessels of war and ships of commerce. It is most truly stated by Dr. Keith (Signs of Times, ii., p. 209) that the whole history of the world does not present such a period of naval war, destruction, and bloodshed.” (2) The revolt of the transatlantic colonies and the following bloodshed.
Rev_16:4-7. The third Vial. It symbolizes the judgment of war and bloodshed visited on the countries watered by the Rhine and the Danube, and on the sub-Alpine provinces of Piedmont and Lombardy, A. D. 1792–1805.
Rev_16:8-9. The fourth Vial. This symbolizes a judgment on the German Emperor and the other sovereigns of Papal Christendom. Napoleon, A. D. 1806, compelled the renunciation by the Emperor of Austria of the title “Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and of Germany;” he also deposed the other papal kings, and “scorched men with fire,” A. D. 1806–1809. (Comp. the Explanation of the fourth Trumpet, p. 201).
Rev_16:10. The fifth Vial. A judgment on Rome (the throne of the seven hills), consecutive on that of the former Vial. Immediately after the battle of Wagram, A. D. 1809, the Pope was subjected to insult and spoliation, his temporal authority over the Roman State was abolished, and Rome itself was incorporated with France as the second city of the empire.
Rev_16:10 (last clause), 11 set forth—(1) The severity of sufferings endured; (2) the blasphemy (a) of France in atheism, (b) of Papal countries (subsequently of France also), in ascribing Divine prerogatives to creatures; (3) the continuance in sin of those who had been punished, after the cessation of the preceding judgments.
Rev_16:12. The sixth Vial. The first portion symbolizes judgment on the Mohammedan Turk, begun A. D. 1820, in the assertion of independence by Ali Pacha of Yanina, and the immediately-following Greek insurrection, and continuing in the gradual decay of the empire to the present time. By the kings from the sun-rising are symbolized the Jews; the way for their return to their own land being prepared in the decay and fall of the Turkish Empire. By the three frogs are figured three unholy principles, going forth throughout the whole habitable world—viz.: (1) from the Dragon, heathen-like infidelity; (2) from the Beast, popery; (3) from the False Prophet, priestcraft.——Rev_16:15 to Rev_22:15, together with Rev_14:9-20, represents “The present and the future, from A. D. 1849 to the Millennium and Final Judgment”.—the first portion of which is the æra of the seventh Vial. Rev_14:9-20 presents the primary and briefer series of prefigurations of the æra of the seventh Vial in the part without-written of the Apocalypse, down to the wine-press treading before the Millennium; this consists of four parts—(1) Rev_16:9-11, a public and notorious outcry of warning throughout European Christendom and its dependencies as to what is meant by the Beast and his image, and as to the fate of their followers; (2) Rev_16:12-13, a deep impression and earnest inculcation, on the part of the true Church, of the near approach of the grand epoch of blessedness predicted in Scripture of departed saints; (3) Rev_16:11-16, the first grand act of the judgments of the consummation on Antichristendom; (4) Rev_16:17-20, the last judgment, a judgment unto blood, upon apostate Christendom. Rev_16:15-21 presents “The fuller Apocalyptic figuration, as within-written, of the events immediately preparatory to, and those included in, the seventh Vial; down to the wine-press treading, and destruction of the Beast and False Prophet, immediately before the Millennium;” in it are—(1) Rev_16:15, an introduction to the outpouring, the warning, indicating increased faithfulness on the part of the ministry in declaring the coming of the Lord and the duty of being prepared to meet Him (?); (2) Rev_16:16, the success of the unclean spirits in influencing kings and people against Christ and His Church; (3) Rev_16:17-20, the seventh Vial—realities yet future are symbolized, viz.: An extraordinary convulsion, darkening and vitiation of the moral and political atmosphere of Europe (having, perhaps, a literal groundwork in some ominous derangement of the natural atmosphere), ministering disease to each body politic, and, perhaps, resolving society for awhile into its primary elements; resulting, finally, in the resolution of the Papal Empire into a tri-partite form, in which form Rome (including its subject ecclesiastical State and the political tri-partition connected with it), is to receive its peculiar and appalling fate.
Barnes agrees, in the main, with Elliott; he makes, however, the following important differences in interpretation: 1. The pouring out of the fourth Vial upon the sun, etc. (Rev_16:8), indicates “that a scene of calamity and woe would ensue as if the sun should be made to pour forth such intense heat that men would be ‘scorched,’ ” the reference being to the wars following the French Revolution.—2. By the kings of the East (Rev_16:12) are to be understood the rulers of the East (Orient?); “All that is fairly implied in the language here is that the kings of the East would be converted to the true religion,” and that the destruction of the Turkish power would be in order thereto.—3. The three malign influences symbolized by the “frogs” (Rev_16:13) are not specifically characterized.—This author quotes largely from Allison’s History of Europe in support of his interpretations.
Stuart regards the Vials as a series of judgments upon the enemies of the Church, terminating primarily in the death of Nero and the destruction of Jerusalem, and ultimately (?) in the destruction of the Pagan power under Constantine. He writes: “The author of the Book has given a sketch which corresponds, with a good degree of exactness, to the state of facts. The persecuting power of the unbelieving Jews ceased in the main with the destruction of Jerusalem. Hence the tempest and earthquake which lay that place in ruins, are the finale of the first catastrophe. But not so with the second. The death of Nero was indeed the destruction of the Beast, for the time being, and it made a temporary end of persecution. But the Beast still came up again from the pit; the contest was renewed, and, with many remissions, continued down to the time of Constantine. Rome, as heathen, then finally ceased to persecute. The Beast was finally slain.”
Wordsworth regards the visions of the Vials as partially fulfilled, and yet only as “a prelude and specimen of what will be more fully developed.” He interprets the
with which the
of the first three Vials is construed as denoting infusion into and admixture with the object of punishment, and the
of the last four as indicating the Divine vengeance as trampling upon it. His interpretation of the Vials is as follows: 1. This plague is upon men’s persons, and consists in physical and spiritual disease, the result of the teachings and practices of the Papacy.—2. The sea represents nations in a restless state, and the plague is that carnal men lose the genuine properties of men and become mere things.—3. This plague is inflicted on the resources of the Papacy; those things that once supplied it with wealth and power (indulgences, pretended miracles, etc.), become occasions and instruments of its suffering and shame.—4. The temporal splendor (sun) of the Papacy, by the galling exactions through which it is maintained, already scorches its subjects.—5. “The fifth Vial is poured upon the throne of the Beast; and his kingdom is darkened. Here is another reference to the plagues of Egypt, etc. (No exposition is given.)—6. This plague consists in the decay of supremacy, secular and spiritual, which is to Rome, the spiritual Babylon, the source of her glory and strength, as was the literal Euphrates to the literal Babylon. By the kings of the East are symbolized saints whose advance Rome has hindered.—7. The destruction of Rome, the mystical Babylon, “the capital city of the Empire of the Beast.”
Alford. This writer remarks generally concerning the Vials: 1. The series reaches on to the time of the end, and the whole of it is to be placed near that time. 2. As in the Seals and the Trumpets there is a marked distinction between the first four and the following three—the objects of the former being the earth, the sea, the springs of water, and the sun, those of the latter being more particularized. 3. As in the other series, so here there is a compendious and anticipatory character about several of the Vials, leading us to believe that those of which this is not so plain, partake of this character also. 4. We have no longer, as in the Trumpets, a portion of each element affected, but the whole. 5. While by the plague of the fourth Trumpet the sun is partially darkened, by that of the fourth Vial its power is increased.—He presents no affirmative views as to the nature of the specific plagues, save in the case of the last, which he regards as indicating the destruction of the city of Rome and the execution of vengeance on the mystic Babylon.—For particular remarks see under Explanations in Detail.
Lord: The office of the seven Angela is simply to assist the revelation, by designating the commencement of the seven judgments, and distinguishing them as inflictions of Divine wrath; not to symbolize the agents on earth by whom they are caused. The interpretation of the several Vials is as follows: 1. The earth, when distinguished from the sea, etc., denotes the population of an empire under a settled government; the men were those who have the mark of the Wild-beast; the ulcer symbolizes an analogous disease of the mind; a restlessness and rancor of passion exasperated by agitating and noxious principles and opinions, that fill it with a sense of obstruction, degradation and misery—this ulcer represents the restlessness under injury, the ardor of resentment, hate, and revenge, the noxiousness and contagion of false principles and opinions that marked the commencement of the political disquiets of the European States toward the close of the last century.—2. The sea denotes the population of a central kingdom in violent commotion; it is to the animals that live in it what a people is to the monarchs, nobles, ecclesiastics, etc., who owe to them their support. This symbol denotes the second great act in the French Revolution, in which the people slaughtered one another, and exterminated all the influential ranks, king and queen, nobles, etc.—3. Rivers and fountains are to the sea what smaller exterior communities are to a great central nation. This symbol denotes the vast bloodshed in the other Apocalyptic kingdoms, in the insurrections and wars that sprung out of the French Revolution.—4. Those who exercise the government of a kingdom are to the people what the sun is to the land and sea. This symbol denotes that the rulers of the people on whom the preceding judgments fell, were to become armed with extraordinary and destructive powers, and to employ them in the most violent and insupportable oppression.—5. The ascription of a throne and kingdom to the Wild-beast shows that he is the symbol of the rulers of an empire. The effect of the Vial on the throne is not depicted, but only its consequence to the kingdom; the subversion of the throne, however, is implied—the event indicated is the subversion of the imperial throne of France, and re-establishment of the Bourbon dynasty in 1814 and 1815.—6. The Euphrates is used as a symbol in a relation analogous to that of the literal river to the literal Babylon. The entire symbol indicates that agencies are to be exerted by which vast crowds of the supporters of the nationalized hierarchies (see p. 283) are to be withdrawn from them. This Vial has already begun.—(Rev_16:13-16. The Dragon is the symbol of the rulers of the Eastern Roman Empire supporting an apostate Church, and arrogating the right of dictating the religion of their subjects, and implies that at the period of this event, a government is to subsist that shall nationalize the religion of that empire as under its last imperial head; the Wild-beast is the symbol of the civil rulers of the Kingdoms of the Western Empire; and the False-Prophet of the hierarchy of the Papal states. The unclean spirits represent ecclesiastics who profess to work miracles, and thus establish a Divine sanction to their mission; they induce the kings of the whole world to unite in a war to prevent the establishment of Christ’s Kingdom. The Great Day is the day when Christ shall visibly descend from Heaven and destroy His enemies and establish His Kingdom.)—7. This Vial is to be poured into the air which envelopes the globe, indicating that the great changes which follow it are to extend to all nations. Lightnings, voices, and thunders are symbols of the vehement thoughts and passionate expressions of multitudes, occasioned by the sudden discovery of momentous truth. The earthquake denotes a civil revolution in which the whole surface of universal society is to be thrown into disorder, and ancient political institutions to be shaken down. Great Babylon (p. 283) is to be divided into three parts. The cities of the nations are the hierarchies without the ten kings, as the Russian, Greek, etc.; these are to fall. Great Babylon is then to be destroyed. Every smaller combination of men symbolized by the islands is to be dissolved, etc. These events are to follow the Advent, to precede the vintage and perhaps the harvest, and are to occupy a considerable period.
Glasgow interprets the Vials: 1. The Vial was poured out by the preaching of Luther in 1517; the woe was executed in the wars waged by Charles V., subsequent to 1519, against France and Rome.—2. Poured out in the great Protest in 1529; the woe executed in the immediately following wars.—3. The rivers and fountains represent the purer Christians that, living in the midst of a nominal Christianity, have spiritual life. The pouring out of this Vial is the shedding of Protestant martyrs’ blood, beginning in 1546; followed by the shedding of retributive blood.—4. Symbolizes a stroke (?) upon the ecclesiastical power. It began at the rising of the Tridentine Council in 1564, and was followed by the Popedom of Pius V., the revolution in Holland, the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and the invasion of the English coast by the Spanish Armada, etc., producing what has been styled “the counter-Reformation.”—5. The attitude of self-defence assumed by the Protestants against Rome, followed by the Thirty Years’ War.—6. The decay of the population and power of the nations that constitute Great Babylon, i. e., the Roman or Latin nations, beginning with the first French revolution.—7. The air represents the intellectual department of knowledge. The pouring out of this Vial symbolizes the remarkable changes in political ideas, and revolutions in governments that have taken place and are yet to take place in consequence of the unprecedented advance in Science and Philosophy, to terminate in the destruction of the systems of the heathen world (involved in the fall of the cities of the nations) and Romanism (involved in the fall of Babylon or Rome).—E. R. C.]
EXPLANATIONS IN DETAIL
On the different divisions of the Vials of Anger into four and three, and five and two, compare Düsterdieck, p. 489. The same commentator observes here (in variation from p. 21) that “all seven Vials are poured out one after the other without intermission.” At all events, the vehement haste of a rapid approach to the end is unmistakable. Though there is no longer question of a fraction that is smitten (first a fourth, then a third), yet the generalness of the phrase, on the earth, on the sea, etc., is not to be understood in a literally absolute sense, but only as a universal operation which draws the process of worldly history to a close; otherwise we could hear no more of an emerging Church of God, the Bride of Christ.
Rev_16:1. A great voice.—“This can belong only to God Himself (Bengel, Züllig, Hengstenberg).” Düsterdieck. The voice speaks, however, of the Vials of the anger of God.—The voice out of the Temple is the voice of the Temple itself. The house of salvation says: My work upon this hardened race is at an end; now let the reign of anger begin. In like manner it was the spirit of compassion, from the four horns of the Altar, which in its time gave the signal for the loosing of the hosts of horsemen by the Euphrates (see Rev_9:13). The Apostle Paul makes the entirely analogous declaration (1 Corinthians 5): “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I have determined.… to deliver the same unto Satan.” See Rom_2:5.
Into the earth.—Here the earth embraces the whole sphere of the Vials of Anger, in distinction from [the earth of] Rev_16:2. Comp. Rev_8:5.
Rev_16:2. Into the earth.—The earth in a special sense, in accordance with its symbolical import (see above).—An evil and grievous sore.—Exo_9:10, Deu_28:35, Job_2:7. The malignant sore comes upon individual men from the earth—from the corrupt mass it fastens upon individuals; the corrupt character of the theocratic authority corrupts those characters that are subject to it, throws them into a condition of moral self-consumption. As they have marked themselves with the
of the Beast, they are now, by way of retribution, marked with the sore.
Rev_16:3. Into the sea.—On the symbolical import of this, see Syn. View.—Blood as of a dead man.—“Not a great pool of blood, as of many slain (on
, see à-Lapide, Eichh., De Wette, Hengsten., et al.), but the horribleness of the fact is increased by the circumstance that the sea seems like the coagulated and already putrefying blood of a dead man (Bengel, Züllig, et al.).” Düsterd. Since the blood of a living person quickly coagulates, the difference does not seem so very great. The main thing is that it is changed as into dead blood of dead men, in which no living being can be without dying. Fearful deadly poisoning of the life of the nations. That which had its being in this sea, lost its life in it. “
Ôὰ ἐí ôῇ èáëÜóóῃ
is in apposition” (Ebrard).
Rev_16:4-7. Into the rivers and fountains of waters.—The drinkableness of this blood, as contrasted with that of the sea, should, we think, not be premised. Here the drinking of blood is a punishment; in Rev_17:6 it appears as an offence meriting punishment. In the latter passage, the effect of fanatical blood-shedding, intoxicating even to frenzy, is meant; here we have the punishment of men with the drinking, repugnant to nature, of blood—the imbibing of nauseous and pernicious draughts of moral death (ever provocative of greater thirst) which they derive from those very streams and fountains that should give them clear, refreshing, living water.
And I heard the Angel of the waters saying.—This Angel is certainly not the guardian Angel of the physical waters (see De Wette, p. 156, with reference to Rev_7:1—“Angels over the winds”—and Rev_14:18—an Angel over fire), but neither is he merely “the Angel who emptied the Vial upon the water” (Grot., Ebrard). As sacrifices and prayers have a divinely ordained mission, represented by the fire-Angel, so geniuses—or the source-points of spiritual [geistig=intellectual, spiritual, as distinct from material] life—and spiritual [geistig] currents have their divinely-appointed mission. The spirit of the Divine destination of spirits and spirit-currents, therefore, gives utterance to the subsequent deliverance upon the great criminality of those men who have perverted these Divine appointments into the unnatural and horrible opposite of that which they were intended to be—into fountains and rivers of blood and death. According to Düsterdieck, the four Living-beings are analogous to the Angel over the water; he perceives a similarity to them in the Danielic Angel-princes also, whom he mentions (p. 492) in connection with Rabbinical conceptions (“earth-angels, sea-angels, fire-angels and the like).” Hengstenberg violently assumes a connection between our passage and Joh_5:4.
Who art and Who wast.—“The
êáὶ ὁ ἐñ÷üìåíïò
is wanting here as in Rev_11:17, because the coming to judgment is already in process of fulfillment.”—Holy,
.—In this retribution, God has shown not only His righteousness, but also His
, His holy and pure personal dignity, the Divine humanity of His government, as making visitation in this judgment for the criminal contempt of personal dignity. [The term
has reference to the covenant love and mercy of Jehovah toward His own people. It is here used as the most fitting ascription to Him who had avenged the blood of His
, His consecrated ones, upon their persecutors.—E. R. C.]—The blood of saints. —Mat_23:35; Rev_6:10; Rev_17:6; Rev_18:24; Rev_19:2.
From the altar.—The spirit of human destiny is not alone in adoring the righteousness and purity of God in this judgment; the spirit of sacrifice, of reconciliation, of intercession, joins in the sentiments uttered by the former. Over against the praise of Jehovah, the voice from the Altar brings in view the almighty sovereignty of God, the rule of Elohim Sabaoth, and instead of God’s holiness it magnifies, together with the righteousness, the truth in the judgments of God. These do not appear simply at the end, unmediated; they are prepared from the beginning by the prophecies of the Scriptures, of the human conscience, and of history. The bold and hence difficult expression personifying the Altar, has been the subject of manifold conjectures and additions, such as the following: Another Angel from the Altar [E. V.]; the Angel who keeps watch over the spirits under the Altar; an inhabitant of Heaven standing by the Altar, etc. The explanation of Bede: Interior affectus sanctorum vel angelorum vel hominum, does not properly belong in this category of supplements cited by Düsterdieck. See Rev_9:13. According to Düsterdieck, the idea of the speaking Altar is intelligible from chaps. Rev_6:10, Rev_8:3, Rev_9:13, Rev_14:18. But no more than we are at liberty to identify all Altar-visions, may we identify the voice of the Altar itself and the voice of soul-lives beneath it crying for vengeance. According to Hengstenberg, “the Altar itself here rejoices at the vengeance” for the “blood shed upon it” (?).
Rev_16:8-9. Upon the sun.—Reference is not had to the sun considered by and for itself; but neither is the sun, “in its burning quality,” “the figure of the sufferings of this life.” The operation of the sun of revelation is intended (comp. Rev_8:12). This operation—which is Christianity,—from being an enlightening and warming agency of blessing, is, by the anger-fire of fanaticism, over which the anger of God rules injudgment, converted into a glowing fire-shine [instead of the former and proper sun-shine.—Tr.], which makes men hot with great heat (passive); hereupon men, unable to distinguish between this fervid glow of an externalized Christianity and the name of God, Divine revelation itself, blaspheme the name of the God Who has authority over these plagues, instead of becoming converted (and so distinguishing between revelation-faith and fanaticism) and giving Him glory. This obduracy must be distinguished from impenitency (Rev_9:20).—It was given unto it;
—to the sun (De Wette, et al.). Bengel and others incorrectly: to the Angel.
Rev_16:10-11. Upon the throne of the Wild-beast.—As in the fourth Vial of Anger the judgment upon Babylon, the Harlot, is already foreshadowed, so in this fifth Vial the judgment upon the Beast, and in the sixth the judgment upon Gog and Magog (see Rev_13:2; 2 Thessalonians 2) are intimated.—The throne of the Beast is the principial system upon which the power of the Antichristian life of the people rests. There is no question of the fact that the principle of the absolute sovereignty of the absolute quantitative majority is the root of the most godless and mischievous confusions and seditious agitations, and that with the loosing of these confusions, induced by the Angel of anger, a great intellectual and social darkness must of necessity diffuse itself over that kingdom (not rulerdom) of the Beast which, in an ethical sense, was already darkened. That there may be an allusion to the Egyptian darkness is not, indeed, to be denied; it, however, plays no important part here.—They gnawed their tongues.—Together with the sensation of torment, the emotion of rage is expressed, as in the wailing and gnashing of teeth.—Blasphemed the God of the Heaven.—The blasphemy is directed no longer simply against the name of God, revelation, but against the God of the Heaven, the primeval revelation of God, and God in His universal revelation—hence, against all that is Divine. They have now reached the stage of recognizing, in the incipient ruin of the bestial kingdom, all the foregoing plagues, as plagues, but instead of now, at last, repenting of their works, they pass from their unbelief to that demonic belief in which they do indeed recognize the God of Heaven as the author of their plagues and sores, but recognize Him only consciously to blaspheme Him even in this phase of heavenly omnipotence and glory. Ebrard queries how a darkening or mere withdrawal of light can be conceived of as causing so great torments. The key to this problem is, he thinks, furnished by the locust-plague of the fifth Trumpet—the present darkness being occasioned, as he maintains, by a host of scorpions—and he declares that “any man who is not wilfully blind must be able to see this.” The sores of Rev_16:11 are also, as he thinks, distinguished from those of Rev_16:2, as the consequences of the unmentioned scorpion-stings. The problem as here set forth presupposes sensuous causes and effects; in the spiritual realm, however, there is nothing easier of conception than that the incipient darkening of the Antichristian Kingdom and all the fanatical hopes based upon it should result in the rage and torment of despair.
Rev_16:12-16. Upon the great river [Lange: the] Euphrates.—See Syn. View; comp. Rev_9:14. Above all things we must distinguish between the starting-point of this side of the Euphrates (Revelation 9.) and that of beyond the Euphrates. Therein is contained not merely a distinction, but also a contrast. It is wrong, therefore, to identify the Eastern kings with the four Angels (Ebrard). As little are they identical with the ten kings, Rev_17:12, who give their power to the Beast (De Wette, Düsterd.). The preparation of the judgment upon the Beast was treated of under the fifth Vial of anger. References to Eastern kings or Parthian allies ([confederated with Nero against Rome] Ewald), in the interest of the so-called synchrono-historical interpretation, need no more than a mention. An utter misapprehension of the sixth plague is manifested in Bengel’s designation of the imminent judgment upon the kings as itself the plague, into which the kings run. The plague, undoubtedly, culminates in the barely intimated defeat of the kings; but their very coming is a plague also, because, like the Hun and Mongol trains, they sweep away with them to the battle against God all the unsealed men and powers on their road. On account of the laying bare of the Euphrates’ bed, an event of historical occurrence in the capture of Babylon by Cyrus, it is maintained by some (Hofmann, Ebrard, De Wette, Brückner) that a battle of the Eastern kings against the spiritual Babylon is intended. To De Wette this passage suggests the passage of Israel through the Jordan. A number of interpretations of the kings see in De Wette, p. 157. Alcasar: The Apostles and Evangelists; Bullinger and others: Believing princes; Grotius: Constantine the Great; Vitringa: The Kingdom of France. Others: The King of Persia, the Barbarians, the Turks, the Flavians. Jews adopting the Christian faith (Herder: the Babylonish Jews who go to the aid of those of Palestine), etc.
Out of the mouth of the Dragon, etc.—Combined operation of all the evil powers. Out of the three great mouths go forth three unclean spirits, as spirits of seduction. Or rather they have gone forth from these mouths and now exist independently, although at the time of the last battle, in which Gog and Magog are judged, the Beast and the False Prophet are already destroyed (Rev_19:10). On the other hand, some expositors would fain read in Rev_16:14
, in order, by means of an artificial construction (see Hengstenberg), to gain the missing verb—which would, however, occasion material difficulties. The seed of rebellion lives on in impure spirits in that ring of heathenism which encircles the Millennial Kingdom. Be it, moreover, considered that here we are still in the course of the collective unitous description of the preparation for the General Judgment, and the colors of the three judgments still play into each other.
As frogs.—This similarity is borne by the unclean spirits themselves; it is not their uncleanness simply that is denoted by the
(as according to Hengstenberg). The Egyptian frogs (Exodus 8) were plaguing spirits because they went everywhere and defiled every thing with their uncleanness; these are plaguing spirits because they go forth to all parts as unclean demons, and seduce the kings of the earth to war against the City of God. They operate as spirits of demons, i. e., through ethico-psychical domination, after the analogy of possession. Even after the judgment upon the centralization of evil in the Harlot, in the Beast, and in the False Prophet, Satanic evil shall continue to exist in a seed of evil reminiscences amongst the heathen, and in demonic operations. The expedition to which they excite the Eastern peoples is not directed against Babylon=Rome, for this has already (Rev_17:18) incurred judgment. Hengstenberg says that the expedition is directed against Canaan, i. e., the Church, and that the prediction has reference “not to something that shall happen at some one future time, but to that which is to be continually repeated.” It is also asserted that Rome is not referred to, because all the other plagues have an œcumenical character. As if it were not called urbs from orbis. That the expedition is really not directed against Babylon-Rome is evident from the order of the judgments. According to Grotius, by the three frogs should be understood three forms of superstition to which Maxentius was addicted (the first is extispicium, not exstispicium); according to Luther, the sophists—namely, Faber, Eck and Emser; according to Vitringa, the Jesuits (the dried Euphrates being France, drained by its kings); according to Calovius, the Jesuits, Capuchins and Calvinists, etc. According to Düsterdieck, we should not ask what is to be understood by these three spirits—i. e., they are schematical—importing nothing. According to Artemidor (see De Wette), the frogs are significant of jugglers and buffoons. Aristophanes portrayed their allegorical significance long before the writing of the Apocalypse. The frog has been used as a symbol in manifold connections (see Friedrich, Symbolik und Mythologie der Natur, p. 611). A lively interpretation of these little impotent, yet withal vociferous, dwellers in slime, see in Ebrard, p. 435. Friedrich brings out the additional fact that frogs have impudent eyes.
Doing signs.—By this can be meant only lying apparent miracles—a description which applies to demonic miracles in general. De Wette speaks of an infatuating eloquence. The charm of eternally-repeated phrases is resident in will-magic, in the overpowering of weak souls by the semblance of assurance.—The kings of the whole inhabited world.—This expression is conditioned by the preceding words: the Eastern kings; although these may finally draw yet other powers into their vortex.—To the war of the great day.—The two days and the two battles [wars] (Rev_19:19; Rev_20:9) are as yet wrapped together in one—in such a manner, however, that the last battle is faintly visible. See Ezekiel 38, 39; Dan_12:1; Zechariah 12, 14.—The day of the last end-judgment, properly so-called (Judges 6). Thus Bengel, De Wette, and others. Other interpretations: the day is the entire time from the passion of Christ to the end (Bede). “The day of God has a comprehensive character, denoting all the phases of God’s judgments, etc.” (Hengst.) This is an attempt at the obliteration of definities—paving the way for his theory of the Millennial Kingdom.
[The expressions, day of the Lord, great day of the Lord, etc., are of frequent occurrence in the New Testament; see Act_2:20; 1Co_1:8; 1Co_5:5; 2Co_1:14; Php_1:6; Php_1:10; Php_2:16; 1Th_5:2; 1Th_5:4; 2Th_2:2; 2Pe_3:10; 2Pe_3:12. These passages (with the exception, perhaps, of those in 2 Peter), together with the one under consideration, seem to refer to the day of Christ’s appearing for the establishment of His Millennial Kingdom (comp. Rev_19:11-21; Mat_24:30 sqq.), and not to the day of Final Judgment (comp. Rev_20:11-15; Mat_25:31 sqq.) See Excursus on The Future Comings of the Lord, p. 339.—E. R. C.]
Behold, I come as a thief.—A practical, warning digression of the Apostle, as in similar great decisive moments. As a vivid reminder of a saying of the Lord, he introduces the Lord as immediately speaking (see Mat_24:43-44, Luk_12:39, Rev_3:3). [Not a digression of the Apocalyptist, but a solemn re-affirmation by the Spirit of the warning of Jesus and His Apostles; comp. Mat_24:43-44; Mar_13:35-36; Luk_12:39; 1Th_5:2; 1Th_5:4; 2Pe_3:10.—E. R. C.] The peculiar form of Christ’s admonition—as recommending watchfulness—is doubtless based upon the fact that He is speaking to believing readers. The keeping of the garments of salvation is an idea which lies the closer at hand since the glance of the Seer passes beyond even the day of the Parousia and the secure years of the Millennial Kingdom.
And He [orthey], etc.—The combatants are, without their will or even their knowledge, under the guidance of God, Who brings them to the battle-ground of their defeat (Eze_39:2). The subject of
is God (Hengsten., Ebrard); not the sixth Angel (Bengel),
SPECIAL DOCTRINO-ETHICAL AND HOMILETICAL NOTES (ADDENDUM)
Earth-picture of the Seven Vials of Anger, or the End-judgment in its general aspect. (Ch. 16.)
General.—The special homiletical treatment of this section is, like that of others, made more difficult by the disagreement of exegeses. According to Hengstenberg, for instance, the earth denotes the earthly-minded; the sea, the sea of nations, the unquiet wicked world (in antithesis to the earthly-minded!); the fountains of waters, the sources of prosperity; the sun, that luminary in its burning quality, the type of the sufferings of this life; the throne of the Beast, the government of the Roman emperors; the Euphrates, the hinderance to the advance of the God-opposed world-power into the Holy Land, against the Holy City, against the Church.
According to Brandt, the earth is the Holy Land, which has become the scene of the world-kingdom of the Dragon; the sea is the mass of peoples united under the sceptre of the Beast; the rivers and fountains are the peoples and families in their still subsistent sunderment; the sun is the glowing sun and nothing more; the throne of the Beast is the sovereign power of the Beast; the Euphrates is the Beast out of the Earth, or Babylon.
The exposition of Sabel is in part better; The earth denotes the positive foundations of State and Church; the sea, the Gentile-Christian world of nations. Next, however, come some abortive interpretations: The waters of life [rivers] are the refreshing truths of salvation, and the fountains of waters are the schools at which they are taught; the sun is the Church of Jesus Christ; the throne of the Beast is the Antichristian world—its darkening is the confusion and shattering of that world—The Euphrates is well characterized as emblematic of the boundary line of the civilized world; the drying up of it betokens a change in political wisdom resulting in a new migration of nations, as it were.
The Vials of Anger should, above all, be compared with the Trumpets; and the antithesis between the Trumpets calling to repentance and the judgments of hardening, should be noted. The judgments of hardening may be elucidated by the Egyptian plagues, Isa_6:10 and analogous passages. They are indicative of such judgments as ripen corruption—when it has come to be past healing—into its final development and consummation, thus resulting in blasphemy, which in itself is damnation (Rev_16:9; Rev_16:11; Rev_16:21), whilst, the Trumpets were designed to produce repentance. The first Vial of Anger readily suggests examples of the moral corruption and dissolution of individual states and communities (Babylon, Jerusalem, Rome, etc.) as warning signs.
In treating the second Vial of Anger we may touch upon the symptoms, of the empoisonment of popular life by writings, tendencies, conspiracies. The symbolic import of the rivers is sufficiently attested by Scripture—the Nile, the Euphrates, the Jordan, the brook of Siloah; the same remark applies to the fountains. A consideration of poisoned and poisoning, death-dealing currents and fountains or fountain minds, would be appropriate here. The transformation of the sun of revelation into a glowing and scorching mass, by human fanaticism, negative as well as positive, is easily intelligible. The darkening of the throne and kingdom of darkness may be explained by the crumbling of the power of falsehood into contradictions, partyisms and suicidal complots. The drying up of the Euphrates, as the abolition of the boundary line between the civilized and the barbarian world, has a rich significance. Abolition of the distinctions of religions, stations, culture, of the sexes (emancipation of women), etc.—Symbolic import of the frogs.—The dissolution and decomposition of the common spiritual vital air must be a presage that the common existence of those who breathe it is drawing to a close.—The downfall of things in the evening of the world will be, first, a downfall of the spirit-world (Rev_16:19); secondly, a downfall of nature; thirdly, a downfall of the relation between the human world and the life of nature.
Special.—[chap. 16] The Vials of Anger in comparison with Christ’s Cup of Suifering: 1. The similarity; 2. The contrast,—[Rev_16:2.] The noisome sore in a social and a spiritual sense: Deficit; corruption of morals; mortality, etc.—[Rev_16:3; Rev_16:14.] Transformation of the waters into blood, as a retribution for the nefarious and mock-holy shedding of blood (Rev_16:5-7).—Apology for the avenging righteousness of God.—The blasphemies (Rev_16:9; Rev_16:11; Rev_16:21). How are they punished? Primarily, through themselves, (1) their madness, (2) their impotence, (3) their torment.—[Rev_16:12.] The dangers to Christian humanity lying dormant in the Orient. An Orient of mischief over against the Orient of salvation.—[Rev_16:13.] The three frogs. Even in respect to the terrors of the last time, a sacred irony of the Spirit is manifested, testifying to the freeness of the Spirit,—[Rev_16:14.] Enthusiasm of those inspired by the frogs.—[Rev_16:15.] The Coming of the Lord compared with the coming of a thief: 1. Strangeness of the figure; 2. Design of this strangeness.—[Rev_16:16.] Armageddon, or the theocratic battle-fields.—Battle-fields of the world, from their dark and their bright side.—The last battle-field: Armageddon, the scene of a conflict between the world and the spirit-realm.—[Rev_16:17.] It is done!—The last glorious revelation of Christ’s Spirit in His Church (Rev_16:18).—[Rev_16:19.] The falling of great Babylon into three parts, the announcement of the three judgments.—Crisis of nature in the evening of the world (Rev_16:20-21).
Starke: (This expositor continues his presentation of opposite views.) Rev_16:2. Those who regard this as already fulfilled, explain it mystically thus: The sore is the manifestly shameful and hurtful condition of the whole papistic Church. (In contrast to this view, there is a literal exposition of the empoisonment of earth and of life, and also an allegorical interpretation, referring the passage to the bad conscience and anguish of soul of the wicked.)—The wrath of man is greater than his power, but God has power to carry out His wrath (1Ki_19:2-3).
Rev_16:4. Those who regard this plague as fulfilled see in it the blood-thirsty doctrines and counsels of the Pope.
Rev_16:6. God, in proportioning His punishments to the sins which have provoked them, teaches us that we should proportion our penitence to our sins.—The blood of saints is precious in God’s eyes; He forgetteth it not, but recompenseth it with righteous vengeance.
Rev_16:8. Interpretations of the sun:  The natural sun;  A mighty king;  The Beast (! Reinbeck).
Rev_16:9. Application to the wars of Charles VIII. and subsequent French kings in Italy.—As all things work together for the good of the pious, so all things, even the beams of the sun, work evil to the wicked (Rom_8:28).—Quesnel: The scourgings of God discover the heart; out of a perverse heart they bring forth blasphemies, out of a penitent heart they bring praise, humility and love.
Rev_16:10. Even thrones and majesties are not secure from the chastisement of God. He can in His wrath destroy entire and flourishing kingdoms—Dimpel: Misuse not thy tongue for the flattery and excessive exaltation of the lofty, the distinguished and the rich, that thou mayest not afterwards, when God taketh such idols from thee, have to moan and lament, aye, and gnaw thy tongue for vexation; but let thy tongue daily tell of God’s righteousness.
Rev_16:10. Singular interpretation: The darkening of the Beast’s kingdom is the revelation, reaching far and wide, of all the abominations and vices of the Pope and the whole Roman clergy. Opposite (?) interpretation: The kingdom of the Beast despised by men.
Rev_16:12. Some: The drying up of the Euphrates is yet to come, although it might seem to be partially fulfilled in the kingdom of France, that being the most powerful kingdom of Europe, and the one that has afforded most protection to the Beast, in the persecution of the Huguenots, etc.—A great religious war is in prospect, the issue of which is greatly to be desired for the true Church.
Rev_16:13. The frogs: considered in respect of the Antichristian hellish trinity in which they originate—viz., the Dragon, the Beast and the False Prophet. Many a one who has a horror of the Devil when Scripture calls him a Dragon, listens to him with complacency when he speaks by the mouth of an unchaste woman, or a false teacher or godless babbler. The Devil has his apostles, as well as the Lord.—Quesnel: Satan has his designs when he assembles armies, men have theirs, and God has His, to the realization of which last all things must conduce (Isa_10:6-7).
Quesnel: [Rev_16:17.] There is a seventh and last Vial for every individual sinner, but who knows it?
Rev_16:18. Some apprehend this mystically as referring to the Church: there shall be voices, open preaching of the Gospel, the thunder of the Divine word, and lightnings, the bright light of the Gospel, shall break forth again with power, and a remarkable movement of men’s souls shall be the result.
Rev_16:20. How foolish it is to attach ourselves to a world that fleeth away, and, like our desires, vanisheth.
Rev_16:21. God’s chastisements do not always make men better—they sometimes have a directly opposite effect.
Bengel, Sechzig erbauliche Reden. The Trumpets make a wide circuit in a long time, but the Vials make quick work of it.—The four holy Beasts [Living-beings] are nearer to the Throne than the Angels in general, and these seven Angels in particular (recte!) [ch. Rev_15:7].—The earth is Asia, the sea Europe, the rivers Africa (which contains the two principal rivers, the Nile and the Niger, etc.). The sun is the whole surface of the earth (partly, therefore, Asia, Europe and Africa again).
Rev_16:10. They still think that the Beast is right, and they become none other than they were, either internally or externally.
Rev_16:21. The whole creation is like an organ with many stops, and when one stop after another shall be drawn out as a plague upon the wicked, scorners shall learn somewhat that they look not for.
Briefe über Offenb. Joh. Ein Buch für die Starken, die schwach heissen (Pfenninger).
Rev_16:1-2. An evil and poisonous ulcer came upon the men who had the mark of the Beast and who worshipped his image. Another wonderful and repentance-preaching sparing of Christians.
Rev_16:8-9. How strong must be our conviction of the immeliorability of these men.
Rev_16:17-21. The great earthquake, greater than any that had ever been, will, judging from Rev_16:20, bring about those great changes in the shape of the earth, whose embellishment is in prospect, which must precede the time of the Messiah’s government.—[Rev_16:21.] The last hail: I, for my part, confess that as often as I think of a violent—nay, of the most violent—fever of earth, I can never picture to myself all the symptoms, in their great variety and contrast, in sufficient grandeur and extraordinariness.
[From M. Henry: Rev_16:15. When God’s cause comes to be tried, and His battles to be fought, all His people should be ready to stand up for His interest, and be faithful and valiant in His service.
Rev_16:21. Note here, 1. The greatest calamities that can befall men will not bring them to repentance without the grace of God working with them. 2. Those that are not made better by the judgments of God, are always the worse for them. 3. To be hardened in sin and enmity against God by His righteous judgments, is a certain token of utter destruction.—From The Comprehensive Commentary: Rev_16:9; Rev_16:11; Rev_16:21. Without the special, preventing grace of God the more men suffer, and the more plainly they see the hand of God in their sufferings, the more furiously they often rage against Him. Let then sinners now seek repentance from Christ, and the grace of the Holy Spirit, or they will hereafter have the anguish and horror of an unhumbled, impenitent and desperate heart, burning with enmity against God, as well as tortured by the fire of His indignation; and thus augmenting guilt and misery to all eternity. (Scott.)
Rev_16:15. These will be times of great temptation; and therefore Christ, by His apostle, called on His professed servants to expect His sudden coming, and to “watch,” that they might retain, and be found in, the garments of salvation, and not “walk naked,” and so be put to shame, as apostates or hypocrites; for the blessing would belong only to the watchful. (Scott.)—From Wordsworth: Vials are holy vessels. Wherever means of grace are not duly used, they recoil on those to whom they have been offered, and become means of punishment.—From Vaughan: Rev_16:15. The garments of the watcher must not be laid aside; he must have his loins girded about (for action), as well as his lights burning (Luk_12:35).—The peculiarity of Christ’s coming is that everything which seems to defer really brings it near; everything which seems to make it improbable is an argument of its certainty and of its approach. Behold, I come as a thief.—Awake, then, thou that steepest! Be not found of Him, when He cometh, drowsy and stupefied, overcharged with cares and riches and pleasures of this life; the lamp of grace expiring, or the garment of holiness laid aside.—From Bonar: Rev_16:15. These are words for all time, but specially for the last days. They (1) warn, (2) quicken, (3) rouse, (4) comfort. Note here, 1. The coming. Christ comes (1) as Avenger, (2) as Judge, (3) as King, (4) as Bridegroom. “As a thief;”—at midnight; when men are asleep; when darkness lies on earth; when men are least expecting Him; when they have lain down, saying: “Peace and safety.” Without warning, though with vengeance for the world in His hand: when all past warnings of judgment have been unheeded. Without further message; for all past messages have been in vain. Like a thief to the world, but like a Bridegroom to the Church. 2 The watching. Not believing, nor hoping, nor waiting merely; but watching. Watch upon your knees. Watch with your Bibles before you. Watch with wide open eye. Watch for Him Whom not having seen you love. 3. The keeping of the garments. Do not cast off your raiment either for sleep or for work. Do not let the world strip you of it. Keep it and hold it fast. It is heavenly raiment, and without it you cannot go in with your Lord when He comes. 4. The blessedness. It is blessed (1) because it cherishes our love; (2) it is one of the ways of maintaining our intercourse; (3) it is the posture through which He has appointed blessing to come, in His absence, to His waiting Church. 5. The warning. Adam was ashamed at being found naked when the Lord came down to meet him; how much more of shame and terror shall be to unready souls at meeting with a returning Lord! O false disciple, come out of your delusion and hypocrisy, lest you be exposed in that day of revelation! O sinner, make ready, for the day of vengeance is at hand!]