(16.12)       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.


1. Let me read some comments of William R. Newell on this verse:


This is the literal Euphrates. There can be no other real interpretation of this passage. Imagination has very often substituted for exposition, even in such a plain passage as this.

Let us note regarding the Euphrates and its “drying up”:

1. It is mentioned twenty-one times in Scripture; and called “the great river” five times, as the Mediterranean was called “the great sea”: for the Euphrates was the eastern, as the Mediterranean was the western boundary of God’s own people’s inheritance.

2. It was a protection to Israel, both because of the difficulty of its passage, and because of the fact that God had placed a wilderness west of it, between it and Canaan. Only at the upper or northern part was it practically passable (so that Babylon is called by the prophets, the enemy “from the north country”). Even the Roman Empire had its eastern bound here.

3. It is nearly two thousand miles long (1,780). It rises in the Armenian Mountains, flowing at first toward Palestine, to within less than 100 miles of the Mediterranean, then turning away southeast to the Persian Gulf, winding upon itself constantly. It is navigable for 1200 miles. It flowed through old Babylon, which was (and may yet be) the commercial center of the whole world (Revelation 18).

4. It was first seen just outside Eden in Genesis 2, where human sin begins, and is last seen here in Revelation 16:12, where sin reaches its height. Twice in The Revelation does it appear; in chapter 9:13-15, where “at the great river Euphrates” we saw four angels bound, the loosing of which issued in killing the third of the earth’s population. Here in 16:12, its drying up permits countless thousands to rush forward to their doom at Armageddon.

5. The solemnity of the crossing of the Euphrates to invade God’s land, by these eastern hosts, is very awful indeed. That the western nations, under the Beast, the last Emperor of the fourth world-power, should invade Palestine does not startle us so much: (the Roman Empire often persecuted the Jews, and ruled them many centuries). But that these recently pagan hosts from the East, who have now heard the gospel of Christ from thousands of faithful missionaries and rejected it, choose the Antichrist and march to Armageddon to help destroy the Jews (since the Church has been taken up out of their reach) is appalling! That dry bed of Euphrates will be an eastern Rubicon: for all will know whither they are bound, and why, as the sequel shows.[1]


2. Folks, for 4000 years the Euphrates River has been a barrier that separated the east from the west. If you look on a detailed map of the river you will see that there are no real places for fording under combat conditions. This is because where it is narrow it is quite deep, and where it is shallow it is very wide . . . frequently more than a mile wide. Much easier to invade from the north or from the south, so the Euphrates does not have to be crossed, as United States armed forces did when they entered Iraq from the south and as they had desired to enter Iraq from the north.


3. Years ago skeptics who looked at this portion of Scripture mocked this prediction of the drying up of the Euphrates. Such a thing would never happen, they maintained. But we can now build dams, can we not? What if you built a dam at the headwaters of the Euphrates? What if you significantly reduced the flow of the main river so it could be crossed by a large army? What if you are able to completely stop the flow for a while? Then there are pontoon bridges that can be used to cross the narrower courses of the river.


4. When that happens, and it can easily happen that dams are built during the tribulation where no dams exists today, the way will be open for the Asian armies to march out from the east, as the Bible predicts.


(16.13)       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.


1. John did not see three unclean frogs come out of the dragon’s mouth and the beast’s mouth and the false prophet’s mouth. He actually saw, apparently with spiritual perception God had given to him, three unclean spirits come forth from them. They were likened to frogs.


2. Why does John refer to them as “three unclean spirits like frogs”? I suspect that John is using frogs as a likeness of these spirits to show their disgusting defilement and filthiness. The frog, in John’s day, was seen to be the most filthy and unclean animal in existence . . . both to Jewish people and to a great many Gentiles. These spirits, then, are incredibly foul, showing how foul the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet must be.


3. What we should not lose sight of in this verse is the unholy trinity of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. The dragon is Satan himself. The beast is the antichrist. The false prophet is that religious figure who entices the religiously inclined to worship the beast, salving the consciences of the religious crowd so they will feel good about their apostasy.


(16.14)       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.


1. This unholy trinity will actually work miracles through these three foul spirits. But this should be no great surprise, since Second Thessalonians 2.9 indicates that the enemy has supernatural power. The question is “Do the miracles draw the kings of the earth into Palestine to do battle? Or do the miracles merely convince the kings that the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet should be listened to?” I do not know the answer to that one.


2. Notice, if you will, that the unholy trinity is affecting the gathering of the kings into Palestine, obviously with their armies not far behind. But let us not forget that it is God’s purpose that is being realized as this all takes place. He is always in control of the situation. Amen?


3. As they march into Palestine, perhaps to fight for the riches and the wealth of the Dead Sea, they think they are going to prevail. What they do not realize, however, is that this is going to be God’s day, the great day of God Almighty. And this word which is translated “almighty” is the Greek word pantokratoroV, which is an adjective that refers to absolute and total power. These men who think they are powerful, are about to meet in battle the God of all power and might. Will that not be interesting for them?[2]


(16.15)      Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.


1. It is the Lord Jesus Christ Who speaks here. When He comes as a thief, we can be sure that reference is being made to His second coming at the end of the Tribulation and not at the time when He comes for the Church Age believers. Remember, a thief is someone you try to lock out. When the Lord Jesus comes He will come as a thief to an unsuspecting world.


2. What does it mean to keep your garments? The great Jewish Christian scholar of days gone by, Alfred Edersheim, sheds light on the last sentence of verse 15. He points out that when the apostle John was a young man the Jewish people had temple guards who stood watch around Herod’s temple in Jerusalem, during the evening hours from sundown to sunrise. When the captain of the guards went around to check on his men he would set fire to the clothes of any man he found asleep.


3. The result, for the guard, was that he would have to serve out the rest of his guard time fully or partly naked. People and his fellow guards would see his nakedness or whatever was left of his burned clothes and he would be greatly shamed.


4. Jesus is apparently telling His followers who were saved during the Tribulation that He is coming quickly and that they must be watchful . . . not like the unsaved and Hell-bound who will be caught napping. The person who does watch is blessed.


(16.16)       And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.


1. This verse shows proves that all the time the three unclean spirits were drawing the kings to Palestine, it was actually the Lord Jesus Christ Who was gathering them. He was providentially gathering them to the place called Armageddon.


2. Armageddon means “the Mount of Megiddo,” and lies in a region of Palestine where many of the decisive battles of Israelite history have been fought. But a battle will not be fought at Armageddon. It will be much more than a mere battle. It will actually be an entire military campaign.


3. At first the major military powers will do battle against each other. But when the Lord Jesus Christ comes back again, in response to the cry of His people for salvation, for deliverance, then all of those ungodly forces will unite in their opposition to the King of kings. Then, in that region round about Armageddon, they will be slain by the Word of His mouth.


4. Though John does not refer to it here, let me share a verse which relates to the events John is dealing with, Hosea 5.15: “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.” This is a prophetic verse which shows what will happen from the nation of Israel’s perspective that will result in the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

[1] William R. Newell, The Book Of The Revelation, (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1935), pages 254-256.

[2] Bauer, page 755.

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