THE FIRST VIAL IS POURED OUT
Rev 16:1-2 And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth. And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.
Bible scholars are divided over the interpretation of these seven plagues, referred to as God pouring out His wrath upon various elements of the earth, from these seven vials. Today, most contend that they pertain to past events rather than future, with the majority saying that they refer to the calamitous occurrences that led to the fall of the Papal powers of Rome. The opposition to this symbolic meaning naturally comes primarily from Roman Catholic interpreters as well as from some futurists recognized as Rationalists.
As the lesson text begins, John hears a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth. Naturally the voice could not have come from the Jewish temple of God, because it was destroyed before this Revelation was written by John. What he refers to was a symbolic temple - the Old Testament dwelling place of God that was replaced by the church of Christ, where God dwells during the New Testament era. From this we know that the great voice came from the very presence of God, which tells us that the symbolic events depicted would come from His omniscient judgments, and would be carried out by His almighty power. The voice instructed the seven angels to go your ways. That is, the seven angels had seven specific, but different, tasks to fulfill, at different times, and in different places. In each instance, an angel was to empty God's wrath, contained in that specific vial, upon the earth, which would result in a calamitous plague smiting a particular enemy of God, whether it was an individual, a generation, an evil civil government, an unrighteous religious order, or a nation of rebellious people. Just as God's plagues redeemed the Israelites form Egyptian bondage, so these plagues would be sent to redeem the church of Christ from the persecuting hands of spiritual Babylon - the Satan-inspired powers of Rome.
As John observed this vision, the first (angel) went, and poured out his vial upon the earth. The earth is specified to distinguish it from the air, the seas, rivers, or other fountains of water. The wrath of God that was poured out resulted in noisome and grievous sores, or ulcerous wounds, which is probably the better rendering. John goes on to identify those who were punished by God's wrath as the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image. Referring back to Revelation 13:11-18, we know these men were converts, and followers, of Roman Catholicism. They were deceived by listening to, heeding, and following the teaching of the anti-Christ, the Roman Catholic papacy, symbolically referred to as Satan - the dragon who was disguised as a gentle, two-horned lamb (See Rev. 13:11). These deceived Roman citizens were "owned" by the apostate Roman church hierarchy, and proudly carried their "mark" on their hands or foreheads, in order to identify themselves as belonging to this Catholic religious order. At its highest point, Catholicism pervaded most of the European continent, especially England, France, Spain, and many other countries having German and Dutch citizenship.
It was on some of these deceived followers of Roman Catholicism, that God's wrath was poured out of the first vial. We understand that it resulted in a symbolic ulcerous sore to those on which it fell. This we also know from charts depicting explanations of symbolism, that such malignant sores are often used to describe a calamitous conditions, which are brought about by both spiritual and moral corruption of a people or a nation. Since this was the first of a series of events denoting the wrath of God being exercised against the enemies of the church of Christ, we know that it must refer to a period of time occurring soon after 1793, since this was the date prophetic symbolism identified as the weakening of the oppressive Roman civil and religious power that led to its final defeat. The time in history that we would be searching for, would correspond with this symbolic vision seen by the apostle John, and would probably follow close to the end of the 1,260-year period of persecution of the followers of Christ, His church.
The event most bible scholars identify with the symbolism found in the lesson text, is the period historians refer to as that which preceded and accompanied the French Revolution. Although the protests and dissensions against the papal installed monarchy of France began approximately in the year 1789, it continued for ten years, ending in 1799 under the military leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte, who actually ruled France from 1804 through 1815. Indeed, the moral ulcer in France had been festering for years and finally broke out in 1793, which resulted in sending tens of thousands of France's nobility to their death by guillotine beheading. Those slain by the rebellious masses of lower classed citizens of France, included the Catholic king, his family, his ruling nobility, as well as Catholic bishops and priests. The newly appointed governors of France soon declared the nation to be atheistic and banished all elements of Roman Catholicism from the state. Thus France, one of the mightiest Catholic nations of Europe, had now completely separated itself from the papacy of Rome.
The symbolism found in the vision of God's wrath being poured out of first vial, and causing grievous, ulcerous sores on people of the earth, certainly fits this portion of the French Revolution. This historical event severely weakened the influence of the Catholic papacy, not only in France, but throughout European and Asian nations, and caused irreparable injury to Roman Catholicism from which it was never able to recover.