THE THIRD VIAL IS POURED OUT
Rev 16:4-7 And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because Thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Thy judgments.
Just as the sounding of the first trumpet foretold a calamity upon the earth (Rev. 8:7), and the second upon the sea (Rev. 8:8), so the wrath of God was poured out of the first vial upon the earth (Rev. 16:2), and the second vial was poured upon the sea (Rev. 16:3). In the lesson text we have the third angel pouring out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters, very similar to what occurred when the third trumpet was sounded (Rev. 8:10). Symbols such as these always predict calamitous disasters, and warring conflicts, which result in the shedding of human blood and death. Such was the case with the sounding of the third trumpet, which foretold of the bloody invasion of the Roman Empire by Attila and his army of Huns. As predicted this invasion primarily took place in Northern Italy and had a devastating effect on the river systems of that country, which was fed mainly from the melting of alpine mountain snows (See Rev. 8:10-11). The battles here were so intense and ferocious, from mortal combat, that the streams were said to become stained with so much blood that they became red.
Returning to the lesson text, John said that he heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because Thou hast judged thus. It was a common belief of that era that angels presided over all elements of the earth, and the atmosphere which surrounds it. It seems this is what is meant by "the angel of the waters." In this verse, the angel rejoices over these bloody battles against the Roman government and the apostate Catholic religious order. Why? They were joyous because the Huns, led by King Attila, resoundingly defeated them, and this resulted in so much bloodshed that the northern rivers of Italy seemingly ran red from their stain. Even God's angels rejoice when justice is served against the enemies of Jesus Christ and His church. Speaking of the anti-Christian Roman civil and religious leaders who persecuted the church of Christ, John writes that they have shed the blood of saints and prophets. He continues to reveal God's just punishment against them: Thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. God's justice was re-echoed from His presence by another heavenly being which commended these divine retaliatory actions by proclaiming, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Thy judgments.
Continuing with the sequence of occurrences prophetically depicted by the angel's pouring out God's wrath from their vials, we again look for historical events fulfilling the symbolism found in John's vision which he recorded in the lesson text, for the benefit of future children of God. All events that symbolically fulfill the vision of John with the pouring out of the vials seem to have occurred during the French Revolution. The historic predictions occurred when the wrath of God was poured out during this period, which extended between the years 1793 through 1815. We know also that the main area of the persecution of true followers of Christ took place in the Northern Piedmont area of Italy. This area, known for its numerous rivers, streams, and fountains, were created annually by the melting of Alpine snowfall. It was here that the blood of faithful, martyred Christians was shed at the hands of the Roman armies, who were sent by the Catholic papacy to destroy members of the church of Christ. Here, in these northern mountains and valleys of Italy, the blood of many children of God was shed, due to severe Roman persecution.
John seems to indicate that the attacking forces of France, which resulted in the slaying of hundreds of thousands of Roman soldiers in this same area of northern Italy, was God's just punishment for their unrelenting persecution, and death, of Christians. Within one year, according to Barnes' Notes on this subject, "Battles of Montenotte, Millesimo, Dego; the passage of the bridge of Lodi, and fall of Milan; the siege of Mantua, and the battle of Castiglione; the battles of Caldero and Arcola; and the battles of Rivoli and Mantua." This is followed ...with the fall of Venice; and this is followed with an account of the invasion of Switzerland." It is not necessary to enumerate all of the many additional battles that were fought in these areas to assure the reader that these historic events remarkably correspond to the symbolism of the third angel's vial that was poured out upon the rivers and fountains of waters.
These battles took place on the Rhine River, the Po River, and many other Alpine streams in the area of Piedmont and Lombardy. All of these regions were under the civil and religious influence and control of the Roman papacy - they were referred to as "papal states and territories." Indeed, this area of Northern Italy was the same in which the inhumane Roman persecution resulted in the shedding of the blood of slain saints, but was now filled with the blood of slain Roman persecutors. And so great was the blood of the slain Roman armies that the streams, rivers, and fountains of water turned red from their blood. Soon after these bloody battles took place, the French armies took the city of Rome and proclaimed it to be a French Republican territory. Pope Pius VI was taken prisoner, carried into France, and soon afterwards, died. As noted by many biblical historians, other results of these invasions by the French armies were symbolically revealed when the fourth angel poured out his vial of God's wrath. Truly it could be said: Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Thy judgments.