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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder


Rev 16:10-11 And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.

Although previous symbolic vials being poured out were precursors to the prediction visually seen by John in the lesson text, they were all pointing to this historic event. Very few bible scholars deny that the seat of the beast, noted in this text, refers to the Italian city of Rome, symbolically identified as the seven headed beast (See Rev. 13:1 ff). It was from this city that the Roman Empire ruled a major portion of the known world for approximately 1300 years. This symbolic prophecy tells us that when God's wrath is poured out upon the civil and religious authorities of Rome that their kingdom would be full of darkness. Rome, the city that once prided itself as being the ultimate source of learning and knowledge; the city that was once looked upon for its pomp and beauty, was now filled with darkness, contempt, and dishonor. Never was a more just punishment to be inflicted upon a nation who brought about a period known as The Dark Ages. At the demand of the Roman Catholic papacy, the military powers of this nation confiscated all bibles and other religious writings from the common people, and, by threat of death, they were never again allowed to personally hold, own, or read such holy writings. Also, when this irreligious nation received the just wrath of God they gnawed their tongues for pain, a term that means the deepest of pain and mental anguish.

The result of God's wrath being poured out upon these Roman persecutors of Christ's church was to justly reward their irreverent impenitence. One would think that God's wrath would cause them to recognize, repent, and demonstrate remorsefulness for their ungodly acts of religious oppression against Christians. Indeed, for centuries, they inflicted harm and even death to the body of Christ, which completely stopped the gospel of Christ from being spread throughout the world. But instead of acknowledging their sinful acts of repression and seeking God's forgiveness, this apostate nation blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds. Is there any doubt that the reason for the unrepentant nature of Roman Catholicism is the direct result of the blind, unquestioning reliance upon their various popes, whose decisions and actions, by their own proclamations, were declared to be infallible?

The historic incidents that fulfill the symbolic prophecy of God's wrath being poured out of these vials seem to be sequential. And like the others, the fulfillment predicted by the fifth vial seems to follow that same order. Without any doubt it refers to calamities falling upon the "beast," that is Rome and its civil government, which was, at that time, completely under the control, and direction, of the Catholic papacy. The fulfillment of each vial seems to result in one additional step toward the final destructive end of the temporal power of the Vatican, which culminates with the pouring out of the seventh vial.

Beginning approximately in the year 1794 and extending through 1848, there was a rebellion brewing in Rome against the Roman Catholic papacy, especially against their control over the civil governments in which Catholicism dominated as the state-authorized religion of its inhabitants. During this period various popes were exiled and the temporal authority was taken from them, leaving them only with spiritual authority over the membership of their own religious see. Also during this period, according to B. W. Johnson's explanatory notes, the armed Italian revolutionists overran the Vatican and scattered the Papal army which protected it.

With the temporal power of the pope gone, this new government seized the entire assets comprising the wealth of the Vatican. The lands which it owned were confiscated, the monasteries and religious convents were closed and possession was taken by the newly formed Republican government of Rome. Protestant churches and schools were founded and allowed to exist, and universal religious toleration was declared. Even statues were erected for Christian martyrs whom the papacy had slain. All building structures were ransacked and pillaged; valuable works of art were taken; even the personal clothing and accessories of the current, and past popes, were confiscated, and sold to the highest bidder. The only thing that remained within the sacred buildings of Catholicism were the fresco paintings on there walls by the artists Raphael and Michael Angelo. The entire possessions of the Roman Catholic Church, and its papacy, had now been confiscated, and declared to be the national property of the Republican government of Italy. God's wrath had been poured out of the fifth vial upon the "beast." Its symbolism had been fulfilled.