THE SIXTH VIAL IS POURED OUT
Rev 16:12-16 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. 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. 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. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And He gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
Just as the angel who poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates, so, too, are the historical results that were prophesied at the sounding of the sixth trumpet (See Rev. 9:14 ff). We concluded that the blare of this trumpet was historically fulfilled by the overthrow of the Eastern Roman Empire. We also know that the Babylonian nation was militarily taken by Cyrus, which centered about the ancient river Euphrates. He was able to accomplish this by diverting the flow of this river around Babylon, and marching his army through the river bed, which had previously ran under the walls of the city. The nature of this historic incident seems to be appropriate to the symbolic prophecy, seen by the apostle John, and recorded for our learning. The lesson text tells us this about this great river: the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. Although there is much debate over the meaning of this passage, one opinion stood out prominently, and seems to the one having the greater plausibility. Just as the wise men of the East, referred to as kings in the Psalms, came to pay homage to the Christ child, so with the elimination of the barrier, noted here as the river Euphrates, the way would become open for the inhabitants of this ancient area to also come to Christ and accept Him as their spiritual King.
Continuing in verse 13, it is easy to recognize three enemies of Christianity that seem to have formed an alliance. These three allies are identified as the dragon, ...the beast, and ...the false prophet. From the mouth of each of these three symbolic beings, there came unclean spirits like frogs. That is, they assumed a visible form like that of a frog, and was recognized as such by the apostle John. According to scholars that study symbolic representations, frogs depict heretics and philosophers, having such characteristics as sinful, corrupt, impure, harsh, and impudent. They were very similar to the unclean, disgusting, and hated frogs that were identified as one of the plagues of Egypt. One of these prophetic frogs appears to be coming out of the mouth of the dragon, which almost always refers to Satan. Another frog comes out of the mouth of the beast, which was described in Revelation 13:1-10, as the secular Roman governors, who were appointed, and directed, by the Catholic papacy. And the last of the three symbolic frogs was noted as coming out of the mouth of the false prophet, or the second beast symbolically noted in Revelation 13:11-18 as the Roman Catholic papacy who falsely spake as a dragon (or Satan).
It is these three anti-Christian world powers that are noted here as allies, having joined together with the common goal of destroying the influence of the true New Testament doctrine of Christ Jesus. And by defeating the teaching of the church of Christ, these evil powers would protect their control over men and women of the world, by preventing the spread of the New Testament word of God. Verse 14 describes them as the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world. They were Satan-driven evil spirits working, what seemed to be, miracles designed to deceive all men and women, especially monarchs, kings, and other similarly named rulers of the world, into accepting them as divine messengers of God. By their deception, these three evil powers would be able to gather many nations, and unite with them, to go into battle against the true followers of Christ that bore His name as Christians. And why did the three spirits of devils deceive other nations of the world? Because they desired an additional alliance with them in order to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
The symbolism here does not refer to Judgment Day. Rather it means a struggle between people and nations that are under the influence of Satan against Christians, members of the body of Christ who believe in, live by, and openly proclaim the truths found in the New Testament to the world. Whether this refers to a literal conflict of war, or not, is greatly debated among so-called bible scholars. However, it seems that, according to verse 13, the symbolic drying up of the Euphrates River will play a significant role in the last conflict, that will decide the fate of Roman Catholic dominance, which is noted in this chapter, and elsewhere, as the spiritual Babylon.
Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. Although this same wording is used when speaking of the final Day of Judgment, I believe it is used here to caution all faithful children of God, the church of Christ, to wait and watch for the spiritual battle, that He will wage against all Satan-inspired opposition to Christ Jesus found in the world. Here it is symbolically referred to by the pouring out of the wrathful contents of the sixth vial. The encouragement here is for Christians to be completely aware of the rebellious nature of the leaders of the apostate religion of Rome, in order to avoid its consequences. They are to remain strong, unwavering, and always clothed in the New Testament garments of righteousness, as found in the doctrine of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.
And He gathered them together. Again, much debate is made over the identification of the pronoun "He." It is my opinion, as well as many others, that it refers to God, therefore I took the liberty to reverently capitalize the word. Its appears to be referring to a singular being, therefore it is not practical to think it means the three spirits of verse 13; neither the various kings noted in verse 14. Some commentators have considered the word, because it is used singularly, refers either to Christ, the sixth angel, or even Satan. However there is little doubt that the passage refers to God. It was He that divinely gathered them together, that is the three unclean spirits of verse 13, and the kings whom they recruited in verse 14. And where was this gathering to take place, in which this moral and spiritual conflict between good and evil was to be waged? The scene of this battle between the righteous forces of God, and the unified opposition forces of religious apostasy and paganism, was to occur in a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
Little else in the Holy Scriptures is debated more than the "Battle of Armageddon." First of all it is well to identify the place called Armageddon. Webster's Dictionary does a good job of describing this place: "a mountain in the plain of Megiddo; a proverbial scene of decisive Israeli battles; the biblical place where the last, decisive battle between the forces of good and evil will be fought before the Day of Judgment." Historically, Megiddo was located in the territory given to Issachar, however it was said to belong to Manasseh (Josh. 17:11). Originally occupied by the Canaanites (Josh. 12:21), much time elapsed before Megiddo was taken, and possessed, by the Israelites. It was partially destroyed but rebuilt by Solomon (1 Kings 9:15). Wounded by Jehu, King Ahaziah of Judah fled to this mountain and there died (2 Kings 9:27). Also here at Megiddo, Deborah and Barak defeated Sisera (Judges 5:19), and King Josiah was slain by Pharoah-Necho (2 Kings 23:29-30).
Many bible scholars may disagree, but some, including myself, believe that the great "Battle of Armageddon," symbolically referred to in the lesson text, is not to be taken literally, but only has a spiritual significance. The nation of Israel was termed God's children in the Old Testament. In its New Testament application, Israel also refers to His spiritual children, which are those that are obediently found in His Son, Christ Jesus, which is His church. Therefore, in the New Testament, Armageddon refers to the battle-ground symbolically describing the great spiritual conflict between Jesus' kingdom, the church of Christ, and the Satan-inspired forces of evil, both religious apostates and atheistic agnostics. This battle takes time to completely develop and be recorded by the apostle John. The final outcome, beginning with the pouring out of the seventh vial, which follows the lesson text, is not disclosed until Rev. 19:19-20. There it will be discussed in greater, and more finalizing, detail. But to eliminate any agonizing apprehension, the Lamb and His faithful followers, His New Testament church will be victorious.