Lectionary Calendar
Friday, April 12th, 2024
the Second Week after Easter
Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day and support a great cause!
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries
Revelation 16

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verses 1-7

The Seven Vials of Wrath are Poured Out.

The emptying of the first three vials:

v. 1. 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.

v. 2. 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 worshiped his image.

v. 3. And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man; and every living soul died in the sea.

v. 4. And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood.

v. 5. 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.

v. 6. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.

v. 7. And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Thy judgments.

Here the spiritual fate of the Lord's enemies is shown: And I heard a loud voice out of the sanctuary saying to the seven angels, Go and pour out the seven vials of the wrath of God upon the earth. It is the voice of God which is heard, for it is He that has the avenging plagues in His hand. The seven angels, the seven messengers of God, were to pour out the bowls containing the wrath of the Lord upon the earth, the home of the obstinate and hostile men; for the time of grace had now come to an end for them, and the time of punishment had come.

The command of the Lord is now carried out: And there went the first one and poured out his vial upon the earth, and there came a bad and grievous ulcer on the men that had the mark of the beast and those that had worshiped his image. That was the punishment which struck the servants of the beast, of Anti-Christ, and those that were misled by the show of his power to give him honor which he should not have received. But this was only the beginning of the plagues: And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead person, and every living thing died that was in the sea. This was like the first Egyptian plague, coagulated blood, fatal to all animal life. These plagues are plainly seen in history. As for the first one, the members of the Roman hierarchy themselves have confessed that the Roman Church was suffering with a severe disease in head and members, with an ulcerous Infection that would eventually prove fatal. And so far as the second plague is concerned, the world, since the time of the Reformation, has been filled with wars that were due to the baffled fury of Anti-Christ. This is not due to the gracious message of the Gospel which the faithful servants of the Lord have proclaimed, but to the fact that the obstinate heart of the enemies takes occasion to battle against the Gospel and to hinder its growth in every possible manner. What St. Paul wrote is true to this day: "We are unto God a sweet savor of Christ in them that are saved and in them that perish: to the one we are the savor of death unto death and to the other the savor of life unto life," 2 Corinthians 2:15-16.

The same fact is apparent in the third plague: And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and the springs of waters, and they became blood; and I heard the angel of the waters saying, Just art Thou, that is and that was, the Holy One, because Thou hast passed these sentences; for they shed the blood of saints and prophets, and blood Thou hast given them to drink, for they deserve it. Here the waters are not considered as a symbol of all nations, as in the preceding picture, but as the sources of drinking water. The city of God, the Church of Christ, has pure water, the water of the Gospel, in abundance. But the Church of Anti-Christ has principally the traditions of the Church, the resolutions of councils, and the decrees of Popes, all of which are filled with bloodthirstiness, as the Inquisition shows. Blood the Jesuits wanted, and blood the retribution of the Lord gave them, for that is the result of God's supreme holiness and majesty. This fact is emphasized by the angel of the waters in his hymn of praise. It was right and just for the Lord to give these enemies blood to drink, since they delighted in shedding the same; the punishment was thus made to fit the transgression. Therefore this statement is echoed in heaven itself: And I heard the altar say, Even so, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are Thy sentences. This seems to be the voice of the souls under the altar, chap. 6:9, the voice of all the martyrs since the time of Abel. They all see the hand of the almighty and just God in these sentences of punishment and doom which are striking the servants of Anti-Christ as a consequence of the preaching of the Gospel, not because the power of destruction lies in the Gospel, but because the enmity of men is aroused by this comforting message and they are enraged and confirmed in their self-chosen destruction. May God keep all true Christians from anti-Christian heresies!

Verses 8-12

The emptying of the fourth, fifth, and sixth vials:

v. 8. And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.

v. 9. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues; and they repented not to give Him glory.

v. 10. 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,

v. 11. and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.

v. 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.

Every new plague seems to be more deadly than the preceding one: And the fourth poured out his vial upon the sun, and to him was given to scorch men with fire; and men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, who has the power over these plagues, and did not repent to give Him glory. Here we see that, by reason of the testimony of the Lord's witnesses, the kingdom of Anti-Christ is plagued with unbearable heat. As Luther and his coworkers, and their pupils after them, proclaimed the message of salvation, of justification by grace, in all its simplicity and power, the rays of this pure doctrine proved too glaring and too scorching for the Roman hierarchy. Instead of letting these raps sink into their hearts and work true conversion in them, they deliberately resisted the Holy Ghost, continued in the kingdom of Anti-Christ, and blasphemed the name of God in uncontrollable rage. But still the Word of Grace is proclaimed, still the plague is increasing their obstinacy, still they persist in hardening their hearts.

And the end is not yet: And the fifth poured out his vial upon the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became covered with darkness, and men gnawed their tongues in anguish, and blasphemed the God of heaven for their pains and for their ulcers, and did not repent of their works. The Anti-Christ, whose seat is at Rome, had boastfully flattered himself that his doctrine would be the sun, the light to illumine the whole world. But he found his plans going awry on account of the free proclamation of the Gospel of liberty, which has, to a large extent, eclipsed his false doctrines. The result was that he and his minions bit and gnawed their tongues in anguish, that they were consumed with a pain which they thought unbearable. But so deeply has the Pope, and his followers with him, become immersed and-submerged in his errors against the fundamental doctrines of Christianity that they blame God for their condition, for their pains and for their ulcers, that they blaspheme Him and harden their hearts against repentance: they persist in their anti-Christian works.

Nor is the situation changed by the sixth plague: And the sixth poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and its water was dried up, that the way of the kings from the rising of the sun might be prepared. The kingdom of Anti-Christ is here compared to the ancient kingdom of Babylon, whose capital was situated on the river Euphrates. This city was taken by Cyrus by the simple device of giving to the water of the river anew bed and entering the city through the path thus laid open. In the same way the power and glory of anti-Christian Rome was dried up through the preaching of the Gospel and the way thus opened both to penetrate into the city and level its bulwarks and to open the way to freedom for many peoples and nations. It certainly seemed for a while as though the power of Anti-Christ had been broken forever.

Verses 13-16

But the papacy would not yield without a struggle:

v. 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.

v. 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.

v. 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.

v. 16. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.

Satan himself here hastens to the assistance of Anti-Christ: And I saw out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet three unclean spirits like frogs; for they are spirits of demons performing miracles, which go forth upon the kings of the whole earth to assemble them to battle of that great day of Almighty God. These three are here combined in a union of iniquity: the dragon, Satan, the beast, the Anti-Christ, and the false prophet, whatever Pope may just be occupying the throne at Rome. The spirits of demons speak out of their mouths, clammy and ugly as frogs. And dangerous they are, for they have Satan's power to perform miracles on earth. They go forth and influence the kings and the mighty ones of the whole earth for the last great and decisive battle, whose end will be only on the last great day of the world, when the Lord Himself will terminate it by His appearance for Judgment.

In the very midst of this gloomy picture the Lord inserts a warning to those that are His: Behold, I come like a thief; blessed he that watches and clings to his garments, lest he go naked and men see his shame. The reference is probably to the fact that the priests and Levites who were on duty in the Temple at night were not permitted to go to sleep, lest the officer, in making his rounds, set fire to their priestly garments and strip them naked, sending them away in disgrace. These words are addressed to all Christians. The hour of midnight, the hour of the Lord's return, is at hand, and He is coming like a thief, having revealed the exact minute of His final revelation to no one. To watch and to pray, to be ready for His coming all the time and at every moment, that is the duty which rests upon every believer.

After this digression the prophet continues: And he assembled them in a place which is called in Hebrew Armageddon. The almighty God, with whom the dragon and his allies intend to battle, has the victory in His hands before the first attack is made. And it is a source of great comfort to us believers to know that He will gather the nations before Him, to pass judgment upon them. There can be but one end when the Lord goes forth to assemble the nations, for the name of the battlefield is given: Armageddon, Destruction of Their Army. The triumph of the Lord of our salvation is assured.

Verses 17-21

The emptying of the seventh vial:

v. 17. And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.

v. 18. And there were voices and thunders and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake and so great.

v. 19. And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell; and great Babylon came in remembrance before God to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.

v. 20. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.

v. 21. And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.

This is the climax, the final Judgment, the end. Anti-Christ will be destroyed with the brightness of the Lord's coming, 2 Thessalonians 2:8. Of this the seer writes: And the seventh poured out his vial upon the air; and there came a loud voice out of the temple, from the throne, saying, It is done! The Lord Himself declares that with the coming of this last plague all is over. It begins in the air, and it ends in the abyss burning with fire. The triumph of the Lord is assured in advance.

The voice announcing the victory in heaven is echoed on earth, among the creatures: And there occurred lightnings and voices and thunders, and there occurred a great earthquake, the like of which did not occur since man came on the earth, an earthquake of such magnitude. Here is a picture of the disintegration, dissolution, of the world: flashes of lightning, loud blasts, peals of thunder, a terrible, unexampled earthquake. The result of this storm is described: And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the heathen fell; and Babylon the Great was brought to remembrance before God to give her the cup of wine of the wrath of His anger; and every island fled, and mountains were no longer found. Shattered into three parts, the city of Anti-Christ sinks into ruins, followed by the cities of the heathen. And spiritual Babylon, Rome, the seat of Anti-Christ, must now drink the cup of God's rage to the very dregs, Isaiah 51:22. The islands are removed, and the mountains sink from sight, for the final Judgment has come, and the end of all things is at hand. This is indicated also in the last verse: And great hail, resembling a talent in size, fell down from heaven upon men, and men blasphemed God for the plague of the hail, for the plague of it is very great. This is the punishment which will destroy all the enemies of the Lord, a hail of God's wrath which falls from heaven upon the blasphemers and casts them into the lowest hell. And yet the enemies, in the midst of their destruction, blaspheme the Lord, just as they will blaspheme Him throughout eternity, as they are consumed by the torments of hell.


In the picture of seven plagues, culminating in the final Judgment, the effect of the Gospel proclamation since the Reformation upon, the kingdom of Anti-Christ and upon his adherents and worshipers is depicted.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Revelation 16". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/revelation-16.html. 1921-23.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile