The Seven Last Plagues
The Decline and Fall of the Papacy
16:1 And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.
The first four symbols in the sequence of the trumpets struck first the earth, then the sea, rivers, and sources of light. Those of the bowls follow the same sequence of earth, sea, rivers, sun.
16:2 And the first went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and there fell a noisome and grievous sore on the men who had the mark of the beast, and on those who worshipped his image.
Mark and Image: These are the images of chapter 13 which limits the plagues to the entities described there where all, Romanists and Protestants, agree that Rome is pictured under three types, i.e. the first beast, the lamb-like beast and the image.
Image: Taken to be the Holy Roman Empire. European political entity through which the Papacy influenced European politics from 800 to 1804.
16:3 And the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead [man] and every living soul died in the sea.
On the Sea: “Every living soul” is a hyperbolic description of an event in the sea-going life of those associated with the beast.
16:4 And the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood.
Rivers: Because of the equal relationship between these symbols and those of the Trumpets (earth, sea, rivers, luminaries), these rivers may likely be the same location as those under the trumpets.
16:5 And I heard the angel of the waters say, You are righteous O Lord, who is and who was and shall be, because you have thus judged. 16:6 For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink because they are worthy. 16:7 And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are your judgments.
True and Righteous: In the event of the fulfillment there is to be some way in which the punishment is to be seen as well deserved.
16:8 And the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun; and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. 16:9 And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues, and they repented not to give him glory.
Fire: Fire can be a symbol of purging, punishment, or fervor. Here it is punishment.
16:10 And the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the seat of the beast and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain.
Seat of the beast: This must be Rome or the Vatican city itself. . 16:11 And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.
Repented not: Implied under all these plagues as in verse 9. The political aspirations of the beast are so ingrained, no amount of self made trouble will induce those allied with the beast to abandon this aspect of its being which makes it the beast.
16:12 And the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates; and the water of it was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.
River Euphrates: The sixth trumpet loosed the power of Euphrates. Whatever power is meant by the sixth trumpet is here spoken of as being dried up. Most interpreters notice the gradual loss of power symbolized in drying up.
16:13 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.
Three unclean spirits: These entities have been identified previously. The dragon is Satan represented in Godless secular government, the beast is Rome in whatever despotic form, secular, papal, or feudal Holy Empire. The false prophet is a resurgent Islam.
16:14 For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, who go forth to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. 16:15 Behold I come as a thief, Blessed is he who watches and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. 16:16 And he gathered them together in a place called in the Hebrew tongue, Armageddon.
Armageddon: This word is not to be taken as the physical location of the battle but as signifying The Battlefield of God.
16:17 And the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven from the throne saying, it is done.
Into the air: Under the fifth trumpet smoke comes from the pit and darkens the air.
It is done: This completes the symbols and the sequence of prophetic epochs and therefore shows that the following chapters are supplements to symbols already placed in the sequence by their position in the seals, trumpets, and bowls.
16:18 And there were voices and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were on the earth, so mighty an earthquake and so great.
Voices, Thunders, Lightnings: The same figures were used of the commotion in the world just before and during the barbarian invasions that brought an end to the Roman Empire in the West. See 8:5.
Voices, Thunders, Lightnings: The same figures were used of the commotion in the world just before and during the barbarian invasions that brought an end to the Roman Empire in the West. See 8:5.
Earthquake: The greatest political, social, religious, and economic revolution of history. These things are all either under way or are in the future as all the following figures are also to be understood. They are either just beginning, or are underway or in the imminent future.
16:19 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 to her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.
Babylon: Events, under the symbol of Babylon, introduced in chapters 14 and 15 and more fully outlined in 17 and 18 as supplements are to be inserted in their proper sequence here.
16:20 And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.
Islands and mountains: are figures of nations and governments respectively.
16:21 And there fell on man 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.
Plague of hail: This judgement completes the figures of the revealed events. It is future, but not in the distant future. It is not the end of the world and it is hard to imagine how God will cause this event to bring the final result of these plagues recorded in 11:17.
Solving the mystery of the seven bowls (also called seven vials) of God’s wrath requires a few prerequisites.
1. The answer must be given as to when the seventh trumpet sounded. Because just as the seven trumpets are the figures comprising the seventh seal, so the seven bowls are the figures comprising the seventh trumpet. The sounding of the seventh trumpet will be coincident with the first of the bowls of wrath. This has been explained in the last chapter and is explained further below.
2. The identification of the beast and those who have his mark must be made certain. This chapter is the culminating information about the downfall of the beast introduced in Chapter thirteen in a threefold figure of the (1) beast with seven heads and ten horns, (2) a second beast who looks like Jesus but talks like the devil and who has the power of the first beast and makes (3) an image of the first beast for all the world to worship. See chapter 13. The number and name of the beast need to be understood. The plagues of chapter 16 bring about (by degrees) the destructive results predicted in chapter 14 of a complete and violent overthrow of this threefold entity.
3. The scheme followed in understanding the figures in the rest of the book is to be continued. That is, it is understood that all the figures are epitomes of an historical epoch each following the last sequentially in time. The first four figures are related to one continuing theme, just as the four horsemen of chapter six, and as the four winds of the first four trumpets covered a related period time.
4. Certain figures are already used and identified in earlier chapters: the beast and those who have his mark, the land area associated with the beast, the sun, islands, mountains, thunder, lightnings, voices, the river Euphrates, and the seat of the beast itself are figures already described and identified in earlier chapters.
5. The end of the interval of the trumpets is coincident with the beginning of the pouring out of the bowls which comprise the seventh trumpet.
The Predicted Scheme of the Bowls
Chapters 13 through 15 of Revelation have identified the beast and those who have his mark, and the associated lands connected with them to be the target of the seven last plagues. So upon those associated entities and areas, history should look like:
1: Some kind of ugly disease, sores, either of a physical or spiritual nature, breaking out among those who have the mark of the beast which will diminish the power of the beast and begin the decline of his long despotic reign. Each of the following describes a plague which diminishes his power (by degrees) until the final overthrow.
2: Following shortly or coincidentally the last three of the first four will be related to events brought on by the first. Some calamity associated with the sea and sea-going enterprises will suffer a grand overthrow which will effectively end the power of the beast in the sea pictured by the words “every living soul died in the sea.”
3: The rivers mentioned are no doubt the same rivers earlier bloodied under the third trumpet but now within the confines governed by the beast. There is some way that God is just in the bringing about of the destruction which causes the bloodying of the rivers. Many spiritual powers give voice to the justice of the extremity to which those who formerly persecuted the true believers are now come. History will have such a period which will be characterized by rivers being the site of overthrow of persecutors with the mark of the beast now dying, which diminishes the power of the beast.
4. Fire in this case is destructive since it is a plague. The source of it is the Sun, a luminary related to the earth. The text says, “He” scorches the earth with heat. However, even though the beast is diminished in authority thereby, those associated with him blame God for the plague and continue unrepentant. Some great worldly leader, pictured here as the sun in the realm of the beast, will destroy portions of the earth with his heat, diminish the power of the beast but not change his mind.
5: Identify the beast and then look for some calamity following the four preceding to actually fall on the center of the authority of the beast itself. But his adherents still do not repent.
6: The power identified as the Euphrates under the symbol of the sixth trumpet will dry up. History will be characterized by the gradual diminishing of the power of the Euphrates which will diminish the power of the beast as well and also unleash eastern kingdoms, which will further limit his power. The religious interval follows:
The intervals of all three predicatory schemes (Seals, Trumpets, Bowls) predict historical events which are altogether religious in nature affecting the course of human events.
The Interval of the Seals
The first interval between the sixth and seventh seals was of the rise of the Christian Church in unprecedented dimensions after the victory over paganism at the time of Constantine.
The Interval of the Trumpets
The second interval under the trumpets included several such religious events:
(1) the renewal of the Bible as an open book brought on by the Protestant revolt;
(2) its study bringing the consequent return to the New Testament order as all things were measured precisely by the measuring rod of the scriptures;
(3)the outlawing and death of the Bible (the two covenants pictured as His two witnesses) by a modern state, France, followed by reinstatement of the legal position of the scriptures three and a half years later and divine protection promised henceforth. The text says that the next symbol happens at the same time as this one, i.e. “The same hour;”
(4) the last, happening during the violent (1789 to 1793) revolution (earthquake) in which many died.
The Interval of the Bowls
The interval between the sixth and seventh bowls predict the united effort of the entities pictured as the beast, the false prophet, and the dragon gathering all nations to fight against God. Armageddon symbolizes the last and decisive battle in which the enemies named will be overthrown. Satan will lose his major forces. He will still be around after Armageddon but his forces will be vastly reduced and the beast will take only one blow more to erase it from the face of the earth, that blow being in the seventh bowl. Because the design of the book is that the symbols of the intervals have a religious significance more than a secular significance, we must then conclude that the Armageddon symbols signify religious events in a secular context.
7: Seventh Bowl, in the Air
Under this symbol, the predicted period will look very confusing indeed, indicated by the bowl being poured out in the air and the thunder and lightnings and voices, and then the earthquake of unprecedented proportions making the islands (nations) and mountains (governments) disappear. Unprecedented physical calamities are caused by extremely heavy objects falling from the sky which plague men and cause them to blame God. This symbol has not yet taken place or is in the beginning stages of being in the air. It is still in the future but the near future. It does not include the second coming of Christ. It is the end of the scheme of predicted things in the historical scene bringing us to the end of the authority of the beast, but not to the end of the world.
The Historical Interpretation
Historical interpreters in general begin the events predicted here with the start of the French Revolution circa 1793. The first four of the bowls are seen as comprising the period beginning with 1793 and ending with 1815 or the French Revolution and the Napoleonic period.
1. The beast is the Roman power in three forms, Imperial, Papal, and the Holy Roman Empire. The beast with seven heads is the secular power of the Roman Empire; the lamb-like beast who looks like Jesus but talks like the devil is the Papacy; the image to the beast is the Holy Roman Empire. The sores falling on the men who have the mark of the beast is the atheism which broke out in France and other nations allied with the Papal power. This was the first of a sequence of events which brought the Papal power from its high position of authority to the present state of weak but unrepentant pretension to the authority of both God and Man.
2. Historical interpreters in general ascribe the bowl on the sea to the period following, when every nation allied with the Papal power lost their long position of naval authority. Spain, and France, nations allied to the Papal institution, lost their navies in the period, 1793 and the next few years following. 1805 is the year culminating the decisive turn of power. Trafalgar (1805) is a name immortalized in British history because it marked the transfer of power from the above named nations to the British Empire and the consequent rise of Protestantism and the missionary movement which characterized the next 120 years. In the realm of the beast (the Papacy) every living soul in the sea died.
3. Napoleon led his troops through the Tyrol and fought battles on the rivers literally bloodying them. These are the same locations where the Papal troops had slain the Albigenses and Waldenses for their faith. It is justice that God should bloody the same rivers with the persecutors. The Papacy is further weakened as Napoleon imprisoned the Pope and according to historians stripped the Vatican to its naked walls. These judgments started in 1796, 1797. The previous bowl begins earlier, ends later. *
* See Naval Battles; in the appendix.
4. Napoleon (the Sun in the realm of the Papacy) then led troops all over Europe, and literally put the heat on all the way to Moscow. He dismembered the Holy Roman Empire. Of the more than 380 states with direct allegiance to the Papacy only 30 survived after Napoleon with no further dependence on the Papal authority. Napoleon himself summoned the Pope to Paris, forcing him to carry the crown down the aisle in Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. Napoleon would not let the Pope crown him, as his office had done for most emperors since 800, when Charlemagne was crowned first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Napoleon, rather, took the crown from the hands of the Pope and symbolically placed it on his own head formally symbolizing that the Papacy no longer crowned the heads of state in Europe. But the Papacy did not repent of its claims to power.
5. Historical interpreters in general see this symbol poured on the seat of the beast as being fulfilled in the period 1848 to 1870. When first under Garibaldi, in 1848,the Papacy was stripped of the Papal States; although restored for a time, the states were finally taken away permanently under Victor Emmanuel in 1870 when Italian unity was proclaimed. The Pope lost all political power although limited political power was restored over the 100 acres of the Vatican later under Mussolini. Even though poured out on the seat of the beast there was no change in heart by the Papal claimants. They did not repent.
6. The diminishing of Turkish power which rose under the sixth trumpet is seen in decline under the sixth bowl. Interpreters note that with the decline of Turkey, complete by 1917, came the consequent influence of Protestant (non Papal) powers in the former dominions of the Turks. Here we move to events that begin in 1917 and extend to the present; some of them underway, some in progress, some beginning and some on the threshold of completion.
The removal of Turkey as a power opened the way for the rise of the kingdoms of the east. Perhaps China, Japan, and India, are meant here, since they are east of the declined power of Turkey, or perhaps what is immediately east of the Roman world or perhaps Palestine itself as many ancients supposed. Interpreters of the eighteenth century and earlier, including John Durham, Bishop Newton and Isaac Newton, the scientist, believed that with the decline of Turkish power there would be a coincident return of the Jews to Palestine. Interestingly enough, the return of the Jews to Palestine, which resulted in the establishment of the state of Israel, began in the late nineteenth century, and continued to accelerate after the end of Turkey as a world power in 1917.
The Religious Interval of the Bowls
The religious interval must refer to the greatest spiritual battle that the church has yet to go through. Some see this battle as physical and Armageddon as locating the place where it is to be fought. I agree with those interpreters who see the battle as ideological because it is God’s battlefield. Armageddon is a code word referring to the decisive battlefield of God Almighty. It does not refer to a place in Palestine any more than the use of the word Waterloo, in most instances, refers to a place in Belgium. When a man meets his Waterloo he does not necessarily go to Belgium. Armageddon is a symbol of the decisive defeat of Godless secularism led by Russia described in Ezekiel 38,39 and Rev. 20:8, and the overthrow of the monolithic power of Islam (The False Prophet). It is symbolic of an epoch of history, not of a single day, although it will have a decisive temporal end. We are living in this epoch called Armageddon which began in 1917. This is described in much further detail in the next section. It is not the last event of history nor the last battle, as the Papacy survives, though severely reduced, to the seventh bowl under the symbol of Babylon.
7. Since the events here are future it will be more difficult to choose from interpreters what is indicated by the symbols. The fall of the Papacy seems to be indicated under the symbol of Babylon; the end of nationalism under the symbol of the islands and mountains not being found is actually under way now as the political force of future Europe. The latter was the interpretation of this symbol given by Burton W. Barber, then professor of Bible and History in Midwest School of Evangelism, when I first heard it in 1956. I believe this symbol of the seventh bowl brings us to the end of the Papacy and describes conditions which will exist after the disappearance of the Papacy. It does not bring us to the end of the world or the second coming of Christ. This symbol is more fully explained at the end of the next section.
Further Extraordinary Interpretation:
The plan followed in interpreting the former visions has been to explain the symbols and see what they might prefigure and then search the corresponding historical period in the sequence to see if the history actually paralleled the symbol. We have been amazed by the coincidence as the book has progressed. The same can be done for the symbols of the bowls. But we propose a slightly different and even more astounding method of verification.
Describing History Before it Happens
If, according to our method, we can trace the figures to our own time and with the benefit of having verified historically the meaning of some of the symbols, and we may therefore glance slightly forward in the future — then perhaps those living before our time could have arrived at the same conclusion. What we propose to do, therefore, is to look in commentaries of those who lived before us to see what the symbols of the time in which we would place them meant to them. It should be fairly easy, if we know the date of the publication, to place it in the historical sequence and then turn to the page in the book to see if the author indeed finds himself living at that time and looking to the future. If the look to the future is accurate that should be more than interesting! What if it is accurate a great many times!
The French Revolution – Time of The Seventh Trumpet’s Sounding
Let us begin this search before the French revolution which is seen by historical interpreters as the time of the sounding of the seventh trumpet and consequently coincident with the pouring out of the first bowl.
John Durham — 1658
The first author we choose is John Durham* whose commentary was first published in Edinburgh, in 1658, on 787 large double columned pages. When Mr. Durham wrote in 1658 Turkish power was still in its height and had not shown signs of diminishing as yet. In fact the Sultans still aimed at conquering the Papacy. Exaggerated threats were made of roasting the Pope on the altar in St. Peter’s. The Protestant reformation, beginning in 1520, was in the past from his time but its progress was still going on. It is barely 60 years from the time when men were burned for translating the Bible. The Bible was published with legal sanction for the first time in England only 47 years previously.
* Durham, John; A Learned and Complete Commentary on the Book of Revelation; Published first Christopher Higgens, Edinburgh, 1658. The Library of Congress has identified the copy used here as a 1764 edition published in Glasgow.
The historical interpreter would see Mr. Durham as living under the sixth trumpet of the Turkish woe, but more specifically in the first symbol of the interlude of the second woe. The symbol of the little book in Chapter 10 pictures the book that has been closed, is now open again, and, as has been mentioned in the beginning of this chapter, seen as the Protestant Reformation. Historical interpreters would see the other events in the interlude of chapters 10 and 11 (measuring the temple, the two witnesses, the earthquake as well as the bowls) as in the future to Mr. Durham’s time. Where does he see himself?
In the remarkable statements to follow, Mr. Durham applies the sixth trumpet to the Turks who are prominent in his time. He believed that the Papacy (not a person) through the centuries is the antichrist. He makes some remarkable statements about the Turks and the Papacy in commenting on the sixth trumpet:
“From what is said we suppose it not needful to add many reasons why we have applied this plague to the Turks or Mohametans, … this said woe, being compared in the event with the rise, progress, success and nature of the Turkish Empire; it will be found so evidently to be fulfilled in them, as will leave no ground to question it.”*
*Ibid. pg. 467.
Durham sees the Roman Papal power divided into three parts at the time of the Turks’ rise. Those three are the Papal dominions, the Holy Roman Empire, and the East with Constantinople as its center. He sees the Turks as taking only one third of these divisions. As seen in the next quotation:
“that the Romish church, for a great part thereof, is over-run by the Turks; yet the seat, and, as it were, a two part of that kingdom [is] to be spared, according to this prophecy.”*
Durham makes it plain that in 1658 he understood that the intention of the Turks to destroy the Papal power would not be accomplished. He explains why:
“From what is said also we may gather, that the Kingdom of Antichrist [he means the Papacy] is not fully to be overturned by the Turks, but there remains the greatest part, understood by that plague, upon which afterward the bowls are poured forth in chapter xvi. God restraining and bounding that destruction for the church’s and elect’s sake, which he has lurking amongst them.”*
*Ibid. pg. 467.
What incredible insight is here and what incredible foresight! Mr. Durham knew that the Turks were a long term enemy of the church to be reckoned with but that they would pass away as a power before the Papacy did. He believed that the pouring out of the bowls refers to the fall of the Papacy which he saw to be in the future. He understood that the Turks’ rise to power predicted under the sixth trumpet would last until it faded away as predicted under the sixth bowl, and the Papacy, lasting to the seventh, could not be overthrown by the Turks! Consequently he predicted the future accurately. Let your star gazers try that kind of future reading! You see, he made these accurate statements about history centuries before they were fulfilled!
But that is not all of Mr. Durham’s insight, for as historical interpreters view his time he should be under the symbol of the little book, but he has progressed no further in the symbols of the second woe. What he has to say here is more than startling. In reference to the phrase, “you will prophesy again,” Durham says it must mean the book [Bible] must prophesy again, not John because:
“Neither was there any such intermission of John’s prophesying, to say he must again prophesy nor did he actually, first or last prophesy before kings, etc…It must then be understood, especially of the revealing of the apostles doctrine, again by the Lord to be revealed… then it comes again, as it were, to the world, and spreadeth amongst nations, tongues and kingdoms:…Expressing it in a type, and confirming it by sign in the rest;…seeing the angel appearing with the book in his hand and what followeth, do aim at the same scope.
“That which was represented to John in type, we see through God’s blessing, in some measure fulfilled in our eyes, and the gospel is again revived, and the fulfilling and finishing of this mystery, which begins in the enlargement of the gospel, and shall go on in calling of the Jews….”*
*Ibid. pg. 483.
Such a positive attitude was possible because Mr. Durham saw the future. He knew Turkish power would decline; Papal power was also in for a future decline but not due to the Turks; and the revived use of the Bible in his time would increase more and more. He knew the scheme of the book of Revelation; he placed himself in the scheme of symbols; and he looked to the future with uncanny accuracy.
May we repeat that historical interpreters through the centuries knew that the second coming of Christ was not imminent because events of history of great scope lay before them into the future and they knew the Lord would see all those things come to pass before His return. Mr. Durham believed that the Turkish Empire would fade away first and the Papacy would still be existing afterward and that the second coming was after that. For hundreds of years it could have been said, “As long as the Turkish Empire remains the second coming is not imminent. And they, with Mr. Durham, would have been correct.
Bishop Newton — 1750
Bishop Thomas Newton living in 1750 described his own place in the prophetic scheme. He knew that he had progressed to the sixth trumpet and although seeing the vision of the little book a different way than Durham, he thinks we have progressed past it. However he sees the two witnesses have not been slain though he knows them still to be prophesying in sackcloth. Therefore the seventh trumpet has not sounded nor have any of the bowls been poured out.
“If these seven last plagues synchronize with the seventh and last trumpet, they are all yet to come; for the sixth trumpet is not yet past, nor the woe of the Turkish or Othman Empire yet ended: and consequently there is no possibility of explaining them in such a manner as when the prophecies may be paralleled with histories.”*
* Newton, Thomas, D.D. Dissertation on the Prophecies in two volumes; London, 1804, Vol. II, pg. 314. This commentary has enjoyed a great number of editions, being first published in 1751.
He describes the two witnesses as Christian witnesses of every generation and he gives a history of Papal persecution of the preachers of the simple gospel which he ascribes to the witnesses prophesying in sackcloth. In the pages before the following comments, Newton notices several interpretations of those who believed this symbol of the death and resurrection of the two witnesses to be already fulfilled; some saw the Protestant Reformation, or other related persecutions. Newton shows that, though there are similarities to the events and the symbol of the witnesses, they do not match enough of the symbol for it to be considered fulfilled. He believes himself to be still in the 1260 years of their prophesying in sackcloth. He sees their death and exaltation as future to him:
“We are now living under the Sixth Trumpet: and the Empire of Euphratean horsemen or Othmans is still subsisting, and perhaps in as large an extent as ever: The beast [Papacy] is still reigning; and the witnesses are still, in some times and places more, in some less, prophesying in sackcloth. It will not be till toward the end of their testimony, and that end seems to be at some distance, that the great victory and triumph of the beast, and the suppression, and resurrection and exaltation of the witnesses will take effect. When all these things shall be accomplished, then the sixth trumpet will end, then the second woe shall be past (v.14).”*
* Ibid. pgs. 238, 239.
Newton lived when the Ottoman or Turks were still in power when he ascribes, with others, the sixth trumpet to the Turks. He said, “perhaps in as large an extent as ever,” clearly indicating he understood the decline had not set in yet and the end of the second woe was in the future from his time as yet. In fact the period would be over in some 50 years. He saw that the scriptures and the gospel were still being persecuted in the Papal lands, and the Papacy still exercised the same arbitrary power in its own realms, so he knew that the 1260 years were not over yet!
He said, “the 1260 days of the witnesses prophesying in sackcloth are 1260 synchronical years, and terminate at the same time with the fall of the Othman empire or the end of the sixth trumpet or second woe trumpet.”* Don’t forget that Newton is looking to the future. He has not determined yet that the decline of the Turks is coincident with the sixth bowl, rather than the end of the second woe.
However he sees clearly that the 1260 days will end when the witnesses cease to witness in sackcloth, are killed and then exalted. He knew that the falling of the Papacy from its place of power would then begin and proceed to decline by degrees, but he sees that as future. What we now see as the proper sequence from his date he previewed and describes for us. As he styles it, “The Third Woe [or seventh trumpet] brought on the earth is [to be] the ruin and downfall of the antichristian kingdom” which he believes is the Papacy.
* Ibid. pg. 270.
“When the second woe shall be thus, past, behold the third woe, or total destruction of the beast, comes quickly. Some time intervened between the first and second woes; but upon the ceasing of the second the third shall commence immediately.”*
* Ibid. pg. 239.
Newton then makes attempts at looking beyond the next stage which he sees as just in the future. He tries to interpret the bowls. It is worth seeing what he determined might be the first blows which would historically limit the Papal power.
“The first Vial: This plague is inflicted upon the men who had the mark of the beast and upon those who worshipped his image; which is to be understood of the others also, where it is not expressed. Whether these sores and ulcers are natural or moral, the event must show.”*
* Ibid. pg. 316.
It is interesting that Newton’s look to the future sees the possibility of moral sores breaking out in Papal lands and their being the first blow to Papal autocratic power. What a clear preview of the French Revolution which begins the series! His preview of the bowl on the sun is even more on target when compared with the Napoleonic wars.
“the fourth vial is poured out on the sun… Whether by this intense heat of the sun, he meant literally uncommon sultry seasons, scorching and withering the fruits of the earth, and producing pestilential fever and inflammations; or figuratively, a most tyrannical and exorbitant exercise of arbitrary power by those who may be called the sun, in the firmament of the beast, the Pope or Emperor, time must discover.”
“When these events shall take place and these things shall all be fulfilled, not only these prophecies of the vials shall be better understood, but also those of the trumpets, to which they bear some analogy and resemblance.”*
* Ibid. pg. 318.
Newton lived in an interesting period. The French Revolution loomed just 40 years ahead of him. It would mark the end of the old order; feudalism would pass away as well as the “divine right” of kings, and the stage set for the rise of nationalism among whom parliamentary governments were going to be set up. The end of the Papal domination of the minds and political lives of men was coming. The witness of the Christian church was soon to be exalted and given divine protection. It so happened and Newton saw it coming.
Further to our purpose is his accurate placing of himself in the unfolding events and in the symbols at the right time. He knows what has been fulfilled and what has not. He also has a view of the big picture. He knows the second coming of Christ is a long way ahead of his time but the march of the church is to certain victory no matter what foes are encountered on the way. To Newton and to us, such continual verification of the prophecies verifies also the concept of revelation itself. No human could have been responsible for this marvelous preview of history.
Henry, Scott, Doddridge, and others — 1815
The commentary called The Comprehensive Bible was published first about 1815 and contains dated comments as early as 1790. All comments are before 1815 while Napoleon was still at war. This is really a compendium or collection of commentators. The edition used here was published in Brattleboro, Vermont, in 1839. This edition was edited for the Baptist denomination. There is more than one editor and along with those named above, Woodhall, Faber, and Tong make comments that are collated in the commentary on Revelation.
Another Extraordinary Opportunity
Thomas Scott, well known British expositor, whose commentary on the whole Bible has been published in several editions, from 1790 to 1850 and further, is the basis, in the section on Revelation, for the compendium of more than several expositors noted in the Comprehensive Bible first Published in 1815. It will be of great interest to the reader to note the comments of Scott in their different time contexts, which were made and recorded, first, just before the French Revolution, then toward the end of the Napoleonic era, just before the Congress of Vienna in 1815, and then just before the revolutions of 1848, in which year the old order passed completely. Historians, in general, see the revolutions of 1848 as the ripened fruit of the French Revolution.
This section is quoting the comments of those writing before 1815 but we will add the last revisions of Scott in relevant places.
Historical interpreters in general attribute the sounding of the seventh trumpet to the period of the French Revolution 1793, with the first four bowls of wrath poured out by 1815. This book has the unusual position of commenting on events that are still so current as almost to be news. They themselves are still part of the very epoch described in the first four bowls.
What do they think of their place in the historical scheme of the symbols of Revelation?. Actually, they have differing views of whether the seventh trumpet has or has not yet sounded or whether the bowls have or have not yet begun to be poured out. But they have little doubt that, at the time they wrote, they were either in the period or the events were just then imminent.
So Scott says, “It may be observed by some readers, that I have not at all noticed the interpretations of those, who consider several of the vials as long since poured out. This has resulted from a full conviction that these interpretations are absolutely inconsistent with the chronology of the prophecy, and the whole clue which must direct us in expounding it; and that they are altogether unsatisfactory, even as insulated accommodations.” *
* Jenks, William, editor; Comprehensive Commentary on the Holy Bible; Brattleboro, Vermont, 1839, pg. 718.
Some have previously interpreted the bowls as beginning with the Protestant Reformation. Scott sees that as out of harmony with the timing of the historical scheme. He is not ready to say that the seventh trumpet has sounded but admits that those who think so are not out of harmony with the scheme of the book. He continues:
“The opinion of those who explain the former of the vials [the first four] of recent events which have occurred within these last 20 years [1793 – 1813?] whether well grounded or not, may be allowed to be consistent with the chronology of the book, and with these vials, containing a prediction of the last plagues.”
“The grand question to decide in this respect, relates to the sounding of the Seventh Trumpet. If that event be past the vials have begun to be poured out. For it seems to me clear, that as the seventh seal includes all the seven trumpets; so the seventh trumpet includes all the seven vials. Nor do I think it possible for human sagacity to determine till some considerable time has elapsed, at what precise period events of such immense magnitude, as those here predicted began to be accomplished.”*
* Ibid. pg. 718.
Although Scott is not sure whether or not the seventh trumpet has sounded in the era of the French Revolution he knows of those who do think so. His feelings are based on the end of the 1260 years, which is understood to encompass the time when the Papacy will reign as the beast, or combine the secular power with the temporal. At the time Scott wrote the temporal power was still seemingly secure. The loss was to come by degrees and Scott did not think it had started in 1793. He quotes others:
“Some indeed of late have fixed the beginning of this period [the 1260 years] to A.D. 533 when the emperor Justinian issued edicts supporting the Bishop of Rome as head of the whole church and thus they compute that the 1260 years terminated in 1792, the era of the French Revolution.”*
* Ibid. pg. 714.
The edict of Justinian backing up Papal claims with the power of the sword is the first time the Papacy used the secular arm to force his power. It is quite right that the 1260 years should be begun at that date. As shown before, the 1260 years terminate the second woe and “behold the third comes quickly.”
For a copy of the decrees made by Justinian click here.
Scott’s caution is well taken however, because events that seem important to us at the time they happen often have less importance as time goes on. For instance it is easier to see events from 1917 to the present as part of a larger period of Soviet expansion and decline or a struggle between totalitarianism and representative government, rather than dividing into first and second world wars as two different epochs. How do we pick the events that have universal and permanent and ongoing influence in world affairs? One should ask, Is it part of the big picture?
Scott’s First Objection
Scott’s objection to the Napoleonic period including all four of the bowls is that; “since the commencement of the French Revolution seems too short” to encompass events of such far reaching magnitude. In other words, do the events mark the blows against the authority and autocratic power of the Papal system? Has she begun to lose that authority in her own realm, i.e. those nations that lend themselves to the Papal cause?
Did the atheism of the French Revolution and resulting middle class democratic ideals and nationalistic constitutional government rising therefrom inhibit forever the naked autocracy of the Papacy? Did the loss of navies in the period by the Papal nations diminish the power of the Pope? Was Napoleon’s invasion of the Tyrol, battles on the rivers, stripping the Vatican to its naked walls, garrisoning troops at the Vatican, which resulted in imprisoning the Pope in Avignon, a permanent blow to his power? Were the European wars, which dismantled the Holy Roman Empire forever, a blow which diminished the power of the beast? Were all four events taken together permanent injury to Papal power which would leave the world looking for the next stage, a blow that would fall on the temporal seat of the Papacy, (Rome itself or the Papal States) which all interpreters of the period judged to be future? Scott thought they might be but he would have to wait and see. We have hindsight and can answer all the above affirmatively, with no hesitation.
If the conditions in the above paragraph be true from hindsight then they answer the parallels of the bowls even though the time is so short.
Scott says as much when looking at the fourth bowl:
“Whether burning seasons, producing drought or famine or some other judgement, figuratively described by the scorching heat of the sun, be intended, the event must show. These verses are interpreted by Mr. Faber to mean the present tyranny of the ruler of France, over that nation, and the other kingdoms of the beast, on the continent. Not [wishing to oppose] this interpretation and much less to subscribe to it, I only again observe, that…our posterity at the end of this century will be more competent judges of this subject than we can be.”*
* Ibid. pg. 716.
Faber ascribes the events to the fourth vial while they are still going on. Rather than being impulsive, Mr. Faber as a student had read those before him who accurately predicted just such events; hence his assurance was based on anticipation of just such an outcome of the figure. The Sun in the firmament of the beast would scorch the earth with fire. Newton just 60 years previously had written that this might refer to tyrannical use of arbitrary power by the Emperor. Napoleon’s wars through all of Europe dismantled the Holy Roman Empire.
The Congress of Vienna in 1815 attempted to restore the old order but the 380 principalities of pre-napoleonic Europe would be reduced to 30. “All the kings horses and all the kings men could not put” it back together again.
Scott’s Second Objection
Beside objecting to the shortness of time noted above, Scott also objected to the location being too small and felt that not enough countries were affected (by 1815) by the influence of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, but he gives ground as the years pass!
“The stage on which these tragedies have been acted seems by no means large enough… France and other countries connected with it form only a small part of the Kingdom of the beast… and several countries belonging to it [the beast] have hitherto been little affected by these measures; though perhaps they may ere long be involved in them.” (pub. 1815)*
* Ibid. pg. 716.
In other words, he properly assesses the influence and does not see, in 1815, the autocratic authority of the Papacy diminished as much as he thought necessary in other countries allied to the Papacy, though he admits that, “ere long, they might be.” However in his last revision published in 1850 he adds to the last sentence (that which does not appear in earlier editions) the following note: “in fact many [states] since that time when this was first written have been [so influenced].” Although he is not sure if they are affected enough yet. So does caution grow with age!
From 1815 to 1848 Scott would have been able to see the authoritarianism and feudalistic rule of kings pass in Europe and the consequent rise of constitutional government. By 1848 all the States of Europe had adopted nationalistic constitutional governments and representative parliaments were set up that were brought on by the French Revolution and the acts of Napoleon. These included all the states of the former Holy Roman Empire, except Italy which would also yield to the rising tide of democracy in a few more years. The seventh trumpet did sound in 1793!
Harvest and Vintage
The 14th and 15th chapters of Revelation introduce the harvest and vintage which predict the results of the pouring out of the seven bowls in two stages: (1) a preliminary stage–the Harvest, and (2) a final stage–the Vintage. After introducing the seven bowls in these chapters they are then fully described as they are poured out in chapter 16. Of these events, what seems to be an earlier commentator unnamed is quoted by Scott in the 1815 edition. During the course of my investigations I felt that Scott was quoting an unnamed person other than himself in these 1791 comments which follow, but upon further investigation I discovered that the unknown commentator that Scott referred to is himself! The remarks in the text are made circa 1815. But he is harking back to a less cautious period twenty years previously when he was more definite in his expositions. He makes this plain in a revision of his works done in the 1840’s and published in London by Messrs. Seeleys, Fleet Street, in 1850. This is further illustrated by a comment of his made earlier and left untouched in his 1815 revision concerning the end of the 1260 days.
“The exact and surprising fulfillment of many complicated predictions… is a real demonstration of the truth of the Scriptures: but we must bequeath to posterity the accomplishment of the remainder… the prophecy has been traced down…to this day. … to the slaying of the witnesses …which… I firmly believe, [to be] yet future.*
*Ibid. pg. 714.
There could not be a more accurate timing. This man writing in 1791 antedates the French Revolution by a mere two years and the slaying of the witnesses (the same hour). This man says, “here is where we are.” We are waiting for the slaying of the two witnesses and the earthquake the same hour. Consequently the sounding of the seventh trumpet is imminent to him. The writer shows just such a consternation as to be consistent with his attempt to understand just what is going to happen when speaking of the symbols of the two witnesses and the earthquake (which are just ahead of him by two years) upon whose completion the seventh trumpet must immediately sound. See how fitting his attempt to see the next stage:
“Whether the events here predicted precede or follow the sounding of the 7th trumpet or the 3rd woe-trumpet, I cannot absolutely determine: but they seem evidently to relate to the fall of popery;” *
An attempt at finding one’s way and harmonizing it with the symbols of Revelation, filled with more pathos, would be difficult to find. This writer knows that the seventh trumpet is just ahead of him, is imminent, and what the symbols under the seventh trumpet refer to–the fall of Papal power by degrees, one step at a time.
The same writer in 1791, in looking at the pouring of the bowls, says of the harvest and the vintage in chapters 14 and 15:
“The casting of the vintage into the winepress of God’s wrath, and the treading of it without the city (as being no part of the true church) can only be explained by the event. But it is remarkable that 1600 furlongs, or 200 miles, is exactly the length of the Papal dominions in Italy; and probably these will be deluged with blood, in a most awful manner, which is represented by language tremendously hyperbolical.’ [Scott then adds in 1815], “Some expositors who have written since this interpretation was first made (A.D. 1791), decide with confidence that the bloody scenes in France and on the continent are the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning the harvest; though the vintage may be yet future; nor do I at all doubt, posterity will clearly see that these events began to accomplish the prediction.”*
Scott is very certain here, and that is out of character with his usual caution. Thus it is seen that by this time, 1815, he sees the preparation for the pouring out of the bowls as completed in history, which he did not see in 1791! But he is not sure that the seventh trumpet has sounded; he thinks that it is imminent. Other expositors were certain that had happened and several of the bowls had been poured out.
[Speaking of the first vial]: “Mr. Faber, without hesitation, interprets this plague of the atheistical spirit, which has long secretly pervaded the nations, adhering to the Romish Church; and which broke out so extensively and fatally [at the time of the French Revolution]. I am by no means [says Scott] disposed to argue against this interpretation: yet I am not able to adopt it…”*
*Ibid, pg. 716.
The objections, that Scott had in 1815, to some of the bowls being already poured out as being of too short a time, and too small an area, have been discussed above.
We see here, and in what follows, attempts by men to harmonize the events happening around them with the symbols. Some say, “I think they might be just beginning,” some, “They haven’t started yet;” others say, “This is it!” You will notice they are not discussing any other period of history or events that relate with other conclusions, than the beginning of the loss of arbitrary political power of the Papacy. Certainly one can see by hindsight that these men knew their place in the divine plan and that they knew that almost a century would have to pass before anyone could be certain if these events were those predicted to bring the beast down, not suddenly but by degrees.
Did these men believe that the second coming of Christ was at hand? Were they right in believing there was more yet to come?
What did these same commentators believe about what we by hindsight would see, was ahead of them? The next event they were to look for would be the fifth bowl poured on the seat of the beast–on Rome and the Papal dominion itself, which we know happened in 1848 to 1870 when the Papal states were taken away. See for yourself if they had it right:
“The fifth vial: This predicts some great calamity to Rome itself, yet of such a nature as will darken the whole antichristian empire. But it will only incite the sufferers to more horrid blasphemies and more desperate defiance of God.– interpreters of these prophecies in general [including Mr. Faber] allow, that this vial is not yet poured out. We…should decline …to conjecture on so obscure a prophecy. When fulfilled, it will cease to be obscure.”*
* Ibid, pg. 717.
These men knew exactly what the prophetic scheme ought to be showing. Though cautious Mr. Scott was willing to wait awhile, even though he would pass from the earth before they could look back, but of future things they had no doubt. In fact they reach beyond the blow they knew they were waiting to fall on the Papal earthly dominions, to the sixth bowl and predict accurately the decline of Turkish power. As follows:
And speaking of the sixth vial, Scott [circa 1814] quotes Fleming : “Fleming considers, that as the 6th trumpet brought the Turks from beyond the Euphrates, so the 6th vial exhausts their power…”*
Thus we can see that these commentators believed that they might be (some sure of) living when the first permanent blows to Papal autocratic power were struck; and if so they were looking forward to the next epoch bringing a blow against the earthly dominion of the Papacy itself; and the next epoch following that would consist of the decline of the Turkish Empire — the greatest earthly dominion in the world until it would be called the “sick man of Europe.” And they were right! They were not outlining history from hindsight, they were outlining the future. What an incredible verification of the word of God!
Albert Barnes – 1851
Albert Barnes is the master of historical interpretation, bar none! A Presbyterian minister from Morristown, New Jersey, he wrote his extensive commentaries in his study at home. His scope of the historical panorama and the place of the church in those events is unsurpassed. Particularly, his work on the fifth and sixth trumpets should be read–it is without parallel. He is to be referred to up to the events of 1851, and as we have seen, his view of the future from his time would be invaluable.
The fifth bowl began to be poured on the Papal dominions in 1848 when Garibaldi actually imprisoned the Pope and divested him of his temporal lands. Barnes therefore wrote at the time that this bowl began and did not see the completion of it in 1870 when those dominions were taken by Victor Emmanuel and the Papacy was left with nothing at all in the sense of an earthly state. Sixty or so years after 1870, in 1929, the Papacy would be given sovereign power over the one hundred acre Vatican. In an agreement made with Mussolini in 1929, Vatican city was recognized as a sovereign state and the Pope recognized the kingdom of Italy. The Pope formally accepted one billion, seven hundred fifty million lire for the territory which was taken from him in 1870.* He had begun his return to political and temporal authority. They had not repented!
*Littlefield, Henry Wilson; An Outline of the History of Europe 1815 to 1933; Barnes & Noble, 1933, pgs. 179, 180.
In discussing the fifth bowl Barnes describes the loss of possessions, arrests of Cardinals, levies upon the Papal lands and other disorders leading to the loss of power in his time. At that point he quotes from Robert Fleming as follows:
“‘In this connection I may insert here the remarkable calculation of Robert Fleming, in his work entitled “Apocalyptical Key, or the pouring out of the Vials,” first published in 1701. It is in the following words: The 5th Vial which is poured out on the seat of the beast, or the dominions which more immediately belong to and depend on the Roman See; that, I say, this judgment will probably begin about the year 1794 and expire about A.D. 1848; or that the duration of it upon this supposition will be the space of 54 years.
For I do suppose that seeing the Pope received the title of Supreme Bishop no sooner than A.D. 606, he cannot be supposed to have any vial poured upon his seat immediately (so as to ruin his authority so signally as this judgment must be supposed to do) until the year 1848, which is the date of the 1260 years in prophetical account when they are reckoned from A.D. 606. But yet we are not to imagine that this will totally destroy the Papacy, (though it will exceedingly weaken it,) for we find that still in being and alive when the next vial is poured out.’ [pp 125, 126 Cobbin’s edition] It is a circumstance [says Barnes] remarkably in accordance with this calculation, that in the year 1848 the Pope was actually driven away to Gaeta, and that at present time (1851) he is restored though evidently with diminished power.”*
*Barnes, Albert; Barnes Notes on the New Testament In One Volume; Kregel Publishers, Grand Rapids, 1966, pg. 1687.
The above is one of the most astounding attempts at reading the future from the pages of the book of Revelation by historical interpreters. Even though, from our vantage point, the events which would deprive the Papacy of its temporal statehood were already clearly under way, Barnes could not have been certain that 1848 was the beginning of the loss of the temporal lands (the Papal states received first before A.D. 800); but he cautiously said, as it were, “this might be it;” i.e., “a circumstance remarkably in accordance with this calculation!”
Even though the events looked like they might lead to the complete loss of the Papal dominions, from his standpoint, he must wait to see if this is the actual event predicted! In 1851, when Barnes wrote, the Papal States were restored to the Papacy but with less territory and sovereignty. He could not have known that they would be completely taken away, and thus fulfill the prophecy by 1870. However at the end of the next quotation, he makes a plain statement that 1848 began the fifth bowl! He had to say that, because he believed the prophetic scheme so thoroughly that he knows, by faith, what season he is in! We, however, can be certain that was the season because it is now a part of the historical record. How would you like to outline history in this way? What incredibly astounding results come from this methodology!
In the historical process of unfolding the symbols, Albert Barnes stands at the beginning of the fifth bowl, and as we have seen, he sees it as under way. He looks to the future and sees the drying up of Turkish Empire [still a formidable power in 1850, but hardly recognizable as a former world power in 1991.] He acknowledges the process of “drying up” as already discernable and predicts that the process will increase. In doing so he has a host of relatively ancient authorities (we have cited one in 1658,) who have predicted the same thing and that it would follow the blow on the temporal seat of the Papacy. Thus he says concerning Turkish power:
“No one can be insensible to the fact that events are occurring which would be properly represented by such a symbol; or that there is, in fact such a decline of that Turkish power, and that the beginning of that decline closely followed, in regard to time, if not in regard to cause, the events which it is supposed were designed by the previous vials — those connected with the successive blows on the Papacy and the seat of the beast.”*
*Ibid, pg. 1690.
Barnes sees the epoch of the fifth vial (in which he correctly sees he is living) and the continuation of the gradual decay of Turkish power as a harbinger of the next period, that although not completely seen by world politicians yet, it would also be predicted by the politically astute by the 1890’s. Here at such an early date Barnes makes a clear prediction  of what would be accomplished by 1917, almost 70 years afterward!
“The probability now is that this gradual decay will be continued; that the Turkish power will more and more diminish; that one portion after another will set up for independence: and that by a gradual process of decline, this power will be practically extinct, and what is here symbolized by ‘the drying up of the great river Euphrates’ will have been accomplished.”*
The words “practically extinct” as a power, given in 1851, could hardly be less descriptive than the term “sick man of Europe” ascribed to Turkey after 1917. These and previous clear views into the future by historical interpreters should verify more than just the events to the reader. They verify the process, i.e., this is the right way to view these symbols and interpret them: that is, as previewing historical epochs and in sequence as opposed to concurrent. They verify the truth of the word of God. These clear views into the future verify God’s caring and dealing with every generation and His quiet assurance to those who endure faithfully, that the reward of the saints is as secure and sure as God’s preview of the march through history.
The next symbol: Armageddon
Albert Barnes then reaches past the Euphratean figure which as we now know was completed by 1917, to the battle described next. Historical interpreters are divided on the fulfillment of this symbol because we are living in its unfolding. It, according to the symbols and time, should have begun in 1917 or shortly thereafter. It is not over yet.
Albert Barnes then reaches past the Euphratean figure which as we now know was completed by 1917, to the battle described next. Historical interpreters are divided on the fulfillment of this symbol because we are living in its unfolding. It, according to the symbols and time, should have begun in 1917 or shortly thereafter. It is not over yet.
The symbol describes the greatest battle the church is to face in its march through history. The difference of opinion is whether the battle is literal, to include war and destruction on an unparalleled level, or whether it is spiritual, as ideologically in the minds and hearts of men, or whether it is both. Those who opt for the spiritual fulfillment (of whom I am one) do not negate the concept of fire, brimstone, etc. meaning literal war as part of the period; however they see the climax and the major part of the struggle and victory and celebration of the enemies’ defeat in spiritual terms. Those who opt for a literal fulfillment expect a major battle between Russia and supporting nations against Israel in Palestine to climax and end the period.
I deny such and look for a different end and see the symbols in Ezekiel 38, and 39, (where the battle is described in greater detail), as part of God’s pleading with his enemies and not as part of the fight against them which results in so great an overthrow that only sixteen per cent of the Russian nation is left alive!
There is little doubt that Russia is pictured in the prophecies as leading the nations in a heathen last battle against God and His people, and that those assembled will appear to be winning. Further, there is little doubt that Russia has been leading other nations in an atheistic struggle against God and his people since 1917. That is obvious to any person who has read or lived through recent history. However, events at this time seem to be moving swiftly toward the reinstatement of faith. This must mean that the end of this period is imminent.
Russia as an enemy of the Gospel of Christ will go down in defeat literally or figuratively; that is, her armies will either be utterly destroyed in Palestine so as to remove her as an enemy of the Gospel or (as I suppose) fire from God will fall in the Ukraine, spiritually resulting in large scale conversions to the gospel of Christ which will consume the whole of the nation and then move out among the nations to continue a revival of the power of the Christian gospel. I believe that will happen in our lifetime. This statement has been made publicly by this writer since 1964, and repeated in many presentations of this material since and recorded at those times. (See chapter 14 of this book.)
How Russia’s end as an enemy of the Gospel will come, whether by spiritual revival, or multitudes of dead bodies on the plain of Megiddo in Palestine, we will have to wait and see — but probably not too long!
Russia’s place in modern times as the leader in the spread of atheism, after the decline of Turkey, is plain for all to see. Coincident with that rise has been an attempt by the Papacy to seek its lost political power. Its meddling in world politics has stained the Papal ermine with blood as at former periods, not only during the second world war but after, i.e. “liberation theology,” another word for marxist atheistic revolution, in the Americas and elsewhere; also coincident with Russia’s leading has been the attempted resurgence of Islam (the false prophet) in our time. As this fits the picture drawn in Revelation of this period, what did those like Barnes think of the period after the drying up of Turkish power?
After stating that he knew that he was looking to the future and could not be sure as he had been when comparing the actual parallel history, Barnes makes an attempt to outline the period known as Armageddon, which he says will follow Turkish decline:
“we may look for something that may be well represented by a combined effort on the part of Heathenism, Mohammedanism, and Romanism, to stay the progress and prevent the spread of evangelical religion. That is, according to the fair interpretation of this passage, we should look for some simultaneous movement as if their influence was about to cease, and as it were necessary to arouse all their energies for a last and desperate struggle, …when it will occur, and what form the aroused enemy will assume, it will be vain to conjecture.
“…something that will determine the ascendancy of true religion in the world, as if these great powers of Heathenism, Mohammedanism, and Romanism should stake all their interests on the issue of a single battle. It is not necessary to suppose that this will literally occur, …but all that is meant may be that events will take place which would be well represented by such a conflict. Still nothing in the prophecy prevents the supposition that these combined powers may be overthrown in some fierce conflict with Christian powers.”*
Although this picture of the epoch that Barnes saw coming after the decline of Turkish power is incomplete it is a fair outline of our own time, when heathenism as epitomized by the Soviet communist atheistic state is still an enemy of the Gospel (though weakened at this time), and has been for the past 70 years. Mohammedanism has been making its restatement of its intention to expand and inhibit the preaching of the gospel, as it has in its own territory for over 1300 years. Remember that Barnes predicted the rise of Islam in the 1850’s (as did many other commentators of his time when they interpreted this alliance.) The Papacy is in its last attempt to restore political power to itself. It seems plain to me, in that it will survive to the seventh bowl, that it will be weakened in this period but that the attempt of Heathenism and Islam will fail and their demise will be coincident with this last period — whose end is in the very near future.
Resurgent Islam Foreseen by Others
Shadow World: Resurgent Russia, The Global New Left, and Radical Islam
Albert Barnes is quoted above as foreseeing a resurgent Islam as one of the factors in the battle of Armageddon symbol to arise after Turkish power is practically extinct. Many others of that period wrote the same thing, predicting a revitalized Islam, (Johnson incredibly said, “without the Sultan!”) joining the secular dragon and the beast in a last effort to regain their former power and to weaken the Christian Gospel. One other such commentary is an exegetical study on the Greek Text printed about 1850, not now extant, but a copy remains in the library of Milligan College, Tennessee. This book was written in 1840s and on page 541 the comment under Rev 16:12 reads:
“The drying up of the Euphrates may indicate the gradual decay of Mohammedanism. In the next verse [Armageddon] there seems to be an intimation of a league between the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet; that is, the Devil, the Papacy, and Mohammedanism, in a final struggle against Christianity”
And what, may we ask again, has characterized our age from 1917 to the present? Should we not treat these former voyagers, who saw the future with such precision, with respect and honor. This last comment coming from mid century in the 1800s and predicting what the mid 1900s would look like should startle the most stoic adversaries of this method of interpretation.
Judge Winthrop’s interesting comment
The Blackstone of Military Law: Colonel William Winthrop
One commentator writing before 1815 predicted this downfall to be complete by the year 2001. This comment was included in the collected comments by the editor William Jenks in the Comprehensive Commentary. I have no way of knowing what he based his opinion on, but since 2001 is but ten years away its inclusion here may have some future value.
“Judge Winthrop makes the contest between the northern and southern nations [see Ezek 38,39; Rev 12:8] to finish in 2001.” *
* Jenks; op. cit. pg. 726.
He then describes the land of Magog to include all of present day Soviet Union all the way to Kamchatka, the eastern most peninsula in Siberia.
B. W. Johnson – Vision of the Ages
B. W. Johnson is a Bible Commentator whose work People’s New Testament is known to many. He was a member of Churches of Christ and because he wrote before the 1880’s he is claimed by Disciples of Christ, Christian Churches and Churches of Christ who at that time were still one communion. His commentary is still in print and can be obtained from the Gospel Advocate Publishing Company. We believe one page in the book is worth more than the price one would have to pay for the book.
Johnson wrote his commentary on Revelation in 1881, which according to the present accounting of historical interpreters would put him ten years past the completion of the fifth bowl, when Italian unity effected by Victor Emmanuel ended Papal occupation and overlordship of the Papal states. Johnson would therefore be looking back on that bowl as completed; and so he places himself in the sixth bowl with the fifth complete!
He would be living in the period of the drying up of Turkish power which would not be completed until 1917, or about 36 years later. He is closer to the fulfilling of the bowl in which he was living than Barnes who, chronologically being at the beginning of the fifth bowl, had not arrived at that period yet, but saw it coming. He is also closer than Barnes to the next stage by some thirty years. Can he add any more to what Barnes has outlined about the coming coalition of the three frog spirits? We will start at the point he finds himself in 1881 and proceed to the next vision:
After describing the decline of Turkey under the symbol of the sixth bowl, Johnson says, “This is just what is taking place…” He goes on, “I don’t know when her end will come whether soon or in the future, but her end will come…” He then goes on to trace her decline through many historical events. Before going on to the next vision [Armageddon] he dates himself:
“In this application we have now reached the year 1881. The symbolism next begins to map out what is future … the gathering of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet belong to the future.”*
* Johnson B.W.; Vision of the Ages; Gospel Light Publishing Company, Delight, Arkansas, pg. 318.
He then uses Ezekiel to mark Russia (remember this is 1881) as the revived imperial godless secular dragon; the Papacy as the beast; and Mohommedanism as the false prophet. He makes a remarkable statement in reference to this identification when he said, “The false prophet represents the Mohametan power; possibly not under the Sultan, but still existing.”
He says, “not under the Sultan” because he knows according to the prophetic scheme that the Sultan will disappear under the sixth bowl, which he sees as soon to be fulfilled, before the Armageddon period would begin. The union of Sultan and Caliphate–to him was to disappear, to us it has disappeared! Johnson then makes an extraordinary statement that epitomizes our period from 1917 to the present. Remember he made it in 1881, at which time it would have been impossible to foresee Russia in the hands of a communist atheistic government.
“It seems then to be already foreshadowed that after the drying up of the Euphrates there will be a grand alliance of secular despotism, led by Russia, spiritual despotism embodied in Papal Rome, and false religion as exemplified in Mohametanism. Their aim will be to check the progress of political and religious freedom and of the gospel of Christ.”*
* Ibid, pg. 322. (emphasis mine)
How could anyone make so remarkable a statement about the future and describe our period any better? That is, that Russia will arise as a godless political despot and with the help of the Papacy and Islam inhibit the development of religious and political freedom. There is no way an educated historian could have made those predictions based solely on his experience, of the rise of Russia as a secular atheistic state which would lead other nations against individual freedom and the gospel of Christ. A perfect picture of what we have been living through for the past 70 years! Mr. Johnson pre-saw and predicted it even though he did not live to see it. Not because he was a prophet but because he read and believed The Prophecy!
No one seems to have succeeded in outlining the symbol of the seventh bowl in the future, since it is in the future from our time as also is the final part of the Armageddon period. We must wait for the fulfillment to be assured of what the symbols actually predict.
Whether the end of Armageddon will climax in a physical war which will mark the complete overthrow of the communist block, led by Russia, as predicted in Ezekiel 38 and 39; or figuratively with fire of revival falling in the Ukraine or south Russia, (the land of Magog); or a revival of the Christian faith which will consume the atheistic enemies and be a precursor of revival spreading to many nations, time will tell. But one or the other is a certainty. The overthrow of Russia as an enemy of the gospel and political freedom (which is one and the same) will take place in the near future.*
*This prediction based on this scheme of interpretation appears here unchanged from the first edition which was written before the sudden fall of Communism and the startling breakup of the Soviet Union. We have been making this prediction since 1966.
The Seventh Bowl – The Last of the Series
What follows therefore is what this writer thinks the future holds:
As the Armageddon struggle is not yet over, but is nearly so, the seventh bowl has to be mostly in the future. However, since there is some overlapping of events between the intervals and those events preceding and extending beyond the interval, I believe that the seventh bowl has already been poured out and that the events are already underway. Some are obviously in the future and have not been fulfilled as yet. Whatever the last plague is it will bring the Papal system to an end. I must therefore move on to “I thinks.” You will indulge me while I tell you what I think will happen in the next few years and parallel what has already transpired in this bowl.
It is poured out in the air. That has to refer to the realm of ideas or thinking. Under the fifth trumpet the doctrine of Mohammed which has clouded men’s minds from seeing the truth in over a third of the world for over 1300 years is pictured as smoke from the pit which darkened the sun and the air. Thus we are looking for a new pouring out of ideas which will affect the Papal system and lead to its downfall. I think this bowl began to be poured in the air in the period of ideological change in 1964 to 1967.
This part of the bowl refers to the unleashing of new philosophies which gained the ascendancy and pushed the Christian ethic into the background. The existential ethic and accompanying personal freedom and its adjunctive thinking of right to the power of individual choice. The over-emphasis on personal freedom and personal responsibilities is evident to us all in the excesses, sexual freedom, homosexuality, abortion, divorce.
But there are other ethics which also came into a more supreme position in men’s minds than the Christian ethic at the same time and have affected all of us. Humanism, communism and other forms of marxism, socialist utopianism, evolution, situationalism, behaviorism, etc. are poured out into the air along with the rise of eastern transcendental self-realization. All these have made Christianity seem lifeless and on the way out. It has truly been the point of passion in the Armageddon struggle and Satan’s crowd is winning.
How is this a blow to the Papal power? Well, there is some truth in the midst of this revolutionary thought that is being propagated. The concept of personal responsibility is truth. No one can make my moral decisions for me! I am the only person who can make the decisions that affect my eternal destiny. I am an existential man in the moment of decision when I stand before the person of Jesus Christ. I have in that moment reached the passion of existence. All my pasts and todays and tomorrows are concentrated in that moment. That is a truth of existentialism that will one day dawn on the sons of men! The consequences of its anti-authoritarianism are evident and therefore anti-Papal.
In the meantime abuses of the freedom of the individual person run rampant. However, the institution of the Papacy has declared the new thought to be in harmony with the truth, in the “Declaration of Religious Freedom” of the 1964 Vatican council.* The freedom to make religious decisions as described in The Documents of Vatican II are elucidated in a clearer and better way than is possible in this explanation. If I am the only one who can make the decisions that affect my eternal destiny, then there is no Pope! The “Declaration on Religious Freedom” of Vatican II is a death warrant to the Papacy signed into cannon law by the Pope himself.
In this period the Papacy pictured as Babylon is divided into three parts, perhaps to receive a threefold destruction: the threefold division of the beast (the city divided into three parts) may be (1) the human government inherited from the Roman Empire, i.e. the dioceses, cardinals, hierarchy, etc. (2) The Paganism having its source in Babylon, being the false religious practices having no foundation in Christianity, (3) and the exercise of political power or meddling in world politics from the Vatican, i.e, what is left of the two horned beast, the Vatican and its political intrigues, banking system, money manipulation, ambassadors, and alleged assassinations, and third world revolutionary schemes.
*See important portions of this document in the appendix.
May I make it plain that I do not here speak of the Catholic Church. I speak of the Papacy, the Vatican and its hierarchy. There are those within the system who believe the same thing. One is Malachi Martin, a former Jesuit priest and professor in Rome, who now lives in New York, who was a part of the Vatican under John XXIII.
In other words more than a priest, and in good standing. Dr. Martin has written extensively about the decline and impending fall of the Papacy.
Even though he is a historian and makes no reference to the Apocalypse, his conclusion is the same as many who see the Papacy as the beast of Revelation; meddling in world politics has dirtied the Papal hands through the centuries and will be the death of the institution. Dr. Martin, in his book, Decline and Fall of the Roman Church, says of the decline of the Papacy:
“As things now stand, there seems to be no reasonable hope that this decline can be arrested, and no reasonable expectation that the present organizational structure of this venerable Church can outlive our century.”*
*Malachi Martin; op. cit. pg. 1.
The new thought emphasizing personal freedom, poured out into the air, has been tearing the Roman system apart ever since Vatican II. How will it affect us? It will be part of the new world that we preach. Personal responsibility where only my perception of the truth will govern my decisions is what Christians wish for all men. When the truth of such a prevailing ethic finally dawns on the misguided and selfish extremists of today and they abandon their hedonism, what a field for planting the Gospel of Christ this new post revolutionary world will be!
Gone as a result of Armageddon will be godless secular government as epitomized in our time by the Soviet system imposed since 1917, and false religion as characterized in our time by Islam; (Islam has prevented, often by force, the preaching of the Gospel of Christ in formerly Christian lands from Gibraltar to the Indus River including N. Africa, Arabia to Pakistan, Asia Minor and much of the Caucasus and Central Asia.
The overthrow of Islam probably means the reintroduction of political and religious freedom in those lands in our lifetime); and last of all the Papal system will fall, the system which has inhibited the true expression of Christianity in the western world for centuries. No wonder this bowl predicts a revolution of greater dimensions than any social, economic, spiritual, political, turnover yet experienced in human history.
That revolution is just ahead of us. Many reading these pages will live to see it.
But this bowl, the culmination of the seventh trumpet, contains both blessings and plagues! The blessing yet to come is expressed in highly emotional language: “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.”
That is the final result in the future but the not too distant future. However, also predicted is the world revolution, the disappearance of nationalism, the end of national governments, and a plague of hail, a rain of death from the skies which will cause men who are earth bound to curse God. If it is not a prediction of a rain of atomic missiles which will bring a God-cursing plague on the earth, it will be something of the same dimension and will happen soon, surely before the end of the twentieth century.
It will be a devastating plague but mankind will survive. And as this is the last symbol under this seventh bowl it must predict the last event before the Lord’s victory in history. It is a mixed bag, this seventh bowl. Men’s hearts will be tried severely and some will fail them just before the end. The race is almost over. It is the wrong time to drop out now. Victory is almost in sight. Just a few more hurdles, one or two more times around the track. Some obstacles look insurmountable but this epoch ends with a new world in view.
Satan will still be in it but he will have lost most of his army. For believers it is the time we have looked for: The wedding supper of the Lamb, the victory supper of Ezekiel, and Daniel’s vision of the saints taking the kingdom. It is in the near future and is not the end of the world nor the second coming of Christ.