The contents of the sixth “bowl” cause the final battle between the “Lamb” and the “Dragon” – Armageddon – Revelation 16:12-16.
The first four “bowls of wrath” targeted the economic structures of the empire, and the fifth attacked its political power. When the sixth “bowl” is emptied, demonic forces gather the “kings of the earth” to the final battle of the “Great Day of God the Almighty” at a place called ‘Armageddon.’ This will be the last desperate effort by forces loyal to the “beast” to destroy the saints.
In the passage, several Old Testament images are employed to illustrate the results of the “sixth bowl,” including the drying of the Red Sea, the second Egyptian plague of frogs, the rerouting of the Euphrates River to invade Babylon, and the predicted assault by “Gog and Magog.” It also includes verbal links to earlier passages in Revelation.
- (Revelation 16:12-16) – “And the sixth poured out his bowl upon the great river Euphrates; and the water was dried up, that the way might be prepared of the kings who were from the east. 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 impure spirits like frogs; for they are spirits of demons, doing signs, which are to go forth to the kings of the whole habitable earth to gather them to the battle of the great day of God the Almighty. Behold, I come as a thief! Happy is he that is watching and keeping his garments, lest naked he be walking, and they see his shame. And he gathered them to the place that is called in Hebrew, Har-Maggedon.”
The Old Testament images are combined to create a complete picture of the final “battle.” The conflict culminates in the destruction of end-time “Babylon” when the “seventh bowl of wrath” is emptied on the earth.
The Euphrates River was the traditional eastern boundary of the Promised Land, and the direction from which invading armies historically attacked Ancient Israel. Thus, the final “battle” between the “saints” and Satan is poised to commence – (Genesis 15:18, Exodus 23:31, Deuteronomy 1:7, 11:24, Joshua 1:4).
The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah predicted that Persia would take Babylon by drying up of the Euphrates River:
- “Be dry!… Who says of Cyrus, He is my shepherd and shall perform all my pleasure… I will raise up one from the north who will come from the sun-rising” – God would – “Disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon” and cause “a drought upon her waters that they should be dried up” – (Isaiah 44:24-28, 41:45, Jeremiah 50:38, 51:36).
That prediction was fulfilled in October 539 B.C. when a Medo-Persian force redirected the Euphrates, so that it could enter the city along the dry riverbed. The pictures of the “kings of the east” leading a large force from beyond the Euphrates draws in additional imagery from the prophecy of “Gog and Magog” recorded in Ezekiel.
In Revelation, neither the “Euphrates River” nor “Babylon” is a literal geographic reference. In chapter 17, end-time Babylon “sits on many waters,” which is interpreted as “peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues.” And if “Babylon” is not an actual geographic reference in chapter 17, then neither is the “Euphrates River” in the present passage – (Revelation 17:1-15).
Demonic spirits are unleashed to gather the “kings of the whole habitable earth” to the war of the “great day of God.” The description employs language from Ezekiel’s vision of “Gog of Magog”:
- (Ezekiel 38:3-10) – “I will turn you back and put hooks into your jaws, and I WILL GATHER YOU AND ALL YOUR ARMY… Be prepared and prepare yourself, you and all your company that are gathered unto you…in the latter years you shall come into the land that is brought back from the sword and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel… You shall ascend and come like a storm, you shall be like a cloud to cover the land, you and all your bands, and many people with you.”
These demonic forces employ “signs” to compel the “kings of the east” to attack. Likewise, the “false prophet,” the “beast from the earth” performed “great signs” to deceive the “inhabitants of the earth.” The verbal parallel is deliberate; the demons work through their earthly agent to mislead the nations – (Revelation 13:13).
The “kings from the east” and the “kings of the whole earth” are identical, the latter interprets the former. Moreover, what is portrayed is NOT a battle between national armies, but instead, the global attack by all nations against the “Lamb,” the anointed king of Yahweh, just as predicted in the second Psalm:
- (Psalm 2:1-4) – “Why do the nations rage, and the peoples meditate a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against Yahweh and against his anointed.”
Although the “kings of the earth” believed they were assembling to destroy the “saints,” in fact, they were being gathered at the instigation of God to destroy “Babylon.” Afterward, they themselves would be destroyed, along with the “beast” and “false prophet,” just as Yahweh caused the forces of “Gog of Magog” to invade Israel so that He could destroy that force on the “mountains of Israel” – (Ezekiel 38:3-10, 39:1-3, Revelation 16:19, 17:16-17, 19:17-21).
Demons “gathered the kings of the earth to the war.” This was the same “war” waged against the “two witnesses” by the “beast from the Abyss,” the same one waged by the “Dragon” against the “seed of the woman,” and the same one that the “beast from the Sea” made against the “saints” – (Revelation 11:17, 12:17, 13:7).
The “kings from the east” join the “beast” in its final confrontation with God. But the divine purpose is to destroy “Babylon,” for God has put it in their hearts to do His bidding – (Revelation 16:19, 17:16-17).
Thus, the “sixth bowl of wrath” is a symbolic picture of the final confrontation between the forces of the “Lamb” and of the “Dragon.” The passage reinterprets the Old Testament images; “Gog” and its armies become the “kings of the whole habitable earth,” unrepentant humanity united by the “beast” against the “Lamb” and “his army.”At this point in the narrative, the voice of Jesus is interjected: “
Behold, I am coming as a thief!” – The final battle culminates with his arrival from heaven.
Overcoming believers who “kept their garments” find themselves “blessed” when he arrives, but his arrival also means “shame” for the unprepared, as well as destruction for all forces opposed to God. The promised “blessing” reiterates exhortations and promises given to the churches at Sardis and Laodicea – (Revelation 3:2-5, 3:17-18).
“Armageddon” transliterates the Hebrew term that means “mountain of Megiddo” (the prefix ‘har-’ means “hill” or “mountain”). No such city or site in Palestine is called by that name. Historically, “Megiddo” referred to the “valley of Megiddo,” or to the town of that name located in the broad plain with no mountain or even sizable hill – (Judges 5:19, 2 Kings 23:29-30, Zechariah 12:11).
Revelation has combined two Old Testament passages – Zechariah 12:11 and Ezekiel 39:2-4. In the former, Yahweh sought to “destroy all the nations gathered against Jerusalem…in the valley of Megiddon.” In the latter passage, He caused “Gog of Magog” to gather “upon the mountains of Israel” for destruction.
The same final battle with “Gog and Magog” is portrayed again in chapters 19 and 20. It is global in scope, and the attacking force is identified as the “nations from the four corners of the earth,” assembled by Satan in his final effort to destroy the “camp of the saints” – (Revelation 20:7-15).