OVERVIEW – The “Kings of the East” are identical to the “Kings of the Earth” and allied with the “beast from the Sea” – Revelation 16:12-19.
The contents of the “sixth bowl of wrath” present the reader with an image of an army led by the “kings from the sun-rising.” This force launched an invasion from beyond the Euphrates River. The picture was derived from Old Testament prophecies about the overthrow of ancient Babylon by the “Medes and Persians” under the leadership of Cyrus the Great. Once more, God was about to employ a “pagan” force to destroy “Babylon,” only this time it was the “Great Whore”.
In preparation for this final “battle,” the army was gathered to a place called “Har-Mageddon.” In painting this picture, Revelation also employed verbal allusions from the book of Ezekiel about an attack on ancient Israel by “Gog and Magog.”
In the passage, there is no description of an actual battle or of any invasion of the Middle East. In the interpretation, the “kings of the whole habitable earth” were assembled by demonic spirits to the “battle of the great day of God the Almighty.” The enemy to be destroyed was not identified until the contents of the “seventh bowl” were emptied – “Babylon.”
(Revelation 16:12-16) – “And the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates; and the water was dried up, that the way might be prepared of the kings who were from the rising of the sun. 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, as frogs; for they are spirits of demons doing signs, which are to go forth unto the kings of the whole habitable earth, to gather them together unto the battle of the great day of God the Almighty. Behold, I come as a thief! Happy is he that watches and keeps his garments, lest naked he be walking, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together to the place that is called, in Hebrew, Har Magedon.”
Chapter 16 serializes the meting out of divine wrath on the “Beast” and “Babylon” into the seven “last plagues” or “bowls of wrath.” They are unleashed sequentially as seven angels empty the contents of their respective bowls. Throughout the series, God initiates the action and uses the vassals of the “Dragon” to execute His judgments. Now, the “kings of the earth” are assembled for the “battle of God the Almighty” – This is His “battle” – Not that of the “Dragon” or the “beast from the sea.”
“Prepared for the kings of the east.” This alludes to a prophecy by Jeremiah about the destruction of Babylon. In the sixth century B.C., the city of Babylon was captured by an army of the “Medes and Persians” that blocked the Euphrates River to allow it to enter the city by the dried riverbed. Note the verbal parallels between Revelation and the passages from Jeremiah:
(Revelation 16:12-13) – “And the sixth poured out his bowl upon the great river: the Euphrates; and THE WATER THEREOF WAS DRIED UP, that THE WAY MIGHT BE PREPARED OF THE KINGS WHO WERE FROM THE RISING OF THE SUN. 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 as frogs, for they are spirits of demons doing signs, which are to go forth unto THE KINGS OF THE WHOLE HABITABLE EARTH to gather them together unto the battle of the great day of God the Almighty.”
(Jeremiah 50:35-38) – “A sword is upon the Chaldeans, says Yahweh, and upon the inhabitants of Babylon…A drought is upon her waters, and they shall be dried up; for it is a land of graven images, and they are mad over idols. Therefore the wild beasts of the desert with the wolves shall dwell there, and the ostriches shall dwell therein: and it shall be no more inhabited forever; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation.”
(Jeremiah 51:25-38) – “Prepare against her the nations, even the king of the Medes and of the whole earth, his rulers and all his captains…Therefore thus says the Lord, Behold, I will plead thy cause, and take vengeance for you; and I will dry up her sea, and make her springs dry. And Babylon shall become heaps, a dwelling-place for dragons…without inhabitant.”
The borrowed language does not mean that the “kings of the east” are identical to the ancient “Medes and Persians.” The passage provides fitting imagery to portray the judgment of God on end-time “Babylon.” After the “kings of the earth” are assembled, end-time “Babylon” will partake of the “wine of God’s wrath” – (Revelation 16:19-20).
The image of the “kings from the sun-rising” that crossed the Euphrates is interpreted by what John “saw” – (“and I saw”). First, he “heard a great voice…Go and pour out the seven bowls of the wrath into the earth.” Then, he described what he saw – demon spirits from the “Dragon,” the “Beast,” and the “false prophet” dispatched to gather the “kings of the whole habitable earth.” What he saw interpreted what he heard. Thus, the “kings from the east” and the “kings of the whole habitable earth” are one and the same.
The group called the “kings of the earth” was introduced at the beginning of the book – Because of his death and resurrection, Jesus was and is the “ruler of the kings of the earth.” This group appears several times in Revelation. The term is derived from the second Psalm, a messianic prophecy applied to Jesus several times in Revelation – (Revelation 1:4-6, 12:5):
(Psalm 2:1-8) – “Wherefore have nations assembled in tumult? Or should peoples mutter an empty thing? The KINGS OF EARTH take their station, and grave men have met by appointment together, against Yahweh and against his Anointed One, saying, Let us break asunder their bonds, and cast from us their cords! He that sits in the heavens will laugh, My Lord will mock at them: Then will he speak unto them in his anger, and in his wrath confound them.”
The destruction of “Babylon” was announced when the seventh angel emptied the contents of his “bowl.” The actual judgment of the “Great Whore” is then detailed in chapters 17 and 18 of Revelation. In turn, the judgments of the “beast,” the “False Prophet,” and the armies of the “kings of the earth” are detailed in the vision of the “Rider on a White Horse” – (Revelation 19:17-21).
Thus, the “kings of the earth” were assembled for the “great day of the battle of God the Almighty” in order to destroy end-time “Babylon,” and in preparation for their own destruction by the “Rider on the White Horse.” Note the verbal parallels:
(Revelation 16:14) – “They are spirits of demons, working signs, which go forth to the kings of the whole habitable earth to gather them together unto the war of the great day of God, the Almighty.”
(Revelation 19:15-21) – “And he treads the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God, the Almighty. And he has on his garment and on his thigh a name written, king of kings and lord of lords. And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in mid heaven, Come and be gathered together unto the great supper of God…And I saw the Beast, and the kings of the earth and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat upon the horse, and against his army.”
Revelation uses Old Testament language to build its picture of how God destroys the earthly vassals of the “Dragon” – The “beast from the sea,” the “False Prophet,” and “Babylon,” often combining language and imagery from multiple passages found in the Hebrew Bible.
The “kings of the earth” may be allied with the “Beast,” but in the “sixth bowl of wrath,” they become the instruments of divine justice employed to destroy end-time “Babylon.” In turn, these same servants of the “Dragon” will be judged along with the “beast” and the “False Prophet” by the “Rider on a White Horse” – Jesus.