Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 16:12–16

Revelation 16:12–16
Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates and dried up its water to prepare the way for the kings from the east. 13 Then I saw three unclean spirits that looked like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14 For they are the spirits of the demons performing signs who go out to the kings of the earth to bring them together for the battle that will take place on the great day of God, the All-Powerful.
15 (Look! I will come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays alert and does not lose his clothes so that he will not have to walk around naked and his shameful condition be seen.) 16 Now the spirits gathered the kings and their armies to the place that is called Armageddon in Hebrew.
(NET Bible)

The seven bowls of God’s wrath

We were twenty-five miles from a paved road and even farther from the nearest campground. Our campsite sat in a forest well off the dirt road, near a stream. It was dark and a light rain fell through the rising wind. Lightning punctuated the scene, showing two families camped in a looming forest.

“Where is the fire starter?” they said, and I grinned in the darkness. “Is it on the checklist?” I replied, though I knew it was. They had teased me mercilessly about my four-page checklist, so I always made them use it when they really needed something. In a dark, mountain forest on a stormy night, you want to know you are ready for whatever comes.

God’s great storm is coming at any time. Have you done what is necessary to prepare?

The seven final bowl judgments bring us very close to the end of history. Grant Osborne says, “God is now the one who is and who was (16:5; cf. 11:17); there is no ‘is to come’ for the end has arrived.”[1]. But the response is blasphemy and a lack of repentance (16:9, 11).

Considering the kings from the east (16:12), Craig Keener pokes fun at those who have been quite ready to identify the kings as whatever Asian power was ascendant at a given time: in the nineteenth century the Turkish Ottoman Empire was a popular choice; later it was the Japanese; most recently the Chinese are wearing the kingly mantle.[2]

Much more likely is the view expressed by Osborne: “It is better to see the kings from the east coalescing into the kings of the whole earth and preparing for Armageddon . . . . Thus, as in Ezek. 38–39, the war of Gog and Magog against the people of God (see Rev. 19:17 and 20:8 for the imagery) forms the background.”[3] By reading Ezekiel 38–39, it becomes obvious that God will use various means to gather the world’s armies against Israel in the last days. They will never leave there alive!

In fact, 16:13–14 show that the Satanic trio of the dragon, the beast and the false prophet will use demonic spirits, symbolized by “frogs coming out of the mouth,” to assemble the world’s rulers and their forces “for the battle that will take place on the great day of God, the All-Powerful” (16:14).

The final warning (16:15)

The parentheses around 16:15 show that this verse is an interjection into the vision; it is addressed to those believers alive at the unknown time of Christ’s appearing. The one who might be shamefully naked is the one who is not dressed and ready for his Lord’s return (Luke 12:35–40). The command to be alert appears here because the completed gathering of the armies for the great battle will be the moment of Christ’s return.

John names Armageddon (16:16) as a strategic location related to the last battle. Osborne says, “The natural meaning from the Hebrew would be ‘mountain ([Hebrew] har) of Megiddo,’ but there is no Mount Megiddo.” The town of Megiddo was — and remains today — in the Valley of Jezreel near Mount Carmel. Greg Beale mentions another problem: “That ‘Armageddon’ is not literal is evident from the observation that OT prophecies of the final battle of history place it, without exception, in the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem and Mount Zion or its surrounding mountains.”[4] How do we solve these mysteries?

I have my own suggestion about the resolution of these issues. Perhaps interpreters have misunderstood the gathering being mentioned in Rev. 16:16. We have already been told in 14:14 about the gathering of nations for battle, and no doubt that is what the beast thought he was accomplishing. But in 14:16 the demonic spirits were unwittingly gathering the armies for burial!

Ezekiel 39:11 says: “On that day I will assign Gog a grave in Israel. It will be the valley of those who travel east of the sea; it will block the way of the travelers. There they will bury Gog and all his horde.” Generally, the sea is what we call the Mediterranean Sea, and the Valley of Jezreel, containing Megiddo, extends from Israel’s central mountains down to the sea. While there is not currently a mountain at Megiddo, a vast burial mound in time to come is not out of the question.

In that scenario, the last battle takes place around Jerusalem, but afterwards God will command the land to be cleansed by burial of the unholy dead. Ezekiel 39:12–13 says:

For seven months Israel will bury them, in order to cleanse the land. All the people of the land will bury them, and it will be a memorial for them on the day I magnify myself, declares the sovereign Lord.

One last word: there is a town overlooking Megiddo and the Valley of Jezreel, the town in which Jesus grew to manhood — Nazareth!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 576.

[2] Craig S. Keener, Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000) 398.

[3] Osborne, Revelation, 590-591.

[4] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 838.

 

Do you have an opinion or a different interpretation? Let me know!