Saturday, 8 May 2021
Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. Revelation 16:12
With the events of the fifth bowl complete, John now begins that of the sixth, saying, “Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates.”
This follows in thought after the sixth trumpet –
“Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, 14 saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’” Revelation 9:13, 14
The Euphrates lies within modern-day Iraq, and it is an area that is noted throughout biblical history. This will be no less true in the end times. When the angel pours out the bowl, John says of it, “and its water was dried up.”
No indication of how this happens is given. The Euphrates was diverted by Cyrus when he attacked and overcame the Babylonian Empire. It could be something like this, or it could be that the heat of the previous bowl judgments has caused it to literally dry up. Others take this as figurative language. But the statement appears to be literal, however it happens. And there is a reason this is noted. It is “so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared.”
Here, the Greek literally reads “from the rising of the sun,” thus signifying “eastward.” Who the “kings from the east” are is debatable. The events are future, and there is a lot of land filled with many people groups in that direction. East of the Euphrates lies Persia (modern-day Iran), Afghanistan, Pakistan, (lots of other “stans” as well), India, China, and etc. Who exactly is referred to is thus speculative.
Interestingly, as this commentary is typed, China is working on its “Belt and Road Initiative.” It is an effort to make a modern-day “silk road” from east to west and elsewhere around the world. It is a global development of infrastructure, investing in numerous countries in order to make this global trade effort possible. Thus, the movement of man and material would be easy enough and quick enough for “the kings of the east” to include nations all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Again, who these are is speculative at this time.
Life application: Everything that happens, no matter how seemingly disconnected or unrelated, is a part of God’s plan. The Euphrates River is one of four riverheads that came from the main river flowing from the Garden of Eden. This is recorded in Genesis 2:4.
The Hebrew name of the Euphrates is Perath and means “fruitfulness.” It has been the dividing line between what is considered living in God’s presence and being separated from it since the very beginning. In Genesis 15:18, God told Abraham that this river would be the northernmost dividing line of the land he was being given. Therefore, anything outside of that would be considered a place of wandering and exile.
It is the land where Cain fled to before the flood. It is the land established by Nimrod after the flood. It is the spot where the nations attempted to cast off God’s rule and build the tower of Babel, and it is the land from which the patriarchs moved from before being called into the Promised Land (see Joshua 24:2). When Israel was disobedient, it was to Babylon that they were exiled. It is symbolic of enmity with God and false religion.
Now, this river is being dried up so that the kings of the east will have unrestrained access to enter into the land in preparation for the great battle to come. This hasn’t happened yet in history since the writing of Revelation and therefore it must be future.
To attempt to align Revelation with the events of AD70 (the preterist view) makes no sense and such a view must dismiss these clearly stated verses. There is a battle coming which will involve many millions of people, and those in Asia will be a large part of the participating forces. The number is staggering, and the battle will be immense, but first, the waters must be dried up.
After the previous bowl where the sun has scorched the earth, this can be easily imagined. The world’s water supply will be highly diminished and large rivers will become dry beds of cracked clay. The river of fruitfulness will become withered and unfruitful.
The world will head into a tailspin of war, blood, and death. The book is written, and the events will come to pass. Let us pay heed to the warning and be wise. Let us call out now for the saving grace bestowed upon man through God’s giving of His Son. Let us call out now for JESUS.
Lord, even from the moment of creation, You have been in control of all things. The waters which flow tell us of Your wisdom. The sun which shines does so at Your command. All things are tied together and are working towards the fulfillment of Your plan. Thank You that this plan includes forgiveness through Jesus. Thank You for Jesus! Amen.