Then the sixth poured out his ceremonial bowl upon the great Euphrates River, and its water was dried up, so that the road could be made ready for the kings from the rising sun.
Then, 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 foul and unclean spirits like frogs.
For the spirits are of demons doing miraculous signs, that are being issued to the kings of the whole earth, to gather them together into the battle of the great day of Omnipotent God –
“Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is the one who is alert and watching and guarding their clothing, in order not to be naked and [others] see their shame” –
And it gathered them into the place which is called in the Hebrew language “Har Megiddo.”Revelation 16:12-16
It is possible that, from the sixth bowl on, the rest of the prophecies have to do with current events, or events still to come in the life of the church.
The Euphrates River
The Euphrates River, in this case, points to Turkey, the seat of the Ottoman Empire. Just as the fifth bowl was poured out on the nexus of power for the Roman church – the throne of the beast – so now, the sixth bowl is poured out on the nexus of Turkish power, causing the diminishment and eventual demise of the Ottomans by the close of World War I.
The way opened for the kings of the east, the “rising sun,” refers to those prophesied who would one day come to Israel to pay homage to Messiah.
“Your gates shall always be open;Isaiah 60:11 (NRSVUE)
day and night they shall not be shut,
so that nations shall bring you their wealth,
with their kings led in procession.”
The Unclean Spirits
Some feel the three unclean spirits that appear as frogs are
- Infidelity from the dragon
- Roman church from the beast
- Priestly clergy from the false prophet
All three were seen to manifest in Europe in the nineteenth century up through the present.
Others rather see paganism, the Roman church, and Islam, as the third spirit comes from the mouth of the false spirit, correlating to Islam’s founding prophet.
A third view sees the rise of communism, Judaism, and Islam as the three demonic spirits hostile to the truth of Christianity.
Har Megiddo Battle
Scholars in the past thought perhaps World War I or II was Har Megiddo fulfilled. Others suggest the Battle of Har Megiddo will be the logical conclusion of the arms race worldwide. Finally, perhaps rather than a literal worldwide war, some see this as a spiritual battle of false religion marshalled against truth.
The Euphrates River has already been featured in Chapter 9 when the sixth trumpet was sounded, now it is echoed in the sixth ceremonial bowl.
The Great Euphrates
Ancient Babylon was positioned on the great Euphrates River, surrounded by the bulwarks of its massive protective embankments. King Belshazzar could confidently feast and drink without a care in his impregnable palace. Or so he thought. Cyrus of Persia masterfully caused the great Euphrates to dry up by diverting the river’s flow, so that his army could march into the city on the river’s dry bed. The conquest of Babylon happened in the dead of night by surprise in 536 BCE.
Cyrus’ magnificent military tactic may have come to symbolize certain and unforeseen defeat. But preterists see another connection: The statue of Daniel’s vision represented pagan world powers arrayed against the power of God. One by one, beginning with Babylon the head, each part of the statue was smashed to pieces in sequence until the feet of the Roman empire became rubble. It seems fitting that the symbol of Babylon’s defeat should also be that of the Roman Empire in the fifth century CE.
Others connect the Euphrates drying with the destruction of Jerusalem, with the Euphrates symbolizing the Jordan River and the Red Sea. By association, Jerusalem had become the new Babylon, now the enemy of God.
Interestingly, according to Josephus, many of the thousands of troops that Titus brought to besiege Jerusalem came from the region of the Euphrates.
Three Unclean Spirits
Like the plague of frogs that overran Egypt, these three frog-like spirits also draw association between Jerusalem and the enemies of God. Just as physical Egypt was overrun by physical frogs representing the god Heqet, so now Jerusalem as a spiritual Egypt would be overcome by frog-like spirits.
It is this trio of demonic spirits that call the kings of earth to gather for battle.
Again, rather than the actual site of the plains of Megiddo, Mount Carmel is in view, where Jezebel’s priests of Ba’al and God’s prophet Elijah had their famous face off. Nevertheless, Megiddo retains meaning as the field of battle where Deborah and Barak won their decisive victory over the city-state of Hazor, and both the evil King Ahaziah and the good King Josiah met their deaths.
All told, Har Megiddon, or Armageddon, represents a field of slaughter and colossal defeat, an emblem of both Jerusalem’s and eventually Rome’s, complete destruction.
Guard One’s Garments
Jesus’ warning about his imminent return, and the wisdom of those who will keep watch over their clothing so as not to endure the humiliation of public nakedness, may be connected to his invitation to two churches at the beginning of John’s Revelation.
To the Laodicean church, Jesus urged to buy white garments so that they would not be naked and ashamed.
Jesus commended the Sardinian church for white clothing, and reminded them he would come like a thief in the night.
Coming Like a Thief
Jesus may have meant the judgment of Jerusalem in 70 CE when he said,
“Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”Matthew 16:28 (NRSVUE)
The Battle of Armageddon will commence once the two million troops mentioned at the sixth trumpet’s blast are marshalled along the now dry bed of the Euphrates River. This final world war will begin when the “kings of the rising sun” march into Israel, as depicted in the prophet Joel’s apocalypse,
“I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgment with them there, on account of my people and my heritage Israel.”Joel 3:2 (NRSVUE)
The eastern kings may be the ten lost tribes of Israel returning to the land, or they might be Persian and Afghanistan, or possibly Mongolian. Some scholars point farther east to India, China, and Japan, whose flag features the rays of the rising sun. One commentator mentions a dam of Russian construct already in place near the headwaters of the Euphrates, and another builds a case in which Turkish power, allied with Russia and Europe, will march against Israel, igniting the great Battle of Armageddon.
Rather than a single battle, this may be a series of military events as indicated by Daniel’s vision,
“But reports from the east and the north shall alarm him, and he shall go out with great fury to bring ruin and complete destruction to many.”Daniel 11:40-45 (NRSVUE, For the full series of battles, follow this link)
All the kings will gather to do battle possibly in anticipation of Jesus returning with his heavenly army of angels to claim his rightful throne, or possibly there will be a worldwide rebellion against the dragon and its dangerous creatures.
Jesus speaks of his coming at this point because the two events are so closely tied.
In the first century, Rome feared a Parthian invasion coming along the Euphrates River. In fact, when Emperor Nero took his own life in 64 CE, it was rumored he had not actually died, but had secretly gone to Parthia to bring back troops to march against Rome. Aspects of this myth may have been part of John’s vision as metaphor for Rome’s ultimate and inescapable collapse.
The Euphrates River, then, is a metaphor for whatever might have impeded the invaders, and the kings from the rising sun lead God’s forces in battle. Christ is depicted as the victor over evil. The three demonic spirits are similar to the lying spirits of false prophets who enticed Ahab into the battle that killed him.
“A certain spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’”1 Kings 22:21-33 (NRSVUE, For the full story, follow this link)
Har Megiddo is also a metaphor, for all the great battles God’s people face. Jesus will suddenly appear, as God always does, to protect and defend God’s people.
The four perspectives taken from Revelation: Four Views A Parallel Commentary, edited by Steve Gregg