Rev. 16:20 – Every island fled, and the mountains disappeared. 21 Enormous hailstones, each weighing about 100 pounds, fell from the sky on people, and they blasphemed God for the plague of hail because that plague was extremely severe. (HCSB)
Every island fled
Verse 20 reads, “Every island fled, and the mountains disappeared.” Some translations say the islands “disappeared” or “vanished.” There is a similar image from the sixth seal in Rev. 6:14. We are told that “every mountain and island was moved from its place.” All of creation is shaken violently in preparation for its renovation into new heavens and a new earth, although some see this in figurative terms as the dramatic end to the times of the Jews and/or the Roman Empire.
Those who see this passage as a prelude to the return of Christ note that Rev. 21:1 tells us that the first heaven and earth have passed away and the sea exists no more.
Isaiah pictures a day when the Lord of Hosts is coming “against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up – it will be humbled – against all the cedars of Lebanon, lofty and lifted up, against all the oaks of Bashan, against all the high mountains, against all the lofty hills, against every high tower, against every fortified wall, against every ship of Tarshish, and against every splendid sea vessel. So human pride will be brought low, and the loftiness of men will be humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted on that day” (Isa. 2:12-17).
Previously: Assemble them for battle – Revelation 16:14-16
Rev. 16:17 –Then the seventh [angel] poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the sanctuary from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 There were flashes of lightning and rumblings of thunder. And a severe earthquake occurred like no other since man has been on the earth – so great was the quake. 19 The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the Great was remembered in God’s presence; He gave her the cup filled with the wine of His fierce anger. (HCSB)
“It is done!”
When the seventh angel pours out his bowl into the air, a loud voice from the sanctuary declares, “It is done!” The 24 elders make a similar pronouncement in Rev. 11:15-19. They announce that “the time has come for the dead to be judged and to give the reward to Your servants the prophets, to the saints, and to those who fear Your name, both small and great, and the time has come to destroy those who destroy the earth” (v. 18).
More importantly, this cry echoes the declaration of a triumphant Jesus on the cross. Just before His death He shouts, “It is finished!” At Calvary, the Son of Man completes the work of redemption, bearing our sin and receiving the wrath of God on our behalf. Like a Roman commander overlooking the battlefield, He shouts, “It is finished!” because He has vanquished the evil one and released those bound to him in captivity. And like the high priest on the Day of Atonement, He shouts, “It is finished!” because no more sacrifices will be accepted. Both the Roman soldiers and the Jews around the cross have a clear context for understanding the significance of the Lord’s declaration. Jesus has fulfilled the law through His sinless life; fulfilled the types and shadows of the Old Covenant; fulfilled the prophecies of Messiah’s suffering; and completed the task for which the Father sent Him and the Spirit empowered Him. The work of redemption – it is finished!
Rev. 16:14 – For they are spirits of demons performing signs, who travel to the kings of the whole world to assemble them for the battle of the great day of God, the Almighty. 15 “Look, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who is alert and remains clothed so that he may not go naked, and they see his shame.” 16 So they assembled them at the place called in Hebrew Armageddon. (HCSB)
Assemble them for the battle … in Armageddon
Now the kings of the world are assembled for “the battle of the great day of God, the Almighty” (v. 14). Verse 16 tells us the evil spirits assemble the kings at “the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.” This is the only mention of “Armageddon” in the Bible. But the place is well known. The word “Armageddon” in Hebrew is har-megiddon, meaning “the mount of Megiddo.” Although there is no mountain by this name, the great city of Megiddo is strategically placed to guard the pass between the Mediterranean coast and the valley of Jezreel or Esdraelon.
The outcome of this battle is reported in Rev. 17:14 and 19:11-21 as the Lamb obliterates the forces of evil. As the Dictionary of Biblical Prophecy and End Times points out, the gathering of the wicked for destruction is a common theme in the Old Testament. For example:
- In Joel 3:11-16 the Lord invites the nations to come to the “Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit down to judge all the surrounding nations.”
- In Zeph. 3:8 the Lord declares, “For My decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, in order to pour out My indignation on them, all My burning anger; for the whole earth will be consumed by the fire of My jealousy.”
- And in Zech. 12:3-4 and 14:2-5 Yahweh promises, “On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the people; all who try to lift it will injure themselves severely when all the nations of the earth gather against her…. I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem for battle…. Then the Lord will go out to fight against those nations as He fights on a day of battle …”
More specifically, the valley of Jezreel or Esdraelon is the site of many important battles in the history of Israel. It is the place where earthly kings are no match for the Lord’s heavenly host; indeed, they are punished for oppressing God’s people (Judges 5:19). It is where the prophets of Baal are slaughtered in the days of Elijah (1 Kings 18:40). And it is where good king Josiah is killed, resulting in national mourning (2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chron. 35:20-25).
A common thread in these battles is that this valley is a place where unrighteous nations attack the people of God. Certainly, Megiddo in scripture is connected with warfare. It’s possible, however, that John’s reference to Megiddo is in fact a reference to Jerusalem. David Stern writes, “[T]he final war may not take place at Har Megiddo at all, but in Jerusalem, at Har Migdo, the ‘mount of his choice fruit,’ i.e., the mountain of God’s blessing, Mount Zion. Mount Zion has already been mentioned at 14:1; moreover, the imagery resembles Joel’s picture of the Day of Adonai, when God’s power goes forth from Mount Zion against the forces of evil (Joel 2:1-11, 4:16-17 [3:16-17]; compare also Isaiah 31:4-9). The next passage (vv. 17-21) resembles 14:14-20, which also draws on imagery from Joel 4…. Strengthening the case further Zechariah 12:11 … mentions Jerusalem along with Megiddon” (Jewish New Testament Commentary, p. 835).
So how should we view Armageddon?
Rev. 16:12 –The sixth [angel] poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the east. 13 Then I saw three unclean spirits like frogs [coming] from the dragon’s mouth, from the beast’s mouth, and from the mouth of the false prophet. 14 For they are spirits of demons performing signs, who travel to the kings of the whole world to assemble them for the battle of the great day of God, the Almighty. 15 “Look, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who is alert and remains clothed so that he may not go naked, and they see his shame.” 16 So they assembled them at the place called in Hebrew Armageddon. (HCSB)
Its water was dried up
The Euphrates River figures prominently in both the sixth trumpet judgment and the sixth bowl judgment. As you may recall, in the sixth trumpet judgment four demons bound at the Euphrates are released to lead a vast army that kills a third of the human race. Here, in the sixth bowl judgment, the waters of the great river are dried up to make way for the “kings of the east.”
In 536 B.C., Cyrus the Persian devises a plan to divert the flow of the Euphrates River, which runs under the wall surrounding Babylon. This enables his soldiers to march under the wall, take Belshazzar by surprise and capture the city without serious resistance. It’s possible that John is drawing from this well-known historic event to prepare his readers for a swift and certain act of judgment, although it’s not necessary to interpret the drying of the waters literally. In fact, many commentators see the river as a symbol for political or religious boundaries, impediments to the advance of evil forces, or the geographic region from which many of Rome’s soldiers came to destroy Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
Some futurists, however, believe the Euphrates will indeed dry up, enabling a coalition of Eastern powers to sweep into the Holy Land. While the implication is that the water is dried up by an act of God, “the fact is that dams have been built across the Euphrates River in this [20th] century to divert water for irrigation so that there are times even today when there is little or no water in the Euphrates” (J.F. Walvoord, R.B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, Rev. 16:12).
It’s worth noting the similarities between what happens here and what occurs in the crossing of the Red Sea and the march across the Jordan River as God’s people pass out of bondage and into the Promised Land. The miracle that Israel experiences in Old Testament times is now repeated in a negative sense, say preterists, as the first-century Jews who have rejected their Messiah are called into account for their national sin.
Rev. 16:10 –The fifth [angel] poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues from pain, 11 and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, yet they did not repent of their actions. (HCSB)
Plunged into darkness
There is a sense in which the fourth and fifth bowl judgments offer the wicked a preview of hell. In the fourth bowl judgment the sun scorches the beast’s worshipers, and in the fifth bowl judgment the beast’s kingdom is plunged into darkness. Hell often is described in terms of fiery torment. It is “the lake of fire and sulfur” (Rev. 20:10); “the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14-15); and “the lake that burns with fire and sulfur” (Rev. 21:8). Jesus describes it as “the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). Hell is where “the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48). And it is a place where the rich man is “in agony in this flame” (Luke 16:24).
Jesus also describes separation from God as “outer darkness” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 22:13; 25:30).
Flame and darkness are fitting terms for God’s judgment upon sin and sinners. Fire consumes filth, and darkness aptly describes banishment from the presence of God, who is light (1 John 1:5). In John’s Gospel, Jesus Himself is “the light.” Note:
- John writes of Jesus, “Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).
- John the Baptist comes as a witness “to testify about the light [Jesus], so that all might believe through him” (John 1:7).
- John describes Jesus as “The true light, who gives light to everyone” (John 1:9).
- Jesus declares, “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
- He further tells his disciples, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5).
- Jesus tells a crowd, “The light will be with you only a little longer. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. The one who walks in darkness doesn’t know where he’s going. While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become sons of light” (John 12:35-36). And His concluding testimony is that He came into the world as light so that no one who believes in Him should remain in darkness (John 12:46).
The Greek word for light, phos, appears 23 times in the Gospel of John and 73 times in the New Testament. Most of the time it is used figuratively to depict holiness, purity, or godliness. Jesus uses the term in the Sermon on the Mount to portray the holy standard of conduct expected of His disciples (Matt. 5:14-16; 6:23).