The Sixth Plague

The sixth plague is described in five verses. The first verse reads as follows:

16:12 The sixth angel poured out his bowl
on the great river, the Euphrates;
and its water was dried up,
so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east.

Literal interpretations sometimes assume that this refers to the literal Euphrates that will literally dry up to allow literal kings from the east to attack the literal city of Babylon. Given the modern ability to send aircraft and missiles to the remotest parts of the world, this is indeed a strange interpretation. Rivers have deterred armies in the time when Revelation was written, but certainly not today.


The article – The great river, the Euphrates – asks:

What is the great river, the Euphrates?
What is the drying up of the Euphrates?

In summary, it concludes as follows:


Since the first five plagues are worldwide and since there are no indications in the plagues of portions, as one finds in the seals and the trumpets, the Euphrates River is also worldwide.  This, of course, also means that the drying up of the waters of the Euphrates is a global event.

Revelation uses the Euphrates as a symbol for the peoples of the world.  This conclusion is based on two components:

Revelation uses the names Euphrates and Babylon several times, but nowhere does it define a relationship between them.  However, Revelation does say that Babylon sits on many waters. Since we know from history that the Euphrates River flowed through the ancient city of Babylon, by inference, the many waters is another name for the Euphrates.
(Many waters = Euphrates)

Revelation explicitly defines the many waters as the peoples of the world.
(Many waters = Peoples)

Therefore: Many Waters = Euphrates = Peoples of the world


Hundreds of years before Christ, the water of the literal Euphrates was literally dried up to prepare the way for literal kings from the east; Cyrus and the kings of the Medes and the Persians.  They came from the east.  Since Revelation uses a historical event to describe this a future event, the drying up of the Euphrates is symbolic language.  

As mentioned above, Babylon “sits” on the Euphrates.  That is explained by 17:2 as: “Those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.”  Babylon is the false system of religion that has existed for all of human history.  That she sits on the peoples of the world symbolizes her intoxicating influence on the world.  She controls them. 

However, Babylon has also fully infected Christianity.  As shown in a previous article, the throne of the beast is particularly Christian religious authority.  The enemy of God in Revelation is not other religions in general, but the Christian version of Babylon in particular.  

Dried up” then means that false Christianity will lose its hold on the people of the world.  These concepts are explained in more detail in the abovementioned article – The great river, the Euphrates.


The article – Kings from the East – shows that these kings are a symbol of Christ and His angels.  In summary, that article offers the following proofs:

There are TWO GROUPS OF KINGS in the sixth plague.  Since the kings of the whole world make war against God, the kings from the east fight with God.

In Scripture, God comes from the EAST.

The sixth plague uses language from the DELIVERANCE OF GOD’S PEOPLE from ancient literal Babylon.  This implies that this plague describes God’s deliverance of His end-time people, which He will do through Christ.

The sixth plague does not describe either of the two groups of kings, but both are DESCRIBED IN CHRIST’S RETURN.  In the Return of Christ, we see the kings of the world gathered and God’s kings moving towards them.  Satan is represented, in both the sixth plague and the Return of Christ, by 4 categories: The dragon, the beast, the false prophet and by the kings of the world.


The drying up only prepares the way for the kings from the east.  The high-level analysis of chapters 16 to 19 in the article – Kings from the East – shows that chapters 17 and 18 are an interruption and that the seventh plague continues in Revelation 19 with the Return of Christ.  In other words, the seventh plague ends with the Return of Christ.  The sixth plague is, consequently, the preparation, but the seventh plague is “the war of the great day of God” (16:14) – Armageddon.


The last four verses of the sixth plague read as follows:

16:13 And I saw coming
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 unclean spirits like frogs;
14 for they are spirits of demons, performing signs,
which go out to the kings of the whole world,
to gather them together
for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty.

16 And they gathered them together to the place
which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon.

The dragon is Satan (12:9).  The beast came from the sea (13:1) and is identified in the article on the Seven-Headed Beasts of Revelation.  The false prophet is the beast from the earth (compare 13:12 to 19:20). 

The war of the great day of God” is “Har-Magedon,” also known as Armageddon.  That article identifies Armageddon, NOT as a physical place, but an event, namely the Day of the Lord.  The spirits of demons will unite the world leaders; not in a place, but against God in mind and is spirit.


In Revelation, many things come out of mouths, such as fire, smoke and brimstone” (9:15-17; 11:5), water like a river” (12:15) and a sharp sword” (19:15).  These are not literal things coming out of literal mouths.  What comes out of the mouth symbolizes what the being does.  For example, the Image of the beast will “speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (13:15; cf. 13:5; 11-13).  The mouth, therefore, is not important. What is important is WHAT comes out of the mouth, for that symbolizes the will and deeds of the being. 


Some believe the demons are “like frogs” (16:13) because frogs catch their prey with their tongues.  Others see some symbolic meaning in the fact that the frogs were the last plague on Egypt which the Egyptian wizards were able to replicate.  The view here is that simply the frogs must be understood like the “unclean and hateful birds,” which are also mentioned in 18:2 with unclean spirits.  “Like frogs” then simply highlights the repulsive nature of the unclean spirits in God’s sight.


SPIRITS OF DEMONS come out of the mouths of the evil trio.  This indicates an escalation of Satanic power which allows the evil trio to perform extraordinary deeds (signs)

Previously the false prophet deceived mankind to make an Image of the beast by “great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men”  (Rev 13:13-14).  Now the dragon, beast, and false prophet perform signs to gather the kings of the whole world together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty – Armageddon (16:14, 16).  Through these miracles, Satan will succeed to unite the world behind him and against God.

One often hears Christians claiming miracles.  That does not prove that these things are by God’s power.  The “lawless one … whom the Lord will … bring to an end by the appearance of His coming,” will come “with all power and signs and false wonders(2Th 2:8-9).  Jesus also said, false prophets will … show great signs and wonders” (Mt. 24:24 cf. Mark 13:22).

False Christianity receives this renewed strength IN RESPONSE TO THE SETBACKS of the first five plagues, which resulted in the waters (human support) drying up, but that strength comes from Satan.  They receive the persuasive ability to lead men to an unconditional commitment to the cause of evil.  


Does “coming like a thief” in Revelation 16:15, support a secret rapture?

This article discusses the rapture-like language in Revelation 16:15.  It is not intended to discuss the rapture in general, but only whether this verse supports the rapture concept.

In the middle of the sixth plague, immediately after God’s enemies have received renewed power from demon spirits to enable them to gather together the kings of the world for the battle of Armageddon, Jesus warns:

“Behold, I am coming like a thief.
Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes,
so that he will not walk about naked
and men will not see his shame.” (Rev. 16:15)

Dispensationalism proposes that, seven years before Christ’s visible return, there will be an invisible and inaudible secret rapture that will remove the church from the earth. 

The phrase, “coming like a thief,” in the sixth plague, is sometimes interpreted to refer to this secret rapture.  There are, however, a number of passages in the Bible that mention Jesus coming like a THIEF, and it nowhere means that the event will be inaudible or invisible. It always means that nobody can predict WHEN Jesus will return. 

Jesus comes like a thief on THE DAY OF THE LORD, which the sixth plague refers to as THE WAR OF THE GREAT DAY OF GOD, the Almighty.  Then there will be sudden destruction.  The heavens will pass away with a roar and the earth and its works will be burned up.  It will not be a secret event. 

The same warning which Jesus gives in 16:15, that God’s people must keep their clothes, He gave to the seven churches.  This implies that the church is still on earth during the plagues. 

But there is a difference.  In the sixth plague, God’s people are urged TO KEEP their clothes while the Laodiceans are advised TO BUY white garments.  Jesus’s warning is only to God’s people; not to the world in general.  This confirms that, when the plagues fall, the time for repentance has passed.  This is consistent with the proposal that the church is still on earth.




Next: Seventh Plague

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