“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.”
This article deals with the following questions:
What is the great river, the Euphrates?
What is the drying up of the Euphrates?
The next article identifies the Kings from the East. A further article deals with the most important question, namely, why does the water have to dry up for the kings from the east?
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 it nowhere defines 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, the 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, who came from the east.
The fact that Revelation uses a historical event to describe future events means that the drying up of the Euphrates is symbolic language. We then determine what those symbols mean.
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 is able to control them.
However, Babylon has also fully infected Christianity. As shown in a previous article, the throne of the beast is particularly Christian religious authority.
“Dried up” then symbolizes that false Christianity will lose its hold on the people of the world.
These concepts are now explained in more detail.
The first five plagues are world-wide:
ALL followers of the Beast receive sores in the first plague (16:2). ALL the water in the sea and in rivers turn to blood in the second and third plagues (16:3, 4).
The sun scorches the ENTIRE earth in the fourth plague (16:8). Even the darkness of the beast’s kingdom in the fifth plague is global because the beast’s kingdom is the entire world. (“ALL who dwell on the earth will worship him” (13:8).)
Furthermore, there are no indications in the plagues of portions of the world, as one finds in the seals and the trumpets.:
The “FOURTH of the earth” over which death rules quarter in the fourth SEAL (6:8); and
The “THIRD of the earth” that is harmed in the TRUMPETS (8:7, 8, 10, 12, etc.).
The global nature of the plagues implies that the Euphrates is not a local river, somewhere in the Middle-East, but a symbol of something world-wide. This, of course, also means that the drying up of the waters of the Euphrates is a global event.
Revelation uses the name “Euphrates” twice and the name “Babylon” six times, but nowhere does it directly specify a relationship between the river and the city. However, Revelation does say that Babylon “sits on many waters” (17:1), and, for the following reasons, we conclude that Revelation’s “many waters” refer to the Euphrates River:
Firstly, in the days of Daniel the prophet, the Euphrates flowed through the city of Babylon, providing it with water (Jer. 51:12-13, 63-64). As such, it was an integral part of the city. In a physical sense, the ancient city of Babylon sat on the Euphrates.
Secondly, the Old Testament also refers to the Euphrates as “many waters” (Jer. 51:13).
Furthermore, Revelation explicitly defines that “many waters,” on which Babylon sits, as the “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues” (17:15). Therefore:
Peoples = many waters = Euphrates
We conclude that in Revelation, the Euphrates River is not a physical river, but a symbol of the population of the entire world. In other words, we see here how Revelation uses words and concepts from the Old Testament to describe future events.
The second major concept in the sixth plague is that the waters of the Euphrates dry up as a result of what the angel pours into it. The drying up of the river also has a purpose, namely to prepare the way for the kings from the east:
“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”
We have to understand that this is symbolic language, for Revelation here uses Old Testament language to describe future events. In an event, hundreds of years before Christ, the waters of the literal Euphrates were dried up to prepare the way for literal kings from the east. According to the famous Greek historian Herodotus, and confirmed in modern times by the Cyrus Cylinder, Babylon was overthrown when Cyrus, the Persian king, DIVERTED THE EUPHRATES RIVER that runs through the center of Babylon, allowing the Persians to wade into the city unexpected.
This event was prophesied by Jeremiah and Isaiah:
“A sword against … the inhabitants of Babylon …
“A drought on her waters, and they will be dried up!”
“Thus says the LORD, “… I will dry up her sea
And make her fountain dry'” (Jer. 51:36).
“It is I who says to the depth of the sea, ‘Be dried up!’
And I will make your rivers dry.
It is I who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd!
And he will perform all My desire.’
And he declares of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built,’
And of the temple, ‘Your foundation will be laid'”
“Thus says the LORD to Cyrus His anointed, …
To subdue nations before him …
To open doors before him so that gates will not be shut”
The very fact that literal things, of such importance in the Old Testament, find their way to the pages of Revelation, implies that they are used as symbols in Revelation.
ANCIENT KINGS FROM THE EAST
“Cyrus” is mentioned in two of the verses quoted above from Isaiah. He was the commander in chief of the allied forces of the nations that were ruled by Media and Persia. As such, He was king of many kings:
“Consecrate the nations against her,
The kings of the Medes, …
And every land of their dominion.
(Jer. 51:28 cf. v11).
Since Media and Persia are to the east of Babylon, they were the from the east:
“Who has aroused one from the east …
He … subdues kings” (Is. 41:2).
“A bird of prey from the east,
the man who executes My counsel,
from a far country“(Is. 46:11).
Therefore, in the Old Testament, Cyrus and the kings under his command were literal “kings from the east” associated with the literal drying up the literal Euphrates.
SITS ON MANY WATERS
If we accept that this is symbolic language, then we need to determine what these symbols mean. But before we are able to explain what drying up means, we first have to understand what Revelation means when it says that Babylon SITS on many waters:
“The great harlot who sits on many waters,
with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality,
and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality” (17:1-2; cf. v5).
This explains SITS as the intoxicating influence which Babylon has on the population of the world. The article on Babylon identifies it as the false system of religion that has existed for all of human history.
Much of Christianity has become fully infected with this religion, for Christianity has become “a dwelling place of demons” (Rev. 18:2). In the article on The throne of the beast, it has been shown that its throne is particularly Christian religious authority. Therefore, for Babylon to SIT on the many waters means that false Christianity has a strong grip on the peoples of the world. She is able to control them and garner their support.
With that meaning of “sits,” drying up does not mean that the Euphrates will literally dry up again, or even that the population of the world will be reduced in numbers by the plagues, but that the false system of religion, and in particular false Christianity, will lose its hold on the people of the world.
ARTICLES ON THE PLAGUES
Introduction to the Plagues of Revelation
The First Four Plagues are non-specific.
First Four Plagues – Overview
The Throne of the Beast is Christian Religious Authority.
The mighty angel of Revelation 18 causes the darkness of the fifth plague.
Fifth plague – conclusions
The Euphrates dries up. (Current article)
Kings from the East (Next article)