PURPOSE OF THIS ARTICLE
In the first verse of the sixth plague, the waters of the Euphrates River dry up to prepare the way for the kings from the east (Rev 16:12). In Old Testament times, the Euphrates flowed through the ancient city of Babylon and supported life in the city. Revelation converts both Babylon and her river into symbols (Rev 17:1). Previous articles interpreted Rev 16:12 as follows:
Babylon becomes the harlot of Revelation (Rev 17:2), symbolizing the false religious system(s) that has corrupted mankind for thousands of years. But, in the end-time, Babylon represents false Christianity.
The Euphrates River symbolizes the people that support Babylon (cf. Rev 17:15). Since, in the end-time, Babylon takes on a Christian face, the Euphrates represents the people that support false Christianity.
That the Euphrates dries up symbolizes that, due to the attacks of the first five plagues on the kingdom of the beast, the support for false Christianity dries up.
The Kings from the East symbolize Christ and His angels at His return (cf. Rev 19:16).
The purpose of the current article is to explain why the support for false Christianity must dry up before Christ may return.
The plagues begin to fall in the midst of the end-time persecution of Revelation 13:15-16. To answer this question, therefore, requires an appreciation of the preceding end-time events. Previous articles concluded as follows:
THE END-TIME PERSECUTION
The beast (the beast from the sea – Rev 13:1) is the church of the middle ages. This is a foundational concept. Unless this concept is understood and accepted, very little else in the article will make sense. It was “the elders and the chief priests and the scribes” who killed Jesus through the power of the State. Similarly, the church of the middle ages was dominated by men who were not inspired by Christ’s principles of humility (Phil 2:8; Matt 18:4) but by Satan’s desire to dominate and to be served. Consequently, the church of the middle ages killed many of God’s people through the power of the State.
The beast from the earth looks like Christ (Rev 13:11), implying that it is a Christian religious organization. But it speaks like Satan (Rev 13:11), deceives the people of the world (Rev 13:14), is called the false prophet (Rev 16:13), and receives its authority from the beast (Rev 13:12). Therefore, it symbolizes end-time false Christianity.
The mark of the beast is some unbiblical (blasphemous) doctrine or practice for which the beast (the church of the middle ages) is particularly known but which is still used today by false Christianity as boundary marker to identify and persecute heretics. It is not something that will be developed in the end-time.
The end-time persecution of Rev 13:11-18 is persecution by false Christianity of Christians who protest and preach against the orthodox but unscriptural doctrines of the church.
The image of the beast is a replica of the beast, namely of the system during the middle ages when the church dominated civil government and persecuted “heretics” through the strong arm of the state (Rev 13:15; 14:13).
THE FIRST FIVE PLAGUES
Revelation 15 represents a critical point in human history, during that end-time persecution, when all decisions have been made and all people have received either the mark of the beast or the seal of God (Rev 7:1-3; 14:1). In other words, the eternal destiny of every person has been fixed. From this point forward, nobody will change sides (cf. Rev 16:9, 11). But, strangely enough, Christ does still not return. Instead, the plagues begin to fall, but only on the people with the mark of the beast (Rev 16:2, 10).
The fifth plague falls on “the throne of the beast” (Rev 16:10), which is a symbol of the beast’s authority, which is Christian religious authority.
THE LOUD CRY
The fifth plague is the loud cry of Rev 18. Through this powerful proclamation, all people come to understand that false Christianity “HAS BECOME a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit” (Rev 18:1-2). As a result, its “kingdom became darkened” (Rev 16:10), which means that it suffers humiliation before the people of the world.
COME OUT OF HER
The first five plagues are modeled on the plagues through which Israel was liberated from ancient Egypt. But the last two plagues use terminology from Israel’s liberation from ancient Babylon. The loud cry calls God’s people, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues” (Rev 18:4). The last two plagues, therefore, are “her plagues.” In other words, during the fifth plague, God’s people have come out of the organizations of false Christianity.
BLASPHEMED THE GOD OF HEAVEN
But the fifth plague concludes with the words,
“They blasphemed the God of heaven
because of their pains and their sores;
and they did not repent of their deeds”
(Rev 16:11, cf. 16:9).
Previously, the Christians with the mark of the beast believed that the beast spoke for God. Now they realize that they oppose God. But they do not come out of Babylon. They refuse to repent and continue to “blasphemed the God of heaven.”
THE SIXTH PLAGUE
This brings us back to the sixth plague. After Rev 6:12, where the waters of the Euphrates dry up to prepare the way for the kings of the east, “spirits of demons” come from the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet (Rev 16:13). This is the same trio that persecutes God’s people in the end-time (Rev 13:2, 11-12), as described above.
This is a turning point in human history. Due to the onslaught of the first five plagues, the false mainstream churches of Christianity have lost many supporters, but now these churches receive new power in the form of “spirits of demons, performing signs” (Rev 16:14). This implies that God allows Satan direct control over the false Christian churches of the world. False Christianity has now joined forces with spiritualism, which is a religious practice based on communication with the spirits of the deceased, through mediums.
Through the power of these miracle-working demon spirits, the false Christian churches gather “the kings of the whole world … for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty” (Rev 16:14). In other words, they prepare the world to war against Christ when He returns (Rev 16:16; 19:19).
SATAN ACCUSES GOD OF UNFAIR JUDGMENT.
Before we are able to explain why the support for false Christianity must dry up before Christ may return, we also need to appreciate the cosmic context within which the plagues fall, namely that the rebellion against God, which we experience on earth, actually began in heaven when a huge number of God’s holy angels joined Satan’s revolt against God (Gen 3:1, read with Rev 20:2; Rev 12:4, 7; Dan 10:13; Job 1:6). In other words, the war on earth is the outflow of a war between the angels of heaven (Rev 12:7).
God condemned Satan and his angels to hell. To defend himself, Satan accused God of unfair judgment (cf. Rev 12:10). Due to Satan’s enormous intellect and knowledge of the evil committed by each and every person, many even of the sinless heavenly beings are not sure whether Satan is telling the truth and whether God’s judgments are perfect!
Several articles on this website discuss this. For example, Satan accused God that His judgment of Job is false. In the war in heaven, Satan accuses God’s elect, effectively accusing God of bad judgment. This principle is also discussed in the article on the seven seals, where the crisis in heaven is symbolized by a sealed book (Rev 5:1). This book is the book of life, identifying God’s elect. The seals of the book are Satan’s accusations against the people identified in that book.
THE PLAGUES CONFIRM GOD’S JUDGMENTS.
Given the above, we now able to explain why the support for false Christianity must dry up before Christ may return.
The Christians who persecute other Christians, namely the people who have accepted the mark of the beast, are conservative Christians. They are Bible-believing, well-dressed, respectable, refined and educated church-going Christians. They aim to live according to the law of God. They struggle to put to death the deeds of the body (Rom 8:13).
However, God rejects them. He sentenced them to “the second death, the lake of fire” (Rev 20:14).
This enables Satan to accuse God of unfair judgment (Rev 12:10), for it appears as if some of the people with the mark of the beast are more committed to the law of God than some of God’s elect, as identified in “the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain” (Rev 13:8).
God is able to see what is really in the heart of every person but His intelligent creatures are not omniscient. For them, it is very difficult – even impossible – to distinguish God’s people from other people.
God wants all intelligent beings to trust Him fully. By faith, we live today and by faith, we will always live. In particular, He wants all intelligent beings to trust His judgments perfectly. He, therefore, will allow this world to continue, even after the eternal destiny for each and every person has been decided, to shows to the universe that His judgments are perfect.
The purpose of the plagues is to reveal what created beings are unable to see beneath Christianity façade: the true nature of the end-time Pharisees. Through the plagues, He will show, to all of God’s intelligent creatures, throughout the universe, that the people with the mark of the beast are truly set against God’s principles. That is why the plagues emphasize the perfection of God’s judgments:
“Righteous and true are Your ways …
your righteous acts have been revealed“
(Rev 15:3-4; cf. 16:5, 7; 19:2).
THE PRINCIPLES OF GOD
The name by which you call your god does not matter. What matters are the principles of your god:
“When Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law,” they are God’s children (Rom 2:14).
In contrast to these Gentiles, “the elders and the chief priests and the scribes” of Christ’s day claimed to be God’s true people, but they put the Messiah to death (Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22). Jesus described them as follows:
“This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far away from me” (Mark 7:6).
“Serpents … brood of vipers” (Matt 23:33)
In the same way today, a person can claim to be a Christian, but still put the Messiah to death because he or she rejects the principles of God’s kingdom.
CHRIST DISPLAYED GOD’S PRINCIPLES.
Christ is the ultimate example of God’s principles. He had all power, but He allowed weak men to crucify Him because He never selfishly used His power to His own advantage. “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:4). “The one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant” (Luke 22:26). Christ is the greatest in the kingdom of God because He is the one who loves His enemies and is willing to forsake everything for others.
As discussed in the articles on the seven seals, Satan argued that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. He defended himself against God’s judgments by saying that his own corruption was the result of his power and that even the Son of God, given the right circumstances, would become corrupted. To prove that Satan’s insinuations against Him are false, the Son of God became a human being. He became a human to be tested. Satan arranged for the ‘right circumstances’. He tempted and tormented the Son of God during His entire life. His death, understood as His final hours, was His ultimate test. But He never became corrupted. To the end, He loved His enemies (Luke 23:34) and never used His immense powers to His own advantage.
PEOPLE WITH THE MARK OF THE BEAST RULE THE CHURCHES.
Churches are human organizations and part of this evil world. Similar to other human organizations, the people who rise to the top of the command ladder, often, are those who wish to be served by others, and who intimidate other people with their Bible knowledge, eloquence, fine clothes, and wealth. Humble people are seldom elected to top positions in any human organization. That was the case in Christ’s day and explains why the religious leaders in Israel put Christ to death while the common people were fond of listening to Him.
The same happens in the church of all ages. The religious leaders, similar to the Pharisees of old, seem to hold God’s law in high regard. However, consistent with our fallen nature, they are motivated by a desire to control other people and to be served by others. They are dressed “in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets” (Mark 12:38-39). However, they “devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers” (Mark 12:40). They are the people with the mark of the beast.
THE ORTHODOX TEACHINGS OF THE CHURCH
The religious leaders of Christ’s day were zealous for “the traditions of the elders” (Mark 7:3, cf. 8). These traditions were intended to prevent people from sinning but put the focus on outward behavior and ignore what goes on in the heart. These burdensome requirements reflected the character of selfish and arbitrary men, rather than the character of the loving heavenly Father, and therefore represented God as a tyrant. For the religious leaders, the traditions were more important than the Bible (Mark 7:8). These traditions allowed them to judge other people according to their norms but, eventually, served to separate man from God.
The same applies to the church today. Consistent with the principles that govern their lives, the “Pharisees” of the church form a view of God as cruel, controlling, severe and quick to judge. Based on this view of God and not based on a careful and unprejudiced study of the Bible, over many centuries, under the leadership of such people, the church has developed doctrines that align more with our fallen nature than the character of the loving heavenly Father. For example:
- That God decides who must go to hell irrespective of what people are or do.
- That those whom He has condemned to hell, God will torment for all eternity.
- That Christ had to suffer to save others because God’s righteousness demands that somebody must suffer.
- That God is full of wrath and has to be pacified.
Similar to the Pharisees of Christ’s day, the end-time Christian leaders will regard the orthodox teachings of the church above the Bible. They rule the church by fear. Consistent with their desire to dominate and control, they condemn, marginalize and persecute people that teach anything contrary to the orthodox teachings of the church.
THE PLAGUES REVEAL THEIR TRUE NATURE.
The plagues reveal the principles that govern the lives of the people God has condemned to the second death, for, when the first five plagues show them that they really do not serve God, but Satan, and that they are persecuting God’s true people, they refuse to humble themselves and repent (Rev 16:9, 11).
On the contrary, when Satan sends “spirits of demons, performing signs” to gather the kings (Rev 16:14), due to their pride and the hardness of their hearts, they accept this new power with the full knowledge that this power is from Satan. They allow the miracle-working demon spirits to lead them against God. In this way, the plagues will show that they, similar to “the elders and the chief priests and the scribes” of Christ’s day, are fully committed to the principles of the god of this world (cf. 2 Cor 4:4). They “outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly … are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matt 23:27-28).
This will confirm God’s judgment of them. It will show that the end-time Pharisees have opened themselves to the powers of darkness to such a degree that the enemy could use them and they would think that they were being used by God.
This is the final test that is required before Jesus may return to the world He created. Jesus’ death was also a test. Lot’s torment was a test. Everything is tested because the crisis in the universe is about whether the judgments of the Almighty can be fully trusted.
The end-time plagues serve as a test and confirmation of God’s judgments in all ages. On Judgment Day, there will be many who have died in previous centuries who died in the same spiritual condition and demand:
“Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name?” (Matt 7:22)
And Jesus would answer:
“I never knew you; depart from me” (Matt 7:23).
In conclusion, the purpose of the plagues is to prove to all of God’s intelligent creatures, throughout the universe, that God’s judgment is right and perfect, and that we, therefore, can look forward to spending eternity knowing that we can rely 100% on the Almighty.
ARTICLES ON THE SEVEN LAST PLAGUES
Introduction – Revelation 15
First four plagues
- Not interpreted individually
- Overview – refuse to repent
Purpose of the Plagues
For further reading on Revelation, Jon Paulien’s commentary is recommended. For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the Pineknoll website.