What does it mean that the Euphrates dries up? (Rev 16:12)

This is an article in the series on the vision of the seven last plagues (Rev 15-16).


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
” (Rev 16:12).

This article discusses the following questions:

What is the great river, the Euphrates?
What does it mean that it dries up?

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 to prepare the way for the kings from the east?


SUMMARY OF THIS ARTICLE

THE EUPHRATES SYMBOLIZES THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD.

1) THE EUPHRATES IS WORLDWIDE.

Since the first five plagues, as discussed in the previous articles, are worldwide and since there are no indications in the plagues of portions, as one finds in the seals and the trumpets (e.g., Rev 6:8; 8:7), the Euphrates River is also worldwide. This also means that the drying up of the waters of the Euphrates is a global event.

2) THE EUPHRATES SYMBOLIZES THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD.

Revelation uses the names Euphrates and Babylon several times, but it nowhere explicitly defines a relationship between the two. However:

Babylon sits on “many waters” (Rev 17:1). Since we know from history that the Euphrates River flowed THROUGH the ancient city of Babylon, the “many waters” is another name for the Euphrates.

Revelation explicitly defines the “many waters” as the peoples of the world (Rev 17:15).

Therefore:

The Euphrates
= the “many waters”
= the peoples of the world.

DRYING UP MEANS THAT FALSE RELIGION LOSES INFLUENCE.

1) THE EUPHRATES WAS LITERALLY DRIED UP.

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, namely Cyrus and the kings of the Medes and the Persians, who came from the east. Revelation 16:12, therefore, uses a literal historical event to symbolize a future event.

2) DRYING UP MEANS LOSING INFLUENCE.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

As discussed above, Babylon “sits” on the Euphrates (Rev 17:1). 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 the intoxicating influence of false religion over the people of the world (Rev 17:2). “Dried up” then symbolizes that false religion will lose its hold on the people of the world.

3) END-TIME BABYLON IS FALSE CHRISTIANITY.

However, in the end-time, Babylon is represented by false Christianity. For example, as discussed in previous articles:

This means that the Euphrates represented the people that are intoxicated by false Christianity and the drying up symbolizes that false Christianity will lose its hold on its supporters.

– END OF SUMMARY – 


THE EUPHRATES SYMBOLIZES
THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD.

THE EUPHRATES IS WORLDWIDE.

The first five plagues are worldwide:

      • ALL followers of the Beast receive sores in the first plague (Rev 16:2).
      • ALL the water in the sea and rivers turn to blood in the second and third plagues (Rev 16:3, 4).
      • The sun scorches the ENTIRE earth in the fourth plague (Rev 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. (E.g., “ALL who dwell on the earth will worship him” (Rev 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 in the fourth SEAL (Rev 6:8); and
The “THIRD of the earth” that is harmed in the TRUMPETS (Rev 8:7, 8, 10, 12, etc.).

The global nature of the plagues, in general, implies that the Euphrates is not a local river, somewhere in the Middle East, but a symbol of something worldwide. This also means that the drying up of the waters of the Euphrates is a global event.

THE EUPHRATES SYMBOLIZES THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD.

Revelation uses the name “Euphrates” twice and the name “Babylon” six times, but nowhere does it explicitly specify a relationship between the river and the city.  However, the “many waters” connect them:

Babylon “sits on many waters” (Rev 17:1), and, for the following reasons, we conclude that the “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 the “many waters,” on which Babylon sits, as the “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues” (Rev 17:15). 

Therefore, the Euphrates symbolizes the people of the world. It is not a physical river, but a symbol of the entire world’s population. This is one example of how Revelation uses words and concepts from the Old Testament as symbols for future events.

DRYING UP MEANS THAT FALSE CHRISTIANITY LOSES INFLUENCE.

THE EUPHRATES WAS LITERALLY DRIED UP.

Hundreds of years before Christ, the Euphrates was literally 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 unexpectedly.

JEREMIAH AND ISAIAH PREDICTED THIS EVENT:

“A sword against … the inhabitants of Babylon …
“A drought on her waters, and they will be dried up!”

(Jer 50:35-38)

“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'” 

(Isa 44:27-28).

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” 

(Isa 45:1).

TO PREPARE THE WAY FOR THE KINGS FROM THE EAST

In the sixth plague, the purpose of drying up the Euphrates is:

So that the way would be prepared
for the kings from the east
” (Rev 16:12).

Cyrus” is mentioned twice in 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. 51:11).

Since Media and Persia are to the east of Babylon, these kings were from the east, as Isaiah confirms:

“Who has aroused one from the east
He … subdues kings”
(Isa 41:2).

“A bird of prey from the east,
the man who executes My counsel,
from a far country
” (Isa 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 of the literal Euphrates.

CONCLUSION

Rev 16:12, therefore, uses a literal historical event to symbolize a future event. Since this is symbolic language, we need to determine what these symbols mean.

DRYING UP MEANS LOSING INFLUENCE.

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

(Rev 17:1-2; cf. 17:5). 

This explains sitting as the intoxicating influence that 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. This means that drying means that the false system of religion will lose its hold on the people of the world. 

END-TIME BABYLON IS FALSE CHRISTIANITY.

However, in the end-time, Babylon is represented by false Christianity for Christianity has become “a dwelling place of demons” (Rev 18:2). For example, as discussed, the beast is the church of the middle ages and the throne of the beast is Christian religious authority. This means that the Euphrates in Rev 16:12 represented the people that are intoxicated by false Christianity and the drying up symbolizes that false Christianity will lose its hold on its supporters.

Therefore, 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. 


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