The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2

Page 124

Call to Armageddon

     Every new judgment on the earth has merely hardened still further man’s unrepentant heart.  It is as though men have become so possessed with hatred for God that they are eager for a final confrontation, a great battle that will determine forever who will be king of the universe, its gracious Creator or the great rebel, the old serpent.  They have irrevocably chosen the dragon and received the mark of the beast, still believing that he will ultimately deliver them from the fearful plagues and judgments of the God of heaven.  But they cannot endure the pains of the plagues much longer, and eagerly press toward the great contest.

     And if the distressed nations on earth are eager for the final confrontation, the same is even more true of the beast.  Satan, most of all, has been preparing for this battle for ages and now his time is short and the day of decision is near.

Revelation 16:12.     And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.

     The seven bowl judgments were also called the seven last plagues (Revelation 15:1), and at first it is not apparent how the drying up of a single river could be called a plague.  This calamity has overtaken many rivers throughout history.  Sometimes people have migrated elsewhere as a result, but the world as a whole was not much affected.  All the other plagues produce profound effects worldwide, but how could any comparable impact be produced merely by drying the Euphrates?

     The Euphrates, however, is no ordinary river.  Its flood plain was the site of the first human city (Babel) after the great Flood and it was the site of Nebuchadnezzar’s magnificent capital city Babylon in the days of Daniel the prophet.  On its shores will apparently be erected the even more magnificent New Babylon to serve as the capital of the beast in his brief but unprecedented worldwide reign in the great tribulation.  It is called “the great River Euphrates” five times in the Bible and is, indeed, one of the great rivers of the world.  In Bible times the Nile was its only known rival in terms of length and magnitude.

     At this point in the chronicle, the tribulation will be rapidly approaching its climactic end.  The throne of the beast, and probably all of great Babylon, has just been plunged into gross darkness.  However the power plants presumably still function, so artificial lighting can maintain essential operations in the city.

     The water supply of the new Babylon (as was true of ancient Babylon) no doubt will depend on the Euphrates.  In ancient times, an extensive network of dams and canals utilized the waters of the Euphrates to sustain the advanced agricultural and urban economy of the Babylonians.  The modern nation of Iraq has, with British and American assistance, developed in the past several decades extensive water supply, flood control, and hydropower works on the Euphrates, as well as considerable work toward rebuilding Babylon itself.  Thus there is little doubt that the great new capital of the beast likewise will depend almost entirely on the Euphrates for its water supply.  Not only water for drinking and other personal uses, but cooling water for generating plants, water for air-conditioning systems and industrial processes, and for a multitude of other essential operations, will depend on the river Euphrates.

     Thus the sudden drying up of its water would indeed constitute an almost lethal blow to the city.  The power generating plants would soon have to shut down and the only lights in the dark city will be lamps and candles (note Revelation 18:23).  Any stored water still available would have to be conserved for such vital necessities as drinking.

     As a matter of fact, the flow of water in the river will already have been significantly depleted before this sixth plague is put into effect.  The three-and-a-half year drought of the first half of the tribulation will surely have decreased river flows everywhere.  Then, the reactions which transmuted the fresh waters of the world into blood (verse 4), will have made costly treatment necessary for the waters remaining.  Finally, the scorching heat of the fourth bowl judgment will surely have evaporated much of the water still in the rivers and reservoirs.  Thus, the flow of the river will already have been seriously depleted.

     All of the above conditions will prevail all over the world, of course, with water supplies as well as food supplies drying up everywhere.  But now another judgment attacks the great river Euphrates in particular and it dries up completely.  No doubt the sudden desiccation of the river includes its tributaries as well and also the ground water table feeding into it.  Although the Scripture does not say so explicitly, it is likely that any physical phenomenon which would so attack the Euphrates would attack its sister river, the Tigris, in the same way.

     Thus the water supply of the magnificent new capital city of the beast, along with that of the region around which supports it, already affected seriously by the general shortage, is quickly dissipated.  The mighty headquarters of the world, the magnificent capital of the proud man of sin, quivers in dense darkness and thirsts for water.

     How the sixth angel operates to dry the Euphrates is not stated, but it is possible that tectonic forces are involved.  The tribulation period, since its very beginning, is characterized also by earthquakes and volcanism.  The next succeeding judgment, in fact, is destined to be the greatest earthquake of all time.  The whole region has been tectonically unstable throughout history, and it is conceivable that earth movements could cause deep underground caverns and channels to open and drain off the surface waters.  Another possibility would be intensive local winds and accelerated evaporation.  Whether these or other known phenomena are involved, the angel of the sixth plague is certainly able to direct any or all such processes to cause the sudden draining and drying of the proud Euphrates.

     There is one other intriguing possibility.  Both the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers have their sources on or near the high slopes of Mount Ararat, ultimately in the snow and perennial ice cap near its 17,000-foot summit.  The region of Ararat (biblically, the same as Armenia) is high and rugged terrain, unstable and volcanic in nature, and is covered with snow throughout the winter.  The highest mountain, Mount Ararat, is capped with a permanent ice cap which melts only partially during the summer.  The melting snows of the highlands provide most of the water for the Euphrates-Tigris system.  The world’s most venerable rivers, that is, have their source in the same region which is mankind’s birthplace after the great Flood, the mighty Mount Ararat region, where Noah and the animals disembarked from the ark.  But these snows and glaciers will melt along with the great ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica during the great drought and especially from the intense solar heat of the fourth bowl judgment.  This in itself will substantially dry up the river, since the waters that fed its source will be gone.

     It is here on Mount Ararat that Noah’s ark landed, and it is here, in a stationary glacier at about 15,000-foot elevation, that many explorers, ancient and modern, claim to have glimpsed the prow of the ark protruding from the melting ice cap at the end of a long hot summer.  Scientific expeditions however, attempting to verify these reports by documented evidence and systematic measurement, have failed, usually because the particular summers in which they searched were too mild to melt back the ice enough.

     It may be that the Lord is withholding this discovery for an optimally strategic time.  If not before, at least at this time of the sixth plague, the ice cap will be permanently melted and the ark revealed, serving as a great witness to God’s truth and His sovereign judgment in the very last days.

     But what is this mysterious reference to kings of the east?  There are no less than nine references in Revelation to “the kings of the earth,” but this is the only one to “the kings of the east.”  In the prophecy of Daniel there is a cryptic reference to “tidings out of the east and out of the north” which trouble the king, who is evidently the same as the beast in Revelation (Daniel 11:44).  However, the context in Daniel places this event earlier in the tribulation, when the king was still in the process of conquest and consolidation of his world empire.

     As discussed earlier (see Chapter 6), a major factor contributing to the rise of the despotic king who is called the beast was the catastrophic defeat of the northern confederacy headed up by Gog near the beginning of the tribulation.  The great coalition of Russian and Arab forces was decimated there, giving the European and western nations the opportunity to consolidate their own power.  Somewhere out of these emerged the beast as leader.  Thus, most of the political and military developments to this point, as  outlined especially in Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation, seem to focus on the nations of north or south or west.

     But there are great nations in the east as well – China, Japan, India, and many others.  These are every bit as antichristian as the nations in other parts of the world.  For ages they have been dominated by religions (Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism and others) which are fundamentally evolutionary religions.  That is, they all envision an eternal universe, with no concept of a transcendent, omnipotent, personal God who created all things.  Their emphasis is solely on present behavior.  To them history consists mostly of interminable cycles, without beginning or ending.

     Associated with these pantheistic systems was (and is) always the worship of spirits.  Whether these are understood as spirits of ancestors or as the spirits of trees and other natural objects, such worship is in reality worship of demons, or fallen angels.  Such religions thus are also commonly associated with idolatry.  This eastern religion – whatever specific form it may assume in a particular time or place – is essentially the same old worship of idols which God’s prophets continually condemned.  Comprising a monstrous complex of evolutionary, pantheistic, polytheistic, idolatrous, astrological, animistic humanism, it is merely a variant of the primeval religion introduced by Nimrod at Babel and promulgated throughout the world by the confusion of tongues and subsequent worldwide dispersion from Babel.

     By its very nature, it lends itself to control of its devotees by demonic influence.  Nevertheless, through the centuries, many have been won to Christ out of these pagan religions, much gospel seed has been sown, and it is probable that a great harvest of souls will be gathered from them to Christ during the tribulation times.

     Those who are not so converted, however, will become more subject to demon influence and manipulation than ever, and will quickly follow the evil spirits to Armageddon when the time comes.  The kings of the east in particular, and all the kings of the earth in general, will lead their multitudes of followers to converge on tiny Israel, there finally to meet the heavenly armies of Christ in mortal conflict.

     And it is the kings of the east whose armies are the greatest in numerical strength, with all the billions of Asia to draw from.  Soon great multitudes will be coming from China and Japan, from India and Indonesia, from Malaysia and Viet Nam, steaming past Babylon and across the Euphrates, drawn like moths to the flames of hell at Armageddon.

     The drying up of the Euphrates is not, of course, necessary before these eastern hordes can cross it, except perhaps as a symbol that Kipling’s ancient barrier between east and west has finally been breached.  The Euphrates was the ancient boundary between Assyria and Babylonia and, at the time of John the Apostle, was the eastern boundary of the Roman empire.  It is also the eastern boundary of the land promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:18).

     Other than as a symbol, its crossing surely does not require its emptying.  Ancient armies crossed it many times, and modern motorized armies could easily cross on the many bridges which now span the river.

     How does its drying, then, “prepare the way” of the eastern kings?  This is a  mysterious statement and a dogmatic explanation is impossible at this time.  It is probable, however, that there is a connection between this reference to the Euphrates and the only other New Testament mention of the Euphrates, the equally mysterious statement in Revelation 9:14.  There the judgment of the sixth trumpet unleashed from the Euphrates four evil angels and their horde of 200 million demon horsemen, to slay the third part of men.  Here, four years later, the judgment of the sixth bowl dries up the Euphrates, preparing the way for a horde of human horsemen to hasten to their final doom in the great plain of Armageddon.

     The Euphrates has for ages been viewed as the boundary between east and west, a tradition probably dating from the primeval dispersion there at Babel.  This idea will surely be greatly reinforced by the construction of new Babylon and the great world capital there.  The most awesome aspect of the Euphrates, however, especially to the spirit-appeasing multitudes of the nations of the far east in these tribulation years, will be the memory of the terrible horde of deadly demon horsemen that had swarmed out of the Euphrates four years earlier.  The lethal toll of these lion-headed, serpent-tailed horses, particularly in the densely populated cities of the east, had been indescribably great, and must have shrouded the great river with a superstitious aura which would be more effective than an iron curtain in turning back any from the east who would cross to the west.

     But suddenly the mighty river is dry and the exposed sand and rocks of its bed are barren of demons or any form of life at all.  It seems as though the river itself is inviting men to cross and speed on their way to Armageddon.  No more are long-imprisoned evil spirits stalking human prey. All the legions of hell are ready to converge on the long-prophesied spot where Christ will soon appear, and they need all the reinforcements they can gather from among mankind.  The brand of the beast has been implanted on the hands and foreheads of men and women and, when the dragon hisses, they must follow.

Revelation 16:13.     And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.

     As John watches the rapid change in the Euphrates, his attention is somehow directed back to darkened Babylon.  There an amazing council is being held in an inner chamber of the candlelit capital.  As in a midnight séance, the two beasts – the ruler and his prophet – are listening to a strange visitor.  This is the real king of Babylon (Isaiah 14:4), the one who has given the beast his throne (Revelation 13:2).  This malevolent spirit is old Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12), often through the centuries appearing to men as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) but clearly apparent now to John as the great dragon.

     The council reaches its decision.  The situation has become desperate, and the course of events now in motion is irrevocable.  The unholy trinity has an appointment with a Man called Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11), and He will not wait.  The agelong conflict is soon to be decided, and they must quickly assemble every possible recruit for the battle if they are to have any hope of victory.

     With one voice they speak, and all the principalities and powers of darkness spread out from the darkness at Babylon into the nations of the world.  As when darkness settles on a quagmire, and suddenly the clamorous croaking of frogs pierces the night air in every direction, so these three evil spirits – unclean, ugly, and clamorous like frogs – go forth to lead an innumerable multitude of lesser spirits out into all the world, rasping out their guttural messages in the world’s dark night.  These “seducing spirits,” with their “doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1), spread lies and deceptions, as they have for millennia, one more time.  And the kings of the earth, already irrational with their drug-distorted perceptions and with the pain of God’s plagues, listen to their deceptions one more time.    

Revelation 16:14.     For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.        

     These demonic spirits have no physical bodies of their own, of course, but it is a simple matter for them to use the voices of the host of demon-possessed men and women whose bodies they have taken control of during (or even before) these tribulation years.  The multitude of “false prophets” (Matthew 24:24) and “false teachers” (2 Peter 2:1) who contaminate the last days will gladly “give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1) and lend their voices and intellects and physical strength to the demons who possess them.

     Furthermore, if they should encounter questionings or resistance from those kings and judges of the earth whom they seek to persuade, they will perform miracles both to establish their own credibility and to assure men of the invincible power of the dragon and the beast and the false prophet whom they represent.  As the Lord Jesus Himself prophesied, they “shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect” (Mark 13:22).  Once the kings and presidents and generals of the nations of the whole world are convinced, they in turn undertake whatever means are appropriate among their own constituencies to persuade the people as well.  In this they are aided by the marvel-displaying sorcerers and spellbinding “prophets” who have proliferated everywhere.  And the people, suffering under the plagues and already bitter against the true God, are not hard to convince.  In droves they enlist and prepare to go to war.

     What is the message conveyed by these evil spirits through their host of willing oracles?  It is this: “Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.  Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O Lord.  Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat” (Joel 3:9-12).

     And so they begin to come, heading toward Jerusalem, streaming from Africa, Asia, Europe, and America.  The armies of the nations fly and march and ride and sail, using all the means of military transport at their disposal.  But fuel and ships and planes are in short supply, so the multitudes of untrained recruits come however they can.  Autos, trucks, and busses creep along the highways until the gas tanks run dry (most drilling and refining operations probably have been suspended because of the critical water supplies and intense heat).  Commandeering horses and asses and camels, many will ride on such animals as are available.  Those who must walk may (fortunately for them) be left behind, but soon there are great multitudes, both of professional warriors and untrained (but angry) civilians assembling in the great chain of plains and valleys on the east of Jerusalem.  In desperation they are eager to do battle with Almighty God, knowing Christ and his heavenly army will shortly come to earth near Jerusalem, and He is the one responsible for their awful sufferings.  Having rejected Him as their Savior, their only hope is to destroy Him before He becomes their Judge.  Surely they realize that their human arms are insufficient, but they have confidence in the superhuman powers of the beast and dragon whom they worship (Revelation 13:4), and the great host of evil spirits who accompany them.

Revelation 16:15.     Behold, I come as a thief.  Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.

     Since verse 16 obviously continues the theme of verse 14, the insertion of this divine promise in verse 15 seems at first to be out of place, having nothing directly to do with the context either before or after.  It is obviously not addressed to the multitudes of demon-let men and women enroute to Armageddon, and certainly not to their leaders, either human or demonic.  It is addressed clearly to Christian believers.

     Similar promises in the Gospels and in the epistles (Matthew 24:42-44; Luke 12:35-40; 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3) refer to the always-imminent return of Christ and the resultant need for readiness and watchfulness.  At this point, however, the rapture is already past.  Furthermore, Christ’s return to the earth to judge the nations will not be “as a thief,” for they are all now awaiting it and “every eye shall see him” (Revelation 1:7) when He comes.

     Thus there is something special and unique about this particular promise in this particular context.  Evidently there are still many at this time, both Jew and Gentile, who have refused the mark of the beast, and have somehow managed to survive, probably by fleeing to various wilderness retreats, in a manner analogous to the fleeing of the Jewish remnant to the wilderness near Jerusalem, as described in Revelation 12 and other Scriptures.  Many of these have trusted in Christ as Savior; others (especially Jews) may not yet be born-again Christians but do believe in the true God and so refuse to worship the beast and bow to his image.

     It is probably such as these to whom the Lord speaks this time.  Although they themselves have been spared the suffering of the angelic bowls of wrath, they can hardly fail to be distressed and fearful, not only because the agents of the beast have been seeking to find and slay them but because of the strange demonic fury of the multitudes as they hasten to do battle with God in the land of Israel.  They themselves need a special word of instruction and comfort from the Lord, encouraging them to continue in their stand.

     The Lord has not forgotten them.  He has protected them from the fiery plagues and supplied their needs.  But, they may wonder, what will happen to them when the Lord returns in power and great glory to judge the nations?  And so God graciously sends to them a special message from heaven just at this time.  He will come for them too, even as He did for His saints before the tribulation.  As for those earlier saints, He will come as a thief at some time unannounced.

     Therefore they must remain watchful and ready, as clothed for a journey, not as undressed and indifferent.  As it would be frightfully embarrassing to be suddenly compelled to take a trip without even the time to put on any clothing, so would it be to be transported into the holy presence of Christ when one is arrayed, as it were, only in the filthy rags of careless indulgence instead of in the fine linen of righteousness which He provides for His saints.  “And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2:28).

     Whether this particular coming will be, in effect, another rapture, with resurrection of dead believers and glorification of living saints, is uncertain.  More likely it will be translation of the living to join with their brethren in the holy city just before the Lord returns to earth. “Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.  And the heavens shall declare his righteousness” (Psalm 50:5, 6).

Revelation 16:16.     And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.

     Having interjected this special word of comfort and exhortation from the Lord to the tribulation saints still surviving in the troubled world, John returns to the immediate narrative of events.  The previous verse tells that the nations are being gathered together to a climactic battle.  This verse tells us where they are being assembled.

     “Armageddon” is from “Har-megiddo,” or “Mountain of Megiddo.”  Megiddo is an ancient town about sixty miles north of Jerusalem, overlooking the plain of Megiddo on the west and the plain of Esdraelon (or valley of Jezreel) on the northeast.  This area was the scene of many ancient battles (Judges 5:19; 2 Chronicles 35:22), and would be the obvious location for a bivouac area from which to mount an assault on Jerusalem.

     It is to this area that the multitudes come.  However, even such a great plain as the plain of Esdraelon cannot contain them all, and soon great numbers are being deployed on down into the Jordan valley and the valley of Jehoshaphat, toward Jerusalem.  Soon the vast column protrudes along the shores of the Dead Sea and down into Idumea, even beyond Bozrah (see the discussion on Revelation 14:20).  Possibly their ranks are augmented by others marching up toward Jerusalem after disembarking from seagoing vessels on the Red Sea or Gulf of Akaba.  On the north, the multitudes assembling at Armageddon are perhaps reinforced by contingents arriving at the nearby port of Haifa.

     Some might wonder why, if the object of this unprecedented army is Jerusalem, it is necessary to plan such a massive attack by land.  It would seem far easier to launch a missile or air attack.  Jerusalem could quickly be obliterated by nuclear bombs, or leveled even with conventional bombs.

     One can only surmise that the beast has rejected such a strategy for what he believes are good reasons.  Even though he hates bitterly those Jews who have refused to worship his image, especially the 144,000 sealed Israelites who have encamped on Mount Zion (Revelation 14:1), he realizes that his primary enemy is the Lamb, with His armies in heaven, and these enemies cannot be reached by bombs and missiles.  Also, he knows by sad experience that the 144,000 at least, are invulnerable with God’s protecting seal on their foreheads.

     It is quite possible also that this vanity persuades him not to try to level Jerusalem.  What infinite satisfaction it would be, after he has destroyed the Lamb and established universal control for himself, to take over the holy city which God had chosen and then to establish his own throne there.  As it is, he has already placed his great image in the holy place in the temple.  He would not want to see his image destroyed with the city.  Consequently, he desires to capture the city rather than to raze it

     The great deceiver thinks it is he who has gathered the nations together against Jerusalem but it is actually God who has used him to do so.  The beast does actually invade Judah and lay siege to Jerusalem, (Zechariah 12:2).  For a brief while, he even gains a pseudovictory over the city.  “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem, to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity” (Zechariah 14:2).  “And they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine” (Joel 3:3).  As they pass through the land of Judah, his armies rout many of the inhabitants of the land (Isaiah 10:28-31).  The pitiable forces in Judah and Jerusalem obviously are incapable of significant resistance.

     But then!  “Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle” (Zechariah 14:3).  “The Lord also shall roar out of Zion” (Joel 3:16).  “Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy” (Zephaniah 3:8).

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