In this chapter we have an account of the pouring forth of these vials
that were filled with the wrath of God. They were poured out upon the
whole antichristian empire, and on every thing appertaining to it.
I. Upon the earth,
II. Upon the sea,
III. Upon the rivers and fountains of water,
Here the heavenly hosts proclaim and applaud the righteousness of the
judgments of God.
IV. The fourth vial was poured out on the sun,
V. The fifth on the seat of the beast.
VI. The sixth on the river Euphrates.
VII. The seventh in the air, upon which the cities of the nations fell,
and great Babylon came in remembrance before God.
The Seven Vials.
A. D. 95.
1 And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the
seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath
of God upon the earth.
2 And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth;
and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had
the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his
3 And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it
became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died
in the sea.
4 And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and
fountains of waters; and they became blood.
5 And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous,
O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast
6 For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou
hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.
7 And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God
Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.
We had in the foregoing chapter the great and solemn preparation that
was made for the pouring out of the vials; now we have the performance
of that work. Here observe,
I. That, though every thing was made ready before, yet nothing was to
be put in execution without an immediate positive order from God; and
this he gave out of the temple, answering the prayers of his people,
and avenging their quarrel.
II. No sooner was the word of command given than it was immediately
obeyed; no delay, no objection made. We find that some of the best men,
as Moses and Jeremiah, did not so readily come in and comply with the
call of God to their work; but the angels of God excel not only in
strength, but in a readiness to do the will of God. God says, Go
your ways, and pour out the vials, and immediately the work is
begun. We are taught to pray that the will of God may be done on earth
as it is done in heaven. And now we enter upon a series of very
terrible dispensations of Providence, of which it is difficult to give
the certain meaning or to make the particular application. But in the
general it is worth our observation that,
1. We have here a reference and allusion to several of the plagues of
Egypt, such as the turning of their waters into blood, and smiting them
with boils and sores. Their sins were alike, and so were their
2. These vials have a plain reference to the seven trumpets, which
represented the rise of antichrist; and we learn hence that the fall of
the church's enemies shall bear some resemblance to their rise, and
that God can bring them down in such ways as they chose to exalt
themselves. And the fall of antichrist shall be gradual; as Rome was
not built in one day, so neither shall it fall in one day, but it falls
by degrees; it shall fall so as to rise no more.
3. The fall of the antichristian interest shall be universal. Every
thing that any ways belonged to them, or could be serviceable to them,
the premises and all their appurtenances, are put into the writ for
destruction: their earth, their air, their sea, their rivers, their
cities, all consigned over to ruin, all accursed for the sake of the
wickedness of that people. Thus the creation groans and suffers through
the sins of men. Now we proceed to,
(1.) The first angel who poured out his vial,
[1.] Where it fell--upon the earth; that is, say some, upon the
common people; others upon the body of the Romish clergy, who were the
basis of the papacy, and of an earthly spirit, all carrying on earthly
[2.] What it produced--noisome and grievous sores on all who had the
mark of the beast. They had marked themselves by their sin; now God
marks them out by his judgments. This sore, some think, signifies some
of the first appearances of Providence against their state and interest
which gave them great uneasiness, as it discovered their inward
distemper and was a token of further evil; the plague--tokens
(2.) The second angel poured out his vial; and here we see,
[1.] Where it fell--upon the sea; that is, say some, upon the
jurisdiction and dominion of the papacy; others upon the whole system
of their religion, their false doctrines, their corrupt glosses, their
superstitious rites, their idolatrous worship, their pardons,
indulgences, a great conflux of wicked inventions and institutions, by
which they maintain a trade and traffic advantageous to themselves, but
injurious to all who deal with them.
[2.] What it produced: It turned the sea into blood, as the blood of
a dead man, and every living soul died in the sea. God discovered
not only the vanity and falsehood of their religion, but the pernicious
and deadly nature of it--that the souls of men were poisoned by that
which was pretended to be the sure means of their salvation.
(3.) The next angel poured out his vial; and we are told,
[1.] Where it fell--upon the rivers, and upon the fountains of
waters; that is, say some very learned men, upon their emissaries,
and especially the Jesuits, who, like streams, conveyed the venom and
poison of their errors and idolatries from the spring-head through the
[2.] What effect it had upon them: It turned them into blood;
some think it stirred up Christian princes to take a just revenge upon
those that had been the great incendiaries of the world, and had
occasioned the shedding of the blood of armies and of martyrs. The
favours this sense. The instrument that God makes use of in this work
is here called the angel of the waters, who extols the
righteousness of God in this retaliation: They have shed the blood
of thy saints, and thou hast given them blood to drink, for they are
worthy, to which another angel answered by full consent,
The Seven Vials.
A. D. 95.
8 And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and
power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.
9 And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the
name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they
repented not to give him glory.
10 And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the
beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed
their tongues for pain,
11 And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and
their sores, and repented not of their deeds.
In these verses we see the work going on in the appointed order. The
fourth angel poured out his vial, and that fell upon the sun; that is,
say some, upon some eminent prince of the popish communion, who should
renounce their false religion a little while before his utter downfall;
and some expect it will be the German emperor. And now what will be the
consequence of this? That sun which before cherished them with warm and
benign influences shall now grow hot against these idolaters, and shall
scorch them. Princes shall use their power and authority to suppress
them, which yet will be so far from bringing them to repentance, that
it will cause them to curse God and their king, and look upward,
throwing out their blasphemous speeches against the God of heaven; they
will be hardened to their ruin. The fifth angel poured out his vial,
1. Where this fell--upon the seat of the beast, upon Rome
itself, the mystical Babylon, the head of the antichristian empire.
2. What effect it had there: The whole kingdom of the beast was
full of darkness and distress. That very city which was the seat of
their policy, the source of all their learning, and all their
knowledge, and all their pomp and pleasure, now becomes a source of
darkness, and pain, and anguish. Darkness was one of the plagues of
Egypt, and it is opposed to lustre and honour, and so forebodes the
contempt and scorn to which the antichristian interest should be
exposed. Darkness is opposed to wisdom and penetration, and forebodes
the confusion and folly which the idolaters should discover at that
time. It is opposed to pleasure and joy, and so signifies their anguish
and vexation of Spirit, when their calamities thus came upon them.
The Seven Vials.
A. D. 95.
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.
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.
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
15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth,
and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his
16 And he gathered them together into a place called in the
Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
The sixth angel poured out his vial; and observe,
I. Where it fell--upon the great river Euphrates. Some take it
literally, for the place where the Turkish power and empire began; and
they think this is a prophecy of the destruction of the Turkish
monarchy and of idolatry, which they suppose will be effected about the
same time with that of the papacy, as another antichrist, and that
thereby a way shall be made for the conveniency of the Jews, those
princes of the east. Others take it for the river Tiber; for, as Rome
is mystical Babylon, Tiber is mystical Euphrates. And when Rome shall
be destroyed her river and merchandise must suffer with her.
II. What did this vial produce?
1. The drying up of the river, which furnished the city with wealth,
provisions, and all sorts of accommodations.
2. A way is hereby prepared for the kings of the east. The
idolatry of the church of Rome had been a great hindrance both to the
conversion of the Jews, who have been long cured of their inclination
to idols, and of the Gentiles, who are hardened in their idolatry by
seeing that which so much symbolizes with it among those called
Christians. It is therefore very probable that the downfall of popery,
removing these obstructions, will open a way for both the Jews and
other eastern nations to come into the church of Christ. And, if we
suppose that Mahomedism shall fall at the same time, there will be
still a more open communication between the western and eastern
nations, which may facilitate the conversion of the Jews, and of the
fulness of the Gentiles. And when this work of God appears, and is
about to be accomplished, no wonder if it occasion another consequence,
3. The last effort of the great dragon; he is resolved to have another
push for it, that, if possible, he may retrieve the ruinous posture of
his affairs in the world. He is now rallying his forces, recollecting
all his spirits, to make one desperate sally before all be lost. This
is occasioned by the pouring out of the sixth vial. Here observe,
(1.) The instruments he makes use of to engage the powers of the earth
in his cause and quarrel: Three unclean spirits like frogs come
forth, one out of the mouth of the dragon, another out of the
mouth of the beast, and a third out of the mouth of the false
prophet. Hell, the secular power of antichrist, and the
ecclesiastical power, would combine to send their several instruments,
furnished with hellish malice, with worldly policy, and with religious
falsehood and deceit; and these would muster up the devil's forces for
a decisive battle.
(2.) The means these instruments would use to engage the powers of
earth in this war. They would work pretended miracles, the old
stratagem of him whose coming is after the working of Satan, with
all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of
2 Thessalonians 2:9,10.
Some think that a little before the fall of antichrist the popish
pretence of power to work miracles will be revived and will very much
amuse and deceive the world.
(3.) The field of battle--a place called Armageddon; that is,
say some, the mount of Megiddo, near to which, by a stream issuing
thence, Barak overcame Sisera, and all the kings in alliance with him,
And in the valley of Megiddo Josiah was slain. This place had been
famous for two events of a very different nature, the former very happy
for the church of God, the latter very unhappy; but it shall now be the
field of the last battle in which the church shall be engaged, and she
shall be victorious. This battle required time to prepare for it, and
therefore the further account of it is suspended till we come to the
(4.) The warning which God gives of this great and decisive trial, to
engage his people to prepare for it,
It would be sudden and unexpected, and therefore Christians should be
clothed, and armed, and ready for it, that they might not be surprised
and ashamed. When God's cause comes to be tried, and his battles to be
fought, all his people shall be ready to stand up for his interest and
be faithful and valiant in his service.
The Seven Vials.
A. D. 95.
17 And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and
there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the
throne, saying, It is done.
18 And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and
there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon
the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.
19 And the great city was divided into three parts, and the
cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance
before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the
fierceness of his wrath.
20 And every island fled away, and the mountains were not
21 And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every
stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God
because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was
Here we have an account of the seventh and last angel pouring forth his
vial, contributing his part towards the accomplishment of the downfall
of Babylon, which was the finishing stroke. And here, as before,
I. Where this plague fell--on the air, upon the prince of the
power of the air, that is, the devil. His powers were restrained, his
policies confounded; he was bound in God's chain: the sword of God was
upon his eye and upon his arm; for he, as well as the powers of the
earth, is subject to the almighty power of God. He had used all
possible means to preserve the antichristian interest, and to prevent
the fall of Babylon--all the influence that he has upon the minds of
men, blinding their judgments and perverting them, hardening their
hearts, raising their enmity to the gospel as high as could be. But now
here is a vial poured out upon his kingdom, and he is not able to
support his tottering cause and interest any longer.
II. What it produced,
1. A thankful voice from heaven, pronouncing that now the work was
done. The church triumphant in heaven saw it, and rejoiced; the church
militant on earth saw it, and became triumphant. It is finished.
2. A mighty commotion on the earth--an earthquake, so great as never
was before, shaking the very centre, and this ushered in by the usual
concomitants of thunder and lightnings.
3. The fall of Babylon, which was divided into three parts, called
the cities of the nations
having had rule over the nations, and taken in the idolatry of the
nations, incorporating into her religion something of the Jewish,
something of the pagan, and something of the Christian religion, she
was as three cities in one. God now remembered this great and wicked
city. Though for some time he seemed to have forgotten her idolatry and
cruelty, yet now he gives unto her the cup of the wine of the
fierceness of his wrath. And this downfall extended further than to
the seat of antichrist; it reached from the centre to the
circumference; and every island and every mountain, that seemed by
nature and situation the most secured, were carried away in the deluge
of this ruin.
III. How the antichristian party were affected with it. Though it fell
upon them as a dreadful storm, as if the stones of the city, tossed up
into the air, came down upon their heads, like hailstones of a talent
weight each, yet they were so far from repenting that they blasphemed
that God who thus punished them. Here was a dreadful plague of the
heart, a spiritual judgment more dreadful and destructive than all the
1. The greatest calamities that can befal men will not bring them to
repentance without the grace of God working with them.
2. Those that are not made better by the judgments of God are always
the worse for them.
3. To be hardened in sin and enmity against God by his righteous
judgments is a certain token of utter destruction.
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for 'Revelation' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".