Summary: Sixth Bowl Judgment
Revelation 16:12-16, “Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great Euphrates River, and it dried up so that the kings from the east could march their armies westward without hindrance. 13And I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs leap from the mouth of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. 14These miracle-working demons caused all the rulers of the world to gather for battle against the Lord on that great judgment day of God Almighty. 15"Take note: I will come as unexpectedly as a thief! Blessed are all who are watching for me, who keep their robes ready so they will not need to walk naked and ashamed." 16And they gathered all the rulers and their armies to a place called Armageddon in Hebrew.”
Unlike the precious five bowls, the sixth, like the fifth seal (6:9-11), has no specific assault on humanity but prepares for what is to come. There is also parrell between the sixth trumpet and the sixth bowl. When the sixth trumpet sounded, four angels bound at the Euphrates were released to lead a vast army of grotesque horses to the slaughter of one-third of the world’s population (9:13-19). The Euphrates marks the eastern boundary of the land given by covenant to Abraham and his seed (Genesis 15:18; Deut 1:7-8; Josh 1:3-4). Yet is also separated the Roman Empire on the east from the much feared Parthians who were expert calvary bowmen and had conquered the entire territory from the Euphrates to the Indus. It is frequently pointed out that in the OT God’s redemptive acts were often associated with the drying up of water. The Exodus (Exod 14:21) and the entrance into Canaan (Josh 3:14-17) are the two major examples. In this case it is the enemy through the drying up of the Euphrates is then allowed to advance for war.
Mounce points out, “It is unlikely that John is alluding to the famous capture of Babylon by Cyrus the Persian, but the incident is relevant. Herodotus tells us that Cyrus, finding the city seemingly impregnable, temporarily diverted the Euphrates, which ran through the center of Babylon, leaving open the riverbed, through which his armies entered and captured the city.”
Walvoord points out that there are as many as fifty different interpretations have been advanced in relation to the intreptation of who the kings from the east are (The Revelation of Jesus Christ p.236). The historical context of John’s imagery favors the interpretation of the kings as Parthian rulers. The tradition states that Nero, although dying by his own hand would return from the East leading a great army of Parthian warriors is preserved in Siblline Oracles (4:115-39). The confusion lays as to where this tradition is partially intertwined in Revelation with an older tradition that portrayed a final assault on the people of God by the united kings of the earth (Joel 3:2; Zeph 3:8) The kings of the East (vs.12) will lay siege to Babylon (17:15-18_ and chapters 18) are distinct from the kings of the whole world (v.14) who will wage the final war against Christ and the armies of heaven (19:11-21). Yet we will not here be getting into the relation to Gog and Armageddon till we arrive at 20:7-10.