APOCALYPSE 15, 16
Revelation 15 and 16 should be studied together, for the subject of both chapters is the seven last plagues which were to fall on the earth. Chapter 15 contains the vision of God's temple in heaven with Christians praising God and singing the song of Moses and the Lamb.for delivering them from an idolatrous religion. They had been victorious over the apostate beast called Babylon. The cherubim before the throne hand seven angels seven bowls containing the last seven plagues to fall on the earth. Chapter 16 continues the vision with the seven angels sent to pour out the seven last plagues on the earth. The first plague brought loathsome sores on all followers of the beast, the apostate power that had overcome and persecuted the Church of God. The second plague was poured on the sea, turning the water to blood, resulting in the death of all sea life. The third plague caused all the land water to turn to blood, causing havoc on earth. The fourth bowl was poured out on the sun causing the followers of the beast to be scorched with great heat. It caused people to blaspheme God, but it never brought them to repentance and correction of life. The fifth plague brought darkness on the throne of the beast and caused great pain to its followers. These plagues symbolized certain judgments of God that would fall on the earth.
The sixth plague fell on the great city of Babylon. that dried up the mighty Euphrates River, making it easier to enter and destroy the city. Babylon is described under the figures of a dreadful beast and a false prophet. Babylon had both great political power and religious power. In the next chapter this enemy of God's New Testament people is described as a horrible dragon- like- beast with a woman sitting on its back, called a harlot. She is given the name of Babylon, the mother of harlots. These plagues cause Babylon to fall, and they take us to the end of the world and to the final battle between good and evil. Obviously, this is very symbolical language and is not to be taken literally. This beast is an enemy of New Testament Christianity. In chapter l5, it is described as an enemy similar to ancient Egypt who persecuted the Old Testament church. The seven plagues clearly are based on the plagues God brought on Egypt to free Israel. In chapter 16, the sixth and seventh plagues are just as clearly based on the destruction of the ancient city of Babylon and the Babylonians who invaded Israel, destroyed the temple and took the Old Testament church into cruel slavery. This same beast, a persecuting power of Christians, is mentioned in chapters 11, l2, 3, 14, 15, 16, and 17. Furthermore, we learn in chapters 15, 16 that this persecuting power of the true Church of Christ is compared to ancient Egypt and ancient Babylon, the two enemies of Israel, the old Testament church. The message 2
of chapters 15 and 16 is that Jehovah God is going to bring this great religious Power down in Christian times which has changed and afflicted the Christian religion, even as he brought Egypt and Babylon down in the long ago. As He came to the aid of Israelites He will also come to the aid of downtrodden Christians. Such is a brief sketch of Revelation 15,16.
The first thing we need to determine is who these plagues were to fall on, and in the judgment of many outstanding Bible scholars, there can be no doubt for whom these plagues were intended. They were not intended for faithful Christians, God's true people on earth. In Revelation 15:1,2 true Christians are contrasted with the worshipers of the symbolical beast, his image and the number of his name–666. We have been studying this beast from chapter 11 to chapters 15,16. Catholic commentators, protestant preachers, and many nondenominational preachers are all in agreement that this beast is Rome because the Holy Spirit says the woman on this beast sits on the Seven Hills of Rome. That is her location. The only disagreement is whether the beast is pagan Rome or Papal Rome. Understandably, Roman Catholic scholars insist the beast is Pagan Rome and not Papal Rome. However, they must do this or admit that the Roman Catholic church is a departure from the original church as revealed in the New Testament and an idolatrous form of Christianity, very much unlike the religion which the apostles revealed to mankind. They have the right to their view even as the Protestant world has a right to their view.
Every follower of Christ must make this decision for himself. A careful study of Revelation 17 will help much in making a judgment on these two opposing interpretations. According to many expositors of the Historical Interpretation, the beast in this and other chapters cannot be Pagan Rome because we learn in chapter 12 that this beast drove the woman(the true church} into the wilderness and trampled true Christians underfoot for over a thousand years. Pagan Rome did not do that. The church finally defeated Pagan Rome and replaced paganism with the Christian religion. The true church defeated Pagan Rome, but Papal Rome defeated the true church and drove it into obscurity during the entire Dark Ages. This was a time of persecution for true Christians, and only eternity will reveal how many faithful Christians were put to death for disagreeing with the doctrines of Papal Rome. It is a well known fact that Papal Rome forced their doctrines on the followers of Christ with the sword. The objection is not valid that these seven last plagues were to fall on the earth and not Papal Rome. The Roman
Empire ruled the entire world from 43 B.C. to about 1500 A.D., first under the Caesars, and then under the Popes. The rise of the Papacy occurred after the fall of Pagan Rome in 476 A.D. Thus, the word “earth” for some 1600 years was a synonym for the Roman Empire itself, for it encompassed the earth. According to the Historical Interpretation these plagues fell on the Roman Catholic church when the Papacy was still in the height of its glory and power in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. These plagues were designed to diminish the dictatorial power and control which the church of Rome had over the world, and they would end their power to use the sword to persecute all who disagreed with her teachings. Whatever your view may be on this subject, it cannot be denied that the Roman Catholic Church does not possess the political and religious power it had from 500 A.D. to 1600 A.D. Many Bible expositors believe these seven last plagues were judgments of God that caused Papal Rome to fall and thereby opened the Bible to the world to be freely read, believed and obeyed, without persecution or oppression of any kind. .
Some expositors indeed believe these seven last plagues all belong to the future and not to the past. But according to the view espoused by many expositors of the Historical view, the seven last plagues were to fall on Papal Rome near the end of the 1260 prophetical years, during which time the true church was in the wilderness and obscurity of the Dark Ages (Revelation 12:6). Without doubt, the years 1500 to 1800 were three terrible years for the Roman Catholic church. I feel certain the Papal church felt then, and s till does, that those three centuries were years of terrible affliction and distress. . The Papal church began to fall apart in 1500 when the Protestant nations began to rebel against the authority of the church of Rome. Some Protestant preachers believe it was these seven last plagues that diminished the power of Papal Rome, along with its tyrannical rule over the nations and over the Christian religion. It began in the 1500's by an attack on Rome by the Protestant nations of Europe rejecting the authority of the Pope and the unscriptural doctrines of the church of Rome. If the seven last plagues did not bring about this great change, most certainly something happened to the Papal church that took away its political and religious power and brought the church-state powr to an end. Some believe this was a providential judgment of God on the church of Rome that brought the true apostolic church of the first century out of the obscurity of the Dark Ages, and allowed the truth of the gospel to be proclaimed worldwide once again. Many strange doctrines of the Papal church go back only to about 500 A.D., but those doctrines do not go back to 4
the first century A.D. Therefore these changes were made without the authority of God and were the chief cause for the Protestant Reformation.. Martin Luither rejected the Pope as the head of the church on earth. It has been suggested that some of these plagues refer to the time when the Pope's temporal authority over the nation of Italy was abolished. In 1789 the French Revolution broke out in France. The enslaved masses sent the Catholic king, queen, royal families and priests to the guillotine by the tens of thousands. At one time 200,000 Catholic citizens of all conditions and both sexes were in prison. In Paris alone 80 people in one day were hanged. The mightiest Catholic nation was convulsed with civil war. Every Catholic country in Europe was deluged in blood, and the Papacy received a shock from which it never can recover.
In 1799 Napoleon Bonaparte became the ruler of France. After victories in 1796 and 1797 Napoleon rushed toward Rome. The Pope saved himself by paying 21 million francs and surrendered a hundred of the finest paintings and statues in Rome. Two years later he was carried to France as a prisoner to die, and Rome was robbed of its great wealth. From Spain to Moscow, from Egypt to Holland his armies left behind a track of blood. An estimated 2 million men perished by the sword. There was hardly a home in Europe that did not suffer. Four years later the next Pope was dragged from his palace and was sent as a prisoner to France. Napoleon confiscated all Papal lands and possessions. The Popes of Rome were without temporal possessions until the fall of Napoleon. Napoleon had broken the spell of Rome and taught the world for the first time that the power of the Popes might be successfully defied. Since that day the Pope has ceased to be the most powerful force in the history of nations. The world can thank Napoleon for the downfall of the Papacy. In the year 1848 the people of Rome arose in rebellion to the Papal authority and drove Pope Piuus 1X into exile. A few months later he was restored by the French army who protected him until 1870. When the French army left, the Papal army was defeated by Victor Emmanuel. The Pope shut himself in the Vatican, and Rome became the capital of the new Italy. The Italian government seized the possessions of the church. The temporal power of the Pope was gone forever. Could these happenings have been providential judgments of God on the beast, Papal Rome, that freed the human race from its enslavement which lasted a thousand years?. Some think the last seven plagues were providential judgments of God that fell on the world-wide Papal Roman Empire and resulted in the Protestant Reformation..
In closing let me say that the sixth and seventh plague are very difficult to interpret, and there is hardly in agreement on their meaning. Some things mentioned may speak of events related to the end of the world. The sixth plague speaks of the Euphrates river being dried up, exposing Babylon to danger and defeat. Babylon stirs up the nations of earth, and the kings of the whole world prepare their armies for the battle of that great day of God Almighty(verses 14,15). The armies of the world meet on the famous battleground in the valley of Jezreel, in the land of Palestine, located near the city of Megiddo. It is one of the most famous battlefields in the world. Verse 16 says, “And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.” This word literally means hill or city of Megiddo. It stood for the location of the famous battle ground in the land of Israel. Is Amageddon, in the middle of the blood-soaked plain of Esdraelon, to be the scene of the last great conflict between good and evil? I do not know nor does anyone else know. We have learned that Babylon is used as a symbol of a powerful political and religious organization in the Christian religion. I agree with those who look on this symbolic battle as the final conflict between good and evil, between the Kingdom of Christ and the Kingdom of Satan, whatever earthly form or power may represent Satan. Whatever form evil may take on that day, the conflict will result in an overwhelming victory for Christ and His church, for it is written that Christ will put down all power and authority that God may be all in all.
On this closing event, I would add that there is evidence in the New Testament that the two different forms of the Christian religion discussed in this message will continue and be on this earth when Christ comes( 2 Thessalonians 2:8). One form of Christianity is the original and pure form as revealed by the apostles, and the other form is an idolatrous form with unscriptural , innovative doctrines and practices that arose about 500 A. D. These two forms of the Christian religion will continue to oppose one another and divide Christendom until Christ comes. Christ will then settle this controversy. It is my humble opinion that the salvation of millions of people is at stake in this controversy. Study your New Testament carefully and obey it. Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep My commandments.” He said to His own generation, “In vain you worship God, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” In my opinion the battle of Armageddon will be the final battle between true religion and false religion, between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of Satan, the battle between truth and falsehood , and the battle s between good and evil