Here is the plague in which we see the beginning of the end of things. It encompasses the preparing of the way for all the armies of the world to come into the holy land for war against God. Hence this plague is not a plague that will immediately produce any more suffering, as was the case in all the other plagues. It is a plague that opens the way for the final judgment. It comes in two parts.
First, this sixth bowl is poured out on the great river Euphrates, causing it to be died up, so that armies from the east will be able to cross over with ease into the holy land for war.
The second part of the plague will come on the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet, by way of unclean spirits of demons. These spirits we must believe will be directed by God to carry a message through the three to all of the kings of the world (the kings of the east who will cross over the dried-up Euphrates, and also the kings of the north, south, and west), instructing them to gather together for war against God in Israel. And verse sixteen says that “they [the demons] gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon” (or Armageddon). Warren Wiersbe comments on this place:
The name Armageddon comes from two Hebrew words, har Megiddo, the hill of Megiddo. The word Megiddo means ‘place of troops’ or ‘place of slaughter.’ It is also called the Plain of Esdraelon and the Valley of Jezreel. The area is about fourteen miles wide and twenty miles long, and forms what Napoleon called ‘the most natural battlefield of the whole earth.’ Standing on Mount Carmel and overlooking the great plain, you can well understand why it would be used for gathering the armies of the nations.
It was on this plain that Barak defeated the armies of Canaan (Jud. 5:19). Gideon met the Midianites there (Jud. 7) and it was there that King Saul lost his life (1 Sam. 31). Titus and the Roman army used this natural corridor, as did the Crusaders in the Middle ages. British General Allenby used it when he defeated the Turkish armies in 1917.7
Verse fifteen, which is parenthetical, is written to believers to be faithful and vigilant, constantly ready for His return. Hence this verse assures us that there will be faithful believers during the Tribulation—believers that will survive and go into Christ’s Kingdom.
Last, I want to pose two questions: First, when does the sixth bowl end? Does it end with the gathering, or does it include the battle of Armageddon? It seems to me that it stops with the gathering, but I’m not sure.
Secondly, we have said all along that all the plagues will be accumulative and ongoing. Is that true here? Does this sixth bowl, and also the seventh bowl, contain an accumulation of all the previous plagues? Should we assume in these last plagues that this is a climax and the greatest of the suffering? I’m not sure, but part of me feels that it is; that people are still suffering from all the pervious plagues: from famine and pestilence and wild beasts, and from martyrdom, and from natural/cosmic disturbances, and from demonic activity, and from boils and bloody water and scorching heat, and darkness.
7 Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Victorious (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books) 1985. pp. 117-118.
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