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REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 16 - Verse 16

Verse 16. And he gathered them together. Who gathered them? Prof. Stuart renders it, "they gathered them together," supposing that it refers to the "spirits"—pneumata—in Re 16:13, and that this is the construction of the neuter plural with a singular verb. So De Wette understands it. Hengstenberg supposes that it means that God gathered them together; others suppose that it was the sixth angel; others that it was Satan; others that it was the beast; and others that it was Christ. See Poole's Synopsis in loc. The authority of De Wette and Prof. Stuart is sufficient to show that the construction which they adopt is authorized by the Greek, as indeed no one can doubt, and perhaps this accords better with the context than any other construction proposed. Thus, in Re 16:14, the spirits are represented as going forth into the whole world for the purpose of gathering the nations together to the great battle, and it is natural to suppose that the reference is to them here as having accomplished what they went forth to do. But who are to be gathered together? Evidently those who in Re 16:14 are described by the word "them"—the "king of the earth, and the whole world;" that is, there will be a state of things which would be well described by a universal gathering of forces in a central battle-field. It is by no means necessary to suppose that what is here represented will literally occur. There will be a mustering of spiritual forces; there will be a combination and a unity of opposition against the truth; there will be a rallying of the declining powers of Heathenism, Mohammedanism, and Romanism, as if the forces of the earth, marshalled by kings and rulers, were assembled in some great battle-field where the destiny of the world was to be decided.

Into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon. The word Armageddonarmageddwn—occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and is not found in the Septuagint. It seems to be formed from the Hebrew ? Har Megiddo—Mountain of Megiddo. Compare 2 Ch 35:22, where it is said that Josiah "came to fight in the valley of Megiddo." Megiddo was a town belonging to Manasseh, although within the limits of Issachar, Jos 17:11. It had been originally one of the royal cities of the Canaanites, (Jos 12:21,) and was one of those of which the Israelites were unable for a long time to take possession. It was rebuilt and fortified by Solomon, (1 Ki 9:15,) and thither Ahaziah king of Judah fled when wounded by Jehu, and died there, 2 Ki 9:27. It was here that Deborah and Barak destroyed Sisera and his host, (Jud 5:19;) and it was in a battle near this that Josiah was slain by Pharaoh-nechoh, 2 Ki 23:29-30; 2 Ch 35:20-25. From the great mourning held for his loss, it became proverbial to speak of any grievous mourning as being "like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon," Zec 12:11. It has not been found easy to identify the place, but recent searches have made it probable that the vale or plain of Megiddo comprehended, if it was not wholly composed of, the prolongation of the plain of Esdra-elon towards Mount Carmel; that the city of Megiddo was situated there; and that the waters of Megiddo, mentioned in Jud 5:19, are identical with the stream Kishon in that part of its course. See Biblical Repository, i. 602, 603. It is supposed that the modern town called Lejjun occupies the site of the ancient Megiddo.—Robinson's Biblical Researches, iii. 177-180. Megiddo was distinguished for being the place of the decisive conflict between Deborah and Sisera, and of the battle in which Josiah was slain by the Egyptian invaders, and hence it became emblematic of any decisive battle-field—just as Marathon, Leuctra, Arbela, or Waterloo is. The word "mountain" in the term Armageddon—" Mountain of Megiddo"— seems to have been used because Megiddo was in a mountainous region, though the battles were fought in a valley adjacent. The meaning here is, that there would be, as it were, a decisive battle which would determine the question of the prevalence of true religion on the earth What we are to expect as the fulfilment of this would seem to be, that there will be some mustering of strength —some rallying of forces—some opposition made to the kingdom of God in the gospel by the powers here referred to which would be decisive in its character, and which would be well represented by the battles between the people of God and their foes in the conflicts in the valley of Megiddo. As this constitutes, according to the course of the exposition by which we have been conducted, an important division in the book of Revelation, it may be proper to pause here, and make a few remarks. The previous parts of the book, according to the interpretation proposed, relate to the past, and thus far we have found such a correspondence between the predictions and facts which have occurred as to lead us to suppose that these predictions have been fulfilled. At this point, I suppose, we enter on that part which remains yet to be fulfilled, and the investigation must carry us into the dark and unknown future. The remaining portion comprises a very general sketch of things down to the end of time, as the previous portion has touched on the great events pertaining to the church and its progress for a period of more than one thousand eight hundred years. A few general remarks, therefore, seem not inappropriate at this point.

(a) In the previous interpretations we have had the facts of history by which to test the accuracy of the interpretation. The plan pursued has been, first, to investigate the meaning of the words and symbols, entirely independent of any supposed application, and then to inquire whether there have been any facts that may be regarded as corresponding with the meaning of the words and symbols as explained. Of this method of testing the accuracy of the exposition we must now take our leave. Our sole reliance must be in the exposition itself, and our work must be limited to that.

(b) It is always difficult to interpret a prophecy. The language of prophecy is often apparently enigmatical; the symbols are sometimes obscure; and prophecies relating to the same subject are often in detached fragments, uttered by different persons at different times, and it is necessary to collect and arrange them, in order to have a full view of the one subject. Thus the prophecies respecting the Messiah were many of them obscure, and indeed apparently contradictory, before he came; they were uttered at distant intervals, and by different prophets; at one time one trait of his character was dwelt upon, and at another another; and it was difficult to combine these so as to have an accurate view of what he would be, until he came. The result has shown what the meaning of the prophecies was; and at the same time has demonstrated that there was entire consistency in the various predictions, and that to one who could have comprehended all, it would have been possible to combine them so as to have had a correct view of the Messiah, and of his work, even before he came. The same remark is still more applicable to the predictions in the book of Revelation, or to the similar predictions in the book of Daniel, and to many portions of Isaiah. It is easy to see how difficult it would have been, or rather how impossible by any human powers, to have applied these prophecies in detail before the events occurred; and yet, now that they have occurred, it may be seen that the symbols were the happiest that could have been chosen, and the only ones that could with propriety have been selected to describe the remarkable events which were to take place in future times.

(c) The same thing we may presume to be the case in regard to events which are to occur. We may expect to find

(1) language and symbols that are, in themselves, capable of clear interpretation, as to their proper meaning;

(2) the events of the future so sketched out by that language and by those symbols, that we may obtain a general view that will be accurate; and yet

(3) an entire impossibility of filling up beforehand the minute details.

In regard, then, to the application of the particular portion now before us, Re 16:12-16, the following remarks may be made:—

(1) The Turkish power, especially since its conquest of Constantinople under Mohammed II. in 1453, and its establishment in Europe, has been a grand hindrance to the spread of the gospel. It has occupied a central position; it has possessed some of the richest parts of the world; it has, in general, excluded all efforts to spread the pure gospel within its limits; and its whole influence has been opposed to the spread of pure Christianity. Compare Barnes on "Re 9:14-21".

"By its laws, it was death to a Mussulman to apostatize from his faith, and become a Christian; and examples, not a few, have occurred in recent times to illustrate it." It is not until quite recently, and that under the influence of missionaries in Constantinople, that evangelical Christianity has been tolerated in the Turkish dominions.

(2.) The prophecy before us implies that there would be a decline of that formidable power—represented by the "drying up of the great river Euphrates." See Barnes on "Re 16:12".

And no one can be insensible to the fact that events are occurring which would be properly represented by such a symbol; or that there is, in fact, now such a decline of that Turkish power, and that the beginning of that decline closely followed, in regard to time, if not in regard to the cause, the events which it is supposed were designed by the previous vials— those connected with the successive blows on the Papacy and the seat of the beast. In reference, then, to the decline of that power, we may refer to the following things:

(a) The first great cause was internal revolt and insurrection. In 1820, Ali Pasha asserted his independence, and by his revolt precipitated the Greek insurrection which had been a long time secretly preparing—an insurrection so disastrous to the Turkish power.

(b) The Greek insurrection followed. This soon spread to the AEgean isles, and to the districts of Northern Greece, Epirus, and Thessaly; while at the same time the standard of revolt was raised in Wallachia and Moldavia. The progress and issue of that insurrection are well known. A Turkman army of 30,000 that entered the Morea to reconquer it was destroyed in 1823 in detail, and the freedom of the peninsula was nearly completed by the insurgents. By sea the Greeks emulated their ancestors of Salamis and Mycale; and, attended with almost uniform success, encountered and vanquished the superior Turkish and Egyptian fleets. Meanwhile the sympathies of Western Christendom were awakened in behalf of their brother Christians struggling for independence; and just when the tide of success began to turn, and the Morea was again nearly subjected by Ibrahim Pasha, the united fleets of England, France, and Russia (in contravention of all their usual principles of policy) interposed in their favour; attacked and destroyed the Turco-Egyptian fleets in the battle of Novatiao, (September, 1827,) and thus secured the independence of Greece. Nothing had ever occurred that tended so much to weaken the power of the Turkish empire.

(c) The rebellion of the great Egyptian Pasha, Mehemet Ali, soon followed. The French invasion of Egypt had prepared him for it, by having taught him the superiority of European discipline, and thus this event was one of the proper results of those described under the first four vials. Mehemet Ali, through Ibrahim, attacked and conquered Syria; defeated the Sultan's armies sent against him in the great battles of Hems, of Nezib, and of Iconium; and, but for the intervention of the European powers of England, Russia, Prussia, and Austria, by which he was driven out of Syria, and forced back to his proper Pashalie Egypt, he would probably have advanced to Constantinople and subdued it.

(d) There has been for centuries a gradual weakening of the Turkish power. It has done nothing to extend its empire by arms. It has been resting in inglorious ease, and, in the meantime, its wealth and its strength have been gradually decreasing. It has lost Moldavia, Wallachia, Greece, Algiers, and, practically, Egypt; and is doing nothing to recruit its wasted and exhausted strength. Russia only waits for a favourable opportunity to strike the last blow on that enfeebled power, and to put an end to it for ever.

(e) The general condition of the Turkish empire is thus described by the Rev. Mr. Walsh, chaplain to the British Ambassador to Constantinople: "The circumstances most striking to a traveller passing through Turkey is its depopulation. Ruins where villages had been built, and fallows where land had been cultivated, are frequently seen with no living thing near them. This effect is not so visible in larger towns, though the cause is known to operate there in a still greater degree. Within the last twenty years, Constantinople has lost more than half its population. Two conflagrations happened while I was in Constantinople, and destroyed fifteen thousand houses. The Russian and Greek wars were a constant drain on the janisaries of the capital; the silent operation of the plague is continually active, though not always alarming; it will be no exaggeration to say that, within the period mentioned, from three to four hundred thousand persons have been swept away in one city in Europe by causes which were not operating in any others—conflagration, pestilence, and civil commotion. The Turks, though naturally of a robust and vigorous constitution, addict themselves to such habits as are very unfavourable to population— the births do little more than exceed the ordinary deaths, and cannot supply the waste of casualties. The surrounding country is, therefore, continually drained to supply this waste in the capital, which, nevertheless, exhibits districts nearly depopulated. We see every day life going out in the fairest portion of Europe; and the human race threatened with extinction in a soil and climate capable of supporting the most abundant population."—Walsh's Narrative, pp. 22—26, as quoted in Bush on the Millennium, 243, 244. The probability now is, that this gradual decay will be continued; that the Turkish power will more and more diminish; that one portion after another will set up for independence; and that, by a gradual process of decline, this power will become practically extinct, and what is here symbolized by the "drying up of the great river Euphrates" will have been accomplished.

(3.) This obstacle removed, we may look for a general turning of the princes, and rulers, and people of the Eastern world to Christianity, represented (Re 16:12) by its being said that "the way of the kings of the East might be prepared." See Barnes on "Re 16:12".

It is clear that nothing would be more likely to contribute to this, or to prepare the way for it, than the removal of that Turcoman dominion which for more than four hundred years has been an effectual barrier to the diffusion of the gospel in the lands where it has prevailed. How rapidly, we may suppose, the gospel would spread in the East, if all the obstacles thrown in its way by the Turkish power were at once removed!

(4.) In accordance with the interpretation suggested on Re 16:13-14, we may look for something that would be well represented by a combined effort on the part of Heathenism, Mohammedanism, and Romanism, to stay the progress and prevent the spread of evangelical religion. That is, according to the fair interpretation of the passage, we should look for same simultaneous movement as if their influence was to be about to cease, and as if it were necessary to arouse all their energies for a last and desperate struggle. It may be added that, in itself, nothing would be more probable than this; but when it will occur, and what form the aroused enemy will assume, it would be vain to conjecture.

(5.) And in accordance with the interpretation suggested on Re 16:15, we are to suppose that something will occur which would be well represented by the decisive conflicts in the valley of Megiddo; that is, something that will determine the ascendency of true religion in the world, as if these great powers of Heathenism, Mohammedanism, and Romanism should stake all their interests on the issue of a single battle. It is not necessary to suppose that this will literally occur, and there are no certain intimations as to the time when what is represented will happen; but all that is meant may be that events will take place which would be well represented by such a conflict. Still, nothing in the prophecy prevents the supposition that these combined powers may be overthrown in some fierce conflict with Christian powers.

{a} "It is done" Re 21:6

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