JOHN has already introduced the angels commissioned to pour out the seven bowls. He tells us that “these are the last ones, because by means of them the anger of God is brought to a finish.” (Revelation 15:1; 16:1) These plagues, revealing Jehovah’s sanctions for wickedness in the earth, must be poured out to a finality. When they are over, God’s judgments will have been executed. Satan’s world will be no more! What do these plagues portend for mankind and the rulers of the present wicked system? How can Christians avoid being plagued along with this doomed world? Vital questions, these, and now they are to be answered. All who long for the triumph of righteousness will have keen interest in what John next sees.
Jehovah’s Wrath Against “the Earth”
The first angel goes into action! “And the first one went off and poured out his bowl into the earth. And a hurtful and malignant ulcer came to be upon the men that had the mark of the wild beast and that were worshiping its image.” (Revelation 16:2) As in the case of the first trumpet blast, “the earth” here symbolizes the stable-looking political system that Satan began to build here on earth back in Nimrod’s time, over 4,000 years ago.—Revelation 8:7.
“Into the Earth”
The John class has publicized Jehovah’s wrath against “the earth” with statements such as the following:
“After centuries of effort, political parties have proved their inadequacy to meet the present conditions and to solve the distressing problems. Economists and statesmen, studying the question diligently, find that they are able to do nothing.”—Millions Now Living Will Never Die, 1920, page 61.
“There is not a government on earth today that satisfies any reasonable proportion of the world. Many of the nations are ruled by dictators. The whole world is practically bankrupt.”—A Desirable Government, 1924, page 5.
“Bringing an end to this system of things . . . is the only way to rid the world of evil and make room for peace and righteousness to flourish.”—“This Good News of the Kingdom,” 1954, page 25.
“The present world arrangement has distinguished itself by increasing sin, unrighteousness and rebellion against God and his will. . . . It is unreformable. Therefore, it must go!”—The Watchtower, November 15, 1981, page 6.
In these last days, many governments have demanded what amounts to worship from their subjects, insisting that the State must be exalted above God or any other loyalty. (2 Timothy 3:1; compare Luke 20:25; John 19:15.) Since 1914 it has become common for nations to conscript their youth in order for them to fight, or be ready to fight, the kind of total warfare that has so bloodied the pages of modern history. During the Lord’s day, the nations have also produced, as a substitute for God’s Kingdom, the image of the beast—the League of Nations and its successor, the United Nations. What blasphemy to proclaim, as recent popes have done, that this man-made body is the nations’ sole hope for peace! It staunchly opposes God’s Kingdom. Those who worship it become spiritually unclean, ulcerated, just as the Egyptians who opposed Jehovah in Moses’ day were plagued by literal sores and ulcers.—Exodus 9:10, 11.
The contents of this bowl strongly emphasize the choice that lies before humans. They must suffer either the world’s disapproval or Jehovah’s indignation. Mankind has been put under compulsion to accept the mark of the wild beast, with the intent that “nobody might be able to buy or sell except a person having the mark, the name of the wild beast or the number of its name.” (Revelation 13:16, 17) But there is a price to pay for this! Jehovah regards those who accept the mark as being stricken with “a hurtful and malignant ulcer.” Since 1922 they have been marked in public as having rejected the living God. Their political schemes have no success, and they suffer anguish. Spiritually, they are unclean. Unless they repent, this “hurtful” illness will be terminal, for it is now Jehovah’s day of judgment. There is no neutral ground between being a part of the world’s system of things and serving Jehovah on the side of his Christ.—Luke 11:23; compare James 4:4.
The Sea Becomes Blood
The second bowl of God’s anger must now be poured out. What will it mean for mankind? John tells us: “And the second one poured out his bowl into the sea. And it became blood as of a dead man, and every living soul died, yes, the things in the sea.” (Revelation 16:3) Like the second trumpet blast, this bowl is directed against “the sea”—the seething, rebellious mass of humanity alienated from Jehovah. (Isaiah 57:20, 21; Revelation 8:8, 9) In Jehovah’s eyes, this “sea” is like blood, unfit for creatures to live in. That is why Christians must be no part of the world. (John 17:14) The pouring out of the second bowl of God’s anger reveals that all of mankind who inhabit this sea are dead in Jehovah’s eyes. By reason of community responsibility, mankind is guilty of gross shedding of innocent blood. When Jehovah’s day of anger arrives, they will literally die at the hands of his executional forces.—Revelation 19:17, 18; compare Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13.
“Into the Sea”
The following are just a few of the statements published over the years by the John class proclaiming God’s wrath against the restless, rebellious “sea” of ungodly mankind alienated from Jehovah:
“The history of every nation shows that it has been a struggle between the classes. It has been a few against the many. . . . These struggles have resulted in many revolutions, great suffering, and much bloodshed.”—Government, 1928, page 244.
In the new world, “the symbolic ‘sea’ of the restless, rebellious, ungodly peoples out of whom the symbolic wild beast ascended long ago for the Devil’s use will be gone.”—The Watchtower, September 15, 1967, page 567.
“The present human society is spiritually sick and diseased. None of us can save it, for God’s Word shows its sickness is leading to its death.”—True Peace and Security—From What Source?, 1973, page 131.
Giving Them Blood to Drink
The third bowl of God’s anger, like the third trumpet blast, has an effect on freshwater sources. “And the third one poured out his bowl into the rivers and the fountains of the waters. And they became blood. And I heard the angel over the waters say: ‘You, the One who is and who was, the loyal One, are righteous, because you have rendered these decisions, because they poured out the blood of holy ones and of prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.’ And I heard the altar say: ‘Yes, Jehovah God, the Almighty, true and righteous are your judicial decisions.’”—Revelation 16:4-7.
“Into the Rivers and the Fountains”
The third plague has exposed “the rivers and the fountains of the waters” by statements such as the following:
“The clergy, who claim to be teachers of [Christ’s] doctrines, have sanctified war and made it a holy thing. They have delighted to have their portraits and statues exhibited side by side with those of bloody warriors.”—The Watch Tower, September 15, 1924, page 275.
“Spiritualism [spiritism] is founded on a great untruth, the lie of survival after death and of the immortality of the human soul.”—What Do the Scriptures Say About “Survival After Death?,” 1955, page 51.
“Human philosophies, political theorists, social organizers, economic advisers and advocates of religious traditions have resulted in no real life-giving refreshment . . . Such waters have even led the drinkers to violate the Creator’s law concerning the sacredness of blood and to engage in religious persecutions.”—Resolution adopted at the “Everlasting Good News” International Convention, 1963.
“Not the scientific salvation, but the destruction of the human race is the thing to be expected from man himself. . . . We cannot look to all the psychologists and psychiatrists of the world to change mankind’s way of thinking . . . We cannot depend upon any international police force to be formed . . . and make this earth a safe place in which to live.”—Saving the Human Race—In the Kingdom Way, 1970, page 5.
These “rivers and the fountains of the waters” picture the so-called fresh sources of guidance and wisdom accepted by this world, such as the political, economic, scientific, educational, social, and religious philosophies that guide human actions and decisions. Rather than look to Jehovah, the Fountain of life, for life-giving truth, men have ‘hewn out for themselves broken cisterns’ and drunk deeply of “the wisdom of this world [that] is foolishness with God.”—Jeremiah 2:13; 1 Corinthians 1:19; 2:6; 3:19; Psalm 36:9.
Such tainted “waters” have led men to become bloodguilty, for example, in encouraging them to shed blood on a monumental scale in wars, which in the last century took more than a hundred million lives. Particularly in Christendom, where the two world wars erupted, have men been “in a hurry to shed innocent blood,” and this has included the blood of God’s own witnesses. (Isaiah 59:7; Jeremiah 2:34) Mankind has also incurred bloodguilt by its misuse of huge quantities of blood for transfusions, in violation of Jehovah’s righteous laws. (Genesis 9:3-5; Leviticus 17:14; Acts 15:28, 29) On this account, they have already reaped sorrow by the proliferation, through blood transfusions, of AIDS, hepatitis, and other diseases. Full retribution for all bloodguilt will come shortly when transgressors pay the supreme penalty, being trampled in “the great winepress of the anger of God.”—Revelation 14:19, 20.
In Moses’ day, when the Nile River was turned into blood, the Egyptians were able to keep alive by seeking other sources of water. (Exodus 7:24) Today, though, during the spiritual plague, there is nowhere in Satan’s world that people can find life-giving waters. The pouring out of this third bowl involves proclaiming that the world’s “rivers and the fountains of the waters” are as blood, bringing spiritual death to all who imbibe them. Unless people turn to Jehovah, they reap his adverse judgment.—Compare Ezekiel 33:11.
“The angel over the waters,” that is, the angel who pours this bowl into the waters, magnifies Jehovah as the Universal Judge, whose righteous decisions are absolute. Therefore, he says of this judgment: “They deserve it.” Doubtless, the angel personally witnessed much of the bloodshed and cruelty fomented over thousands of years by the false teachings and philosophies of this wicked world. Hence, he knows that Jehovah’s judicial decision is right. Even God’s “altar” speaks out. At Revelation 6:9, 10, the souls of those who were martyred are said to be at the base of that altar. So “the altar” adds powerful testimony as to the justice and righteousness of Jehovah’s decisions. For examples of inanimate things serving as a witness or giving testimony, compare Genesis 4:10; 31:44-53; Hebrews 12:24. Certainly, it is fitting that those who have shed and misused so much blood should themselves be force-fed with blood, in symbol of Jehovah’s sentencing them to death.
Scorching Men With Fire
The fourth bowl of the anger of God has the sun as its target. John tells us: “And the fourth one poured out his bowl upon the sun; and to the sun it was granted to scorch the men with fire. And the men were scorched with great heat, but they blasphemed the name of God, who has the authority over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give glory to him.”—Revelation 16:8, 9.
Today, at the conclusion of the system of things, Jesus’ spiritual brothers “shine as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matthew 13:40, 43) Jesus himself is “the sun of righteousness.” (Malachi 4:2) Mankind, though, has its own “sun,” its own rulers who try to shine in opposition to God’s Kingdom. The fourth trumpet blast proclaimed that the ‘sun, moon, and stars’ in Christendom’s heavens are really sources of darkness, not light. (Revelation 8:12) The fourth bowl of God’s anger now shows that the world’s “sun” would get unbearably hot. Those looked to as sunlike leaders would “scorch” mankind. This would be granted to the symbolic sun. In other words, Jehovah would allow this as part of his fiery judgment on mankind. In what way has this scorching taken place?
After the first world war, the rulers of this world formed the League of Nations in an effort to solve the problem of world security, but this failed. So other experimental types of rulership were tried, such as Fascism and Nazism. Communism continued to expand. Rather than improve mankind’s lot, the sunlike rulers in these systems began to ‘scorch mankind with great heat.’ Local wars in Spain, Ethiopia, and Manchuria led up to the second world war. Modern history records that Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin as dictators became responsible directly and indirectly for the deaths of tens of millions, including many of their own nationals. More recently, international or civil conflicts have “scorched” the people of countries such as Vietnam, Kampuchea, Iran, Lebanon, and Ireland, as well as countries in Latin America and Africa. Add to this the ongoing struggle between the superpowers, whose horrendous nuclear weapons are capable of incinerating all mankind. In these last days, humanity has surely been exposed to a scorching “sun,” its unrighteous rulers. The pouring out of the fourth bowl of God’s anger has pinpointed these historic facts, and God’s people have proclaimed them throughout the earth.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have consistently taught that the only solution to mankind’s baffling problems is God’s Kingdom, through which Jehovah purposes to sanctify his name. (Psalm 83:4, 17, 18; Matthew 6:9, 10) Mankind, however, has as a whole turned a deaf ear to this solution. Many who reject the Kingdom also blaspheme the name of God, even as Pharaoh did when he refused to acknowledge Jehovah’s sovereignty. (Exodus 1:8-10; 5:2) Having no interest in the Messianic Kingdom, these opposers choose to suffer under their own torrid “sun” of oppressive human rulership.
The Throne of the Wild Beast
Upon what does the next angel pour out his bowl? “And the fifth one poured out his bowl upon the throne of the wild beast.” (Revelation 16:10a) “The wild beast” is Satan’s governmental system. It does not have a literal throne, any more than the wild beast itself is literal. Mention of a throne, however, shows that the wild beast has exercised royal authority over mankind; this is in harmony with the fact that each of the beast’s horns bears a royal diadem. In fact, “the throne of the wild beast” is the foundation, or source, of that authority. The Bible reveals the true situation of the royal authority of the wild beast when it says that “the dragon gave to the beast its power and its throne and great authority.” (Revelation 13:1, 2; 1 John 5:19) Thus, the pouring out of the bowl upon the throne of the wild beast involves a proclamation revealing the true role that Satan has played and still plays in supporting and promoting the wild beast.
“Upon the Throne of the Wild Beast”
Jehovah’s Witnesses have exposed the throne of the wild beast and publicized Jehovah’s condemnation of it with statements such as these:
“The rulers and political guides of the nations are influenced by malicious superhuman forces that are irresistibly driving them on in a suicidal march to the decisive conflict of Armageddon.”—After Armageddon—God’s New World, 1953, page 8.
“The ‘wild beast’ of untheocratic human government got its power, authority and throne from the Dragon. So it must hew to the party line, the Dragon line.”—After Armageddon—God’s New World, 1953, page 15.
“The Gentile nations can locate their own selves only on . . . the side of God’s Chief Adversary, Satan the Devil.”—Resolution adopted at the “Divine Victory” International Convention, 1973.
How is this relationship between Satan and the nations maintained? When Satan tempted Jesus, he showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a vision and offered “all this authority and the glory of them.” But there was a condition—Jesus first had to perform an act of worship before Satan. (Luke 4:5-7) Can we imagine that the governments of the world receive their authority at a lesser price? Not at all. According to the Bible, Satan is the god of this system of things, so that, whether the nations are aware of it or not, they serve him. (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4) See also Job 1:6, 12; 2:1, 2; Matthew 4:8-10; 13:19; Luke 8:12; John 8:44; 12:31; 14:30; Hebrews 2:14; 1 Peter 5:8. This situation is revealed in the makeup of the present world system, which is built on narrow nationalism, hatred, and self-interest. It is organized the way Satan wants it—to keep mankind under his control. The corruption in government, the lust for power, the lying diplomacy, the armaments race—these reflect Satan’s debased personality. The world subscribes to Satan’s unrighteous standards, thus making him its god. The throne of the wild beast will be overthrown when that beast suffers extinction and the Seed of God’s woman finally abysses Satan himself.—Genesis 3:15; Revelation 19:20, 21; 20:1-3.
Darkness and Gnawing Pain
The kingdom of this wild beast has been in spiritual darkness ever since its beginning. (Compare Matthew 8:12; Ephesians 6:11, 12.) The fifth bowl brings intensified public announcement of this darkness. It even dramatizes it, in that this bowl of God’s anger is poured out upon the very throne of the symbolic wild beast. “And its kingdom became darkened, and they began to gnaw their tongues for their pain, but they blasphemed the God of heaven for their pains and for their ulcers, and they did not repent of their works.”—Revelation 16:10b, 11.
The fifth trumpet blast is not exactly the same as the fifth bowl of God’s anger, since the trumpet blast heralded a plague of locusts. But notice that at the release of that plague of locusts, there was a darkening of the sun and the air. (Revelation 9:2-5) And at Exodus 10:14, 15, we read concerning the locusts with which Jehovah plagued Egypt: “They were very burdensome. Before them there had never turned up in this way locusts like them, and there will never turn up any in this way after them. And they went covering the visible surface of the entire land, and the land grew dark.” Yes, darkness! Today, the world’s spiritual darkness has become all too evident as a result of the sounding of the fifth trumpet and the pouring out of the fifth bowl of God’s anger. The stinging message proclaimed by the modern-day locust swarm brings torment and pain to those wicked ones who “have loved the darkness rather than the light.”—John 3:19.
As world ruler, Satan has caused much unhappiness and suffering. Famine, wars, violence, crime, drug abuse, immorality, sexually transmitted diseases, dishonesty, religious hypocrisy—these and more are the hallmarks of Satan’s system of things. (Compare Galatians 5:19-21.) Even so, the public exposure of Satan as the god of this system of things caused pain and embarrassment to those who live by his standards. “They began to gnaw their tongues for their pain,” especially in Christendom. Many resent that the truth exposes their lifestyle. Some find it threatening, and they persecute those who publish it. They reject God’s Kingdom and revile Jehovah’s holy name. Their religiously diseased, ulcerous condition is laid bare, so that they blaspheme the God of heaven. No, they do “not repent of their works.” So we cannot expect a mass conversion before the end of this system of things.—Isaiah 32:6.
The River Euphrates Dried Up
The sixth trumpet blast heralded the releasing of “the four angels that are bound at the great river Euphrates.” (Revelation 9:14) Historically, Babylon was the great city that sat on the river Euphrates. And in 1919 the release of the symbolic four angels accompanied a significant fall of Babylon the Great. (Revelation 14:8) It is noteworthy, then, that the sixth bowl of God’s anger also involves the river Euphrates: “And the sixth one poured out his bowl upon the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, that the way might be prepared for the kings from the rising of the sun.” (Revelation 16:12) This too is bad news for Babylon the Great!
“Its Water Was Dried Up”
Even now, support for Babylonish religion is drying up in many places, indicating what will happen when “the kings from the rising of the sun” make their attack.
“A nationwide survey found that 75 per cent of those who live in municipal areas [of Thailand] do not go to Buddhist temples to listen to sermons at all, while the number in the countryside who visit the temples is steadily declining to about fifty per cent.”—Bangkok Post, September 7, 1987, page 4.
“The magic has gone out of Taoism in the land [China] where it was founded some two millennia ago. . . . Deprived of the magical devices by which they and their predecessors used to gain large followings, members of the priesthood find themselves without successors, facing the virtual extinction of Taoism as an organized faith on the mainland.”—The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, September 12, 1982, page 36-A.
“Japan . . . has one of the world’s largest concentrations of foreign missionaries, nearly 5,200, yet . . . less than 1% of the population is Christian. . . . A Franciscan priest working here since the 1950s . . . believes that ‘the day of the foreign missionary in Japan is finished.’”—The Wall Street Journal, July 9, 1986, page 1.
In England during the past three decades, “nearly 2,000 of the 16,000 Anglican churches have been closed because of disuse. Attendance has fallen to among the lowest of avowedly Christian countries. . . . ‘It is not now the case that England is a Christian country,’ [the Bishop of Durham] said.”—The New York Times, May 11, 1987, page A4.
“After hours of heated debate, [Greece’s] Parliament approved legislation today, enabling the Socialist Government to take over huge estates held by the Greek Orthodox Church . . . Moreover, the law gives nonclerics control of church councils and committees responsible for the administration of prized church investments including hotels, marble quarries and office blocks.”—The New York Times, April 4, 1987, page 3.
In ancient Babylon’s heyday, the abundant waters of the Euphrates were a major part of her defense system. In 539 B.C.E. those waters dried up when they were diverted from their course by the Persian leader Cyrus. Thus, the way was open for Cyrus the Persian and Darius the Mede, the kings from “the rising of the sun” (that is, the east), to enter Babylon and conquer it. In the hour of crisis, the river Euphrates failed in the defense of that great city. (Isaiah 44:27–45:7; Jeremiah 51:36) Something similar is due to happen to modern Babylon, the worldwide system of false religion.
Babylon the Great “sits on many waters.” According to Revelation 17:1, 15, these symbolize “peoples and crowds and nations and tongues”—hordes of adherents that she has regarded as a protection. But the “waters” are drying up! In Western Europe, where formerly she had great influence, hundreds of millions have openly ignored religion. In some lands, for many years there was a declared policy to try to destroy the influence of religion. The masses in those lands have not risen up on her behalf. Similarly, when the time comes for Babylon the Great to be destroyed, the dwindling number of her adherents will prove to be no protection at all. (Revelation 17:16) Though she claims a membership of thousands of millions, Babylon the Great will find herself defenseless against “the kings from the rising of the sun.”
Who are these kings? In 539 B.C.E. they were Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian, who were used by Jehovah to conquer the ancient city of Babylon. In this the Lord’s day, the false religious system of Babylon the Great will also be destroyed by human rulers. But again, this will be a divine judgment. Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, “the kings from the rising of the sun,” will have put into the hearts of human rulers the “thought” to turn on Babylon the Great and destroy her utterly. (Revelation 17:16, 17) The pouring out of the sixth bowl proclaims publicly that this judgment is about to be executed!
These first six bowls of Jehovah’s anger carry a sobering message. God’s earthly servants, supported by the angels, have been busy publicizing their contents on an earth-wide scale. In this way, due warning has been served on all sectors of Satan’s world system, and Jehovah has provided individuals an opportunity to turn to righteousness and keep living. (Ezekiel 33:14-16) Still, one more bowl of God’s anger remains. But before telling us about it, Revelation reveals how Satan and his earthly agents are trying to counteract the publicizing of Jehovah’s judgments.
The Gathering to Armageddon
John tells us: “And I saw three unclean inspired expressions that looked like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the wild beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are, in fact, expressions inspired by demons and perform signs, and they go forth to the kings of the entire inhabited earth, to gather them together to the war of the great day of God the Almighty.” (Revelation 16:13, 14) In Moses’ day, Jehovah brought a loathsome plague of frogs on Pharaoh’s Egypt, so that “the land began to stink.” (Exodus 8:5-15) During the Lord’s day, there has also been a disgusting froglike visitation, though from a different source. It consists of Satan’s “unclean inspired expressions,” clearly symbolizing propaganda designed to maneuver all human rulers, “kings,” into opposition to Jehovah God. Satan thus makes sure that they are not swayed by the pouring out of the bowls of God’s anger but are firmly on Satan’s side when “the war of the great day of God the Almighty” begins.
The propaganda comes from “the dragon” (Satan) and “the wild beast” (Satan’s earthly political setup), creatures that we have already met up with in Revelation. What, though, is “the false prophet”? This is a newcomer in name only. Previously, we were shown a wild beast with two horns like a lamb that performed great signs before the seven-headed wild beast. This deceptive creature acted like a prophet for that wild beast. It promoted worship of the wild beast, even causing an image to be built to it. (Revelation 13:11-14) This wild beast with two horns like a lamb must be the same as “the false prophet” mentioned here. Confirming this, we read later that the false prophet, like the symbolic wild beast with two horns, “performed in front of [the seven-headed wild beast] the signs with which he misled those who received the mark of the wild beast and those who render worship to its image.”—Revelation 19:20.
With so much satanic propaganda around, the next words that John records are indeed timely: “Look! I am coming as a thief. Happy is the one that stays awake and keeps his outer garments, that he may not walk naked and people look upon his shamefulness.” (Revelation 16:15) Who is coming “as a thief”? Jesus himself, coming at an unannounced time as Jehovah’s Executioner. (Revelation 3:3; 2 Peter 3:10) While still on earth, Jesus also likened his coming to that of a thief, saying: “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. On this account you too prove yourselves ready, because at an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.” (Matthew 24:42, 44; Luke 12:37, 40) Echoing this warning, the apostle Paul said: “Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night. Whenever it is that they are saying: ‘Peace and security!’ then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them.” Satan is behind any such false proclamation of “Peace and security!”—1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3.
Jesus also warned of the kind of pressures that this world, saturated with propaganda, would put on Christians. He said: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. . . . Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur, and in standing before the Son of man.” (Luke 21:34-36) “That day” is “the great day of God the Almighty.” (Revelation 16:14) As “that day” of the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty approaches, it becomes ever more difficult to cope with the anxieties of life. Christians need to be alert and watchful, staying awake until that day arrives.
What, though, is implied by the warning that those found sleeping would be shamed by losing their “outer garments”? In ancient Israel, any priest or Levite on guard duty at the temple had a heavy responsibility. Jewish commentators tell us that if anyone was caught sleeping on such duty, his garments could be stripped from him and burned, so that he was publicly shamed.
Jesus here warns that something similar can happen today. The priests and Levites foreshadowed Jesus’ anointed brothers. (1 Peter 2:9) But Jesus’ warning applies by extension to the great crowd too. The outer garments here referred to identify the wearer as a Christian Witness of Jehovah. (Compare Revelation 3:18; 7:14.) If any allow the pressures of Satan’s world to lull them to sleep or into inactivity, they are likely to lose these outer garments—in other words, lose their clean identification as Christians. Such a situation would be shameful. It would put one in danger of losing out completely.
The need for Christians to stay awake becomes even more pressing as the next verse of Revelation comes closer to fulfillment: “And they [the expressions inspired by demons] gathered them [the earthly kings, or rulers] together to the place that is called in Hebrew Har–Magedon.” (Revelation 16:16) This name, more commonly rendered Armageddon, occurs only once in the Bible. But it has fired mankind’s imagination. World leaders have warned of a possible nuclear Armageddon. Armageddon has been linked also with the ancient city of Megiddo, the site of many decisive battles in Bible times, and some religious leaders have therefore speculated that the final war on earth will take place in that limited area. In this, they are far wide of the truth.
The name Har–Magedon means “Mountain of Megiddo.” But rather than being a literal place, it represents the world situation into which all nations are gathered in opposition to Jehovah God and where he will finally destroy them. This is global in extent. (Jeremiah 25:31-33; Daniel 2:44) It is similar to “the great winepress of the anger of God” and “the low plain of the decision,” or “the low plain of Jehoshaphat,” where the nations are gathered for execution by Jehovah. (Revelation 14:19; Joel 3:12, 14) It is also related to “the soil of Israel” where the satanic armies of Gog of Magog are destroyed and that location “between the grand sea and the holy mountain of Decoration” where the king of the north comes “all the way to his end” at the hands of Michael the great prince.—Ezekiel 38:16-18, 22, 23; Daniel 11:45–12:1.
When the nations have been maneuvered into this situation by the croaking propaganda originating with Satan and his earthly agents, it will be time for the seventh angel to pour out the final bowl of the anger of God.
“It Has Come to Pass!”
“The air” is the final life-sustaining medium to be plagued. But this is not the literal air. There is nothing about the literal air that makes it deserving of Jehovah’s adverse judgments, any more than the literal earth, sea, freshwater sources, or sun deserve to suffer judgments at Jehovah’s hand. Rather, this is “the air” Paul was discussing when he called Satan “the ruler of the authority of the air.” (Ephesians 2:2) It is the satanic “air” breathed by the world today, the spirit, or general mental inclination, that characterizes his whole wicked system of things, the satanic thinking that permeates every aspect of life outside Jehovah’s organization. So in pouring out his bowl upon the air, the seventh angel expresses God’s wrath against Satan, his organization, and everything that motivates mankind to support Satan in defying Jehovah’s sovereignty.
This and the previous six plagues give the sum total of Jehovah’s judgments against Satan and his system. They are a declaration of doom for Satan and his seed. When this final bowl is poured out, Jehovah himself proclaims: “It has come to pass!” There is nothing else to say. When the contents of the bowls of God’s anger have been publicized to Jehovah’s satisfaction, there will be no delay in his executing the judgments proclaimed by these messages.
John continues: “And lightnings and voices and thunders occurred, and a great earthquake occurred such as had not occurred since men came to be on the earth, so extensive an earthquake, so great. And the great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell; and Babylon the Great was remembered in the sight of God, to give her the cup of the wine of the anger of his wrath. Also, every island fled, and mountains were not found. And a great hail with every stone about the weight of a talent descended out of heaven upon the men, and the men blasphemed God due to the plague of hail, because the plague of it was unusually great.”—Revelation 16:18-21.
Once again, Jehovah acts unmistakably toward mankind, this being signaled by “lightnings and voices and thunders.” (Compare Revelation 4:5; 8:5.) Mankind will be shaken in a way that has never happened before, as if by a devastating earthquake. (Compare Isaiah 13:13; Joel 3:16.) This blockbuster shaking will shatter “the great city,” Babylon the Great, so that it splits into “three parts”—symbolic of its collapse into unredeemable ruin. Also, “the cities of the nations” will fall. “Every island” and “mountains”—institutions and organizations that seem so permanent in this system—will go. “A great hail,” much greater than that which afflicted Egypt during the seventh plague, with each hailstone weighing about a talent, will pummel mankind painfully. (Exodus 9:22-26) This punishing downpour of congealed waters likely pictures unusually heavy verbal expressions of Jehovah’s judgments, signaling that the end of this system of things has arrived at last! Jehovah could well use literal hail too in his destructive work.—Job 38:22, 23.
Thus, Satan’s world will meet up with Jehovah’s righteous judgment. To the end, most of humankind will continue to defy and blaspheme God. As with Pharaoh of old, their hearts will not be softened by the repeated plagues or by the final death-dealing culmination of those plagues. (Exodus 11:9, 10) There will be no last-minute, large-scale change of heart. With their dying breath, they will rail against the God who declares: “They will have to know that I am Jehovah.” (Ezekiel 38:23) Nevertheless, the sovereignty of Jehovah God the Almighty will have been vindicated.