The River and the Kings of the Sixth Plague
Revelation 16:12
r1612
For the context see the comments table
16:12 a
River dried up

   ^   And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon. (Rev. 16:12-16).

   Some interpreters see the river name, "Euphrates," and try to factor its Middle East location into an Armageddon battle involving Arabs. While a partially literal interpretation would not be ruled out looking at the immediate context, this does not fit the larger picture. I'll share my understanding.

Babylon taken
   Babylon is not named but we see it in the symbolism and verse 19 apparently confirms the identification. You may remember that Babylon and its fall are very significant in the symbolism of Revelation, 1408a. The description of the sixth plague draws meaning from the same imagery of  the enemy relationship between Jerusalem and Babylon. The Euphrates ran through the city providing a water supply in time of siege.
   The fall of Babylon had been predicted by the Hebrew prophets, 1408d. In BC 539, the Persian army of Cyrus came toward the city but a sacred horse drowned and he didn't attack. This approach was the prophetic signal for believers in the true God to leave the city (Jer. 51:45). Cyrus had his army dig channels so the river could flow around the city. Then, in 538, with water flowing in the special channels, Persian armies marched under the walls in the river bed and entered the city through the open gates between city and river just as God had said it would happen. Isa. 44:27; Jer. 50:35, 38. They had chosen the night of Belshazzar's wild and profane party, 1408e.
   "Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden [held], to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut." (Isa. 45:1).
   "And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old." (Dan. 5:31)

Great river
   Did you notice the adjective? The Euphrates was one of the supposed strengths of "great Babylon" 1408a-gr. So here it is "the great river."

The text speaks of "kings," plural
   The Persians had conquered the Medes. "Darius the Mede" was the first king after the fall of Babylon (Dan. 5:31) ruling under Cyrus the Persian monarch. Cyrus came for a visit a couple of weeks after the overthrow and was welcomed by everyone.
   Christ promised to make us kings and priests 0106. These represent His true followers.

Spiritual destitution
   A river before the flood was called the Euphrates. It's drying up here has a spiritual meaning.
   "And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. . . . And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates." (Gen. 2:10, 14).
   In Revelation, chapter 17, we find a significant reference to Babylon and waters. "These [kings who have supported the beast] shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth [Euphrates ran through the city of Babylon], are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate [waters dried up] and naked [truth about her revealed], and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. . . . And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth." (Rev. 17:14-18). Compare Jer. 50:38.

16:12 b
Kings of the East

Why East?
   The term is literally "rising of the sun" so may mean more than a direction. We recall that the Messiah would be the "Sun of righteousness" (Mal. 4:2).
   " . . . Zacharias [father-to-be of John the Baptist] was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us [Christ, soon to be born] . . . .
   And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways. . . . Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring [rising sun] from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." (Luke 1:67-79)
   "And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory." (Ezek 43:2)
   "For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." (Matt. 24:27) Also see Mal. 3:16, 17; 4:2; Rev. 19:11, 14.

   As noted earlier, we may see the kings as Cyrus and Darius. Two are seen in the prophecy of Isaiah, Isa. 21:9, 1408d-isa. Cyrus was God's servant. Darius was his helper. They came with the Persian army.
   "And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared."
   Cyrus was a type (or symbol) of Christ as the one to liberate God's people from the city of Babylon. "Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus. . . . I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me." (Isa. 45:1-4)
   In chapter 19 we find Christ coming on the white horse with the armies of heaven 1911. They come to punish the end-time wicked, as the destroying angel came in Egypt to those houses not protected by the blood of the lamb.
   As I see it, People, just before probation closes, will begin to understand the religio-political world power, and its influence will weaken. Those in control will be angry with the ones who have enlightened the people about the false power. God will then protect His ambassadors as He did the wise men.
   We find the same events pictured near the end of Daniel 11. "But he [the wicked king] shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver [he requires a "mark" to buy and sell, 1317b], and over all the precious things of Egypt: and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps. But tidings out of the east and out of the north [kings of the East] shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away [devote to destruction] many." (Dan. 11:43, 44). Daniel 12 begins by describing the time of trouble, which is the time of the final plagues we are studying.

The loud cry
   "And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." (Rev. 18:1-4).
   In His final appeal to humanity, God calls His children who are still connected with the false religious system to join His remnant people, 1217f. Just before the seven last plagues begin to fall, human messengers, as kings of the east, are led to communicate this appeal.
   In chapter 13 we saw the beast's image empowered to ". . . both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. . . . And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." (Rev. 13:15-17).
   The two ways of destruction mentioned in Daniel 11 ("destroy and utterly make away") are the two punishments threatened for not accepting the evil power. The threat of not being able to buy or sell, I believe, will be carried out before probation closes (and the plagues begin). Now, in the darkness of the fifth plague, the image attempts to carry out his other threat, to kill those whose call has countered  his attempt to totally control all humanity.

Kings of the East conquer Babylon
   How are the scenes we have been discussing related to the history of literal Babylon? We have seen that God sent Cyrus and Darius, above.
   During the 6th plague the water of the river is dried up in preparation for the kings to enter with their armies. Their entry is the 7th plague. "And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared." 1612.

End Times Foreshadowed

Story of God's Ancient People 
Prophecy of God's End-time People
Jerusalem and temple in ruins. Jewish people taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar Coming oppression under the image to the beast 1417b
Belshazzar's open defiance of the true God 1408e Law of earth beast and image demanding worship due only to God r14g
Preparation to conquer Babylon the river dried up for kings of the East above Support withdrawn for the popular religious system r17
Darius takes Babylon, under Cyrus 1408b  Cyrus as "anointed" frees the captives to return to Jerusalem. (Ezra 1; Isa. 45:1, 13) The righteous, although oppressed, 1417b, go out as kings to give the last warning, above (18:4) r18.
Jerusalem restored (Ezra 7) New Jerusalem comes down (Rev. 21)

   What a wonderful Saviour who died for us before we knew Him, and who will be by our side as we face the days ahead.

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