And the sixth angel poured out his vial on the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up…
Is it possible, after all, that we have mistaken the character of the final triumphs of humanity and Christianity? Are they to be peaceful triumphs? or are they to be gained in the bloodiest grapple of the long-opposing forces which the pen of history ever had or ever shall have to record?
1. In the first place it lies level to the most superficial observation that this, our earth, was chosen of God as the theatre of a great judicial conflict. This world is not a pleasure-garden in God's realm, in which white-footed angels may walk at the cool of day, fearing no thorns or flinty roughness, and inhaling only the fragrance of roses and spices. It is not a place of idle sauntering for any citizens of God's empire, just giving grateful shade, and musical with birds and fountains. It is a rough battlefield on which Good and Evil are met to strive for the mastery. It would not be strange, then, at all if in a world so purposed and elected the conflict should ever be keener; the progress be not more and more pacific, but more and more troubled and stormy; the struggle should ever gather to itself on either side more masterful forces, and the final battle be more resolute and deadly, as it is to be more determinate than any that have gone before.
2. But let us descend for a little from the broad view to details of the engagement, and see how the strife goes in the individual heart — what the law of progress, and what the character of the most decisive victories. Leave out the more spiritual aspects of the conflict for a moment, and come in upon one who is wrestling with some evil habit. Here is a man trying to break away from the bands of intemperance. His first efforts are feeble and ineffectual. He doesn't understand the power of his adversary. All his measures are mild, all his efforts are languid. He tries gentleness and moderation long enough to see that they only play into the hands of the enemy. It begins to dawn upon him that nothing but a terrible final duel can lay his enemy prostrate. Now the grim appetite rises in its strength. The soul, too, seeks to put on power. It thinks of whatever may stimulate its prowess — property wasted, health blasted, name dishonoured, family comfort and peace desolated, life imperilled — and meets the dread hour. It has need of all the heroism it can summon up. It navel: knew till now what the contest must be, and more than once now, doing its best, it may be worsted. It must yet put forth a more desperate strength. The battle that wins for it deliverance, that breaks the tyrant's sceptre, will be the fiercest battle of all the war. So it is with all the vices — with every evil habit. Is it not thus with the more spiritual struggles for the new spiritual life? The soul begins perhaps by entertaining graver thoughts. That is well, but that doesn't end it. It isn't even the beginning of the end. It reasons with its wild and lawless propensities. The headstrong rioters laugh at such proclamations. They are paper-bullets. It seeks realise an outward reformation. This is no more than cutting off the outposts of evil — shooting down a picket or two. It tries exercises, Bible-reading, praying, good-willing; but only to discern more clearly how immovable the heart. The heart is yet securely intrenched. The citadel has not been carried. The soul becomes more in earnest, and the forces waken and multiply on either side — the truth pleads, and conscience and fear and the Holy Ghost and the world pleads — and the flesh and the adversary. This will be another struggle from any that have gone before. It will be a striving unto blood. It will be a grapple for life or death. The soul, if it wins, comes out of it after all pale and spent, with scarce strength to raise the shout of victory. Is not this private and individual strife an epitome of the larger — the public — the universal and comprehensive struggle? Are not the final conflicts ever the most desperate? Is not the fact of hopeful progress declared, not by increasing pacification, but by the growing sternness and fierceness of the contest?
3. When these three combine against God and his people — Sadduceeism, with audacious head; absolutism, with a chained fellow-man beneath its heel; and false religion, binding and loosing human consciences with a lie — then will that last great battle be joined whose fortunes and whose fluctuations will issue in giving the kingdom to the saints of the most High God. There will yet be such a combination. There is yet to rock the perturbed earth the tumult of that battle-day. Evil is not to be quietly dispossessed of its seat in this fair province of God. It holds by immemorial possession. It shall please God to show the full prowess of truth. The mightiest rally of evil in its united strength will be permitted. Gog and Magog will be gathered to the war. The false prophet, the beast, and the old dragon will consolidate their divisions in one dread array. Christianity will advance her banner and sound her charge. Considering what she is called to encounter, considering the long historic past, considering all the prophetic intimations, it will not be strange if she is called to contend against carnal weaponry. That "Armageddon" of the Lord, on which evil, with all its myrmidons, is finally to fall down slain, will be, we believe, not figuratively, but in some part of it, and in the high places of the field, literally an "aceldama." There will be "the thunder of the captains," "with confused noise and garments rolled in blood."
(A. L. Stone.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.