Revelation 16:3
And the second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it turned to blood like that of the dead, and every living thing in the sea died.
The Seven Vials: Predestined Suffering in the Government of the WorldD. Thomas Revelation 16:1-21

And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth. And the first went, etc. "It is incredible," says Bishop Horsley, "to any one who has not made the experiment, what proficiency may be made by studying the Scriptures without any other commentary or exposition than what the different parts of the sacred volume naturally furnish for each other." Whoever has, with honesty of purpose and persevering endeavour studied the Bible for himself, will readily endorse this statement of the bishop. I would add to this, and say that it is incredible to any one who has not made the experiment, what an amount of priceless, vital, and practical truth can be got out of the Bible by studying its utterances in connection with the unbiassed reason and common sense of the human mind. Using these Apocalyptic visions of John as an illustration of the great truths dictated by reason and confirmed by the consciousness of every man, they come to us as a priceless revelation. The great truth which this chapter suggests to us, and strikingly illustrates, is that there is predestined suffering in the government of the world. There are "seven plagues," sufferings, that have been developing, still are being developed, and will be to the end. The abyss of agony contained in these seven plagues is immeasurable to all but the Infinite. The old dogma fabricated by the old makers of our theology, viz. that the physical suffering in the world is caused by sin, is an exploded fallacy, which all geological museums ridicule in mute laughter. Suffering is an element in the government of this world. Taking the whole of this chapter, we shall find it illustrative of three subjects, viz.

(1) that all the dispensations of this suffering are under the direction of God;

(2) that they have all a great moral purpose; and

(3) that they have all an influence coextensive with the universe. Observe -

I. ALL THE DISPENSATIONS OF THIS SUFFERING ARE UNDER THE DIRECTION OF GOD. "And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go you, ways [Go ye], and pour out the vials [seven bowls] of the wrath of God upon the earth" (ver. 1). From the very shrine of the Almighty, the holy of holies, he deals out and regulates every item of the sevenfold plagues.

1. He orders their agents. Each of the "seven angels" or messengers are sent forth by him. "Go your ways." The supreme Governor of the universe conducts his affairs through the agencies of others - a vast system of secondary instrumentalities. Thus, through all nature, he gives life, supports life, and takes away life. Albeit he sits at the head and is the absolute Author of all. There is not a pain that quivers in the nerve of any sentient being that comes not from him. He says, "Go your ways," and nothing moves but by his behests. He kills and he makes alive. Is not this a soothing and a strengthening thought under all the dispensations of sorrow?

2. He appoints their seasons. The "seven angels" do not all come together; each has its period. Every impulse that moves throughout the creation, whether it be to shake a leaf in the forest or to wheel systems throughout immensity, goes forth at his own time. All times and seasons are with him. When Shakespeare says, "Troubles come not singly, but in battalions," he is not right. Mercifully they do come singly to individuals and communities, some in one period of life and some in another. To man, collectively, they are ages apart - from the groans of Abel to the throes of the last judgment. There is not a drop of sorrow in any cup that comes not from Heaven.

3. He fixes their places. Each of the seven angels who, under God, are to dispense the plagues, has his place assigned him. Each had his "vial," or bowl, and each bowl had a place on which it was to be poured. The first came upon" the earth," the second on "the sea," the third upon "the rivers and fountains," the fourth upon "the sun," the fifth upon "the seat [throne] of the beast," the sixth upon "the great river Euphrates," and the seventh "into the air" (vers. 2-12). Whether there is a reference here to plagues in Egypt, or suffering elsewhere, I know not; no one does know, nor does it matter. They were phantoms that rolled like clouds in the vision of John, and as such they illustrate the grand truth that even the very scenes and seasons of all our sorrows come from him who is, and was, and is to be, the Everlasting Father.

4. He determines their character. The sufferings that came forth from the bowls were not of exactly the same kind or amount; some seemed more terrible and tremendous than others. It appeared as a painful "sore" upon the men of the earth; it was as "death" to those on the sea; it appeared as "blood" upon the fountains and the rivers; it appeared as scorching "fire" in the sun; it appeared as "darkness" and "torture" upon the throne of the beast; it appeared as a terrible "drought," and as the spirits of devils like "frogs," on the rolling Euphrates; and it appeared as terrible convulsions of nature in the air. How different in kind and amount are the sufferings dealt out to men! The sufferings of some are distinguished by physical diseases, some by social bereavements, some by secular losses and disappointments, some by mental perplexities, some by moral anguish, etc. "Every heart knoweth its own bitterness." So much, then, for the fact that all the dispensations of predestined sufferings are under the direction of God.

II. ALL THE DISPENSATIONS OF THIS SUFFERING HAVE A GREAT MORAL PURPOSE. The suffering of the sevenfold plagues is settled in the government of God for moral ends. These ends are not malignant, but merciful. They are not to ruin souls, but to save them. They are curative elements in the painful cup of life; they are storms to purify the moral atmosphere of the world. Disrobing these verses of all metaphorical incongruities, they suggest the grand purpose of God in all the dispensations of suffering. They appear to involve three things.

1. The righteous punishment of cruel persecution. "And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord [Righteous art thou], which art, and wast, and shalt be [thou Holy One], because thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy" (vers. 5, 6). To "shed blood" anyhow is one of the foulest crimes man can commit; it is an impious infraction of a fundamental law of Heaven, "Thou shalt not kill." Words which apply to man in every conceivable capacity and relation - to the hangman and the warrior as well as to the assassin. They speak as truly to Wolseley amidst his murdering exploits in the Soudan as to any other man on the face of the earth. Blood guiltiness is the chief of crimes. But to murder "prophets," good men and true teachers, is the chief of murders. For this Heaven would be avenged, and the whole intelligent universe will so recognize this as to break into the anthem, "Even so [yea], Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments" (ver. 7).

"Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints," etc.


2. The righteous punishment of supreme worldliness. "And the fifth angel poured out his vial [bowl] upon the seat [throne] of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain" (ver. 10). Worldliness in the ascendant is indeed like this beast portrayed in the Apocalypse. It sits supreme; it has a throne, a crown, a sceptre that extends over all. Supreme worldliness, whether in the individual or the society, is a "beast" coarse and hideous; and this beast, with all its votaries, is to be crushed. The whole government of God moves in that direction. Truly "blessed is he that overcometh the world" - this "beast."

3. The overwhelming ruin of organized wrong. "And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath" (ver. 19). Great Babylon, what is it? The moral evils of the world organized into its metropolis. Falsehood, sensuality, pride, ambition, impiety, fraud, tyranny, embodied in a mighty city. This is the Babylon, and all unredeemed men are citizens in it. The Divine purpose is to destroy it. All his dispensations are against it, and will one day shiver it to pieces. "The kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever." Wrong will not stand forever before right. Though mountains of ice may stand before the glowing sunbeams of a thousand summers, wrong is bound to fall ultimately before the right. Take courage; be of good cheer!

III. ALL THE DISPENSATIONS OF THIS SUFFERING HAVE AN INFLUENCE COEXTENSIVE WITH THE UNIVERSE. There was not a drop from the bowl in either of the angels' hands that terminated where it fell. The contents of these bowls are not like showers falling on the rocks in summer, which having touched them are then exhaled forever. No, they continue to operate. The bowl that fell on the earth became an evil and painful sore; that which fell on the sea became blood and death; that which fell upon the sun scorched mankind; that which fell on the beast spread darkness and agony in all directions; that which fell upon the Euphrates produced a drought, and drew out of the month of the dragon wild beasts and strange dragons; the bowl that poured out its contents on the air produced lightnings and thunders and earthquakes, causing Babylon to be riven asunder, and every mountain and valley to flee away (vers. 2-13, 19, 20). Observe:

1. Nothing in the world of mind terminates with itself. One thought leads to another, one impression produces another elsewhere, and so on. In matter the roll of an infant's marble shakes the massive globes of space. "No man liveth unto himself." Each step we give will touch chords that will vibrate through all the arches of immensity.

2. Whatever goes forth from mind exerts an influence on the domain of matter. These angels, unseen messengers of the Eternal, go forth from that shrine into which no eye has ever pierced - the secret place of him "who dwelleth in the light, whom no man hath seen or can see." Who are they? What eye has ever seen them? what ear has ever heard the rustle of their mystic wings? the "vials" or howls they bear in their mystic hands, what eye has seen them, and what hand has touched them? And yet these invisibilities from the invisible world produce an influence upon the material. Not only do sentient creatures from the earth and the waters and the air writhe and bleed and die, but inanimate matter also. The earth quakes, the mountains tremble at their influence. Human science seems to be reaching a point when we shall find that human minds in all directions exert an influence upon the forces and the operations of material nature. Mind is the primordial and presiding force of all forces. Morally, like Jacob on his stony pillow at Bethel, we are all dreaming, unconscious of the presence of the great Spirit. Ere long, however, we shall be wakened and exclaim, "Surely God is in this place, and I knew it not." - D.T.

The seventh angel poured out his vial into the air.







VIII. WITH OUR GOD THE EXECUTION IS AS CERTAIN AS THE PURPOSE. The seer heard "a great voice from the temple, out of the throne, saying, It is done!" Note —

1. Amid the perplexity caused by the prevalence and power of evil, let us stay ourselves on God.

2. Let us do right, and wait God's time.

3. Revenge is never to be any part of our policy.

4. Let us be glad and grateful that believers in God are not left in the dark as to the meaning, aims, and issue of the Divine government of the world.

(C. Clemance, D. D.)

The air which has received the last vial may be considered as the home or seat of the devil and his angels. There is no fancy in this, for you may remember how St. Paul himself describes the devil as "the prince of the power of the air." It is, however, of little importance that we determine where fallen angels have their habitation; and perhaps the associating the devil with the air is not so much for the purpose of defining the residence of Satan as to give us information as to the nature of his dominion. We mean that probably we are not hereby taught that the devil dwells in the air — though that also may be the meaning — but rather that he has at his disposal the power of the air; so that he can employ this element in his operations on mankind. And we know of no reason why the power of the devil should be regarded as confined to what we are wont to call spiritual agency, so as never to be employed in the production of physical evil — why the souls and not also the bodies of men should be considered as objects of his attack. Indeed, forasmuch as the soul is the nobler part of man — the more precious and dignified — it would be strange if this alone were exposed to his attack, and the body were altogether exempt. We believe, therefore, that Satan may have a great deal to do with those pains and sicknesses which so abound in the world. It is certainly the representation of Scripture that Satan has much to do with inflicting diseases of the body. The woman who had "a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together" — what said Christ of her, when the ruler of the synagogue was indignant at her being made whole on the Sabbath day? "Ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo! these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?" Again, we know not exactly what that "thorn in the flesh" was from which St. Paul suffered. But the expression makes it seem probable that it was some acute bodily pain, or some oppressive infirmity; and the apostle distinctly calls it "a messenger of Satan, sent to buffet him." Do we not seem warranted in inferring from these intimations that Satan is greatly concerned in bringing maladies on men's bodies? And if this be once allowed, we may enter into the meaning of the title, "The prince of the power of the air." We are accustomed, and as it would seem with much accuracy, to refer to certain states of the air as producing certain diseases of the body. Without being able precisely to trace the connection, or investigate the cause, we consider that the atmosphere is frequently impregnated with disease and sickness, so that we may be said to inhale death whilst inhaling what is essential to life. Thus we virtually suppose the "power of the air" to be a power over health and over life; and therefore, that he who possesses that power — and this St. Paul says is the devil — must be one who is greatly instrumental in the inflicting disease. If you add to this that many of the worst calamities, as well as sicknesses with which men are visited, may be traced to the air, you have the materials from which to show that it is assigning to the devil an awful dominion to give him the sovereignty of the air. Again, we remind you that we are fully aware that Satan can do nothing except as he is permitted by God. We speak only of the power which he can wield when the permission has been granted. Never can I hear of a land which is laid waste by plague, and never can I hear of the rushing of the tornado, passing over fertile plains, and leaving them a desert, without the most startling apprehensions of the fearfulness of the enemy who can use this element as his engine, and without also feeling how justly may the final triumph of good over evil be associated with some great deed that shall be wrought in the air, even according to the representation of our text — "And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done." We Cannot well doubt that this association of the air with the devil is equally appropriate when the devil is regarded under the more common point of view — that of the assailant of the soul, the instigator to sin in all its varieties of form. It may not be so easy to show the appropriateness in this case; for we cannot make much way when we would endeavour to explain what is generally understood by spiritual agency — the operation of spirit on spirit, whether it be for good, or whether it be for evil. There is nothing more mysterious with our present faculties and capacities than those secret influences to which we are undeniably subjected — influences which employ no visible, tangible instrumentality, but whose sphere is at once the inner man, and which make themselves felt, though we know not how they enter into that hidden world, which each bears within himself. We are not, however, concerned with more than the fact, that the spirit of evil, as well as the spirit of good, has access to our minds, and can bring itself into such association and intimacy with us as to act by and through our own thoughts and feelings. Assuming this fact, it is our business to endeavour to show that our spiritual adversary, as the adversary of our souls, may fitly be described as inhabiting the air. In order to this we would remind you, that whatever is visionary and unstable, whatever is a mere delusion and cheat, this we are accustomed to connect with the air; so that we describe as aerial what we find to be unsubstantial or deceptive. It has undoubtedly been through the putting a cheat on man, that the devil, from the first, has effected his destruction. His endeavour has been too often successful l has been to prevail on man to substitute an imaginary good for a real, the creature for the Creator, and to mock their own capacities for happiness by seeking it in the finite and the perishable. If it be by what we should call a series of optical deceptions that he acts on our race, distorting one thing and magnifying another, and throwing a false colouring on a third, how is he proceeding but so as to avail himself of those strange properties of the air whence spring such phenomena as that of the Egyptian morass, the weary traveller being cheered with the appearance of the blue waters of a lake, on whose margins green trees are waving, but finding as he approaches that there is only the hot sand and no drop of water wherewith to cool his tongue? If, again, it be by crowding the field of view with witching but unsubstantial forms, with gorgeous thrones and splendid pageants, which sweep before the mind and beckon onward to disappointment — if it be thus that Satan retains, undisputed, his dominion over thousands, what can he be truly said to employ so much as the power of the air, weaving those brilliant phantoms which have seemed to hurry to and fro, as though hurrying from cloud to cloud, and causing those strange delusions which have startled the peasant, and made him think the glens into which he was entering tenanted by shadowy and mysterious beings — in short, if it be that Satan tries to deceive mankind by the inconstant and unsubstantial — if the ambitious, and the voluptuous, and the avaricious, be all and each pursuing a beckoning shadow — if the whole apparatus by which the world is lulled into moral slumber, or roused to self-destruction, be made up of the mere imagery of happiness, could any description be more apposite than one which represents the devil as lord of that element in which floats the meteor, and through which glides the spectre, and out of which can be formed nothing that we can grasp, though it may be the vehicle of a thousand deceptions arrayed in beautiful array? We take this subject of discourse because we desire, by every possible means and by all varieties of illustration, to make you aware of the powers, and put you on your guard against the malice of the devil. We are indeed well aware that it is not the devil who destroys man. It must be man who destroys himself. The devil can do nothing against us, except as we afford him opportunity, yielding ourselves to his suggestions and allowing him to lead us captive at his will. But it may at length come to pass, if we persist in walking as children of disobedience, that we quite expel from our breasts the Spirit of God, whose strivings have been resisted and whose admonitions have been despised, and enthrone in His stead that spirit of evil, whose longing and whose labour it is to make us share his own ruin. And then is there as clear a demoniacal possession as when the man was cast into the fire or water through the fearful energies of the indwelling fiend. Every sin which you wilfully commit helps forward the great design of the devil — the design of obtaining such hold on you that he may claim you as his own; and "as a strong man armed, he keepeth his goods." Let us look now once more with careful attention to our text and its context. We read in the chapter before us of seven angels, having the seven last plagues, in seven vials, each of which is filled with the wrath of God. These plagues are manifestly those tremendous judgments which are to conclude the present dispensation, and make way for that glorious season when Christianity shall have a home in every land and in every heart. The first six vials are emptied on the earth, or on the waters, or on the sun, and are followed by fearful catastrophes which are preliminary to a more tremendous one which is to close the strange work of vengeance; but it is the seventh vial with which seems associated the final deliverance of the creation — the overthrow of the Lord's enemies, and the vindication of all His attributes. For, as you learn from our text, so soon as the seventh angel pours out his vial, there is heard a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, "It is done!" as though this were the completion and consummation of a mighty and long-protracted work. Why this triumphant exclamation, "It is done!" as though the emptying of the seventh vial had finished the extirpation of evil, and made a clear scene for the erection of the kingdom of Jesus. Our whole discourse has turned on this — the vial is emptied into the air. We identify the air with the residence and dominion of Satan, and hence the seventh vial may be considered as containing those judgments which are immediately directed against the devil. The destruction of the devil's sovereignty will be the emancipation of the whole creation which has so long groaned and travailed in pain, hence the shout. Not on the land, not in the sea, not in the fountains is the vial poured; it is poured into the air, and fallen angels, who have their abode in that element which they have long polluted and spoiled, are driven down to their heritage of fire. And then the atmosphere has all the blandness and freshness of a new spring, and the lost flowers of Paradise once more cover the earth.

(H. Melvill, B. D.).

Armageddon, Babylon, Euphrates River, Patmos
Angel, Blood, Bowl, Creature, Dead, Died, Man's, Messenger, Pour, Poured, Soul, Vessel, Vial
1. The angels pour out their bowls of wrath.
6. The plagues that follow.
16. Armageddon.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Revelation 16:1-7

     6125   condemnation, divine

Revelation 16:1-21

     4113   angels, agents of judgment

Revelation 16:3-6

     7318   blood, symbol of guilt

Sin Charged Upon the Surety
All we like sheep have gone astray: we have turned every one to his own way, and the LORD hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. C omparisons, in the Scripture, are frequently to be understood with great limitation: perhaps, out of many circumstances, only one is justly applicable to the case. Thus, when our Lord says, Behold, I come as a thief (Revelation 16:15) , --common sense will fix the resemblance to a single point, that He will come suddenly, and unexpectedly. So when wandering sinners
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 1

The Sins of Communities Noted and Punished.
"Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation." This is predicated of the judgments of God on those who had shed the blood of his saints. The Savior declares that all the righteous blood which had been shed on the earth from that of Abel down to the gospel day, should come on that generation! But is not this unreasonable and contrary to the Scriptures? "Far be wickedness from God and iniquity from the Almighty. For the work of man shall be render unto him, and cause every
Andrew Lee et al—Sermons on Various Important Subjects

Opposition to Messiah Ruinous
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel T here is a species of the sublime in writing, which seems peculiar to the Scripture, and of which, properly, no subjects but those of divine revelation are capable, With us, things inconsiderable in themselves are elevated by splendid images, which give them an apparent importance beyond what they can justly claim. Thus the poet, when describing a battle among bees, by a judicious selection of epithets
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 2

Healing a Demoniac in a Synagogue.
(at Capernaum.) ^B Mark I. 21-28; ^C Luke . IV. 31-37. ^b 21 And they [Jesus and the four fishermen whom he called] go into { ^c he came down to} Capernaum, a city of Galilee. [Luke has just spoken of Nazareth, and he uses the expression "down to Capernaum" because the latter was on the lake shore while Nazareth was up in the mountains.] And ^b straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue and taught. { ^c was teaching them} ^b 22 And they were astonished at his teaching: for he taught
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

Instruction for the Ignorant:
BEING A SALVE TO CURE THAT GREAT WANT OF KNOWLEDGE, WHICH SO MUCH REIGNS BOTH IN YOUNG AND OLD. PREPARED AND PRESENTED TO THEM IN A PLAIN AND EASY DIALOGUE, FITTED TO THE CAPACITY OF THE WEAKEST. 'My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.'--Hosea 4:6 ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR. This little catechism is upon a plan perfectly new and unique. It was first published as a pocket volume in 1675, and has been republished in every collection of the author's works; and recently in a separate tract.
John Bunyan—The Works of John Bunyan Volumes 1-3

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