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Chapter 16: The "Wrath of God"

    Chapters 14 and 15 are supplementary to chapters 13 and 16. In chapter 14, it was declared that severe punishment was about to fall upon those who had the "mark" of the Beast, described in chapter 13, and upon Babylon, explained in chapter 17. This "punishment" is the theme of the present chapter. In short, we are about to see how the Papacy was deprived of most of its temporal power. We are also going to discover that the most nightmarish personification of evil that has ever existed, the Third Reich, along with the War it provoked, can be found in the prophetic verses of this chapter. 


16:1 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.


The French Revolution spreads to all of Europe

    The beginning of sorrows for Roman Catholicism began with the French Revolution, which spread to all of Europe and beyond, as rapidly as a plague, assisted by Napoleon's armies. Those who were loyal to the Church of Rome, and were thus worshipping the "image", as explained in chapter 13, were treated with suspicion by the revolutionaries and were sometimes even persecuted, especially during the early stages of the Revolution in France. The Pope was taken prisoner by the French army in 1798 and a Roman Republic was proclaimed, but to last only a short time.

16:2 And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.

Overseas colonies are cut off from Rome

    The Napoleonic Wars were the means for the spreading of the Revolution, at first during the years of the French Republic, and later during the years of the French Empire, the latter (as well as the former, in its final years) ruled by Napoleon himself. During those wars, one of the regions to suffer much was the Iberian peninsula, the two countries of which, Spain and Portugal, possessed rich and vast overseas colonies, mainly in South and Central America. North America was still disputed among Catholic and Protestant countries. The turmoil in Europe ultimately resulted in independence gained by most Central and South American colonies. Spain and Portugal had always been faithful to Catholicism, and the wealth of their colonies had contributed a lot to the wealth of the Roman Church. The latter was thus deprived of much of her material support.

16:3 And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.

The Revolution of 1848-49

    The Revolution was ultimately defeated with the fall of the Napoleonic Empire, 26 years after the beginning of the Revolution. The Congress of Vienna partly re-established the former order, but it was not the same. Rome was not anymore the Capital of the world in the people's conscience. Another revolution occurred in 1848-49, which again involved most of Europe, and during which northern Italy (dominated by the valley of the large river Po {Padus}) was in markedly great turmoil, as a war erupted between Austria (representing the old powers) and the Kingdom of Sardinia (representing the powers of change). The conflict spread southward, a Republic of Rome was again proclaimed and the Pope again had to leave the city, but the Republic was again very brief in duration, and Austria won the war against Sardinia. Nevertheless, another blow had just been delivered to the old order.

16:4 And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood.

    And it was a just punishment.

16:5 And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus.

16:6 For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.

16:7 And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.

Knowledge is multiplied

    Meanwhile, science, free from all preoccupations with, and interference by, religion, was now flourishing and leading to great technological advances, producing what is known as the Industrial Revolution. Knowledge was multiplied, and human minds were opened wide to new horizons. This Sun of enlightenment was painful for those who were still clinging to their narrow-minded beliefs and would not give up worshipping other humans and human institutions. It was painful to those institutions, as well. Progress was treated with suspicion by the Church and was many times declared to be the work of the Devil.

16:8 And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.

    The Church establishment, fearing for its existence, once again used its old methods of subjugation of weak human minds. It declared the Pope to be Infallible. After all those centuries of Papal prominence in European affairs, only in 1870 was this undoubtedly blasphemous doctrine (still an official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church) officially proclaimed, in a desperate attempt by the representatives of the old order to maintain their former position of power and influence. 

16:9 And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.

    They obviously "repented not", since they declared that no mistakes had been made by the Infallible Pontiffs during past centuries.

Rome is incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy 

     A final blow was finally delivered to the very seat of Roman Catholicism. From the 1850's to the 1870's, the Catholic armies protecting the See of Rome, the French and the Austrians, lost much of their strength. A new power emerged in the Italian peninsula. It was what had started out as the Kingdom of Sardinia, and whose destiny was to expand its borders and, ultimately, grow into the Kingdom of Italy. And Rome was to become the new Kingdom's Capital. For many years, the Italian armies were occupying one region of the Papal States after the other, until they finally reached Rome and stripped the Pope of the last remnants of his temporal power. These maps show Europe before the Sardinian expansion (1840), after the partial unification of Italy (1861), and after the fall of the Papal States and the unification of Germany (1871), which led to the formation of the German Empire, or Second Reich, which would last until the end of World War I: 

1840 1861 1871

    For many years after the final incorporation of Rome into the Italian Kingdom, relations between the Italian government and the Pope were extremely tense.

16:10 And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain,

    Interestingly, the proclamation of Papal Infallibility took place almost simultaneously with the final occupation of Rome by the Italian armies. 

16:11 And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.

The Jews return to Palestine after WWI

    Let's see what the situation is in another part of the world. In the East, the formerly great Ottoman Empire is disintegrating. In the latter part of the 19th century, there were very few Jews living in Palestine, but, due to the decline of the Turkish Empire and its Islamic fervour, the Jewish population was slowly growing. In 1917, during World War I, the British captured Jerusalem from the Turks. From that time on, an even larger number of Jews began returning to the land of their ancestors. This immigration would take huge dimensions after the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

16:12 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.

     In chapter 9, the river Euphrates is closely linked to the Turkish nation. In this instance, the drying up of the Euphrates symbolizes the decline of Turkish might. These maps show the British acquisitions in the Middle East, along with the gradual decomposition of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of the Republic of Turkey:

1871 1885
1917 1925

     Some say that the Arab states established after the Ottoman decline are the "kings of the east", but this does not fit, since there is a way that must be prepared. The Arabs have been continuously inhabiting the Middle East and North Africa for many centuries, in contrast to the Jews, who were gathered to Palestine from all over the world, so a way had to be prepared for them.

The world is again led to War 

    Let's get back to Europe, where horrific events are about to take place. From the 1920's to the early 1940's, it seems like the Dark Ages are making a spectacular comeback. The Fascist Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, has created a quasi-Empire. Before the outbreak of World War II, he occupied Albania and Abyssinia, and also annexed the (Italian, anyway) colony of Libya. During the War, Slovenia, Dalmatia, Montenegro and Greece would be, for a few years, under Italian administration (although it would be the Germans that would actually occupy most of those regions). Thus, it seems that a new Empire has emerged. Many times did Mussolini affirm that Rome had once again become the Capital of a new Roman Empire. The Dragon, who symbolized the ancient Roman Empire in chapter 12, has again taken the form of a State. A new Roman Empire, now present under Mussolini, can certainly be symbolized by a Dragon, the symbol of its ancestor. It is the first time since the fall of the original Roman Empire that Rome is the political and administrative, not spiritual, centre of such a large and powerful (with a little German help) political entity.

     Mussolini also made peace with the Papacy, which had been an enemy of the Kingdom of Italy since the occupation of the Papal States by the latter. A tiny independent state, the Vatican City, was founded under the Lateran Treaty of 1929. The Papacy was given a steady income in compensation for the loss of the Papal States. Moreover, Catholicism was declared the dominant religion of the Italian Kingdom. In return, the Papacy simply agreed to refrain from criticizing the Fascist government. Since the vast majority of Italians were Catholics, this was a decisive step towards the elimination of virtually all opposition to the Fascist regime and helped the latter in its effort to gain the people's favour. Passions were flaming in the field of politics at that time, and the Church felt she had to choose between Fascism and Communism, so she chose to ally herself with what she saw as the lesser of two evils, to prevent the worst of the two from taking over.

    The great Nazi Empire is also being created. Adolf Hitler has proclaimed a Third Reich, the First Reich being the Holy Roman Empire (either from Charlemagne in 800 or from Otto I in 962). The Reich's destiny was to occupy all of continental Europe (except for neutral countries and Axis satellites), and thus revive the (Holy Roman) Empire of Charlemagne, which, as we have seen, was a short-lived version of the first Beast of chapter 13, and an heir to the Dragon of chapter 12. In other words, the Third Reich meets the criteria to be named a seven-headed and ten-horned Beast:


    During the years before the Nazi Party's ascension to power, the Catholic Church in Germany was intensely active against it. Among other things, Nazi Party members were not allowed to receive Communion. The opposition involved the field of politics, as well. The Catholic Centre Party was the strongest enemy of the National Socialist one in the German political scene, having given the country quite a few Chancellors during the years preceding the Nazis' rise to power. On the other hand, the Protestant Church in Germany did not seem to be annoyed by the growth of the Nazi Party. In July 1933, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the Vatican's Secretary of State, who had once been the Papal representative in Berlin and would, in 1939, become Pope Pius XII, signed a Concordat with the new Chancellor, Adolf Hitler. Other agreements were signed as well. It was agreed that the Vatican would have greater control over the appointing of bishops in German bishoprics, and would be allowed to run Catholic schools in Germany. Furthermore, Catholicism would be tolerated by the State. In return, it was agreed that the Catholic Centre Party would be dissolved along with all other politically active Catholic organizations, that measures against the Nazi Party (e.g. not allowing Party members to receive Communion) would be lifted, and that German Catholics would have to pledge their allegiance to the Nazi government. In other words, the agreements helped eradicate virtually all opposition to the new, evil rulers of Germany. The reason given by the Vatican for accepting Hitler's terms is that it was the only way to protect German Catholics from a possible persecution by the Nazis. Many accusations have also been made regarding the relatively silent attitude of the Vatican towards the actions of the Nazis during the War. It seems that the Vatican saw in Nazi Germany a great hope for the eradication of Communism and the Soviet Union. 

    To sum up, we have a revived Dragon (Fascist Italy), a revived Beast (Nazi Germany), and the Papacy, which, although officially opposed to totalitarian regimes, did in fact help eliminate much of the opposition to the aforementioned regimes in Italy and Germany.

16:13 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.

    In chapter 19, this False Prophet is identified with the second Beast of chapter 13 (the Papacy). Moreover, Jezebel of chapter 2 (referred to during the description of the Church of Thyatira) is named a false prophetess. 

I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. ... Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world ... will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.

 Winston Churchill - June 18, 1940

    The whole world was forced into battle because of the inhuman ideology that Germany and Italy, with the tolerance of the Vatican, tried to promote. It would prove to be the Mother of all Battles. 

16:14 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.

    In chapter 13, it was shown that "wonders" or "miracles" was referring to words of condemnation by the Pope. In this instance, condemnation was directed against "unclean" and "defective" humans, like Jews and homosexuals. (Interestingly, most Christian Churches throughout history have fiercely criticized and made war against these two same groups of people.)

    The greatest catastrophe the world has ever known was a real trial for the human spirit, so easily exhibiting humane virtues in times of peace. Instincts of survival were brought to surface, and all sorts of crimes, like murder, theft and treason, were committed during the misery of this great War.

16:15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.

World War II results in the Jewish Holocaust

    Remember how the "leader" of the Muslims (in chapter 9), Abaddon/Apollyon, had both a Hebrew and a Greek name, because he was a destroyer for both these nations and corresponding religions? I find it appropriate that the battlefield in which this great War was fought should have a Hebrew name, in honour of the millions of Jews that were tortured and/or killed by the disciples of the "master race". In reality, more Russians or Poles were killed than Jews, but the attack against Jews was not only physical, but also ideological. Should Hitler have prevailed, there would probably be very few Jews alive in the Old World today.

16:16 And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.

     In ancient Greek, the word for "he gathered" is the same as for "they gathered", when "they" is of neuter gender ("spirit" is neuter). So, the verse can also be read as "and they (the spirits) gathered them together" etc., which is in accordance with the previous comments. One should have a profound knowledge of the Greek language to be able to interpret a prophecy written in Greek as accurately as possible, and I feel lucky that I was blessed with the gift of growing up in Greece.

The world after the War

    The War's unprecedented horrors led to a massive rejection of all the mentalities that had contributed to the eruption of the War. Prejudice against Jews or homosexuals came under criticism, and a universal campaign for the protection of the rights of minorities began. Also, the Church's teachings were felt to be very closely related to the aforementioned mentalities, and this led, inevitably, to a general rejection of the Church by post-War societies. Moreover, the Roman Catholic Church, for reasons explained above, was felt to be even more closely associated with the totalitarian regimes of Italy and Germany (an impression to the creation of which the Vatican had contributed a lot), so she was criticized even more fiercely than the other Churches.

     World War II has been the last event of Biblical proportions to this day (World War I did not result in the occupation of all of Europe by Germany; it was merely an introduction to the second War). But is our current age described in this sequence of Biblical events? We saw a quite successful description of the spiritual indifference that characterizes our era of material abundance in chapter 3, during the description of the Church of Laodicea. Let's see what this chapter has to say. In our age, the world is moving at an increasingly greater speed. Our age is an age of "voices, thunders and lightnings". Just watch television for an hour and you'll see all of these. 

16:17 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.

16:18 And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.

The future

     What is this "earthquake" that is supposed to take place simultaneously with or immediately after the time of "voices, thunders and lightnings"? In chapters 6 and 11, the respective "earthquakes" symbolized dramatic and revolutionary changes, affecting both the secular and the spiritual world. Could this "earthquake" refer to the massive anti-establishment movements of the sixties and seventies, or to the great scientific and technological advances of our time? I don't know, and only time will tell. But the next verses lead me to think that this "revolution" has not happened yet, or at least its major phase has not occurred yet (This is also why I don't attribute verse 16:18 to the battles of WWII). Because, apparently, this "revolution" will be the cause of the breaking up, into three parts, of the Great City. The latter is the one that receives punishment in chapter 11 (where she is also called Sodom and Egypt), and is identified, in chapter 18, with the City of Babylon, who, in chapter 17, sits on the seven hills of Rome (in other words, the Church of Rome). The City of God, on the other hand, is named "Holy Jerusalem" and "the beloved City", and is presented to us only after the City of Babylon has been defeated. Thus, the Church of Rome may be destined to be divided into three parts and then collapse, as is shown in the next verse. This will probably be accompanied by the extinction of all other Churches ("the cities of the nations"), and probably of all other religions as well, at least in their present form. It will indeed take an astonishing, global-scale event to produce such a result. The Christian Church has played her part in our spiritual ascension, but has grown old, and must now retire. The community of followers of the Word of God must create a new Church, one that will not make the mistakes of the past. This new Church will lead humankind to a new golden age of light and knowledge, that will last for a thousand years (chapter 20) and, ultimately, after a final clash with the powers of Darkness, for all eternity. Of course, regarding verses that refer to the future, only speculation is possible. And we must be extremely careful should such events begin to take place, as verse 16:21 speaks of a "blasphemy", which is still in the future. This means that, after the prophesied (if my interpretation is correct) downfall of presently existing Churches, there may appear a new movement among the people, characterized by "blasphemy" in a way that I cannot foresee. But such a movement cannot last long, since chapter 19 declares that, after the downfall of the Whore, the Bride of Christ will come.

      In conclusion, I believe that verses 16:18 to 16:21 are the ones that describe our immediate future, before the "Millennium of peace" begins. It could be argued that these "1000 years" signify 360,000 years, in accordance with the "day-year" principle used throughout the Apocalypse. I don't believe this is so. The arrival of the true Church will usher in a new era of light, during which all falsehoods will be gone, and everything will be seen for what it really is. Thus, "a thousand years" probably signify a thousand actual years. 

16:19 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.

16:20 And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.

16:21 And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.

    If my commentary on the rest of chapter 16 is generally correct, we could be heading for some pretty interesting times. An event ("earthquake") will take place, one that will shake our society from its foundations, and will probably be the cause of the death of the old religious establishments. "Islands and mountains", referring to offices and positions of power, shall not only change hands, as in chapter 6, when Christianity replaced the Graeco-Roman Pantheon, but shall disappear altogether, meaning that a totally new society will emerge. A great catastrophe ("hail" of "exceeding great" proportions), and a great "blasphemy" (?) will accompany this reversal of the current world order.