John Wesley's Explanatory Notes
Verse 1. Pour out the seven phials - The epistles to the seven churches are divided into three and four: the seven seals, and so the trumpets and phials, into four and three. The trumpets gradually, and in a long tract of time, overthrow the kingdom of the world: the phials destroy chiefly the beast and his followers, with a swift and impetuous force. The four first affect the earth, the sea, the rivers, the sun; the rest fall elsewhere, and are much more terrible.
Verse 2. And the first went - So the second, third, &c., without adding angel, to denote the utmost swiftness; of which this also is a token, that there is no period of time mentioned in the pouring out of each phial. They have a great resemblance to the plagues of Egypt, which the Hebrews generally suppose to have been a month distant from each other. Perhaps so may the phials; but they are all yet to come. And poured out his phial upon the earth - Literally taken. And there came a grievous ulcer - As in Egypt, Exodus 9:10,11. On the men who had the mark of the wild beast - All of them, and them only. All those plagues seem to be described in proper, not figurative, words.
Verse 3. The second poured out his phial upon the sea - As opposed to the dry land. And it become blood, as of a dead man - Thick, congealed, and putrid. And every living soul - Men, beasts, and fishes, whether on or in the sea, died.
Verse 4. The third poured out his phial on the rivers and fountains of water - Which were over all the earth. And they became blood - So that none could drink thereof.
Verse 5. The Gracious one - So he is styled when his judgments are abroad, and that with a peculiar propriety. In the beginning of the book he is termed "The Almighty." In the time of his patience, he is praised for his power, which otherwise might then be less regarded. In the time of his taking vengeance, for his mercy. Of his power there could then be no doubt.
Verse 6. Thou host given then, blood to drink - Men do not drink out of the sea, but out of fountains and rivers. Therefore this is fitly added here. They are worthy - Is subjoined with a beautiful abruptness.
Verse 7. Yea - Answering the angel of the waters, and affirming of God's judgments in general, what he had said of one particular judgment.
Verse 8. The fourth poured out his phial upon the sun - Which was likewise affected by the fourth trumpet. There is also a plain resemblance between the first, second, and third phials, and the first, second, and third trumpet. And it was given him -The angel. To scorch the men - Who had the mark of the beast. With fire - As well as with the beams of the sun. So these four phials affected earth, water, fire, and air.
Verse 9. And the men blasphemed God, who had power over these plagues - They could not but acknowledge the hand of God, yet did they harden themselves against him.
Verse 10. The four first phials are closely connected together; the fifth concerns the throne of the beast, the sixth the Mahometans, the seventh chiefly the heathens. The four first phials and the four first trumpets go round the whole earth; the three last phials and the three last trumpets go lengthways over the earth in a straight line. The fifth poured out his phial upon the throne of the wild beast -It is not said, "on the beast and his throne." Perhaps the sea will then be vacant. And his kingdom was darkened - With a lasting, not a transient, darkness. However the beast as yet has his kingdom. Afterward the woman sits upon the beast. and then it is said, "The wild beast is not," Revelation 17:3,7,8.
Verse 11. And they - His followers. Gnawed their tongues - Out of furious impatience. Because of their pains and because of their ulcers - Now mentioned together, and in the plural number, to signify that they were greatly heightened and multiplied.
Verse 12. And the sixth poured out his phial upon the great river Euphrates - Affected also by the sixth trumpet. And the water of it - And of all the rivers that flow into it. Was dried up - The far greater part of the Turkish empire lies on this side the Euphrates. The Romish and Mahometan affairs ran nearly parallel to each other for several ages. In the seventh century was Mahomet himself; and, a little before him, Boniface III., with his universal bishopric. In the eleventh, both the Turks and Gregory VII. carried all before them. In the year 1300, Boniface appeared with his two swords at the newly-erected jubilee. In the self-same year arose the Ottoman Porte; yea, and on the same day. And here the phial, poured out on the throne of the beast, is immediately followed by that poured out on the Euphrates; that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared - Those who lie east from the Euphrates, in Persia, India, &c., who will rush blindfold upon the plagues which are ready for them, toward the Holy Land, which lies west of the Euphrates.
Verse 13. Out of the mouth of the dragon, the wild beast, and the false prophet - It seems, the dragon fights chiefly against God; the beast, against Christ; the false prophet, against the Spirit of truth; and that the three unclean spirits which come from them, and exactly resemble them, endeavour to blacken the works of creation, of redemption, and of sanctification. The false prophet - So is the second beast frequently named, after the kingdom of the first is darkened; for he can then no longer prevail by main strength, and so works by lies and deceit. Mahomet was first a false prophet, and afterwards a powerful prince: but this beast was first powerful as a prince; afterwards a false prophet, a teacher of lies. Like frogs - Whose abode is in fens, marshes, and other unclean places. To the kings of the whole world - Both Mahometan and pagan. To gather them - To the assistance of their three principals.
Verse 15. Behold, I come as a thief - Suddenly, unexpectedly. Observe the beautiful abruptness. I - Jesus Christ. Hear him. Happy is he that watcheth. - Looking continually for him that "cometh quickly." And keepeth on his garments - Which men use to put off when they sleep. Lest he walk naked, and they see his shame - Lest he lose the graces which he takes no care to keep, and others see his sin and punishment.
Verse 16. And they gathered them together to Armageddon - Mageddon, or Megiddo, is frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. Armageddon signifies the city or the mountain of Megiddo; to which the valley of Megiddo adjoined. This was a place well known in ancient times for many memorable occurrences; in particular, the slaughter of the kings of Canaan, related, Judges 5:19. Here the narrative breaks off. It is resumed, Revelation 19:19.
Verse 17. And the seventh poured out his phial upon the air - Which encompasses the whole earth. This is the most weighty phial of all, and seems to take up more time than any of the preceding. It is done - What was commanded, verse 1. Revelation 16:1 The phials are poured out.
Verse 18. A great earthquake, such as had not been since men were upon the earth - It was therefore a literal, not figurative, earthquake.
Verse 19. And the great city - Namely, Jerusalem, here opposed to the heathen cities in general, and in particular to Rome. And the cities of the nations fell - Were utterly overthrown. And Babylon was remembered before God - He did not forget the vengeance which was due to her, though the execution of it was delayed.
Verse 20. Every island and mountain was "moved out of its place," Revelation 6:14; but here they all flee away. What a change must this make in the face of the terraqueous globe! And yet the end of the world is not come.
Verse 21. And a great hail falleth out of heaven - From which there was no defence. From the earthquake men would fly into the fields; but here also they are met by the hail: nor were they secure if they returned into the houses, when each hail-stone weighed sixty pounds.
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