“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” (Revelation 16:12–14)
Naturally we are interested in particular in prophecies that relate to our own times. In the panorama of the Apocalypse we live in the period of the Sixth Vial. Our Master’s return coincides with this period, so we have a special reason to take a keen interest in this prophecy.
From acquaintance with books such as Elpis Israel, Eureka, Thirteen Lectures, The Apocalypse and History and The Apocalypse Epitomised many would be aware that Revelation 16:12 speaks of the gradual decline of the Ottoman Empire (described in symbol as the great river Euphrates) over the past two centuries. The mighty Ottoman Empire that once embraced almost all of North Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans “dried up” until all that was left was the modern nation of Turkey.
Not Just the Ottoman Empire
But the Sixth Vial is not limited to the territorial decline of the Ottoman Empire. Revelation 12:13 introduces the symbol of “three unclean spirits like frogs”. In recent years this symbol has been the subject of much discussion. Our pioneer brethren demonstrated conclusively that the symbol of the frog referred to France, and in particular to the militant expression of national self-determination unleashed by the French Revolution and which still destabilises the world. The French Revolution encouraged peoples in many parts of the world to throw off oppressive overlords and establish themselves as independent forces in the world.
Over the last two centuries the forces of national self determination or nationalism transformed the world. Old multinational empires such as Austria-Hungary, France, Britain and Spain have been swept away, replaced by independent nation-states. The result is a world that is increasingly insecure. Each of these nations maintains defence forces with which to defend its territories and all too frequently to force its will on others. So insecure has the world become that organisations to reverse or mitigate the expression of national self-determination such as the United Nations and the European Community have been created. The limited effectiveness of such organisations is evident in areas like the Balkans where both of these bodies struggle vainly to establish peace among warring national forces in the former Yugoslavia.
In Revelation 16:14 the frog-like spirits are referred to as “spirits of demons”. Demons were thought to be the cause of mental illness: the frog-like spirits create a spirit of madness that destabilises the world. By creating such an environment they will gather all nations to the battle of Armageddon. While the judgments associated with Armageddon affect the whole earth we know that Armageddon refers in particular to “a place” (Revelation 16:16). From prophecies such as Ezekiel 38, Joel 3 and Zechariah 12 to 14 we know that that place is Israel, focused in particular on Jerusalem.
Several Symbols – One Vial
Each component of the Sixth Vial is a fascinating study. We must not, however, ignore the juxtaposition of these various symbols within the one vial. Brother LG Sargent in The Christadelphian, volume 78 (1941), page 348, drew attention to the fact that the frog-like spirits of militant national self-determination had a particular relationship with the Ottoman Empire. In fact, they continue to have an impact on the territory formerly occupied by that empire.
Chapter 10a of The Apocalypse and History is a good overview of how the Ottoman Empire dried up before the forces of nationalism. In his book Palestine, Mesopotamia and the Jews Sir Andrew Wingate, describing how the nations of the Balkans threw off the Turkish yoke, wrote, “The first hope of deliverance reached these tortured nationalities from the French Revolution, possibly through the Jews, whom the event awakened to a sense of coming liberation” (pages 31,32). This quote is significant because it draws attention to the French Revolution as a factor in both the decline of Turkey and the development of Zionism.
In the Balkans and the Caucasus region today we see evidence of continuing nationalistic instability in lands formerly occupied by the Turk. It is also evident in the tensions between Israel and the Palestinians. Zionism, or Jewish national self-determination, owes its genesis to the spirits unleashed by the French Revolution. In accordance with prophecy, modern Zionism is focused on the land of Israel—formerly part of the Ottoman Empire. In seeking to establish a Jewish homeland in Israel Zionism has come up against the nationalistic fervour motivating Palestinians as they seek to establish an independent state of Palestine.
Seven years ago the Oslo accords brought hopes of a long-term resolution to Arab-Israeli conflict. It is now obvious that the aspirations of Jews and Palestinians are irreconcilable. At Camp David in July 2000 Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians as generous a deal as they could reasonably expect to secure. At that time Israel was prepared to compromise even on questions relating to Jerusalem. The Palestinians spurned the offer and responded with an orchestrated campaign of violence and terrorism.
A New Administration in Israel
Barak’s administration had played out its options and the Israelis knew it. In elections in February 2001 he was swept from office in a landslide. Ariel Sharon has now been installed as the new Israeli Prime Minister. Sharon is widely regarded as a ‘hard-liner’. The Australian media in particular has painted a picture of an uncompromising man implacably opposed to peace with Arabs. Jonathon Freedland said (incorrectly) that he “has opposed every move Israel has ever made towards peace—from the 70’s Camp David accords with Egypt, right through to the Oslo agreement” (The Age 8/2/2001). Seamus Milne was even more extreme, describing Sharon as “a war criminal, and a man of blood” (The Age 12/2/2001), while Amin Saikal wrote, “Sharon has been a leading advocate of a Greater Israel from Syria to the Red Sea” (The Australian 8/2/2001). Much of what has been written about Sharon is both extreme and untrue.
Sharon is an unabashed Zionist. He has an unwavering commitment to maintaining the security of the Jewish state. But Sharon is also a pragmatic politician. He knows Israel has much to gain from peaceful coexistence with its neighbours.
Ariel Sharon, as Israeli housing minister in the 1990’s, encouraged massive expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. He himself purchased a home in the Arab quarter of Jerusalem to underline his conviction that Jews have a right to live in any part of their ancient homeland. But the same man also oversaw the dismantling of the Israeli settlement of Yamit in the Sinai under the terms of the peace treaty with Egypt. And as housing minister he is credited with doing more to improve living conditions for Israeli Arabs than any of his predecessors. On 26 March the new Prime Minister met with Arab Knesset members to discuss ways of improving relations with Israeli Arabs. He told the MK’s that his administration will not take over any Arab owned property (Israel Line e-mail news service 27/3/2001).
On the night of his election win Ariel Sharon told his supporters and the world, “The government that I will lead will work towards restoring security to the citizens of Israel, and to achieving genuine peace and stability in the region” (The Review March 2001). His objective, therefore, is to secure peace by bolstering the security of Israel. In the terms of Ezekiel, he wants Israel to “dwell safely” (Ezekiel 38:8,11), a necessary precursor to the Gogian invasion.
It should not be forgotten it was another noted Israeli ‘hard-liner’, Prime Minister Begin, who negotiated a peace treaty with Egypt. It is possible Sharon could make progress where Barak failed. When Sharon became Israeli foreign Minister in the Netanyahu administration, Israel’s Arab neighbours welcomed the appointment. Sharon was regarded as a man with whom they could do business because he is so straight and direct. Shortly after his election as Israeli Prime Minister, Khaled Arif, a PLO official in Lebanon, reiterated this sentiment: “Conditions will be clearer with Sharon. With him, there are no manoeuvres” (The Review March 2001). Israel’s undemocratic Arab neighbours have no experience of pluralism or compromise. They interpreted the Barak administration’s willingness to compromise as evidence of weakness and so pressed for more and more concessions. In Ariel Sharon they have a man they will find easier to understand. But hopes for a broad peace settlement in the short-term must be slim; we know from prophecy that there is no hope of a lasting peace.
Jerusalem a Burdensome Stone
In his victory speech on the night of the election Sharon reiterated his commitment to Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel: “The Government which I will establish will pursue the strengthening and building up of a united Jerusalem” (The Review March 2001). The following day he visited the Western Wall and said, “I am visiting Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people for the past 3 000 years and the united and indivisible capital of Israel, with the Temple at its centre, for all eternity (The Australian 9/2/2001). This position is unacceptable to the Palestinians who claim Jerusalem as capital of their own state, and it is unacceptable to most nations in the world who refuse to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the city.
Since the Palestinians abandoned wide-scale open terrorism they have attracted more and more support (it will be noted that responsibility for recent terrorist outrages in Israel is always claimed by groups other than the PLO). Even nations such as the United States and Australia which have a strong tradition of supporting Israel now accept the legitimacy of Palestinians claims to an independent state. Most significantly, in the context of the Sixth Vial, Russia, the European Community and the Papacy are expressing strong support for the Palestinian cause. Russia, Europe and the Papacy are also leaders in the rejection of Israel’s claim to Jerusalem. Yassar Arafat is a regular visitor to Rome and Moscow and enjoys warm relations with both Pope John Paul II and President Putin.
In Revelation 16:13 the frog-like spirits are said to emanate from the mouths of the dragon, the beast and the false prophet. In our day these equate to Russia, the European Community and the Papacy. How significant, therefore, that these powers should be such strong supporters of Palestinian national self-determination. Brother Don Pearce in Milestones 2000 discusses this support at length (pages 72 to 86).
The spirits emanating from these mouths will bring the nations to the “battle of that great day of God Almighty”. It is feasible that if Israel and the Palestinians are unable to reconcile their differences, the supporters of the Palestinians will intervene militarily to secure or protect Palestinian ‘rights’ from the ‘oppression’ of the Israeli aggressor. Just such a scenario is being played out in Kosovo at present.
The Palestinians and Israelis appear unable to reach a final and lasting agreement. Any agreement that is achieved will be temporary. The fact is the Palestinians are not prepared to compromise. They will not be satisfied with the West Bank and the Gaza strip. Nor will they be satisfied with half of Jerusalem. They want the whole of the territory now occupied by Israel. It is significant that two Palestinian leaders closely associated with Jerusalem recently reiterated this long-standing position.
The Mufti of Jerusalem, the senior Moslem cleric in Israel, was asked in a recent interview with a German magazine to define the borders of Palestine claimed by the Palestinians. He replied: “From an Islamic point of view, it stretches from the Mediterranean to the Jordan [River]. It is Palestine in its entirety”. He went on to explain that Jews who had emigrated to Israel since 1948 would be required to return to their original homes: “The Jews from Germany should return to Germany. (laughs) After all, you like them so much, don’t you?” (Die Welt 17/1/2001).
Palestinian Authority Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, Faysal Al-Husseini, revealed the same cynical attitude in a recent speech. He said, “There is a difference between the strategic goal of the Palestinian people who are not willing to give up even one grain of Palestinian soil and the political (tactical) effort that has to do with the (present) balance of power and with the nature of the present international system. The latter is a different effort than the former. We may lose or win (tactically) but our eyes will continue to aspire to the strategic goal, namely, to Palestine from the river to the sea”. (Al-Safir, Lebanese Arabic journal, 21/3/2001. English translation by The Middle East Media Research Institute).
This said, we know that there will be a period of peace and prosperity in Israel prior to Gogue’s descent. Gogue is attracted by the prosperity and spoil and the ease with which God’s people and land can be taken. “Thus saith the Lord God; It shall also come to pass, that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought: And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land” (Ezek 38:10–12).
The scene is set for irreconcilable confrontation between Jews and Palestinians. Each is determined to exercise their national self-determination in the land lying between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. Each claims Jerusalem as their capital. The world at large, and in particular the dragon, the beast and the false prophet, are increasingly sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians. The final stages of the Sixth Vial are being worked out before our eyes. Let us have the wisdom, therefore to heed the exhortation contained within this vial: “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame” (Rev 16:15).