Kings of the East

SYNOPSISThe group labeled the “Kings of the East” is identical to the “Kings of the Earth” who are allied with the Beast – Revelation 16:12-19.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash
By chuttersnap on Unsplash
In several popular interpretations, the “kings of the east” in the book of Revelation represent a vast army from Asia determined to invade the Middle East to destroy Israel. But this reading ignores the context of the passage and its verbal allusions, both to judicial pronouncements by the prophet Jeremiah on ancient Babylon, and the description of the attack by “Gog and Magog” from the book of Ezekiel.

However, in the passage from Revelationthere is no description of an actual battle or any invasion of Israel. Instead, the “kings of the whole habitable earth” are assembled by demonic deception for the “battle of the great day of God the Almighty.” Whatever the intended target of this attack, the enemy that is destroyed by God is not identified until the emptying of the seventh bowl of wrath, namely, end-time “Babylon.”
  • (Revelation 16:12-16) – “And the sixth poured out his bowl upon the great river: [the] Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way might be prepared of the kings who were from the rising of the sun. And I saw, out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false-prophet, three impure spirits, as frogs; for they are spirits of demons doing signs, which are to go forth unto the kings of the whole habitable earth, to gather them together unto the battle of the great day of God the Almighty.—Lo! I come as a thief! Happy, he that is watching and keeping his garments, lest naked he be walking, and they see his shame.—And he gathered them together unto the place that is called, in Hebrew, Har Magedon.” - (From the Emphasized Bible).
The confrontation with the Lamb is not described in any detail until the vision of the "Rider on a White Horse," at which time the Beast and its allies gather to oppose the Lamb but are, instead, destroyed (Revelation 19:11-21).
    Chapter 16 serializes the meting out of divine wrath on the Beast and Babylon into seven “bowls of wrath,” the seven “last plagues,” which are unleashed as seven angels empty the contents of their respective bowls. Throughout the series, God initiates the retributive action and uses the vassals of the Dragon to execute His purpose.

    The contents of the sixth bowl of wrath prepare the way for His use of the “kings of the whole earth” to destroy end-time “Babylon.” This force is “gathered” to implement His judgment - The “kings of the earth” are assembled for the “battle of God the Almighty.” This is His “battle,” not that of the "Dragon" or the "Beast."

    The way “prepared for the kings of the east” employs language from a prophecy of Jeremiah on the destruction of ancient Babylon. In the sixth century B.C., Babylon was captured when an army of the “Medes and Persians” damned the Euphrates River to allow it to breach the city walls, largely unopposed. Note the verbal parallels:
    • (Revelation 16:12-13) – “And the sixth poured out his bowl upon the great river: the Euphrates; and THE WATER THEREOF WAS DRIED UP, that THE WAY MIGHT BE PREPARED OF THE KINGS WHO WERE FROM THE RISING OF THE SUN. And I saw out of the mouth of THE DRAGON, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false-prophet, three impure spirits as frogs, for they are spirits of demons doing signs, which are to go forth unto THE KINGS OF THE WHOLE HABITABLE EARTH to gather them together unto the battle of the great day of God the Almighty.”
    • (Jeremiah 50:35-38) – “A sword is upon the Chaldeans, says Yahweh, and upon the inhabitants of Babylon…A drought is upon her waters, and they shall be dried up; for it is a land of graven images, and they are mad over idols. Therefore the wild beasts of the desert with the wolves shall dwell there, and the ostriches shall dwell therein: and it shall be no more inhabited for ever; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation.”
    • (Jeremiah 51:25-38) – “Prepare against her the nations, even the king of the Medes and of the whole earth, his rulers and all his captains…Therefore thus says the Lord, Behold, I will plead thy cause, and take vengeance for you; and I will dry up her sea, and make her springs dry. And Babylon shall become heaps, a dwelling-place for dragons…without inhabitant.”
    The language from the book of Jeremiah does not mean the “kings of the east” are identical to the ancient “Medes and Persians.” The passage provides fitting imagery for God’s judgment on end-time “Babylon.” After the “kings of the earth” are assembled, “Babylon” partakes of the “wine of God’s wrath” (Revelation 16:19-20).

    The image of the “kings from the sun-rising” crossing the Euphrates is interpreted by what John “saw” (verses 13-16 - “and I saw”). At the start of the series, John “heard a great voice…Go and pour out the seven bowls of the wrath into the earth,” then he described what he saw - Demons from the Dragon, Beast, and false prophet dispatched to gather the “kings of the whole habitable earth unto the war of the great day of God.” What he saw interprets what he heard.  The “kings from the east” and the “kings of the whole habitable earth” are one and the same.
    The destruction of “Babylon” in the seventh bowl of wrath is detailed in chapters 17 and 18. The judgment of the Beast, False Prophet and the armies of the “kings of the earth” is described in Chapter 19, the vision of the "Rider on a White Horse" (Revelation 19:17-21).
    In the series of "seven bowls of wrath," God’s enemies are destroyed in sequence. In the sixth bowl, the “kings of the earth” are assembled for the “great day of the battle of God the Almighty” to destroy end-time “Babylon," as well as for their own destruction. The battle is described in Chapter 19 when the rider on a white horse destroys his enemies. Note the verbal parallels:
    • (Revelation 16:14) – “They are spirits of demons, working signs; which go forth to the kings of the whole habitable earth unto gather them together unto the war of the great day of God, the Almighty.”
    • (Revelation 19:15-21) – “And he treads the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God, the Almighty. And he has on his garment and on his thigh a name written, king of kings and lord of lords. And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in mid heaven, Come and be gathered together unto the great supper of God…And I saw the Beast, and the kings of the earth and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat upon the horse, and against his army.”
    The events put in motion by the sixth bowl have nothing to do with national Israel. It does not depict an invasion of the Middle East by a vast Asian army. The book of Revelation uses Old Testament language to build its picture of how God destroys the Dragon’s earthly agents - The Beast, the False Prophet, and “Babylon.”

    The “kings of the earth” may be allied with the Beast but become instruments of divine justice employed to destroy “Babylon.” In turn, they are judged along with the Beast and the False Prophet by the Rider on a White Horse.


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