16:12 THE KINGS FROM THE EAST
“And the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared” (Revelation 16:12). The Euphrates was the river that ran through ancient Babylon, providing the water it needed to exist. It was dried up when Cyrus, emperor of the Persian Empire, diverted the river so that his troops could enter and conquer Babylon through the dry riverbed. Thus the drying up of the river Euphrates points to the downfall of Babylon.
Babylon at the time of the Seven Last Plagues is the international religious system led by the "beast," which, through the sophistry of Satan, manages to “deceive the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). Waters in Revelation represent “peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues,” so the drying up of the river Euphrates would represent the time when the people of the world will suddenly wake up and realize that they have been deceived and will withdraw their support from the Babylon religious system.
The previous (fifth) plague was poured “on the throne of the beast and his kingdom became full of darkness” (v.10), striking right at the heart of the beast system. Just as the plague of darkness in Egypt only affected the Egyptians while the people of God “had light in their dwellings” (Exodus 10:21-24), so this darkness will only affect “the beast and his kingdom.” The deceived masses will finally begin to understand that they have been on the wrong side, that the “god” they have been serving has no power to protect them, and that instead God is protecting the saints who are being attacked by their politico-religious system. This is elaborated on in chapter 17, where the great harlot (the false church) is shown riding or controlling the “scarlet beast” (the political system). But the final manifestation of the scarlet beast, represented by ten horns, will in the end turn against the harlot—“the ten horns…shall hate the harlot, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh and burn her with fire” (Revelation 17:16). This quantum shift in thinking will prepare the way for “the kings from the east”.
There has been much speculation as to the players in the drama of Revelation 16, especially those connected with the Battle of Armageddon such as “the kings from the east,” with most of the attention focused on China. Although this commentary has correlated the seven trumpets with the last great war between the King of the North and the King of the South, which apparently takes place in the Middle East (see 9:3 The Locust Army), and it is possible that China could be involved, the Battle of Armageddon will be much more universal in nature. It is Satan’s last attempt to exterminate God’s people wherever they may be found. The evidence indicates that “the kings from the east” are not the armies of earthly superpowers; they represent the “armies of heaven” coming to earth on a rescue mission(Revelation 19:14).
The phrase “from the east” is found in only one other place in the Book of Revelation: “Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God” (Revelation 7:2). It is clear in this verse that it is a messenger from God’s kingdom who comes from the east. Moses, Aaron and his sons and the faithful tribe of Judah all camped on the east side of the tabernacle (Numbers 2:3, 3:38), and the children of Israel entered the Promised Land from the east (See Joshua 4:19). “The glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east…and the glory of the Lord came into the temple by way of the gate which faces toward the east” (Ezekiel 43:2,4). All of these verses indicate that it is God’s kingdom that comes from the east.
The “King of Kings,” Jesus, is the one “from the east” and this verse refers to the Second Coming of Christ. In some sense His coming is “prepared” by the drying up of “the great river Euphrates.” The multitudes of the world ("the great river Euphrates") will realize that they have been deceived by Babylon. In a flash of insight they will see that they have been fighting against their Creator, and they will cry “to the mountains and rocks, ‘fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!” (Revelation 6:16). The use of the plural (“kings of the east”) shows that Jesus does not come alone. Christ comes with “the armies of heaven” who “followed him on white horses” (Revelation 19:14) These armies no doubt include kings such as the 24 elders who “sang a new song, saying, ‘You…have made us kings and priest to our God; and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9,10).