What does Revelation mean by its phrase the “river Euphrates, and its water dries up”?

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Revelation 16:12 speaks of the “drying up of the great river Euphrates” to prepare the way for the “kings of the east.” These verses take place at the Battle of Armageddon that will be waged in the future by spiritual Babylon.

In order to understand this prophecy, we must look back to the parallel experience of ancient Babylon. Six hundred years before Christ, pagan Babylon made war against God’s people. For 70 years they held Israel in subjection. Finally, Babylon was overcome by Cyrus the Mede, and the Israelites were freed.

Cyrus came from the east and captured Babylon by diverting the Euphrates River, and getting access under the water gates of the channel. God said to Babylon, “I will dry up thy rivers. … Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus … to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut” (Isaiah 44:27; 45:1). God “raised up the righteous man (Cyrus) from the east” (Isaiah 41:2).

The literal account in the Old Testament will be be applied in a spiritual sense at the end-time. Thus, we find in the book of Revelation that spiritual Israel or the church will get oppressed by ‘‘Babylon the Great’’ (Revelation 17:5, 6). This Babylon is not a physical kingdom but a false religious system controlled by Satan.

At the end, God’s people will get freed from the power of spiritual Babylon by the drying up of the waters of the river Euphrates. “Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared” (Revelation 16:12).

We have to keep in mind that the immediate fulfillment of Bible prophecy is always literal and local, but the last-day fulfillment has a spiritual application only. So, we do not expect a literal Cyrus to dry up a literal river to deliver a literal Israel.

What does the water represent in Bible prophecy? “The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues” (Revelation 17:15). The Bible explains that waters represent people and nations who give support to the great Babylon harlot (false religion) who persecutes the true saints (Revelation 17:6).

So, the drying up of the waters would mean the withdrawing of support by those people who had been followers of the Babylon system. The people realize that they have been deceived, and in a anger they turn on each other (Zechariah 14:12, 13).

John wrote, “These shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire” (Revelation 17:16). This drying up of support prepares the way for the “kings of the east” or the Father and the Son at the second coming to deliver their saints from the hand of Babylon (Revelation 16:12).

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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