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The Book of Revelation
Chapter Sixteen
One Bahá'í's Concept


This chapter points to 1914 as the beginning of Armageddon which will culminate in the Catastrophic Battle. While some interpretations may correctly emphasize more literal physical events (such as biochemical weapons) associated with the vials discussed throughout this chapter, the emphasis here is more on their spiritual significance and their relationship to each of seven religions.

All the events are of course also archetypes and as such 'Abdu'l-Bahá has applied a number of them to Islám. The italicized quoted interpretations of the verses of Revelation Chapter 16 are all attributed to 'Abdu'l-Bahá by pilgrims notes of Isabella Brittingham in an April 1909 letter which has been translated at 'Akká by Monever Khanum. The source used here is Understanding the Revelation to Saint John (pages 287 to 291) by Dr. Alan D. Clark and the letter to the believer is also mentioned on page 93 in New Keys to the Book of Revelation by Ruth Moffat. The notes, as presented here, are aligned to match with the verses and the quotes from Isabella Brittingham's translation are emphasized. Once again, these are considered as 'Pilgrim's Notes' rather than authorized text.

Bible Verses

[1] And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.

v1. A Great Voice from heaven (identified with Bahá'u'lláh) told the angels that now was the time to pour out the vials of wrath upon the earth. We are told in this chapter the reasons for such a troublesome world.
[2] And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.

V.2 We identify the First Angel with the Sabean Faith and Native religions spread throughout the world. The first vial poured upon the earth are the tyrannical leaders that hold sway over humankind. The 'mark of the beast' is their character.
    "The first angel is a power who will give forth wonderful signs. The first vial really means influence. Through that influence some who were apparently good, but inwardly bad, were destroyed; they were deprived of the light. These people in their characters were really like animals; the 'mark' here signifies character."
    Governments and peoples of both the developed and developing nations, and other human institutions, secular and religious, finding themselves helpless to reverse the trend of the catastrophic events of the day, stand bewildered and overpowered by the magnitude and complexity of the problems facing them.
    (The Universal House of Justice,
    Messages from the Universal House of Justice
    p. 33-34)

[3] And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.

V.3 The second vial poured upon the sea are the 'learned' who changed the Teachings of the Prophets such that they became without vitality - like the blood of a dead man - and it killed the souls of all who swam in their sea, that is to say all those who were influenced by their false teachings. While the second vial is associated with the Second Angel, which is identified with the Hindu Religion, it is an archetype for all the religions and here 'Abdu'l-Bahá shows how it applied to the Faith of Islám.
    "The second angel, or power, poured out his cup upon the sea; the sea here symbolizes the Ulama, the great and learned people like, for instance, Caiaphas. The second angel poured upon them the wrath of God, and they as well as those under their authority and guidance, were deprived."
The Ulama is the Islámic hierarchy and Caiaphas refers to the Jewish hierarchy, as he was the person who was responsible for Christ's crucifixion.

[4] And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood.

V.4 The third vial was the broad spreading (like on the rivers and fountains) of the rules of human law, rather than God's Principles of Justice, by the officials, bureaucrats and managers who were deprived of spiritual knowledge. This is signfied as becoming blood both here and in (Rev.8:8). While the archetypal Third Angel is associated with the Jewish Religion, all the vials are associated with each of religions and here 'Abdu'l-Bahá shows the relationship to Islám.
    "In the 4th verse, the rivers and fountains of water signify less influential men than the Ulama, who were likewise affected, because the knowledge of the people which should be, like water, the cause of life, becomes like blood; it becomes the cause of misleading the people (and so the cause of death), for they changed the teaching of God,"

[5] And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus.

V.5 The Third Angel is always associated with the Jewish Faith, which is always associated with 'rivers' and 'waters' which are symbolic of knowledge, learning and teaching.
    "In the 5th verse the angel of the waters (i.e. the power of knowledge) is addressing God. He says: Thou art just and righteous, for these people deserved that their knowledge should be changed into blood."

[6] For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.

V.6 The saints and Prophets had their blood shed in bringing God's message to us. Those who are responsible for the shedding the blood of Prophets become dark in their spirits (blood).
    "For as they have changed the teachings of the Prophets, God has changed their knowledge into the blood of darkness, that they may drink it because of their deserts (sic)."

[7] And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.

    "In the 7th verse another angel of power speaking confirms this, that God is just and righteous to have judged the people."

[8] And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.

V.8 The fourth vial poured upon the sun is the rule of tyrannical leaders that sear the very souls of men.
    "The fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun. The sun here means an Eastern potentate or king, because we call the sun the Eastern Planet. The heat of the sun signifies his rule and authority and the people will be scorched or burnt through the fierceness of his rule."

[9] And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.

V.9 Future times may also see application of these verses in Iran (the descendants of the Zoroastrian culture) and events surrounding nuclear weapons which use the very energy of the sun.
    "This Eastern king was the Sultan Mahmoud who ruled the Turkish people, and he was very unjust. Once he slew many thousands of soldiers in one day. But, in spite of these events and trials, the people did not repent, and did not come to themselves."
Sultan Mahmoud, reigned from 1808-1839, and the 'Reign of Terror' began between the Greeks and the Turks in 1820. Iran and Turkey have in past history ruled the same lands and parts of modern day Turkey were at one time a part of Iran and parts of modern day Iran were at one time a part of Turkey.

[10] And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain,

V.10 The Fifth Angel poured the vial on the seat of the beast - the Persian Islámic hierarchy who brought darkness to Iran when the Faith was banned and persecuted as they tried to extinguish the Spiritual Light that had dawned there. The Fifth Angel being associated with the Buddhist Faith and the Far East may yet have some interaction and involvement in bringing the vial of destruction to Iran.
    "In the tenth verse, the 'seat of the beast' means the king of Persia, seated on his throne, upon whom the cup of the fifth angel was poured."

[11] And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.

    "But the people were not admonished by all the calamities which occurred."
That is to say they were completely immersed instead in their rebellion against the true principles of religion and so were not awakened by the calamities. The same applies today, in that people are completely immersed in today's materialism and immorality and in effect curse God for not having organized the world to their liking.

[12] 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.

V.12 The sixth angel is identified with Christianity and the Christian nations, such as the United States and Britain, and it is indicative that they may bring their destruction to the area of the Euphrates river which is in Iraq (centering around Baghdad) and what was Assyria (Rev:9:18). In a spiritual sense, this sixth vial is the lack of education poured into that area by extreme Islámic fundamentalism.
    "In the 12th verse, the sixth angel poured his vial upon the river Euphrates, which signifies the Turkish and Persian kingdoms. The drying up of the water means all learning and science was abolished and that ignorance prevailed. This made the way easy for the kings of the East to become powerful and arbitrary."
This lack of education in the archetype is symbolic of the lack of education in the whole world and especially of the lack of spiritual education that permits the masses of the world to be blind to the shortcomings of its leaders. Instead the ignorant masses are completely preoccupied with frivolous pursuits of entertainments, sports, fads and such.

[13] 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.

    "In the 13th verse, the dragon is Hadji Mírzá Aghassi, ('Aqási) who was Grand Vizier of Persia, and the beast signifies the king of Persia. The false prophet was Karim ['Kalim' in Clark's book] Káhn, one of the greatest of the Ulama of that country; he used to say 'My words are revealed from above.'"
    .a certain man, [Hájí Mírzá Karim Khán] reputed for his learning and attainments, and accounting himself as one of the pre-eminent leaders of his people, hath in his book [Guidance Unto The Ignorant] denounced and vilified all the exponents of true learning. This is made abundantly clear by his explicit statements as well as by his allusions throughout his book. . From this title We perceived the odour of conceit and vainglory, inasmuch as he hath imagined himself a learned man and regarded the rest of the people ignorant. His worth was in fact made known by the very title he had chosen for his book. It became evident that its author was following the path of self and desire, and was lost in the wilderness of ignorance and folly. Methinks, he had forgotten the well-known tradition which sayeth: "Knowledge is all that is knowable; and might and power, all creation." .We noticed that he had enumerated some twenty or more sciences, the knowledge of which he considered to be essential for the comprehension of the mystery of the "Mi'raj". We gathered from his statements that unless a man be deeply versed in them all, he can never attain to a proper understanding of this transcendent and exalted theme. Among the specified sciences were the science of metaphysical abstractions, of alchemy, and natural magic. Such vain and discarded learnings, this man hath regarded as the pre-requisites of the understanding of the sacred and abiding mysteries of divine Knowledge.
    The Kitáb-i-Íqán,
    p. 186)

[14] 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.

    "These three people tried their utmost to turn all the people against the Cause of God so that they might oppose it, and so make war against God. The spirits like frogs signify their words which were spread throughout Persia."
The three people are also archetypes of great powers (rulers, kings, governments) but whose spirits are devils that show miracles (what appear to be wondrous accomplishments), to the kings of the whole world, gathering them to the final battle in the day of God Almighty.
    "This Sun will be resplendent, this Light will shine, My grace will surround the world, and all My enemies will be brought low." And as He said, so it was; for all the kings of the earth have not been able to withstand Him. Nay, all their standards have been overthrown, while the banner of that Oppressed One has been raised to the zenith."
    Some Answered Questions,
    p. 17)

[15] Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.

    "In the 15th verse, the words 'behold I come as a thief, etc.' are spoken by the Proclaimer of all this, the "Great Voice" as He is called at the beginning of the chapter. He says He will come suddenly like a thief, as Christ said He would come, so that no one will know it, for the thief is in the house without the inhabitants being aware of it. Therefore blessed is the one who is awake when a Manifestation comes; you will know Him. It is also said 'he keepeth his garments'. These garments signify the good qualities which the man possessed, such as love, sincerity, etc He ('that watcheth') must keep that good character, which is like adorning him."
Bahá'u'lláh, The Glory of God is the 'The Great Voice' the one that fulfills the prophecies of all the religions of the past.

[16] And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.

    "In the 16th verse, Armageddon signifies Roumelia and Macedonia, for often the kings have gathered together on subjects concerning these places."
Both Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá foretold of a period of great social upheaval, conflict and calamity, as a result of the irreligion and prejudices, the ignorance and superstition, prevalent throughout the world. In an address in California in 1912, 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave a warning; that Armageddon began with the first World war in 1914.
    "We are on the eve of the Battle of Armageddon referred to in the 16th Chapter of Revelation. The time is two years hence, when only a spark will set aflame the whole of Europe. The world is at the threshold of a most tragic struggle.the slightest friction will bring them into a terrific crash, and there will be a conflagration, the like of which is not recorded in the past history of mankind."
    Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era,
Wars and rumors of wars have gone on ever since.
    Jer.4: 22,27,29
    Matt 24: 7,8,21,22
    Luke 21: 19,20,25,28
    Matt.13: 49,50

[17] And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.

V.17 The Seventh Angel, identified with the Islámic Religion, is the last in order and when He acts the Great Voice (identified with Bahá'u'lláh) says that "It is done". This may well be the precipitating event to the Great War.
    "Verse 17, the seventh angel poured out his influence upon the world. It is said that he poured it in the air, because the air fills every place, and the continuing verses mean the Great War that is to come. After the war everything will be at peace."

[18] And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.

    "And there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail," meaning that after the appearance of the Book of the Testament there will be a great storm, and the lightnings of the anger and the wrath of God will flash, the noise of the thunder of the violation of the Covenant will resound, the earthquake of doubts will take place, the hail of torments will beat upon the violators of the Covenant, and even those who profess belief will fall into trials and temptations."
    Some Answered Questions,
    p. 60)
    (regarding Rev 11:19)
A great earthquake is told about in Isaiah 13:13; 24:20; 29:5; 38:7-8 This is a major upheaval, as it affects the whole world. Some see it as even the earth shifting on its axis.
    13:11 And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.
    13:12 I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir
    13:13 Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.
    24:20 "The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard.
    29:5 "Yea, it shall be at an instant, suddenly,"
    38:7 And this shall be a sign unto thee from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he hath spoken;
    38:8 Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.
[19] And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.

    "The city which was cut in three pieces means that the kingdom of Babylonia, which is under three kings, those of England, Persia and Turkey"
(Palestine was under English law at the time).Babylon, a symbol of the great city, also was given the cup of wine of the fierceness of God's wrath. It is now in remembrance. The kingdom of Babylonia in Bible times was in the area of Iraq, Iran, Palestine and Turkey.

Shoghi Effendi in 'Citadel of Faith p.124-128' is warning America.

    "The steady and alarming deterioration in the standard of morality as exemplified by the appalling increase of crime, by political corruption in ever widening and higher circles, by the loosening of the sacred ties of marriage, by the inordinate craving for pleasure and diversion, and by the marked progressive slackening of parental control, is no doubt the most arresting and distressing aspect of the decline that has set in.if not remedied, is bound to involve the American nation in a catastrophe of undreamed of dimensions."

[20] And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.

    "The island and the mountains of verse 20 mean people of influence, and also small kingdoms, which will be destroyed and annihilated at that time."

    XVIII. "The mountains have passed away, and the heavens have been folded together, and the whole earth is held within His grasp, could ye but understand it. Who is it that can protect you? None, by Him Who is the All-Merciful! None, except God, the Almighty, the All-Glorious, the Beneficent."
    Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh)

[21] And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.

    "In verse 21, the 'great hail' means both bombs, shells, instruments of destruction and the calamities and hardships which will cause people to blaspheme."
The people were greatly angered, and blasphemed God. The great hail symbolizes weapons of destruction of all kinds that shall reign from the skies upon men whether in the form of gases, deadly disease germs, guided missiles, or bombs. The sustaining grace is that 'Abdu'l-Bahá assures us that, in spite of the trials and tribulations through which humanity must pass, this century of light will bring about the unity of mankind, and a glorious new day.

Bahá'u'lláh has written:

    "The promised day is come, the day when tormenting trials will have surged above your heads, and beneath your feet, saying: "The days are approaching their end, and yet the peoples of the earth are seen sunk in grievous heedlessness, and lost in manifest error." "Great, great is the Cause! The hour is approaching when the most great convulsion will have appeared. I swear by Him Who is the Truth! It shall cause separation to afflict everyone, even those who circle around Me." "Say: O concourse of the heedless! I swear by God! The promised day is come, the day when tormenting trials will have surged above your heads, and beneath your feet, saying: 'Taste ye what your hands have wrought!'" "The time for the destruction of the world and its people hath arrived. He Who is the Pre-Existent is come, that He may bestow everlasting life, and grant eternal preservation, and confer that which is conducive to true living." "The day is approaching when its [civilization's] flame will devour the cities, when the Tongue of Grandeur will proclaim: 'The Kingdom is God's, the Almighty, the All-Praised!'" "O ye that are bereft of understanding! A severe trial pursueth you, and will suddenly overtake you. Bestir yourselves, that haply it may pass and inflict no harm upon you." "O ye peoples of the world! Know, verily, that an unforeseen calamity is following you, and that grievous retribution awaiteth you. Think not the deeds ye have committed have been blotted from My sight."
    quoted by Shoghi Effendi,
    The Advent of Divine Justice,
    p. 81)
    ".and except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened".
    Then the "Resurrection" appeared, the "Day of Judgment" became manifest, the "earth" heaved and shook, the "mountains" were leveled, the "seas" boiled, the "sun" was eclipsed, the "luminaries" were darkened, the "stars" scattered, the "signs" became known, the "bridge" expanded, the "conditions" were fulfilled, the "balance" was set up, the "fire" burned fiercely and the "paradise" became begemmed! -- wherefore the devoted ones entered into delectable gardens with beatitude and the veiled ones were left to amuse themselves with their own imaginations; the possessors of perception beheld the lights and those whose eyes were weak vanished in gloomy darkness before the appearance of the mid day sun.
    Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Bahá,
    p. 396)

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