Judgment upon Rome has already been called for in the preceding. Now, God's wrath is poured out on those who aligned themselves with the beast and who worshiped his image (see chapter 13). In the course of the pouring out of the seven bowls of wrath, all of God's creation is involved”people, the sea, the rivers, the sun, the throne of the beast and his kingdom, the symbolic barriers that kept back the onslaught, and the air. God's sovereignty is attested. His wrath falls on everything that enables life. His judgments are just, for he is just. Pagan Rome is judged.
The chapter symbolizes for the martyrs and living saints that God is aware of the evil that transpires on earth. He will, in his own good time, deal with it. The chapter is quite symbolic, and it gets the point across. Reference to the drying up of the Euphrates River "to prepare the way for the kings of the East need not be taken as literal. The perennial enemy of Rome was Persia. By drying up the large river that traditionally marked the boundary of Persia, no obstacle stands in the way of the invading army. One should be cautious about assigning a particular country and time for an invasion from the East. The passage is symbolic of God's own acts in bringing judgment upon the wickedness represented by the Roman Empire”a kingdom of men that denies God and persecutes his saints.
Notice that as the fourth and fifth angels poured out their bowl of wrath, the followers of Satan did not repent. This brings to mind the story of the plagues of Exodus. Judgments as such do not necessarily bring repentance, as did Jonah's preaching at Nineveh.
Reference to Armageddon must also be understood in context. Topographically, there is no mountain of Megiddo. The plain near the city by that name sat on a rather insignificant tell in central Palestine. The plain near it had been the place of many battles over the period of Israel's history. Hence, the area figures into Israel history as the scene where Israel's enemies contended with Israel and her God. That this "place is not intended to refer to the physical site for a future literal battle should be clear from other references to Zion or Jerusalem, where the attempts to conquer Israel prove to be in vain when Yahweh is truly present. In the light of Psalm 2 and Ezekiel 38-39, Satan marshals his full force for a final assault against God. But it is at "Jerusalem that this assault takes place (cf. 14:20; 20:9).
Two cities symbolize the polarization of evil and righteousness: Rome and Jerusalem. Rome represents Satan's place of enthronement; Jerusalem represents God's place of enthronement. The principle of Psalm 2 remains valid: the total force of all the nations of the world is no match for the kingdom of God! Jerusalem may be called "Sodom and Egypt in 11:18, but here it assumes a different role.
It is important that a symbolic name like Armageddon not be taken as a physical place. It is likewise important that the mention of the term not become the beginning of a speculative theory regarding a physical battle at the end of the world. Oh yes, the battle will be real, but the whole book is about spiritual forces and the assurance that the Lamb has overcome and that God will ultimately defeat Satan and all those who follow him.
The scene changes somewhat and concentrates on Rome itself. Rome has been called Babylon the Great. Now, it is called "the great prostitute. Historical Babylon provides an apt symbol (see Habakkuk 1-2). Alongside this connection is the observation that in Daniel 2, the first of four kingdoms is that of Babylon. The fourth is Rome. The two are connected in that they both stand against God and for similar reasons. The most likely identification of this present "Babylon is Rome, which sits on seven hills. Identification of the kings is difficult for the numbers may not be referring to specific names but to the process. Some persecution has passed, but more is to come before God settles the score. The woman is formally identified as "the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.
What follows is the aftermath of the destruction of Babylon or Rome. Again, if you look to history for specific details, you will not find it, giving further evidence that the text is symbolic. The same expression, "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! had been uttered earlier in Rev.14:8. The earlier reference shows the concept in prospect as announced by the angel. Here, we see details accompanying the judgment. Much is reminiscent of Lot and Sodom, where he is told to leave the city before God judges it (Genesis 19). God's saints are removed so they do not receive the judgment due to the faithless kingdom of men. Judgment is not limited to Rome itself, but extends to all people under its canopy”all who have participated in her sin. This would certainly include those places like Asia, where the Imperial Cult was strong.
Following judgment, God is praised. The judgment has demonstrated the ultimate intention for the kingdom of men to become subservient to the kingdom of God. The "wedding of the Lamb with his bride, the faithful church, has come. The next scene is of the victor himself”Christ. The language draws from Isaiah 11, as well as Rev. 1. Christ overcomes the beast and false prophet. Blessed are those who remain faithful to the testimony!