Read Revelation 16 at Bible Gateway.
Previously: revelation 16, seven bowls of wrath
Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.” So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. Rev 16:1-2
The result of the first bowl is that loathsome sores appear on men with the mark of the beast, who worship the image of the beast. These are men within the territory of Roman papal authority and the Holy Roman Empire, the beast and its image. The mark of the beast, we saw from Rev 13, is the name of the beast marked on the foreheads of the unbelievers. The name of YHVH is marked on the foreheads of those who keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus.
What is the foul and loathsome sore? The Greek for sore is an oozing wound or ulcer — in other words, a wound that is producing a discharge, not a wound that is healing over. Discharges make unclean, according to Torah. This wound, in particular, is foul and loathsome. The Greek for foul is normally translated, evil: of a bad nature; a mode of thinking, feeling, or acting proceeding from wickedness, a mode of thinking, feeling, or acting as it ought not to be. The Greek is not lending itself to a merely bodily outcome.
The Greek for loathsome is likewise interesting. It means, full of labors, annoyances, and hardships, being pressed and harassed by labors. Hmmm, the Greek here also does not lend itself to a merely bodily outcome. So it is my belief that the loathsome sore is a way of thinking, feeling, and acting, coming from a completely wrong or wicked, against all common sense, set of beliefs and premises, the result of which is non- healing injurous harassment, of labors, annoyances, and hardships.
So the Greek leads us to see the injury which comes upon the men, not as a bodily injury or wound necessarily, but as an injury of belief, of thinking, of feeling, leading to actions against all common sense, resulting in harassing toil, annoyances, and hardships. It has been traditionally understood:
Now this “noisome and grievous sore” would well represent the moral corruption, the pollution, the infidelity, the atheism, the general dissolution of society that preceded and accompanied the French revolution; for that was a universal breaking out of loathsome internal disease—of corruption at the centre—and in its general features might be represented as a universal plague-spot on society, extending over the countries where the beast and his image were principally worshipped. The symbol would properly denote that “tremendous outbreak of social and moral evil, of democratic fury, atheism, and vice, which was specially seen to characterize the French revolution: that of which the ultimate source was in the long and deep-seated corruption and irreligion of the nation; the outward vent, expression, and organ of its Jacobin clubs, and seditious and atheistic publications; the result, the dissolution of all society, all morals, and all religion; with acts of atrocity and horror accompanying, scarce paralleled in the history of men; and suffering and anguish of correspondent intensity throbbing throughout the social mass and corroding it; that which, from France as a centre, spread like a plague throughout its affiliated societies to the other countries of Papal Christendom, and was, wherever its poison was imbibed, as much the punishment as the symptoms of the corruption within.” Of this sad chapter in the history of man, it is unnecessary to give any description here. For scenes of horror, pollution, and blood, its parallel has never been found in the history of our race, and as an event in history it was worthy of a notice in the symbols which portrayed the future. The full details of these amazing scenes must be sought in the histories which describe them, and to such works as Alison’s History of Europe, and Burke’s Letters on a Regicide Peace, the reader must be referred. A few expressions copied from those letters of Mr. Burke, penned with no design of illustrating this passage in the Apocalypse, and no expectation that they would be ever so applied, will show with what propriety the spirit of inspiration suggested the phrase, “a noisome and grievous sore” or plague-spot, on the supposition that the design was to refer to these scenes. In speaking of the revolutionary spirit in France, Mr. Burke calls it “the fever of aggravated Jacobinism,” “the epidemic of atheistical fanaticism,” “an evil lying deep in the corruptions of human nature,” “the malignant French distemper,” “a plague, with its fanatical spirit of proselytism, that needed the strictest quarantine to guard against it,” whereof though the mischief might be “skimmed over” for a time, yet the result, into whatever country it entered, was “the corruption of all morals,” “the decomposition of all society,” etc. But it is unnecessary to describe those scenes farther. The “world has them by heart,” and they can never be obliterated from the memory of man. In the whole history of the race, there has never been an outbreak of evil that showed so deep pollution and corruption within.
— Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament
Interestingly enough, the king upon whom the French Revolution came, was the grandson of Louis XIV, known to history as the Sun King, and the longest reigning monarch in the history of Europe. It was the Sun King who built Versailles, who entrenched absolutism and the excesses of nobility to such a corrupt degree, and who was in every aspect an incarnation of the ancient idea of king as the embodiment of the sun god, if not in words, certainly in deeds.
The result of the Revolution for men, was indeed grievous harassment, annoyance, and toil. It is hard to know which was worse for the common man, the grinding labor and poverty required to supply the court of the Sun King with its wealth, or the anarchy, uncertainty, and terror of the dissolution of society and the destruction of all common sense, not knowing if today, though no wrong had been done, no sin committed, no crime tendered, would be the day you and your family would be rounded up for the guillotine.
Does the first bowl of wrath strike a blow against the imperial power, the Holy Roman Empire, and the papacy? Yes, indeed; if it is the ideas, beliefs, and worldview underpinning the French Revolution that is meant: the monarchy is completely dissolved in France; agitation against the other absolute monarchies of the Holy Roman Empire are exported, and the honor and authority of the papacy is in France everywhere discarded.
Continued in revelation 16, the second bowl of wrath