christine's bible study

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Isa 40:8

revelation 16, the fifth bowl of wrath

Read Revelation 16 at Bible Gateway.

Previously: revelation 16, the fourth bowl of wrath

Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds. Rev 16:10-11

We saw that the events of the first through fourth bowls took place from 1789-1815 in Europe. During approximately the same time period, the American Revolution had been won by the Americans (1783), the Constitution written and adopted (1789), the Bill of Rights added, and the British waged a second war to regain the American colonies, which failed (War of 1812). In America, there was no king or aristocracy, tithes were not manditorily paid to the pope, the people were governed by consent according to the rule of law, taxation was low and remained so, and except for the African slaves, men enjoyed personal freedom to move about and pursue their own happiness. This state of being is so completely ingrained into the American psyche that we can hardly conceive of any other way of living.

However, in Europe, life was not that way. Twenty- five years of Revolution and Napoleonic wars did not produce lasting change. After Napoleon, kings and nobles were restored in Europe, who were even more absolutist than before. Their fear of fresh revolutions caused them to discourage liberal ideas and reform to an even greater degree than would be usual. This in turn, caused even more unrest among the people. Another factor was European immigration to America. Families who remained in Europe learned from their relatives who had immigrated, how much freedom was available to the common man there, and naturally this fueled the desire for freedom, constitution, and the right to be governed by consent for themselves as well.

Events progressed which led to a series of uprisings of the people against their absolutist rulers in 1848. The wave began in France and spread to more than 50 European states and Latin America before it was over. One of its roots, besides personal freedom and the right to vote (for men, regardless of class) was the desire for nationalism: the idea that people ought to be united by common language, religion, history, and geography.

Germany did not exist as such, but there was a German Confederation of States (formed by the Congress of Vienna at the end of the Napoleonic wars) made up of Prussia, Austria, Bavaria, Saxony, and so on, each still with its duke, prince, or king at its head. The states of northern Italy were ruled by the Austrian Empire (the Hapsburgs) who were of course not Italian. Central Italy was ruled by independent nobles, and the pope, and southern Italy was ruled by the French.

The uprising in Italy centered around the goal to drive out the foreign rulers, the Austrians and the French. The pope at the time was sympathetic with the peoples’ complaints and enacted reforms in the Papal states. Expectations of change ran high, and disappointment was sharp when the situation did not improve for the better right away. The pope, in response, veered more and more rightward, and when some of the Italian nobles sought to drive out the Austrians by force, the pope refused to commit his troops to the cause, saying that he could not go to war against another Catholic state.

Rioting in Rome caused to pope to flee in November of 1848. Garibaldi, an Italian revolutionary, along with other reform leaders, established a Roman Republic in the pope’s absence, and passed popular legislation. Inflation crippled the economy, however, and when the pope appealed to the French for help, they escorted him back to Rome and his estates in 1849, where he ruled with French protection until 1870.

The 1848 revolutions did not produce any lasting change except the abolition of serfdom in Austria- Hungary, but the people became more determined than ever in their goals of reform, freedom, and nationalism. The short- lived Roman Republic furthermore unified the Italians in their nationalist desire.

A series of uprisings and wars, and counter revolutionary actions, secret treaties, and wars by the entrenched nobility, led to just four major Italian states by 1860: Venetia, controlled by the Austrians; the Papal states; the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, controlled by the French, and the Kingdom of Peidmont- Sardinia, which encompassed the rest of Italy, with the Italian Victor Emmanuel II as its king.

When uprisings against French and absolutist rule again arose in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in 1859, Garibaldi, the hero of the failed Roman Republic of 1848, returned to Italy from exile, and led what was at first a rag tag group of revolutionaries, whose numbers daily swelled with men of the common people. His army was vastly outnumbered, yet won a series of key victories against the French in southern Italy.

The Kingdom of Peidmont- Sardinia in the north of Italy sent troops to Garibaldi’s aid in southern Italy, but first they had to cross the Papal states, which occupied central Italy from sea to sea. The pope remained the only absolutist ruler in Italy, and his troops attempted to deny the passage. The Italian troops defeated the papal troops, crossed to Garibaldi, and in 1861 the nation of Italy was proclaimed by parliament, with Victor Emmanuel its king, and Rome its capital, never mind that Rome was still occupied by the pope, who opposed this turn of events.

The struggle continued, and in the mean time Austria and France were defeated in wars in wider Europe, which caused them to withdraw their troops from Italy. The Italian kingdom gained the province of Venice, then in 1870, peacefully marched on Rome to make it the capital of the new Italian state.

Initially the Italian government had offered to let the pope keep the Leonine City, but the pope rejected the offer because acceptance would have been an implied endorsement of the legitimacy of the Italian kingdom’s rule over his former domain. Pius IX declared himself a prisoner in the Vatican, although he was not actually restrained from coming and going. Rather, being deposed and stripped of much of his former power also removed a measure of personal protection — if he had walked the streets of Rome he might have been in danger from political opponents who had formerly kept their views private. Officially, the capital was not moved from Florence to Rome until July 1871.

— Italian Unification, Wikipedia

Victor Emmanuel II became the first king of the newly unified Italy as a constitutional monarchy with Rome as its capital. The temporal and political power of the pope was stripped from him. Thus the fifth bowl of wrath, poured out on the throne of the beast, which had always been Rome, caused darkness in his kingdom, i.e., he no longer shone as the sun or ruler of that kingdom of the world. That the beast from the land, even though the bowls of wrath dealt death blows to his power and authority, did not repent:

Part of the process of Italian unification, Rome’s capture ended the millennial temporal rule of the popes over central Italy and allowed Rome to be designated the capital of the new nation. The appellation is also applied to Pius’s successors through Pius XI.

For the next 59 years, the popes refused to leave the Vatican in order to avoid any appearance of accepting the authority wielded by the Italian government over Rome as a whole. During this period, popes also refused to appear at Saint Peter’s Square or at the balcony of the Vatican Basilica facing it, as the square in front of the Basilica was occupied by the Italian troops. During this period, popes granted the Urbi et Orbi blessings from a balcony facing a courtyard, or from inside the Basilica, and Papal Coronations were instead held at the Sistine Chapel. The period ended in 1929, when the Lateran Treaty created the modern state of Vatican City.

Prisoner in the Vatican, Wikipedia (emphasis added)

Continued in revelation 16, the sixth bowl of wrath

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