The Euphrates River, in present day Iraq, is mentioned twice in the book of Revelation. Two significant events occur within the coming seven year time period that take place at this specific river for reasons that extend all the way back to the beginning of the Bible, and the relationship between God and the first humans. As we study the Bible we see that many locations and themes re-occur, often in a cyclical fashion, like a string that connects them from the beginning of the account of humanity on earth.
“The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which skirts the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one which goes around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Hiddekel; it is the one which goes toward the east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates. Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” Genesis 2:8-15.
The Hebrew Scriptures, also called the Old Testament in the first half of the Bible describe the first events in history from the perspective of the nation of Israel and the promises given to them. When God created the first people, Adam and Eve, He placed them in the Garden of Eden - a paradise He designed just for them. Genesis describes the boundaries of this garden to be very similar to what was described as the boundaries of the nation of Israel. God didn’t specify the boundaries of the land of Israel until much later - even after the global flood - but it is clear that He wants the reader to somehow connect the original land of Eden with land of Israel.
Genesis 2 is the first place the Bible mentions the river Euphrates, and it is mentioned right after the river Hiddekel, or the Tigris river. Both rivers today run through modern day Iraq, but which was the ancient empire of Assyria. It is also important to note the direction of the East that is mentioned because of what happened next. Adam and Eve rebelled against God, and so He had to send them out of the paradise that He made for them. He sent them out eastward from the garden. Throughout the scripture, the idea continued that East of the land of Israel was a place of judgment.
“Therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life” Genesis 3:23-24. Adam and Eve were sent out from Eden to the East as a judgment for their sins.
Over the centuries, even after the worldwide flood, as the human family grew in numbers, so did their rebellion towards God. Deuteronomy 32 tells us of a time when God divided up the nations according to number of the sons of God (angels). “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He divided the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. But the LORD’s portion is His people, Jacob (Israel) His allotted inheritance” Deuteronomy 32:8-9. And he decided to select the people who were to become the family of the nation of Israel as His own. He chose for the people of the other nations to have angels designated over them. This is not to say that He abandoned the other nations, but that He chose a specific nation, through which to bring forth the Savior of the entire world - Jesus Christ.
Deuteronomy 32 is one of the places that we see that angels have rank and responsibility over areas. These angels are called principalities (Ephesians 6). The Bible doesn’t tell us when, but at some point along the way some of these angels rebelled and took worship for themselves. There is a glimpse of this in the book of Daniel, when Daniel encounters the angel Gabriel who tells him he was delayed in coming to Daniel because he was fighting with the princes (angelic principalities) of Persia and Greece. These principalities were fighting a turf war in the spiritual realm against this archangel of God who was charged with fighting for God for His chosen nation of Israel.
God divided the nations - created their boundaries - and chose Israel to be set aside for certain purposes. Abraham, formerly known as Abram, was the Father of the nation of Israel. God chose him in the book of Genesis and gave him many promises, one of which was that the nation of Israel would have a land with specific boundaries. At the eastern edge of the borders God drew for Israel was the river Euphrates. “Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan” Genesis 12:1-5. “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates” Genesis 15:18.
God led Abraham and his family into to the this land where he wanted them to live. After a few generations, a famine came into the land, and God allowed the nation to be led into Egypt to survive, but over time they became slaves. The people lived in Egypt for 400 years, but their numbers grew and grew until a time when God designated Moses to lead a huge number of Israelites out of captivity in Egypt back to their own land of Israel. Many generations had passed, and this group was far removed from the memories of the promises that God had given their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his twelve sons. While they were wandering in the desert back to their home, God reminded them of the land He had given their family, and He told them about its boundaries.
“And I will set your bounds from the Red Sea to the sea, Philistia, and from the desert to the River. For I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me. For if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you” Exodus 23:31-33. “Turn and set your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites, and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negev and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates” Deuteronomy 1:7. “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours; your border will be from the wilderness to Lebanon, and from the river, the river Euphrates, as far as the western sea” Deuteronomy 11:24.
And right before they entered their land, God reminded their newest leader, Joshua. “After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory” Joshua 1:1-4.
When He brought them back to their land, God gave them the ten commandments and the Mosaic Law to live by. These laws contained wonderful blessings for obedience, and heartbreaking curses for disobedience. One of the curses was the curse of exile. If the people did not obey God, they were warned that they would be attacked and dragged off to foreign nations, beyond their borders, out of their promised land of Israel. Over time, the people turned away from the true and loving God, to foreign gods, to idols that represented the evil angels who had taken from the other nations worship for themselves. So God allowed Israel to have what they wanted, and the nations, who worshiped the foreign gods/evil principalities, came and captured them and took them away. Half of the nation was captured and dragged off to the east, across the boundary of the Euphrates River to Assyria. And the other half was taken to the east, across the boundary of the Euphrates River into Babylon. The people were in judgment in foreign nations beyond the Euphrates to the East.
“The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand, a nation of fierce countenance who will have no respect for the old, nor show favor to the young. Moreover, it shall eat the offspring of your herd and the produce of your ground until you are destroyed, who also leaves you no grain, new wine, or oil, nor the increase of your herd or the young of your flock until they have caused you to perish. It shall besiege you in all your towns until your high and fortified walls in which you trusted come down throughout your land, and it shall besiege you in all your towns throughout your land which the Lord your God has given you. Then you shall eat the offspring of your own body, the flesh of your sons and of your daughters whom the Lord your God has given you, during the siege and the distress by which your enemy will oppress you” Deut 28:49-53.
“For the Lord will strike Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water; and He will uproot Israel from this good land which He gave to their fathers, and will scatter them beyond the Euphrates River, because they have made their Asherim, provoking the Lord to anger” I Kings 14:15.
“Now therefore, behold, the Lord is about to bring on them the strong and abundant waters of the Euphrates, Even the king of Assyria and all his glory; And it will rise up over all its channels and go over all its banks” Isaiah 8:7.
The book of Daniel is written from the perspective of Daniel who was in captivity in Babylon (586 BC). Through a series of dreams and interpretations, he is told of the many successive nations that would occupy and rule Israel far into the future. These nations were Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. In one of these visions, He is told of the first coming of Jesus Christ, His violent murder, and the destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. Even when Jesus Christ came to set them free, they rejected Him, and they remained under captivity. One of the curses in Deuteronomy for failure to follow God was to be scattered to the nations. So in 70 AD, the Romans sacked Jerusalem, and the Jews were scattered all over the earth. Through all these centuries, the nation of Israel has been either exiled in captivity in foreign lands, or occupied by other rulers within their own land. Through all these centuries, they have been under judgment. The land of Israel remained an uninhabited wasteland for nearly 2,000 years (Daniel 2, 7, 9:24-27).
But Many prophecies in the Bible have foretold of a time when the Jewish people would be brought back to the land of Israel, first in unbelief, then in belief! God loves Israel and has promises to them He will keep! “In that day the Lord will start His threshing from the flowing stream of the Euphrates to the brook of Egypt, and you will be gathered up one by one, O sons of Israel. So it shall be in that day: the great trumpet will be blown; they will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria, and they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem” Isaiah 27:12. “It will be a day when they will come to you From Assyria and the cities of Egypt, From Egypt even to the Euphrates, Even from sea to sea and mountain to mountain” Micah 7:12. The first part of this prophecy began to occur in 1948 when Israel became a nation, and Jews all over the earth have been flocking back to their homeland ever since.
But the judgment on Israel is not completely lifted until the Jewish nation comes back in their hearts to God by realizing that Jesus Christ is their Messiah and King. This part of the prophecies are yet to be fulfilled and are even future from our perspective today. At the time when Daniel was given the prophecies of the successive occupying nations, he was given a prophecy of the future seven years. The seven years are a final time of judgment when God will use great catastrophes to open up the eyes of the world, and to bring the Jewish nation back to Jesus Christ their Savior and King. Daniel 9:24-27 talks of an evil ruler, (who many call the Antichrist), who will come on the world stage appearing to be a savior. This man will confirm a treaty with Israel for seven years, which he will break 3 1/2 years in, by desecrating the Jewish temple setting up himself there to be worshiped as God. The Jews who realize this great betrayal will run from Jerusalem to be protected in an area of modern day Jordan by God. For the last half of the seven years, the Antichrist will persecute Jews, and more devastation will occur all over the earth. He will amass a great army that will come from the nations to Israel who will prepare to fight Jesus Christ when He returns to Israel to liberate the Jews and the world from the Antichrist’s control.
The judgments of God are seen in two armies that come from the East. The first is a demonic spiritually possessed army of hybrid chimeras that is released from the abyss at the Euphrates River. “Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind. Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone. By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed—by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which came out of their mouths. For their power is in their mouth and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents, having heads; and with them they do harm” Revelation 9:13-19.
The second is a demonically inspired human army that comes from the east over land. The Euphrates River, the boundary line of Israel, dries up to let this invasion of foreigners in to join the Antichrist in the war he attempts to wage against Jesus. But when Jesus shows up, there is no contest, and He sets Israel and the world free from the Antichrist’s tyrannical reign. “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. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon (Satan), out of the mouth of the beast (Antichrist), and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.” Revelation 16:12-16.
“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He (Jesus) who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
The Antichrist and His Armies Defeated
Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.” And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast (Antichrist) was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.”
After Jesus defeats the Antichrist and His armies in the battle of Armageddon, He will set up the kingdom in Israel and restores the earth to beauty and peace. The remnant of Jews who realize who He is when He appears get to live with Him in peace back in the land that they were promised. They will never turn from God again, they will never be judged again, and they will never be sent away from their beloved homeland again.
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” Jeremiah 31:31-34.
I want to return to one event that happened long ago. It is true that God chose Israel as the nation that He would set apart to fulfill His promises. And He did give them special promises that were just for them, like the possession of their homeland. But God did not abandon the rest of humanity physically or spiritually. In Genesis 12, the last of the promises that God gave to Abram was... ‘in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ This is a reference to Jesus who came through the Abraham’s family tree, and was born into the world as a human baby. He grew up to die on a Roman cross for the sins of humanity. Everyone who accepts Jesus’ forgiveness for their sins has been set free of the tyrannical spiritual rule of Satan, the fallen angels and the demons who rule the world and enslave men’s souls. You can have this freedom today just for the asking. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”
Someday, when He returns to earth the second time, Jesus will fight the Antichrist and his armies and will defeat them. When He does the physical nations of the world will be set free from their tyrannical rule as well. The Antichrist, and his side-kick the false prophet will be thrown into the lake of fire. And Satan himself will be bound for 1,000 years. During that 1,000 years Jesus Christ will rule the entire world with peace and justice, love and kindness! Jesus’ death and resurrection was to save Israel. But it wasn’t just Israel that was broken. It was the all of humanity. But it wasn’t just humanity that was broken. Jesus came to fix everything including the planet itself, the plants, the animals, the environment, the world systems, the governments... and on and on. Someday Jesus will reconcile everything to God. He will set it all back to the way it was designed in the first place.
“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us into the Kingdom of His beloved Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions, rulers or authorities-all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body the church, and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven” Colossians 1:13-20.