Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. I heard a great voice. Bossuet explains the pouring out of the seven vials in this manner. The five first he supposes to have taken place under the reign of Valerian and Gallien; the sixth he supposes to have been poured out during the reigns of Valerian, Dioclesian, and Julian; and the seventh under Honorius and the Alani. (Bossuet) — All commentators, however, seem to agree that the great city mentioned in the 19th verse, is to be understood of Rome, and that the plagues which are here foretold, are denounced against her. (Calmet, Pastorini, &c.) — Go and pour out the seven vials, &c. According to the exposition followed by the bishop of Meaux[Bossuet], all these seven vials are already past, being punishments and judgments exercised against the heathen emperors, from the time of Valerian even to the time of Julian, at whose death it might be said, (ver. 17) it is done. Idolatry is destroyed, as to its public worship. Here in particular, by the drying up of the Euphrates, and by the armies of the East, these interpreters understand those of the Persians, who first gave the great shock to the empire in Valerian’s time, and by whom afterwards Julian the apostate was defeated, and killed. By the great Babylon they also understand idolatrous Rome; and by the islands and mountains sunk by earthquakes, they understand the destruction of divers kingdoms. According to another interpretation, (which is very common) all these judgments are to come before the end of the world; and will be in a manner literally executed about antichrist’s time. At the first vial, men shall be struck with ulcers and wounds, not unlike to the sixth plague of Egypt. At the second and third vial, the sea and fountains shall be turned into blood, as in Egypt. At the fourth vial shall be excessive scorching heats, tormenting men, and burning every thing for their use. At the fifth vial darkness, like that of Egypt. At the sixth vial, (ver. 12.) the Euphrates dried up, to open a passage for the armies from the East, to come and join the forces of antichrist. And the three unclean spirits like frogs, may signify devils sent by the dragon, or chief of the devils, to excite the wicked to all manner of unclean abominations. They are here said to be gathered together in a place called Armagedon, perhaps with an allusion to Mageddon, in the tribe of Manasses, where the two kings of Israel, Ochozias and Josias, perished. (4 Kings ix. 21.) And they are brought in only to signify a place of great destruction. See also Zacharias xii. 11. At the seventh vial, a voice, it is done, i.e. the reign of the wicked in general, and of antichrist, is at an end. (Witham)
Ver. 2. And the first. From hence it appears that the first vial was poured out indiscriminately upon the good equally with the wicked. But behold the different consequences that follow: those that have the mark of the beast are afflicted with a sore and grievous wound, which is said in allusion to the madness, fury, and despair with which the wicked were afflicted, whilst St. John’s omitting to say any thing of the just, shews that they bore it with resignation and joy. (Calmet)
Ver. 3. And the second. On pouring out the vial follows the divine judgment. There appears blood, like that of a dead man. This passage, Pastorini is of opinion alludes to the Arian heresy, which, like blood, flowed in vigorous circulation whilst in health and strength, gradually retarded its motion, as in a dying man, and was at last totally lost and stopped, like the circulation in a dead man. Hence every living soul died in the sea. (Pastorini) — Calmet interprets it as a prediction of the calamities which befell the Roman empire, during the invasion of the Persians on the east, and the Goths and other barbarous nations on the west.
Ver. 4. Upon the rivers. That is, on the Roman provinces in Italy, and Rome itself. This is the last stroke employed by the Almighty for the total destruction of Rome. The divine judgment being executed, the Angel of the waters, that is, the Angel that presided over the Roman states, cries out, (ver. 5, 6.) thou art just, &c. (Pastorini)
Ver. 8. And the fourth Angel. Here is the punishment of the Greeks during the siege of Constantinople by the Turks, where the fire engines, that were then made use of for the first time, so reduced the Grecian army, that the walls of the city were reduced to ashes, and the whole town to flames. Hence it appears how the Greeks were scorched with great heat; and how they blasphemed the name of God, appears too evident from the history of Notaros, admiral of the Constantinopolitan fleet. (Pastorini)
Ver. 10. Calmet explains this passage of Rome the seat of idolatry, which was given up to the pillage of the barbarians under Alaric. (Calmet)
Ver. 12. River Euphrates. That is, a passage is laid open for the potentates of the East to lay their destructive hands upon the countries on this side the Euphrates. For they are the spirits of devils working signs, which are sent forth by the eastern princes, to oblige all to unite in arms against the great day of the Almighty God. (Pastorini)
Ver. 16. Armagedon. That is, the hill of robbers. (Challoner)
Ver. 18. The seventh vial is poured out upon the air which lies between the earth and the heavens, to indicate that the judgments of God are going to fall upon the whole creation. After which follow these words, it is done. All is over, time is no more; upon which immediately follow lightnings, &c.
Ver. 19. Great Babylon came in remembrance before God. The time of God’s punishing the wicked world is approaching: for by a third interpretation, Babylon may signify metaphorically all the wicked in general. (Witham)
Ver. 21. And great hail like a talent came down, &c. Which need not be taken literally, but only metaphorically, to signify the heavy weight of God’s judgments upon sinners. (Witham)
 Ver. 21. Et grando magna sicut talentum, os talantiaia, quasi talentaris. The Protestants and Mr. N. translate hail about the weight of a talent, as if every hailstone were of that weight.
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The seven vials are poured out: the plagues that ensue.
1 And I heard a great voice out of the temple, saying to the seven Angels: Go, and pour out the seven vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.
2 And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth, and there fell a sore and most grievous wound upon the men, who had the mark of the beast; and upon them who adored his image.
3 And the second Angel poured out his vial into the sea, and there came blood as of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.
4 And the third poured out his vial upon the rivers, and the fountains of waters, and there was blood.
5 And I heard the Angel of the waters, saying: Thou art just, O Lord, who art, and who wast, the holy one, who hast judged these things:
6 For they have shed the blood of the saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they deserve it.
7 And I heard another from the altar, saying: Yea, O Lord God Almighty, true and just are thy judgments.
8 And the fourth Angel poured out his vial upon the sun, and it was given to him to afflict men with heat, and fire:
9 And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who hath power over these plagues, neither did they penance to give him glory.
10 And the fifth Angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast: and his kingdom became dark, and they gnawed their tongues for pain:
11 And they blasphemed the God of heaven, because of their pains, and wounds, and did not penance for their works.
12 And the sixth Angel poured out his vial upon that great river Euphrates: and dried up the water thereof, that a way might be prepared for the kings from the rising of the sun.
13 And I saw from the mouth of the dragon, and from the mouth of the beast, and from the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs.
14 For they are the spirits of devils working signs, and they go forth unto the kings of the whole earth, to gather them to battle against the great day of the Almighty God.
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.
16 And he shall gather them together into a place, which is called in Hebrew Armagedon.
17 And the seventh Angel poured out his vial into the air, and a great voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying: It is done.
18 And there were lightnings, and voices, and thunders, and there was a great earthquake, such as never hath been since men were upon the earth: such an earthquake, so great.
19 And the great city was made into three parts: and the cities of the Gentiles fell, and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the indignation of his wrath.
20 And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.
21 And great hail like a talent came down from heaven upon men: and men blasphemed God, because of the plague of the hail: because it was exceeding great.
15: Matthew xxiv. 43.; Luke xii. 39.; Apocalypse iii. 3.