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Is the Euphrates River drying up a sign of the end times?

Euphrates River drying up

The Euphrates River, long part of the area known as the Fertile Crescent, is a significant landmark in Scripture and a valuable resource in the Middle East as it runs through Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. Over the past few years, the water level of the Euphrates River has dropped dramatically. The drying up of the Euphrates River has revealed several ancient ruins and a cave. Some people are quick to point to the drying river bed as a fulfillment of the Bible’s end-times prophecies.

Two passages in the Bible predict the drying up of the Euphrates River. The first prediction is part of a lengthy oracle against Babylon. God pronounces judgment against Babylon’s officials and wise men and against its false prophets, warriors, horses and chariots, and treasures. Then God says,

“A drought on her waters!
They will dry up.
For it is a land of idols,
idols that will go mad with terror” (Jeremiah 50:38).

The waters of Babylon are the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Both rivers are drying up now. Are we witnessing the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy?

The second prediction of the Euphrates River drying up comes as part of the seven bowl judgments in Revelation. The judgments of the seven-year tribulation start with the seven seals (Revelation 6:1–17; 8:1–5), continue with the seven trumpets (Revelation 8:6—9:21; 11:15–19), and end with the seven bowls (Revelation 16:1–21). The bowl judgments come at the end of the tribulation, and they are so destructive that, if they continued, all human life would perish (Mark 13:19–20).

The sixth bowl judgment—the penultimate judgment of the tribulation—is the drying up of the Euphrates River. Revelation 16:12 says, “The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East.” This prophecy not only identifies the judgment but also gives the reason for it: so a great army from the East can cross the Euphrates unimpeded. Next, the kings of the earth gather “to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon” (Revelation 16:16). At that point, Jesus returns, and the battle fought at Armageddon will result in all God’s enemies being destroyed (Revelation 16:17–20; 19:11–21). A key event leading up to Armageddon is the drying up of the Euphrates. Are we witnessing the setup for the fulfillment of a major end-times prophecy?

Concerning Jeremiah’s prophecy that the Euphrates River will dry up, there are several possibilities:

1) The prophecy was fulfilled by military action in 539 BC when the Persian king Cyrus conquered Babylon. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, Cyrus diverted the water of the Euphrates enough to allow his army to enter through the channels under the city walls (History, 1.189–191).

2) The prophecy was fulfilled by drought at some unknown time.

3) The prophecy is being fulfilled now, as the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are diminishing.

4) The prophecy will be fulfilled during the great tribulation, corresponding to the sixth bowl judgment of Revelation 16.

5) The prophecy has a double fulfillment: once in the past and again in the future, during the end times.

Concerning John’s vision that the Euphrates will dry up, that will have a future fulfillment. The current drying up of the Euphrates is not related to the prophecy of Revelation 16:12, for these reasons:

1) The sixth bowl judgment comes near the end of the tribulation. Before the sixth bowl, the Antichrist will rise to power, the two miracle-working prophets will preach, and many terrible judgments will occur. We are not in the tribulation now.

2) According to Revelation 18:17–19, Babylon in the end times will do much commerce by ship, suggesting that the rivers in that area are freely flowing during the tribulation, at least for a while.

3) The supernatural drying up of the Euphrates in Revelation 16:12 allows an army from the Orient to march westward. No such army is threatening Israel now.

When it comes time for the Battle of Armageddon, the Euphrates River will indeed dry up. The current water level of the Euphrates, the revealing of ruins and caves, etc., has nothing to do with Revelation 16:12. That simply hasn’t happened yet.

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Is the Euphrates River drying up a sign of the end times?
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This page last updated: January 4, 2023