The Sixth Trumpet

SIXTH TRUMPETThe sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number. The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur. A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury. The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts. (Revelation 9:12-21)

Four Bound Angels Released – The sixth angel was then instructed to
release four angels bound by the Euphrates River. These four angels are clearly demons, as holy angels would not be bound. The release of these four has been reserved for this specific hour and day and month and year. They kill a 1/3rd of the world’s population. The fourth seal (Revelation 6:7–8) resulted in a fourth of the earth’s population being killed. Here a third of the remaining was put to death. These two judgments alone, disregarding all intervening judgments, would account for the death of half the earth’s population. It is unlikely that this is mere hyperbole. More likely it is to be taken literally as it confirms the statement by Daniel (Daniel 12:1) that “there will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations.” The words of Christ (Matthew 24:21) also make it clear that the Great Tribulation will be without precedent and would end in the death of all mankind if it were not stopped by His second coming (Matthew 24:22).(1) Why they are bound at the Euphrates River is not explained, though that area is the cradle of civilization (Genesis 2:14),(2) and the fall.

The River – The Euphrates was known as the great River, the River, and the Flood. It rises in the mountains of Armenia, breaks through the Taurus range, and runs south and southeast until it joins the Tigris in lower Babylonia (modern Iraq). Its total length is from 1,600 to 1,800 miles. It was the boundary-line of Israel on the northeast (Genesis 15:18; Deuteronomy. 1:7; Joshua 1:4, 2 Samuel 8:3–8; 1 Kings 4:21) and formed a natural defense for Israel against the armies of Assyria. The melting of the mountain snows causes an annual flood, beginning in March and increasing until May. These floods became a metaphor of the judgments inflicted by God upon Israel by means of Babylon and Assyria. To the prophets, the Euphrates was the symbol of all that was disastrous in the divine judgments.(3) The Euphrates was also the easternmost border of the Roman Empire.(4)

The Time – The Greek article placed before all the time periods in the text, implies that the hour in the day, and the day in the month, and the month in the year, and the year itself, have been fixed by God.(5)

Mounted Army of 200,000,000 – Two hundred million would be a huge standing army even today. By some estimates, it may have represented more than the population of the entire world in the first century.(6) For this reason, many interpreters do not believe the number should be taken literally, even though there is good evidence that numbers in Revelation are to be taken literally. Even if taken symbolically, this figure clearly represents an overwhelming military force. Years ago, Red China claimed to have an army of 200 million (Time, May 21, 1965, p. 35), but this may have been propaganda. Perhaps, because of the vast numbers of this army, as well as how they are described by John, some interpreters say these millions are demons. The fact that John heard the number (obviously, he could not visually count 200 million men) seems to lend credence to the concept that this is literal and predicts that an army will come from the East crossing the dried-up Euphrates river (Revelation 16:12). A large invasion from the East and North in the end times is also predicted in Daniel 11:44.(7)

See Figure 15.3 for recent military estimates (These numbers are largely sourced from the 2012 edition of “The Military Balance” published annually by the International Institute for Strategic Studies):

Screenshot (7)

In the Bible, the horse is always referred to in connection with war. The lone exception is Isaiah 28:28, where it is mentioned as employed in threshing.(8) The description here, however, cannot fit war-horses as we know them. The horses and their riders had breastplates of red, dark blue, and yellow. The lion-like heads of the horses with fire, smoke, and sulfur coming out of their mouths clearly imply something other than natural horses. If not literal horses, the reference to horses must be symbolic. This has led some to conclude that this must be a picture of modern warfare, including the use of armed vehicles such as tanks, and that John is doing his best to describe to his first century readers. Whether symbolic or literal, the passage certainly implies terrible destruction and an awesome invading force.(9)(10)

No Repentance – One would think that the combination of five months of torment and then death (from fire, smoke, and brimstone) would bring men and women to their knees in repentance. But this is not the case. These judgments are not remedial but retributive. God is upholding His Holy Law and vindicating His suffering people (see Revelation 6:9–11). Even a casual reading of Revelation 9:20–21 reveals the awful wickedness of mankind, even during God’s judgments. The most frightening thing about Revelation 9 is not the judgments that God sends, but the sins that men persist in committing even while God is judging them.(11)

Up Next – The Seventh Trumpet.

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References

  1. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 953). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  2. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 595). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  3. Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 2, p. 511). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
  4. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 9:14). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  5. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 573). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  6. Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Re 9:16). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  7. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 953). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  8. Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 2, p. 513). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
  9. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 595). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  10. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 953). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  11. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 596). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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