When I first began this series through Revelation, I wasn’t entirely sure how we were going to approach it. I had thought that I might summarize the twenty-two chapters, hitting the high points. I have discovered however, that I am really not very good at summarizing. There is just so much important information in this book, that I have found it necessary to cover it in much more detail than I had originally thought I would. I can only hope that this study is as much a blessing to you who are reading it as it is to me in presenting it. We need to remember that we are told concerning the message contained in this book, Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. [Rev. 1:3 KJV] That last phrase, “The time is at hand”, is the tag line we have used for this series. I do believe that the events depicted in chapters 4 – 22 are yet future, and the stage is being set in this generation for these things to unfold. Therefore, the time is at hand.
We were in chapter 9 last time. We saw a “ star” fall from heaven. This is no doubt Satan himself, as he is the “king” of the bottomless pit [See 9:11]. To him is given the key to the bottomless pit, (literally “The pit of the abyss.”) This pit is opened, and the Bible says that terrible smoke billowed out of the pit, as the smoke of a furnace; indicative of the fact that this is a place of fire. This smoke will be so thick that it will darken the air and the view of the Sun. As we stated last time, as awful as the smoke will be, it will be nothing in comparison to that which comes out of it. First, John says locusts came out of the smoke. It is very obvious as one reads the description of these creatures that they don’t look like nor behave like any locusts we know anything about. As we said last time, these are “demon locusts.” These are creatures that we know nothing about, but that exist in the spiritual realm. John is being given a glimpse beyond the veil, if you will, that separates the natural from the spiritual realm. Some scholars and commentators see John’s description as referring to implements of modern warfare and weaponry. In all fairness, that is a possibility, although I don’t really subscribe to that. I believe that these are entirely spiritual entities that John is seeing. Also, I don’t believe that they will be visible to the average person. Their affects will certainly be seen as well as felt.
These locusts are given a very specific assignment. They are not to attack trees, plants, and grass; but rather they are to torment all of the people who have followed the Antichrist, and that do not have the seal of God on them. This torment is to continue five months, which interestingly enough is the typical life cycle of the locust, usually from May to September. The torment these locusts cause will be extremely painful. It will be so painful in fact that people will want to die, however they will not be able to; as death will allude them even when some try to take their own life. [See 9:6] Please note the fact that God will have a redemptive purpose in all of this. The five months will be for many people the last opportunity to repent and believe, as unbelievers will hear the gospel during this time preached by the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, the two witnesses, and other believers. [See 9:20, 21; 16:9, 11]
John continues, And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon. [Vs. 11] Unlike real locusts, these locusts have a king over them. John calls him the angel of the abyss. Some identify this angel as Satan himself, but we need to note the fact that the pit is not presently Satan’s domain. His domain is in the heavenlies. [See Eph. 6:12; 2:2] This would be the celestial heavens as well as the atmosphere just above this planet. Interestingly, the word translated as, “air” in Ephesians 2:2 is a very exact word. It is the Greek word, “aer.” The Greeks measured various heights with regard to the height of Mount Olympus, whose summit is 6,000 feet high. To the Greeks, everything from the summit of Mount Olympus up was, “aer.” That area is Satan’s domain presently. Paul tells us in the premiere scripture presenting the great catching away of the Church, Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. [1 Thess. 4:17 KJV] Notice the word, “air” in this passage. It is also the Greek word, aer. Praise God, Jesus is going to come in the air, we will rise to meet Him, and then will be whisked right through the devil’s front yard to go to the Father’s house!
With the reign of these locusts ending, the first of three “Woes” will be over, with two more to come. [Vs. 12]
Like the fifth trumpet, the sounding of the sixth heralds another, more severe demonic attack on mankind. This attack, unlike the previous one brings death. John writes, And 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 which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. [Vs. 13, 14] The sixth angel sounds his trumpet here. John immediately, “heard a voice.” The Greek literally reads “one voice.” The voice is not identified, but it possibly could be that of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. If you will recall, He was pictured earlier standing near the throne (5:6), when He took the seven-sealed scroll from the Father’s hand (5:7) and broke its seals (6:1). Even though identifying the source of the voice John hears is impossible, we do know its location. It came from the four horns of the golden altar. John had seen this altar twice before in his visions. In both the Tabernacle and Temple, this altar was a place where incense was burnt, symbolizing the people’s prayers for mercy rising to God. In John’s visions however, the golden altar became a place of intercession, as the martyred saints pleaded with God for vengeance on those who had murdered them. [See 6:9 – 11].
The voice that came from the surface of the altar between the four protruding corners commanded the sixth angel who had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. The fact that these four angels are bound, indicates that they are fallen angels (20:1ff; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6), since holy angels are never said to be bound. The Greek word, deo, translated “bound” here, is translated “bound” 28 times in the KJV, “bind” 9 times, “tied” 4 times, and “bonds”, “knit”, and “wound” all 1 time. One might ask, why are these four obviously fallen angels bound in the great Euphrates River? We know that the Euphrates is one of the rivers mentioned as having its beginning in the Garden of Eden [Gen. 2:10 – 14]. So we know that this Garden of Eden was in the general vicinity where that particular river was located. In fact, it is believed by some scholars that the Garden of Eden was located where the ancient city of Babylon was later built. This is especially interesting when we remember that anything that is truly of God, as the Garden of Eden certainly was, Satan attempts to pollute it. It would therefore be in keeping with his methods to have Babylon built over that site, which would forever stand as opposition to the Plan of God.
Interestingly, in the book of Revelation, only two cities are mentioned: Jerusalem and Babylon. In fact, the conflict has been between these two cities, representing two different ways, two different world views altogether, from the very beginning. The four angels bound in the great River Euphrates probably had something to do with the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, or were instrumental in helping Nimrod incite his rebellion against God. Consider something else concerning these four fallen angels. The use of the definite article, “The” suggests that these four angels form a specific group. Their precise identity is not revealed, but they may, I would like to suggest, be the fallen angels that controlled the four major world powers of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Daniel 10 provides insight into the warfare between holy angels and Satan’s fallen angels that influence individual nations. Whoever they are, these four powerful fallen angels control a huge demonic army set to wage war against fallen mankind when God releases them to do so. Beginning with verse 15, we see the return of death. The Bible says,
And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men. And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them. And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths. For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt. [Vs. 15 – 19]
Death, which had taken a holiday under the fifth trumpet [9:5, 6], now returns with a vengeance. It is shocking perhaps, but we find that these four angels are released for the express purpose of killing a third of mankind. Couple this with the fact that the judgment of the fourth seal killed one quarter of the earth’s population (6:8). This additional third brings the death toll from these two judgments alone to more than half the earth’s pre-tribulation population. This staggering total does not include those who died in the other seal and trumpet judgments.
The terrible slaughter will completely disrupt human society. The disposing of the bodies alone will be a logistics nightmare. The sickly stench of decaying corpses will permeate the world, and it will take an enormous effort on the part of the survivors to bury them in mass graves or burn them. I know this is a troubling scenario, however this is what the future holds for all who reject God’s free gift of salvation and thus miss the removal of God’s people from the earth prior to these events.
To slaughter well over a billion people will require an unimaginably powerful force. John reported that the number of the armies of the horsemen will be an astonishing two hundred million. I submit to you that this is an exact number, otherwise more general specifications such as those used in 5:11 and 7:9 would have been used. It seems as though John anticipated skeptics, so he emphasizes the number of horsemen by stating, I heard the number of them. The use of the plural, “armies” may imply that the attacking force will be divided into four armies, each led by a formerly bound fallen angel. Some have suggested that this is the human army referred to in 16:12 and led by “the kings from the east,” noting that the Red Chinese army reportedly numbered two hundred million during the 1970s. I once subscribed to this, I no longer do. Why? First, no reference is made to the size of the army led by the kings of the East. Second, that army arrives on the scene during the sixth bowl judgment, which takes place during the seventh trumpet, not the sixth.
Though there may be at that time an existing standing army of two hundred million, the impossibility of marshaling, supplying, and transporting such a vast human force all over the globe argues against this army being a human army. The figurative language used to describe this army’s horses suggests that this is a supernatural rather than a human force. History tells us that the largest army ever fielded was that by Xerxes when he invaded Greece. Herodotus, the Greek historian, says this army numbered two and one half million men. As well, General William K. Harrison, who was an expert in military logistics, says that an army of 200 million men could not be conscripted and supported. No, these are not men, but rather a massive army of demon spirits.
John briefly described those who sat on the horses. He said their riders had, breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths. For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt. The color of fire is red; that of hyacinth, dark blue or black like smoke; that of brimstone, a sulfurous yellow, describing the rock which, when ignited, produces a burning flame and suffocating gas. Those are the very colors and features of hell. [See 14:10; 19:20; 20:10; 21:8] Wow! This is quite a picture, is it not?
We will pick this up next time. Please join us then.