The sixth trumpet unleashed the demonic horde from beyond the “Euphrates” to afflict the “inhabitants of the earth” – Revelation 9:13-21.
The sounding of the “sixth trumpet” also marks the commencement of the “second woe.” While the description of the “plague” unleashed by the trumpet only continues until the end of chapter 9, the “second woe” does not end until the sounding of the “seventh trumpet” just before the final judgment. Presumably, the “sixth trumpet” also concludes at that same time.
This trumpet blast is connected to the sixth “bowl of wrath” by verbal links. Both begin with the release of creatures from beyond the Euphrates, and both end with the overthrow of end-time “Babylon.”
The second “woe” begins like the first one, with the release of a malevolent force, this time from the “Euphrates River” rather than the “Abyss.” And again, the victims of the onslaught are the “inhabitants of the earth,” who harden their hearts further after each plague.
- (Revelation 9:13-16) – “And the sixth angel sounded; and I heard one voice from among the horns of the altar of gold, which is before God, saying unto the sixth angel who was holding the trumpet, Loose the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates. And the four angels were loosed who had been prepared for the hour, and day, and month, and year, that they should slay the third of men. And the number of the armies of the horsemen was twice ten thousand times ten thousand, I heard the number of them.”
Here, John has described what he “heard,” not what he saw. The “golden altar” refers to the altar of incense on which the “prayers of the saints” were offered “as incense.” The judgments now being unleashed are in response to those prayers – (Revelation 8:2-5).
Mesopotamia lay beyond the Euphrates River, but the passage does not refer to any geographic location east of that river. The trumpet judgments target the “inhabitants of the earth,” not the residents of Mesopotamia.
Like the “sixth bowl of wrath,” the sixth trumpet dried up the Euphrates. The angel was sent to “loose the four angels bound at the great river the Euphrates.” Earlier, the “four angels” restraining the “winds of the earth” were linked to the “four corners of the earth.” Thus, in Revelation, the number ‘four’ symbolizes universality. These four angels may be identical to the previous set of four angels – (Revelation 7:1-3).
The angels were “prepared for the hour, day, month and year, to kill the third of men.” This is the “hour of trial that is going to come upon the inhabitants of the earth,” the hour of end-time Babylon’s desolation. The verb rendered “prepared” (hetoimazō) here also occurs in the “sixth bowl of wrath” the way of the “kings of the east” was prepared for the coming battle at “Armageddon” – Revelation 3:10, 16:12-16, 18:10, 18:17-19).
The death of a “third” of humanity is not a case of forbearance by God to limit the extent of the damage. Neither the “inhabitants of the earth” killed nor the ones remaining alive escape judgment, for the “seventh trumpet” or “third woe” will mean nothing less than the “time for the dead to be judged, and the destruction of them that destroy the earth.”
- (Revelation 9:17-19) –“And thus, saw I the horses in the vision, and them who were sitting on them, having breastplates as of fire and hyacinth and brimstone; and the heads of the horses were as heads of lions, and out of their mouths come forth fire and smoke and brimstone: by these three plagues were slain the third part of mankind, by reason of the fire and the smoke and the brimstone that proceeds out of their mouths; for the license of the horses is in their mouth and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents having heads, and with them they injure.”
Now, John describes what he “sees,” which interprets what he first heard. Instead of an invading human army, he “sees” a horde of demonic creatures, and the link to the “Euphrates” informs us that its source is “Babylon.” The riders have “breastplates like fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone.” Elsewhere, “brimstone” is linked to the “lake of fire” – (Revelation 14:10, 19:20, 21:8).
The “locusts” unleashed by the “fifth trumpet” had “tails with stings like scorpions.” Here, the demonic riders have “tails like snakes” (ophis) and the authority to inflict harm. The same term is applied later to Satan, “the great dragon and that ancient serpent,” which links these “riders” to the “Dragon.” Their tails “harm” (adikeō) men, which is the same verb applied in the promise to overcoming believers – “You will not be harmed of the second death,” which is the “lake of fire” – (Revelation 2:11, 12:9, 12:14-15, 20:2).
“Fire, smoke, and brimstone” spewed from their mouths – Three different “plagues” sent to kill a third of humanity. The first four trumpets unleashed fire, and the fifth one produced smoke. Now, “brimstone” is added to the mix, and each of the three elements is connected to the “lake of fire” – (Revelation 14:10-11, 18:9, 19:3, 19:20).
The three plagues were “issuing” (ekporeuomai) from their “mouths.” This parodies Jesus in the vision of “one like a son of man” where a two-edged sword was issuing (ekporeuomai) from his mouth. Likewise, in the vision of the “rider on a white horse,” the same sharp sword is seen issuing from his mouth. What “issues” from the mouth of Jesus is life, but from the mouths of Satan and his minions comes only death.
This last feature links this image to the “two witnesses” in chapter 11. Whenever anyone attempted to harm them, “fire issued (ekporeuomai) from their mouth and consumed their enemies; and if any man desired to harm (adikeō) them, in this manner must he be killed.”
- (Revelation 9:20-21) – “And the rest of mankind who were not slain by these plagues, repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not do homage unto the demons, nor unto the idols of gold and of silver and of copper and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; neither repented they of their murders, or of their sorceries, or of their fornications, or of their thefts.”
In response to the plagues, the “inhabitants of the earth” hardened their hearts, just like the Pharaoh of Egypt. The deaths of a “third part of men” did not produce repentance, and the “rest” of the “inhabitants of the earth” refused to cease worshiping “demons, and the idols of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of stone, and of wood.” Their sin was idolatry.
The death of a “third of mankind” was not a partial judgment, but an example to “the rest” of men who were not slain outright, a foretaste of the “second death” that awaited them. The “rest” consisted of men and women who hardened their hearts to every appeal from the “Lamb.” The demonic horde inflicted the same kind of punishment on some men that is reserved for “the rest” in the “lake of fire” – (Revelation 14:10-11, 19:20, 20:10, 21:8).
The “murders, sorceries, fornication, and thefts” are sins connected elsewhere in the book to end-time “Babylon” and her economic control. Thus, for example, the nations of the earth were deceived by her “sorceries” and “fornication” – (Revelation 17:2-6, 18:3, 18:23-24, 19:2).
Revelation expects us to read the story of Israel into its visions. Because of the death of Jesus, the “churches of Asia” have left “Egypt” and journeying to “New Jerusalem.” Along the way, they endure persecution and even captivity at the hands of end-time “Babylon.” But what the “Dragon” intends for the destruction of the church, the “Lamb” now uses to judge His enemies and further the exodus of his people.
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