Elon, North Carolina
We have been studying the Book of Revelation and we have some to a period in the book that deals with the Great Tribulation. It is made up of three series of judgments that get progressively worse (the seals, the trumpets and the bowls). The trumpet judgments are worse than the seal judgments and the last few trumpet judgments are worse than the first few trumpet judgments.
The first four trumpet judgments affected nature. They affected the environment (e.g., the land, the sea, the rivers and the solar system). The fifth trumpet tortures people for five months. They only torture the wicked. Anyone with the seal of God on their forehead is protected from these locusts.
The sixth trumpet judgment does not just torture people really bad, it kills people and not just some people. It kills a lot of people – one third of the planet, completely wiped out. The locusts didn’t kill anyone but these judgments get progressively worse. They go from torture to death.
These terrible judgments during the Tribulation Period were all in response to the prayers of the martyrs. During the Tribulation period, God’s people are going to be slaughtered. It may be the greatest period of martyrdom we have ever seen.
Anyone who does not worship the Antichrist can be killed and many are. In response to these prayers, come the trumpet judgments. They will be literal plagues. Many people try to spiritualize them but they are patterned after the ten plagues of Egypt which were literal.
Last week, we looked at the fifth trumpet judgment in Revelation 9. It was little bizarre. It takes a little bit of imagination. The fifth trumpet judgment describes a group of demons locked up in a great furnace called the Abyss. While many demons are free, some are locked up and incarcerated.
God locked up the worst of the worst of these demons a long time ago and they have no way of getting out of that place but in the Tribulation will come down from heaven with a key and during the Fifth Trumpet Judgment he will open that demon prison and when he opens it, all kinds of smoke comes out. So much smoke comes out that the sky becomes completely black. The smoke blocks the sun from shinning.
Out of the smoke comes a group of locusts but these are special locusts. Locusts normally attack green things, like grass and vegetation but these locusts leave the plants alone. They attack people, rather than plants and they do this for five months straight. The locusts sting people with their tails and the sting is said to be like the sting of a scorpion. The pain from that sting is said to be so bad that people want to kill themselves.
These locusts are demons. They came from the pit. Death seems like a relief to this torture they are experiencing but God will not let them die. Those who tortured the saints are now being tortured themselves. There were some rather strange pictures in the fifth trumpet judgment.
It describes hippy locusts with the face of a man and the hair of a woman, coming out of this great furnace called the Abyss to torture people to the point of suicide. Let’s read Revelation 9:13-21.
The Sixth Trumpet
What happens during the sixth trumpet judgment? An army kills one-third of the planet (9:18). Some believe that the Book of Revelation was fulfilled in the first century. They are called preterists.
They believe that this was all fulfilled in 70 AD. There is only one problem. One third of the planet did not die from a 200 million man army in 70 AD. The earth has never experienced that kind of devastation.
The sixth trumpet describes something that has not taken place yet. It describes a huge massacre, a satanic slaughter one-third of the planet (9:15). This army will be equipped with weapons of mass destruction. The sixth trumpet is a little disturbing. It is one of the reasons that people do not like to read this book.
This future Tribulation judgment would kill billions of people today. There are seven billion people in the world today. If one-third of the planet was wiped out today, that would involve the death of over two billion people. Keep in mind that one-fourth of the world population was already killed during the fourth seal (6:7, 8).
These two judgments result in about one-half the world population being destroyed. In addition, many believers in the Tribulation will be martyred. That is why Jesus said in Matthew 24 that if this period was not cut short, no one would survive.
Three Parts of the Army
There are three parts to this army that we see in Revelation. What are these three parts?
1. The leaders of the army
The army is led by four angels. A voice tells the sixth angel to release the four angels who are bound in the Euphrates River. Why are they released? They are released so that they can kill one third of the planet (9:15). This judgment starts with four angels. Where have we seen four angels in Revelation before?
Revelation 7:1 mentioned four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth. They must have been pretty strong angels. Revelation 9:14 mentions four angels bound at the River Euphrates.
Are these the same angels? No. The angels in Revelation 7 are located in the four corners of the earth. These are located in the area of the Euphrates River. The angels in Revelation 7 are good angels and the angels in Revelation 9 are bad angels.
How do we know? Good angels are never bound in Scripture. They are never put in prison. Only bad angels are bound. Note the contrast. In one place angels are holding down the winds are held down by angels. In the other case, the angels themselves are held down.
The fifth trumpet began with a group of demons locked up in the Abyss. The sixth trumpet begins with four angels bound at the great river Euphrates. That is interesting. Why are angels tied up in a river? Why are they in the Euphrates River? Why not the Mississippi River or the Ohio River? He does not say that they are bound in the river but at the river.
Why that particular river? It is where the Garden of Eden was located. It was one of the four rivers that flowed out of the Garden of Eden. It was where the first sin, the first rebellion and the first murder on the planet took place.
It was the place of Satan’s original deception. The Euphrates is the river that runs through the country of Iraq, past the city of Babylon (the center of idolatry and false religion in Scripture), so it is a fitting place where these demons were bound.
2. The soldiers in the army
We do not know much about the soldiers. We know the color of their breastplates – “fiery red and dark blue and yellow” (NLT). We know is their number (9:16). The text mentions that twice. John says that their number is two hundred million soldiers (that would be an army made up of two-thirds of the population of the US).
One very common view is that this is a human army. Many dispensationalists have suggested that this is talking about a Chinese army. Where do they get this idea? In the 1960s, China claimed to have a two hundred million man army. Mao boasted about this. Furthermore, Revelation also talks about an invasion from the East (16:12).
The argument goes that this is the only country that could fulfill this. China does not have an active force of 200 million but they could call up 200 million for service. Will the sixth trumpet be fulfilled by a Chinese invasion? No. There are two problems with this view.
- China does not have are 200 million horses
There are not even 200 million horses on earth. Some have suggested that this cannot be a Chinese army because their feet would not reach the stirrups (unless they are miniature horses) but those people have never met Yao Ming.
- This invasion does NOT come from the East
Revelation 16:12 mentions an invasion from the East but that is one of the bowl judgments, not one of the trumpet judgments. This is the sixth trumpet judgment, not the sixth bowl judgment. The chronology is wrong. The sixth bowl judgment is part of the seventh trumpet judgment, not the sixth. It is an error to read Revelation 16 into Revelation 9.
Revelation 9 is not talking about a human army. It is talking about a demonic army. The sixth trumpet involves an army of two hundred million demons, not two hundred million Chinese. If an army of two hundred million men sounds scary, how much worse an army of two hundred million demons?
3. The horses
This force will have the weapons of hell. I think it is interesting that the lethal power of this military force does not come from the soldiers but from the horses that they are riding. These horses will have this awesome power of fire, smoke and brimstone coming forth from their mouths. They will also have power in their tails.
Note it is not the individuals on the horses that are significant. It is the horses themselves. The horses themselves are the death dealing instruments of the plague.
Most Bible students focus on “the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the terrible things that they bring. Here is a fifth group of horsemen than bring an even more lethal force than the four horsemen brought. What exactly are these horses? There are only three possibilities.
Characteristics of the Horses
1) They are not special horses
These are no more literal horses than the locusts in the previous judgment were ordinary locusts. The locusts from the fifth trumpet judgment came out of a smoky furnace called the Abyss. They come from the pit of hell and had the power to torture people, which ordinary locusts do not do. These are fire-breathing horses. That does not describe ordinary horses.
2) They are supernatural horses
They are clearly not ordinary horses. They are special horses. They are part horse, part lion, part serpent and part dragon. These horses will have the head of a lion and the mouth of a dragon.
These are fire breathing dragons with fire and smoke and brimstone coming out of their mouths and they have the tail of a serpent. Both the fifth and the sixth trumpet judgments involve supernatural animals. The sixth trumpet judgment has to be interpreted in light of the fifth trumpet judgment.
These are clearly demonic beings that take the form of a locust or a horse. They are hellish horses. They are led by four angels. These angels were clearly demons. They were bound and they were released to only do one thing – to kill and to kill a third of mankind (9:15).
There are other instances in Revelation of supernatural horses. Jesus returns from heaven on a white horse (19:11). Horses do not normally fly.
3) They are symbolic horses
Horses are not a big part of modern warfare. Perhaps this is a symbol of modern warfare. John lived in the first century. He had never seen a machine gun, a tank, a missile or a nuclear weapon.
Could this be a first century description of modern warfare? There is only one problem. Revelation 9:16-17 says, “The number of the mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand. I heard their number. The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this”.
John does NOT say that he saw an army that looked like horses. He says that he saw horses. Many other times in the book he uses figurative language (The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea [9:8]; The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair [6:12] The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up [6:14]). John does not say that “he saw something that looked like a horse” and “what came out of his mouth looked like fire, smoke and brimstone”.
Lessons from this Demonic Army
1. The Sovereignty of God
God is in complete control of this judgment. He is incomplete control of these demons.
- He is in complete control of when they come out.
They do not come out when they want to come out. Things looked like they were completely out of control but actually God was in complete control of everything. He sets the timetable and everything was taking place according to that timetable. They come out only when God lets them out and God lets them out only at His divinely appointed time.
They are released at the day, the hour, the month and the year that God wants them to be released (9:15). That shows predestination. There was a certain time down to the very minute that these demons were to be released and that is when they will be released. Exactly when that will be (2013 or 2020), we are not told.
- God is not only in control of the time they come out, he is in control of what they do.
The demons are not trying to help God out or do his will. They are doing what demons normally do but God used them for his purpose. The demons think that they are serving Satan but they are actually carrying out the plan of God.
Proverbs 16:4 says, “The LORD hath made ALL THINGS for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil”. All things means “all things”. There are no exceptions. God even uses demons to do his will. God is completely sovereign over everything, including the wicked. The wicked cannot thwart his plans (Daniel 4:35).
Proverbs 21:30 says, “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD”. God “works out EVERYTHING in conformity with the purpose of his will” Ephesians 1:11). ALL THINGS work together for good for believers (Romans 8:28), not just some things.
2. The Grace of God
How many are killed during this judgment? One-third of the planet is killed. That means that two thirds are not killed. God could have wiped everyone out but the majority is spared. God shows mercy in the midst of wrath (Habakkuk 3:2). The rest have a chance to repent.
3. The Wickedness of Man
How will people in the Tribulation respond to these judgments (cf. 9:20-21)? There will be absolutely no change. Those who are not killed do not repent.
- They continue to worship idols.
False worship continues. Notice that people will be very religious in the Tribulation. They just will not be worshipping the true God. You can be very religious and not know God. The Pharisees were very religious. Muslim extremists that blow things up and kill people in the name of Allah are very religious but they are lost.
But there is an irony here. Irony these demons from the pit are tormenting and killing them breathing out fire and brimstone and yet people continue to worship them. Why would you worship someone who only hurts you? They get beat up by demons.
They keep on worshipping the very demons that are destroying them. The Bible teaches that demons are behind false religion and false worship. Demons are behind idolatry (I Corinthians 10:18-20; I Timothy 4:1-3). In the Tribulation people will be worshipping the Antichrist.
- They continue to sin.
The passage mentions four common sins in the Tribulation period (murder, immorality, stealing and sorcery). Each of these are common sins today. Sexual immorality is a problem today. The US murder rate is a lot lower than some countries (Honduras, El Salvador, Jamaica) but it is still not safe to walk in certain streets in America. Stealing is a problem today.
What about sorcery? The word is φαρμακεία. We get the word pharmacy (drug store) from it. Drugs were related to astrology, witchcraft and the occult in the ancient world. There will be an increase in drug use in the Tribulation period and is still a problem today.
What is the lesson here? People do not seem to be reformed by punishment. Locking a person up for fifty years does not change his nature. He has to be changed on the inside. These Tribulation judgments do not produce any change in people for the better. The Ten Plagues in Egypt did not change the Pharaoh (Exodus 7:13-14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 12, 34, 35; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:8).