Lesson: III.C.8: Sixth Trumpet Four Angels With an Army of Two Hundred Million, Killing A Third of Mankind page 2 of 4 (Lessons on Revelations)
by John Lowe
15 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.
The four “angels” (demons) seemed to be in command of a huge horde of demonic horsemen—mounted troops numbering 200,000,000. These angels were unbound and released to kill a third of mankind. During the first “woe,” the unbelievers were being tormented but could not die (9:6). In this woe, a third of all people on the earth were killed. How they are killed is described in 9:18: “A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths.” Again, this affects only those who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads (9:4, 20). As with the torture inflicted during the fifth trumpet, these demons were attacking their own followers.
We are told of the special period involved. John says, “And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared (had been prepared) for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.” This rendering of the text suggests that the ministry of these four angels will extend over a period of thirteen months and one day. The exact moment of this terrible visitation is foreknown to God only and appointed by Him. “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18). Nothing in the program of God is accidental. The precise moment of this invasion is fixed. God works according to His predetermined plan (24:36; Acts 1:7).
In any case, attention is drawn to a specific period. All events are under God’s control, and nothing happens without His approval. Not a speck of dust moves, not a blade of grass stirs, not an army can move, not a shot can be fired without His knowing all about it and granting His permission. He weaves all things into the overall pattern of His will.
This could correspond to the plague in Egypt that caused the death of the firstborn sons. In that final plague, the angel of death came and killed the firstborn sons of the Egyptian family’s but passed over the homes of the Israelites (Exodus 11). Many men died in Egypt that night, but that will not compare to the terror that will come upon the earth when these demotic mounted troops arrive. In 6:7-8, one-fourth of mankind had been killed; here, one-third more was killed. Thus, over one-half of the people in the world would have been killed by God’s great judgments. Even more would have been killed if God had not set limits on the destruction.
The most dreaded warriors in the world were the Parthian cavalry; and the Parthians dwelt beyond the Euphrates. It may well be that John was visualizing a terrible attack by the Parthian cavalry on mankind.
16 And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.
In John’s day, 3200,000,000 mounted troops in an army was inconceivable. Most interpreters do not take the number literally, though there is good evidence that all other numbers in Revelation are literal. Even if taken symbolically, this figure clearly represents an overwhelming military force. The fact that John heard the number, since obviously he could not visually count 200,000,000 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 (16:12). A large invasion from the East and North in the end times is predicted in Daniel 11:44. Years ago Read China claimed to have an army of 200,000,000. In the census taken in the Roman Empire the number of people in the entire Empire totaled around 2200,000,000. So for the people of that day, that meant one demonic horsemen for every person in the Empire. At the height of World War II, all soldiers on both sides numbered about 70,000,000. It is said that the largest army ever to go on the field of battle was under Xerxes when he invaded Greece. He led one and a half million (1,500,000) troops against Greece.
This huge army, led by the four demons, killed one-third of the earth’s population. But the judgment was still not complete. 200,000,000 horsemen represent the combined power of the devil and men acting in their own interest, and yet, at the same time, they are ignorantly carrying out God’s judicial will. Everything is under Satan’s control, but God is behind the scenes moving these various scenes along. There is no power on earth able to restrain these hellish horsemen. I believe that what we have here is the invasion by the demon world, which is a further result of Satan’s opening the door of the shaft of the bottomless pit.
The deathless torment of the locusts (lesson III.C.7) gives way to an unmatched slaughter of human lives. Throughout history, plagues have caused the death of millions, often striking a high percentage of the population. But this disaster surpasses them all. The sixth trumpet announces the death of one-third of humanity. The math itself should have shocked the people into realizing that this is more than a natural disaster. But so hardened are the surviving two-thirds of earth’s inhabitants that they remained unrepentant (9:21). God did not spare them because they deserved to be spared, but because in wrath He remembers mercy. God has never delighted in the death of the wicked. In the midst of His visitations of severest judgments, he delights to be gracious to the guilty. But regrettably, the death of one billion people on the earth, with the accompanying grief and the confusion which must follow such a disaster, finds the residue of people not willing to repent. Such is the human heart, deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. After two world wars, and 100 lesser wars in the past 50 years, the world is more wicked than ever. Instead of repentance, sin increases.
17 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.
John describes his vision in verses 17-19. He saw this army of 200,000,000 mounted troops as horses and riders with brightly colored 4breastplates. The fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur (brimstone) indicate their “colors”—to show that they are identified with the army of destruction. They seem to be armored in flame, for their breastplates are fiery red like the glow of a blazing furnace, smoking blue like the smoke rising from a fire and sulfurous yellow like the 5brimstone from the pit of hell. The fire will burn, and the smoke and brimstone (sulfur) will choke and stifle to death. The combination here has been called the “defensive armor of hell.” Jacinth (hyacinth) is a deep blue like that of a flame, but it is the blue of the pit and not the blue of heaven (See Genesis 19:24 for fire and brimstone in judgment).
The horses have heads like Lions and tails like serpents; with their mouths they cause the death of millions by breathing out destructive fire and smoke and brimstone, and their serpent-tails (9:19) deal out hurt and harm, but not death. These are warriors bent on total destruction. Mankind has been living in the nuclear age sense 1945 when America dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima. Ever since then, there has been a lot of talk about the total decimation of earth’s inhabitants. But the Lord Jesus said that he will not permit it: “. . . except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved . . .” (Matthew 24:22)—and the human race would commit suicide if it could.
The riders undoubtedly will be super-human, and probably demented . . . a great army of demons out of hell. The riders are mounted upon horses that cannot be stopped, cannot be conquered. I believe these are literal horses, demented—and that the riders are demon monstrosities.
18 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.
They were released to kill a third of mankind through fire, smoke and sulfur that comes out of their mouths. Since a forth of mankind has already been killed (Revelation 6:8), this means that half of the world’s population will be dead by the time the sixth trumpet judgment is completed. (The fire, smoke, and sulfur may represent three different, yet destructive, plagues.) This sort of destruction had fallen on the evil cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (See Genesis 19:24). Sulfur, or brimstone, was found near regions with volcanic activity and, in the Bible, it represents the wrath of God (See 14:10; Isaiah 30:33; 34:9). Many interpreters see modern cannons or tanks in this picture. John reminds us that these monstrosities (horses with riders) were in my vision and, most likely, are symbolic representations of demonic hordes, not descriptions of the actual human armies. The figure of the horse is more like the description of the Leviathan in Job 41:19-21, “Fire and sparks leap from its mouth. Smoke streams from its nostrils like steam from a boiling pot on a fire of dry grass. Yes, its breath would kindle coals, for flames shoot from its mouth” (NLT).