Lesson: Sixth Trumpet: Four Angels With an Army of Two Hundred Million, Killing A Third of Mankind Page 1 of 4 (series: Lessons on Revelations)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,

And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,

Commentary on the Book of Revelation
By: Tom Lowe Date: 5-23-16

Lesson: III.C.8: Sixth Trumpet (Second Woe): Four Angels With an Army of Two Hundred Million, Killing A Third of Mankind (Revelation 9:13-21)

Revelation 9:13-21 (KJV)

13 And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,
14 Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.
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.
16 And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.
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.
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.
19 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.
20 And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:
21 Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.


The horror of the vision mounts. The demonic locusts were allowed to injure but not kill; but now come the squadrons of demonic cavalry to annihilate a third part of the human race.

Since the appearance of the eagle announcing the three woes in 8:13, the trumpets have been identified as woes (9:12). What is identified as the second woe here is also the six trumpet. This is a passage which is mysterious and whose details no one has ever been able to fully explain.

John’s conviction, though voiced as a lament, that idolatry has a hold on man so great that he will go on worshipping the works of his own hands even while the infinite power of the true God is displayed all about him. A subtle implication at the end of the passage is that the world is just this way. John wrote to Christians to encourage them to be faithful to God even though this evil world rejects Him. They must bear their witness in this world—as it exists.

13 And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,

There were two alters in the ancient tabernacle, one stood without, in the court (the brazen alter; the alter of sacrifice)—and one stood within the Holy Place directly in front of the veil which covered the holy of holies (the “golden alter,” where incense was burned.). There is another “golden altar;” it is in heaven in front of the throne of God.

It is not known whether this was the voice of Christ or of an angel, one of His delegated messengers. The “horns of the golden altar,” refers to the heavenly altar and its four decorative projections, one at each corner (See Exodus 27:2). This is where the “voice”—one voice, instead of a symphony of the voices of all the martyrs (6:9, 10), and a voice of authority instead of an angel’s voice—seemed to emanate, and it is probably the same altar mentioned in 8:3, the place where the prayers of the saints have been expressed to God. According to 6:9, this altar was where the souls of all who had been martyred were waiting for God’s punishment to be executed on their enemies. Their prayers called for vengeance, and God was releasing it in these “woes”: “As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!” (8:13).

The voice is heard from the four horns of the golden altar. Why was the voice not from the altar itself, instead of from the four horns? In ancient religions the power of the deity was thought to reside in the horns of its altar. Therefore, this order comes directly from God. The fact that the angels are held ready for the exact date and time (9:15) also indicates that what is about to happen is completely under Gods control. The voice coming from the horns indicates power over all the universe (Psalm 118:27; Psalm 89:17-24; Psalm 92:10; Psalm 132:17; Revelation 5:6).

14 Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.

Peter and Jude both tell of certain angels who sinned much more than their comrades and who are, at present, kept imprisoned by God: “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment” (2 Peter 2:4; See also, Jude 6). We do not know how many there are, but we know there are some. Four of these fallen angels are now loosed to carry out a predetermined plan. These angels are called “the four,” as though to intimate that they are a special four. Doubtless they are of great influence and power because they are able to marshal their armies by the millions the moment they are released. The voice told the angel who “had the trumpet” to set into motion the sixth trumpet judgment and the second “woe” that must be sent on the earth. This order may be in response to the prayers of the martyrs in 8:3 before the sounding of the first trumpet. The angel would “release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” The word “angels” here means fallen angels—those angels who followed Lucifer in his rebellion and revolt against God (Isaiah 14:12-14)—or demons, for in Scripture God’s angels are never bound. Good angels are not bound, but are free to serve God’s children. In this present age of grace certain demons that would torment and kill all men are kept bound by God. But after the Church has been raptured God will release four of them at the sounding of the sixth trumpet just as a host will be released when the fifth trumpet sounds. These four unidentified demons would be exceedingly evil and destructive. But note that they did not have the power to release themselves to do their evil work on earth. Instead, they were held back by God and would be released at a specific time, doing only what God allowed them to do. They had been kept ready for this very “hour, and day, and month, and year” (v. 15).

These four angels are not the same as the four angels in Revelation 7:1-3. In chapter seven the angels stand on the extremities of the earth. Here in chapter nine they are bound in the great river Euphrates, unable to act until God gives them permission. The angels in chapter 7 hold back the forces of evil. The four angels in chapter nine let loose the human and satanic instruments of destruction and judgment. Why they are bound at the Euphrates River is not explained. The Euphrates is usually spoken of as “the great river”; it is 1,780 miles long. It will be referred to in 16:12. It is the longest and most important river of Western Asia. It will be remembered that the river of Egypt (the Wadi el Arish) and the Euphrates are the bounds of the Promised Land (Genesis 15:18).

The “river Euphrates” was the eastern boundary of the land that God had promised to 1Abraham (Genesis 15:18). In John’s day, it was the eastern boundary of the Roman Empire, the dividing line between the “civilized” peoples and the “barbarian” hordes (such as the Parthians whom the Romans had tried to conquer but could not. Throughout the Old Testament, the nations that had come to conquer Israel (Assyria, Babylonia) had crossed the “Euphrates” (See Isaiah 8:5-8; Jeremiah 2:18). The angels, therefore, came from the distant lands, from the alien and hostile places from which the Assyrians and the Babylonians had in time past descended with destruction upon Israel.

The“Euphrates” has a long history. We know that the Euphrates was one of four tributaries which flowed from the river in Eden (Genesis 2:10-14). It was here that man first saw the light of day, and it was here that Satan began his first diabolical work against our first parents which resulted in our fallen human race. Here the first murder was committed (Genesis 4:8) and the first martyr was slain, and here man’s first organized rebellion against God took place (Genesis 11); here Babylon arose; and here four special angels of Satan rage in bonds.

At this point, I need to pass on to you another interpretation of verses 14 and 15—the four angels who are bound at the Euphrates River are the angels that God has set aside to pour out His wrath on the earth. They have not been able to perform their designed purpose until this moment in time. These angels are going to release an army on the earth to destroy a third of the population—millions of people.

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