The Weekend Word
Last time we saw with the blast of the fifth trumpet, that we the readers today just as I imagine the original readers in John’s day have had unleashed upon us an avalanche of images that are impossible to reconcile with reality. One figure quickly changes into another until the reader is left with this strange amalgamation that does not exist in nature. These changes happen at a rapid pace throughout this chapter – as we will see more with this 6th trumpet and should totally bewilder the reader who dares to read this passage “literally”.
I need to insert this clarification every once in a while during these studies. It is wrong to say that those who read this chapter in a figurative fashion are not reading the text literally. To read a biblical text literally is to read the text according to the literature in which it is based. As I have repeated many times, the Revelation is an apocalyptic text and must be read as an apocalyptic text. We cannot read this book in the same way we read Exodus or Kings or one of the gospels or epistles.
13 Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God,
- Note that this is not from the 4 corners of the earth or from the 4 winds, but from the 4 horns of the altar.
- The ‘voice’ is like that of John the Baptist – an unseen voice also crying in the wilderness. (John 3) – also similar to the ‘voice’ at Jesus’ baptism; an unseen voice from heaven. This voice is coming from the presence of God as identified by the altar.
- For those with a good understanding of their OT, this is from the temple, the altar of incense – Exodus 27.
14 saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.”
- Again if you know your OT you will recognize that the Euphrates River is the theological boundary to the Promised Land – Gen 15:18 & Deut 1:7.
- Where does God’s judgment come from? Later in the OT it comes in the form of the Assyrians against an unrepentant Israel Isa 8:5-8 where we see that the Euphrates River is the boundary between East and West … and they come from the east.
- Even in John’s day, the Euphrates River played an important role as it was the eastern boundary of the Roman Empire. Beyond the Euphrates was the Parthian Empire – and they were a nasty people.
- So these 4 angels are standing at the boundary of the frontier. They may be representing the Parthian hoards or perhaps leading the Parthians – the enemy behind the enemy is not human, but demonic.
- This is quite the law / gospel distinction passage. God releases to crush to kill – God releases in order to protect and preserve.
- Luther spoke of it this way – my short version – God’s alien work is his work of the law in which he condemns, judges and kills. God’s proper work is what he does through his word of gospel which is to forgive, save and create the sinner to be a saint.
- It is a necessary work to get to the ultimate work. So much of the Christian church is to sidebar the judgment and sin and get right to the loving God; and he is a loving God but he is not going to pretend that sin does not kill and bring death.(Romans 6:23). They continue on that the wages of sin are really nothing and that eternal life is not a free gift – but you earn it.
- This is the deception that has infected mankind since the beginning – at the fall – but then reality sets in and we see death riding out and 1/3rd of mankind dies.
15 So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind.
- This is not the culmination of all things as only 1/3rd are killed, but a warning as we will see in v.20.
- Note that the hour, day, month and year are set. This is on God’s timetable.
- Galatians 4”4 spoke of “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law…” – even Luke does the same when he locates the birth of Jesus in a particular historical setting.
16 The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number.
- This is a great passage to emphasize the symbolic nature of this entire book. First it seems that the four angels become the 200 million troops and then the symbolism is furthered by the phrase “I heard their number.”
- A demonic army of mounted horsemen.
- The rapture crowd identifies this as 200 million mounted soldiers from China, as they are the only nation with a population large enough to provide such an army.
- We are actually looking at the OT imagery stated in Ezekiel 38&39 – Gog – v.9 –“You will advance, coming on like a storm. You will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your hordes, and many peoples with you.
17 And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths.
- John tries his best to describe what he is seeing in a vision. Imagine when you wake up and try to describe a dream.
- Note that it is not the riders who kill – but the horses.
18 By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths.
- One third killed. What kinds of horses have fire, smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths? I did extensive research and can pretty much report that neither Silver, Scout nor Trigger or Buttermilk were described this way and I found no reports of the killer heat coming from them.
19 For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound.
- Think back to the description of the locusts v.7-11 and note they too had deadly tails.
20 The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk,
- Two thirds survive and will not repent. Survived but not unscathed. They are wounded by the horses tails – the snakes, so they are writhing in pain and have poisons in their bodies – but fail to repent
21 nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
- This is the same today, heck it has been the same through history – the world refuses to give up any of their sin.
- This is nothing more than mankind living out their lives of idolatry.