Sixth Trumpet - Second Woe

OVERVIEW - The sixth trumpet unleashed a demonic horde from beyond the “Euphrates” sent to afflict the “inhabitants of the earth” - Revelation 9:13-21.

Dark Sky - Photo by Ed Pirnak on Unsplash
The sixth trumpet is related to the sixth “bowl of wrath.” Both begin with the release of creatures from beyond the Euphrates River, and both end with the overthrow of end-time “Babylon.” The second “woe” begins like the preceding one, with the release of a malevolent force, this time from the “
Euphrates River” rather than the "Abyss." The victims of this onslaught are the "inhabitants of the earth," that only harden their hearts further with each plague - [Photo by Ed Pirnak on Unsplash].
  • (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 unleashed are in response to their prayers - (Revelation 8:2-5).

Mesopotamia lay beyond the Euphrates River. The river flowed through the center of the city of Babylon. But this does not refer to a geographic location east of the Euphrates. The judgments released by the “three woes” target the “inhabitants of the earth,” not Mesopotamia. Any allusion to “Babylon” is to the end-time reality described elsewhere - (Revelation 8:13, 17:1-5).

Like the “sixth bowl of wrath,” the sixth trumpet dried up the Euphrates River. The angel was commanded to “loose the four angels bound at the great river Euphrates.” Elsewhere, “four angels” are linked to the “four corners of the earth.” The number four symbolizes universality. They are probably identical to the four angels that were holding back the “winds of heaven” while God’s servants were sealed - (Revelation 7:1-3).

The four 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 Babylon’s desolation. The verb rendered “prepared” (hetoimazō) occurs in both images (the four angels were prepared; the sixth bowl prepared the way of the kings - Revelation 3:10, 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 means nothing less than the “time of 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.”
Next, John described what he “saw.” What he sees interprets what he first heard. Instead of an invading human army, he saw a horde of hideous demonic creatures. But 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 14:1019:2021:8).

The “locusts” of the fifth trumpet had “tails with stings like scorpions.” Here, these riders have “tails like snakes” (ophis) with the authority to inflict harm. The same term is applied later to Satan, “the great dragon and that old serpent.” This links the “riders” to the “Dragon.” Their tails “harm” (adikeō) men, the same verb from the promise to overcoming believers - “You will not be harmed of the second death,” which is the Lake of Fire - (Revelation 2:11, 12:912:14-1520:2).

It was not “might” found in their “tails,” but “authority, license” (exousia). This is a verbal link to the vision of the “beast from the sea that had a mouth like a lion, and the dragon gave it great authority.”

Fire, smoke, and brimstone” spewed from their mouths; three different “plagues” sent to kill a third of mankind. The first four trumpets unleashed fire, and the fifth one produced smoke. Now, brimstone is added to the mix. Each of these elements is connected to the “Lake of Fire” - (Revelation 14:10-11, 18:9, 19:3, 19:20).

The three elements were “issuing” (ekporeuomai) from their “mouths.” This parodies Jesus who John saw with a sharp two-edged sword issuing (ekporeuomai) from his mouth. Likewise, in the vision of the “rider on a white horse,” a sharp sword was issuing from his mouth. What “issues” from the mouth of Jesus is life. From the mouths of Satan and his minions comes only death.

This last feature is also a link to the “two witnesses.” 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.”

The horses have tails like serpents, “having heads with which they injure.” This may correspond to the “beast from the sea” with its “seven heads,” one of which appeared “as though slain unto death; and its plague was healed.”
  • (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 fornication, or of their thefts.”
In response to the plagues, the “inhabitants of the earth” hardened their hearts. The deaths of a “third part of men” did not produce repentance. “Plagues” and hardened hearts link the vision to the Exodus story, when the ten plagues hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

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. Likewise, the “False Prophet” caused men to make an “image of the beast,” and to render homage to it - (Revelation 13:15-17).

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. This demonstrated the justice of God’s impending judgment. “The rest” consisted of men who hardened their hearts to any 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” were sins connected to Babylon and her economic dominion. Thus later, the nations of the earth were deceived by her “sorceries” and “fornication” - (Revelation 17:2-618:3, 18:23-24, 19:2).

The book of Revelation expects us to read the story of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, and of its persecution by Babylon, into its vision for the end-time saints of God. Because of the death of Jesus, the churches of Asia have left “Egypt” and now are in transit to the Greater Promised Land, “New Jerusalem.” Along the way, they endure persecution and even captivity at the hands of end-time “Babylon.” What the “Dragon” meant 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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