In the story of the siege of Jerico in the book of Joshua, the
Israelites went around the city once each day for six days. On the
seventh day they went around the city seven times, and blew their
trumpets. And when they heard the long blast of the ram's horn, all the
people gave a shout, and the walls fell down. Those events are a type
and precedent for the seven trumpets of Revelation. Rahab the harlot
hid the two messengers sent by Joshua, and was saved alive.
The chapter preceding the account of the 7 trumpets describes the sealing of the people of God. In Revelation 7:3 the angel says: "Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads."
The first trumpet affects the earth, the 2nd affects the sea, the 3rd affects fountains and rivers, and the 4th affects heavenly bodies, sun, moon, and stars. These four trumpets may be considered together. Earth, and sea, represent the status of the people of the world in Revelation 12:12, while heaven pictures the status of those who were sealed. Rivers and fountains represent the waters of life, the living water that flows from the church to the world. The heavenly bodies were created to be "signs" or symbols; the sun represents the gospel; stars represent saints, and the moon represents the Mosaic legislation.
The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
Preterists say all the trumpets of Revelation were fulfilled during
the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Thus they make prophecy appear
meaningless for Christians today.
Hengstenberg wrote of Bengel's interpretation, (that claimed the first trumpet represents the Jewish war under Trajan), "it is arbitrary to confine this to the Roman Empire." He quoted a comment by Vitringa,
It is perhaps not improper to suppose, that this
trumpet does not unfold to us some divine judgment upon the Roman
empire of one period, but a certain species of divine judgment, to be
expected at various periods after the times of John.
[E. W. Hengstenberg, The Revelation of St John, v. 1, p. 416.]
In the description of the first trumpet plague, there is a
remarkable parallel with the seventh plague sent upon Egypt, Exodus
The fire, and hail, and blood cast upon the earth in the first
trumpet plague are things that are mentioned in connection with the
judgment of the hordes of Gog and Magog, described in Ezekiel 38.
pestilence, blood, overflowing rain, great hailstones, fire, and
brimstone, are all mentioned as the means by which God "pleads against
him." These invaders from all parts of the earth come against the camp
of the saints, the church, in Revelation 20:8-9.
And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.
Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD.
Fire and hail may both represent the word of God. Isaiah compared
God's word to rain and snow in Isaiah 55:9-11. Hail and fire mingled
with blood could represent
the propagation of Christian doctrines amongst the pagans by force, and
with violence. Throughout much of the history of the church, the gospel
was introduced by conquest, with much blood spilled in the process.
That is likely what is pictured by the first trumpet.
In many scriptures, grass represents humanity; "his days are as
grass;" "all flesh is grass." Green grass indicates growth. In a normal
fire, it would be dried grass that burned up; here it is the green
grass. The righteous are compared to a flourishing tree, bearing
fruit in season, in Psalm 1:3. The righteous are like palm trees, and
grow like the cedars of Lebanon, in Psalm 92:12. In this context, a
third of the the trees being burnt up is probably a metaphor picturing
the spiritual state of men. Grass may also represent the pasture of the
sheep, as in Ezekiel 34:14 & 18, where it represents spiritual
teachings and nourishment. Joel wrote, "O LORD, to thee will I
cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the
flame hath burned all the trees of the field." [Joel 1:19]
And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.
The 2nd angel affects the sea. The beast in Revelation 13:1 rises from out of the sea. It is a combination of the four beasts of Daniel 7, which represent a series of great world ruling empires. "And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues." [Revelation 17:15]
Since the sea seems to be associated with the nations, perhaps the
mountain is something that affects the beliefs of men. A 'fiery'
mountain is probably some kind of delusion. A third part of the sea
becoming blood is likely connected with the ministry of the two
witnesses, who have power to turn the waters to blood, and smite the
earth with all plagues. [Revelation 11:6] The two witnesses can be identified
with the scriptures, and the Spirit of God which is given to the
Ironside connected this trumpet with spiritual Babylon, "the great
world-church that has borne sway over the consciences of so many
people, and enslaved so many nations." He wrote, "a great mountain
burning with fire is the symbol of Babylon, literal Babylon. In the New
Testament this great destroying mountain burning with fire, that is
cast into the sea and brought to an end under the judgment of God in
this coming day, is evidently spiritual Babylon. ... The direct
communication between the mystic religions of the old Babylon and
spiritual Babylon of today is so marked that if anyone attempts to make
a study of it he is perfectly astonished to find where many of the
ritual services used in 'Christian' churches sprang from." [H. A.
book of Revelation, Western Book & Tract Co., Oakland,
The prophet Jeremiah referred to Babylon as a "destroying mountain"
which would become a "burnt mountain."
Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain, saith the LORD, which destroyest all the earth: and I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burnt mountain.
Hengstenberg suggested that the sea turning to blood pictures
nations at war. On the figure of
the sea turning into the of a dead man, he wrote:
The dead did not need to be more definitely described
than as slain,
because it is only in this kind of death that the blood flows out. That
we are not to think here of some general mortality, but of the shedding
of blood in war, is evident alone from the symbol of the sea, out of
which the beast arose. In ch. xx 13 also the dead that are in the sea,
are those who perished by a violent death in political conflicts.--The
scourge of destroying war is placed before our eyes by a double
image--the changing of the sea into blood, and the dying of the living
creatures in the sea.
[E. W. Hengstenberg, The Revelation of
St John, v. 2, p. 194]
destroyed may refer to congregations, or churches that are seduced by
false teachers. Hengstenberg says, "In the symbolical action in Mark
iv. 36, ss., Matthew viii. 23, Luke viii. 22, the ship is the church." [The Revelation of
St John, v. 1, , p. 421.]
A. R. Faussett wrote:
The symbolical interpreters take the ships
here to be churches. For the Greek here for ships is
not the common one, but that used in the Gospels of the apostolic
vessel in which Christ taught: and the first churches were in the shape
of an inverted ship: and the Greek for destroyed is
also used of heretical corruptings (1 Timothy 6:5).
And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.
The 3rd angel affects fountains and rivers. The fountain that is available to the house of David, and the river of living waters flowing from Jerusalem, in the prophecies of Zechariah, represent the word of God flowing like a river from the church to the world.
In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.
And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.
God is called the "fountain of living waters" in Jeremiah 2:13 and in Jeremiah 17:13.
wrote: "The reversion of the lifegiving Gospel fountains to
death-dealing bitter waters, takes place whenever the lifegiving
doctrines of divine grace are corrupted by apostate and carnal
Understood by Charles D. Alexander]
The star which fell from heaven has been identified with various Christian teachers, such as Origen (as Luther thought) or Pelagius. Other suggestions are the devil, Lucifer, or Attila the Hun. Rivers, and fountains represent the teachings that come from the church. Wormwood seems to picture an attitude of bitterness or rebellion (Lit. hemlock etc.)
Hengstenberg wrote, "The star, burning like a torch and named Wormwood, forms here a contrast to the wood with which Moses, as a type of Jesus the Saviour, made the bitter water sweet, just as in ver. 8, 9, the great mountain burning with fire forms the contrast to the mighty life-stream of Ezekiel. For his own people God makes the bitter waters sweet, for the world he makes the sweet waters bitter." [The Revelation of St John v. 1, by Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg, T. & T. Clark, 1852. p. 422.]
Paul viewed the waters that the Israelites drank as symbolic, or typical; "And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ." [1 Corinthians 10:4]
Waters picture the word of God; the scriptures were turned bitter, because of the scientific revolution and the enlightenment; the cosmology of scripture had been corrupted in the hellenistic era; scientific discoveries made scripture appear to support a flawed cosmology. This was followed by an era of critical scholarship, by which the bitterness was intensified.
Ezekiel wrote about the shepherds, who polluted the waters and trampled the pasture of the sheep: "Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures? and to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet? And as for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet." [Ezekiel 34:18-19]
And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.
The 4th angel affects the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon, and stars.
The gospel Jesus preached was the "great light" that Isaiah foretold. [Matthew 4:16] Jesus said the righteous will "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." [Matthew 13:43] John refers to the gospel as the light of men; "In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not...That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." [John 1:4-5, 9] Jesus said, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world;" [John 9:5] "I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness." [John 12:46] The woman in Revelation 12:1, who represents the church, is "clothed with the sun."
The sun, called a "great light," and a sign, in Genesis 1:14 & 16, represents the gospel, and the sun being darkened, in prophecy, represents the truth of the gospel being obscured by false teaching. The moon, which reflects the sun's light, represents the Mosaic system. Stars are symbolic of the saints. [Genesis 37:9, Daniel 12:3, Revelation 12:1, 4] Stars being darkened pictures the church's light being hidden, and the saints of God not shining as bright lights in the darkness. H.A. Ironside wrote about this trumpet, "Darkening of the sun...implies the blotting out, from before men's eyes or minds, the supreme source of light. Their whole spiritual sky will be made dark by the false system with which they will be deluded." [H. A. Ironside, Lectures on the book of Revelation, Oakland Ca., 1919, p. 157]
The table below lists some of the many interpretations that have
been proposed for the locust plague described in Revelation 9:1-11.
|David Chilton in Days
||Because of Israel's rejection of
the King of kings, their blessings turned into curses. Jerusalem ...
(became) "a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean
spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird" (Revelation 18:2).
The entire generation became increasingly demon-possessed; their
progressive national insanity is apparent as one reads through the New
Testament, and its horrifying final stages are depicted in the pages of
Josephus' The Jewish War... Satan's entire host of destroyers (was) let
loose upon the Jewish nation.
|Adam Clarke||"The whole of this symbolical description of an overwhelming military force agrees very well with the troops of Mohammed."|
|David S. Clark, The
||I think two things are evident
here. As these servants of God were evidently living on earth in John's
time, and this judgment exempted them, therefore these judgments fell
in John's time and not thousands of years later. Again it seems
reasonable to suppose that this flood of locusts that came out of the
bottomless pit were moral and spiritual errors. That was
doubtless the reason that the servants of God were not hurt by them.
They were taught by the Spirit; they were grounded in the truth; they
were sealed to God; they were proof against heresies and moral and
spiritual perversion. It would be quite true that moral and spiritual
perversion would have physical results. And it is also true that in the
siege of Jerusalem social and civil safeguards were thrown to the
winds; and as if they had gone insane, as if possessed with devils,
father was set against son and son against father, brother against
brother till the inside of the city was a seething hell, and its
deliverance impossible. When men's senses and reason and conscience are
taken away, when mental and moral and spiritual aberration seizes their
ruin is certain and near. The statement in verses five and ten that
these locusts were to hurt men five months, may grow out of the fact
that the life of a locust is about five months; and from the other fact
that this terrible condition was short. It could not last long. Doom
The locusts are further described as being like horses prepared for battle, with faces of men, hair of woomen, teeth of lions, wings that sounded like chariots, tails like scorpions, and stings in their tails,-- the very agglomeration of heterogeneous features making the picture more terrible.
|James Burton Coffman, James Burton Coffman's Commentaries||"It is a spiritual plague which is depicted here. 'Such a spiritual malignity is, in truth, the source of the forces that are chewing up our world.' 'The locusts are symbols of wild ideas and false doctrines, which becloud men's mental faculties.'" Examples are "the Jim Jones cult, Communism, the emperor cult in Japan, the belief that Uncle Sam can take care of everybody from the cradle to the grave"|
|John N. Darby, Synopsis of the New Testament||"crowds of moral locusts with the sting of false doctrine in their tail. But it was not to destroy temporal prosperity on the earth, but to torment the ungodly Jews; not to kill, but to harass and vex them."|
|A. R. Faussett||"these locusts from the abyss refer to judgments about to fall on the ungodly immediately before Christ's second advent"|
|Arno Clement Gaebelein, The
||The star which is seen fallen
from heaven with the key of the pit of the abyss is Satan himself cast
out of heaven. ... He unlocks the prison house of the fallen angels and
the most awful satanic agencies come forth to begin their "dread" work
of torment. The smoke first, symbolical of darkening; the locusts next,
symbolical of these demon powers. Awful darkness prevails and the most
diabolical delusions, producing fearful torments among apostate Israel
and the inhabiters of the earth. It is the time of the strong delusion
(2 Thess. 2:4-11) which has come.
|John Gill, The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible||the Saracens|
||"Perhaps the most terrifying
aspect of this fifth trumpet judgment is that these monstrosities are
actually the demons which have been imprisoned in the Abyss, or
|Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg, The Revelation of St John||a "hostile devastation" by some invading army|
|H. A. Ironside in Lectures on the book of Revelation Oakland, 1919. (p. 157-158)||"Eddyism, Spiritism, and
Theosophy" or the Mormons
|Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, 1871||"supernatural instruments in the hands of Satan to torment, and yet not kill, the ungodly"|
|Alonso T. Jones, Great nations of today, Chapter 8||the rise and work of the Mohammedans in the destruction of Eastern Rome|
|Jack Kelley, Revelation Times||"They're clearly a demonic manifestation of some sort"|
|Gordon E. Ladd, A commentary on the Revelation of John||"the locusts are symbolic of demonic hosts"|
|Tim Lahey, in the Left Behind books||"insectlike creatures with human faces and long hair, riding horses"|
|Hal Lindsey in Apocalypse Code||"helicopters;" 'horses prepared for battle' are heavily armed attack helicopters, 'crowns of gold' are the helmets worn by pilots, and the 'sound of their wings' are the 'thunderous sound of many attack helicopters flying overhead.'|
|Chuck Missler, Revelation||"demon hordes out of the pit"|
|Henry Madison Morris, The Revelation record||"There seems no escaping the conclusion that these locusts from hell are, indeed, demonic spirits. ... Five months will be ample for men to experience this awful judgment. They will flee to the mountains, to the seas, to the deserts; they will bar the windows, cringe in cellars. But there is no escape. These are spirit beings and not even solid walls deny them access. In their fury, they swarm over the earth, penetrate fortresses, swooping on men and women wherever they can flee, and none escape."|
|Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation||demonic locusts which are "of considerable size. Otherwise the description of hair, face, teeth, and the like would tend toward the comic"|
|Signer Pastorini||The rise and progress of the Protestant Reformation. The star falling from heaven is Luther, who, renouncing his faith and vows, may be said to have fallen. When he opened the door of hell there issued forth a thick smoke, or a strong spirit of seduction which had been hatched in hell.|
|J. Dwight Pentecost in Things to come (p. 362)||"marching armies that torment reprobate Jews"|
|Kim Riddlebarger, Sermons on the Book of Revelation||"These locusts are symbolic of the demonic forces of Satan"|
|James L. Resseguie in The
Revelation of John
||"The locust-hybrids represent
the evil side of humanity that undoes God's way of ordering this world
... the satanic locusts are emblematic of humanity's divided nature-a
mixture of good and evil, the human and the demonic."
|John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck in The Bible Knowledge Commentary (p. 952)||"demons who appear in the form of locusts"|
|John Wesley, Explanatory Notes||the Persians|
Church of God
||"these 'locusts' in Revelation
are apparently not insects but machines, with 'breastplates of iron,
and the sound of their wings ... like the sound of chariots'--possibly,
from John's first-century perspective, referring to deadly military
aircraft such as modern helicopters. These torture people as with the
sting of a scorpion... Though the sources of the afflictions are not
specified, their effects are strikingly similar to the effects of
modern chemical or biological warfare."
|James White, The sounding of the seven trumpets of Revelation 8 and 9||the religion of Mahomet|
"demonic beings;" "Muslims"
The prophecy of the fifth trumpet in Revelation 9:1-11 can be interpreted as a description of those who teach the unending infernal torment of unbelievers, a doctrine common in both traditional Christianity, and the Muslim religion. Underlying this study is the principle that interpretation of symbols in prophecy should be based, as much as possible, on scripture.
The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace.
Stars represent the saints, [Genesis 22:17, 37:9; Daniel 12.3]. The star that fell to the earth could refer to one of the early Christians. In Revelation 12:4, the tail of the dragon draws a third of the stars to the earth.
The star may be identified with one of the church fathers, who believed in pagan superstition of the unending infernal torment of unbelievers, and introduced that doctrine into the church. Edward White's Life in Christ, (London 1875) identifies Augustine as the one who was chiefly responsible for the orthodox doctrines of the church on the fate of unbelievers.
The smoke from the bottomless pit in verse 2 suggests confusion, such as may arise from superstitious beliefs. The historian Livy in Hist., I:19, says Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, invented the fear of the gods, as "a most efficacious means of governing an ignorant and barbarous populace." The Roman historian Polybius also reported that superstition and a "pageantry of terrifying fiction" was promoted in ancient Roman society, by their rulers, as a means of restraining the passions of the people. He wrote, "The ancients, therefore, acted not absurdedly, nor without good reason, when they inculcated the notions concerning the gods, and the belief of infernal punishments..." [Histories VI,56] Pagan views about infernal torment, and immortality of the soul, were introduced into the church during the early centuries AD.
Because of the influence of these teachings, people continue to view God as mean, and unforgiving, but the scriptures reveal a God of love, who is very merciful. "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide; neither will He keep His anger forever." [Psalm 103:8,9]
"The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss."
The sun represents the gospel; it was one of the two great lights in Genesis 1:16, intended as a sign; the gospel is referred to as a "great light" in Isaiah's prophecy, Isaiah 9:2, that was fulfilled by Jesus, Matthew 4:16. The sun clothes the woman in heaven, Revelation 12:1, who represents the church. Jesus spoke of the righteous who "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father," Matthew 13:43. The sun being darkened suggests the true light of the gospel is obscured.
"And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth"
The locusts in John's prophecy resemble the locusts of the great destructive army described in Joel 2.
"and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth."
Scorpions are mentioned in connection with chastisement and punishment in scripture. Solomon's son Rehoboam said to the people of Israel, "My father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions." [1 Kings 12:11]
"They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads."
The locusts represent people who spread a harmful doctrine, about the fate of unbelievers.
"They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months."
Five months, or 150 days, was the duration of the flood waters that covered the earth, and destroyed those who not saved in the ark of Noah, in the flood account in Genesis. The doctrine of infernal punishment says those who are unsaved, will suffer unending torment.
"And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man."
The doctrine of the locusts is that unbelievers are to be punished for their sins, and will suffer unending infernal torment.
"During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them."
This alludes to the belief in the immortality of the soul, and the doctrine of infernal torment of the souls of unbelievers, who would prefer to die, but can't.
"The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle."
John compares the locusts with horses. In scripture, people with no understanding are compared to horses and mules.
Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
The riders may be men, or perhaps, the doctrines of men.
"On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold,"
Arron the high priest wore a crown of gold, Lev. 8:9. Crowns are symbolic of authority. The crowns suggest the locusts are rulers in the churches.
"Their hair was like women's hair,"
1 Corinthians 11:3-4
But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
Thus the locusts with faces of men, and women's hair, dishonour Christ. Their doctrine, of unending infernal torments, clearly does that.
"and their teeth were like lions' teeth."
Lions' teeth represent people who are fierce. Paul said that people would be fierce in the last days. [2 Timothy 3:1-3] Also, the antichrist figure in Daniel 8:23-26 is called "a king of fierce countenance."
"They had breastplates like breastplates of iron,"
Breastplates are associated with righteousness in Ephesians 6:14. The locusts appear very righteous. Their breastplates of iron make them unfeeling, about the effects of their doctrine upon others.
"and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle."
Horses and chariots rushing to battle make a loud, clattering noise, but there is little intelligence in such a sound.
"They had tails and stings like scorpions,"
Isaiah said, "the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail." [Isaiah 9:15]
"and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months."
The tails are symbolic of a "prophet that teaches lies," as the locusts are false prophets. Their doctrine distorts the gospel. Centuries of tradition have cemented the concept of unending infernal torment in the minds of many, and such views are not easily discarded.
"They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon,"
Abaddon means destroyer, Job 26:6. The effect of the locust plague is that it destroys the church, and obscures the gospel, as it paints God as a cruel monster, a fiend.
"and in Greek, Apollyon."
This probably alludes to Apollo Parnopius, the Greek god of plagues.
(Parnopius means "grasshopper.") Apollo was also a god of
One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter. And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.
The altar is mentioned in Revelation 8:3, where the payers of saints
ascend up to God together with the smoke of the incense. David said,
my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my
hands as the evening sacrifice. " (Psalm 141:2)
marks the symbolic border of the promised land, in Genesis 15:18.
And the promised land itself represents, for the Christian, the
promises of God, and his word. The prophecy of the 6th trumpet seems to
depict an invasion of the church by worldy people.
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.
Since it is angels that are spoken of, the subject of the prophecy is spiritual.
And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.
The number of the horsemen helps us identify them. Hengstenberg says
of the number two hundred thousand thousand, "The fundamental passage
is Ps. lxviii. 17, 'The chariots of God are two myriads, thousands of
repetition;' q. d. thousands multiplied by thousands, a thousand times
a thousand." Psalm 68:17 (ASV) says: "The
God are twenty thousand, even thousands upon thousands; The
Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the sanctuary."
Consider also the number in Daniel 7:10, "Thousands upon thousands
were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;"
These passages appear to link the horsemen in the second woe to the
during the forty years in the wilderness. Most of those who came out of
Egypt under Moses died before Israel entered the promised land under
Joshua. The number is related to Deuteronomy 33:2, "And he said, The LORD
came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from
mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right
hand went a fiery law for them." Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:1-6,
"Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that
all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did
all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual
drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and
that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased:
for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our
examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they
also lusted... etc."
And thus I saw the horses in the vision,
John here tells us this is a vision, and so these are not literal horses. The 200 million horses in John's prophecy is far more than the present horse population of the world. The horses represent people with no understanding, Psalm 32:9. They may also be people who are carnally minded, Jeremiah 5:8. Horses are unclean according to the law, while the saints are represented by sheep, which is a clean animal, suitable for sacrifice.
and them that sat on them,
The horsemen are their guides and leaders, or perhaps the ideas that influence them.
having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone:
probably represent their armor, and the defenses in which they trust.
Jacinth or hyacinth is a variety of Zircon, a gemstone with a
golden-brown color used in ancient times. Brimstone is the ancient name
for sulfur. Literal breastplates, even for horses, would not consist of
fire, or sulfur! Those materials are quite unsuitable for literal
breastplates, so they are symbolic, perhaps representing the defenses
of modern nations, such as powerful nuclear weapons, well equipped
armies, and air and naval forces.
and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions;
Heads of lions suggests they are people who are fierce, which would
be a characteristic of people in the end time or the last days, 2 Timothy
and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone.
"Fire and brimstone" is a phrase sometimes applied to threatenings in evangelistic preaching. Smoke pictures confusion.
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.
The fire, smoke, and brimstone from the mouths of the horses, and the smoke, must represent their doctrines. It is a remarkable contrast to the "living water" that comes from believers in Christ.
For their power is in their mouth,
This refers to their doctrines and their words. The modern world view is opposed to God.
and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents,
A serpent is mostly tail! The tails represent false prophets. (Isaiah 9:15)
and had heads, and with them they do hurt.
A key question is, in what sense are a third of men killed?
Eventually all men die. But death in scripture is sometimes used in a
spiritual sense, for example by Jesus:
Also by Paul:
1 Timothy 5:6
But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.
Because of false belief, many people miss out on the kingdom of God. Perhaps the third of mankind killed by them means death in a spiritual sense, as they represent deceived people, who teach false doctrine. Belief in false doctrine excludes people from the kingdom of God.
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:
Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
The horses could be the ones in Ezekiel 38, the vast horde of Gog and Magog. In that case, they compass the camp of the saints, the church. (Revelation 20:8-9) They may be the horses that Zechariah spoke of, who will be astonished (Zechariah 12:4). They come against Jerusalem, as Zechariah said all nations will come against Jerusalem. This is the "heavenly Jerusalem," the church, not the earthly city. They could be among the horses of Zechariah 14, who suffer from the plague, along with camels, mules, and asses, symbolic of people with no understanding. What is this 2nd woe? It describes the masses of Christendom; people holding confused religious beliefs and ideas about the Bible, the "Gentiles" occupying the outer court of the temple in Revelation 11:2.
The 7th, or last trumpet is associated with the resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:51-53
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
At the seventh trumpet, the kingdoms of the world become the
kingdoms of Christ.
And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
Copyright © 2009 by Douglas E. Cox
All Rights Reserved.