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The Sixth Trumpet: Four Angels Loosed (Revelation 9:13-21)

Marcelo is the pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, and the author of Biblical Prayer for Today's Believers: Transform Your Prayer Life.

The Trumpets, The Altar, and the Censer

Instructions for the Angel with the Trumpet (Revelation 9:13-14)

After the sixth angel blew his trumpet, a voice spoke to the angel from the four horns of the altar that was before God.

The altar of which the passage speaks is likely the altar for burning incense (see Exodus 30:1-10). We see then that God continues to answer the prayers of the saints, those prayers to which an angel added incense earlier (see Revelation 8:3).

The voice instructed the angel to release the four angels who were bound at the river Euphrates. We are not told how or why those four angels were bound, but the context may imply that these four angels were bound to prevent them from hurting humanity.

Why were these angels bound at the Euphrates River? The Euphrates flows from Turkey through Syria and Iraq; it is a border to the land God promised to Israel (Exodus 23:32, Deuteronomy 11:24, Joshua 1:4, 1 Kings 4:21-24). The lands beyond the Euphrates are associated with idolatry (Joshua 24:2-3, 14-15), and the city of Babylon was also located next to Euphrates, in Iraq. Moreover, just as the LORD warned Israel they would be scattered beyond the Euphrates because of their sins (1 Kings 14:15), the book of Revelation also warns that Israel will be attacked by the kings of the East through the river Euphrates (Revelation 16:12).

The man who appeared to Daniel by the Tigris River told Daniel he had to fight the prince of Persia (Daniel 10:13), and the Lord revealed to John that Satan's throne was located at Pergamum (Revelation 2:13). It is likely, then, that the four angels were bound at the Euphrates because that was their territory: in the Bible, angels sometimes appear to be associated with territories.

The Four Angels and Their Army (Revelation 9:15-16)

The angels are four. Four is a symbolical number that stands for a worldwide event. Just as the chariots in Zechariah 6:1-8 were four, and they ran throughout the whole Earth, these angels are also four, and their mission is a global mission. They have been reserved for a specific time and date (hour, day, month, year) to kill one third of humanity.

They are four angels, yet they command an army of 10,000 times 10,000 (that is, 100,000,000). Where do these mounted units come from? It is possible that these they were bound together with the four angels. So, when we read that four angels were bound, we should probably understand that four chief angels were bound together with their armies. After all, we are not told where these mounted units come from, and Legion identified himself as many demons (Mark 5:9).

The Appearance of the Horses and the Riders (Revelation 9:17-19)

John describes the appearance of the horses and the riders as follows.

  • The riders wore breastplates with the colors of fire, sapphire, and sulfur
  • The heads of the horses were like lions’ heads; their tails were like serpents with heads
  • Fire, smoke, and sulfur came out of the mouths of the horses; and the tails of the horses cause wounds.

In the end, one third of humanity is killed by the fire, smoke, and sulfur that came out of the horses’ mouths. Nevertheless, John identifies these elements as a plague. It is likely, therefore, that John here is describing the vision of the spiritual realm instead of describing the actual event on Earth. For example, in Job 1 we have two descriptions: a description of what occurs in the spiritual realm, and a description of the events that befell Job. In this passage in revelation, John may be focusing on what is happening in the spiritual realm while briefly describing as a plague those things that take place on Earth.

The Survivors Refuse to Repent (Revelation 9:20-21)

Just as Pharaoh refused to repent after God sent plagues over Egypt, the survivors of this last plague of sulfur, fire, and smoke refuse to repent, even though one third of humanity was killed by the plague.

They did not repent of their thefts, sexual immoralities, and murders; neither did they repent of practicing sorcery, worshiping idols, and worshiping demons. It is significant that sorcery, idolatry, and demons are mentioned in this passage for, as I previously pointed out, the lands of beyond the Euphrates were considered lands of idolatry, and chapter 9 of Revelation describes attacks by demons.

© 2020 Marcelo Carcach