12 The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come.
The judgments are so severe that they are no longer just called trumpets. They are hereafter referred to as “woes.”
As we noted in the last trumpet, if lesser warnings are not heeded, more severe ones come.
The first four trumpets touched man’s environment. They are indirect. The fifth is more direct but falls short of the death of human beings. Now with the sixth trumpet, people are directly killed by the plague the sixth trumpet brings. It will be fulfilled ultimately at the end of the age.
13 Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, 14 saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.”
I. The sixth trumpet brings a plague on the Church’s persecuters that is a result of the prayers of the saints. vss. 13-14
If we find ourselves hemmed in on all sides, we still have an opened access to heaven. We can and must pray. The golden altar where the saints’ prayers are offered in Rev. 6:10 is the location of the voice that releases this severe plague.
The Voice Speaking — This voice comes from the golden altar described in Rev. 8:1-5. No doubt the speaker is the angel who hurled the censer to the earth in answer to the saints’ prayers. The saints’ prayers are still being answered. The times in which God’s people live are never too evil that God doesn’t hear and answer their prayers.
The Release of the Four Angels — The second woe is similar to the first one. It is also a release of a demonic horde. The only difference between this woe and the last is that these angels have the ability to kill people. This appears to be a demon invasion that leads to war among peoples: international, civil within nations, and local wars.
The Euphrates River was considered to be the boundary of the Holy Land. Beyond it lay the nations — the enemies of the people of God who persecuted and enslaved them. The Romans even had difficulties with the Parthians whose empire lay beyond this river.
The Number “4” — The number four, the four points of the compass, leads us to think of the earth. This demonic invasion is one that involves the whole earth just before the end of an age or the final end of this age.
We have had two world wars in the 20th Century. War always destroys civilizations. It undermines moral standards and allows people to escape from Biblical upbringing that would have controlled sinful tendencies.
Immigrants to our nation in each generation are always of two kinds. There are foreign immigrants who come from other countries to our shores and are in need of instruction about the Biblical basis of liberty. However, we are not sufficiently aware of a second group of immigrants who are in need of instruction, as well. They are biological immigrants — our children. Our country since WWII has failed to initiate its own children in the true meaning of liberty. The late Judge Robert Bork reminds us—
“Every new generation constitutes a wave of savages who must be civilized by their families, schools, and churches. An exceptionally large generation can swamp the institutions responsible for teaching traditions and standards. …[Since World War II] heap after heap of human beings have been dumped on to the historic scene at such an accelerated rate, that it has been difficult to saturate them with traditional culture. This is what Rathenau called ‘the vertical invasion of the barbarians.'” (see Bork below, p. 21.)
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.
II. God releases the hoard, so He is sovereign over all circumstances related to it. vss. 15-16
Four Specific Angels — These four angels are a specific group of angels. This is indicated by — (1) the use of the definite article before their name and the participle describing them; and, (2) the use of the definite article before hora (hour)
Specific Time for Release — Note that all the time words are joined to the one definite article by kai (”and”). It is a specific time for which they have been prepared. The hour, day, month, and year of their release has been specified. God is in control!
Specific Mission — Again, we see the 1/3rd part killed stressing that even this judgment is partial and not total. God is still warning men. It is not too late to repent.
16 The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number.
The Number of the Demonic Horde — This demonic horde is under the command of the four angels which have just been loosed. John heard the count, but did not see the actual 200,000,000 ride by him.
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.
III. The otherworldly character of the horses and riders are indicative of demons not modern technology. vss. 17-19
The Appearance of the Horses — John saw the appearance (horasis) of the horses and their riders. The word is from horao (to see) . He did not see the whole advancing army. The breastplates were tri-colored — red, blue, and yellow. These ‘animals’ are fierce. They symbolize a demonic horde. Sulfur is what the Elizabethians called “brimstone.”
18 By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths.
The Plagues of the Horses — The fire, smoke, and sulfur are described as ‘three plagues’. All of these are associated with hell — the abode of the demons. This supernatural phenomenon is not in the physical realm.
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.
The Power of the Horses — These fierce demons hurt with both ends of their bodies.
Conclusion about the fulfillment of the Sixth Trumpet
Are we at the final end of the age itself? I can’t say, but at the least end of Western Civilization which has been under the driving force of secular humanism since the enlightenment.
R. J. Rushdoony was a philosopher as well as a preacher. I can’t say I agree with all his ideas — e.g. theonomy. I do agree with his critique about our age.
The death of an age is a bloody business. Men, disillusioned with the promises of their faith, yet unwilling to surrender them, strike out at everything in rage and in frustration. Like a rudderless ship, the civilization loses its direction and is driven by events instead of driving through them. Today, in the last days of humanism, as men steadily destroy their world, it is important for us to understand the meaning of the times and act in terms of that knowledge. The humanists in their blindness celebrate “the death of God” when it is in fact the death of humanism and their own funeral they are racing to in their heedless course. Humanism is dying because its faith is false, and its promises bankrupt.
Humanism is dying, if not dead. Living with a corpse is no pleasant matter. It does not require documentation to tell us that a corpse is far gone. The answer to our problem lies elsewhere, not in documentation on death, but in reconstruction for life. Humanism is dead, but the triune God lives and rules, sovereign over all. (see Rushdoony, below.)
Next time we will sum up chapter nine and its primary teaching for us.
Bork, R. (1996) Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline. New York City, New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Rushdoony, R. J. (2013). The Death of an Age and Its Faith. Accessed 18 July 2020 from https://chalcedon.edu/resources/articles/the-death-of-an-age-and-its-faith
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