Exegetical look into Revelation 9: 12-17

  • Other woes. “Woe” means “look out, terror is coming,” or a stern warning. John is not done yet; he is giving further warning, as more trouble is to come. This is indicative of Old Testament prophetic orators such as Jeremiah and Amos (Amos. 5:18-6:1; Rev. 6:10; 8:13; 10:1-11:14).
  • The horns of the golden altar referred to the extensions at the four corners of the altar inside of the Temple. This calls to mind an image of worship, and the portrayal of God’s heavenly throne (Ex. 24:10; 27:2; Deut. 11:11; 1 Kings 7:23-25; 2 Kings 16:17; 2 Chron. 4:2-6,15, 39; Psalm 11:4; Isa. 51:9-11; Jer 27:19; Ezek. 1:22; Rev. 8:3-5; 11:19; 14:15, 17; 15:2-6, 8; 16:1, 17). This was also an image of refuge and a place of repentance to those fleeing judgment, and/or providing safety measures from an avenging person. They could ask the priest for clemency before God by taking hold of the horns (1 Kings 1:50-53; 2:28; Amos 3:14).
  • Four Angels. These angels are not mere messengers; they have authority from Christ to do His bidding, and they had influence over leaders of people (Dan. 10:13-21). The context and meaning here may denote that the angels are figurative and it will be human means that will create these plagues such as war or terrorism. But, they can also be supernaturally created angels in command of the demonic cavalry, or God using demons for His bidding.
  • Released. Jewish traditions stated that God imprisoned angels who were destructive or who were “fallen,” usually in the depths of the seas or earth, to protect His people until such time as He desired to use them for His purpose.
  • Great River Euphrates. This longest river in western Asia stretches for 1,700 miles. This was the boundary God gave Israel and also the boundary of the Roman Empire and the Parthians (Deut. 1:6-7; 11:24; Jos. 1:4; Isa 8:5-8; Rev. 16:12).
  • Very hour and day and month and year. This is apocalyptic language that shows us that God acts according to His purpose and His timetable. It is not meant to be taken literally lest we read our versions, agenda, or timetable into it.
  • To kill a third of mankind. These are “casualty statistics” also used by John to invoke fear and call wayward people to repentance. Such destruction can only happen if God allows it for His purpose; keep in mind the call for repentance that is being disregarded. Such judgment is merited and deserving, yet by God’s grace, He spares two-thirds!
  • Mounted troops. Most likely referring to the Parthians, who were exceptional horsemen and brought war, with cavalry troupes (also known for being skilled archers on white horses), into play. They invoked total fear and chaos to the region. A battle with them would fit the cosmic images that John uses, but John is pointing to them not as just earthy threats in his time, but the real threats against our eternal souls to the entirety of all Christianity and the Church.
  • The number …was two hundred million. This is an incalculable number, not necessarily literal. Such a number is in “hyperbole language (intended exaggeration)” as this was more than the population of the entire world at that time. The entire armies of the world today would be under 10 million. China has 2.3 million, and Russia had three million at its highest (now a small fraction thereof). The largest assembled army during the first Gulf War, including 31 nations, was under one million (Psalm 68:17; Dan. 7:10; Rev 5:11).
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