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).

Revelation 9:12-21

Introduction 

“The Sixth Trumpet”  

The Sixth Angel now blows his trumpet, and brings about more judgment. On the surface, this looks like only doom and gloom, as it is for those who seek evil and refuse to repent. But, what many people choose not to see in this passage is that this is also the work of God’s patience and grace. Perhaps it is anticlimactic and our thirst for revenge outweighs our desire to see things set right. But God reveals His temperament by offering His forgiveness, thus allowing for humanity to repent and come to their senses. Nevertheless, they choose not the ways of God and life, nor do they choose the ways of goodness and virtue. Instead, they refuse His offer of grace and forgiveness and dig themselves further down in their sin and became entrenched in their debauchery. People from the past, present, and future (all of humanity) are bent on serving only the means and wants of self. They seek what is wrong¾naturally and deliberately. These acts are continual throughout human history and are contemporaneous, remaining now and in the future, a result of our fallen, sinful nature (Rom. 1: 18-32; 3:23; 6:23). 

The Roman Empire was experiencing greater and greater problems with the Parthians in the eastern border area of Asia Minor, where John’s readers were. This region greatly feared attacks and/or an all out invasion by them. These Parthians were depicted as the enemy and propaganda waged an early “cold war” between them and Rome. There was even mythology that Nero would arise from the dead and lead these Parthians in his blood lust revenge against Rome, the Jews, and the Christians. Some Jews believed the Parthians would come and save them from the Roman occupation, hence why the war of 66-70 started against a far superior force. However, they did not receive the help, and the Jewish revolt failed, abruptly ending the Temple, the city, and the Jewish way of life. The first century Jews put their trust in war and a fabled, non-convicting messiah instead of the Living Lord! 

This passage is as much about mercy as it is about judgment! The human desire is to remain in sin when we have in full view its destructive nature and how it hurts. It is not just mischief; it seriously maims us and all those around us. The idea of sin can confound the mind. Yet, it is our minds that are not conformed, neither is the soul of those who remain in sin. Sin is very, very powerful-not just a lure, but also a way of life that seems fulfilling, exciting, and desirable, even when it does not work and it kills us (Rom. 1:28-31).