It seems like forever since we’ve looked through the book of Revelation, doesn’t it? Because it’s been a while, I want to take a minute to give you all a refresher course on what’s going on. Right now, we’re talking about a string of judgments that will fall on planet earth during a seven-year period known as the Tribulation. We’ve already looked through the seven seal judgments, which will culminate in a massive, world-wide earthquake that will even involve stars falling from the sky. Now, we’ve moved onto the trumpet judgments. We saw how the first trumpet judgment involved one third of the world’s trees burning up, and all of the world’s green grass. The second trumpet judgment turned one third of the world’s oceans to blood. The third judgment made one third of the world’s rivers poisonous. The fourth trumpet judgment made the sun one third weaker, and made daylight hours last one third less. And then last time, we looked at the fifth trumpet judgment, which involved a massive swarm of locusts that had the power to cause severe pain for five months. We talked about how merciful this judgment was, because there were absolutely zero deaths from it. This week, we will continue to see God’s unending mercy, but we will also see His unending holiness, in that He judges wickedness. To see what I’m talking about, please turn in your Bibles to Revelation chapter nine, and we’re going to read verses thirteen through twenty-one. Again, Revelation 9:13-21.
“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.’ 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. And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them. And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. 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. For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt. 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.”
Wow! Some crazy things to talk about tonight. But before we get started, let’s pray.
Before we talk about this huge plague itself, I want you to see what the source of this judgment is. Look at verses thirteen and fourteen again. “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.’” As I was studying and preparing for tonight, these verses raised two questions in my mind. The first question is what this golden altar is all about, and the second question is who these four bound angels were. But let’s start with the first question. What is this golden altar, and why is it talking? To see what this golden altar is, we need to look back at Revelation chapter eight. Look at what Revelation 8:3 says. “And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.”
Ok, so we have this golden altar, and in the middle of the golden altar is a bowl of incense, which chapter eight identifies as the prayers of the saints. So, when verse thirteen says that a voice came out of the midst of the altar, it is talking about the prayers of the saints! So in other words, Christians in Heaven are praying that God will bring about judgment on mankind, and God answers their prayers in this passage. And I know that to our ears, this can easily come across as mean and uncalled for, but whenever God judges sin, He is 100% in the right. God only punishes those who completely deserve punishment.
The second question I had about these two verses is who the bound angels are. And this actually has a very simple answer. I believe that they are demons. Why do I believe that? Because angels of God are never imprisoned in the Bible, only angels of Satan. So because these angels are bound, they must be angels of Satan, which we refer to as demons.
Look at what verse fifteen says. “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.” This is no doubt one of the hardest verses in the entire Bible to read. This verse says that at some point in our future, one out of every three people will be wiped out by this trumpet judgment. But this verse also says that the hour, the day, the month, and the year of this judgment had been especially prepared. In other words, God decided not only that this should happen, but He decided when it would happen! So to flesh this judgment out in our world, that means that if the Tribulation started tomorrow, then this plague would kill literally billions of people. That is a sobering thought to think about, isn’t it? And later we’re going to decide who will be affected, but for now let’s move on.
Verse sixteen tells us how many members will make up this horde. The King James says that the number of the horsemen is two hundred thousand thousand. The literal Greek is “twice ten thousand times ten thousand.” And if you do the math, two times ten thousand times ten thousand is 200,000,000. Now some speculate whether or not this number is literal, because the Greek word for “ten thousand” can also mean “countless.” So it could possibly mean “twice a countless, countless multitude.” But personally, I prefer the more literal 200,000,000 interpretation.
Verses seventeen and eighteen describe how these horsemen will go about killing 1/3 of the earth’s population. Look at what they say. “And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. 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.” Notice that the horsemen were wearing a breastplate of fire, jacinth, and brimstone. So they are wearing a breastplate with these three colors, and they kill people with three methods. They kill people with fire, with smoke, and with brimstone. So the fire on the breastplate represents how they kill with fire. The brimstone on the breastplate represents how they will kill with brimstone. And jacinth (also known as hyacinth) is a gem with a deep blue color, and this color represents the horsemen killing through smoke.
Remember last time how I mentioned that many have speculated that the plague of locusts is just symbolic for a human army? Well, it’s the same with the demonic horsemen. Many throughout history have speculated that this army is symbolism for something more natural. But can anyone remember why I think that the locust plague is literal? That’s right, it’s because of all of the details. The same principle works with this passage, too. I believe that these horsemen cannot be a human army, because human armies haven’t wiped out a third of the world’s population with fire, smoke, and brimstone. This is clearly a supernatural army.
Verse eighteen reiterates the point that these three methods are what is going to kill so many people. Somehow, fire, smoke, and brimstone will spew out of this army’s mouth, and it will kill millions and millions of people.
The next verse tells how these horsemen will also have the power to hurt people. Look at what verse nineteen says. “For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt.” Verse eighteen says that all of the people that are going to die are going to be killed by what comes out of the horsemen’s mouths. But verse nineteen says that their tails will be like the heads of snakes, and their tails will have the ability to hurt people. So they’re killing people with their mouths, and hurting still others with their tails.
I know that this is an extremely difficult concept to grasp, so before we finish up the passage, are there any questions about these horsemen, or about any of the details of this passage?
Okay, let’s finish up by looking at verses twenty and twenty-one. “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.” These two verses tell us three crucial things to understanding this whole passage. The first thing it tells us is that this horrible judgment will not affect believers. We know this because these verses say that the men that weren’t killed kept on rejecting God. Since we know that Christians don’t worship idols, they can’t be involved in this judgment.
The second thing these verses tell us is that God’s purpose for bringing this judgment about it to give people some motivation to repent of their sins. Remember on Sunday, we talked about how troubles in our lives are often God’s attempt to get our attention. I believe that this is what we have here. God brought about this judgment to motivate people to respond to Him, but because of the wickedness of their hearts, they refused to put down their idols.
The third thing we have to know about these verses is that people got exactly what they deserved. In this passage, God is not revealing Himself to be a cruel dictator with no compassion for His subjects. On the contrary, God is judging the people who have rebelled against Him, while He is protecting the people that are loyal to Him. Throughout the book of Revelation we have seen how God is a very patient God. And I think we can all acknowledge that He has been patient with us in our lives, but this passage shows us that God’s patience does have an end. You can only deny God so many times before He judges you for your rebellion.
So I think that this passage shows us a very important aspect of God’s character. It shows us that God is a merciful God, but He is also a just God. God sent His only Son to die for the sins of the world, but in the end, He will destroy those that reject His offer of salvation. Some sinners will be killed by an army of demonic horsemen. Some will be killed by a world-wide earthquake. Some will be killed when one third of the rivers are made poisonous. Some will die today, surrounded by family and friends. Some will die in India, in China, and Saudi Arabia. And some will die in Texas, too. However they die, their end will be the same. Eternal separation from God in hell. It is a grim picture that is no fun talking about, but God’s mercy does have a stopping point.
So if you are here tonight, and you belong to the family of God, I hope that I haven’t caused you undue fear. These horsemen will be terrifying, but they will not be allowed to harm you, because God is our protector. They will only harm those that have rejected God’s free offer of salvation. But my challenge for you tonight is two-fold. First, I challenge you to become more in awe with our God. He is a God that is a perfect mix of mercy and justice. A God that gave His all for us, but also a God that holds us accountable for our actions. So I challenge you to always be in awe of God. And second, I challenge you to boldly proclaim the gospel to those that haven’t heard, so that they might escape this calamity from Revelation nine; but more importantly, so that they will escape the calamity of an eternal hell.
Let’s pray together.
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