"Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."
Revelation 9 - Quick Links
Revelation 9:13 - Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God...
Recall from Revelation 8:3-4, an angel offered the incense of the prayers of the saints on the golden altar before the sounding of the Trumpet judgments began. The priestly parallel on Earth reveals that the offering of incense on the golden altar acts as atonement for sin:
Leviticus 16:11-13, 29-30 - "And Aaron shall bring the bull of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house, and shall kill the bull as the sin offering which is for himself. Then he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, with his hands full of sweet incense beaten fine, and bring it inside the veil. And he shall put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the Testimony, lest he die..... This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD."
Numbers 16:44-48 - And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment." And they fell on their faces. So Moses said to Aaron, "Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it, and take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them; for wrath has gone out from the LORD. The plague has begun." Then Aaron took it as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the assembly; and already the plague had begun among the people. So he put in the incense and made atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped.
In addition to atonement, many viewed the altar of incense as a place to seek refuge and mercy:
1 Kings 1:50-53 - Now Adonijah was afraid of Solomon; so he arose, and went and took hold of the horns of the altar. And it was told Solomon, saying, "Indeed Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon; for look, he has taken hold of the horns of the altar, saying, 'Let King Solomon swear to me today that he will not put his servant to death with the sword.'" Then Solomon said, "If he proves himself a worthy man, not one hair of him shall fall to the earth; but if wickedness is found in him, he shall die." So King Solomon sent them to bring him down from the altar. And he came and fell down before King Solomon; and Solomon said to him, "Go to your house."
1 Kings 2:28-33 - Then news came to Joab, for Joab had defected to Adonijah, though he had not defected to Absalom. So Joab fled to the tabernacle of the LORD, and took hold of the horns of the altar. And King Solomon was told, "Joab has fled to the tabernacle of the LORD; there he is, by the altar." Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, "Go, strike him down." So Benaiah went to the tabernacle of the LORD, and said to him, "Thus says the king, 'Come out!' " And he said, "No, but I will die here." And Benaiah brought back word to the king, saying, "Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me." Then the king said to him, "Do as he has said, and strike him down and bury him, that you may take away from me and from the house of my father the innocent blood which Joab shed. So the LORD will return his blood on his head, because he struck down two men more righteous and better than he, and killed them with the sword - Abner the son of Ner, the commander of the army of Israel, and Amasa the son of Jether, the commander of the army of Judah - though my father David did not know it. Their blood shall therefore return upon the head of Joab and upon the head of his descendants forever. But upon David and his descendants, upon his house and his throne, there shall be peace forever from the LORD."
The one who took hold of the horns on the altar and was deemed righteous was given mercy and lived, but the wicked one died. God authorized only a select group of priests to offer incense. Rebellion against God in this matter left King Uzziah with the plague of leprosy, as he was not authorized to offer incense:
2 Chronicles 26:14-16 - Then Uzziah prepared for them, for the entire army, shields, spears, helmets, body armor, bows, and slings to cast stones. And he made devices in Jerusalem, invented by skillful men, to be on the towers and the corners, to shoot arrows and large stones. So his fame spread far and wide, for he was marvelously helped till he became strong. But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the LORD his God by entering the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.
2 Chronicles 26:17-20 - So Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him were eighty priests of the LORD - valiant men. And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, "It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the LORD God." Then Uzziah became furious; and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense. And while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the incense altar. And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and there, on his forehead, he was leprous; so they thrust him out of that place. Indeed he also hurried to get out, because the LORD had struck him.
God also judges wickedness and rebellion in the sixth Trumpet judgment with plagues (Revelation 9:20). The following passage suggests the prayers of the saints offered on the golden altar are also prayers for justice and judgment on the wicked:
Psalms 141:1-5 - A Psalm of David. LORD, I cry out to You; make haste to me! Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You. Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men who work iniquity; and do not let me eat of their delicacies. Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked.
The prayers of the saints offered as incense in Revelation 8:4-5 are prayers of justice, as judgment immediately follows the offering. John's attention directed toward the golden altar after the angel blows the sixth trumpet shows that this judgment is an answer to the prayers of justice offered on it by the angel. Just as God judged Uzziah's rebellion with a plague of leprosy, man's continued rebellion will result in terrible plagues that wipe out a large part of the human population in judgment.
The golden altar has horns like its earthly counterpart:
Exodus 30:1-2 - You shall make an altar to burn incense on; you shall make it of acacia wood. A cubit shall be its length and a cubit its width - it shall be square - and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it.
Leviticus 4:7 - And the priest shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the LORD, which is in the tabernacle of meeting; and he shall pour the remaining blood of the bull at the base of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.
Recall from Revelation 5:6, a horn can represent salvation, strength and protection:
Psalms 18:2 - The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
2 Samuel 22:3 - The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my Savior, You save me from violence.
Symbolically, a horn can also show the authority, or dominion of a king:
1 Samuel 2:10 - The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces; from heaven He will thunder against them. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth. "He will give strength to His king, and exalt the horn of His anointed."
Psalm 89:15-17, 20-24 - Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! They walk, O LORD, in the light of Your countenance. In Your name they rejoice all day long, and in Your righteousness they are exalted. For You are the glory of their strength, and in Your favor our horn is exalted.... I have found My servant David; with My holy oil I have anointed him, with whom My hand shall be established; also My arm shall strengthen him. The enemy shall not outwit him, nor the son of wickedness afflict him. I will beat down his foes before his face, and plague those who hate him. But My faithfulness and My mercy shall be with him, and in My name his horn shall be exalted.
Daniel 7:24 - The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; he shall be different from the first ones, and shall subdue three kings.
Recall from Zechariah 1:18-21, the "four horns" that scattered Judah were four kings given authority by God to inflict judgment on His people:
Zechariah 1:18-19 - Then I raised my eyes and looked, and there were four horns. And I said to the angel who talked with me, "What are these?" So he answered me, "These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem."
The passages in this section show us that the four horns on the altar represent the power and authority of God to give mercy to those righteous, being covered by the blood of the Lamb, or mete out judgment on the wicked.
Recall from Revelation 6, the number "four" represents the Creator and the creation, and interaction between the physical and spiritual realms. Indeed, as shown in the next few sections, four angels are given authority to physically kill a large part of the human population with a supernatural army. In fact, the rest of the chapter is replete with the number four, which underscores the interaction between the physical and spiritual realms of God's creation in this judgment:
Revelation 9:14 - ...saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, "Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates."
God gives the angel who blew the sixth trumpet authority to release four angels who are bound at the Euphrates River. The Greek word translated as "bound" means to imprison, and is the same word used to describe Satan's detainment during the Kingdom Age:
Revelation 20:1-3 - Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.
As discussed in Revelation 9:5, there are other angels bound in chains in the bottomless pit:
2 Peter 2:4 - For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment....
Jude 1:6-7 - And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
It is evident that bound angels are fallen and not holy. The four angels imprisoned at the Euphrates River are not those bound with everlasting chains like the angels that committed sin as abhorrent as Sodom and Gomorrah's sin mentioned in Jude. The four bound angels are "prepared" for the sixth Trumpet judgment (Revelation 9:15), thus restrained temporarily somewhere at the Euphrates River until the angel blows the sixth Trumpet. Perhaps the sin of these four angels was not great enough that they were permanently bound and sent to the abyss like the angels in everlasting chains, or their intent was to massacre humans long ago, and God bound them until the appointed time to do so.
Neither are these four angels the same four angels restraining the four winds in Revelation 7:1, as these angels are not bound in the Euphrates River, but standing on the four corners of the earth. Besides, the four angels that restrain the four winds wreak havoc on the earth long before the sixth Trumpet judgment in the first four Seal judgments, as discussed in Revelation 7:1.
Recall from the last section that the number four shows a crossover of the boundary between the spiritual and physical realms. Interestingly, the Euphrates has long symbolized the boundary between the eastern world and the western world, and God established that the river was the north boundary of the land He promised to Abraham:
Revelation 16:12 - Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared.
Genesis 15:18 - On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: "To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates...."
God also shows that His future dominion will reach beyond the Euphrates and Israel's border to the Gentile nations:
Psalms 72:8 - He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
Zechariah 9:10 - I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; the battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be 'from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.'
The Euphrates River, also referred to in many places as simply "the River," is also a symbol of rebellion against God which caused a barrier between God and man. The Euphrates flowed out of the Garden of Eden where sin began:
Genesis 2:10-14 - Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which skirts the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one which goes around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Hiddekel; it is the one which goes toward the east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.
The first murder took place near Eden from which the Euphrates originated:
Genesis 4:9-11, 16 - Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?" And He said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden.
Nimrod established Babylon, formerly Babel, by the Euphrates River, which is where the first global rebellion led by the first global ruler against God occurred:
Genesis 10:9-10 - He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, "Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD." And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel....
Genesis 11:3-9 - Then they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth." But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, "Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
Idolatry was also born out of Babylon and spread to the region on the east side of the Euphrates, and then to the rest of the world:
Joshua 24:2-3, 14-15 - And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac....'" "Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
The "four horns" that scattered Judah (Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome) in Zechariah 1:18-19 came down to attack Israel from the north by the Euphrates River. This is interesting, as God told Jeremiah to travel all the way to the Euphrates River from Judah twice to bury and retrieve a sash that symbolized the coming judgment to Israel due to their idolatry that would result in their exile, which found fulfillment in Judah's scattering by the "four horns":
Jeremiah 13:4-10, 14 - "Take the sash that you acquired, which is around your waist, and arise, go to the Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole in the rock." So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the LORD commanded me. Now it came to pass after many days that the LORD said to me, "Arise, go to the Euphrates, and take from there the sash which I commanded you to hide there." Then I went to the Euphrates and dug, and I took the sash from the place where I had hidden it; and there was the sash, ruined. It was profitable for nothing. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, "Thus says the LORD: 'In this manner I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. This evil people, who refuse to hear My words, who follow the dictates of their hearts, and walk after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be just like this sash which is profitable for nothing.... And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together,' says the LORD. 'I will not pity nor spare nor have mercy, but will destroy them.'"
God even specified that Judah's scattering in the exile would take them beyond the Euphrates River:
1 Kings 14:15 - For the LORD will strike Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water. He will uproot Israel from this good land which He gave to their fathers, and will scatter them beyond the River, because they have made their wooden images, provoking the LORD to anger.
God also told Jeremiah to tie a copy of the prophecy about Babylon's destruction to a stone and throw it into the Euphrates River, which will have complete fulfillment found in Revelation 18, and will bring prophecy full circle to the birth place of idolatry and rebellion against God. All these associations with the Euphrates River show that judgment follows idolatry and rebellion against God. However, continued rebellion and idolatry will continue beyond the sixth Trumpet judgment, as we will see later in this study, which will lead to more judgment:
Revelation 9:20-21 - But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
Revelation 9:15 - So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind.
Recall from Revelation 9:14 that the angels bound at the Euphrates River are not the same as those held in everlasting chains in the bottomless pit. God has reserved these four angels for their mission to kill a third of the people on the earth at the time of the sixth Trumpet judgment.
Since they are bound angels, they are not holy but fallen angels. Therefore, their intent to kill humans isn't merely out of obedience to God, but is likely evil, which might be why God had to bind them until the appointed time. In other words, these angels may have planned to kill men long ago, but God restrained them from doing so until the sixth Trumpet judgment.
Narrowing down the time of the sixth Trumpet judgment to an hour, day, month and year shows it is a precise point-in-time, not a general time like "in those days," or "back in the day." The time of the sixth Trumpet is specific like the "day and hour" the Lord will return after the Tribulation (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32). Also, throughout the Old Testament, the authors recorded specific times of events by the day, month, and year. Paul considered the meticulous way the Jews observed time and seasons as a form of bondage under the Law, which is interesting since the four angels are under bondage until the specific appointed time of their release:
Galatians 4:8-10 - But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years.
Narrowing down the time of the sixth Trumpet judgment using four units of time suggests this judgment will not occur over some undetermined period-in-time, but in a literal sixty-minute-hour on an appointed day, month, and year. The four units of time also point to the spiritual realm interacting with the physical realm, as discussed in Revelation 9:13.
The angels are given authority to kill a third of the people left on earth. However, in the next verse, we don't see angels killing people, but a massive army of supernatural horsemen. The role between the angels and horsemen is unclear, but presumably the angels have some authority over the horsemen. Perhaps the army is demonic and gathered by the angels. This is certainly a possibility as the last rider and his companion on the spirit horse of the fourth Seal is Death and Hades (Revelation 6:8). If Death and Hades are real spiritual entities who rule over the places of their namesake, they are evil, because God destroys them as enemies in the final judgment:
Revelation 20:11-14 - Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Another possibility is that the angels accuse men before God for their rebellion, and God sends His heavenly army of horses and horsemen found in the passage below to mete out judgment. We will take a closer look at this scenario in Revelation 9:18:
2 Kings 6:15-17 - And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?" So he answered, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." And Elisha prayed, and said, "LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see." Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
Angels are also called "watchers." Holy watchers called down judgment on Nebuchadnezzar:
Daniel 4:4-5, 13-17 - I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at rest in my house, and flourishing in my palace. I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts on my bed and the visions of my head troubled me.... "I saw in the visions of my head while on my bed, and there was a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven. He cried aloud and said thus: 'Chop down the tree and cut off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts get out from under it, and the birds from its branches. Nevertheless leave the stump and roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field. Let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let him graze with the beasts on the grass of the earth. Let his heart be changed from that of a man, let him be given the heart of a beast, and let seven times pass over him. 'This decision is by the decree of the watchers, and the sentence by the word of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men.'
Watchers also accused Judah of their rebellion, which led to their destruction by the Babylonians:
Jeremiah 4:11-14 - At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem, "A dry wind of the desolate heights blows in the wilderness - toward the daughter of My people - not to fan or to cleanse - a wind too strong for these will come for Me; now I will also speak judgment against them." "Behold, he shall come up like clouds, and his chariots like a whirlwind. His horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us, for we are plundered!" O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness, that you may be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you?
Jeremiah 4:15-20 - For a voice declares from Dan and proclaims affliction from Mount Ephraim: "Make mention to the nations, yes, proclaim against Jerusalem, that watchers come from a far country and raise their voice against the cities of Judah. Like keepers of a field they are against her all around, because she has been rebellious against Me," says the LORD. "Your ways and your doings have procured these things for you. This is your wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reaches to your heart." O my soul, my soul! I am pained in my very heart! My heart makes a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because you have heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. Destruction upon destruction is cried, for the whole land is plundered. Suddenly my tents are plundered, and my curtains in a moment.
The watchers come from a "far country," which can also describe the "end of Heaven":
Isaiah 13:3-5 - "I have commanded My sanctified ones; I have also called My mighty ones for My anger - those who rejoice in My exaltation." The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like that of many people! A tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together! The LORD of hosts musters the army for battle. They come from a far country, from the end of heaven - the LORD and His weapons of indignation, to destroy the whole land.
Extra scriptural writings show that some of the watchers sinned, becoming fallen angels. God sent some of them to the abyss bound in everlasting chains for particularly abhorrent sin, as discussed in 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6-7. However, there are other fallen angels who still have much freedom today:
Ephesians 6:12 - For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Daniel 10:13, 20 - But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.... Then he said, "Do you know why I have come to you? And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia; and when I have gone forth, indeed the prince of Greece will come.
Perhaps, the four bound angels in the River Euphrates are some of the watchers that fell, but are bound in the Euphrates versus the abyss because of a difference in the sins they committed, or possibly because God is restraining their evil intent to massacre humans until the appointed time, as discussed earlier.
17 And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone.
20 But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk.
Revelation 9:16 - Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them.
After the sixth angel releases the four angels from the Euphrates River, John sees an army of 200 million horsemen. The number of horsemen in the Greek is literally twice "murias murias" The Greek word "murias" is the same word used to describe an innumerable count of something, as discussed in Revelation 5:11.
It is possible that John saw two different groups of horsemen too large to count. However, he said that he "heard the number of them." The only other time we see this phrase used is when John hears there are 144,000 Jewish servants of God (Revelation 7:4). Since a specific number was given for the servants, then it goes to reason John heard a specific number of horsemen, which supports the alternate translation of "murias" meaning the specific count of "ten thousand." Two multiplied by ten thousand squared equals 200 million.
Some have tried to equate this vast army of horsemen with the kings from the east that come to fight against Christ in Armageddon at the end of the Tribulation because of Asia's massive population and military:
Revelation 16:12-14, 16 - Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.... And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.
However, the only commonality between the sixth Trumpet judgment and the sixth Bowl judgment is mention of the Euphrates River and interaction between the physical and spiritual realms. One difference is that these are two separate judgments that occur at different times. Second, the 200 million horsemen are clearly not human, and the horses are not normal horses, as we will see in the next few sections.
Third, the horses' pursuit is to kill humans, while the kings from the east gather to fight against the Lord with all the kings of the earth, as noted in the passage above. Lastly, the horsemen apparently follow the lead of the four angels who were bound at the Euphrates River, while three unclean spirits that come out of the beast and false prophet lead the kings from the east along with all the kings of the earth to gather at "Armageddon," which is the "Valley of Megiddo" in Israel.
Revelation 9:17 - And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone.
The 200 million horses are barded with colorful breastplates described as fiery, hyacinth, and of sulfur or brimstone-like colors. The colors red, blue, and, yellow are not in the Greek, but put in by the translators to try to better describe what John saw. While "fiery" certainly includes hues of red, and sulfur or brimstone is definitely yellow (though it is blue when it burns), hyacinth can describe a range of colors including blue, purple, or jacinth, which is an amber or dark red color found on the breastplate of judgment described in Revelation 4:3.
Since the meaning of these colors is not explained elsewhere in Scripture, but only found here, it is reasonable to surmise that they point to the plagues of fire, smoke, and brimstone that comes out of their mouth. While the hyacinth color is uncertain, the fiery red and sulfur yellow colors definitely fit two of the three plagues. Recall from Revelation 9:9 that a breastplate in Scripture shows judgment, and in Revelation 9:18, we see these three plagues kill a third of the human population in judgment.
The horses have heads like lions that eject the three plagues of fire, smoke, and brimstone from their mouths. Incidentally, the Leviathan was a creature that lived at one time on the earth that spewed fire and smoke from their mouth:
Job 41:1, 7, 15-21 - Can you draw out Leviathan with a hook, or snare his tongue with a line which you lower...? Can you fill his skin with harpoons, or his head with fishing spears...? His rows of scales are his pride, shut up tightly as with a seal; one is so near another that no air can come between them; they are joined one to another, they stick together and cannot be parted. His sneezings flash forth light, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning. Out of his mouth go burning lights; sparks of fire shoot out. Smoke goes out of his nostrils, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes. His breath kindles coals, and a flame goes out of his mouth.
The word translated as "coals" means "hot embers," which could be used to describe the blue hues of burning sulfur or brimstone (click for video). The following passage supports that notion, as "coals" includes both fire and brimstone:
Psalms 11:6 - Upon the wicked He will rain coals; fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup.
As a side note, for those who dismiss the Leviathan as a mythical creature because of its ability to spew fire out of its mouth, consider the bombardier beetle which attacks its prey with a hot spray of fluids that mix inside its abdomen, and forms a chemical reaction that brings the temperature near the boiling point of water and causes an explosive ejection of hot fluid that burns (Source). It's possible the Leviathan had a similar mechanism, that when substances within the creature mixed and became exposed to air by its breath it could ignite and breathe fire out of its mouth.
The Leviathan is not described as a horse or a lion, like the 200 million horses, but as a sea dragon:
Psalms 104:25-26 - This great and wide sea, in which are innumerable teeming things, living things both small and great. There the ships sail about; there is that Leviathan which You have made to play there.
Isaiah 27:1 - In that day the LORD with His severe sword, great and strong, will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan that twisted serpent; and He will slay the reptile that is in the sea.
David similarly describes God in His wrath, spewing fire and smoke with kindled coals from his mouth, much like the Leviathan and the horses of the sixth Trumpet judgment:
2 Samuel 22:8-16 - "Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of heaven quaked and were shaken, because He was angry. Smoke went up from His nostrils, and devouring fire from His mouth; coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down with darkness under His feet. He rode upon a cherub, and flew; and He was seen upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness canopies around Him, dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. From the brightness before Him coals of fire were kindled. The LORD thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered His voice. He sent out arrows and scattered them; lightning bolts, and He vanquished them. Then the channels of the sea were seen, the foundations of the world were uncovered, at the rebuke of the LORD, at the blast of the breath of His nostrils."
The only other place we see fire coming out of a mouth in Scripture is by the two witnesses, who kill those who try to harm them, but they do not kill with smoke or brimstone:
Revelation 11:5 - And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner.
As discussed in Revelation 5:5, the lion is the king of the beasts. Having the head or face of a lion shows power and might like the men of valor in David's military:
1 Chronicles 12:8 - Some Gadites joined David at the stronghold in the wilderness, mighty men of valor, men trained for battle, who could handle shield and spear, whose faces were like the faces of lions, and were as swift as gazelles on the mountains....
A lion's head would also have lion's teeth. Recall from Revelation 9:8, a lion's mouth or teeth show its destructive power:
Joel 1:6-7 - For a nation has come up against My land, strong, and without number; his teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he has the fangs of a fierce lion. He has laid waste My vine, and ruined My fig tree; he has stripped it bare and thrown it away; its branches are made white.
The 200 million horsemen and horses will kill a third of the human population by three plagues. Recall from Revelation 8:12, the number three speaks of God's divine nature, but also shows perfection or completion in God's plan. While three shows perfect completion, a fraction in thirds shows less than completion. God shows restraint in the Trumpet judgments by destruction in thirds as shown below, but will complete judgment in the Bowls with unrestrained destruction in Revelation 16:
The three plagues that come out of the horses' mouths which kill a third of the human population on earth are: fire, smoke, and brimstone. As discussed in the last section, the breastplate with the colors of the plagues symbolizes judgment. These three plagues found together in Scripture elsewhere reiterate that judgment is in view.
Angels destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone, which caused smoke like a furnace:
Genesis 19:1, 12-13, 24-25, 28 - Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground.... Then the men said to Lot, "Have you anyone else here? Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city - take them out of this place! For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it...." Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens. So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.... Then he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace.
God will destroy Babylon by the same plagues as Sodom and Gomorrah with a heavenly army at the end of the Tribulation, and Babylon will become a holding place for demons:
Isaiah 13:1-6 - The burden against Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw. "Lift up a banner on the high mountain, raise your voice to them; wave your hand, that they may enter the gates of the nobles. I have commanded My sanctified ones; I have also called My mighty ones for My anger - those who rejoice in My exaltation." The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like that of many people! A tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together! The LORD of hosts musters the army for battle. They come from a far country, from the end of heaven - the LORD and His weapons of indignation, to destroy the whole land. Wail, for the day of the LORD is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty.
Isaiah 13:19-22 - And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans' pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It will never be inhabited, nor will it be settled from generation to generation; nor will the Arabian pitch tents there, nor will the shepherds make their sheepfolds there. But wild beasts of the desert will lie there, and their houses will be full of owls; ostriches will dwell there, and wild goats will caper there. The hyenas will howl in their citadels, and jackals in their pleasant palaces. Her time is near to come, and her days will not be prolonged."
Revelation 18:2, 8, 17-18 - And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! Therefore her plagues will come in one day - death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her.... For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.' Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, 'What is like this great city?'
While supernatural forces, perhaps even God's heavenly army, undoubtedly worked through the Medes to destroy Babylon, there are parts of the Isaiah prophecy that are yet to find complete fulfillment at the end of the Tribulation like the perpetual desolation of the area that will become a holding place for demons (aka wild beasts) when God destroys it, as shown in both passages above. Jeremiah also shows us that God will use a heavenly army to destroy Babylon at the end of the Tribulation with the same plagues He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah:
Jeremiah 50:25-28, 39-40 - The LORD has opened His armory, and has brought out the weapons of His indignation; for this is the work of the Lord GOD of hosts in the land of the Chaldeans. Come against her from the farthest border; open her storehouses; cast her up as heaps of ruins, and destroy her utterly; let nothing of her be left. Slay all her bulls, let them go down to the slaughter. Woe to them! For their day has come, the time of their punishment. The voice of those who flee and escape from the land of Babylon declares in Zion the vengeance of the LORD our God, the vengeance of His temple.... "Therefore the wild desert beasts shall dwell there with the jackals, and the ostriches shall dwell in it. It shall be inhabited no more forever, nor shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation. As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighbors," says the LORD, "So no one shall reside there, nor son of man dwell in it.
Since God uses the same plagues to kill a third of the human population in the sixth Trumpet judgment and destroy Babylon before the end of the Tribulation, it is possible God uses the same supernatural army for both judgments. We are not told exactly when God destroys Babylon, but the placement in Revelation 18 shortly before Jesus returns suggests it is toward the end of the Tribulation. The sixth Trumpet is also near the end of the Tribulation, but it is not clear if the army of the sixth Trumpet judgment is God's heavenly army that destroys Babylon, or if it is a demonic horde. The rest of this section may give some insight on the army's identity.
In the first destruction of Babylon, God described the Medes army as a "destroying wind":
Jeremiah 51:1-2 - Thus says the LORD: "Behold, I will raise up against Babylon, against those who dwell in Leb Kamai, a destroying wind. And I will send winnowers to Babylon, who shall winnow her and empty her land. For in the day of doom they shall be against her all around."
Jeremiah describes Babylon's army against Jerusalem during the time of Nebuchadnezzar as a "strong wind", and its chariots a "whirlwind":
Jeremiah 4:11-13 - At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem, "A dry wind of the desolate heights blows in the wilderness - toward the daughter of My people - not to fan or to cleanse - a wind too strong for these will come for Me; now I will also speak judgment against them." "Behold, he shall come up like clouds, and his chariots like a whirlwind. His horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us, for we are plundered!"
God also describes the chariots of His heavenly army as a whirlwind:
Isaiah 66:15 - For behold, the LORD will come with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by His sword the LORD will judge all flesh; and the slain of the LORD shall be many.
Elijah's departure to Heaven shows us that the heavenly chariots are fiery, but move like a whirlwind:
2 Kings 2:11 - Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
Interestingly, God said that during the Tribulation, or the "time of Jacob's trouble," God's whirlwind would come upon the wicked. Based on the passages above, God's whirlwind, which comes during the "time of Jacob's trouble," is an army with chariots of horses:
Jeremiah 30:6-7, 23-24 - Ask now, and see, whether a man is ever in labor with child? So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins like a woman in labor, and all faces turned pale? Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.... Behold, the whirlwind of the LORD - goes forth with fury, a continuing whirlwind; it will fall violently on the head of the wicked. The fierce anger of the LORD will not return until He has done it, and until He has performed the intents of His heart. In the latter days you will consider it.
If the army has chariots of fire like the one that took Elijah to Heaven, the chariots with their spirit riders could be described as a "burning wind." The Hebrew word for "burning wind" is "burning spirit," which could be a spirit horse and chariot of fire. In addition, the four winds held back by the four angels in Revelation 7:1 are the four spirit horses with horsemen who are spirits that go to and fro throughout the earth but come from Heaven (Zechariah 6:5-7). This supports the 200 million horsemen with their horses being the whirlwind of the Lord, or His heavenly army in Scripture.
The following passage shows the Lord judging the wicked from His throne in Heaven with the fire and brimstone plagues of the sixth Trumpet judgment along with a "burning wind":
Psalms 11:4-6 - The LORD is in His holy temple, the LORD's throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. The LORD tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. Upon the wicked He will rain coals; fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup.
The following passage might be a parallel to the sixth Trumpet judgment. Note that judgment is against all flesh, and a whirlwind is "raised up" to make a great slaughter around the world:
Jeremiah 25:29-30 - '"For behold, I begin to bring calamity on the city which is called by My name, and should you be utterly unpunished? You shall not be unpunished, for I will call for a sword on all the inhabitants of the earth," says the LORD of hosts.' "Therefore prophesy against them all these words, and say to them: 'The LORD will roar from on high, and utter His voice from His holy habitation; He will roar mightily against His fold. He will give a shout, as those who tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth.
Jeremiah 25:31-33, 38 - A noise will come to the ends of the earth - for the LORD has a controversy with the nations; He will plead His case with all flesh. He will give those who are wicked to the sword,' says the LORD." Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Behold, disaster shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the farthest parts of the earth. And at that day the slain of the LORD shall be from one end of the earth even to the other end of the earth. They shall not be lamented, or gathered, or buried; they shall become refuse on the ground. He has left His lair like the lion; for their land is desolate because of the fierceness of the Oppressor, and because of His fierce anger."
The Babylonian conquest fulfilled the first part of Jeremiah 25, but the end of the chapter in the passage above speaks of a global judgment that could be fulfilled by the 200 million horsemen and horses in the sixth Trumpet judgment. If this passage is a parallel to this Tribulation judgment, then the role of the four angels is to "raise up" the whirlwind army of horses with their horsemen from the farthest parts of the earth.
Recall from Zechariah 6:5-7 that God's spirit horses like to travel to and fro on the earth, but their station is in Heaven. The farthest parts of earth could also be described as the four corners of the earth. Perhaps each angel goes to a different cardinal direction from the Euphrates River to gather the 200 million horsemen. This role would be similar to gathering of the kings of the earth in Armageddon by the three unclean spirits (Revelation 16:14-16).
The evidence thus far points to the supernatural army being God's heavenly army. The plagues themselves may give us clues as to whether the supernatural army consists of unclean or clean spirits. Let's consider how the three plagues are found and used elsewhere in Scripture.
Fire is generally depicted as a way to purify things like metal in Scripture. In the same way, God's refining fire will burn away unworthy works of a believer, and perpetually torment unbelievers in spiritual death due to their rejection of Christ's payment for sin, as discussed in Revelation 9:2-3. While Satan can throw fiery darts against believers, God provides faith to quench them (Ephesians 6:16). On the other hand, God makes arrows into fiery shafts of death to judge the wicked:
Psalms 7:11-13 - God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day. If he does not turn back, He will sharpen His sword; He bends His bow and makes it ready. He also prepares for Himself instruments of death; He makes His arrows into fiery shafts.
Smoke is a by-product of fire consisting of a mixture of gases and carbon particles from combustion of organic matter, as discussed in Revelation 9:2. Smoke can also kill by suffocating a person and/or cause fatal lung damage from the heat and chemical content of the smoke. Moses describes God's manifestation of His glory as smoke at Mount Sinai and in the wilderness; Isaiah also described God's glory as smoke in the temple, as discussed in Revelation 9:2. Smoke is also tied to God's refining fire of wrath and judgment:
Psalms 18:7-8 - Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, because He was angry. Smoke went up from His nostrils, and devouring fire from His mouth; coals were kindled by it.
Isaiah 65:3-6 - A people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face; who sacrifice in gardens, and burn incense on altars of brick; who sit among the graves, and spend the night in the tombs; who eat swine's flesh, and the broth of abominable things is in their vessels; who say, 'Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am holier than you!' These are smoke in My nostrils, a fire that burns all the day. "Behold, it is written before Me: I will not keep silence, but will repay - even repay into their bosom...."
Brimstone is solely used in the context of God's judgment against the wicked humans, but also against fallen spirit beings and on places like Sodom and Gomorrah and Babylon, who had wicked inhabitants. Nowhere do we see brimstone used by those who are evil, only by God in judgment.
Incidentally, the word brimstone comes from the same Hebrew root word for gopher. "Gopher" is only found in the Bible where God told Noah to build the ark with gopherwood. God protected everyone inside the ark made of gopherwood, but destroyed everyone outside the ark in judgment by the Flood:
Genesis 6:13-14 - And God said to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.
Similarly, in the "Gog and Magog War," at the beginning of the Tribulation, God will protect Israel from the brimstone and other weapons of indignation He will pour on Gog's wicked army before they can harm His people:
Ezekiel 38:21-22 - "I will call for a sword against Gog throughout all My mountains," says the Lord GOD. "Every man's sword will be against his brother. And I will bring him to judgment with pestilence and bloodshed; I will rain down on him, on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone...."
Ezekiel 39:2-5 - "...and I will turn you around and lead you on, bringing you up from the far north, and bring you against the mountains of Israel. Then I will knock the bow out of your left hand, and cause the arrows to fall out of your right hand. You shall fall upon the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the peoples who are with you; I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. You shall fall on the open field; for I have spoken," says the Lord GOD.
It is evident, that fire, smoke, and brimstone are not weapons of the enemy, but clearly describe plagues that God pours out on the wicked in His wrath. God certainly uses fallen vessels to judge others. He used the "four horns," or the four nations that exiled Judah, who themselves were evil nations (Zechariah 1:18). But God can also use a fallen vessel to direct holy vessels in judgment.
Recall from Revelation 9:1 that Satan is likely the fallen star that releases the tormenting locusts from the bottomless pit, but the locusts themselves are clean creatures that are holy and not unclean or fallen, as discussed in Revelation 9:11. While God allows fallen spirits to deceive or have authority to harm humans to fulfill His judgment, ultimately God will judge them too with the same fire, smoke, and, brimstone (Revelation 14:9-11):
Matthew 25:41 - ...Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels....
Revelation 14:9-11 - Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."
Revelation 19:20 - Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.
Revelation 20:10, 15 - The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.... And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
Revelation 21:8 - But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
While it is not definitive that the 200 million horsemen are from God's army of the heavenly hosts, the evidence supports it. Just as Satan was given authority over the tormenting locusts, it is possible that the four fallen angels who are bound are given permission to use God's army to carry out their mission after their release. As discussed earlier, perhaps these angels are the ones who "raise up" the great whirlwind or supernatural army of God, creating the great slaughter prophesied by Jeremiah, which might be a parallel to the sixth Trumpet judgment:
Jeremiah 25:32-33 - Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Behold, disaster shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the farthest parts of the earth. And at that day the slain of the LORD shall be from one end of the earth even to the other end of the earth. They shall not be lamented, or gathered, or buried; they shall become refuse on the ground."
Revelation 9:19 - For their power is in their mouth and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents, having heads; and with them they do harm.
The power to kill is in the plagues that proceed from the 200 million horses mouths, but they have power to inflict harm with their tails that are like serpents. While a third of mankind is killed by the plagues out of the mouth of the horses, an untold amount may be harmed by the strike of their tail that is like a snake bite. Perhaps the other two-thirds suffer from the snake bites but do not die, similar to the tormenting locusts with a scorpion tail (Revelation 9:5-6). The affliction from a snake bite covers a wide range of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe as follows:
"The outcome of snake bites depends on numerous factors, including the species of snake, the area of the body bitten, the amount of venom injected, and the health conditions of the person. Feelings of terror and panic are common after a snakebite and can produce a characteristic set of symptoms mediated by the autonomic nervous system, such as a racing heart and nausea. Bites from non-venomous snakes can also cause injury, often due to lacerations caused by the snake's teeth, or from a resulting infection. A bite may also trigger an anaphylactic reaction, which is potentially fatal."
Serpents are often associated with Satan in Scripture, but God sent a serpent plague to judge the children of Israel:
Numbers 21:5-6 - And the people spoke against God and against Moses: "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread." So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.
God warned Judah that he would send horses to destroy the land and serpents to harm them because of their idolatry.
Jeremiah 8:16-19 - "The snorting of His horses was heard from Dan. The whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing of His strong ones; for they have come and devoured the land and all that is in it, the city and those who dwell in it." "For behold, I will send serpents among you, vipers which cannot be charmed, and they shall bite you," says the LORD. I would comfort myself in sorrow; My heart is faint in me. Listen! The voice, the cry of the daughter of My people - from a far country: "Is not the LORD in Zion? Is not her King in her?" "Why have they provoked Me to anger with their carved images - with foreign idols?"
While this prophecy was fulfilled by the Babylonian conquest, there is a parallel to the sixth Trumpet judgment with the horses and serpent bites. Also, both groups of people under judgment are idolaters, as we will see in the next section.
Revelation 9:20 - But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands...
God sent fiery serpents to judge Israel, as discussed in the last section. Those who repented lived and God healed, but those who did not repent died:
Numbers 21:6-9 - So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us." So Moses prayed for the people. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live." So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.
Those who get struck in torment by the serpent-like tails of the 200 million horses continue to refuse to repent toward God like Israel. The "Sheep and Goat Judgment" in Matthew 25:31-46 shows that all the unrepentant people in the world will die at the end of the Tribulation because they will reject the "Great Physician" who can heal them of the plagues of judgment for their sin and give them eternal life, if only they would repent and turn toward Him:
John 3:14-19 - And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
Unrepentant hearts of those who reject Christ will become hardened, even after experiencing the awful plagues of fire, smoke, and brimstone that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, and snake bites like those that afflicted Israel in the wilderness. Their hearts will become hardened like Pharaoh when he refused to let the Hebrews go even after he witnessed the miracle of the sorcerers' snakes being eaten by Aaron's snake:
Exodus 7:11-13 - But Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers; so the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For every man threw down his rod, and they became serpents. But Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods. And Pharaoh's heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said.
The people plagued by the horsemen and horses in the sixth Trumpet judgment will refuse to repent of idolatry. Similarly, God warned Judah that they would be judged by horsemen and horses for their idolatry like the northern kingdom:
Ezekiel 23:23-26 - The Babylonians, all the Chaldeans, Pekod, Shoa, Koa, all the Assyrians with them, all of them desirable young men, governors and rulers, captains and men of renown, all of them riding on horses. And they shall come against you with chariots, wagons, and war-horses, with a horde of people. They shall array against you buckler, shield, and helmet all around. 'I will delegate judgment to them, and they shall judge you according to their judgments. I will set My jealousy against you, and they shall deal furiously with you; they shall remove your nose and your ears, and your remnant shall fall by the sword; they shall take your sons and your daughters, and your remnant shall be devoured by fire. They shall also strip you of your clothes and take away your beautiful jewelry.
Ezekiel 23:27-31 - 'Thus I will make you cease your lewdness and your harlotry brought from the land of Egypt, so that you will not lift your eyes to them, nor remember Egypt anymore.' "For thus says the Lord GOD: 'Surely I will deliver you into the hand of those you hate, into the hand of those from whom you alienated yourself. They will deal hatefully with you, take away all you have worked for, and leave you naked and bare. The nakedness of your harlotry shall be uncovered, both your lewdness and your harlotry. I will do these things to you because you have gone as a harlot after the Gentiles, because you have become defiled by their idols. You have walked in the way of your sister; therefore I will put her cup in your hand.'
Just as God warned, idolatry, or spiritual harlotry brought an end to Judah's national sovereignty, with massive loss of life. The idolatry God judges in the sixth Trumpet judgment will result in massive loss of life of idolaters, followed by an announcement that Jesus is coming to establish a new kingdom on Earth, which will bring an end to the rule of the beast:
Revelation 11:15 - Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!"
John refers to crafting of idols as the "work of their hands." People made idols out of precious metals like gold, silver or brass, but also of stone or wood. Jeremiah describes the crafting of idols made of wood decorated with precious metals:
Jeremiah 10:3-5 - For the customs of the peoples are futile; for one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple. They are upright, like a palm tree, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, nor can they do any good....
Jeremiah 10:8-9, 14-15 - But they are altogether dull-hearted and foolish; a wooden idol is a worthless doctrine. Silver is beaten into plates; it is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the craftsman and of the hands of the metalsmith; blue and purple are their clothing; they are all the work of skillful men.... Everyone is dull-hearted, without knowledge; every metalsmith is put to shame by an image; for his molded image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. They are futile, a work of errors; in the time of their punishment they shall perish.
Making statues or images of something is not a sin. God blessed the work of men's hands that built the temple out of precious metals, stone, and wood, complete with crafted images of heavenly cherubim (2 Chronicles 3:10):
2 Chronicles 2:12-14 - Hiram also said: Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who made heaven and earth, for He has given King David a wise son, endowed with prudence and understanding, who will build a temple for the LORD and a royal house for himself! And now I have sent a skillful man, endowed with understanding, Huram my master craftsman (the son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre), skilled to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, stone and wood, purple and blue, fine linen and crimson, and to make any engraving and to accomplish any plan which may be given to him, with your skillful men and with the skillful men of my lord David your father.
However, God abhors making material images to use in idolatrous worship:
Deuteronomy 27:15 - 'Cursed is the one who makes a carved or molded image, an abomination to the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret....'
Jeremiah 1:16 - I will utter My judgments against them concerning all their wickedness, because they have forsaken Me, burned incense to other gods, and worshiped the works of their own hands.
God wants us to make things with our hands for His glory; not our glory, or the glory of a false god:
Psalms 90:17 - And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands.
Idolatry is about replacing or supplementing God with a false god:
Exodus 20:3-5, 23 - You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image - any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.... You shall not make anything to be with Me - gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves.
Isaiah 46:5-7 - "To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal and compare Me, that we should be alike? They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver on the scales; they hire a goldsmith, and he makes it a god; they prostrate themselves, yes, they worship. They bear it on the shoulder, they carry it and set it in its place, and it stands; from its place it shall not move. Though one cries out to it, yet it cannot answer nor save him out of his trouble."
As mentioned earlier, idolatry is spiritual harlotry. In other words, a relationship with God is like a marriage relationship. Worshipping idols instead of, or in addition to God, is like cheating on or divorcing a spouse:
Jeremiah 3:1, 21 - "They say, 'If a man divorces his wife, and she goes from him and becomes another man's, may he return to her again?' Would not that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers; yet return to Me," says the LORD..... "Surely, as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, so have you dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel," says the LORD.
Revelation 9:20 - ...that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk.
While some people invent false gods, demons have deceived many into believing they are gods:
Deuteronomy 32:16-17 - They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods; with abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons, not to God, to gods they did not know, to new gods, new arrivals that your fathers did not fear.
Psalms 106:35-40 - But they mingled with the Gentiles and learned their works; they served their idols, which became a snare to them. They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons, and shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood. Thus they were defiled by their own works, and played the harlot by their own deeds. Therefore the wrath of the LORD was kindled against His people, so that He abhorred His own inheritance.
2 Chronicles 11:14-15 - For the Levites left their common-lands and their possessions and came to Judah and Jerusalem, for Jeroboam and his sons had rejected them from serving as priests to the LORD. Then he appointed for himself priests for the high places, for the demons, and the calf idols which he had made.
1 Corinthians 10:18-21 - Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons.
Idols made of metal, stone, or wood are inanimate objects that cannot see, hear, or walk. People who make idols with their hands, and then bow down to worship them are as blind, deaf, and disabled as the idol:
Psalms 115:2-8 - Why should the Gentiles say, "So where is their God?" but our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; eyes they have, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear; noses they have, but they do not smell; they have hands, but they do not handle; feet they have, but they do not walk; nor do they mutter through their throat. Those who make them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them.
Spiritual handicaps like blindness and deafness are the result of an unrepentant, rebellious, hardened heart:
John 12:37-40 - But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: "Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them."
Jeremiah 5:20-23 - "Declare this in the house of Jacob and proclaim it in Judah, saying, 'Hear this now, O foolish people, without understanding, who have eyes and see not, and who have ears and hear not: Do you not fear Me?' says the LORD. 'Will you not tremble at My presence, who have placed the sand as the bound of the sea, by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass beyond it? And though its waves toss to and fro, yet they cannot prevail; though they roar, yet they cannot pass over it. But this people has a defiant and rebellious heart; they have revolted and departed.'"
Jesus demonstrated the disabled spiritual state of the religious leaders by miraculously healing eyes, ears, and legs of those physically disabled. The religious leaders were unable to grasp the truth that Jesus was the Messiah and rejected Him even though He performed these miracles before them:
Mark 8:11, 17-18 - Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him.... But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, "Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?
Matthew 9:2-6 - Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you." And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, "This Man blasphemes!" But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Arise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins" - then He said to the paralytic, "Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house."
The religious leaders' idolatry that blinded them to the truth was "covetousness":
Colossians 3:5 - Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Coveting something is to lust after something that is not yours to have:
Luke 12:15 - And He said to them, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses."
Hebrews 13:5 - Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
The religious leaders coveted stature among the people to the point that their heart was far from God and focused on themselves; but they were careful to make it look like they were religious because they enjoyed the prestige. Jesus called them hypocrites because their heart and outward appearance were not aligned:
Mark 7:6 - He answered and said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me....'"
Matthew 6:2, 5, 16 - Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.... And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward..... Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
Matthew 23:13-15 - But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
Matthew 23:23-28 - Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Since the religious leaders and Israel as a nation cared more about themselves than God, He hardened their hearts with a "spirit of stupor" so they could not understand the truth:
Romans 11:7-11 - What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. Just as it is written: "God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day." And David says: "Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a recompense to them. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, and bow down their back always." I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.
Like the religious leaders and Israel, God will give people over to their hardened hearts, by preventing them from understanding the truth by crippling their spiritual perception:
Isaiah 6:9-10 - And He said, "Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.' "Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed."
Isaiah 44:9-13 - Those who make an image, all of them are useless, and their precious things shall not profit; they are their own witnesses; they neither see nor know, that they may be ashamed. Who would form a god or mold an image that profits him nothing? Surely all his companions would be ashamed; and the workmen, they are mere men. Let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, they shall be ashamed together. The blacksmith with the tongs works one in the coals, fashions it with hammers, and works it with the strength of his arms. Even so, he is hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The craftsman stretches out his rule, he marks one out with chalk; he fashions it with a plane, he marks it out with the compass, and makes it like the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man, that it may remain in the house.
Isaiah 44:14-17 - He cuts down cedars for himself, and takes the cypress and the oak; he secures it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a pine, and the rain nourishes it. Then it shall be for a man to burn, for he will take some of it and warm himself; yes, he kindles it and bakes bread; indeed he makes a god and worships it; he makes it a carved image, and falls down to it. He burns half of it in the fire; with this half he eats meat; he roasts a roast, and is satisfied. He even warms himself and says, "Ah! I am warm, I have seen the fire." And the rest of it he makes into a god, his carved image. He falls down before it and worships it, prays to it and says, "Deliver me, for you are my god!"
Isaiah 44:18-20 - They do not know nor understand; for He has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. And no one considers in his heart, nor is there knowledge nor understanding to say, "I have burned half of it in the fire, yes, I have also baked bread on its coals; I have roasted meat and eaten it; and shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood he feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside; and he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?"
God promises judgment on those who worship these lifeless handmade gods:
Deuteronomy 4:24-28 - For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. "When you beget children and grandchildren and have grown old in the land, and act corruptly and make a carved image in the form of anything, and do evil in the sight of the LORD your God to provoke Him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that you will soon utterly perish from the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess; you will not prolong your days in it, but will be utterly destroyed. And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD will drive you. And there you will serve gods, the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell.
Psalms 135:14-18 - For the LORD will judge His people, and He will have compassion on His servants. The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; eyes they have, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear; nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them.
Judgment for idolatry goes beyond Israel. God judged the Babylonian king Belshazzar for using the vessels from the Jewish temple in idol worship:
Daniel 5:2, 4-5 - While he tasted the wine, Belshazzar gave the command to bring the gold and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple which had been in Jerusalem, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone. In the same hour the fingers of a man's hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.
Daniel 5:24-30 - Then the fingers of the hand were sent from Him, and this writing was written. "And this is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians." That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain.
Nineveh was also judged for their spiritual harlotry by the horsemen of Babylon:
Nahum 3:1-7 - Woe to the bloody city! It is all full of lies and robbery. Its victim never departs. The noise of a whip and the noise of rattling wheels, of galloping horses, of clattering chariots! Horsemen charge with bright sword and glittering spear. There is a multitude of slain, a great number of bodies, countless corpses - they stumble over the corpses - because of the multitude of harlotries of the seductive harlot, the mistress of sorceries, who sells nations through her harlotries, and families through her sorceries. "Behold, I am against you," says the LORD of hosts; "I will lift your skirts over your face, I will show the nations your nakedness, and the kingdoms your shame. I will cast abominable filth upon you, make you vile, and make you a spectacle. It shall come to pass that all who look upon you will flee from you, and say, 'Nineveh is laid waste! Who will bemoan her?' Where shall I seek comforters for you?"
Likewise, God will judge the spiritual harlots, or idolaters, in the Tribulation with the 200 million horsemen. Unlike the fifth Trumpet judgment that specifically excludes only the 144,000 Jewish servants (Revelation 9:4), the supernatural horsemen target idolaters.
At the time of the sixth Trumpet judgment there will only be one manmade idolatrous religion centered on the mark of the beast and his image (Revelation 13). Therefore, the idolaters in this judgment are followers of the beast (aka antichrist). This suggests believers who have rejected the mark of the beast and his false religion will be exempt from the plagues in sixth Trumpet judgment.
Revelation 9:21 - And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
Idolatry, which is covetousness (Colossians 3:5), is a symptom of a hard heart that is full of sin:
Jeremiah 17:9 - "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?"
Mark 7:18-23 - So He said to them, "Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?" And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man."
John lists four sins of the idolaters:
These four sins are an integral part of idolatry, as shown in the passages below:
Isaiah 57:3-5, 8, 17 - But come here, you sons of the sorceress, you offspring of the adulterer and the harlot! Whom do you ridicule? Against whom do you make a wide mouth and stick out the tongue? Are you not children of transgression, offspring of falsehood, inflaming yourselves with gods under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys, under the clefts of the rocks...? Also behind the doors and their posts you have set up your remembrance; for you have uncovered yourself to those other than Me, and have gone up to them; you have enlarged your bed and made a covenant with them; you have loved their bed, where you saw their nudity.... For the iniquity of his covetousness I was angry and struck him; I hid and was angry, and he went on backsliding in the way of his heart.
Jeremiah 7:8-10 - "Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, 'We are delivered to do all these abominations'?"
Hosea 4:2, 12-13 - By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed upon bloodshed.... My people ask counsel from their wooden idols, and their staff informs them. For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to stray, and they have played the harlot against their God. They offer sacrifices on the mountaintops, and burn incense on the hills, under oaks, poplars, and terebinths, because their shade is good. Therefore your daughters commit harlotry, and your brides commit adultery.
2 Kings 21:1-6 - Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hephzibah. And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; he raised up altars for Baal, and made a wooden image, as Ahab king of Israel had done; and he worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. He also built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, "In Jerusalem I will put My name." And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. Also he made his son pass through the fire, practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft, and consulted spiritists and mediums. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger.
As discussed in Revelation 2:20-22, Jezebel was the epitome of idol worship and spiritual harlotry in the Old Testament. All four sins of the idolaters in the Tribulation were also found in Jezebel:
1 Kings 18:4, 19 - For so it was, while Jezebel massacred the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah had taken one hundred prophets and hidden them, fifty to a cave, and had fed them with bread and water.... Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table."
1 Kings 21:7-11 - Then Jezebel his wife said to him, "You now exercise authority over Israel! Arise, eat food, and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite." And she wrote letters in Ahab's name, sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters to the elders and the nobles who were dwelling in the city with Naboth. She wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and seat Naboth with high honor among the people; and seat two men, scoundrels, before him to bear witness against him, saying, "You have blasphemed God and the king." Then take him out, and stone him, that he may die. So the men of his city, the elders and nobles who were inhabitants of his city, did as Jezebel had sent to them, as it was written in the letters which she had sent to them.
1 Kings 21:12-16 - They proclaimed a fast, and seated Naboth with high honor among the people. And two men, scoundrels, came in and sat before him; and the scoundrels witnessed against him, against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, "Naboth has blasphemed God and the king!" Then they took him outside the city and stoned him with stones, so that he died. Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, "Naboth has been stoned and is dead." And it came to pass, when Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, that Jezebel said to Ahab, "Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead." So it was, when Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, that Ahab got up and went down to take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.
2 Kings 9:22 - Now it happened, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, "Is it peace, Jehu?" So he answered, "What peace, as long as the harlotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcraft are so many?"
As a side note, the sin of sorcery or witchcraft is rebellion, which is also tied to idolatry:
1 Samuel 15:23 - For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
As discussed in the last section, God will cripple the spiritual perception of those who have hardened their hearts toward him. The drugs used in sorcery may play a role in not only dulling the physical senses but also the spiritual senses, as many drugs can alter the state of the mind, opening people up to demonic deception and perversion that leads people further away from God:
Acts 13:8-10 - But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, "O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?
The purpose of God's judgment is to bring repentance. Rebellion and impenitence in the face of judgment is foolishness because of their hardened hearts. The reason God blinds them to truth and understanding is because they don't want it:
Jeremiah 5:3-4 - O LORD, are not Your eyes on the truth? You have stricken them, but they have not grieved; You have consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to return. Therefore I said, "Surely these are poor. They are foolish; for they do not know the way of the LORD, the judgment of their God."
Proverbs 27:22 - Though you grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his foolishness will not depart from him.
Romans 1:22-27 - Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man - and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
Romans 1:28-32 - And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
Continued defiance in the face of corrective punishment eventually turns to destruction:
Amos 4:9-12 - "I blasted you with blight and mildew. When your gardens increased, your vineyards, your fig trees, and your olive trees, the locust devoured them; yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD. "I sent among you a plague after the manner of Egypt; your young men I killed with a sword, along with your captive horses; I made the stench of your camps come up into your nostrils; yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD. "I overthrew some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning; yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD. "Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!"
Their hearts are so hardened that nothing will bring them to repent toward God until it is too late, just like the rich man and his family:
Luke 16:19-23 - "There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom."
Luke 16:27-31 - "Then he said, 'I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.' Abraham said to him, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' But he said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.'"
Indeed! The fifth and sixth Trumpet judgments alone are literally Hell unleashed on Earth and yet people still won't repent, even in the midst of their torment intended to give them more chances to turn toward Him:
Isaiah 26:9-10 - With my soul I have desired You in the night, yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early; for when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. Let grace be shown to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he will deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the LORD.
For most, the sixth Trumpet judgment is the last chance to repent. An angel gives the gospel message to the world after this judgment and before God pours out the "full strength" of His wrath in the following judgments (Revelation 14:6-10), which will leave little chance for survival. In fact, so few will survive, that Isaiah tells us men will become more rare than gold.
Isaiah 13:9-13 - Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine. "I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, a man more than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts and in the day of His fierce anger...."
Ultimately, idolaters who refuse to repent toward God and turn from their sin, but choose to worship the beast and his crafted image instead -- their destiny is the lake of fire, where they will suffer eternal death by the same plagues of the 200 million horsemen:
Revelation 14:9-11 - Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."
Revelation 21:8 - But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
Revelation 22:14-15 - Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.
Revelation Flow Chart:
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