Saturday, 15 April 2017 23:34

61. The sixth trumpet: Four angels by the river * Revelation 9:13-21 - Part 1 of 3

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13 And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,

14 Saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, Loose the four angels who are bound in the great river Euphrates.

15 And the four angels were loosed, who were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, to slay the third part of men.

 

*** Voice coming from the golden altar ***: John heard a voice coming from the altar of incense. Why would the voice come from the altar, and whose voice was it? To answer this question, we need to understand the sanctuary language used here. We must first review the items in the earthly tabernacle. The golden altar John mentioned was in front of God’s throne (Revelation 9:13). The ark of the covenant represented God’s throne in the tabernacle of the Old Testament. The golden altar in verse 13 is clearly identified as the altar of incense. In the Old Testament, this altar was in the first chamber, the Holy Place, right in front of the ark (Exodus 30:6; Exodus 40:5, 26). The ark was in the Most Holy Place. The veil separated the Holy from the Most Holy Place, between the altar and the ark (Exodus 40:21). The lampstands and the table of showbread were also in the Holy Place (Exodus 40:22-25).

 

 

 

John said in verse 13 that the voice was coming from the golden altar, more specifically from its horns. During the sacrificial ritual, part of the blood of the sacrificed animal was poured under the altar of sacrifice outside the tent. Part of that blood was brought inside the tent and sprinkled on the horns of the altar (Leviticus 4:18). This symbolized the sins that were taken from the people, as they were being recorded in the sanctuary. Once a year, those records were cleansed during a special service on The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-34). The priest would also bring coals from the outside altar to burn incense on the golden altar. This represented the prayers of the people being brought before God (Revelation 8:3,4). In the sequence of events portrayed in Revelation 6:9,10, we saw in the opening of the fifth seal the blood of the martyrs being poured out under the altar (Study #42). Their prayers were brought before God and placed on the golden altar. They were crying out for God’s justice to be poured out over His enemies. The voice John heard suggests that God has not forgotten the prayers of the saints. He heard those prayers, and His actions during the trumpets continue to be the demonstration of His justice, to avenge the blood of His innocent followers.

*** Order to loose the angels at the Euphrates ***: The order came to loose the four angels who are bound in the Euphrates. There are two key elements in this phrase: four bound angels and the Euphrates river.

- The great river Euphrates: God established the boundaries of the land He gave to the Israelites: "And I will set your bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and you shall drive them out before you" (Exodus 23:31). The river Euphrates marked the separation between God's people and their enemies. Assyria and Babylon were located beyond the river (Isaiah 7:20; Jeremiah 46:10). They were two of the main enemies of Israel. Isaiah described their attacks on Israel as overflowing waters from the Euphrates, sweeping the land from Judah to Jerusalem (Isaiah 8:7-8). Some commentators have proposed that the Euphrates represents the boundary between the Roman Empire and the Parthian Empire. This proposition is very weak. An actual invasion would be localized, whereas the sixth trumpet deals with an event which will happen on a global scale. The interpretation following the keys provided in the Old Testament seems to fit much better with the way John had been using Scripture up to this point.

- Four angels: The four angels holding the winds seem to be the same angels of Revelation 7:1-3.

Revelation 7:1-3 Revelation
Four angels Four angels
Standing at the four corners of the earth Bound at the Euphrates river
Holding back the four winds from blowing on the Earth Holding back the enemy army of horsemen
Had received the power to harm the land and the sea Had the power to kill one-third of mankind
Were told not to release the winds until God's people were sealed on the forehead 

Were released, allowing the enemy army of horseman to attack

When we analyze these two texts, we can see a few interesting things. The parallel suggests that winds and the enemy horseman are equivalent. As we will see in the following studies, the actual killing is not accomplished by the angels, but by the enemy army those angels were holding back. God had given them authority to restrain the enemy. In Revelation 7, the angels were told to wait until God's people were sealed. The seal was their protection against the winds. In Revelation 9:15, only one-third of man is killed. As we saw in the first four trumpets, the term 'one-third' represent the people who have rejected God's truth. They do not have the seal of God.

*** The four angels were prepared ***: The four angels had a specific mission: to hold back the enemy behind enemy lines. The river Euphrates was the boundary separating God's territory and the enemy's. The angels were under orders. They were not to allow the enemy to attack until God's people had been fully protected. God had made His people immune to the demonic weapons. God was in control of the time when the angels were to be loosed. It was not up to the angels to determine when. It was up to God. God knew the "hour, and a day, and a month, and a year" (Revelation 9:15).

*** Overview ***: The sixth trumpet starts with the reminder that God has not forgotten about the prayers of the martyrs, which were brought before God as burnt incense (Revelation 6:9-11; Revelation 8:3,4 ). They were asking for His justice to be executed. The apparently strange event that follows the scene at the altar described in Revelation 9:14,15 must be understood under the concept that God allows judgment to happen when people decide not to follow His instructions and reject His protection. God does not force anyone to stay under His protection against their will. Those who want to follow God, are not the target of this fifth trumpet judgment. Only one-third of mankind was to be harmed by the release of the enemy forces. Only those without the seal were vulnerable to the demonic attack. The extent of enemy activity expanded in the fifth trumpet, under the limits set by God. The intensity of their work will increase to an all-time high once God loosens the angels holding them back. Once the angels let go, the world will see supernatural, evil activity as never witnessed before. Still, God's faithful people, who were sealed by the Holy Spirit, should not be afraid. God has always a way to protect those who seek to follow Him.

   
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