Friday, June 17, 2011

Revelation 9:13-21, The Sixth Trumpet (The Study of the Apocalypse)

     13 And the sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a1 voice2 from the [four]3 horns4 of the golden alter in the presence of God, 14 saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet5, “Release the four angels6 who have been bound on the great river Euphrates.715 And the four angels, who had been prepared8 for this9 hour, and day, and month, and year, were released to kill10 a third of people.11 16 And the number of troops of cavalry was two-hundred million12 . I heard their number13. 17 And this is how14 I saw the horses and the ones who are sitting on them in the vision15; they had fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulphur breastplates16. And the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions, and fire, smoke, and sulphur17 went out from their mouths. 18 A third of mankind was killed from these three plagues; from the fire, the smoke, and the sulphur that went out from their mouths. 19 For the authority of the horses was18 in their mouths and in their tails. For their tails were similar to snakes having heads, and with the heads19, they cause harm.20
     20 And the rest of the people who were not killed21, by these plagues, refused to22 repented from the deeds of their hands, so that they will not worship demons and idols of gold, of silver, of bronze, of stone, and of wood, which are not able to see, nor hear, nor walk.23 21 And they did not repent from their murders, nor from their magic arts24, nor from their sexual immoralities25, nor from their thefts.

1 μίαν (a) 

Greek: “one”.

2 Mounce** states that this lone voice may be the prayer of the saints. (Pg. 199). It certainly has its origin from the prayers of the saints.

3 “four” is in brackets as it may not be original to the text.

4 Beale* states that “four” represents completeness and horns represent power. (Pg. 506).

     The alter in the temple had four horns and it was positioned before the Holy of Holies in the temple. It was here the blood of animals was spilled over and again for the sins of the people. This was in anticipation of the blood poured in the cup of the new covenant, which Jesus holds out to all who will receive Him.

5 ὁ ἔχων τὴν σάλπιγγα (who had the trumpet)

or “the one who has the trumpet”. The whole passage would be: the sixth angel, the one who has the trumpet”. Apparently, John wanted to draw attention to this angel and to make sure that the readers knew which angel he was referring to.

     It is interesting to note that in these three series of seals, trumpets, and bowls, that the sixth is followed by a pause or interlude before each series ends with the seventh. 666.

6 Osborne*** links these four angels with the four in 7:3. Those angels were told to not harm people until the God’s slaves were sealed. (Pg. 380).

     These angels are bound, though why or when is not given. Now it is commanded that these angels be released. God often used Israel’s enemies to exact His judgements.

     Here we see the echo of the Israelite slaves in Egypt prior to the Exodus. The angel of death waited while until the doorposts were sealed with blood of the Passover lamb. The Lord protected His people from the destroyer coming to the land. The king over the creatures from the bottomless pit is called Apollyon in Greek, which means destroyer.

     There are four angels here, prepared and ready, as the opening of the seals revealed the calling forth of four horseman. What followed them was prophesy of that which was to come. Four trumpets blow preparing us for the three woes to follow.

7 The Euphrates River was on the eastern boundary of the Roman Empire. In the OT, many invading armies had come across the Euphrates River; the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Persians. For the Romans, the dreaded Parthians were on the other side of the Euphrates. Osborne*** (Pg. 379) and Mounce** (Pg. 200).

     The river is first mentioned Genesis 2:14 as the fourth river in Paradise and next as the boundary of the promised land.

8 οἱ ἡτοιμασμένοι (who had been prepared)

The participle is in the perfect tense which indicates that the “ready state” of these angels started in the past, but they were still “ready” at the time of the vision.

     John mentions four increments of time. It is an unusual description of an event with its fourfold anchoring in time, though in keeping with the established ordering of four.

Destruction is depicted as coming from all sides of the compass, reflecting the four corners of the earth, and thus its entirety.

9 τὴν (this) 

Greek: “the”. The article τὴν is used to refer to a specific time. In this 
case, the specific time had come.

10 ἵνα ἀποκτείνωσιν (to kill)

Greek: “so that they should kill” or “so that they kill”. This is a great example of just how different one language can be from another one.

11 Beale* states that this passage in a parallel passage to 1 Enoch 66:1. (Pg. 508).

1 Enoch 66:1-3

1 And after that he showed me the angels of punishment who are prepared to come and let loose all the powers of the waters which are beneath in the earth in order to bring judgement and destruction 2 on all who [abide and] dwell on the earth. And the Lord of Spirits gave commandment to the angels who were going forth, that they should not cause the waters to rise but should hold them 3 in check; for those angels were over the powers of the waters. And I went away from the presence of Enoch.

12 δισμυριάδες μυριάδων (two-hundred million)

Greek: “twenty thousands of ten thousands”. They would have been multiplied in Greek, thus giving us two-hundred million. The Romans had 25 legions (125,000) troops in the regular army and about the same amount in an auxiliary army. That would have been around 250,000. The demon army is almost a thousand times more! An astounding figure that would have seemed impossible to 1st century readers. Osborne*** (Pg. 381). Beale* sees this to be figurative and should be seen as an “innumerable host”. (Pg. 509).

     There is an innumerable host that surrounds the throne in heaven, myriads of myriads. (Rev 5:11) Here a number is given, though it would have been astounding figure then and now, it contrasts with the myriads that comprise the heavenly host. It was reported some time ago that China could muster an army this large.

13 John would have had to hear the number as it would have been impossible to count them!

14 οὕτως (this is how) 

Greek: “in this way” or “in this manner”.

15 The word order in the Greek places emphasis on the horses rather than the riders as horses are place earlier in the sentence. With that said, the breastplates described are probably on both the horse and its rider. With that said, the following description belongs to the horses alone.

16 Osborne*** points out that it is impossible to know if the breastplates had all three colors or if each breastplate was either red, blue, or yellow. The color represent the colors of fire, smoke, and sulphur. That is reinforced in the 2nd part of the verse. (Pg. 382). Mounce**, on the other hand, thinks the breastplates belong to the riders alone. (Pg. 202).

     These breastplates are quite different from the breastplate of righteousness that comes from God.

     Isaiah 59:17-18

17 He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.
18 According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies; to the coastlands he will render repayment.

17 Here we have what the colors of the breastplates represent. Beale* points out that fire, smoke, and sulphur was used to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19:24; 28. This may be an echo of the destruction of the two cities. (Pg. 511).

     Moses looked out in the distance the next morning after his visitors left and saw smoke rising from destruction of those cities. It may have been that he was able catch a whiff of scent of sulfur on the morning breeze.

18 ἐστιν (was) 

Greek: “is”. It is probably in the present tense to add vividness.

19 ἐν αὐταῖς (with the heads) 

Greek: “with the same”. αὐταῖς refers back to κεφαλὰς (heads), so I 
substituted “same” with “heads” for clarity.

     In their mouths is their power. From the abyss of Satan comes the fire, smoke, and sulfur which slays a third of mankind. Words of deception now reveal their real malice and danger.

     Again the tails are likened to snakes with heads that bite. Like a scorpion’s sting, they wound and inflict suffering.

20 Contrast this authority that was given to these horses and riders with what Jesus have to his disciples in Luke 10:19:

Λουκᾶν 10·19 ἰδοὺ δέδωκα ὑμῖν τὴν ἐξουσίαν τοῦ πατεῖν ἐπάνω ὄφεων καὶ σκορπίων, καὶ ἐπὶ πᾶσαν τὴν δύναμιν τοῦ ἐχθροῦ, καὶ οὐδὲν ὑμᾶς οὐ μὴ ἀδικήσῃ.

19 Behold, I have given you the authority of which to stomp on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will ever harm you.

21 οἳ οὐκ ἀπεκτάνθησαν (who were not killed) 

Greek: “the ones who were not killed”.

22 οὐδὲ μετενόησαν (refused to repent)

οὐδὲ makes this emphatic. It is normally translated as “not even”. I suppose one can translate this: “they didn’t even repent”. Maybe John was astonished at the hardness of these unbelievers.

     Jesus marveled at unbelief, even as He knew what was inside a man. Moses called down plagues on Egypt so they would know of God. They couldn’t or wouldn’t see outside themselves. They did not repent. The same hardness continues today, and will in the future despite judgements and evidence of the Living God.

23 An echo of Psalms 115:4-7. 

     They trust in the work of their own hands. There are ways that 
seem good to a man, yet lead to destruction.

Paul associated sacrificing to idols as sacrificing to demons.

     Those things that do not have life in them have no life to give. Worshipping demons is the same as worshipping death.

Κορινθίους α 10·20 ἀλλ ̓ ὅτι ἃ θύουσιν, δαιμονίοις καὶ οὐ θεῷ [θύουσιν]· οὐ θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς κοινωνοὺς τῶν δαιμονίων γίνεσθαι.

20 But that which they sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. Now I don’t want you to become partakers with demons.

24 τῶν φαρμάκων (magic arts)

or “witchcrafts” or “sorceries” or “potion mixing”. To engage in black magic with the administration of potions or drugs. φάρμακον (PHAR- ma-kon) is the same word that became pharmacology which later meant to mix drugs for the good of people.

     It is interesting to see how words evolve and where they come from. This often adds perspective and insight into a given word or phrase. I am reminded of the drug-like effect of deception. It can cloud the senses and render one insensible to reality. It can push the aches and pains of conscience to the point where one is no longer bothered, or even capable of feeling its presence.

25 τῆς πορνείας (sexual immoralities) 

or “fornications” or “prostitutions” or “engaging in prostitutions”.


NT = New Testament 
OT = Old Testament 
ESV = English Standard Version 
NASB = New American Standard Bible
NIV = New International Version
KJV = King James Version 
TR = Textus Receptus (A late Byzantine Greek text of the NT. A 
predecessor of the TR was used in the translation of the KJV) 
LXX = Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT)


The Greek New Testament with Greek-English Dictionary B. Aland (Editor), K. Aland (Editor), J. Karavidopoulos (Editor), B. M. Metzger (Editor), C. M. Martini (Editor)

(BDAG) A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition Walter Bauer (Author), Frederick William Danker (Editor)

A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament Bruce M. Metzger

(Kittel) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (VOLUMES 1-10) Gerhard Kittel (Editor), Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Translator)

*The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.).) G. K. Beale

**The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) Robert H. Mounce

***Revelation (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) Grant R. Osborne

+Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics Daniel B. Wallace

++An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek C. F. D. Moule

+++Biblical Greek (Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici) Maximilian Zerwick

A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament Max Zerwick (Author), Mary Grosvenor (Author)

The Greek

Ἀποκάλυψις 9·13 Καὶ ὁ ἕκτος ἄγγελος ἐσάλπισεν· καὶ ἤκουσα φωνὴν μίαν ἐκ τῶν [τεσσάρων] κεράτων τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου τοῦ χρυσοῦ τοῦ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ, 14 λέγοντα τῷ ἕκτῳ ἀγγέλῳ, ὁ ἔχων τὴν σάλπιγγα· λῦσον τοὺς τέσσαρας ἀγγέλους τοὺς δεδεμένους ἐπὶ τῷ ποταμῷ τῷ μεγάλῳ Εὐφράτῃ. 15 καὶ ἐλύθησαν οἱ τέσσαρες ἄγγελοι οἱ ἡτοιμασμένοι εἰς τὴν ὥραν καὶ ἡμέραν καὶ μῆνα καὶ ἐνιαυτόν, ἵνα ἀποκτείνωσιν τὸ τρίτον τῶν ἀνθρώπων. 16 καὶ ὁ ἀριθμὸς τῶν στρατευμάτων τοῦ ἱππικοῦ δισμυριάδες μυριάδων, ἤκουσα τὸν ἀριθμὸν αὐτῶν. Ἀποκάλυψις 9·17 Καὶ οὕτως εἶδον τοὺς ἵππους ἐν τῇ ὁράσει καὶ τοὺς καθημένους ἐπ ̓ αὐτῶν, ἔχοντας θώρακας πυρίνους καὶ ὑακινθίνους καὶ θειώδεις, καὶ αἱ κεφαλαὶ τῶν ἵππων ὡς κεφαλαὶ λεόντων, καὶ ἐκ τῶν στομάτων αὐτῶν ἐκπορεύεται πῦρ καὶ καπνὸς καὶ θεῖον. 18 ἀπὸ τῶν τριῶν πληγῶν τούτων ἀπεκτάνθησαν τὸ τρίτον τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἐκ τοῦ πυρὸς καὶ τοῦ καπνοῦ καὶ τοῦ θείου τοῦ ἐκπορευομένου ἐκ τῶν στομάτων αὐτῶν. 19 ἡ γὰρ ἐξουσία τῶν ἵππων ἐν τῷ στόματι αὐτῶν ἐστιν καὶ ἐν ταῖς οὐραῖς αὐτῶν, αἱ γὰρ οὐραὶ αὐτῶν ὅμοιαι ὄφεσιν, ἔχουσαι κεφαλὰς καὶ ἐν αὐταῖς ἀδικοῦσιν. Ἀποκάλυψις 9·20 Καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, οἳ οὐκ ἀπεκτάνθησαν ἐν ταῖς πληγαῖς ταύταις, οὐδὲ μετενόησαν ἐκ τῶν ἔργων τῶν χειρῶν αὐτῶν, ἵνα μὴ προσκυνήσουσιν τὰ δαιμόνια καὶ τὰ εἴδωλα τὰ χρυσᾶ καὶ τὰ ἀργυρᾶ καὶ τὰ χαλκᾶ καὶ τὰ λίθινα καὶ τὰ ξύλινα, ἃ οὔτε βλέπειν δύνανται οὔτε ἀκούειν οὔτε περιπατεῖν, 21 καὶ οὐ μετενόησαν ἐκ τῶν φόνων αὐτῶν οὔτε ἐκ τῶν φαρμάκων αὐτῶν οὔτε ἐκ τῆς πορνείας αὐτῶν οὔτε ἐκ τῶν κλεμμάτων αὐτῶν.


  1. Thanks for taking this opportunity to discuss this, I feel fervently about this and I like learning about this subject. Thanks for sharing this valuable post.

    Spiritual thinking

  2. There is a "Revelation Series" going around that attempts to combine the Trumpet plagues with the Vial judgments as happening at the same time-- promoting a Prewrath theory of the 2nd coming/rapture. Have you heard of this before and do you subscribe to this view? Thanks

    1. I don't hold to any view. I know there are people who think the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls are different views of the same event. One thing I will say is that a careful reading of Revelation will show that the series of visions are not chronological, although it does seem like the 1000 years chronologically happens after the bowls. But, some see the 1000 years as a different view of the same events that happen in the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls. I hope this helps.