The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2

Page 69

The Angels of the Euphrates

Revelation 9:12.     One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.

     After the fourth trumpet, the flying angel had warned of three great “woes” that were coming.  The first one had now prevailed on the earth for five long months and woeful indeed had been the experience.  And now, even though the terrifying swarms of devilish scorpions are dead and gone, a great voice from heaven – possibly from the same flying angel – warns of two more woes about to come, and these will be even worse.  The first was painful; the second would be lethal!

Revelation 9:13.     And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God.

     The second woe is the sixth trumpet.  Each time the trumpet sounds, the judgment that follows is more severe than the previous one.  Long ago Isaiah had prophesied that “when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9).  No doubt, therefore, each succeeding judgment will uncover a few reluctant “learners,” but those that remain unconverted are still more stubborn and thus each visitation must increase in severity.

     When the sixth trumpet sounds, John again hears a voice from the divine altar before the throne, as he had earlier (Revelation 8:3-5).  This time, however, it specifically originates from the four “horns” of the altar, at the four corners.  On the brazen altar of Israel’s earthly tabernacle, which was modeled after the heavenly tabernacle, the four horns were continually being touched with the blood on the finger of the priest who was burning the fat of the sacrifice on the altar (Leviticus 4:17, 18).  On the altar itself inside the four horns, the priest maintained a perpetual fire (Leviticus 5:12, 13).  The blood and the fire, of course, continually portrayed the divine requirement that sin be judged by fire and redeemed by blood.  If innocent blood be not shed in atonement for sin, then the blood of the guilty must be shed in a fiery judgment on sin, and the earth is about to undergo the most widespread destruction of wicked men in all its sad history.  Men in past ages have clung to the horns of the altar seeking mercy (1 Kings 1:50) but this time the voice of the avenging angel (or perhaps even of the Lamb Himself) is heard from within the horns pronouncing judgment.

Revelation 9:14.     Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.

     Since the angels with the trumpets are those who stand immediately in God’s presence (Revelation 8:2), presumably only God gives them orders.  It seems likely, therefore, that the voice from the horns of the altar is indeed the voice of the Lamb of God, still in the process of taking away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

     Here we are introduced to four more angels who have been bound, and thus heretofore restrained from carrying out their subversive desires.  The command from the One on the altar to the mighty presence-angel is to unleash these other rebel angels so that they also can take their long-awaited vengeance on mankind.  But who are these, and how is it that their prison had been the great river Euphrates?

     These four angels seem to have charge of still another great demon horde, distinct from those captained by Abaddon in the great abyss.  The Scriptures give little specific information elsewhere concerning this intriguing question, but one speculative possibility exists.

     The first rebellion of Satan and his angels against the will of God occurred soon after God’s week of creation.  Their fall initially resulted in their being cast out of heaven to the earth, as discussed earlier.  Since the number of these fallen angels (“demons” or “evil spirits”) is said to be “a third” of an “innumerable company” (Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 12:4-7), the number available for Satan’s deployment was (and still is) extremely large.

     However, his ill-fated attempt to corrupt all mankind in the days of Noah did take out of action one significant segment of his followers.  Those rebellious “sons of God” (Genesis 6:2) were consigned to Tartarus, in chains of darkness, awaiting final judgment (Jude 6).  As just discussed, however, these might well have been temporarily unchained for five months, used by God to implement His judgment under the fifth trumpet.

     But here is another horde, 200 million strong, bound with their four captains in the river Euphrates, of all odd places.  Their temporary release is later than that of Abaddon and his band, and so may have been their rebellion and incarceration.

     The primeval Eupharates emerged from the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:10-14) evidently drawing its flow not from rainfall (Genesis 2:5, 6) but from vast underground reservoirs of pressurized waters, controlled and energized by the earth’s internal heat deep below the surface.

     At the time of the Flood, however, this “great deep” broke up (Genesis 7:11), and earth’s pristine geography was utterly changed (2 Peter 3:6).

     After the Flood there arose entirely new continents, and vast open oceanic reservoirs had replaced the subterranean reservoirs where the Euphrates originally flowed.  But now a new river Euphrates was formed with its source high on the slopes of Mount Ararat, derived from water in the permanent ice cap that soon formed on its summit.  This river wound its way down the slopes and emerged (with the Tigris, its sister) on the great Mesopotamian plain, thence to flow eventually to the new sea.

     It was here that the descendants of Noah soon settled (Genesis 11:2), the region evidently being the most nearly like the ancestral home in Eden which they could find in the barren postdiluvian world.  They named the two Mesopotamian rivers Euphrates and Tigris in memory of the Edenic rivers which they resembled and there proceeded to build the great city of Babylon, under the leadership of mighty Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-10).

     But as the Cainitic civilization which developed near the primordial Euphrates soon became intolerably corrupt, so also did the Nimrodian civilization (the earliest Symerians, or Shinarians) which grew along the new Euphrates.  As Satan had entered Eden, now he entered Babel, and once again a widespread corruption of mankind ensued.  A great temple tower was erected “unto heaven” (Genesis 11:4), where men could assemble to worship the host of heaven.  There no doubt was initiated the vast complex of pagan religiosity embracing astrology, pantheism, polytheism, idolatry, spiritism, and naturalistic philosophy which ever since has corrupted every nation.  Satan, through his rebellious “host of heaven,” communicated somehow with Nimrod and his deputies, instructing them in the occult secrets which would rationalize and energize still another great rebellion against God.  Their temple shrine at the apex of Babel’s tower was emblazoned with the great signs of the heavens, representing the stars and constellations, which in turn were identified with the pagan gods and goddesses who, in reality, were none other than the demonic hosts they soon began to worship and follow.  This pagan evolutionistic complex of religious philosophies and corrupting behavior eventually was transported to every region of the world, and has dominated human thought ever since, so that Satan’s host had acquired almost as much control over the thoughts and actions of men as they had in the days of Noah.

     There had been another divine judgment as a result of Nimrod’s rebellion.  The languages had been confused and the families all dispersed, some eventually reaching the regions farthest removed from Babel and Ararat (Genesis 11:9).  Although no mention is made of such a thing, it would at least be likely that God would also punish the legion of satanic angels that had instigated this rebellion as well, in manner analogous to His imprisonment of the antediluvian angels.

     This may be the origin of those demonic hordes who are here implied to be bound in the river Euphrates, though, of course, we cannot be certain.  This ancient river had been the locale of this most recent universal corruption of mankind by the devil and his angels, as had also been the case with that earlier rebellion before the Flood.  It would be singularly appropriate to confine them at the very site of their rebellion, in the Euphrates itself.

     Exactly how they are bound there is a mystery, of course.  How anything – particularly disembodied spirits – could be chained for four thousand years in a flowing river is unknown, to say the least.  Possibly their proximity might help explain the perpetual opposition of Babylon and its people to God and His people through the ages, but this supposition has no bearing on the question of how they are bound there.  No doubt God is equal to the needs of the occasion, however, and can bind them in some quite appropriate and effective manner.

     There is another intriguing possibility, of course.  Maybe the Euphrates mentioned here is the antediluvian Euphrates rather than the Babylonian Euphrates.  It is barely possible that, deep in the earth, remains the underground storage chamber which controlled the primeval flow into the garden of Eden.  Though most of these caverns broke up when their fountains (controlled exit conduits) erupted to help produce the Flood, or at least in the earth’s isostatic readjustments after the Flood, it just may be that the primeval source of Eden’s rivers is still intact, designed so securely by God at the time of its creation that it never collapsed under the great stresses of the Flood period.

     If this could be the case, it would provide an appropriate prison for these fallen angels.  It would then be literally true to say they were bound in the great river Euphrates.  In any case, wherever they are, they are now summoned forth by their four captains, as God’s holy angel calls them out with his trumpet.

Revelation 9:15.     And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.

     The previous plague had lasted only five months, though it must have seemed interminable to those bombarded by it, but this will continue for just over thirteen months.  The definite article in the original, “the hour,” indicates that the time had been set long before, and the imprisoned spirits were chafing to be released, long awaiting their chance for partial vengeance on mankind.

     Under the previous trumpet judgment, men had sought death but could not find it.  Under this one, they can hardly escape it.  A third of all men and women on earth – presumably over a billion people will be killed by this terrible army.

     The fifth and sixth trumpet plagues will occupy a total of eighteen months.  The first four trumpet judgments, plus those of the six seals, would surely encompass nearly an additional two years, so the sixth trumpet will presumably bring the world to the middle of the great tribulation period.

Revelation 9:16.     And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.

     The tremendous horde released with the four bound angels was far too great for John himself to count.  However, someone – perhaps the voice from the altar – said the number was 200 million, far greater than any army ever amassed before in human history, a number almost equal to the entire population of the United States. 

     However, this is not an army of human horsemen, despite the preponderance of published interpretations to that effect.  Although it might be possible for an earthly army of this size to be assembled, the description which follows cannot legitimately be equated to anything human.

Revelation 9:17.     And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone.

     The host seen by John appeared like a tremendous cavalry, with both horses and riders stretching almost endlessly across the earth.  The King James translators called it a “vision” but the same word is also translated “sight.”  It is used only one other time in Revelation, “. . . in sight like unto an emerald” (Revelation 4:3).  Its meaning is simply that of an unusual sight, not necessarily a vision.  The sight seen by John was indeed remarkable, but it was real – not a dream or vision.  Nevertheless it will be a sight never seen on earth before or after.

     Like the scorpion-locusts under the preceding trumpet, this will be a demonic legion of nightmarish animals indwelt by evil spirits, hitherto bound up in the Euphrates with their four evil overlords.  It must be that these frightful “horses” and “horsemen” are demon-possessed creatures whose bodies are specially created by God for the awful judgment which they are thereby enabled to inflict upon mankind.  Their bodies are real physical bodies, capable of generating physical fire and brimstone and causing the physical death of those men and women whom they attack.  This suggests that the bodies are specially created right at the time of the release of the unclean spirits from their prison, and are then immediately taken over by the ascending spirits.

     Like a great storm, they spread forth from their pit, raging over the earth to take vengeance on mankind, whom they regard as responsible for their miserable circumstances.  No longer constrained as they once were by the need of some kind of physical body wherewith to enslave men, they now are able to use their newly secured bodies to destroy men.

     And fearful bodies they are!  Appropriately designed for the malignant spirits who will use them for thirteen months, they themselves will eventually be destroyed when their function has been served.

     They are not horses, but their bodies are “like” horses, and their heads are said to be “as” the heads of lions.  Perhaps they are like the fabled Centaurs – horses with humanlike heads and upper bodies, in appearance like men riding horses except that the horses ridden by them are also their own bodies.  In this case, the heads are like lions rather than men and, since no other description of the “horsemen” is given, the implication is that the lionlike heads are atop the riders whose bodies merge into the bodies of the steeds.

     It is a fearsome sight, whatever its aspect, and it must strike indescribable fear into the hearts of men as they watch them swarm forth.  This fear is well justified, for the creatures are as deadly as they look.  Armored with breastplates of jacinth (a hard gemstone, probably zircon), they have the appearance of burning fire and brimstone (usually interpreted as sulphur; however, its Hebrew root is related to the resin from the gopher wood used in Noah’s ark, and its Greek form seems to come from roots meaning “divine appearance”).  Evidently sulphur is considered the natural substance whose burning most nearly fits such apocryphal specifications, but its exact composition is unknown.  The lion-faces actually breathe out fire and smoke and nauseous brimstone, as though clothed in the very aura of hell itself.

     Skeptics who deny the existence of a literal hell often are heard to rationalize that men make their own hell right here on earth.  They don’t realize how literally true such sophistries will become.  With two hundred million creatures, all arrayed in fire and brimstone, sweeping over the earth, it will indeed appear that the fires of hell have enveloped the earth.

     No doubt all this sounds fantastic and impossible, so commentators have invented all sorts of figurative meanings to apply to these deadly horses.  But these are not the first fire-breathing animals the earth has seen.  Ancient nations everywhere describe fire-breathing dragons which formerly existed on earth, and the Bible describes at least one such creature, called leviathan (Job 41:19-21).  There are many indications that these dragons were actually dinosaurs, and the fossil evidence does show structures on at least some dinosaurs that could well have served as mixing chambers for flammable chemicals that could be expelled in the form of fire and smoke.  John is merely describing what he actually saw.

Revelation 9:18.     By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone which issued out of their mouths.

     All three of these deadly exhalations of the roaring mouths of the lionlike heads of these creatures are lethal.  Men will be consumed in the flames, suffocated by the smoke, poisoned by the sulphurous gases.  As the panic-stricken citizens of the world’s nations, hardly recovered from the five month terror of the locusts, hysterically flee and seek to hide, multitudes will be slain.

     No doubt some of the animals will themselves be slain, as various weapons are turned against them.  The scene will be like one of the monster movies dreamed up by science  fiction writers and Hollywood moguls, but it will be real.  Eventually, perhaps, government and military leaders will become organized to combat these invaders and finally, after thirteen terrible months, will manage to destroy them.  The jacinth-stone breastplates are essentially bullet-proof however, and it will take many powerful weapons to defeat them.  Once the animals are dead, their carcasses will deface and pollute the landscape, and their demonic occupants will again be without bodies.  Whether they are then herded back to some pit in Hades or allowed to roam the earth as disembodied spirits through the remainder of the tribulation has not been revealed.

     But the human carnage left in their train is almost incredible.  One-third of the world’s population at the time will be dead.  Even with all the previous judgments, this undoubtedly means that about 1.2 billion people are slain, averaging about six victims per horseman.

Revelation 9:19.     For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt. 

     But there had been one more amazing feature of these grotesque animals, which John now mentions almost as an afterthought.  Not only was there death in their mouths but also in their tails.  Like the demon scorpions which had preceded them, they can inflict tormenting pain with their slashing tails as well.  John, however, does not liken them to scorpions in this case but to serpents, with fangs rather than stingers.  No animal like this had ever been observed before (and it is good for mankind through the ages that they had not), but that hardly means the omnipotent Creator is incapable of producing them.

     Furthermore, these animals had not come under the Noahic prescription that they would fear and dread man (Genesis 9:2), for they did not exist in the days of Noah.  Newly created for the very purpose of judgment, and energized by wicked spirits, these animals will soon become the objects of man’s fear and dread.

     But finally the plague will end (evidently near the midpoint of the seven-year tribulation period) and the two-thirds of mankind who survive can now enjoy a brief respite once more.  And surely, one would think, this monstrous experience, coming on top of all the other judgments, and with no more room for doubt as to the existence of God and Satan and the real meaning of the cosmic conflict, will drive all men to their knees in repentance and submission to God.

     Not so!  Human ingenuity and power had once more conquered, they will rationalize.  The invasion had been stopped, and now they were secure.

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