Times of Tribulation (Revelation 6-11) >Seven Trumpets >6th trumpet >2nd woe >The killer horses
We now look at the vision of the four angels released at the river Euphrates to go and kill. This vision, the second of three "woes", comes at the sounding of the sixth trumpet. This is "the second woe" of three which the eagle lamented (Revelation 8:13)
Altar As we have seen previously, the altar signifies the sacrifice of Christ our High Priest. Therefore whatever horrors appear in this vision, the fact of redemption through grace remains true above all.
Voice The voice John heard came from the four horns of the altar, so this voice has the authority of none less than Christ the Great High Priest. He has the authority to open and shut, to bind and release (Revelation 3:7).
Euphrates This river begins at the cradle of mankind (Genesis 2:8-15). It signifies mankind flowing out into the world taking with him not only the word of God but also disobedience.
Prepared for the hour... The four angels "had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year" (Revelation 9:15). There are two important principles underlying these words...
Four... There are four angels to represent that tribulations affect the whole world. They reach "the four corners of the earth" (Revelation 7:1) meaning everywhere, north, south, east, and west.
To kill a third of mankind These angels are like the angel who opened the bottomless pit, and their vast army is like the locusts that came up from the pit (Revelation 9:1-3).
As in the four scourges that followed the first four trumpets (Revelation 8:6-12) the damage is limited to one third. The angels are released to kill, but they are not allowed to do so without restraint.
As terrible as the tribulations are, there is quite some comfort in knowing that evil does not have full reign in this world. It does not even have half. The one third signifies that Evil has the lesser reign.
Free will is not totally free when it rebels against God and is contrary to justice. God does not give full reign to free will unless it is in the direction of his own righteous will.
When a choice is made contrary to his will, the free exercise of that choice will come upon a brick wall sooner or later. In the end, evildoers will be subjected to all the evil that depraved minds have ever devised.
On earth evil is restrained. In hell it will not be restrained because God will not be there. Evil will do its worst in hell. Lovers of evil only love it because they have never seen evil given full reign.
In hell, evil will not be one third but three thirds, and goodness will have no place. Evil will not be for a little season, but forever and ever. The only restraint on evil will be that it is contained in hell without exit or escape.
How foolish it is to go down the road to such destruction.
Two hundred million... In the vision, the army of the four angels numbered two hundred million. John heard this number. It is huge indeed, signifying the dreadful and mighty power of the forces that Satan can assemble. Myriads of evil beings follow him.
However, it is a countable number, even as big as it is. God’s number is one that "no man can count" (Revelation 7:9). Satan is incredibly powerful, but nowhere near as powerful as Christ. Satan’s power is finite; God’s is infinite.
Horses... The horses in the vision remind us of the locusts in the previous vision, and they represent much the same thing.
Fire, smoke, brimstone... The riders of these horses had colored breastplates - the colors of fire, smoke, and brimstone, the plagues that came from the horses' mouths. Fire, smoke, and brimstone signify evil deeds. When God judges evildoers, they are portrayed as being cast into a lake composed of fire, brimstone, and smoke (Revelation 14:9-11, Revelation 20:10).
Heads like lions... One would expect horses to have heads like horses, not like lions. But horses are servants of men, so these horses have lion-like heads to signify kingship. However they are still horses, not lions, and so they represent a false king. The mouths of these horses represent that king’s law.
Tails like serpents... Not only do these tails indicate the evil nature of the antichristian king and with whom he is allied, but the tails do harm and show the power of the wicked king to enforce his law with military might.
At the time John saw these visions, Rome was a pagan superpower corrupted by Satan the serpent of old. Whilst the Roman empire is well represented by these horses, the spirit of antichrist evident in that empire is not unique to it. The spirit of antichrist is ubiquitous and remains quite evident in the world long after Rome has fallen. Nor is it hard to find wicked kings and rulers at any given time in the world’s history.
Did not repent... The rest of mankind who were not killed, did not repent (Revelation 9:20-21). We may be surprised to find that in this vision the evil is not what God views as the main problem. He certainly recognizes the evil men have done. He certainly abhors that evil, and will punish it.
However what concerns and angers God more is that "they did not repent". Had they repented and defected to Christ’s kingdom, God could have solved the problem of their sins by exercizing his grace through the sacrifice Christ the Lamb had made for them. However, although God gave them "space to repent" (Revelation 2:21 cf Romans 1:21-23) they did not want to. That's the main problem.