9:15-21 A THIRD OF MANKIND KILLED
“Release the four angels which are bound at the great river
The “great river Euphrates” is the same as the “many waters” of
Since Babylon corresponds in Daniel 11 with the “King of the North,” this may represent a continuation of the final battle between the King of the North and the King of the South—“At the time of the end the King of the South shall attack him; and the King of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships…he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many” (Daniel 11:40,44). It appears that Europe, the
Perhaps there will be a two-stage response to the attack of the King of the South. The first (the fifth trumpet) could consist of some kind of chemical, biological or radiation warfare that continues for five months. The second (the sixth trumpet) seems to involve two hundred million soldiers and results in the death of one-third of mankind. The second stage seems to be conventional warfare, and considering that at the time John wrote there was not even such a thing as gunpowder, his description is remarkably accurate in its graphic depiction of the cannons, tanks and firearms of conventional warfare. “And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and those who sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and hyacinth, and sulfur; and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. By these three a third of men was killed, by the fire and by the smoke and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths. For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails, which were like serpents, having heads, and with them they do harm” (Revelation 9:17-19).
The fact that these attacks kill “a third of men” again shows their origin: they are inspired by Satan, “the angel of the bottomless pit.” But Satan is only able to carry out this carnage because God allows him to do so. Naturally the question arises, why would a God of love allow Satan to destroy His creation? Why would the voice releasing the destructive malice of the enemy come from the altar of intercession?
It is important to remember that God does not want any of this to happen. He “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9). “Why should you die?” He pleads, “For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies…turn and live!” (Ezekiel 18:31,32). He calls the destruction of the unrepentant “His strange act” (Isaiah 28:21) because “He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men” (Lamentations 3:33). God intends to preserve human freedom of choice (even the choice of sin and death), but to also bring sin to an end, and to do so in a way that will forever demonstrate to the universe that Satan’s ways are the ways of death. Therefore He finally allows Satan a short period of unrestrained activity. The final result will be that the whole universe will be fully convined of the falsehood of Satan's principles, and will forever remain free from a second experiment with sin—“He will make an utter end of it. Affliction will not rise up a second time” (Nahum 1:9).
But in the midst of bringing an end to sin, God still tries to save as many as He can. At this point (the sixth trumpet) the door of mercy is still open. The affliction the world suffers in these plagues, combined with a powerful call to repentance, is the last opportunity that sinners will have to turn away from sin. In fact, the disasters shake up their complacency and bring them face to face with their need for God. “Let grace be shown to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness…when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9,10).
Judgments by themselves are not enough to turn people from their sins, and this is definitely the case with the judgments Satan brings through the seven trumpets. “And the rest of the men 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, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. Neither did they repent of their murders, nor of their sorceries nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts” (Revelation 9:20,21). Satan’s destructive attacks will not bring anyone to repentance, but the ministry of the “little book” and the “two witnesses” will take place even while the trumpet war is raging (presented in the nest two chapters), and will finally convince the “great multitude” to accept God's mercy and come out of