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Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind. Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone. By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed—by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which came out of their mouths. For their power is in their mouth and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents, having heads; and with them they do harm. But the rest of mankind, 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, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. Revelation 9:13–21


The Parts of the Sixth Trumpet


The sixth trumpet is an involved message having three distinct parts. Some teachers treat the three parts as three different parts of the revelation rather than, as they are, one complete message in three parts under the sixth trumpet. The language John uses as he moves between these parts indicates the continuity of thought. The three parts of this trumpet message are:

Part 1, chapter 9:13–21, which is about an army of horsemen. While it ends at the end of chapter 9, the first words in chapter 10 establish the continuity: “I saw still another . . .” Obviously this is a transitional statement within the same context.

Part 2, chapter 10, which is about a mighty angel coming down from heaven. The angel speaks of the days of the sounding of the seventh trumpet, which clearly identifies this part of the vision as under the sounding of the sixth trumpet. Furthermore, the first words in chapter 11 are, “Then I was given a reed,” which clearly identifies an action that follows what precedes it in chapter 10.

Part 3 is chapter 11:1–14, which is about the two witnesses.


The Opening Sounds of the Sixth Trumpet


When the sixth trumpet sounds a voice speaks from the horns of the golden altar that stands before God. We encountered this altar in the fifth seal, Revelation 6:9, where it is the place under which those that had been slain for the word of God were waiting for God’s judgment to fall on the earth, which we now know is the greater apostate church. The saints under the fifth seal, the Protestant Reformation, were told to wait and here under the sixth trumpet we hear the voice telling this sixth angel to release the four angels bound in the River Euphrates.

We met these angels in the sixth seal, Revelation 7, where they were holding back the four winds of the earth until the servants of our God were sealed. These angels are the same angels. They held back the winds until the servants of our God were sealed and now we see what happened when they were let loose to carry out their mission.

In the sixth seal we saw the angels were at the four corners of the earth and as we zero in on their location we see that they are actually bound at the great river Euphrates. The Euphrates flows through the area known as Mesopotamia, and was the principle means of defense for the city of Babylon in ancient times. You will recall in the book of Daniel how that the Persians rerouted the River and gained access to the city to defeat Belshazzar and the Babylonians. In the sixth trumpet the Euphrates stands for the city of Babylon, which appears frequently in the remainder of the Revelation. As ancient Babylon held God’s people in bondage, the Babylon of the Revelation is a church environment that holds God’s people in bondage.

With the opening of the sixth seal and the sounding of the sixth trumpet these angels are set loose to pour out God’s judgment against Babylon. The angels were prepared. For over 1500 years they had been bound and trapped at the four corners of the earth. The King James Version has a discrepancy in saying they were prepared for an hour, day, etc. The indefinite article an gives the impression that their preparation occurred during the time period of an hour, day, etc. The Greek and newer King James based versions say they were prepared for the hour, day, etc. The definite article the means this exact moment in time. In fact, the Revised Standard Version makes a stronger case by adding the definite article throughout the statement: “for the hour, the day, the month, and the year.” The New International Version is not as strong as the Revised Standard Version but is quite clear: the angels “had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year.” All the components of time are mentioned: hour, day, month and year indicating that the loosing of these angels takes place exactly at the prophetic time determined by God. God had been stirring and preparing His angels and at the exact moment in history they were ready and let loose to do God’s work.

The angels are released to kill a third of mankind. We have learned that in the Revelation killing is not always the literal slaughter of human beings. You will recall those under the altar in the fifth seal were told to wait until their brethren were killed as they were. The death here is the death to sin as the result of a clearer understanding of the gospel that was coming. The precise moment these angels were loosed to go against Babylon came as soon as the servants of our God were sealed and with that initial wave of people that saw the truth of the biblical church as part of the salvation experience were loosed, they went out as a mighty army preaching the full gospel of salvation from sin. In the sixth seal, Revelation 7:9 they are called a great number which no one could number. Under the sixth trumpet, verse 16 calls them two hundred million.


The Army of Horsemen


The vast numbers that were released to clarify the truth of the biblical church as part of the experience of salvation is called an army of horsemen. Horses represent the church built by Jesus unlike the locust horsemen of the fifth trumpet. Remember under the first seal it was a white horse that went out conquering and to conquer and sadly, in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th seals the horse changed colors as it, the visible church-at-large, deepened in apostasy.

This army of horsemen represents the multitudes that left the churches and denominations of the greater visible church-at-large. While it is a movement, it is not a single movement; it is not a single horse as represents the true church up to this time. It is an army of horsemen.

The vast number of horses does not represent vast numbers of new churches, rather, it represents the people of Jesus’ church wherever it is: in different cities, states, and countries around the world.


The Breastplates


The riders whom we know as the saints of our God from the sixth seal are wearing breastplates. The Protestant Reformation was lead mostly by ministers. The common people essentially followed the Reformation because their churches went with the Reformation. This army under the sixth trumpet is different because it is not an army of ministers; it is an army of individuals, ministers and lay persons that received the revelation of the biblical church as part of the experience of salvation.

Ephesians 6:14 tells us the breastplates are breastplates of righteousness, which are necessary for people to stand in the truth and proclaim the gospel. Adam Clarke explains the significance of this breastplate:


It signifies the principle of righteousness; it signifies the practice of righteousness, or living a holy life; it signifies God's method of justifying sinners; and it signifies justification itself. Here it may imply a consciousness of justification through the blood of the cross; the principle of righteousness or true holiness implanted in the heart; and a holy life, a life regulated according to the testimonies of God. As the breast-plate defends the heart and lungs, and all those vital functionaries that are contained in what is called the region of the thorax; so this righteousness, this life of God in the soul of man, defends every thing on which the man's spiritual existence depends. While he possesses this principle, and acts from it, his spiritual and eternal life is secure.


It is living a holy life. It is the conscious awareness of being saved from sin that motivates people to live a holy life. In this sense righteousness is vital not just to the Christian profession but to live a holy life that takes one to heaven.

The breastplates are multicolored, each color representing some attribute of the righteousness possessed by this army. The New King James Version is very descriptive of these colors: fiery red, hyacinth blue and sulfur yellow. The King James Version is less descriptive which is probably more helpful in understanding the meaning of the colors. They are fire, jacinth, and brimstone.

The color fire. Matthew 3:11 Jesus will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Hebrews 1:7 God makes His ministers a flame of fire. Hebrews 12:29 God is a consuming fire. In the Revelation Jesus has eyes of fire; there is gold tried in the fire, lamps of fire and fire of the altar. These examples of fire certainly reflect a characteristic of God but the one thing about God they point to is the Word of God that reveals the working of God in salvation from sin.

The color jacinth, a deep blue. The color blue is not mentioned in the New Testament so we must turn to the Old Testament. The first significant mention of blue is in Exodus 26:1 where we learn that the curtains of the tabernacle were blue in color. Blue identifies the tabernacle which is the dwelling place of God on earth; the presence of God. In the breastplates is the presence of God in the lives of the saints.

The color brimstone. Luke 17:29 Jesus speaks of God’s judgment on Sodom when fire and brimstone fell on the city and destroyed it. Brimstone represents the judgment of God.

This army of horsemen is clothed with breastplates of righteousness that are the word of God, the presence of God, and the judgments of God.

The heads of the horses were like lions. We met the lion as one of the living creatures around the throne of Christ in chapter 4. We learned that the face of a lion is an attribute of the redeemed that is the grace to reign over sin in this life. Fire, smoke and brimstone came out of their mouths. These are all symbols of the word, Spirit, and judgment of God.

What we see in this army is a great army of the servants of our God that launched out with the message of the biblical church as an element of salvation. This biblical message put judgment on the churches of men showing them that they were not in fact the church Jesus built. The darkness of ritual that bound the Roman and Greek Churches was exposed by the Reformation. Now, by about 1800 AD, the churches of the Reformation were falling into the same bottomless pit as the churches they came out of.

Among the ranks of Catholicism and Protestantism, many of God’s people that were sick of ritual and division heard the message of holiness and the unity of believers in Christ and left their churches to form congregations and fellowships based in the atonement and person of Jesus Christ. The beautiful thing about this worldwide movement was that it was not prompted and lead by a group of ministers, it was a groundswell of everyday Christians that understood the gospel and stepped out in faith to be the biblical church of God.


Two Powers


This movement began with what has been called the Primitive Church Movement around the beginning of the nineteenth century, about 1800. It was a scattered and disjointed movement, some groups not knowing about the existence of other groups. There were attempts to solidify and organize the movement, but for the most part these failed as to God’s people it suggested denominationalism and forming churches other than the church of God.

The concept behind the movement continued strong throughout the 1800s and into the early 1900s but by this time an unintended but inevitable attribute showed itself. This is said in verse 19, “For their power is in their mouth and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents, having heads; and with them they do harm.” Both ends of this movement had power. The mouth spoke the word and judgment of God, but the tail had a power that did harm and ultimately defeated the work of the head. This was foreshadowed in Isaiah 9:15, “The elder and honorable, he is the head; The prophet who teaches lies, he is the tail.”

By the end of the sixth seal and the finishing of the sounding of the sixth trumpet, that great army out “Babylon-ed” the Babylon they had fought. The standard of holiness became corrupted by either legalism or abandoned altogether. Division and lack of cooperation infected groups mainly out of jealousies and the desire of competing ministers for preeminence. And organizational structures were developed mimicking the Babylon they had fought. Organizing the work of God eventually took the work out of God’s hands.

Today there are congregations that remain true to the original movement, the word and power of God, but they are few and spread far apart.


The Sad State of Things


Again we have a situation where most of God’s true people are held captive in a visible church-at-large that falls short of God’s glory and purpose for the church. This sad state is said in the closing verses of chapter 9:


But the rest of mankind, 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, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.


With only a limited testimony of holiness and the unity in the Spirit of God, God’s people are discouraged and many don’t know what to do. As the message of the sixth trumpet continues in chapter 10 we find that we need the intervention by none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. We have no certain date for the opening of the seventh seal and the sounding of the seventh trumpet, but Jesus assures us that things will happen under the sounding of that trumpet.