THE REVELATION OF CHRIST
Lesson Number 18
THE SIXTH TRUMPET
"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, NKJV)
This book is Christ's message to the churches! It is relevant to the life of faith, comforting to those who are suffering for the name of Jesus, and a solemn warning to those who dare to oppose God. Although this is a book of figures and symbols, that does not dull the power of its message. A type is always less significant in its impact than the reality which it represents or introduces. This is a cardinal rule of sound Scriptural exposition, and must be remembered as we probe the Revelation.
Divine Purpose being Revealed
Before going further, I would remind you that these judgments are a Divine reprisal against those who have opposed and even shed the blood of the saints of God. The vindication for which the souls "under the later" cried (Rev 6:9) is taking place. The bloodshed of the martyrs, remember, was by the design and permission of God Himself. When crying out for vindication, the martyrs were told, "that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, should be completed also" (5:11). Although this is a difficult thing for some to see, it is affirmed in Scripture, and we are obliged to receive it.
Daniel spoke of the momentary triumph of the enemies of the saints. Speaking of an arch-foe, Daniel wrote, "He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend tochange times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time" (Dan 7:25, NKJV). Confirming that this was, indeed, the truth, Jesus revealed the same thing to the Patmos-Prophet. Speaking of an opponent of the saints, John wrote, "Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation" (Rev 13:6-7).
The record, then, is clear on this matter. For some, this is a "hard saying," and they are unable to receive it. Such have been exposed to a view of God and Christ that does not allow for the free acceptance of these things. That condition, I fear, is more serious than some would have us suppose. One of the unavoidable effects of false doctrine is the development of a conscience that cannot receive all of God's Word.
In all of this, the Lord remains true to His commitment to not allow the saints to be tested above their ability (1 Cor 10:13). The temporary triumph of the opponents of the church does not cause any of the "saints of the Most High God" to cast off their faith. The hardness of the trial was but an evidence of the strength of the people of God, displayed to heavenly principalities and powers.
Additionally, because of the harmless nature of the people of God, their persecution confirms the depravity of the ungodly, and the justice of God in punishing their oppressors. These are issues of great importance in the saints, although not commonly recognized by the inhabitants of this world.
I want to underscore that Jesus is expounding to John the working of God Almighty. This is NOT a mere history lesson. Neither, indeed, is it a warning of the unbridled working of our adversary, the devil. The Lord Jesus, duly empowered by the Father, is on the throne of the Kingdom. Nothing is out of control - nothing at all! In confirmation of this, briefly recall what we have read to this point.
A Brief Summation
1. John was first confronted with the glorified and REIGNING Jesus (1:10-20).
2. Jesus provides HIS assessment of the churches (2:1-3:22).
3. The throne of heaven is seen, and One sitting in regal splendor and POWER upon it ---UNEQUIVOCAL control (4:1-11).
4. A scroll is beheld, denoting the execution of God's purpose under the CONTROL of the Lamb ---UNEQUIVOCAL control (5:1-14).
5. Under the first seal, the conquering Savior is shown, wearing a crown GIVEN to Him ---UNEQUIVOCAL control (6:1-2).
6. Under the second seal, power is GIVEN to take peace from the earth ---UNEQUIVOCAL control (6:3-4).
7. Under the third seal, a famine is depicted in which the oil and the wine CANNOT be hurt ---UNEQUIVOCAL control (6:5-6).
8. Under the fourth seal, death begins a ruthless reign in which power is GIVEN over a fourth part of the earth ---UNEQUIVOCAL control(6:7-8).
9. Under the fifth seal, souls under the alter are GIVEN white robes, and told to wait until the number their brethren who SHOULD BE killed as they were is fulfilled ---UNEQUIVOCAL control (6:9-11).
10. Under the sixth seal, nature COLLAPSES at the word of the King, as the day of the Lamb's wrath comes ---UNEQUIVOCAL control (9:12-17).
11. John is introduced to four angels GIVEN power to hurt the earth and the sea ---UNEQUIVOCAL control (7:1-2).
12. The four angels are told NOT to hurt the earth or the sea until the servants of God have been sealed ---UNEQUIVOCAL control (7:3).
13. The twelve tribes of Israel are SEALED by God, a thing thought impossible by many ---UNEQUIVOCAL control (7:4-8).
14. A vast number of redeemed that cannot be numbered is seen BEFORE THE THRONE and the Lamb ---UNEQUIVOCAL control (7:9-16).
15. The Lamb of God is seen in the CENTER of the throne, absolutely Sovereign ---UNEQUIVOCAL control (7:17).
16. The seventh seal is opened and unhindered silence prevails for HALF AN HOUR ---UNEQUIVOCAL control (8:1).
17. Seven angels are GIVEN seven trumpets ---UNEQUIVOCAL control (8:2).
18. Another angel with a golden censor is GIVEN much incense to offer with the prayers of the saints ---UNEQUIVOCAL control (8:3).
19. The first angel sounds his trumpet, and a THIRD PART of the trees are burned up, and all GREEN grass ---UNEQUIVOCAL control (8:7).
20. The second angel sounds his trumpet, and a THIRD PART of the sea becomes blood, a THIRD PART of the creatures in the sea die, and a THIRD PART of the ships are destroyed ---UNEQUIVOCAL control (8:8-9).
21. The third angel sounds his trumpet, and a THIRD PART of the rivers and fountains of water are defiled, causing MANY men to die ---UNEQUIVOCAL control (8:10-11).
22. The fourth angel sounds his trumpet, and a THIRD PART of the sun, moon, and stars are smitten ---UNEQUIVOCAL control (8:12).
23. An angel is heard proclaiming THREE more woes are to come, and cannot be averted ---UNEQUIVOCAL control(8:13).
24. The fifth angel sounds his trumpet, and a fallen star is GIVEN the key to the bottomless pit ---UNEQUIVOCAL control (9:1-11).
25. The solemn word is given that TWO more woes remain, and will surely come ---UNEQUIVOCAL control (9:12).
Let no person doubt the precision of the reign of Christ Jesus. When men are tempted to think they are forgotten, or that things are out of control, let them solemnly consider this book! The destiny of the churches is controlled by Jesus! The history of the world is controlled by Jesus! The persecution of believers is controlled by Jesus! The harm of men by all means (famines, pestilence, etc.) is controlled by Jesus! The whodemise of nature is controlled by Jesus! The judgment of the wicked is controlled by Jesus! The opening of the pit of hell is controlled by Jesus! It is imperative that this view be maintained throughout this book, else we will be distracted by its language, and embrace foolish and profitless views of the word of Jesus. The comforting power of Scripture is found within this perspective. I urge you to heartily embrace it.
THE PLACE OF THE VOICE
"Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God . . . " The Spirit will not allow us to get far from the heavenly sanctuary! He will not lead us beyond the altar of atonement-where the vicarious sacrifice of Christ becomes insignificant and primary! If we are ever led into considerations that obscure the heavenly realm, or that cause the death of Jesus to recede into the background, we have been influenced by the wicked one.
Notice the description of the place from which a heavenly voice is heard: "the four horns of the golden altar." This is the same altar upon which the "prayers of the saints" were offered, being mingled with the incense of Christ's atonement (8:3). I gather this is also the same area from which the voice of those beheaded for the word of their testimony was heard (6:9-11). This is an answer to the request of those precious martyrs, who were told to wait for a while. Their plea was heard, and now will be answered.
The "golden altar" was the altar of incense in the tabernacle service (Ex 39:38; 40:26; 4:11; 2 Chron 4:19). On this altar, the priest placed some of the blood that was shed on the brazen altar (Lev 4:7). Sacrificial blood upon the horns of the altar of incense foreshadowed the pleasing effect of Christ's sacrifice to the Father. This is the imagery now taken up by our text.
The "golden altar," you will note, is said to be "before God." What follows is the will of God, is wrought by God, and is for His glory. This manifests an aspect of our redemption that pervades all of Scripture. The primary view of Christ's death is that of the Father. All other views are subordinate to that one! The world is governed with God's view of the sacrifice of Christ in mind.
Whether it is the blessing of the righteous, or the judgment of the wicked, it is what the Father thinks of the death of His Son that governs the action. The rule of God through Christ Jesus brings great benefit to the saints, but it is not because of them! God works all things together for our good (Rom 8:28), but He does so because of Jesus-in particular, because of the reconciliation He has accomplished. The golden altar is "before God."
The Lord does not punish the wicked simply because they are bad. He does so because of their reaction to His Son and His great salvation.
O, what a truth is to be seen here! Much of the religious world has little interest in the death of Christ, and its unparalleled effects in both heaven and earth. The reconciliation wrought by the Son has taken a back seat to institutional interests, family concerns, political issues, and the gratification of self. But it is not so in heaven! Directions given to holy angels are given in view of God's honor of Jesus! Judgments are cast into the earth because of the honor due the Son! The voice of direction comes from the place of atonement.
How appropriately the type introduced under the Law states the case. "You shall make an altar to burn incense on . . . And Aaron shall make atonement upon its horns once a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonement; once a year he shall make atonement upon it throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD" (Ex 30:1-10). How fitting for the atonement to be made on the altar issuing a pleasing fragrance before the Lord. This precisely foreshadowed the pleasing and acceptable affects when Christ "by his own blood . . . entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us" (Heb 9:12). Remember, the tabernacle, with its precisely ordered routines, was a "pattern," which served as "the copy and shadow of the heavenly things" (Heb 8:5).
While novel interpretations of the book of Revelation ignore the death of Christ and His vicarious atonement, we find it at the heart of Divine motivation in our text. There is no aspect of the heavenly Kingdom that ignores the propitiation wrought by Jesus-not even the judgment of the wicked. From the standpoint of Bible interpretation, any view of Scripture that minimizes the reconciliation accomplished by Christ Jesus is to be rejected as spurious and harmful. Such a view simply cannot be proper.
What follows has everything to do with the death of Jesus Christ. It represents a judgment from God upon those who have "lightly esteemed" the Rock of their salvation (Deut 32;15). We are dealing here with issues proclaimed throughout the Word of God. This is no novel view! It is harmonious with al of Scripture.
THE FOUR ANGELS
" And I heard a voice . . . saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates." We are not told whether these are holy or evil angels - but it makes no difference. I am personally persuaded they are evil angels, and will present my reasons later.
The point is they are under the control of the King. Like Pilate, they "could have no power at all . . . unless it had been given . . . from above" (John 19:11).
A Pivotal Truth
I must not fail to continually put you in remembrance of this pillar of truth. John the Baptist also said, "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven" (John 3:27). Jesus Himself confessed, "The Son can do nothing of himself" (John 5:19). This is a vein of truth that runs throughout the Word of God, and it is central to our understanding of Christ's message to the churches. If we forget "the kingdom is the LORD'S: and He is the governor among the nations" (Psa 22:28), we will soon succumb to the hardships of life. It is ever true, and we do well to embrace it, "But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases" (Psa 115:3). Again it is written, "Whatever the LORD pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places" (Psa 135;6). How eloquently God spoke through the prophet Daniel on this matter. "All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, 'What have You done?'" (Dan 4:35).
Men saturated with the wisdom of this world give too much credit to man. They suppose him to be more capable than he really is. God has not whorelinquished the reins of His Kingdom to sinful men. Nor, indeed, does our adversary the devil, have unbridled jurisdiction. With unmistakable clarity, God has affirmed the government has been placed upon the shoulder of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is presently ruling "in the midst" of His enemies (Psa 110:1-2). No personality in heaven, earth, or under the earth can effectively contest or resist His government. The ONLY question is whether of not it will bless or curse us - and it WILL do one or the other!
Angels that are Bound
Notice the language of this text. There are four angels "who are bound at the great river Euphrates." Every major translation reads precisely the same (which, of itself, is most remarkable)-KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, NIV, RWB, Darbys, and YLT. The BBE (Basic Bible English) translates the word "chained." This is, indeed, a strong word! It comes from the Greek word µ, which means (1) bind (together), tie (up) (Matt 13:30) . . . (3) of arrest and imprisonment bind, tie up (Mark 6:17) . . . (5) of physical incapacity cause to be ill (Luke 13:16); (6) the binding and loosing of Matt 16:19 and 18:18. (1) It is used three other times in Scripture, and in each case, it refers to bondage, as in forceful restraint (Acts 9:2,21; 22:5).
The use of this term does not seem to allow for the angels to be "holy," or "elect" angels. It does, however, describe the condition of fallen angels, who are declared to have been delivered "into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment" (2 Pet 2:4), and "reserved in everlasting chains" (Jude 6). I take this position because of what we are told of the holy angels. They are willing servants of the Lord, "who excel in strength, who do His word, Heeding the voice of His word" (Psa 103:20). It seems inappropriate to say such angels are "bound," unless they are bound by God's word. That view, however, seems to take too much liberty with the text. Too, the angels are "loosed," set free, or released.
Again, the government of Jesus is clearly seen. Although these angels are powerful and destructive, they remain in "chains," so to speak, until released by the Word of the King!
While it is not pleasant to consider such things, those who are not serious about the Lord do well to remember His authority over the forces of evil. They are restrained or released at His Word! How quickly men will correct their ways when this is seen.
The River Euphrates
The location of these fierce angels is "at the great river Euphrates." This is a river of note in Scripture, and it is this perspective that gives weight to the text. This is one of the four rivers mentioned in relation to the Garden of Eden. One primary river flowed out of Eden, dividing into four subsidiary rivers. Of those rivers, it is written, "The fourth river is the Euphrates" (Gen 2:24).
When God made promise to Abraham concerning the land of promise, He stated "River Euphrates" as one of its boundaries (Gen 15:18). Additional references are later made to this boundary (Deut 1:7; 11:24; Josh 1:4). From this perspective, the Euphrates river was a boundary between the land of promise and the rest of the world-a border that separated Israel's ENEMIES from them. On one occasion, David defeated the king of Zobah in order to "recover his territory at the River Euphrates" (2 Sam 8:3).
The river Euphrates is the place where Jeremiah learned of God's indignation against the pride of Judah (Jer 13:1-10). Jeremiah also saw this river as a place of Divine judgment, where wicked men stumbled and fell (Jer 46:6,10). Again, Jeremiah was given insight concerning the overthrow of Babylon the Great. He was told to tie a stone to a book and "throw it out into the Euphrates." Just as the book sunk in the river, so Babylon would "sink and not rise from the catastrophe" God would bring upon them (Jer 51:63,64). Later in Revelation, the river Euphrates is said to be "dried up," thus preparing the way for the "kings of the east" (Rev 16;12)-i.e., restraint would be removed.
This, then, is language that has been cultured through Moses and the prophets. Here is something first associated with beauty and perfection-the Garden of Eden. It then became a line of demarcation between the enemies of God and His people. This is a vivid picture of the world order-something that began without flaw, then deteriorated because of sin.
The Wicked Are Under God
God uses the wicked to accomplish his purposes. Although they are under Satan, he is a secondary ruler, operating within Divine constraints, and in strict accordance with Divine purpose.
This is another truth revealed throughout Scripture, and particularly in our text. The Lord challenges the world to ponder this. He is the ONLY one "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it" (Isa 46:10-11). At one point in time, the Lord summoned heathen Cyrus to execute His will (Isa 45:1-6). He also "raised up" Pharaoh, to get glory for Himself upon him (Ex 9;16; Rom 9;17). Twice, the Lord "stirred up an adversary" against Solomon (1 Kgs 11:4,23). The Lord told Samuel that if David sinned against Him, he would "chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men" (2 Sam 7:14). He also placed "nations" under the "yoke" of Neuchadnezzar, causing them to serve him (Jer 28;14). He also "raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes" to come against Babylon and destroy it (Jer 51:11). Make no mistake about it, the Lamb is "over all" (Rom 9:5).
Bound at the River Euphrates
These angels were bound by, or stricted to, the area of the River Euphrates. They could proceed no further until released by the Word of the King. Too, they could not do their wicked work unless given leave from the Throne to do so. It is as though they were on the other side of the border separating the people of God from the children of the wicked one. They could not invade the saint's camp (Rev 20:9) any more than the enemies of Israel could invade them while all of the men were attending Divinely appointed feasts. As it is written, "For I will cast out the nations before you and enlarge your borders; neither will any man covet your land when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year" (Ex 34:24).
Sweet solace, indeed, to the people of God! That trouble is coming upon the earth cannot be denied. But God will not allow it to overrun his people! The avenging angels are held in chains, as it were, until released to do His will. Little wonder it is affirmed God has NOT given us the "spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Tim 1:7).
The Significance of the River
Here is a depiction of the world order which, like the River Euphrates, started out good, but ended up corrupt. It is an area occupied by our enemies, and to which they are confined until "loosed" by Omnipotence. Here resides a Divine arsenal, to be released at His will-an arsenal of evil. These are not enemies disposed to kindness. Were it not for the restraining will of the Lord, they would long ago have overrun the world. These are characterized by pride, and are possessed of the spirit of the evil one.
DIVINE CONTROL AGAIN REVEALED
"So the four angels, who had been prepared . . . " Again, notice the precision of the language. We are witnessing the execution of the purpose of God. It is characterized by precision and timeliness. These angels, restrained with Divine chains, "had been prepared." The heavenly Kingdom is characterized by preparation! Places of authority, Jesus affirmed, are reserved for those "for whom it is prepared by My whoFather" (Matt 20:23). The "Kingdom" to be inherited by those who suffer for righteousness sake, has been "prepared" for them (Matt 25:34). Hell itself has been "prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt 25:41). The ministry of John the Baptist was "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Lk 1:17). Salvation itself has been "prepared before all peoples" (Lk 2:31). The children of God, called "vessels of mercy," have been "prepared beforehand for glory" (Rom 9:23). The things provided for those who love God have been "prepared for them" (1 Cor 2:9). When Jesus came into the world, He entered in a body that had been "prepared" for Him (Heb 10:5). Later in the Revelation, the people of God survive the assault of the devil by finding a place "prepared by God, that they should feed" without fear (Rev 12:6). The reign of Jesus is not an ad hoc reign, wherein He responds to unplanned and unanticipated events! His rule is one of purpose and exactness.
Once again, this is seen in the text before us. We must keep this uppermost in our minds, or the language of this book will tempt us to be diverted to mere theological novelties. Such things rob the soul, and push us away from the holiest of all. These angels had been "prepared" for their work, and were "bound" until the time appointed for that work to be carried out. Solomon saw this and declared, "The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble" (Prov 16:4, RSV). Solomon's word can be viewed as affirming the wicked will ultimately suffer the wrath of God. It can also be perceived as saying the Lord has prepared them to administer chastisement, and other forms of suffering to the unbelieving and defiled. Both are true, as confirmed throughout Scripture.
An Exact Time
" . . . for the hour and day and month and year . . . " Nothing happens without the influence of the King's scepter! He is in control. Remember, Jesus is sending a message to His churches-His suffering churches. The affairs of the world are presented as part of the administration of His Kingdom. That Kingdom is maintained with the advantage of His people in mind. Nothing-absolutely nothing-will put His saints at a disadvantage! Everything belongs to them-even "things to come." As it is written, "For all things are yours: whether . . . the world or life or death, or things present or things to come; all are yours. And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's" (1 Cor 3:21-23).
Our Text is another confirmation of this truth. If there are destructive powers who would do us harm, they are "bound" until such time as their work will serve God's purpose. When they are released to fulfill their purpose, it will be for an appointed time and duration. The extent of their influence is also under Divine control. They cannot begin without a word from the Throne, and they can go no further than they are directed. How the church needs to know this!
The precision of this time allotment is remarkable. An hour, a day, a month, and a year. This is specified with the history of the world in mind. Divine rule is that specific! An example of this level of particularity is found in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. This emancipation came after 430 years of bondage, and in accordance with the prophecy made to Abraham 638 years before (Gen 15:13). This precision is expressed in Exodus 12:42. "And it came to pass, on that very same day, that the LORD brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt according to their armies." In their deliverance, God promised, "not a hoof shall be left behind" (Ex 10:26). We are witnessing this level of precision in the Patmos vision: i.e., "the hour and day and month and year."
There are two ways of viewing this, and both are worthy of our consideration.
Beginning and Conclusion
FIRST, this is a symbolic way of emphasizing the exactness of the beginning and duration of the judgment. It is all under the control of King Jesus! The reign of our Lord is precise! While I do not want to press these figures too vigorously, there is some value in the following observations.
Here, the time of the beginning of the judgment is seen as a Divine appointment-even down to the very hour. It is that precise-just like the appointed resurrection of the dead: "the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice" (John 5:28). Frequently, Jesus employed this form of precise language (Matt 26:45; John 4:21; 5:25; 12:23; 16:32).THIS HAS TO DO WITH THE COMMENCEMENT AND AVAILABILITY OF A DIVINE APPOINTMENT.
The word "day" is used in the same way, denoting a Divinely appointed occurrence: i.e., "He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world . . . " (Acts 17:31). The time in which men can receive the reconciliation is called "the day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:2). This form of expression is also common in Scripture (Matt 10;15; Rom 2:5; 13:12; 1 Cor 3:13; Phil 1:16; 2 Pet 3:12). THIS HAS TO DO WITH THE ENTIRETY OF AN EVENT, THAT WILL CONCLUDE AS SURELY AS IT BEGINS.
Even the word "year" is used to denote Divine appointment. The time of salvation is referred to as "the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:19). THIS VIEWS THE EVENT AS EXTENDED, AND NOT A BRIEF PERIOD.
Two versions of scripture accentuate this view in their translation of the verse: i.e., that the angels were prepared to execute their work at a particular point of time. "So the four angels were released, who had been held ready for the hour, the day, the month, and the year . . . " (RSV). "And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year . . . " (NIV).
It is as though the Lord said to His suffering church, Judgment is coming upon the ungodly-fearful judgment. But it will not come until the appointed time, and it will all be under My control. Do not fear! You must not miss the manifestation of the heart of Jesus in this text. He is mindful of His people, alerting them to circumstances that are coming. They may, because of their closeness to Him, detect the coming of such things. However, because of the temptation to fear, their Lord apprizes them they are Divinely controlled events.
SECOND, the language can denote the duration of the judgment described. In this case, the language is symbolic, each period standing for a length of time: a day, an hour, and a year. Using the formula of a day for a year, given in Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6, we come with a period of 396 years and four months.
Admittedly, this requires a bit of manipulation. Instead of being based on the Jewish year, this calculation is based upon a solar year. The formula is as follows.
Solar year 365-1/4 days
Month 30 days
Day 1 day
Hour 1/12 of a day
Total 396, 4 months
Here, too, precision can be seen. Whatever one may think of this method of calculation, it is nevertheless true, Divine appointments include commencement, duration, and termination! It is ever true, "For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen" (Rom 11:36).
Extensive, But Limited, Power
" . . . were released to kill a third of mankind." The very language challenges those who subscribe to a humanized view of the Living God. It is the King of glory Who "released" these destroying angels. They were bound until he disengaged them upon the world. All praise be to God, destructive forces are in subjection to Him. That is why it is written, "There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy" (James 4:12). With solemn tones, Jesus told His disciples, "But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!" (Luke 12:5). It is true, there are those "which kill the body" (Matt 10:28), but they cannot do so at will. They are subject to the King of kings, and are "bound" until His word gives them leave. This reality will not fit into some of the finely tuned theological stands men have developed. However, it fits well into the perspective of faith.
The power of these angels in seen in the effectiveness of their mission: "to kill a third part of mankind." However, Divine restraint is also seen: they had no power over two-thirds of mankind! Hallelujah to the Lamb! You must see, that were it not for His government, evil powers would long ago have terminated our race!
We must not fail to grasp this word. The four angels, formerly "bound," were "RELEASED to kill a third part of mankind." Our aim is not to become so distracted by their mission that we miss the message of Christ! He is "the Head of all principality and power" (Col 2:10). He has been exalted "far above all principality and power and might and dominion" (Eph 1:21). That includes powers that kill, as well as ones that protect! When, therefore, we are brought face to face with death-whether on a global or a personal scale-we must see it as under Divine control! That is why we are told "death" is ours-it belongs to us, and will serve us (1 Cor 3:22).
Suffice it to say, the quartet of supernatural powers could not take charge of the world. Their mission is the punishment of the ungodly, and even that is under Divine restraint. A certain number, a certain time, and a certain duration.
THE VASTNESS AND FEROCITY OF THE ARMY
"Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million (two hundred thousand thousand, KJV); I heard the number of them." Remembering that symbols are always introductory to the reality, this is a most remarkable text. It is the Divine way of saying irresistible multitude. There is no strategy that can effectively deter this horde from accomplishing their mission. The Lord speaks in overwhelming language because of the sureness of the judgment. This is not a threat, but an announcement.
This is the second time John said, "I heard the number." The first time is when he saw the sealing of 144,000 "of all the tribes of Israel" (Rev 7:4). In both cases, the "number" is significant. That significance, however, is not found in mathematics. This is a manner of expressing unimaginable numbers, employed throughout Scripture, and is not unique to the book of Revelation. "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, Even thousands of thousands . . ." (Psa 68:17). "A fiery stream issued And came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him" (Dan 7;12). Rebekah was told she would be the mother of "thousands of millions" (thousands of ten thousands, NASB)--Gen 24:60. Angelic hosts about the heavenly throne are said to be "ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands" (Rev 5:11). Enoch, the seventh from Adam, used this sort of terminology to describe hosts of angels accompanying Divine judgment. "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands (not "thousand") of His saints" (Jude 14). Suffice it to say, this manner of speaking is not a way of identifying a specific number, but of describing an innumerable host. It our text, it denotes invincibility in the mission they are sent to accomplish.
A Ferocious Picture Is Painted
"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." The Spirit now gives John to see a swift and effective army - one that had been held back until the appointed time. The fact that this is a "vision" indicates it is not the precise description of an historical event. Dreams and visions ALWAYS portray something other than the figures beheld in them. To name a few: Jacob's ladder (Gen 28:12), Joseph's dreams of the stars and the fat and lean cattle (Gen 37:9; 41:2-4), Jeremiah's almond rod and seething pot (Jer 1:11), Ezekiel's scroll, valley of dry bones, and healing waters (Ezek 2:9; 37:1-11; 47:-13), Amos' grasshoppers (Amos 7:1-2), Zechariah's golden candlestick (Zech 4:1-2), and Nebuchadnezzar's statue (Dan 2:31-35).
You will recall the first four seals unveiled single horses and riders that rode triumphantly in their mission. Now we behold a vast multitude of horses and horsemen-in figurative language (which is reduced), 200,000,000! Remember, these have been "released" by angels who were formerly "bound." Lest men become complacent in their commitment to the Lord, they should ponder what devastating powers are presently restrained by the Lord. Were it not for His mercy, all havoc would break out. The description of the riders underscores their mission. It is not one of mercy!
" . . . those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow . . . " The KJV refers to these as "breastplates of fire." They had the appearance of fire, although they were not fire itself-much like the cloven tongues that sat upon each of those who were together on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:3). On that threshold day of Pentecost, the "fire" was related to salvation. In John's vision, it relates to Divine judgment. In both cases, however, we are speaking of effective and determined Divine action.
The breastplates are multi-colored, also having blue and yellow - red, smoky, and yellow. The color of the hyacinth, or jacinth, is deep purple-or the color of smoke. The significance of the colors relate to Divine judgment. Red for fire, blue for smoke, and yellow for brimstone. Fire for devouring, smoke for blinding, and brimstone from the bottomless pit. Satan's hosts are being commissioned to make the ungodly, who have served Satan, to feel the repercussions of their rebellion against God.
"Fire and smoke" are often used to characterize the intrusion of God into the course of nature. Of His visitation at Sinai, it is written, "Smoke went up from His nostrils, And devouring fire from His mouth; Coals were kindled by it" (2 Sam 22:9; Psa 18:8). The judgment of the wicked is described in these vivid words. "As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; As wax melts before the fire, So let the wicked perish before God" (Psa 68:2). Other passages using "smoke and fire" to describe Divine judgment include the following. Isaiah 9:18, 30:27, and Joel 2:30.
But here "brimstone" is added to the combination of colors. Not only is this Divine intervention-not only is it Divine judgment-the very forces of hell are employed to carry it out! This chastising throng appears to be armored by flame, with the glow of a blazing furnace, and smoke and brimstone from hell surrounding them. God be praised this army is circumscribed by Divine power!
The Heads of the Horses
" . . . and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions . . . " The head or face of a lion is used in Scripture to describe fierceness and effectiveness. The Gadites, competent warriors, were described as those "whose faces were like the faces of lions" (1 Chron 12:8). In His chastisement of Israel, God described the agents employed in these words. " . . . their horses' hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind. Their roaring shall be like a lion, they shall roar like young lions: yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey, and shall carry it away safe, and none shall deliver it" (Isa 5:28-29)
Here, then, is a vast host, released by God, empowered by hell, and invincible in their mission.
The Mouths of the Horses
" . . . and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone. " The horses and the riders have the same traits-perfectly united in their mission. The shields of the riders were like fire, smoke, and brimstone. The horses breathed out the same hellish breath!
In this world, weapons and warriors are not always matched. Intentions and the means by which they are carried out are not always harmonious. But when the hand of God moves, whether for blessing or cursing, this is not the case. The means are always fully adapted to the objective. The employed cause always yields the intended affect.
In this judgment, as with all Divine adjudications, everything works together to accomplish the determined objective. The riders are equipped for their mission, and the horses upon which they ride are also adapted for it.
One further thing: all of this language confirms this judgment is against the wicked, not the righteous. The language used to describe the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:24; Lk 17:29), the uprooting of the wicked (Job 18:15; Psa 11:6), the judgment of Assyria (Isa 30:33), and the overthrow of Gog (Ezek 38:22-23) confirm this to be the case.
The book of Revelation uses the language of Moses and the Prophets. There is where God developed the vocabulary through which He could communicate to His people. In this case, the language is that of destruction. In my judgment, it is not wise to press the symbolism too far, forcing it into a sort of theological mold. We will find remarkable fulfillment in history, but the language is descriptive of decisive, overwhelming, and irresistible judgment from God.
"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." Notice, the "fire, smoke, and brimstone" are called "three plagues." Three sources of overthrow! Three Divinely appointed means of judgment! Three effective reprisals for the rejection of Christ and His Gospel. While I do not want to press the figures too far, fire speaks of destruction, smoke of delusion, and brimstone of torment. All of these, and more, are involved in this trumpet.
This vast army assails humanity, and a third of all men die! A large part, indeed, but not the largest part! The rider on the pale horse, with death and hades in his wake, was given power "over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth" (6:8). Judgment, then, is becoming more severe. No longer are a fourth part killed, now it is a third part. Just as blessings increase, so do Divine judgments! The invading locusts, you may recall, "were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months" (9:5). This army is given power to kill. Once again, the control of the King is seen. The destructive troop can proceed no further than the Lord allows!
Sin has consequences
Sin, indeed, does have consequences, and we dare not miss that message. Novel views of the Revelation cloud this perception, causing the heart to become entangled in religious philosophy. However, men and women of God know the judgment of the Almighty is a serious matter.
Little wonder the Spirit witnesses, "But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and Revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each one according to his deeds" (Rom 2:5-6). What we are seeing in the trumpets is a prelude to the great day of wrath-the time when "the wrath of the Lamb" (Rev 6:16) will be unleashed.
The word "third" is used extensively throughout this book. It signifies a partial, but significant, overthrow or judgment. Think of the repeated use of this language. In previous judgments a "third part" of the trees were burned up (8:7). A "third part" of the sea became blood, a third part of the creatures in the sea died, and a third part of the ships were destroyed (8:8). A "third part" of the rivers and waters were made bitter, causing the death of "many" (8:10-11). A "third part" of the sun, moon, stars, day, and night were also smitten (8:12). Later, the devil is seen pulling down a "third part" of "the stars of heaven" (12:4).
Now, because of continued involvement in things hated by God, coupled with a rejection of the Son, the enemies of God are made to suffer more than before. The judgment is increasing in intensity. When men grow worse, so does their judgment!
"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." We are still speaking of the horses, not the riders upon them. It is as though the horsemen were being carried along by Divine purpose, unable to work independently of God's objective. Ordinarily, the horse is controlled by the rider. In this case, the riders are subservient to the horses.
Unlike the natural realm, the power of these horses is "in their mouth and in their tails." From the earthly point of view, both the mouth and tail of the horse are among its weakest points. Its mouth is capitalized on by men, who insert a bit by which the horse is turned. The tail of the horse is fragile, bringing danger only to flies and other forms of insect. But such is not the case with these horses.
The Power in Their Mouth
As forceful as this warring multitude was, its real effectiveness was found in their mouth. It is what they espoused, and aggressively promoted, that caused the greater harm. Later, a vicious "beast" will rise against the people of God. He too will be noted for what comes out of his mouth. It is written, "And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies . . . " (13:5). We are also introduced to the united assault of the dragon (Satan), the beast (earthly government), and the false prophet (corrupt religion). Of them it is said, "And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (16:13-14).
What can we learn from these things? We are taught in Scripture that false teaching and false prophets are more to be feared than war-mongers. This is not a common perception among those who have an inordinate fear concerning things coming upon the earth. Notwithstanding, it is a true one. Jesus never told men to beware of Herod, Pilate, or any form of war. He did, however, say "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves" (Matt 7:15). There is a remarkable consistency to this that has very few, if any, exceptions (Matt 16:6; Mk 12:38; Lk 12:15; Phil 3:2; Col 2:8; 2 Pet 3:17).
Spiritual delusion has eternal consequences. That is why so many warnings are issued concerning it. The time of lifeless religion is called "perilous times," and perilous they are (2 Tim 3:1-5)! The dominance of corrupt Christianity (for want of a better term) is referred to as "giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons" (3 Tim 3:1). That is a more dreadful circumstance than the average churchman dares to imagine. This is the type of thing referred to by the words "their power is in their mouth."
The Power in Their Tail
Here the weakest part becomes a source of strength. Ordinarily, the "tail" is secondary, and not to be feared. You will recall the occasion when Moses' rod turned into a serpent-a sign of Moses' Divine commission, wrought by God before Pharaoh. When introducing Moses to the "sign," the Lord told Moses, "Reach out your hand and take it by the tail (and he reached out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand)" (Ex 4:4). How grateful Moses must have been he was not commanded to seize the serpent by the head! The point is, the "tail" is not to be feared, even in the deadly serpent.
Another example of this truth is found in the Lord's promise to Israel. If they would diligently obey the voice of the Lord, He would command a blessing upon them. Part of that blessing would be superiority over their enemies. It is stated in this way: "And the LORD will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath . . . " (Deut 28:13). If, on the other hand, they did not hearken to the Lord's commands, they would become servile. "The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low. He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail" (Deut 28:43,44).
Our text signifies there will be no weakness, or vulnerability, in this assaulting aggregation. They will be invincible in the matter for which they are released. They will not be caught off-guard, so to speak, or have weaknesses that may be exploited by those they attack. They are sent as "the rod of God" upon the world order, and are effective in their mission. The wisdom of this world will be impotent against them, as well as the imagined power of men. To use a folksy aphorism, they will get the people "coming and going."
Although I have said it before, it bears mentioning again. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!" It is unspeakably foolish to refuse the Gospel, maintain a love for this world, and even oppose the saints of God! The Lord will not overlook this. Men must repent of such things, or fall into God's hands.
THEY REPENTED NOT!
"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." Here is one of the most arresting passages in Scripture. It reveals the dreadful effects of sin upon the sinner.
This enormous army has a world-wide effect, given power to kill a third part of mankind. But they were no more effective than the Gospel of Jesus Christ! The Gospel had spread throughout the world, and yet the time came when men did not heed it. Their hearts waxed cold, and they refused to repent. Now comes this mighty swarm, inflicting death upon mankind. It is on a large and unprecedented scale. However, men did not repent under this assault, any more than they did under the influence of the Gospel. Their hearts were so hard, no form of punishment could change them!
Among other things, this justifies God in His judgment of mankind. The wicked are worthy of such treatment, for they were unchangeable. Men often philosophize about the possibility of men changing. Too often, their reasoning does not include the working of the Lord. You will recall, God has been known to "harden" certain wicked people-to ratify their propensity to evil. He "hardened" Pharaoh (Ex 4:21; 14:4), the kings of the cities of Canaan (Josh 11:20), and the spirit of the king of Heshbon (Num 21:23; Deut 2:30).
Stated another way, God has been known to give people over to their own desires-another way of saying they were "hardened." Of wayward Israel, it is written, "But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels" (Psa 81:11-12). This same judgment was brought upon the Gentile world, which refused to acknowledge God. "Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness . . . For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections . . . God gave them over to a reprobate mind" (Rom 1:24,26). The latter text reveals that sodomy was the outcome of this judgment (Rom 1:26-28). This should strike fear into the heart of every person devoted to, or philosophizing about, the sin of sodomy, or homosexuality.
God Is Vindicated
The point of our text is that this judgment vindicates God! It shows the wicked were not salvageable, so to speak. They "repented not" when confronted with the Gospel. Nor, indeed, did they repent when confronted with the worse things that can be experienced in this world. Even judgment on a massive scale-like a third part of men dying-is powerless to change those who are "reprobate."
Let no soul imagine that reprobacy is a theological concept that has been developed by men. The Word of God declares such a state-a condition where men are rejected by God, with no hope of retrieval (Gen 6:5-7; Jer 6:30; 7:16; 11:14; 14:11-12; 15:1; Ezek 14:14; Rom 1:28; 2 Tim 3:8; Tit 1:16).
The Works of Their Hands
This refers to idolatry, and is a Divine manner of speaking. These precise words are used to describe Israel's lapse into idolatry. "Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched" (2 Kgs 22:17; 2 Chron 34:25). Of this wicked propensity God said, "the children of Israel have provoked Me only to anger with the work of their hands" (Jer 32:30). In his final sermon, Stephen referred to this trait in Israel (Acts 7:41).
The prevalence of imagery-"the works of their hands"-in religion is staggering. Neither, indeed, is it confined to the heathen community. Images and religious artifacts are so common in professed Christendom that, for some, it has become the only sign of being a Christian. Men have a propensity to the development of gods and charms in which they trust. When men refuse to repent of such things, the Lord takes note of it. The ascription of Divine traits to articles of human invention is serious beyond imagination.
Connection with the Demonic World
Idolatry, whatever form it takes, affiliates the idolater with the demonic world. This is clearly taught in Scripture. Our text says men "did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons" (9:20 ). Following this same line of reasoning, Paul told the Corinthians, who were struggling with idolatry, "the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons" (1 Cor 10:20). Paul warned believers of "doctrines of demons" (1 Tim 4:1).
Demons have a "table"-a place of meeting, where they have confluence with men. Those who practice idolatry sit at that table, having fellowship with demons, and drinking from their cup (1 Cor 10:20-21). Such practices are to be repented of, and with great haste!
I offer one additional thought on this subject. John is seeing a vision that revealed things in advance to his own time. In it, he is told of the activity of, and submission to, "demons." Those, therefore, who affirm there is no such thing as demons, or that they have ceased to function in an influential way, are in sharp conflict with the very word of God. Too, those who determine to reach people in idolatrous sections of this world must realize they are stepping into demonic citadels and bastions. They must arm themselves with spiritual weaponry in such a circumstance. Academic dexterity and expertise is powerless in places of demonic superiority.
Immorality--Bred in Religion
There is a moral degradation in idolatry, as is confirmed in our text. Springing from devotion to the "works of their hands," men came under the grip of immorality. As it is written, "Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts" (Rev 9:21). What a quartet of evil! A disrespect for the Divine imagery in man-murders. Involvement in the occult-sorceries.
The fulfillment of base lusts-Fornication. A disregard for the possessions of others-thefts. All of this in a religious garb!
The conditions that are prevalent in the heathen countries of the world are the direct result of their religious practices! A commitment to false gods, whether philosophical or gods of wood and stone, yields a corrupt harvest. It is imperative that the people of God see this. We are living in a time when psychological and philosophical explanations are being offered for depraved human conduct. Such explanations have no place among those who profess the name of Christ! They are actually more closely related to idolatry than to the knowledge of God!Satanic Activity
One further observation is necessary. Immorality is evidence of Satanic, even demonic, activity. Taking human life (including abortion and euthanasia), occultism, erogenous behavior, and stealing, are all in the same category! They are evidences of Satanic activity and commitment to the realm of demons. It is a class of activity with which God is wholly intolerant. Further, it springs from the well of corrupt religion.
Our text solemnly reminds us of a time when the majority of godless men are unwilling to repent of their involvement in things cursed by God. Even unprecedented judgments from the Lord are powerless to alter their thinking, or induce them to repent. O, that men saw this more clearly!
THE HISTORICAL VIEW
Once again, there is an historical view that fulfills, but not completely, this Divine judgment. In it the attitude of God toward those who hate Him is confirmed. While these events do not exhaust our text, they do introduce us to its sobriety and reality. Historical judgements are but preludes to the final judgment. This is seen in Christ's comparison of the day of judgment to the flood (Matt 24:38-39) and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Luke 17:29-30). The destruction of Jerusalem was also a prelude to the final judgment (Matt 24). This is, then, a revealed way of thinking-that history is an arena in which the final judgment is introduced.
In 1057 A.D., the ferocious Turks began an aggressive campaign to reduce religions of the Northwest to belief in the Koran. Themselves converts to Mohammedanism, they committed themselves to the militant spread of it. For fifty years, they remained by the Euphrates River, until commissioned to force men to embrace the Koran.
This fierce band came upon horses, waging a religious war. They were called Turkomen, Turkans, or Turks. Their army spread over an area of 600 miles, and they were aggressive. Their initial assault yielded a sacrifice of 630,000 professed Christians to the Arabian prophet. (Gibbons Decline and Fall of Rome, Volume 5, Page 512).
In their attacks, the Mohammedans used artillery never before employed-canons. They also used gunpowder in the overthrow of the Eastern Empire (Greece)-something never used before (Gibbons Decline and Fall of Rome, Volume 6, Pages 379-380, 388-389). Horrible atrocities took place in the wholesale slaughter of nations in the Turkish wake.
Finally, in 1453, the Turks overthrew the last stronghold of the Eastern Empire, Constantinople (May 29th, 1453). At that time, it had been 396 years and four months from the time they crossed the Euphrates River and entered into their bloody campaign (1057-1453).
Thus, the great empires of the world were finally overthrown in their entirety. They had dared to enter into competition with the Living God, and thus were judged by Him. Daniel had prophesied the kingdoms of this world would be broken into pieces and consumed, and indeed they were (Dan 2:44).
Although considerably more could be said concerning this historical view (which is remarkably precise), I have elected to only introduce this perspective. I do so because I do not want to detract from the nature of this solemn text, or diffuse its power by dwelling upon introductory matters. Those who are interested can find much on this.
Surely, we have dealt with a most sobering text! The hardness that sin creates has been affirmed with the words, "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." Even though confronted with Divine judgment, hard hearts remained hard! They should have learned from the calamity around them, but they did not. It is necessary that men learn from tragedies around them. Do you remember the words of our Lord concerning a bloody atrocity and structural failure that took place in His day? "There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Lk 13:1-5). It is as though the Lord orchestrates often orchestrates events in order to warn wayward men!
It is also good to remember the words of Proverbs 29:1, which certainly apply to this text. "He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy." While the "longsuffering of God" leads, or constrains, men "to repentance" (Rom 2:4; 9:22; 2 Pet 3:15), that longsuffering can rejected. God is calling men to repentance. He does so through the Law, in the Gospel, and by means of circumstances about us. Should men refuse to give heed to His summons, dire circumstances await them. God is able to raise up adversaries against them as He did to Solomon (1 Kgs 11:14,23-25).
We must also learn from this text that the saints are safe in Christ Jesus. As it is written, "safety is of the LORD" (Prov 21:31). We are certainly not to be indifferent toward texts like the one with which we have just dealt. They are to be a stimulus to godliness. Where repentance is required, we are to "be zealous and repent" (Rev 3:19).
1. Thayer's Greek Lexicon1