Rev. Mark H. Creech
In The Bruised Reed, Richard Sibbes asks, “Can we think that he that threw the angels out of heaven will suffer dust and worms’ meat to run a contrary course, and to continue always so?” Surely not. The Lord is full of grace, mercy, and long-suffering. Nevertheless, there is a limit to his patience.
Genesis 6:3 reads, “Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time…'” The primary application of this text is that God has limited humanity’s lifespan, but a second application is that God will not tolerate humanity’s sinful ways indefinitely. He has set a time frame for repentance and forgiveness, and none of us knows how long we’ve been given. Nothing is so fearful as going out to meet God in judgment because we were never reconciled with him.
In Revelation Chapter 9, after the Evil One has opened the bottomless pit, unchained demonic creatures of hideous description emerge to torture the earth’s unregenerate inhabitants for five months.
Then there follows the trumpet sound of a sixth angel:
Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice speaking from the four horns of the gold altar that stands in the presence of God. And the voice said to the sixth angel who held the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great Euphrates River.’ Then the four angels who had been prepared for this hour and day and month and year were turned loose to kill one-third of all the people on earth.
The altar is the sacred place of sacrifice for sin. A fugitive could grasp a horn of the altar and ask for mercy. This solitary voice from the horns of the altar seems to be a call for judgment because the time of God’s mercy has passed. People have had ample warning and time to come to the horns of the altar with faith in Christ and ask for God’s mercy, but they have not.
In Revelation 8:3-5, prayers were offered on the altar, releasing God’s judgment. Revelation 9:13-15 seems to be the same scenario. If this is the same kind of situation, then the judgment of the sixth trumpet is also brought about by the prayers of God’s people.
These are imprecatory prayers, and the apostle wishes us to know just how strategic they are to God’s program. In Days of Vengeance (a commentary on Revelation), David Chilton believes “the Church of Jesus Christ is the new Israel,” a view without sufficient Biblical support. Still, what Chilton has to say on other matters is powerful.
For instance, Chilton provides a remarkable perspective on the critical import of imprecatory prayers, a view that would have some of today’s Christians aghast. However, it is entirely accurate. He writes:
God’s readiness to hear and willingness to grant His people’s prayers are continually proclaimed throughout Scripture (Ps. 9:10; 10:17-18; 18:3; 34:15-17; 37:4-5; 50:14-15; 145:18-19). God has given us numerous examples of imprecatory prayers, repeatedly showing that one aspect of a godly man’s attitude is hatred for God’s enemies and fervent prayer for their downfall and destruction (Ps. 5:10; 10:15; 35:1-8, 22-26; 59:12-13; 68:1-4; 69:22-28; 83; 94; 109; 137:8-9; 139:19-24; 140:6-11). Why, then, do we not see the overthrow of the wicked in our own time? An important part of the answer is the unwillingness of the modern Church to pray Biblically, and God has assured us: "You do not have because you do not ask" (James 4:2).
How true! Imprecatory prayers are not inconsistent with the New Testament teaching to earnestly pray for the salvation of people who don’t know Christ. These are not prayers that facilitate or excuse the harboring of hatred and personal resentments. These prayers move the heart of God because they are about the exaltation of righteousness. They are prayers for divine justice, the overthrow of evil, the casting down of wicked people and influences, and the establishment of divine rule. These prayers are before God on the altar. He hears them, and he will answer.
In response to the prayers of the saints, the voice commands the sixth angel to release those angels “bound at the Great Euphrates River.”
Like that horde of locust-like, scorpion-tailed demons released from the abyss to torture, these four devils, restrained at the Euphrates River, are freed at the right time to serve God’s righteous fury.
The late W.A. Criswell, a mighty Baptist preacher, has a profound word to add here. He says:
It is an amazing thing how God chooses, in his selective purpose, to run this universe. Evil continues and God seemingly overlooks it. But, at a certain place, at a certain time, in a certain second, God has ordained a judgment upon it. For example, in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis, the Lord said to Abraham in a vision: "Abraham, all the land is yours. But for four hundred years, your descendants are going to be captives in a strange land. Because," God said, "the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." The vile Canaanites’ worship, the vile social life of the Amorites, the indescribable wickedness, and the unnamable depravity of those heathen tribes had not yet run their course. The Canaanites, for years and years and for generations and for centuries, thought that a righteous God does not see, does not know, that he does not look upon this villainy. But God said to Abraham, "Four hundred years, four hundred years and the iniquity of those Amorites will be filled, and then the great avenging sword of the Lord God Almighty will be placed in your hand." This is the identical situation here. Iniquity runs its course, and the Lord lets it develop and continue, but there is an hour, there is a day, there is a month, and there is a year when God will judge it. These terrible angels of visitation were prepared for that awful day.
When these fallen angels of a more threatening order are unfettered from the Euphrates, they lead an infernal army of diabolical destruction 200 million strong and eradicate one-third of the earth’s remaining population.
The Euphrates River, the eastern boundary of Israel, is associated in Scripture with the earth’s first great atrocities. It’s where sin started (Gen. 2:14-14; 3:6-7). It’s where the first murder was committed (Gen. 4:8). It’s where the first world rebellion against God started (Gen. 10, 11). It’s where the Tower of Babel, the wellspring from which all idolatry and false religion started to flow. It’s where all misery began, even the rise of God’s peoples’ greatest enemies and the scene of the most brutal civilizations in human history, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, and the Medes. How ironic this place – this site – God posits his plans to begin the end of everything that raises its fists against him.
This army is like none other the world has ever seen, not simply because of its size, but because of its power to raze and kill. The Scripture says:
I heard the size of their army, which was 200 million mounted troops. And in my vision, I saw the horses and the riders sitting on them. The riders wore armor that was fiery red and dark blue and yellow. The horses had heads like lions, and fire and smoke and burning sulfur billowed from their mouths. One-third of all the people on earth were killed by these three plagues—by the fire and smoke and burning sulfur that came from the mouths of the horses. Their power was in their mouths and in their tails. For their tails had heads like snakes, with the power to injure people. But the people who did not die in these plagues still refused to repent of their evil deeds and turn to God. They continued to worship demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood—idols that can neither see nor hear nor walk! And they did not repent of their murders or their witchcraft or their sexual immorality or their thefts (Revelation 9:16-21).
This army is surely hellish in nature and seemingly both human and demonic. Perhaps it describes a military that is inspired and driven by demons – a cavalry of armed forces who belch out fire, smoke, and burning sulfur with all the characteristics of modern warfare. They may also utilize chemical warfare in the “plagues” they inflict.
The world has already seen something similar. The Nazis dragged almost the entire world into conflict in World War II. Nazi leadership was steeped in the practices of the Occult, and their troops were fueled by methamphetamine, better known as crystal meth – a perfect sorcerous concoction for demonic control and empowerment.
Still, a more literal interpretation is hardly out of the question and makes perfect sense. Clarence Larkin, in his commentary on Revelation, says:
Supernatural armies are not unknown to the Scriptures. Horses and a chariot of fire separated Elijah and Elisha on the day when Elijah was taken up by a whirlwind into heaven (2 Kings 2:11). When Dothan was besieged by the army of Syria, God opened the eyes of Elisha’s servant, and he saw the mountains around the city full of horses and chariots of fire (2 Kings 6:13-17). When the Lord Jesus Christ shall come to take "The Kingdom," he will be attended by the "Armies of Heaven," riding on "white horses.”
The final passages of Revelation 9 are enough to make any serious believer astonished and dismayed. After having suffered indescribably the ravages of war and holocaust, the Bible says people do not repent of their sins and turn to God. Instead, they double down in their defiance. They continue in their false religious practices, murdering and using sorcery (the Greek word is pharmakia – the same word for today’s use of drugs and an altered state of consciousness), sexual immorality, individual, corporate, and institutionalized thefts.
How sad is this description of unregenerate human nature! Unless an individual becomes humble as a small child and places his or her unsophisticated faith in Christ for the salvation of their soul, their heart only hardens with time against the Lord.
Hell is the place of unregenerate, spiritually dead souls – where Jesus said there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:28). The fires of hell are fed by the inordinate weeping of self-love and coarsened anger at God.
The Lord is exceedingly patient, full of grace and mercy, but there inevitably comes an hour, a day, a month when his judgment falls on the unrepentant.
How close are you to his judgment? How close is our nation? How close is the world?
No one knows except God. Yet, the clock is ticking. God’s forbearance is running out.© Rev. Mark H. Creech
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