Revelation 9:12-21 Part 1


1)    Then the fifth messenger trumpeted, and I saw a star having fallen from the heaven into the land, and the key of the shaft of the abyss was given to it.

2)    And the shaft of the abyss was opened, and smoke as smoke from a great furnace arose out of the shaft, and the sun and the atmosphere was darkened by the smoke from the shaft.

3)    Then locusts came forth into the land from the smoke; and power was given to them the same as the capabilities the scorpions of the land have.

4)    And it was said to them that they should do no harm to the grass of the land nor any green plant nor any tree, but only the men having no seal of God on their foreheads.

5)    And it was given to them that they not kill them but that they should be tormented five months, and their torment as the scorpion torments when it has stung a man.

6)    Then the men will seek the death in these days and will not find it; they will long to die, but the death flees from them.

7)    The appearances of the locusts like horses having been made ready into battle; upon their heads as crowns like gold; their faces as men’s faces;

8)    they had hair as women’s hair; their teeth were as lions’;

9)    they had breastplates as iron breastplates; the sound of their wings as chariot sound from many horses running into battle;

10) they have tails and stings like scorpions, their ability to harm the men five months in their tails.

11) For their ruler they have the messenger of the abyss, the Hebrew name: Abaddon, the Hellenic name being Apollyon.

12) The one woe did go forth.  Lo!  It comes yet two woes after this.

13) Then the sixth messenger trumpeted.  Then I heard one voice from the four corners of the altar of gold before God

14) saying to the sixth messenger having the trumpet, ‘loose the four messengers having been bound at the great river Euphrates’.

15) And the four messengers having been made ready into the hour and the day and the month and the year were loosed in order that they might kill the third of the men.

16) The number of the armies of horses: two myriads of myriads.  I heard their number.

17) And thus I saw in the appearance of the horses, and those who sit on them, having breastplates of fire and hyacinth and brimstone, the heads of the horses as lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulphur went forth out of their mouths.

18) From these three plagues, the fire and the smoke and the sulphur going forth from their mouths, the third of the men were killed,

19) for the ability of the horses is in their mouths; and in their tails, their tails like serpents having heads, they do harm.

20) And the rest of the men, those not killed in these plagues, neither repented of the works of their hands that they should not worship devils and idols of gold and silver and brass and stone and wood (which neither can see nor hear nor walk),

21) nor did they repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their fornications nor of their thefts.


In the readings from Isaiah last Lord’s Day, the woes are pronounced against Jerusalem and Judah and her sins against God.  But in the Revelation passage – chapters eight and nine and beyond – the sanctions are seen by John as being carried out as pronounced through the prophets!  That’s the difference. 

In the prophet Isaiah, the woes are pronounced by Yahveh against the nation because of its sins; in the Revelation, on the other hand, the woes are prosecuted by the Executor of the Covenant, and in such a way that taunts and mocks and scoffs at Israel’s brazen, fifteen-hundred-year insolence during which all her idolatries and adulteries mocked Triune God and His Word.

Israel has despised the “Holy One of Israel:  by her mocking idolatry and impiety; she has cursed and scoffed at His authority; she has given herself (and sold herself) to others (making herself beautiful and lifting her skirts to many); she has fashioned her own lifestyle behind His back; she has laid down her own rules for the household; she has mistreated the servants and left them impoverished, and she has persecuted and killed all who have called her to repentance. 

And now the newly-crowned King of Kings brings all the sanctions of the covenant against her… turning her mockery against her, tormenting her, divorcing her, and putting her to death as the Law requires.

He holds her in derision, which is a word found in Psalm two, as God turns her disdain for Him against her in the words of John’s Revelation here in chapters eight, nine and beyond.

And please remember that God the Son was (again) mocked by the priests and elders and lawyers of Israel as He hung on the cross.  And that mockery continued for the next forty years as these men pursued and persecuted and killed our Lord’s elect-from-the-house-of-Israel as they fled the land before His promised Parousia.

As we continue now from verse twelve, it says the “one woe did go forth…. Lo!  It comes yet two woes after this.”

There’s our little word “Lo” once again, indicating a major event of prophetic significance.  The Word of the Christ is now to continue to be filled up once again due to the appearance and sounding of the sixth trumpeter.

“One woe did go forth….”  Notice that “one woe” is the subject there.  It did “go forth”.  It is personified as that-which-is-taking-the-action!  The “one woe” is taking the action.  It is the Word of the Christ “going forth” as decreed.

Then, “Lo!  It comes yet two woes after this”.  “It” is singular; and “two woes” is plural.  (John’s grammar and syntax doesn’t follow our rules, does it?)  The Word of the Christ, the frightening sound of the trumpeting voice of God, “goes forth” once again as there are two woes yet decreed – and now to go forth.

Then the sixth messenger trumpeted, recalling the voice of God at Sinai when the trumpet sounded all day long, waxing louder and louder, bringing great fear into the hearts of God’s covenant people.  These seven trumpet sounds in the Revelation would have sounded long and loud as did that at Sinai; maybe much more so.  And they would have been much more terrifying as the sanctions of the covenant “did go forth” against this people.

After the sixth trumpeter sounded, John says that he heard one voice from the four corners of the golden altar (verse thirteen).

We’ve discussed several times how the tabernacle, revealed to Israel by God at Sinai, was to be in the likeness of His Throne-room and all His creation; with the twelve tribes of Israel positioned all around the tabernacle complex.

In between the entrance to the complex and the front entrance to the tabernacle proper was the “brazen altar” – also called the altar of whole burnt offering.  At this altar the blood of animals was spilled (the blood accumulating in a trench beneath-and-around the altar), some of which was sprinkled on the tabernacle and its implements.

All of this of course foreshadowed the shed blood of the coming Christ of God, without Whose Blood there was no access to God at His Throne-room/Judgment-seat.

Inside of the first “room” of the tabernacle (there were two rooms, remember) but inside of the first one were three objects – one of those was positioned right before the immense veil that separated this room from the “Holy of Holies” (the place God occupied over His cherubim).

That one object which was positioned just outside the veil is called the “Golden Altar”.  Overlaid with gold, it had four horns – one at each corner.  And some of the blood from the altar of whole burnt offering was taken inside that first room and put on those horns.

This golden altar was the object upon which was set the golden censer in which incense was burned – the smoke rising into the nostrils of God.  It represented the prayers of the people.  The blood of the sacrifice was required on the horns in order for God to be pleased with the prayers.  And Israel was to know that the shed blood of the coming sacrifice of God’s Anointed was here foreshadowed and prophesied.  His blood is that one “necessity” in order for prayer to be heard!

This is one of the reasons that I keep saying to you that the Bible is a Christian document from the beginning, for all Israel was to “faith” in the Christ (which is what Anointed One means); and she was to walk in piety and obedience before God as evidence of her faith.  That’s called “faithing”.  Piety and obedience is faithfulness!  And that’s what the covenant requires; and that’s what Christianity is!

And all Israel was to know that their prayers, mediated by the high priest, rose as a sweet-smelling sacrifice to the pleasure of God because of the blood on the horns of the altar!  That blood was the blood of the covenant – to be shed by the Anointed One to come.

That’s why all Israel was restricted from sacrificing in any other location, for only there was the blood by which God was pleased to hear the prayers of His people.  And let me make the point once again, that our prayers are a sweet-smelling sacrifice only by the blood of the Christ.  And prayers in any other name and for any other reason are a foul odor in the nostrils of God rather than a sweet-smelling scent.  And they are worthy only of the sanctions of the covenant rather than the blessings.

Anyway, that golden altar on which incense was burned was in the likeness of God’s heaven; and John sees the “original” – the one made without hands, in the heaven.  And he hears “one voice from the four corners of the altar of gold”.

While we’re here, please remember that at the loosing of the fifth seal, back in chapter six, John saw the blood pooled beneath and around the altar.  This was the blood of those of the 144,000 of Christ’s sealed-and-marked elect of the house of Israel who had been persecuted and slain for the Word of God and their witness to the Christ.  And they cried out with a loud voice, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before You will judge and avenge our blood on those dwelling in the land?"

Then this is what John saw and heard regarding these martyrs in chapter eight:


3)    Then another messenger did come, and he was poised before the altar having the golden censer.  And much incense was given to him in order that he would present the prayers of all the holy ones before the golden altar in front of the throne.

4)    And the smoke of the incense with the prayers of the holy ones arose before God out of the hand of the messenger.

5)    Then the messenger took the censer and filled it from the fire of the altar of whole burnt offering and poured into the land.  And there were thunders and sounds and lightnings and shaking.

6)    And the seven messengers having the seven trumpets prepared themselves that they might trumpet.


This was the “messenger of another kind” – it was the Christ in His appearance as Archangel Michael presenting these martyrs’ imprecatory prayers at the Golden Altar.  Then He fills the censer from off the golden altar with the coals of fire beneath the throne of God and pours it into the land, upon which time John saw the seven messengers prepare to trumpet!

Now, it would be very difficult to “miss” what John sees and hears here.  At the altar of incense, where the Christ presents the prayers of those who had been martyred for His Name (the prayers being those for God’s revenge – i.e. imprecatory prayers); then the Christ pouring out that revenge upon the land (all of it worse than that upon Sodom and Gomorrah), using the incense censer from the golden altar … what could be more clear?

And here in our text, the “voice” – the ONE voice – coming from the “horns” of that golden altar – the very place where His blood was smeared.  It is obviously the voice of the One with all authority in the heavens and upon the earth, for He now issues commands to His created beings, all of which obey Him.

He is the One without Whom nothing was made that was made.  So all these creatures that He’s now commanding were made by Him.  His is the “voice” of absolute authority.

And His is the blood shed for many; and His is the blood on the horns of the altar.  He is the One Who received the prayers of His martyrs for revenge; He is the One Who offered those prayers from His Own hands; and it is His Voice Who called out for the rage of Almighty God the Father upon His enemies.

Let’s take a minute or two to read that.  It’s found in Psalm 69.  Listen:


19) You know the insults I endure – my shame and disgrace.  You are aware of all my adversaries.

20) Insults have broken my heart, and I am in despair. I waited for sympathy, but there was none; for comforters, but found no one.

21) Instead, they gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

22) Let their table set before them be a snare, and let it be a trap for [their] allies.

23) Let their eyes grow too dim to see, and let their loins continually shake.

24) Pour out Your rage on them, and let Your burning anger overtake them.

25) Make their fortification desolate; may no one live in their tents.

26) For they persecute the one You struck and talk about the pain of those You wounded.

27) Add guilt to their guilt; do not let them share in Your righteousness.

28) Let them be erased from the book of life and not be recorded with the righteous.


So the “voice” – the Word of the Christ is recorded by the psalmist a thousand years before His birth.  And it is an imprecatory prayer for the Father’s revenge.  And now, here in the Revelation, the One Whose blood is smeared on the horns of the golden altar has presented the prayers of His people… those persecuted for His Name.  And their prayers are the same.  As the Word of the Christ prayed in the Psalm, so the blood of His people raise their voices for the revenge promised.  It was promised in the Psalm, and it was promised by Jesus in His Olivet Discourse in Matthew twenty-four.

The Christ of God has poured out the rage from under the Throne; and it is coals of fire and sulphur and brimstone… far worse than anything previous, nor shall there ever be.

And as the voice from the four horns of the golden altar speaks, He commands His creatures, for two woes are yet to “go forth”.  Five have preceded; and now the sixth trumpeter sounds.  And the hair-raising, bone-chilling sound of the trumpeting voice of God, sounding long and loud and horrible, trumpets that which is to occur quickly.

Now let’s go to verse fourteen.  And here’s where we need to spend some time this morning in Biblical history and that history’s geography.

We time-limited creatures tend to understand things as we see them and not as they once were.  And we hardly have any concept at all of things that now exist but at one time did not – or of things that don’t exist now, but once did!  A couple of recent examples might prove helpful.

I remember our family getting our first telephone that didn’t have to be cranked!  What a wonder it was.  You just picked up the hand-set; and if nobody was talking, an operator would ask you for the number you wanted to be connected to.  Our number was 2424R (I still remember it).

I also remember, vividly, the first TV I ever saw.  It was in the window of a Sears and Roebuck store.

And later on I recall the excitement about a new oven that could heat liquids, or even food, in just a few seconds!

For those more recently born, the first computer I heard about covered an entire wall in a scientific laboratory somewhere.  It could do complex mathematical calculations.  The first table-top I ever saw I was already into my 40s; and I didn’t have one until I was well into my 50s!

Now, this isn’t a time for reminiscing, but only for the purpose of illustrating how complex it is to have a mental picture of that which once was, while observing what now is!  We are somehow “slaved” to the present, that is – unless we purpose to learn history and its geography.

Biblical history and geography are really important to us… at least it should be; because, not only should the Bible be read and understood in its context, but there are many things in it that can’t be understood at all unless we do.

When present day Israel was formed as a country, I was only a boy.   And it looks much the same today as it did then (with a few exceptions – those exceptions being territory that was lost and recaptured in wars, and territories that have been given away to appease Islamists).

But this is the Israel that I’ve always known, and that you’ve always known… just a little strip of land – just a “dot”, really, on a map of the Middle East – bordering the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea.  And a billion Islamists now bordering it on three sides, having fought over it, winning it and losing it numbers of times since Islam’s inception in about 630AD, and now threatening it once again with extinction… and the whole time Israel never became a Jewish state again!  Not until recently, anyway.

All that to say that, unless we’re familiar with the history and geography of the original Israel, we can’t understand the Bible’s context by what we see there now.  We’re familiar with it as it now exists (we’ve got the maps and TV); and we can’t conceive of it as it existed before.  It’s just not there in our recollection.

Verse fourteen is a prime example of the futility that exists in trying to understand God’s Word without knowing the history and geography.  And, of course, that’s led to more imagination and speculation with the text of the Revelation… something that we must avoid.

I’m going to read for you now several passages of Scripture having to do with Israel’s history and geography in order to place verse fourteen into its proper context.  And while I’m reading, you see if the “light” comes on.

The first one is one that we’ve read already regarding God’s covenant with Abram.  At that point we were linking our text with the great furnace and the smoke and the darkness that appeared at the cutting of the covenant of life and death.  Here it is from Genesis chapter fifteen:


12) As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And Lo, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him.

13) Then the LORD said to Abram, "Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.

14) But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve; and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

15) As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age.

16) And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites (i.e. Canaanites) is not yet filled up."

17) When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking furnace and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.

18) On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your offspring I give this land, from the wadi of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.


Now, this next passage has to do with the end of Jacob’s twenty years of servitude to Laban in order to take Rachel as his wife and bring her back to the land of his father Isaac.  The land, of course, is that promised to Abram and his offspring.  Listen:


17) So Jacob arose and set his sons and his wives on camels.

18) He drove away all his livestock, all his property that he had gained, the livestock in his possession that he had acquired in Paddan-aram, to go to the land of Canaan to his father Isaac.

19) Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole her father’s household idols.

20) Jacob had tricked Laban the Aramean by not telling him that he intended to flee.

21) He fled with all that he had and arose and crossed the Euphrates, and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead.


Note, please, that the term “Gilead” then referred to the heights to the East of the Jordan River now located in Syria and extending southward!  So Jacob went South after crossing the Euphrates, and set his face toward Gilead.

Now.  Here’s Moses, at the beginning of Deuteronomy, giving Israel God’s decree with regard to the land.  This is from chapter one:


Moses undertook to explain this law, saying,

6)    "The LORD our God said to us in Horeb (i.e. Sinai) 'You have stayed long enough at this mountain.

7)    Turn and take your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negeb and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates.

8)    See, I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them.'


And Moses again in Deuteronomy chapter eleven:


22) For if you will be careful to do all this commandment that I command you to do, loving Yahveh your God, walking in all his ways, and holding fast to him,

23) then Yahveh will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves.

24) Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours. Your territory shall be from the wilderness to the Lebanon and from the river, the river Euphrates, to the western sea.

25) No one shall be able to stand against you. Yahveh your God will lay the fear of you and the dread of you on all the land that you shall tread, as he promised you.


From the wilderness (the Sinai desert) all the way North to the Euphrates!

In First Kings, King David restored his power all the way north to the Euphrates.  And later the Scripture says that his son Solomon ruled from the border of Egypt all the way to the Euphrates.

In the Word of God through the prophet Isaiah, all Israel will be a great threshing floor in the Day of the Lord.  And then the trumpet will blow and all His elect that were lost in the nations will be brought once again to the New Jerusalem to worship Yahveh in His Holy Temple.  Listen to it, for the borders of the original Israel are mentioned here:


12) In that day from the river Euphrates to the Brook (i.e. wadi) of Egypt Yahveh will thresh out the grain, and you will be gleaned one by one, O people of Israel.

13) And in that day a great trumpet will be blown; and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship Yahveh on the holy mountain at Jerusalem.


So, the four corners of “the land” are described in Scripture as being all that territory between the “brook” of Egypt (that flow of water in the wadi that empties into the Red Sea from the Mediterranean, and then flows south from there), all the way to the Euphrates River in the north!  The Euphrates, flowing from West to East, separating the northern third of (what is now) Syria from its southern two thirds, was the border of Israel to the North!

That’s the “threshing floor” of God in the last days, when our Lord’s people are “gleaned” one by one – gleaned from the four corners of His field.

Listen again to the prophet John the baptizer as he spoke to the Pharisees of Israel:


11) "I baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is Mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you in Holy Spirit and fire.

12) His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor and gather His wheat into the barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire."


The sixth messenger has trumpeted the voice of God, the one voice from the four corners of the golden altar says to the messenger which has just trumpeted:


“loose the four messengers having been bound at the great river Euphrates”.


The One Whose blood is smeared on the horns of the four corners of that golden altar commands His created beings regarding the entirety of Israel.  The “winnowing fork” is in His hand; and He’s separating each and every grain of wheat – gleaning from all the corners – storing each grain from harm, and preparing all the chaff for burning.

And there are four messengers from the north (very important for the rest of the Revelation), having already been positioned there, waiting for the one “voice” from the golden altar; for that One Whose blood is on the horns of the four corners has presented the imprecatory prayers of His persecuted people before the Father.  And His field has been gleaned and the chaff ready to be burned.

He promised His apostles that many of His sealed and marked ones would be pursued and persecuted and killed; and that the blood of all the righteous from Abel to Zachariah would be laid to the account of the persecutors.

And now the four messengers standing ready at the northern border of Israel are commanded to be loosed.

Finally, let me read for you what Isaiah prophesies concerning the Lord’s grain – after the chaff has been burned.  The grain, of course, is the remnant of Israel which has been marked out and rescued before the last day.  Here’s some readings from Isaiah chapter eleven.  And listen for the remnant of the twelve tribes from the four corners of the land and how they will now live together under the banner of “root and branch of Jesse”.  Here it is:


10) On that day the root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples.  The nations (tribes of Israel) will seek Him, and His resting place will be glorious.

11) On that day Yahveh will [extend] His hand a second time to recover—from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and the coasts and islands of the west—the remnant of His people who survive.

12) He will lift up a banner for the nations (tribes) and gather the dispersed of Israel; He will collect the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the land.

13) Ephraim's envy will cease; Judah's harassment will end.  Ephraim will no longer be envious of Judah, and Judah will not harass Ephraim.


15) Yahveh will divide the Gulf of Suez (the Red Sea) He will wave His hand over the Euphrates with His mighty wind and will split it into seven streams, letting people walk through on foot.

16) There will be a highway for the remnant of His people who will survive from Assyria, as there was for Israel when they came up from the land of Egypt.


6)    The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the goat.  The calf, the young lion, and the fatling will be together, and a child will lead them.

7)    The cow and the bear will graze, their young ones will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like an ox.

8)    An infant will play beside the cobra's pit, and a toddler will put his hand into a snake's den.

9)    No one will harm or destroy on My entire holy mountain, for the land will be as full of the knowledge of Yahveh as the sea is filled with water.


Next Lord’s Day we’ll begin with the loosing of the four messengers having been made ready at the great river Euphrates.