Sunday, 17 January 2021
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. Revelation 9:15
The words here are in response to the voice from the horns of the golden altar commanding the four angels who are bound at the great Euphrates to be released. That response is now noted by John, saying, “So the four angels, who had been prepared.” As seen in the previous commentary, these four angels are representative of the great army that will come against Israel. They have been restrained and now are to be released. With that stated, John continues recording the voice he has heard. It says, “for the hour and day and month and year.”
The translation is correct, improving upon the failed KJV which says, “an hour and day and month and year.” By neglecting to translate the definite article, the KJV makes the thought cumulative. Rather, the words speak of a set and particular time that was predetermined all along. Some translations make it even clearer by using the word “this.” In essence, “they are prepared for this particular day out of all others in recorded history.”
If this is referring to the battle of Gog/Magog of Ezekiel 38/39 (this is only speculation), then the precise timing of John’s words can be matched with the precise wording of Ezekiel –
“Thus says the Lord God: ‘Are you he of whom I have spoken in former days by My servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied for years in those days that I would bring you against them?’” Ezekiel 38:17
The prophets who prophesied did so because the future is determined. Thus, what they anticipated is set, sure, and will come to pass. This is exactly as they had spoken. The thoughts of verses coincide, calling out for the moment John is carefully describing.
John then finishes by noting that they “were released to kill a third of mankind.” The aorist verb “were released” defines the thought of the set date. Though John wrote the words of Revelation over 2000 years ago, he wrote it as if the battle has already been waged. In his vision, the angels were released at the set moment and they have been released to kill one-third of the people.
The set number, “a third of mankind,” must be viewed as an unknown at this point. Is it speaking of one-third of all humanity on the planet? Probably not. Is it speaking of one-third of the people of Israel? It is possible. Zechariah, prophesying of the future tribulation period, says –
“‘And it shall come to pass in all the land,’
Says the Lord,
‘That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die,
But one-third shall be left in it:’” Zechariah 13:8
If this is one-third of the people of Israel, then it would mean a portion of that two-thirds is realized in this battle. Or it could be that it is speaking of one-third of all in the battle – on both sides. If this is the case, then it could be that far fewer of Israel will be killed in this particular passage.
In other words, if this is the same battle as mentioned in Ezekiel 38/39 (a possibility), it says there that almost the entire invading army will be completely destroyed (see Ezekiel 38:18-23 and Ezekiel 39:1-5). Thus, if one-third of all dies in the battle, and almost all the invading enemy is destroyed, it would mean a much smaller portion of the people of Israel would be killed.
Until the events actually come to pass, it is hard to be dogmatic. However, the words of Revelation 9:20, 21 would be easily explained by such a lopsided win. Little Israel, destroying such a vast invading army, would naturally feel superior and in no need of turning from their wickedness. Repentance comes through humility, and humility comes through defeat, not victory.
Life application: No matter how the numbers are divided, the statement “a third of mankind” means that the number of dead will be immense. In Ecclesiastes 3:1, we read these words –
“To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven.”
And in Acts 1:7 when asked about the coming kingdom, Jesus told His disciples –
“It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”
God has everything under His control, and this includes the resulting destruction of the great battles that lay ahead. These four angels have been prepared, and “they were released.” It is done in God’s mind. There is a logical progression to all things, and God knew before He created anything what that progression would be. All things are according to His purposes and we are merely participants in His great unfolding plan for the ages. We need not get concerned about the things that are ahead because God is completely in control of them.
And for those who have called on Him, His promises hold fast. No matter what comes, be it in life or death or in trials or ease, nothing can remove us from His powerful grasp. So, if the events of Revelation seem terrifying, just trust that God already knows His good plans and purposes for you. If you have called out to God through the gospel of Jesus Christ, there is the anticipation of eternal joy in His presence. Whatever evils come in this lifetime are fleeting in comparison. Be sure to accept the gospel by trusting in what God has done through the giving of JESUS!
Heavenly Father, when we see that You already know the future, it gives us great comfort. Even if things are troublesome in our own lives, we can be certain that these things will never spin out of Your control. And we can certainly know that all of our trials are being worked out for our good and for Your glory. Because of this, we can shout “Hallelujah!” Amen.