Saturday, 16 January 2021
saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” Revelation 9:14
The words now come from the “voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,” as was presented in the previous verse. The sixth angel just sounded, and now that voice speaks “to the sixth angel who had the trumpet.” As noted in a previous commentary, the word angel signifies a messenger. Of the various views concerning who these angels are, one is that they represent the “seven Spirits of God” seen in Revelation 1:4, 3:1, and 4:5. If so, this is the Lord speaking as the Mediator of God’s people now relaying the directive.
If such is the case, this doesn’t mean the Lord has multiple personalities. Rather, it would simply be the word revealing the many roles of the Lord in a way that we can understand. Regardless of this, the words say, “Release the four angels.”
The number four, though already explained, should again be defined here –
“Now the number four is made up of three and one (3+1=4), and it denotes, therefore, and marks that which follows the revelation of God, namely, His creative works. He is known by the things that are seen. Hence the written revelation commences with the words, ‘In-the-beginning God CREATED.’ Creation is therefore the next thing—the fourth thing, and the number four always has reference to all that is created. It is emphatically the number of Creation; of man in his relation to the world as created; while six is the number of man in his opposition to and independence of God. It is the number of things that have a beginning, of things that are made, of material things, and matter itself. It is the number of material completeness. Hence it is the world number, and especially the ‘city’ number.” EW Bullinger
The main aspect of focus here is the thought, “of man in relation to the world as created.” The world as created, and as it is being revealed now in Revelation, is focused on Israel. They are being brought through the tribulation to the point where they will call out to Christ. This is the purpose of their final seven years under the law. It is to bring them from the Mosaic Covenant to the New Covenant (as defined in Daniel 9:24-27). Understanding this, these angels are representative of the forces of man. They are to be released, allowing the great army to come against Israel. John says they are those “who are bound at the great river Euphrates.”
One must understand the biblical significance of the Euphrates in order to understand why it is even mentioned. It is the outermost point of the land promised to Abraham –
“To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” Genesis 15:18-21
It is the outermost point of the land held during the reign of Solomon (called “the River”), typical of the ideal that is anticipated in the millennial reign of Christ –
“Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and rejoicing. 21 So Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.” 1 Kings 4:20, 21
Beyond this river, and since the earliest times, this area has been in a state of war – physically and spiritually – against the forces of goodness.
The boundaries began at the time of Cain when he dwelt “in the land east of Eden.” The two highlighted cites of the Bible are Jerusalem – the city of peace and the place where God dwells, and Babylon – the city of confusion and where wickedness dwells. In Genesis 14, the four kings of the area around the Euphrates come against five kings dwelling in the land of Canaan.
Later in the Bible, the king of Assyria is called the “rod” of God’s anger (Isaiah 10:5) and is used as God’s judgment against the northern tribes of Israel, carrying them away captive in 722 B.C. After that, the king of Babylon is used as God’s judgment against the southern land of Judah, carrying them away in 586 B.C. In Jeremiah, Babylon is called “the hammer of all the earth.” Jeremiah, writing in Habakkuk asks the question –
Why do You look on those who deal treacherously,
And hold Your tongue when the wicked devours
A person more righteous than he? Habakkuk 1:13
For a further analysis of this border, Vincent’s Word Studies says –
“The Euphrates was known as the great River, the River, the Flood. It rises in the mountains of Armenia, breaks through the Taurus range and runs south and southeast until it joins the Tigris in lower Babylonia[.] Its total length is from 1,600 to 1,800 miles, and it is navigable for small craft twelve hundred miles from its mouth. It was the boundary-line of Israel on the northeast (Genesis 15:18; Deuteronomy 1:7; Joshua 1:4. Compare 2 Samuel 8:3-8; 1 Kings 4:21). It thus formed the natural defense of the chosen people against the armies of Assyria. The melting of the mountain snows causes an annual flood, beginning in March and increasing until May. These floods became an emblem of the judgments inflicted by God upon Israel by means of Babylon and Assyria. The brook of Shiloah which flowed past Zion and Moriah was a type of the temple and of its mighty and gracious Lord; and the refusal of allegiance to God by the chosen people is represented as their rejection of the waters of Shiloah which flows softly, and their punishment therefor by the bringing in of the waters of the mighty and great river (Isaiah 8:5-8; compare Jeremiah 17:13). To the prophets the Euphrates was the symbol of all that was disastrous in the divine judgments.”
Understanding the symbolism of this great river, one could stop right here and exclaim, “Disaster is coming.” And indeed, the verses ahead will reflect just this. The nations are coming against Israel because Israel has not yet come to Christ.
Life application: God has used the unrighteous to bring about His purposes against His people and to bring about His plans in a way that demonstrates His sovereignty over all creation. Nothing happens apart from the sovereign decisions of God – including the great battle to come in the judgment of the sixth trumpet.
As you read your Bible, look to the geography of the lands and see how God is using real locations to make spiritual applications. By understanding these things, your knowledge of world events will certainly be increased. But more, in every such description, you will also better understand the ongoing redemptive narrative. It is a narrative laid out by God with the intent of bringing man back to Himself. And He is doing this through His Son, our Lord JESUS!
O God, Your word is beyond compare. It is beautiful in all it teaches. Every time we look into it, we can be more amazed at the complexity and beauty of how it is arranged. Every time we think we have a full understanding of all it contains, we will inevitably find ourselves realizing that it is far deeper and more glorious than we had previously imagined. Time and again, we realize what a treasure Your word is. Thank you for this precious and sacred word. Amen.