The Messianic Judgments, 6:1-16:21
2. The judgment of the seven trumpets, 8:6-11:18
iii] Sounding the sixth trumpetSynopsis
The day of judgment continues to unfold with the sounding of the sixth trumpet and the outpouring of the second woe. From the horns on the altar that stands before the throne of God, an order is given to the angel with the sixth trumpet that he should release the four angels bound for the terrible day of judgment. On their release, a demonic cavalry set out to destroy a third of humanity. Even in the face of such horror, those not killed by the demonic cavalry still do not repent of their sin.
The kingdom of God is at hand, the Great Day of the Lord, the day of judgment, is upon us, and yet, we do not repent!
i] Context: See 8:6-13.
ii] Background: See 1:1-8.
iii] Structure: Sounding the sixth trumpet:
The three woes, 8:13.
The second woe:
The sixth trumpet is sounded, v13;
The release of the four angels, v14-16;
Description of the demonic cavalry, v17-19;
The people's hardness of heart, v20-21:
And "still they did not repent."
The mighty Euphrates river runs from Northern Syria down to the Persian Gulf. The river serves as a natural demarcation line between ancient Israel to the West of the river and her enemies to the East. The four angels represent these traditional enemies who have at times plundered Israel, enemies like Syria (John is not alluding to four particular enemies). There is a sense where they are restrained, kept bound to the East of the river, but now, on the Great Day of the Lord, they are released in full force to cross the river in order to plunder and destroy. As with the locusts, John probably wants us to view this plague of cavalry as a demonic hoard, so Koester. As is typical of the progressive unfolding of the day of judgment, the demonic locusts may torment, but the demonic cavalry kills a third of mankind "by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths."
John observes that in the face of this horror, those not killed by the demonic cavalry still do not repent, but rather keep on with their idolatry, murder, fornication and theft. John may well be referring to godless humanity, in particular, the persecutors of the church. As the vibrations of the Great Day reach the church today, we are aware, as John was aware in his day, of a growing resistance to the gospel within secular society. Yet, as Jesus noted of his generation, the people of Israel are like fickle children trying to settle on a game to play. Neither the bad news game of doom, nor the good news game of blessing, prompts repentance, cf., Matt:11:16-19. If we assume that John's prophecy is directed to the Christian fellowship, with particular reference to those members who have moved from the apostolic gospel toward heretical doctrines, secular mores, or societal shibboleths, then John may well have in mind hard-nosed church members.
It was quite startling to note, that during the recent plebiscite on gay marriage in Australia, a number of clergy argued against Jesus who taught that marriage is the union of a man and a woman under God. In Western societies today the pressure to identify with the shibboleths of the day is very strong, and once in the push it is near impossible to escape. "The remaining men and women who weren't killed by these weapons went on their merry way - didn't change their way of life", Peterson, v20.
Text - 9:13
Sounding the sixth trumpet - the second woe, 9:13-21: i] The judgment of the sixth trumpet begins, so building on the previous judgments toward an ever increasing catastrophe. In the Jerusalem temple there are two altars, one for sacrifice situated in the outer courtyard, and one for incense found in the tabernacle. John seems to combine both, placing the altar in front of the throne of God in the heavenly sanctuary. In Jewish tradition, altars have horns on each corner, but John may just be referring to the altar's four corners. Note that tessarwn, "four", is a variant reading, not read by the NIV, but included in the NIV11. It is unlikely that the horns speak, none-the-less, John's visions do stretch reality. The speaker may well be the angel who serves at the altar, 8:3, 14:13, but it is likely that voices from heaven, altar or otherwise, are intended to be divine in origin.
kai "-" - and [the sixth angel trumpeted]. Transitional. Here used instead of de to indicate a step in the argument.
ek + gen. "coming from" - [and i heard one voice] from. Expressing source / origin. The adjective mian, "one [voice]", serves as an article.
tou qusiasthriou (on) gen. "of the [golden] altar" - [the four horns / wings / flanks = corners] of the altar. The NIV has taken the genitive as adjectival, partitive, but possibly possessive, "the altar's four corners."
tou crusou gen. adj. "golden" - of gold. The articular adjective serves as a substantive, the genitive being adjectival, attributive / idiomatic / material, "the altar which is made of gold."
tou gen. art. "that is [before God]" - the [before the god]. The article serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase "before God" into an attributive adjective limiting "the altar of gold"; "the altar ... which is before God." "God", tou qeou, is genitive after the preposition enwpion, "before". "The golden altar which stands right opposite the throne of God."
ii] The release of the four angels, v14-16. The sixth angel receives an order from the altar (a divine source!) to release the four angels of judgment presently under divine restraint. Set free to do their worst, they raise an army of the worst kind, cavalry, numbered in the millions. A first century reader would well remember Rome's defeat at the hands of the Parthians, let alone Israel's struggle with invading armies from the East.
legonta (legw) pres. part. "It said" - saying. The participle technically serves as the complement of the direct object "voice" of the verb "I heard" standing in a double accusative construction. As already noted, the use of the participle "saying" evidences Semitic idiom and is commonly used by John to introduce direct, or indirect, speech: See legwn 1:17. It is not as redundant as the Synoptic complementary construction "he answered saying" = "he answered and said", but it moves in that direction. In the end, when it comes to the use of the participle before direct speech, it is more a matter of style than substance - note that it does not agree in person with "voice". The ESV stays with the Gk., "I heard a voice ........ saying to the sixth angel ...", but some translations ignore it altogether, so Barclay, others rework it as a finite verb, as NIV, eg., "The voice spoke to this angel and said", CEV, "And this is what the voice said to the sixth angel who stood there with his trumpet", Cassirer. See econtaV, v17.
tw/ ... aggelw/ (oV) dat. "to the [sixth] angel" - Dative of indirect object.
oJ ecwn (ecw) pres. part. "who had [the trumpet]" - having [the trumpet]. The NIV treats the participle as adjectival, attributive, limiting "angel", although "angel" is dative and the participle "having" is nominative. We may classify this as a solecism, a grammatical mistake, although Mathewson suggests that the participle serves as a substantive in a parenthetical construction; "saying to the sixth angel (the one who had the trumpet), release the four angels." John is very flexible in the way he uses participles, particularly "having", cf., 1:16.
touV dedemenouV (dew) perf. mid./pas. part. "who are bound" - [release the four angels] having been bound. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "angels". John specifies "the four angels" with an article, touV. It seems unlikely that he is relating them to the four angels who hold back the four winds; maybe his readers know of these four angels. Note that the passive is probably a divine passive; God does the restraining.
epi + dat. "at [the great river Euphrates]" - John's favorite spacial preposition, used to express "on / upon", but sometimes with the sense of "near / at" when followed by a genitive or a dative.
oiJ hJtoimasmenoi (eJtoimazw) perf. mid./pas. part. "who had been kept ready" - [and the four angels] having been bound [for the hour, and day and month and year were released]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "angels", as NIV.
eiV + acc. "for [this very hour]" - to [the hour and day and month and year]. Here expressing goal / end view, "destined for / with a view to"; "they were held in readiness for this very hour", Cassirer. All part of God's eternal plan!
iJna + subj. "to [kill]" - that [they may kill]. Here introducing a final clause expressing purpose, "in order to kill." The verb apokteinwsin, "they may kill", in form is either aorist or present, but probably a punctiliar aorist is intended.
twn anqrwpwn (oV) gen. "[a third] of mankind" - [a third part] of men. The genitive is adjectival, partitive; "they were set loose to kill a third of the human race." John again reminds us of the unfolding horror of the Great Day of the Lord. In 6:8 a quarter of humanity died, here a third die.
twn strateumatwn (a atoV) gen. "[the number] of [mounted] troops" - [and the number] of soldiers [of the army]. The genitive is probably not adverbial / measure, quantity, as suggested by Aune, possibly verbal, objective, as suggested by Mathewson, "the soldiers are numbered", or even adjectival, partitive / wholative. "The cavalry numbered twice ten thousand times ten thousand."
tou ippikou (oV) "mounted" - of horsemen [was twice ten thousand times ten thousand]. The NIV treats this genitive as adjectival, attributive, limiting "army"; "horsemen army" = "mounted troops" = "cavalry".
autwn gen. pro. "[I heard] their [number]" - [i heard the number] of them. The genitive here is usually classified as verbal, objective, ie., they were numbered, but it can also be treated adjectival, possessive, expressing a derivative characteristic. "I heard the count of the cavalry in my vision and it added up to two hundred million." Note the verb "I heard" can be followed by either an accusative, or a genitive; here it takes an accusative object.
iii] The description of the demonic cavalry, v17-19. John's description of the cavalry emphasizes the horrible. Fire breathing monsters were not common in Jewish mythology, but there are some references, cf., Job 41 where Leviathan belches out torches and sparks. Such monsters were common in Graeco-Roman literature, eg., the Chimaera. Although John mentions the riders, his focus is on the horses, so much so that his description of the breastplates is probably for those worn by the horses. Note Deut.29:23, Isa.34:9-10, Ezk.38:22, for the combination of fire, brimstone, and at times, smoke. The damage caused by the cavalry is a step up from the locusts, and the judgment of the trumpets (a third of mankind dies) is a step up from the judgment of the seals (a quarter of mankind dies) - the day of judgment progressively escalates.
kai ... eidon "I saw" - and [thus] i saw [the horses in the vision]. John uses this phrase to introduce a vision; "And this is what I saw ...."
touV kaqhmenouV (kaqhmai) pres. mid. part. "riders" - [and] the ones sitting [upon them]. The participle serves as a substantive.
en + dat. "in [my vision]" - in [the vision]. The preposition here is adverbial, modal, expressing manner.
ouJtwV adv. "looked like this" - [i saw] thus. Here this demonstrative adverb references what follows, usually with a modal (manner) sense; "in my vision the horses and their riders looked this way (thus = like this)", Berkeley.
econtaV (ecw) pres. part. "[their breastplates] were [fiery red]" - having [breastplates fiery (= red), and hyacinth (= blue), and sulfur (= yellow). Technically the participle may be classified as the complement of the direct object "the horses ...", of the verb "I saw", standing in a double accusative construction. As a matter of form (a Semitism??) John seems to introduce his visions - what he hears, or what he sees - with a participle, as if introducing a dependent statement of perception; "I heard .... and it/he said ..", "I saw .... and it had etc., ..." "The riders were wearing breastplates of flame color, blue and sulphur yellow", Barclay. John may be describing the breastplates worn by the horses, rather than the riders (commentators divide on the issue). The word uJakinqinouV, "dark blue", was used of a number of flowers and precious stones, so it is unclear what color John has in mind. Most translations opt for sapphire, a dark blue stone, given that red, blue and yellow aligns with what belches forth from the horses, namely, fire, smoke and brimstone (sulphur).
twn iJppwn (oV) gen. "[the heads] of the horses" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive or possessive.
wJV "resembled" - were as, like. Comparative.
leontwn (wn ontoV) gen. "[the heads] of lions" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive, or possessive.
ek + gen. "out of [their mouth]" - [and] from [the mouths of them goes out fire and smoke and sulphur]. Expressing source / origin. In typical form the verb ekporeuetai, "goes out", is singular with "fire", singular, even though more than fire comes out of the horses mouths.
twn anqrwpwn (oV) gen. "[a third] of mankind" - [from =by these three plagues were killed the third] of men. The genitive is adjectival, partitive; "the third part of men."
apo + gen. "by [the three plagues]" - Probably here expressing agency; used instead of uJpo.
ek + gen. "of [fire]" - from [the fire and the smoke and the sulphur]. Instrumental use of the preposition serving to express means; "by fire, smoke and sulphur."
tou ekporeuomenou (ekporeuomai) gen. pres. mid. part. "that came out" - coming out. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "fire, smoke and sulphur", "which came out of their mouths."
ek + gen. "of [their mouths]" - from [the mouth of them]. Expressing source / origin. Somewhat redundant given the ek prefix of the participle "coming out of", but reflecting common style.
gar "-" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the horses were able to kill a third of mankind; "because the power of ....."
twn ippwn (oV) gen. "[the power] of the horses" - [the authority / power] of the horses. The genitive is usually taken as verbal, subjective, "the power exercised by the horses ...", but adjectival, possessive may well be in John's mind, "the power possessed by the horses; "for the horse's power lies in their mouth and in their tails", Berkeley.
en + dat. "[was] in" - [is] in [the mouths of them]. Local, expressing space. "The power of the horses resides in their mouths", Cassirer.
kai "and [in their tails]" - and [in the tails of them]. Probably adjunctive; "and also." The power of these horses is not just in their mouths, but also in their tails, for their tails were like snakes .....
gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why the horses possess deadly power in their tails.
oJmoiai adj. + dat. "were like" - are like [serpents]. Comparative adjective with the dative complement ofesin, "serpent, snake."
ecousai (ecw) pres. part. "having [heads]" - The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "serpents". "They are like serpents with heads", Phillips.
en + dat. "with [which they inflict injury]" - in [them they do harm]. Instrumental use of the preposition expressing means; "by means of." The antecedent of autaiV, "them", is unclear, either the tails, or the heads, or both do harm; "Their tails were like poisonous snakes that bite and hurt", CEV.
iv] The people's hardness of heart, v20-21. Paul's key argument to the Corinthian believers, those who were participating in pagan / cultic celebrations (building bridges to unbelievers???), was that although the idol was nothing more than gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood, there were demonic powers behind the so-called no-gods, cf., 1Cor.10:20. Lost humanity cannot help but worship the power of the secular city / Babylon, indulge in its "magic arts" and "sexual immorality." In the letters to the seven churches, John exposes the tendency of believers to drift from Zion toward Babylon and so, in Christ's name, he calls on them to repent, for it is only those who conquer, those who persevere in faith, who will gain entry to the eternal city. In the last day, stubborn resistance to repentance will be the norm, not just for the lost, but also for those who have drifted in their faith.
kai "-" - and. As in v13.
twn anqrwpwn (oV) gen. "[the rest] of mankind" - [the ones remaining] of the men. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.
oi} pro. "who [were not killed]" - The pronoun serves as the subject of the verb "to kill", but of course, given that the accents are a later addition to the text, it may have been an article giving the sense "the ones not killed by the blows ("this fearful destruction", Phillips)", so serving as a substantive standing in apposition to "the men."
en + dat. "by [these plagues]" - in [these wounds, blows, plagues]. Instrumental use of the preposition expressing means, as NIV.
oude "[did] not [repent]" - Here used as an emphatic negation.
ek + gen. "from" - of [the works]. Expressing separation, "repent" in the sense of turning away from.
twn ceirwn (r roV) gen. "of [their] hands" - of the hands [of them]. The genitive is usually treated as verbal, subjective; "things which they had made with their own hands", Cassirer. Often taken as Semitic idiom referring to the creation of idols, "the god's their hands had made", REB, cf. Psalm 135:15, Isa.2:8,17:8, Dn.5:4.
iJna + fut. "[they did not stop worshipping]" - that [they shall not worship demons]. John again uses a future tense instead of the expected subjunctive with hina. Serving to introduce a consecutive clause expressing result; "the rest of mankind ..... did not repent of the work of their hands and so as a result they did not stop worshiping ......". "They did not renounce so they did not stop", Smalley.
kai "and [idols]" - The conjunction here may be epexegetic; "they did not stop worshipping demons, that is, idols." The modifying adjectives, "golden, silver, ......." identify the material used to construct the idol, "idols which are made out of gold .......", cf., Dan.5:4.
blepein (blepw) pres. inf. "[idols that cannot] see" - [which neither are able] to see. As with "to hear", and "to walk", the infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "is able."
oute ... oute .... oute "or .... or .." - neither [are able to see] nor [to hear] nor [to walk]. Negated coordinate construction.
ek + gen. "[nor did they repent] of" - [and they did not repent] from. The preposition expresses separation; "away from." "There wasn't a sign of a change of heart. They plunged right on in their murderous, occult, promiscuous, and thieving ways", Peterson.
autwn gen. pro. "their [murders]" - [the murders] of them. The series of genitives in this verse are best taken as verbal, subjective, eg., "the murders performed by them" = "their murderous ways."
oute ... oute .... oute "-" - neither [of the magic arts / sorcery of them], nor [the fornications / immorality of them], nor [the thefts of them]. Negated coordinate construction. Cf., 18:23, 22:15.