Osborne, Grant R. Revelation. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002. Location: Ellis BS 2825.53.O73 2002
III. God in Majesty and Judgment (4:1-16:21) pp. 218-602.
F. God’s Sovereignty in Judgment (4:1-11:19) pp. 219-450.
3. Seven Trumpets (8:2-11:19) pp. 339-450.
d. “Sixth Trumpet (9:12-21)” pp. 376-389.
The second portion of Revelation 9 focuses on the sixth trumpet, which releases four angels to kill a third of humanity (Osborne 2002, 377). Osborne observes that the statements of “woe” introduce material which follows, so this passage is introduced with verse 12. A singular voice comes from the presence of God, indicating to Osborne that it is not God’s own voice but probably that of the angel who brings the prayers to God (Osborne 2002, 378). An order to sound the trumpet is issued, the trumpet is blown, and four angels are released. Osborne identifies these as the four angels of Revelation 7:1 who were holding back the “winds of destruction.” Because they are bound and seem related to a force of horsemen bent on destruction, Osborne takes them to be some sort of demonic spiritual beings (Osborne 2002, 379). The figure of invading cavalry was very familiar in antiquity. The invaders were known and feared. Here, John adds, they were appointed by God. Osborne notes that divine sovereignty in these acts of judgment is very clear. He unveils his eschatological acts at the precise time and in the exact manner he has ordained (Osborne 2002, 380). The death toll from this act of judgment is a third of the population, increased from the fourth part associated with the seals. “This is a warning to ‘the rest of humankind not killed by these plagues’ that they must get right with God or else” (Osborne 2002, 380). Osborne reminds us that the plague is restricted to “those who hve rejected God” (Osborne 2002, 380).
The plague of the sixth trumpet is inflicted by horsemen, which Osborne reads to be a transfigured manifestation of the four angels called forth (Osborne 2002, 381). The text calls them two myriads of myriads in number. Osborne attempts to defend the number as a literal 200 million. He does point out that it would be an unheard of and utterly overwhelming force. The locust swarm from earlier in chapter nine and the cavalry from this passage are similar in that they are abnormal in appearance and strike harm with their tails (Osborne 2002, 382). The bright armor of both the horse and rider is reminiscent of Parthian cavalry. Osborne notes the fearful mouths of the horses like lions’ mouths (Osborne 2002, 383). To make matters worse, the horses seem to breathe fire, a common sign of judgment and destruction. While some commentators have tried to identify the horses and their influences with pieces of modern military technology Osborne prefers to keep the vision accessible in terms which would have made sense to the original audience. This was conventional attack, slaughter, and fire, but on an unprecedented scale (Osborne 2002, 384). Osborne further notes that the presence of snakes in the tails of the horses would be uniformly understood as a sign of demonic presence.
Revelation 9:20-21 point out very clearly that even after the death of a third of humanity, killed because of their rejection of God, the rest of humanity refuses to repent. They hold to their idolatry (Osborne 2002, 385). Osborne provides numerous passages from Scripture where idolatry is equated with marital unfaithfulness and with demon worship (Osborne 2002, 386). This was a rampant practice in pre-Christian antiquity. The text lists a number of practices which were to be abandoned as part of turning to God.