For many years I have been taught, and I have taught others, that the Kings of the East will be fielding a 200-million-man army on its way to fight the Lord when He comes back at the end of the Tribulation to save Zion and the Jewish people – a battle most commonly referred to as Armageddon 1. It most often is presented in the following way, using these two verses:
“And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared” (Revelation 16:12).
“And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them” (Revelation 9:16).
But is this true? Are the Kings of the East going to field this gigantic army and, if not, what should we believe about these two sections of Scripture and their relationship to each other?
What Are the Similarities of These Two Passages?
Actually, there is only one: “the great river Euphrates.” Other than that, as we will see as we study these passages in their entirety, there are no other similarities.
We will examine these two sections of Scripture to find out if they have anything to do with each other – when, what, and who – other than the Euphrates River.
The Sixth Vial Judgment in Context
Let’s take a look at the first verse of this interpretation, with the accompanying text, and examine the context.
“And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon” (Revelation 16:12-14, 16).
This passage of Scripture regarding the sixth vial being poured out is hardly up for debate. The context is clearly laid out for us. The “unclean spirits” emanating from the unholy trinity – Satan, Antichrist, and the False Prophet – are calling the nations to battle against the Lord at His Second Coming.
With the Kings of the East on their way to this battle, they will cross over a dried-up Euphrates River to converge around the south to south-east region of the Holy City in a futile attempt to thwart the coming King of Kings and Lord of lords.
(For more details on this last campaign of the world’s armies against our Lord at His Second Coming, please see my article A Study of Zechariah 14:1-11 here https://www.faithwriters.com/article-details.php?id=205594 or https://www.raptureready.com/2020/09/11/a-study-of-zechariah-141-11-by-mark-a-becker/ ).
The Sixth Trumpet Judgment in Context
We will now look into the second verse of this interpretation and analyze its context. In doing this, we will break down the verse and surrounding passages in sections.
“And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men” (Revelation 9:13-15).
I can’t be more dogmatic on this one issue and stress enough that when the angel sounds the sixth trumpet, this will take place years earlier than the pouring out of the sixth vial judgment (we will cover this in a little more detail below).
There will be four fallen angels loosed from the Euphrates River, “prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.”
Also, notice there is no hint as to the Euphrates River being dried up at this point.
“And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them” (Revelation 9:16).
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Along with the four fallen angels, are released an “army of horsemen.”
We have to remember that John is giving his view, using terminology that he is familiar with, regarding what he is witnessing in this vision. John is telling us that the 200 million horsemen army he sees essentially reminds him of an enormous invading army. He likens what he sees to “horsemen.”
“And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone” (Revelation 9:17).
[A very important note on this verse is that John sees “horses in the vision.” I did a quick search, and there aren’t even close to 200 million horses in the entire world, let alone how many will be left at this point in the Tribulation. The closest proximity to the number of horses currently on earth is no more than 60 million.]
Some prophecy teachers have suggested that what John is witnessing is a humongous conglomeration of modern-day drones. I’m sorry, but this just doesn’t work. What John is seeing is an army of living entities; entities that are unfamiliar even in today’s world.
When considering these entities, one might think back to the visions of Ezekiel when he witnessed the living creatures/cherubim (Ezekiel 1:5-25 & Ezekiel 10:3-22), as well as the four living creatures John encountered in Revelation 4:6-11. Satan took a third of the angels with him in his rebellion (Revelation 12:4a & Revelation 12:7-9), and this must have included the mighty cherubim.
Scripture tells us there were an innumerable amount of angels created (Hebrews 12:22), and we can be certain there must have been many varieties of angels with differing functions due to God’s love of diversity; therefore, we only find a limited description of them in the Bible.
We have to associate these entities with what has already been revealed to us in the text, and that is the four fallen angels that were released from the Euphrates River. With that in mind, and the description John gives of their form and likeness, we really don’t have any alternative than to admit that these entities appear to be a demonic/fallen angel horde.
I would also suggest that these 200 million demonic/fallen angel hordes are divided into four camps of 50 million under the command of each fallen angel that was released from the Euphrates River in verses 14-15, leading them to the “four corners of the earth” (worldwide) to carry out their deadly assault on the rebellious inhabitants of the earth. We know that fallen angels have a military-like ranking system found in Daniel 10:13-20 and Ephesians 6:12. This is speculation on my part, but it does seem reasonable.
“By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths. For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt” (Revelation 9:18-19).
John goes on to describe how these entities will kill mankind and gives us more details about their form and likeness.
When one considers how many of these entities there are — their resemblance, the way they kill mankind, their being held in a supernatural way “in the great river Euphrates,” and that they “were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men” (obviously at the Lord’s command) — one seems to have no choice but to see these entities as demonic/fallen angel agents.
“And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts” (Revelation 9:20-21).
These two verses show that the rest of mankind who survive this judgment “repented not of the works of their hands” nor “their murders… sorceries… fornication…[or] thefts.” The judgments will continue on because this is not when the Lord Jesus will be coming back, as is the case of the pouring out of the sixth vial judgment in chapter 16 when the Kings of the East cross over the dried-up Euphrates River to join the armies of the earth for their battle against Christ.
Are the Seal, Trumpet, and Vial Judgments “Layered” or Chronological?
What I mean by “layered” is that many who do not have a pre-Tribulational, Millennialist view of eschatology have a tendency to want to lay the seal, trumpet, and vial judgments on top of each other. That is, they say that the first seal, first trumpet, and first vial judgments are one and the same, just giving us more detail with each judgment, and so on. This is not the position of people in our eschatological camp when it comes to prophetic interpretation.
Virtually every pre-Tribulational Millennialist prophecy student and/or teacher that I have met or have known has a chronological approach to the seal, trumpet, and vial judgments. That is, the first seal, second seal, third seal, fourth seal, fifth seal, and sixth seal is followed by the first trumpet, second trumpet, third trumpet, fourth trumpet, fifth trumpet, and sixth trumpet. This is followed by the first vial, second vial, third vial, fourth vial, fifth vial, and sixth vial, climaxing with the seventh vial before the Lord comes back at His Second Coming.
Proving this is the correct way to interpret the Judgments, the Lord incorporated the seventh seal and the seventh trumpet as the instruments showing that the next phase will be the trumpet and vial judgments, respectively.
Below is how the seventh seal and seventh trumpet play out, showing the absolute necessity of the judgments being interpreted chronologically.
Notice that the seventh seal introduces the seven trumpets:
“And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets” (Revelation 8:1-2).
After the Two Witnesses are resurrected, approximately in the middle of the Tribulation, the seventh angel sounds his trumpet, and after a few parenthetical chapters that disclose other signs and information regarding other topics concerning the Tribulation, the vial judgments are introduced:
“And the seventh angel sounded [trumpet]; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).
“And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles. And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever” (Revelation 15:6-7).
What I find fascinating is that those who have been teaching that the Kings of the East are going to be fielding a 200-million-man army (remember, I’ve been guilty of this too) by combining the sixth trumpet with the sixth vial – people whom I love, respect, and admire very much – are pre-Tribulational Millennialists.
These two entirely different judgments are separated by up to as many as three and one-half years of time, with absolutely no correlation to each other, other than the Euphrates River being mentioned in both.
How Many People Are Killed During the Tribulation?
It has been estimated that, after the rapture of the church, approximately one-half of the earth’s population will have been killed just up to the point of the sixth trumpet in Revelation 9:13-21. This estimate of half of the world’s population being killed is based solely upon what Revelation has revealed to us. This doesn’t include any who will be killed by wars, natural death, suicide, murder, accidents, and other natural disasters that haven’t been recorded in Revelation’s narrative.
By the time we get to the end of the Tribulation – the last vial judgments of the last three and one-half years – it really is hard to comprehend the loss of life and population reduction the entire world will have been subject to. Honestly, the chances that all of the Kings of the East being able to muster a 200-million-man army at the end of the Tribulation seem quite remote considering the destruction of life that the book of Revelation reveals.
Although I would note that it really doesn’t matter if they could because, as we’ve seen, the 200-million-man army is actually a 200 million demonic/fallen angel horde that happens six judgments earlier than when the Kings of the East make their way to the area south and south-east of Jerusalem.
So, in answer to the question of the title of this article, “Do the Kings of the East Field a 200-Million-Man Army?” is, “Maybe – but highly unlikely. And if they do, it has absolutely nothing to do with the sixth trumpet judgment of Revelation 9:16.”
We have learned that combining the sixth vial judgment in Revelation 16:12 and the sixth trumpet judgment in Revelation 9:16 can in no way suggest they are speaking of the same event and claim that the Kings of the East are going to field a 200-million-man army for the end-time battle – most commonly referred to as Armageddon 1 – when Christ comes back at His Second Coming.
This is an error that we pre-Tribulational Millennialists should attempt to correct together. I hope I’m speaking on behalf of my brothers and sisters in Christ when I say that we really need to do our best to help each other out when we see something that is being taught that is clearly wrong.
Much of future prophecy is, and can be, very speculative. But there are times when, in the course of sound Biblical exegesis, we discover a popular interpretation to be in error, that we should seek to rectify that teaching together in unity and in love.
I earnestly pray that this is the case here.
Love, grace, mercy, and shalom in Messiah Yeshua, and Maranatha!
- See The Meaning of “Armaged[d]on” by Jeff Van Hatten for an excellent article on this topic at: The Meaning of “Armaged[d]on”:: By Jeff Van Hatten – Rapture Ready