The Second Woe—Armies of Cavalry
1. Despite clergy efforts to stamp out the locusts, what has happened, and what does the coming of two more woes indicate?
FROM 1919 onward, the symbolic locusts’ invasion of Christendom has caused the clergy much discomfort. They have tried to stamp out the locusts, but these have kept coming on stronger than ever. (Revelation 9:7) And that is not all! John writes: “The one woe is past. Look! Two more woes are coming after these things.” (Revelation 9:12) Further tormenting plagues are in store for Christendom.
2. (a) What happens when the sixth angel blows his trumpet? (b) What does the “one voice out of the horns of the golden altar” represent? (c) Why are four angels mentioned?
2 What is the source of the second woe? John writes: “And the sixth angel blew his trumpet. And I heard one voice out of the horns of the golden altar that is before God say to the sixth angel, who had the trumpet: ‘Untie the four angels that are bound at the great river Euphrates.’” (Revelation 9:13, 14) The angels’ release is in answer to the voice that comes from the horns of the golden altar. This is the golden incense altar, and twice previously the incense of the golden bowls from this altar has been associated with the prayers of the holy ones. (Revelation 5:8; 8:3, 4) Therefore, this one voice represents the united prayers of the holy ones on earth. They petition that they themselves be delivered for further energetic service as Jehovah’s “messengers,” this being the basic meaning of the Greek word here translated “angels.” Why are there four angels? This symbolic number seems to indicate that they would be so organized as to cover the earth in its entirety.—Revelation 7:1; 20:8.
3. How had the four angels been “bound at the great river Euphrates”?
3 How had those angels been “bound at the great river Euphrates”? The river Euphrates in ancient times was the northeastern border of the land that Jehovah promised to Abraham. (Genesis 15:18; Deuteronomy 11:24) Apparently, the angels had been restrained at the border of their God-given land, or earthly realm of activity, held back from entering fully into the service that Jehovah had prepared for them. The Euphrates was also prominently associated with the city of Babylon, and after the fall of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E., fleshly Israelites spent 70 years there in captivity, “bound at the great river Euphrates.” (Psalm 137:1) The year 1919 found the spiritual Israelites bound in a similar restraint, disconsolate and asking Jehovah for guidance.
4. What commission do the four angels have, and how has it been accomplished?
4 Happily, John can report: “And the four angels were untied, who have been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, to kill a third of the men.” (Revelation 9:15) Jehovah is a precise Timekeeper. He has a timetable and is keeping to it. Hence, these messengers are released exactly on schedule and in time to accomplish what they have to do. Imagine their joy on coming forth from bondage in 1919, ready for work! They have a commission not only to torment but finally “to kill a third of the men.” This is related to the plagues heralded by the first four trumpet blasts, which afflicted a third of the earth, the sea, the creatures in the sea, the fountains and rivers, and the heavenly light sources. (Revelation 8:7-12) The four angels go further. They “kill,” exposing to a completion Christendom’s spiritually dead condition. Trumpeted pronouncements, made from 1922 onward and continuing to the present time, have accomplished this.
5. With regard to Christendom, how was the sound of the sixth trumpet blast echoed in 1927?
5 Remember, the heavenly angel has just sounded the sixth trumpet. Responding thereto, the sixth of the series of Bible Students’ annual international conventions was held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The program there on Sunday, July 24, 1927, was aired through a chain of 53 radio stations, the most extensive broadcast network up to that time. That spoken message went out to an audience of possibly many millions. First, a forceful resolution exposed Christendom as spiritually dead and extended the invitation: “In this hour of perplexity Jehovah God bids the peoples to abandon and for ever forsake ‘Christendom’ or ‘organized Christianity’ and to turn completely away from it . . . ; [let] the peoples give their heart’s devotion and allegiance wholly to Jehovah God and to his King and kingdom.” “Freedom for the Peoples” was the title of the public talk that followed. J. F. Rutherford delivered this in his usual dynamic style, appropriate to “the fire and the smoke and the sulphur” that John next observes in vision.
6. How does John describe the armies of cavalry that he next sees?
6 “And the number of the armies of cavalry was two myriads of myriads: I heard the number of them. And this is how I saw the horses in the vision, and those seated on them: they had fire-red and hyacinth-blue and sulphur-yellow breastplates; and the heads of the horses were as heads of lions, and out of their mouths fire and smoke and sulphur issued forth. By these three plagues a third of the men were killed, from the fire and the smoke and the sulphur which issued forth from their mouths.”—Revelation 9:16-18.
7, 8. (a) Under whose guiding direction does the cavalry thunder forth? (b) In what ways is the cavalry similar to the locusts that preceded it?
7 Apparently, this cavalry thunders forth under the guiding direction of the four angels. What a fearsome spectacle! Imagine your reaction if you were to be the target of such a cavalry charge! Its very appearance would strike terror into your heart. Did you notice, though, how similar this cavalry is to the locusts that preceded it? The locusts were like horses; in the cavalry there are horses. Both, then, are involved in theocratic warfare. (Proverbs 21:31) The locusts had teeth like those of lions; the horses of the cavalry have heads like those of lions. Both are therefore tied in with the courageous Lion of the tribe of Judah, Jesus Christ, who is their Leader, Commander, and Exemplar.—Revelation 5:5; Proverbs 28:1.
8 Both the locusts and the cavalry share in Jehovah’s work of judgment. The locusts emerged from smoke that portended woe and destructive fire for Christendom; from the mouths of the horses, there issue forth fire, smoke, and sulfur. The locusts had breastplates of iron, signifying that their hearts were protected by unbending devotion to righteousness; the cavalry wear breastplates colored red, blue, and yellow, reflecting the fire, smoke, and sulfur of the lethal judgment messages that gush from the mouths of the horses. (Compare Genesis 19:24, 28; Luke 17:29, 30.) The locusts had tails like scorpions for tormenting; the horses have tails like serpents for killing! It seems that what was started by the locusts is to be pursued by the cavalry with greater intensity to a completion.
9. What does the cavalry symbolize?
9 So, what does this cavalry symbolize? Just as the anointed John class started the trumpetlike proclamation of Jehovah’s judgment of divine vengeance against Christendom, with authority to ‘sting and hurt,’ so we would expect the same living group to be used in the ‘killing,’ that is, in making known that Christendom and its clergy are completely dead spiritually, cast off by Jehovah and ready for “the fiery furnace” of everlasting destruction. Indeed, all of Babylon the Great must perish. (Revelation 9:5, 10; 18:2, 8; Matthew 13:41-43) Preliminary to her destruction, however, the John class uses “the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word,” in exposing Christendom’s deathlike condition. The four angels and the riders of the horses give direction to this figurative killing of “a third of the men.” (Ephesians 6:17; Revelation 9:15, 18) This indicates proper organization and theocratic direction under the oversight of the Lord Jesus Christ as the awesome band of Kingdom proclaimers charges forth to the battle.
Two Myriads of Myriads
10. In what sense are there two myriads of myriads of cavalry?
10 How can there be two myriads of myriads of this cavalry? A myriad is literally 10,000. So two myriads of myriads would come to 200 million.* Happily, there are now millions of Kingdom proclaimers, but their number is far short of hundreds of millions! Remember, though, Moses’ words at Numbers 10:36: “Do return, O Jehovah, to the myriads of thousands of Israel.” (Compare Genesis 24:60.) That would mean, literally, ‘Do return to the tens of millions of Israel.’ Israel, however, numbered only about two to three million in Moses’ day. What, then, was Moses saying? No doubt he had in mind that the Israelites should be unnumbered as “the stars of the heavens and like the grains of sand that are on the seashore,” rather than be counted. (Genesis 22:17; 1 Chronicles 27:23) So he used the word for “myriad” to indicate a large but unspecified number. Thus, The New English Bible renders this verse: “Rest, LORD of the countless thousands of Israel.” This agrees with a second definition of the word for “myriad” found in Greek and Hebrew dictionaries: “an innumerable multitude,” a “multitude.”—The New Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament; Gesenius’ A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, translated by Edward Robinson.
11. For the John class to become myriads even in a symbolic sense, what would be needed?
11 Nevertheless, those of the John class still remaining on earth number fewer than 10,000—less than one literal myriad. How could they be likened to countless thousands of cavalry? To become myriads even in a symbolic sense, would they not need reinforcements? That is what they have needed, and by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, that is what they have received! From where have these come?
12, 13. What historical developments from 1918 to 1935 indicated the source of the reinforcements?
12 From 1918 to 1922, the John class began to hold out to distressed humanity the happy prospect that “millions now living will never die.” In 1923 it was also made known that the sheep of Matthew 25:31-34 would inherit life on earth under God’s Kingdom. A similar hope was held out in the booklet Freedom for the Peoples, released at the international convention in 1927. In the early 1930’s the upright Jehonadab class and the ‘men sighing and groaning’ over Christendom’s sorry spiritual condition were shown to be identical with the symbolic sheep having earthly life prospects. (Ezekiel 9:4; 2 Kings 10:15, 16) Directing such ones to the modern-day “cities of refuge,” The Watchtower of August 15, 1934, stated: “Those of the Jonadab class have heard the sound of God’s trumpet and have heeded the warning by fleeing to God’s organization and associating with God’s people, and there they must abide.”—Numbers 35:6.
13 In 1935 those of this Jonadab class were specially invited to attend the convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Washington, D.C., U.S.A. There, on Friday, May 31, J. F. Rutherford gave his famous talk “The Great Multitude,” in which he clearly showed that this group of Revelation 7:9 (King James Version) was the same as the sheep of Matthew 25:33—a dedicated group with earthly hopes. As a harbinger of things to come, at that convention 840 new Witnesses were baptized, most of them being of the great crowd.*
14. Would the great crowd have a part in the symbolic cavalry charge, and what resolve was expressed in 1963?
14 Has this great crowd had a part in the cavalry charge that got under way in 1922 and that received particular emphasis at the Toronto convention in 1927? Under the direction of the four angels, the anointed John class, it certainly has! At the world-circling “Everlasting Good News” Assembly of 1963, it joined with the John class in a rousing resolution. This declared that the world “faces an earthquake of world trouble the like of which it has never known, and all its political institutions and its modern religious Babylon will be shaken to bits.” The resolve was expressed that “we will continue to declare to all peoples without partiality the ‘everlasting good news’ concerning God’s Messianic kingdom and concerning his judgments, which are like plagues to his enemies but which will be executed for the liberation of all persons who desire to worship God the Creator acceptably with spirit and with truth.” This resolution was adopted enthusiastically at 24 assemblies around the globe by a grand total of 454,977 conventioners, of whom well over 95 percent were of the great crowd.
15. (a) In 2005 the great crowd made up what percent of the workforce that Jehovah is using in the field? (b) How does Jesus’ prayer at John 17:20, 21 express the unity of the great crowd with the John class?
15 The great crowd has continued to declare its unqualified unity with the John class in pouring out the plagues on Christendom. In 2005 this great crowd made up more than 99.8 percent of the workforce that Jehovah is using in the field. Its members are wholeheartedly in accord with the John class, concerning whom Jesus prayed at John 17:20, 21: “I make request, not concerning these only, but also concerning those putting faith in me through their word; in order that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in union with me and I am in union with you, that they also may be in union with us, in order that the world may believe that you sent me forth.” As the anointed John class takes the lead under Jesus, the zealous great crowd shares with them in the most devastating cavalry charge of all human history!*
16. (a) How does John describe the mouths and tails of the symbolic horses? (b) How have the mouths of Jehovah’s people been prepared for service? (c) What corresponds to the fact that “their tails are like serpents”?
16 That cavalry needs equipment for the warfare. And how wonderfully Jehovah has provided this! John describes it: “For the authority of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with these they do harm.” (Revelation 9:19) Jehovah has ordained his dedicated, baptized ministers for this service. Through the Theocratic Ministry School and other congregation meetings and schools, he has taught them how to preach the word, so that they are able to speak authoritatively with “the tongue of the taught ones.” He has put his words in their mouths and sent them forth to make known his judgments “publicly and from house to house.” (2 Timothy 4:2; Isaiah 50:4; 61:2; Jeremiah 1:9, 10; Acts 20:20) The John class and the great crowd have left behind a stinging message, corresponding to “tails,” in the thousands of millions of Bibles, books, brochures, and magazines distributed over the years. To their opponents, who are advised of the coming “harm” from Jehovah, these armies of cavalry truly seem like two myriads of myriads.—Compare Joel 2:4-6.
17. Do Jehovah’s Witnesses have any part in the cavalry charge in lands where literature cannot be distributed because the work is banned? Explain.
17 A most zealous division of this cavalry is made up of brothers in lands where the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses is under ban. Like sheep amidst wolves, these have to be “cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves.” In obedience to Jehovah, they cannot stop speaking about the things they have seen and heard. (Matthew 10:16; Acts 4:19, 20; 5:28, 29, 32) Since they have little or no printed material to distribute publicly, must we conclude that they have no share in the cavalry charge? Not at all! They have their mouths and authority from Jehovah to use them to express Bible truth. This they do, informally and persuasively, establishing studies in the Bible and “bringing the many to righteousness.” (Daniel 12:3) Though they may not sting with their tails in the sense of leaving behind hard-hitting literature, symbolic fire, smoke, and sulfur issue from their mouths as they witness tactfully and with discretion concerning Jehovah’s approaching day of vindication.
18. In how many languages and to what number has this cavalry distributed the plaguing message in printed form?
18 In other places, the Kingdom literature continues to expose Christendom’s Babylonish doctrines and ways, bringing her deserved harm in a figurative way. By using updated printing methods, this numerous cavalry in the 68 years before 2005 was able to distribute, in upwards of 450 of earth’s languages, billions of Bibles, books, magazines, and brochures—many times more than a literal two myriads of myriads. What a sting those tails have inflicted!
19, 20. (a) Though the specific target of the plaguing messages has been Christendom, how have some in lands far beyond Christendom responded? (b) How does John describe the reaction of the people in general?
19 Jehovah purposed that this plaguing message should “kill a third of the men.” Hence, its specific target has been Christendom. But it has reached lands far beyond Christendom, including many where the hypocrisy of Christendom’s religions is well known. Have the people of these lands drawn closer to Jehovah as a result of seeing the plaguing of this corrupt religious organization? Many have! There has been a ready response among meek and lovable people who live in areas outside Christendom’s immediate sphere of influence. But as for the people in general, John describes their reaction: “But the rest of the men who were not killed by these plagues did not repent of the works of their hands, so that they should not worship the demons and the idols of gold and silver and copper and stone and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; and they did not repent of their murders nor of their spiritistic practices nor of their fornication nor of their thefts.” (Revelation 9:20, 21) There will be no world conversion of such unrepentant ones. All who persist in their wicked ways will have to face adverse judgment from Jehovah in the great day of his vindication. But “everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will get away safe.”—Joel 2:32; Psalm 145:20; Acts 2:20, 21.
20 What we have just discussed is part of the second woe. There is more to come before this woe runs its course, as we shall see in the chapters that follow.
Commentary on Revelation, by Henry Barclay Swete, notes regarding the number “two myriads of myriads”: “These vast numbers forbid us to seek a literal fulfilment, and the description which follows supports this conclusion.”
See the preceding pages 119-26; also Vindication, Book Three, published in 1932 by Jehovah’s Witnesses, pages 83-4.
Unlike the locusts, the armies of cavalry seen by John did not wear “what seemed to be crowns like gold.” (Revelation 9:7) This harmonizes with the fact that the great crowd, which today makes up the larger part of the cavalry, does not hope to reign in God’s heavenly Kingdom.
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The blowing of the sixth trumpet introduces the second woe
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The four angels direct the greatest cavalry charge in history
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The innumerable cavalry has distributed countless millions of Bible-based publications
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The rest of the men did not repent