"Horns" mean power and strength. This "golden altar" is where God is. At the blowing of the sixth trumpet, the second woe is released: the release of "the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” The angels apparently lead an army of 200 million "horsemen" (demons) who kill a third of mankind through the plagues of fire and smoke and brimstone.
God views the Euphrates River as the dividing line between East and West. In fact, the old Roman Empire also saw it that way. Everything east of the Euphrates was called the Far East or Asia. The region just to the west of the great river was known as the Near East or Asia Minor.
When these angels are loosed, they immediately inspire the great population centers of Asia to launch an attack on the Western and Middle Eastern strongholds. These demons are effective, because they cause one and a half billion people, a third of the remaining population, to be killed in short order.
The Apostle John wrote, "And the four angels, who had been prepared for the Hour and Day and Month and Year, are released, so that they might kill a third of mankind. And the number of the armies of the horsemen (demons) was 200 million; I heard the number of them."
Now in addition to the demons who have roamed the earth throughout history, spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph. 6 v.12) recently cast to earth and the numerous demons recently released from the abyss at the sounding of the fifth trumpet, comes a new demonic army that is two hundred million strong.
Some have suggested that the 200 million will come from the Chinese who can currently field an army of that size. However it is very doubtful this could be a human army due to the inability to equip, feed, transport, not to mention the water it would take to support that size contingent. Those things taken into consideration strongly suggest this will be a supernatural rather than a human force, especially as the four angels (demons) are commanding this force.
When you combine this third of humanity with the others of humanity killed in the seal judgments, by this point in the Tribulation half of the world's population (after the rapture) already has been destroyed. While there is no question that the armies of the Orient coming to that battle at the very end of the Tribulation will be enormous, due to the incredible population of those countries, they definitely are not the Revelation 9:16 army. These troops are demon spirits that come out of the abyss, advancing under the leadership of the four bound angels.
The 200 million horsemen who come on the scene will obviously be supernatural, creatures that are so awesome to look on that they actually frighten some people to death. And their sting "is in their mouth and their tails,” and with them they kill one third of the world's population of those who reject Christ and commit themselves to Antichrist. Horses have been often associated with warfare in Scripture.
Many have tried to associate the meaning of this scripture with weapons of war, but this can't be. John would have no problem with associating a lion's head with what these appeared to look like.
John saw three ways the demon horses killed their victims and all ways depict the violent and devastating fury of hell. They incinerated them with fire and then asphyxiated with smoke and brimstone, which proceeded out of their mouths.
The end result of this demonic 200 million was that a third of the remaining mankind would be killed. Note that a quarter of mankind was killed during the seal judgments, leaving three quarters of the remaining population. As one third is now killed, 50% of mankind now has been killed. The death of one third of the earth's remaining inhabitants will be the most catastrophic disaster to strike the earth since the flood during the days of Noah.
Not only were these demonic horses able to kill with their mouths, but also death was in their tails. Their tails are like deadly poisonous serpents. The horse’s tails were not actual serpents as the horses were not actual horses.
But these images are describing the supernatural deadliness of this demon force in terms that one would normally understand in the natural world. Unlike the demonic scorpion stings of the fifth trumpet judgment, the bites of these demonic creatures will be fatal.
It is so unimaginable that after many years of suffering and death by
this time from the horrible judgments of God, combined with the 144,000, the
two witnesses, an angel who gives the Word of God to humans, not to mention the
countless number of Tribulation Saints, that the rest of mankind, who were not
killed by these plagues, did not trust Jesus Christ as Savior.
Anyone who does not believe in Jesus Christ is in error and following the devil’s agenda. Jesus said Himself that "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad." (Matthew 12:30)
During the Tribulation, idolatry, mysticism, spiritualism, satanism and all forms of false religion will become the norm as demons lead people into more wicked and vicious behaviors. Violent crimes like murder will be absolutely rampant. Without any restraint, people will imitate the evil actions of the demons. Of course, believers in God will doubtlessly be their prime targets.
Under the influence of the massive demon forces that has been unleashed upon the world, apostasy, heresy, false religion, murder, sexual perversion and crime will be unparalleled in human history.
Biblical apostasy is defined as a believer or unbeliever who deliberately rejects or distorts the revealed truth of the Word of God. Biblical heresy is defined as a believer or an unbeliever who rejects or distorts the truth of the Word of God as a result of being deceived by Satan or his ministers. Antichrist is defined as anyone who assumes the identity of Christ or opposes Christ. The spirit of antichrist is, therefore, anyone who lines up in opposition to Christ. Some people err from the truth due to ignorance, which is not an excuse. (Galatians 1:6-9; II Peter 2:1-22; Jude 1-25; I Timothy 4:1-16; II Timothy 2:24-26; 3:1-7; 4:1-4; I John 2:18-22; II Thessalonians 2:1-12; Acts 19:1-7)
The first test of apostasy, heresy or the spirit of antichrist is the clarity of the Gospel message. Those who distort the Gospel can be, even without knowing it, apostate, heretical and antichrist. In Galatians chapter one Paul tells us what the fate should be of those who preach a different gospel. He says that they should be accursed, which means to be destroyed. Paul is not saying that these people should go to hell. He is using a metaphor that they should be stopped from preaching a false message. The message, of course, is already accursed. The Bible tells us to test the spirits of men. The best test is what do they say about salvation and eternal life. (Galatians 1:6-9)
The Gospel message is faith alone in Christ alone. Faith is non-meritorious; all the merit is in the object of our faith, Jesus Christ. When a person realizes that they cannot work their way to Heaven by good deeds and they change their minds (the true meaning of repentance) about Christ and by faith accept His substitutionary death on the Cross as the payment for their sin, God gives that person the gift of eternal life (salvation). (John 3:16,17,18,36; 6:47; II Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:8; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; I John 5:13)
The second test of apostasy, heresy, or the spirit of antichrist is the doctrinal accuracy of the message. This is where it takes a greater amount of doctrine in the soul to discern the false from the true. Only through spiritual growth can a believer avoid being deceived by these false teachers. There are some obvious signs that a preacher or teacher is presenting false doctrine. For example, the motive of most false teachers is to seek fortune, fame and power. There are some ministers, however, that appear to be sincere and appear to have correct motives, but have allowed themselves to be deceived. Both are still teaching false doctrine and are “enemies of the Cross of Christ.” (II Timothy 2:25-26; II Timothy 3:1-7)
We must keep in mind that Satan and his ministers of darkness present themselves as ministers of righteousness and angels of light, but are instead wolves in sheep’s clothing. One of Satan’s greatest counterfeits to the truth is emotion. Though a wonderful gift from God, the misuse of emotion leads to all kinds of false teachings. The most obvious one is displayed by the Charismatics or Pentecostals. They replace the true ministries of the Holy Spirit with emotional experience. The ministries of God the Holy Spirit are not seen or felt, they are simply facts stated in God’s Word for us to believe. (II Corinthians 11:13-15; Romans 16:18)
Though these false teachers often use Biblical phrases, passages and Christian-sounding words, they distort the truth by taking passages out of context, ignoring dispensational truth or in some cases changing the meaning of God’s Word to fit their particular teaching. In some instances they even accidentally present truth. Satan is the great counterfeiter. Therefore, what his ministers teach is mixed with a small amount of truth in order to look like the real thing. Beware… you must always evaluate the message in light of the truth of God’s Word. (II Peter 2:1-22)
The third test of apostasy, heresy, or the spirit of antichrist involves the motive of the preacher or teacher. This, of course, is very difficult to determine since we do not have the ability to read a person’s mind. We can, however, compare the fruits of their labor with the truth that we find in God’s Word. “By their fruit you shall know them.” Fruit is tantamount to production. There are two kinds of production, human good and divine good. You must know the difference. Quite often what is proclaimed to be divine good is in fact human good. We know from Scripture that all human good is wood, hay and straw and will be burned up at the Judgment Seat of Christ. It has to do with the person’s spiritual status and motive. Good done by a believer under the control of God the Holy Spirit is divine good and is rewardable in eternity. Good done by a believer that is being controlled by the sin nature (with it’s accompanying wrong mental attitude) is human good and not rewardable. Therefore, in the Christian way of life, attitude is everything. Wrong attitude equals wrong motive. Right attitude equals right motive. (I John 2:18-22; I Corinthians 3:11-15)
We will be able to discern this wrong motive from the false teacher only if we have developed our spiritual I.Q. through the study and application of Bible doctrine. When the motive for doing “God’s work” is to gain favor, wealth, notoriety or power, it is wrong. Even when the motive is pure, God’s work must be done God’s way or it is still wrong. In the Christian life, the ends do not justify the means. We are told to separate ourselves from these false teachers. This means we should not acknowledge them, fellowship with them or in any way condone what they are doing or saying. (II Corinthians 6:11-18; II John 9-11)