What does Revelation 9:16 mean?
ESV: The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number.
NIV: The number of the mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand. I heard their number.
NASB: The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them.
CSB: The number of mounted troops was two hundred million; I heard their number.
NLT: I heard the size of their army, which was 200 million mounted troops.
KJV: And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.
Verse Commentary:
This passage has been describing four imprisoned angels—demons—released to kill one third of the remaining human population. Here, however, John suddenly refers to a numbered army. Some speculate that the horde of demonic locusts, released earlier in the chapter (Revelation 9:3) might be involved in controlling or guiding this army along with the four released angels.

This verse gives the number of the invading cavalrymen as "twice ten thousand times ten thousand," which is a staggering two hundred million! John makes a point of saying that he heard this figure. Rather than giving a generic figure, or some number he might have been able to count, John relays what he was told about the size of this army. That implies the count is meant to be taken literally.

Isaiah 8:7–8 depicts this invasion as the work of the king of Assyria. The future leader of the invasion is referred to in Ezekiel 38:1–3, using the infamous phrase "Gog and Magog," or "Gog, of the land of Magog." Ezekiel describes the army commanded by "the chief prince of Meshech" as "horses and horsemen, all of them clothed in full armor, a great host, all of them with buckler and shield, wielding swords" (Ezekiel 38:4). The northern invader will seek Israel's resources (Ezekiel 38:10–13). Like a flood, this army will sweep over Israel and reach Jerusalem's neck (Isaiah 8:8).

In John's era, it would have been unthinkable to imagine an army so enormous—according to some historians, the entire world population was less than two hundred million in AD 95. In the modern era, of course, there are nations such as India and China with total populations five times that size. As a result, many equate this army of two hundred million horsemen with an army from the Orient, described in Revelation 16. However, that attack occurs when the sixth bowl is poured out. It seems the judgments follow a roughly chronological order: first the seal judgments, then the trumpet judgments, and finally the bowl judgments.
Verse Context:
Revelation 9:13–21 provides further insight into the assault by the northern invader. Earlier in chapter 9 we read about a horde of demonic locusts ascending from the bottomless pit. Now we read about two hundred million heavily armed cavalrymen, whose horses have heads like those of lions and tails like those of snakes. Four angels residing at the Euphrates allow the demonic army to advance across the river. The swarm of locusts described earlier may control or even possess these two hundred million cavalrymen. What follows is the annihilation of one third of humanity. However, the rest of humanity refuse to repent of their evil deeds, idolatry, murders, sorceries, or sexual immorality. Joel 2 and Ezekiel 38 also prophesy this northern army's invasion of Israel. Revelation 10 will provide another interlude between the judgments.
Chapter Summary:
Revelation 9 tells us that under the fifth trumpet judgment John sees a star fall from heaven to earth. This ''star'' is Satan, and he is given the key to the bottomless pit. Using this key, Satan unleashes a plague of supernatural demons resembling locusts. They torment unbelievers for five months with such pain that people seek death unsuccessfully. They appear like horses prepared for battle, and they have a king, whose name is Apollyon, meaning ''Destroyer.'' Under the sixth trumpet judgment John sees four angels released from the Euphrates river. Their release coincides with a horde of two hundred million demonic mounted troops that kill a third of mankind. However, the survivors refuse to abandon their idolatry and to repent of their evil deeds.
Chapter Context:
The ninth chapter of Revelation continues the report of what happens when the seven angels blow their trumpets. Chapter 8 described the first four trumpet judgments; chapter 9 reports the fifth and sixth. The events in chapter 9 are much more severe than those which came before. The severity of judgments increases dramatically with each trumpet blast. These judgments precede the final series of events, called the bowl judgments. Revelation chapters 15 and 16 will reveal what happens under these judgments.
Book Summary:
The word ''revelation'' means ''an unveiling or disclosure.'' This writing unveils future events such as the rapture, three series of judgments that will fall on the earth during the tribulation, the emergence of the Antichrist, the persecution of Israel and her amazing revival, as well as Jesus' second coming with His saints to the earth, the judgment of Satan and his followers, and finally, the eternal state. This content, combined with the original Greek term apokalypsis, is why we now refer to an end-of-the-world scenario as ''an apocalypse.''
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