Henry Bechthold and the second woe
In his article on The Seven Trumpets Of Revelation, Henry Bechthold proposed a unique interpretation of the cavalry of 200 million horses and horsemen of the second woe. He claims that both the horses and horsemen of the sixth trumpet, and the two witnesses, represent the church, and God’s end-time servants.
Bechthold finds several parallels between the horses of the sixth trumpet and the two witnesses. He wrote:
The sixth trumpet is presented in Revelation 9:13-21. However, before discussing those verses in detail, it is necessary to refer to Revelation chapter eleven. This is where the subject of the “Two Witnesses” is presented. In my article titled, “The Two Witnesses of Revelation”, I biblically prove that these witnesses represent God’s people, Christian Jews and gentiles, doing God’s final and powerful evangelistic ministry during earth’s final days.
After these two witnesses (God’s people) have ascended to heaven, Revelation 11:14 states that the “second woe” is past, and that the “third woe” is coming quickly. Revelation 11:15 then records the blowing of the seventh trumpet that includes the second earthquake and great hail in Revelation 11:19, which is obviously the fulfillment of the third woe that was “coming quickly” mentioned in verse fourteen; especially because there are no more trumpets to follow, for, as Revelation 11:15 states, “the kingdoms of this world have now become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ”. Therefore, the judgments brought by the seventh trumpet are certainly the third woe. Keeping this in mind and, also, that following the blowing of the fourth trumpet in Revelation 8:12, there were still “three woes” yet to come associated with three remaining trumpets (Revelation 8:13); and, also remembering that following the fifth trumpet, Revelation 9:12 states that one of the “three woes” was now past, which meant that the fifth trumpet was the “first woe”; therefore, if the seventh trumpet is the third woe, and the fifth trumpet is the first woe, then the sixth trumpet has to be the “second woe”. This is significant since it tells us that the sixth trumpet mentioned in Revelation 9:13-21, also includes the three and a half year time period of the ministry of the two witnesses in Revelation 11, because not until after their ministry is finished does Revelation 11:14 state that the second woe is past. It is important to remember this fact, that the sixth trumpet’s time period is the same as that of the two witnesses. That being said, it is now time to discuss the sixth trumpet.
In Revelation 9:13-15 the sixth trumpet is blown, resulting in four angels being released to kill one-third of mankind. And, based on Revelation 9:16, they apparently make use of an army of 200 million horsemen to accomplish their task. Is this part of the “Battle of Armageddon” taught by most prophecy teachers today; a great, final war between nations fighting each other? Not according to the book of Revelation.
During the reign of the antichrist, the armies of the earth are not at odds with each other, and are not gathered together to fight each other. They are in unison serving the antichrist-beast, and are gathered together to fight Jesus when He returns (Revelation 17:12-14; Revelation 19:11-19). As depicted in Revelation 16:13-16, demonic spirits go forth doing miraculous signs to seduce and rally the world’s armies to this audacious scheme of attacking Jesus Christ at His return.
Who, then, is represented by this army of 200 million horsemen? A thorough examination of Revelation 9:16-19 reveals some significant clues. First, it is an army of “horsemen”. And, the Lord Jesus also leads an angelic army on horses in Revelation 19:11-14.
This passage states that the heads of the horses were like “lions”. The lion is king of the land animals. Proverbs 30:30 says that the “lion” is mighty among beasts. Hosea 11:10 declares that the Lord roars like a “lion”. Revelation 5:5 calls Jesus the “Lion” of the tribe of Judah. And, Proverbs 28:1 states that the righteous are bold as a “lion”. So, the mighty lion, king of the land animals, is used to describe our Lord Jesus Christ and His righteous followers.
This passage also says that the tails of the horses are like “serpents”, having heads. Although the serpent is used at times in Scripture to depict the devil, it is also used in a “positive manner” at other times in the Bible. It is used as an instrument of God’s leaders when God turned the rods of Moses and Aaron into serpents (Exodus 4:2-4; Exodus 7:8-12). Also, it is used positively to describe a character trait needed by Christians when Jesus told His disciples to be wise as serpents (Matthew 10:16). And, it is used to describe “leviathan”, which the Bible depicts as a mighty sea serpent that is the “king” of the seas (Isaiah 27:1; Psalm 74:13-14; Job 41:1-34). Furthermore, God used the image of a bronze serpent on a pole to represent Jesus being lifted up on the cross (Numbers 21:5-9; John 3:14-15). Therefore, the serpent is indeed also used in Scripture in positive ways, representing the mighty leviathan, king of the sea creatures, and representing Jesus and His followers.
This passage additionally states that the “breastplates” of the horsemen were colored fiery red (I’ll deal with the other two colors in the next two paragraphs), and that “fire” came out of the horses’ mouths. Interestingly, Revelation 11:5 also pictured the two witnesses (God’s people) with fire proceeding from their mouths.
Revelation 9:17 says that the horsemen’s breastplates were also colored hyacinth blue, the color of “smoke”, and it stated that smoke came out of the horses’ mouths. Isaiah 6:4 portrays God’s presence as being manifested by smoke. Revelation 15:8 reveals the temple in heaven to be filled with smoke from the glory of God. And, from numerous scriptures, it appears that things that God touches do smoke (Psalm 144:5; Psalm 104:32; Exodus 19:18). Furthermore, Joel 2:28-31 states that, just before the great and awesome “day of the Lord”, there will be wonders on earth including “fire” and “smoke”; moreover, in the context of this text, these things are associated with God’s Spirit being poured out on His servants. Therefore, smoke is associated with God’s presence and the work of His Spirit-filled servants in the Bible.
The breastplates of the horsemen are also colored sulfur yellow, the color of “brimstone”, and brimstone came out of the horses’ mouths as well. Brimstone is always dispensed by God in Scripture, never by the devil, demons or any of God’s enemies. These evil entities do receive and experience the tormenting punishment of brimstone, but they never dispense or control the use of it. Brimstone is always controlled by God, and is associated with God’s wrath against unrepentant sinners. This is evident in all of the following scriptures.
Brimstone is associated with God’s wrath poured out on Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24; Luke 17:29). Isaiah 34:8-9 says that the Lord’s vengeance would turn Edom’s dust into brimstone. Psalm 11:5-6 states that the Lord rains brimstone on the wicked. Ezekiel 38:21-22 declares that the Lord will rain down brimstone upon Gog. Revelation 14:9-10 states that those who receive the mark of the beast will drink of God’s wrath and will be tormented with fire and brimstone. Revelation 20:10 says that the devil will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. The antichrist-beast and the false prophet will also be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone (Revelation 19:20). The Bible states that brimstone will be scattered on the dwelling of the wicked (Job 18:15,21). The Lord threatened to cast brimstone upon Israel as a curse if they forsook Him (Deuteronomy 29:23-28). And, Revelation 21:8 says that all of the wicked will die their “second death” in the lake of fire and brimstone. Once again, brimstone is always dispensed by God, never by the devil and his agents.
Revelation 9:18-20 referred to the fire, smoke and brimstone dispensed through the 200 million horsemen, as being “plagues”. It is interesting that the two witnesses also strike with plagues (Revelation 11:6).
The 200 million horsemen operate during the sixth trumpet (Revelation 9:13-16). Likewise, the two witnesses also operate during the sixth trumpet, as discussed several paragraphs earlier.
Therefore, in summary, we’ve discovered several significant clues concerning the army of 200 million horsemen. (1.) We know that they do not represent the armies of earth fighting each other. (2.) We know that they are probably symbolic because literal, physical horses do not have heads like lions or tails like serpents, and they don’t breathe fire, smoke and brimstone. (3.) We know that Jesus’ angelic followers in heaven are also pictured as an army of horsemen. (4.) We know that Jesus and His followers are compared to a lion, the “king” of land animals, in Scripture, and we also know that the horses had heads like lions. (5.) We know that, although a serpent was used by the devil in the Garden of Eden, and is used to depict him at other times in Scripture; nonetheless, we also know that a serpent is used in positive ways elsewhere in the Bible, such as to depict Moses’ and Aaron’s authority over pharaoh, to represent the wisdom Christians need, and to represent Jesus being lifted up on the cross; moreover, a sea serpent, the great leviathan, is called the “king” of sea creatures. I ask you to think about the picture presented in this passage in Revelation 9:17-19. The front of each horse, the head, is a lion, the “king” of land animals, while the back of each horse, the tail, is a serpent, knowing that the sea serpent leviathan is the “king” of sea creatures. This could certainly be symbolic of an authority and power that is supreme, such as from the “King of Kings”, Jesus Christ. Furthermore, once again, remember that Jesus is represented as the Lion of the tribe of Judah in Scripture, and is also represented by a bronze serpent in the Bible, and the lion heads and the serpent tails are at the front and back of the 200 million horses. (6.) We know that the horses have smoke coming out of their mouths, and we know that smoke can depict God’s presence and the work of His Spirit-filled servants in Scripture. (7.) We know that brimstone also comes out of the horses’ mouths, and we know that brimstone is always dispensed and controlled by God. (8.) We know that the time of the 200 million horsemen is during the sixth trumpet, which is also the time period of the two witnesses. (9.) We know that fire proceeds from the horses’ mouths, and we know that fire also proceeds from the mouths of the two witnesses. (10.) We know that the 200 million horsemen dispense plagues, and we know that the two witnesses also strike with plagues.
When putting all of the above clues together, what do we come up with? Knowing that the army of 200 million is not the military armies of earth, and knowing that it is symbolic; what is it symbolic of? It certainly appears to be symbolic of authority and power with the “lion” and “serpent” symbolism. Is Jesus/God in charge of this army? And, the smoke and brimstone symbolism would seem to indicate God’s presence and His judgment. Is God’s divine presence saturating this army, and is He using it to dispense more judgments on earth? Also, knowing that the faithful angels in heaven are pictured on horses following their Divine Commander, Jesus Christ, is it possible, if not probable, that God is also picturing the end-time, faithful followers of Jesus on earth in that manner as well? And, remember that the two witnesses of Revelation 11 represent Christ’s faithful followers conducting their final mission on earth. Finally, also remember that both the army of 200 million and the two witnesses bring plagues upon the people, both have fire proceed from their mouths, and both conduct their missions during the sixth trumpet. In view of all of these things, I believe that the most logical conclusion is that the 200 million horsemen in Revelation 9, and the two witnesses in Revelation 11, are one and the same; that is, God’s people going forward to do God’s final work on earth in the name of, and under the authority of their Divine Commander, Jesus Christ. They are pictured as two witnesses in Revelation 11 to depict God’s two olive trees, two lampstands, two anointed ones, converted Jew and gentile working together to complete the final gospel mission to the world. However, in Revelation 9, they are pictured as the great army of “Christian soldiers” that they really are, totaling multiplied millions. It is interesting to note that if the number of Christians involved in this end-time evangelistic endeavor will actually be 200 million, the number of the horsemen, it would represent about ten percent of the worldwide Christian population. In this modern era of “easy believism”, cheap grace and worldly, seeker sensitive religion, there may very well be only ten percent of professed Christians who will still serve Jesus in the face of civil fines, imprisonment and martyrdom.
There is still one question that needs to be answered. If the 200 million horsemen and the two witnesses represent God’s people, how do they kill one-third of mankind, as stated in Revelation 9:15? Do they use guns and bombs? No! The answer is given in Revelation 11:6. They cause plagues to come upon the wicked, they turn the waters to blood, and they stop the rain from falling on earth for three and a half years, thus producing severe drought and famine throughout the world, which will certainly cause multitudes to perish.
In Revelation 11:15-19, when the seventh trumpet sounds, the declaration is made that “the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ”, which tells us that the end has come. It states that the 24 elders who sit before God, possibly referring to the twelve patriarchs of the Old Testament and the twelve apostles of the New Testament, now fall on their faces in worship. Then, Revelation 11:19 states that there are lightnings, noises, thunderings, another earthquake and “great hail”. The events described in this passage are identical to the description of the seventh plague in Revelation 16:17-21. These verses in Revelation 16 also state that there are noises, thunderings, lightnings, an earthquake and hail stones that each weigh a “talent”, which is between fifty and a hundred pounds; that certainly qualifies as being the “great hail” mentioned in Revelation 11:19. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that Revelation 11:19 and the seventh plague of Revelation chapter 16 are both describing the same cataclysmic events at the end of the world. How cataclysmic? Revelation 16:17-21 states that the greatest earthquake in history causes the cities of the nations to fall, and causes every island and mountain to disappear; moreover, as previously mentioned, huge hailstones simultaneously fall upon them, weighing between fifty and a hundred pounds each.
Bechthold’s interpretation of the second woe implies that the Christian church is responsible for killing a third of men. He wrote, “They cause plagues to come upon the wicked, they turn the waters to blood, and they stop the rain from falling on earth for three and a half years, thus producing severe drought and famine throughout the world, which will certainly cause multitudes to perish.”
In the great wars of the past century, millions of Christians fought against each other; Catholics and Protestants among the Allied forces fought and killed Catholics and Protestants in the Axis powers. But, the mission of the church is not to kill one third of mankind by sending fire down on them, or to deprive them of rainfall, or send plagues on them, or the like, but to “go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” [Mark 16:15] Although fire, smoke, and brimstone comes from the mouths of the horses, and fire comes from the mouths of the two witnesses of Rev. 11, the two witnesses do not represent the same thing as the 200 million horsemen. The two witnesses are two olive trees, and two candlesticks, and two prophets. The beast that ascends from the bottomless pit, who is Satan, makes war with them, and kills them. Perhaps the killing of the two witnesses is connected with the work of the lion-headed horses with serpent-tails, who emit fire, smoke and sulphur from their mouths, and who hurt with their tails. IMO, the horses of the second woe may correspond to the Gentiles who trample the holy city for 42 months, and who are assigned to the outer court of the temple. This of course means the spiritual temple, the church. [Rev. 11:2; Eph. 2:20] Jesus identified the Scriptures, and the Spirit, as two things that “testify” of him. [John 5:39; 15:26] They are two witnesses, as one who testifies is a witness.
On the other hand, the revival of the corpses of the two witnesses, and their ascent to heaven, may correspond to a time of widespread repentance and spiritual renewal among those people represented by the horses of the second woe. Jesus said, “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” [Matt. 24:30]
There are several clues that suggest the cavalry described in the second woe represent not spirit-filled believers, as Bechthold suggests, but those who succumb to the spiritual foes of the saints. This was why Peter warned every believer, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” [1 Pet. 5:8] The saints who overcome are represented by the 144,000 who are sealed in Rev. 7:4. John does not say that the 200 million horses and horsemen of the second woe are sealed with the holy Spirit. Instead, their lion’s heads suggest they live after the flesh, not the Spirit. Lion’s heads depict carnal human nature.
The horses and horsemen kill one third of men, but this may not be referring to mankind generally, as they kill in a spiritual sense. They kill by the fire, smoke and brimstone that comes from their mouths. These are symbols that represent various types of spiritual knowledge. Their teachings mislead people who live and walk in the light of the gospel, causing some to stumble, and abandon their faith.
It is those who live spiritually, who can be spiritually killed, whereas unbelievers are described as dead. How can the dead be killed? If the killing is spiritual, the one third of men who are killed must refer to one third of those who were alive in a spiritual sense.
It is those who have been given life, who have escaped from the world, and who are included in the church, who are warned to be vigilant, and persevere in the faith. Paul wrote:
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
If the prophecy means one third of those who are alive spiritually are killed, then this agrees with the prophecy in Revelation 12:4, where one third of the stars of heaven are drawn by the tail of the dragon, and cast to the earth: “And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth.” These stars are believers who lose their status in heaven, and return to the world from which they had escaped, when they believed the gospel. Thus the author of Hebrews warns:
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will? [Heb. 2:1-4]