“The first terror is past, but look, two more terrors are coming! Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice speaking from the four horns of the gold altar that stands in the presence of God. And the voice said to the sixth angel who held the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great Euphrates River.” Then the four angels who had been prepared for this hour and day and month and year were turned loose to kill one-third of all the people on earth. I heard the size of their army, which was 200 million mounted troops.” Revelation 9:12-16
The sixth angel sounded his mighty trumpet. Immediately, John “heard a voice.” The voice is not identified, but it is possibly that of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. While identifying the source of the voice is not possible, its location came from the four horns of the golden altar before God. John had seen this altar twice before in his visions. In the tabernacle and temple, this altar was a place where incense was burnt, symbolizing the peoples’ prayers for mercy rising to God. But in John’s vision the golden altar became an altar of intercession, as the martyred saints pleaded with God for vengeance on their murderers (6:9–11). The voice coming from the surface of the altar between the four protruding corners commanded the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” That the four angels are bound indicates that they are demons, since holy angels are nowhere in Scripture said to be bound. Because holy angels always perfectly carry out God’s will, there is no need for Him to restrain them from opposing His will. God’s control over demonic forces is complete—they are bound or loosed at His command.
Their precise identity is not revealed, but they may be the demons that controlled the four major world empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Daniel 10 provides insight into the warfare between holy angels and the demons that influence individual nations. Whoever they are, these four powerful fallen angels control a huge demonic army set to wage war against fallen mankind when God releases them to do so.
These words, ‘before God,’ teach us that God is in control. God sets before everyone life and death. (Deuteronomy 30v15-20) His will is that we would choose life, but because we have a free will, we can reject His will. God responds to the choices that we make. If we choose to obey, and submit to Him, we are blessed. If we choose to rebel we are cursed.