The Four Messengers
- | Chris McCann
We read in Revelation 9:14:
Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.
Here, we now find ourselves involved with another picture. After having just described the locusts, God is now discussing four angels that are bound in a river.
So how do you get four angels, bind them up, and then throw them into the Euphrates? And why would you do this? And why four? Why not ten or a hundred or twelve legions? Why is it that just four angels are bound?
Also, we find the word “bound” once again. The command is to loose them. The bottomless pit was a prison. Christ opened it and let loose the locusts. Now a little later in the same chapter, we have four angels which were bound in a “great river,” the river Euphrates.
The word “angel” in the Old Testament and in the New Testament could properly be translated as “messenger.” In the Hebrew, this word is mal'ak; and in the Greek, it is aggelos.
God uses these words in pretty much the same way from the Old Testament to the New Testament, except we do not find that often in the Greek that aggelos is translated as “messenger.” In the Hebrew of the Old Testament, this word mal'ak is translated as “messenger” dozens of times, but aggelos in the New Testament is only translated as “messenger” a few times.
For instance, turn to Matthew 11. This is speaking of John the Baptist. It says in Matthew 11:9-10:
But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger [aggelos] before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
Here, this is the same word as “angel,” and yet John the Baptist is this messenger. He is definitely not an angelic spirit being. He is a man, and yet God said, “I send my aggelos.”
Since John was obviously a man, the translators, of course, realized that this reference could not be an angel at all, like all of the other places where they translated this word as “angel” when it was not as clear; and, therefore, they realized that this had to be referring to a “messenger.”
Look also at Luke 7:24. This says:
And when the messengers of John were departed…
This is the word “angel” in the plural form.
Some people might even say that translating aggelos as “messenger” in relation to John was just one special case, but here is John sending “messengers.” He is sending “angels” or aggelos, representatives carrying his message. He sends them to Jesus, if you remember, to ask, “Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?” And this is the same word for “angels” that we find elsewhere. Again, John did not send spirit beings. He sent some of his followers. He sent men.
Turn also to James 2:25. This says:
Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
This is referring to the spies; and, once again, this is the word “angels” or aggelos in the Greek. This is the same word that we find in the book of Revelation.
We know from the use of this word that we have to look at the context. When men were in view, the translators translated this as “messengers.” But when they were not sure, they almost always translated this as “angels.” In some cases, it was actually referring to angels; but in other cases, it was not.
It is the same in the Old Testament. I will just go to one verse. Turn to Genesis 32:3; but if you look this word up in your concordance, you could go to a lot more verses. This is the Hebrew word mal'ak. We read in Genesis 32:3:
And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom.
We know the rest of this story. Jacob was afraid of Esau and so he sent some of his servants ahead with gifts for Esau, and these were men. And so the translators caught this and did not translate this as “angels” but as “messengers.”
This word is sometimes also used to refer to God Himself. When two angels went into Sodom, that was God manifesting Himself in the form of those men. It was God, but He was identified as two angels. Jesus is the “messenger of the covenant” and He is also called “Michael the archangel.” “Arch” means “chief.” He is the Chief Messenger of God.
There is tremendous Biblical evidence that shows us that when we find a word that is translated as “angel,” we have allowance to translate the word as “messenger.” There is a great deal of evidence that would permit us to say that this word really should be translated as “messenger” when the other circumstances surrounding it will support this. In Revelation 9, therefore, the four “angels” should really be the four “messengers” which are bound in the great river Euphrates.