This sixth trumpet judgment, and the second woe, is every bit as terrible as the first woe; and it leaves us scratching our heads with questions. We will break up the verses into three parts.
Verses 13-15. Then the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, 14 one saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 15 And the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released, so that they would kill a third of mankind.
So when the sixth angel sounded his trumpet John head a voice coming from the four horns of the altar of incense—presumably, the voice of God responding to the prayers of His saints; prayer for vengeance. And He told the sixth angel to release the four angels who were bound at the great Euphrates River. These four angels apparently were fallen angels (demons) who had been kept there for this very purpose—to bring this judgment. And so, they were released in order to bring the death of a third of mankind.
Verses 16-19. The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. 17 And this is how I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them: the riders had breastplates the color of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone; and the heads of the horses are like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brimstone. 18 A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths. 19 For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm.
Here it is said that John heard someone say the number of the horseman; the number was two-hundred million. And he saw that the riders had breastplates (armor) the color of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone (or red, blue and yellow). And the horses’ heads looked like the heads of lions; and fire and smoke and burning sulfur billowed from their mouths, and from these one-third of all people were killed. And their tails, looking like the heads of snakes, also had power to injure people.
Now these images are a little confusing; so, in order to get it correct we will take it slow and record as many observations as we can in an investigative manner.
1. The Scriptures say that there were two-hundred million horseman (or riders) each sitting on his own horse—a horse that had a head looking like a lion. Very interesting.
2. In this vision, the Scriptures did not say that the rider was a man (or a human), just that he was the rider, or the horseman, and the rider was on a horse with the head of a lion. So, the horse is not a real horse.
3. Scripture points out that death will come only from the mouth of the horse and not from the rider or from the tail; the tail will not bring death, only harm.
In conclusion, it looks to me like the rider nor the horse are real. Any more than that we can’t be sure. Nonetheless, here are two sources to consider. Hal Lindsey, along with many others, think that the 200 million horsemen are the Chinese army because they have at least that many in their army militia. And he suggests that the army’s mounts with heads like lions is some kind of mobilized ballistic missile launchers.9
Tim LaHaye is entirely opposed to that explanation. He says that the horsemen are not human but demons, and that China would not risk all of its military to Middle East. He said that an army of this size is four times as many troops as were utilized in all of WWII, and that lasted over five years. This battle will be over in a matter of days.10
For what it’s worth, I do think that this army is from China and maybe also from Japan. However, I have my doubts that they are human. I think the riders, as well as their mounts, may be mechanical AI war machines of some sort. And if it is possible, they may also be demonic or a demonic-AI hybrid.
In a 2019 article entitled, China and the U.S. Are Fighting a Major Battle Over Killer Robots and the Future of AI, it was written that “President Xi Jinping has called for the country to become a world leader in AI by 2030… [and that China] is already developing intelligent weapons.”11
Verses 20-21. The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; 21 and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.
So, those who did not die still did not turn from their evil. They continued to worship demons and idols and to do their evil works, such as murder, sorceries (drugs, seances, witchcraft), immorality and thefts. Thus, whatever God will try to do in order to compel them to repent, will not work. Man will be too corrupt and depraved in his mind.
9 Hal Lindsey, There’s A New World Coming, p. 126.
10 Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Are We Living in the End Times? p. 191.
11 Time Spotlight Story, “China and the U.S. Are Fighting a Major Battle Over Killer Robots and the Future of AI,” at https://time.com/5673240/china-killer-robots-weapons/.