The Great River Euphrates: Rev. 9:14-16


This is the terminology used by the Bible to describe this river, which is in the "Prophetic Area" since the early part of the Bible.  It is named in Genesis 2:14, and is one of the “four heads” of Gen. 2:10.  It is described in the old Persian as Pura-nun = "the great river" (Companion Bible).

It has played many parts in the history of the area, including Ancient Babylon; and it has a special part to play as the future location of Prophetic Abram's Eastern border, (Gen. 15:18).

The ref. in Revelation 9:14 to the river, and the angelic release of "armies" (plural), who have the mandate (V.15) to kill "the third part of man" (see:; has confused and confounded attempts to understand these words for centuries.  (Current population approx. 7.5 billion; 2020).  See: Population Reduction. 

However, the recent events of the "Arab Spring", and the subsequent turmoil in many Arab countries who are named in Scripture regarding the "last days" (2Peter 3:3-4; Jude 4-7; Matt. 24:21-22; 2Tim. 3:1-17; 1Cor. 4:5; Dan. 12:1; 2Thess. 1:8-9 & Matt. 24:37-39); and latterly the emergence of ISIS in Iraq and Syria (old Babylonia); may auger a definite change and acceleration in world events re. the Middle East.

The great puzzle for Bible students has been/ is the number of the people making up the "armies" quoted in Rev. 9:16; as the logistics seem impossible.  Many ideas have been aired; one being the following in which is copied below to give a flavour of discussion. 

Rev. 9:16  And the number of the (a)armies of the horsemen were (b)two hundred thousand thousand: I heard the number of them.

(a)  "Armies"; these armies (plural), must be from more than one Nation.  The Euphrates river has Nations on both of its sides that historically and currently are hostile to Israel.  The Caucuses Nations, Persia (Iran), Turkey (Asia Minor, half of which (west) was Ancient Greece), Syria, etc. probably are all involved.  However, there is speculation that Nations such as India, China and others may be involved, they certainly have the populations; although historically are not foes of Israel, and apparently are not listed in Scripture, as are the others.

The religions of these Countries are all descended from Babylon, (modern Iraq) which whilst revering "the people of  the Book" (the Bible), deny Christ's deity.  However, the Caucuses, and others from the East of the Euphrates, together with  Assyria, and Persia (Iran) maybe the Eastern limit/boundary.

(b)  "Two hundred thousand thousand"; the literal wording from the Greek is "two myriads of myriads".  The Oxford English Dictionary defines myriad as 1) "an indefinitely great number".  2) "ten thousand".  If we use the latter, i.e. (10,000 x 10,000) we have 100,000,000 x 2 = 200,000,000.  Such a size of a multiple army is hard to imagine.  The population requirement alone, to say nothing of the economics and logistics drains the imagination.  At present (2020) there are only two countries in the world capable of  producing such numbers, China and India, however, see note on (a) and below (July 2015).  However, the Bible states these future facts, therefore they are accurate.  

However, if these are demonic beings, they may be literally as described, or they may be demons with the characteristics described, entering into humans in that area.  Whatever the reality, it will be understood from the description, as written in Revelation at the time of fulfilment.  

It is seen from the above that there are many Christians worldwide who will try to understand what the meanings are in Revelation's words.

The following is a new attempt by the writers to make sense of Revelation's description in V.16, in the light of current events in 2020; and from comments by an author who wrote on the subject of Islam forty years ago (John Laffin, Australia); (“The Dagger of Islam”; Amazon).

It is well known that Islam is fragmented and at war with itself in its many splinters.  The two main divisions are Sunni and Shia, (with splinter groups in each).  Saudi Arabia is Sunni, and Iran (Persia) is Shia.  These two Countries are located on either side of the Arabian Gulf.  Saudi Arabia politically leans towards the West, and Iran leans against the West, and towards potential enemies of the West.

Interestingly the Euphrates River leaves Saudi Arabia on the west and Iran on its east.  However, the texts in (Rev. 9:14-16; Isa. 34:8 & Ezk. 39:17-29) show a thrust from east to west of invading “armies”; so that in attempting to arrive at an hypothesis of Countries involved, looking east is the logical approach.

When researching the population numbers of each Islamic Country eastwards of the Euphrates (mid. 2015), the following results ensue.

-Armenia = 0.15m.

-Azerbaijan = 9m.

-Georgia = 0.5m.

-Iran = 80 million.

-Uzbekistan = 30 m.

-Tadzhikistan = 8 m.

-Turkmenistan = 5 m.

-Kirgizia = 6 m.

-Kazakhstan = 17 m.

-Afghanistan = 31 m.

-Pakistan = 186 m.

-India = 210 m.

-Bangladesh = 160m.

-China (Xinjiang) = 20 m.

-China (remainder) = Estimated 28 m.

- Malaysia = 22 m.

-Indonesia = 260 m.

-Philippines = 102 m.

Total = 1174.7 million. 

It is stressed that these are mid. 2015 approx. figures, erring on the conservative; and only for the Countries east of the Euphrates.  The total world Muslim population at present is nearly 25% of the world total.  It is projected that by 2070, it would be at least more than 30% of the world total! 

It is easy to imagine from the above numbers that a compound army of 200 million would soon be assembled; if the Nations were acting in unison and of one mind and purpose!

That may seem impossible to many, as the religious variations and ideologies of Islam are so opposed.  However; if/when a figure emerges who can unite all these factions, they would run like quick-silver, and be fast and potent!

Such a figure is the “hidden Imam” or “Mahdi”; who many are looking for in Islam; and some see ISIS as the forerunner!

Isis is operating under the banner of "WAHHABISM", which is described as "orthodox", "ultraconservative", and "austere"!  It openly has declared that it seeks "the battle of the Apocalypse", which to the Christian is "Armageddon"; (it clearly does not accept, or understand that the Greek "Apocalypse" means "revealing of Jesus Christ", and Revelation and Old Testament (O.T.) prophecy shows that this is the time when Messiah Christ Jesus rescues, the remnant of His people Israel and re-news the Nation Israel, (Isa. 65:17-25; Ezekiel 36:24-30 & Dan. 12:1-3).

Islam's growing strength is at present (2020) underestimated by the world's Nations, despite its bloodthirsty record so far!

Many Muslims relate the “Mahdi” to the historic figure of ‘Tamerlane’ (of Uzbekistan) reincarnated for the purpose of leading Islam to world dominance.

Note: October 2021: it is to be noted that the recent takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, and the operations of ISIS Khorasan against the Taliban, may auger a growing momentum into Middle East conflict, which if so, would involve Israel and Jerusalem; as it is the stated intent of Shia Islam to take over and control Jerusalem, and their 3rd. most holy site.  This situation is hot at present, due to the successful bombings by ISISK of the Kabul Airport, which caused at least 150 deaths.  The situation is made much worse by the fact of the near successful development of the "A" bomb by Iran; which has drawn much protest by Israel, USA and other nations!

The common enemy of Islam is Israel, and they consistently refuse to acknowledge their right to exist in the land they currently occupy.  They also are in 'Cold' war with the western Nations that support Israel, especially America; but also much of Europe for the same reason; even though Muslims live now in all those Countries, with the highest number in France at present.

Jerusalem is a particular bone of Islamic contention, as it houses the Mosque of Omar; due to Muhammad's “night journey” to that point.  The Bible clearly states that Jerusalem is the location that God has chosen for "His Name to dwell" and this fact alone will keep it at the forefront of the world news; and International conflict.  It is also the future location of God and His Christ, and Jeshuran (the ideal Israel).  It is the focal point of the contest and conflict between God and Satan!

As regards the next Temple and the religious context, after the six day war with Israel of 1967, in which Israel took control of Gaza, the Golan Heights, the so called “West Bank” and Jerusalem; after being invaded from all sides; the Temple Mount was left in the control of Jordon and vicariously the PA.  There are political and religious reasons that the Temple Mount was not fully restored to Israel at that time, not least of which is the desire by Israel for a peaceful solution to the Palestinian conflict.  Also, the south eastern neighbour, Jordon is ruled by the ‘Hashemite Dynasty', which it is claimed by Islam is in the direct line of Mohammed, and is named after; ‘HASHIM’ the great grandfather of Mohammed.  The ‘Hashemite’ Kings have maintained the Temple site physically since the ‘Crusades’, and are as prominent Muslims jealous to keep the al-Aqsa as their unique domain for all time!

There seems to be no solution to this impasse; so it is interesting to observe what the Bible’s comments have to say!

First, Almighty God’s comments on Jerusalem give the first insights as to Almighty God’s Mind on the matter!  These can be seen in (see:  Jerusalem); and can be summed up by God’s statement in 2Chronicles 6:6, with at least 35 related references in the Old Testament!

That God in Christ Jesus in the future will resolve Esau’s/Edom’s hatred of Israel (Jacob), is shown in many Scriptures passages i.e. Isaiah 34:8 and 63:1-6, but in many other passages also.  The reference in Isa. 63:1-6 are particularly pointed, as they show that the eventual outcome will be devastating for Edom/Esau/Jordon!  It will also for the first time be the unchallenged establishment of the “One True God”, Isa. 49:6-8 and 45:5; and Satan’s challenge to Almighty God’s Domain will for 1,000 years be over, as he is entombed in the “bottomless pit” (Rev. 20); together with his demons (Zech. 13:2 etc.)!

These points are impossible for Islam to concede, and that is why they await the “Mahdi” to lead them to victory over the West and Israel, and their imposition of "Sharia" law on the world; which is the most strict, savage and brutal interpretation of the KORAN!

However; see Rev Chapter 13.

Comment Dec. 2019: this month, an announcement has been made by Turkey, Pakistan, and Indonesia; that they have agreed a pact of mutual defence, “to offset the growing aggression against Islam”.  This statement came within days of India’s change of their law regarding exclusion of any Muslim from India citizenship!  Also, much anger is now apparent as to the treatment of Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar!  There was also only 3 months ago, a change of law in India regarding Cashmere, which reduced the rights of the Muslim population.

Also causing Islamic anger is the fact of Chinese “Re-education Camps”; which are attempting to avoid uprisings in China, against the Authorities. 

When taking into account that Turkey under Erdogan rule, is wishing to re-establish a “Caliphate”, which they lost at the end of the 1914-1918 war, together with the fact that as a NATO member they have acquired Russian high tech. missiles in contravention of NATO rules; and there seems to be a building war pressure for the whole area; which would conform to Matt. 24!  (See: Gog and Magog).

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