Armies of this size and sophistication have only been a feasibility in recent times (indeed, the world’s population around 1600 A.D. is estimated to have been 500 million; so at the time Revelation was written the world population may well have only been 200 million—surely, only God could envisage armies of 200 million men in that day and age!). We have a prophecy of human destruction which makes World War II look insignificant.5But it would seem this multitude is neither from the east (Rev. 16:12+) nor human:
To summarize why these two hundred million are demons and not Chinese, four things should be noted: first, they are led by four fallen angels; second, the location of the army is stated to be the Euphrates, where Babylon is located (which in the future will be the headquarters of the counterfeit trinity); third, the description given in the text rules out this army’s being human; and fourth, the kings of the east [Rev. 16:12+] are not connected with this at all.6Moreover, the practical aspects of mobilizing a human army of such size seem insurmountable. It is not simply an issue of manpower alone:7
According to General William K. Harrison (an expert in military logistics), an army of 200 million could not be conscripted, supported, and moved to the Middle East without totally disrupting all societal needs and capabilities (“The War of Armageddon,” xerographic copy of unpublished, undated article). As General Harrison brings out on this aspect of Revelation, God has made men with certain limitations; and the actual raising and transporting of an army of the size spoken of in v. 16 completely transcends human capability. All the Allied and Axis forces at their peak in World War II were only about 70 million (The World Almanac, 1971, ed. L. H. Long [New York: Newspaper Enterprise Association, 1970], p. 355). Thus it seems better to understand the vast numbers and description of the horses as indicating demonic hordes.8
Some have suggested that this is the human army referred to in Rev. 16:12+ and led by “the kings from the east,” noting that the Red Chinese army reportedly numbered 200 million during the 1970s. But no reference is made to the size of the army led by the kings of the East. Further, that army arrives on the scene during the sixth bowl judgment, which takes place during the seventh trumpet, not the sixth. [emphasis added]9I heard the number
1 A few manuscripts have the lesser μυριάδες μυριάδων [myriades myriadōn] , myriads of myriads.
2 “Attempts to reduce this expression to arithmetic miss the point. A ‘double myriad of myriads’ is an indefinite number of incalculable immensity.”—Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), Rev. 9:16.
3 James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament), electronic ed. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1997), s.v. “#H6099.”
4 A. R. Fausset, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 1877), Joel 2:2.
5 Monty S. Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1987), Rev. 9:16.
6 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 231.
7 Bear in mind that the passage says “two myriads of myriads” which indicates a numberless multitude rather than precisely “200 million.” But for the sake of argument, a 200 million man army is assumed.
8 Alan F. Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), Rev. 9:13-19.
9 John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), Rev. 9:16.