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A Deathbed Prophecy and 200 Million Horsemen

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And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.  Revelation 9:16

 

If you were a Family Radio listener in the months preceding May of 2011, you most likely heard Mr. Camping discuss the number found in Revelation 9:16: two hundred thousand thousand.  Of course, a thousand thousand is one million, so this number can be stated as 200 million.

 

Mr. Camping thought it very likely that this was the actual, total number of persons God had saved out of the entire human race.  Is it possible Mr. Camping was correct?

 

 

An Idea From the Old Testament

 

Notice something about the verse.  After the number, we find the words “and I heard the number of them.”  Why would God add those words to the verse?  Mr. Camping realized that God was calling our attention to the number, because there was something special about it.

 

When we read the verses describing the vision in which the number appears (Revelation 9:13-21) and compare those verses with others in the Bible, we see that the vision is all about the resurrection and rapture on the last day.   This event will be a judgment, especially against “the third part of men” (Revelation 9:18).  To a great extent, this third part will be members of local congregations of Christian churches all over the world.  The 200 million are those (God’s “army”) who bring this judgment.

 

Mr. Camping understood this and taught about it.  Based on his understanding, he concluded that 200 million was very likely the actual number of people God had saved.  He even used this number to estimate the likelihood that any individual might be one of the elect (one out of 70, assuming that half of the 200 million would be alive when the Lord returns, and based on an estimate of 7 billion people for earth’s population).  However, there is another explanation for the unusual words at the end of Revelation 9:16.

 

In many Psalms and in a couple of verses elsewhere in the Bible, we find the word “Selah.”  For example, we find the word in Psalm 87:3:

 

Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. Selah.

 

The concordance identifies “Selah” as Strong’s number H5542: “celah,” and states that it’s “a technical term, probably showing accumulation, pause, or interruption.”  If we accept the premise that God put every word in the Bible for a good reason, then we have to conclude that whenever He uses “Selah,” He is calling our attention to whatever precedes it.  He wants us to think about what we have just read.

 

That is how we should understand the words “and I heard the number of them.”  It is like God’s use of “Selah.”  He is calling our attention to the number because there is something special about it.  However, the fact that He is calling our attention to it does not mean it is a literal number.  It means that He wants us to think about it.

 

When we read the book of Revelation, we find that it consists almost completely of a series of visions the apostle John had when he was on the island of Patmos.  The book has a brief introduction up to verse 8, and in verses 9 and 10 we learn where John is and why he is there.  From then on, the book describes one vision after another.  Occasionally, we read the words “and I saw” or “and I heard,” or something similar.  Otherwise, the book is entirely about John’s visions.

 

For example, the vision in which John sees a rider on a white horse (in Revelation 6:2) is God’s way of telling us that He sent His people out from Jerusalem in 33 A.D. to go all over the world with the Gospel.  There was no literal white horse with a rider spreading the Gospel.

 

As another example, notice something about the visions described in Revelation 20.  Here we find the words “thousand years” in several verses, but this thousand isn’t always the same length of time.  In a couple of verses it refers to eternity, but in no case does it mean a literal one thousand years.

 

There are many other numbers in the book of Revelation; but, like the visions, the evidence is that none of the numbers can be taken literally.  For this reason, we must conclude that the “two hundred thousand thousand” cannot be the actual number of people God has saved.

 

 

A Misleading Translation

 

Part of the difficulty we have in understanding Revelation 9:16 results from the way the number has been translated.  When we check a concordance for the original language for “two hundred thousand thousand,” we find that the King James translators gave us a very misleading translation.

 

The original Greek is (phonetically) “dyo myrias myrias.”  The word “dyo” is Strong’s number G1417.  It’s used 135 times, and in every other case it’s translated as two, or both or twain.  In other words, it’s the number two.  The word “myrias” is Strong’s number G3461.  That word is translated as ten thousand, or innumerable multitude.  It’s the word that gives us our word “myriad,” going from Greek to Latin and then to English, according to the dictionary.

 

In fact, other translators have given us a better translation of this verse.  In the Revised Standard Version, we find Revelation 9:16 translated like this:  “The number of the troops of cavalry was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number.”  In other words, God is telling us that there are two big groups.

 

We also find the word “myrias” used in Revelation 5:11:

 

And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;

 

Here, the “ten thousand times ten thousand” is “myrias myrias.”  Verse 9 of Revelation 5 tells us that these “angels” were redeemed “out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.”  So it appears that, like the horsemen of Revelation 9:16, we have in Revelation 5:11 another picture of all the elect.  Notice also something very important about Revelation 5:11: it’s the word “and.”  In other words, God is showing us that there are two groups, but one is much bigger than the other.   One group is ten thousand times ten thousand, and the other is thousands of thousands.

 

Amazingly, we find another picture of these two groups in Revelation 7.   We read there that the number of those who are “sealed” is “an hundred and forty and four thousand” (Revelation 7:4). This number is broken down into twelve thousand from each of twelve tribes (Revelation 7:5-8).  Mr. Camping identified the significance of the number 12 as the fullness of whatever is in view, and the number ten (or one hundred, or one thousand) as the completeness of whatever is in view.  So the number 144,000 carries the meanings of completeness and fullness.  Now read Revelation 7:9:

 

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;

 

This is a second group.  Continuing on in the chapter, we learn that this second group – the great multitude – came out of a great tribulation (verses 13 and 14).  Clearly, the great multitude is pictured as being much larger than the 144,000.   And so we again see two groups, one greater than the other.  Does this remind you of anything?

 

 

 

Feast of First Fruits and the Big Harvest

 

You may have learned that the annual feasts God commanded ancient Israel to observe give us a picture of God’s salvation plan.  In Leviticus 23, we find that one of these feasts is called the feast of firstfruits (Leviticus 23:10-22).  (It’s also called the feast of Pentecost – a word that comes from Greek and means fiftieth day.)  This feast was observed when the first harvest was gathered.

 

A few months later, at the time of the second and larger harvest, another feast was observed (Leviticus 23:39).  From many verses in the Bible, we know that a harvest is associated with people whom God has saved.  The feast of firstfruits is a picture of the first and smaller group of people, and the second harvest feast represents a larger group.  In fact, God even confirms this way of understanding the feasts by what we read in Revelation 14:3-4.  There, the 144,000 are called “the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.”

 

And so we have two Old Testament feasts picturing two groups of God’s children, just as we see in Revelation 5:11, Revelation 7 and Revelation 9:16.  Additionally, the feasts picture one group as being larger than the other; this also matches what we find in Revelation 5:11 and chapter 7.

 

 

A Prophecy about Ephraim and Manassah

 

Besides these two feasts, God gives us in the Old Testament yet another picture of two groups of people whom He has saved.   We find it in Jacob’s prophecy.   In Genesis 48:1-2, we read:

 

1 And it came to pass after these things, that one told Joseph, Behold, thy father is sick: and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. 2 And one told Jacob, and said, Behold, thy son Joseph cometh unto thee: and Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed.  

 

Jacob was dying.   His son Joseph learned about it and went to see him with his two sons.  In order that Jacob might bless them, Joseph presented his sons to his father in such a way that Jacob’s right hand could easily rest on the older boy’s head, and his left hand on the younger.  The older boy was Manasseh, and it was expected that he would receive a better blessing than his younger brother, Ephraim.   Genesis 48:14 tells us what happened:

 

And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn.

 

Jacob surprised his son: he crossed his arms so that his right hand rested on Ephraim’s head and his left on Manasseh.  Joseph wanted to correct this situation, as we read in Genesis 48:17-18:

 

And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim’s head unto Manasseh’s head. 18 And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.

 

It’s important to understand that God was directing all of these events.  He made sure that Joseph would be there with his two sons before Jacob died, and he made sure that Jacob would bless Joseph’s sons just as he did.  This blessing is found in verses 19-20:

 

And his father refused, and said, I know it , my son, I know it : he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations. 20 And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh.

 

Do you see what is going on here?  God is using Ephraim and Manasseh as pictures of the two groups we read about in Revelation.  Manasseh, the older brother, is a picture of the 144,000 or firstfruits harvest.  And Ephraim, the younger brother who matures at a later time, is a picture of the great multitude or big harvest of souls.

 

Before Jacob died, he also made prophecies about each of his sons.  We will see that one of these prophecies gives us additional insight into the significance of his grandsons – Manasseh and Ephraim.

 

 

A Curious Difference Between Two Lists

 

And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.

Genesis 49:1

 

Jacob, whom God named Israel, had 12 sons.  In Genesis 49, we find a prophecy about each of them.  This may have happened on the same day as Jacob’s prophecy concerning Ephraim and Manasseh, or very soon afterwards.  It’s possible that Joseph made the arrangements to bring all of his brothers to his father’s bedside immediately after Jacob blessed the boys.  After all, Joseph was in a position to do that, and it may have been done very quickly.

 

When all the sons were there, Jacob mentioned each one and said something about that son – and it wasn’t something good in every case.  Here is a list of the sons about whom Jacob made a prophecy:

 

Reuben

Simeon and Levi (together)

Judah

Zebulun

Issachar

Dan

Gad

Asher

Naphtali

Joseph

Benjamin

 

The descendants of these men became the 12 tribes of Israel (see 1 Chronicles 2 and following chapters).  You may remember that Revelation 7 also has a list like this.  There, we read that 144,000 of the children of Israel are “sealed” before a time of God’s judgment (Revelation 7:3-4).   Then, we find a list of the tribes of Israel.  Here is the list of names we find there in verses 5 through 8:

 

Judah

Reuben

Gad

Aser

Nepthalim

Manasses

Simeon

Levi

Issachar

Zabulon

Joseph

Benjamin

 

If you compare the two lists, you will see that – aside from the fact that the names are in a different order – there is a difference in one name.  Jacob’s son Dan is missing in the list from Revelation, and he has been replaced by Manasses or Manassah.  Why would God do that?  Did someone make a mistake?

 

Of course the answer has to be something else.  First, we need to read Jacob’s prophecy about Dan.  We find it in Genesis 49:16-18:

 

Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. 17 Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward. 18 I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD.  

 

This does not sound unfavorable to Dan in any way.  So we actually have two problems: why did God drop Dan from the list of Jacob’s sons, and why did He replace Dan with Manassah?

 

In addition to these questions, we need to know why Ephraim doesn’t appear in the list.  According to Jacob’s prophecy, Ephraim would be greater than Manassah.  Yet we don’t see his name in the list.  In fact, Ephraim’s name appears only once in the entire New Testament, and that’s in John 11:54.  There it’s the name of a city near the wilderness where the Lord Jesus went to be with His disciples and away from the religious authorities.

 

We already know part of the answer to these questions.  We’ve seen how God reveals that there are two big groups He has saved.  In Jacob’s prophecy, they are pictured as Ephraim and Manassah; and in Revelation they are called the 144,000 and the great multitude.  By including Manassah’s name in the Revelation 7 list of tribes, God is linking Manassah with the 144,000 and showing us that this group is the fulfillment of Jacob’s prophecy about Manassah.  In other words, Manassah is the 144,000.  Therefore, Ephraim is the great multitude.

 

There is still one question remaining: why did God pick Dan as the one to drop from the list of tribes in Revelation?  In order to answer that question, we need to go back to the book of Revelation.

 

 

  Pictures of the Rapture and Resurrection

 

In the book of Revelation, we find the resurrection/rapture pictured in a couple of different ways.  In the passage that includes our verse about the 200 million horsemen, we find it pictured as a great army of terrible creatures unleashed against mankind to kill “the third part of men.”  The horses are described as having tails that are “like unto serpents.”

 

In Revelation 16, we find another picture of the resurrection and rapture.  There, we see God’s series of judgments pictured as vials of wrath being poured out on the world.  The vision associated with the pouring out of the sixth vial is a picture of the resurrection and rapture.  Notice how God portrays this event as a great battle at a place called Armageddon.  It’s a battle with the “kings of the earth” (Revelation 16:14), who are gathered together by Satan (Revelation 16:13-14).

 

This “battle of Armageddon” is also pictured in Revelation 19, where we read about God’s armies (Revelation 19:14) coming to destroy the world’s armies.  The birds are called to gather so that they “may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of might men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great” (Revelation 19:18).

 

Besides these pictures of the resurrection/rapture in Revelation, we also find something interesting about it in Luke 11:31-32:

 

The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.  32 The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

 

Here, the Lord Jesus is talking about the last day.  Notice how these verses show that those who are resurrected are condemning the unsaved.  They reveal that the queen of Sheba (see 1 Kings 10:1-10) and at least some of the people of Nineveh (see Jonah 3:5) were saved.  When they rise up in the resurrection on the last day, they will “condemn” the unsaved.  That doesn’t mean that there will be any speeches!  Rather, it shows that God considers the resurrection to be a judgment against the unsaved.

 

In these passages from the Bible, we have seen that God associates several ideas with the resurrection and rapture.  First, it’s a judgment against the unsaved; and it’s a judgment especially against the “third part,” which represents the official, Christian organizations claiming to represent God’s kingdom today.

 

We have also seen that the elect on the last day are pictured as being in some way like a serpent.  They have a power to “do hurt” (Revelation 9:19).  And we have seen that all the elect together are pictured as an army that will destroy the world’s armies and their horses.

 

Keeping all these ideas in mind, once again read Jacob’s prophecy about in Genesis 49:16-18:

 

Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. 17 Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward. 18 I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD.

 

Do you see how they match?  Notice also verse 18:  “I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD.”  By studying many other Bible verses, we know that the rapture and resurrection will occur immediately before the end of the world.  That will be the day when God’s elect inherit their new body, designed to last forever.  It will be the completion of their salvation.  And so we have the answer to our last question: the 200 million horsemen represent Dan.  That’s why God deleted him from the list of tribes in Revelation.  In Jacob’s prophecy, Dan is a picture of everyone God has saved, rising up on the last day in the resurrection and rapture.

 

 

Conclusion

 

We have seen that Revelation 9:16 reveals God’s plan to save two large groups of people.  In several places in the Bible, the first group is pictured as the firstfruits and as 144,000, the second as the larger harvest of ancient Israel’s two harvest feasts and as a “great multitude.”  In some other verses, God applies spiritual numbers to these groups, such as thousands of thousands, or ten thousands of ten thousands.

 

God tells us about the two groups in several ways, even as far back as the time when He gave us the book of Genesis.  In Genesis, we find Jacob’s deathbed prophecy, which he spoke hundreds of years before his descendants had multiplied into the 12 tribes of Israel.  Even there, we see the two groups pictured by Jacob’s grandsons.  Interestingly, in all of the ways the two groups are pictured, there doesn’t seem to be any reference to people saved before Jacob’s time.

 

We know that both Abel and Seth were saved.  And of course Noah (and his family), Abraham, Isaac, Joshua, Caleb and some others were saved, based on what we read in the Bible.  Undoubtedly, others were also saved before Jacob passed away.  However, we must conclude that the total number saved before Jacob’s time was relatively small in comparison to the number saved afterwards.

 

The number saved before Jacob’s time, plus the numbers in each of the two big groups God has saved, are represented in Revelation 9:16:  “twice ten thousand times ten thousand” (Revised Standard Version) and are pictured in Genesis by Jacob’s prophecy about Dan.  Back in 2011 and perhaps now, that number was understood to be the actual number of persons God had saved out of all humanity.  However, we have seen that this number must not be taken literally.  In Deuteronomy 29:29, God tells us:

 

The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

 

God reveals that  – like the date for His return and the end of the world – the exact number of people He has saved is one of His secrets.

 

 

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