THE TRUMPETS OF REVELATION
By James Duffee
Revelation 8:1) And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. 2) And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.
The manner in which the original translators divided the King James Bible often confuses even the most alert Biblical scholars. The seventh seal should not have been separated from the other six by a new chapter heading. The wording here has led many people to believe that the Revelation prophecies were given in a continuous chronological order, with the seven trumpets following the seven seals. John reveals that Revelation was not a single vision, but several. When he begins with the words "And I saw", it marks the close of one vision and the beginning of another. He had just related the symbolic events under the seven seals, now he continues with a new vision of seven trumpets.
Revelation 8:6) And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. 7) The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
The seven trumpets, intended to reveal events during the "Christian era", begin with the Roman Empire. The first trumpet reveals the first great struggle the Roman Empire faced, leading to its downfall. This struggle began at the death of the Roman emperor Theodosius. At his death in 395 AD, the Gothic leader Alaric seized the opportunity to attack. This attack came from the north, represented in this prophecy by hail. The fire mingled with blood symbolizes the results of the barbaric attacks. Each city the Goths attacked was burned to the ground and its inhabitants slaughtered. The Goths conquered approximately one third of the Roman Empire, as prophesied here by "a third part of trees", concentrating on the northern and western provinces. This fertile pasture country was destroyed by the Barbarians, represented in this prophecy by the burning up of "all green grass".
Revelation 8:8) And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; 9) And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.
In prophetic imagery, the term "mountain" is used to represent a nation, and "sea" and other forms of water represent people. Under this second trumpet period, the Roman Empire was divided into three parts, thus the term "third part" in these images reveal that this battle would effect one of these three parts. This division of Rome occurred at the death of Constantine, with the empire controlled by his three sons Constantius, Constantine II and Constans. Constantius controlled the eastern part of the empire, centered at Constantinople. Constantine II held Britain, Gaul (France) and Spain. Constans ruled over Illyricum, Africa and Italy. This third part, ruled by Constans was the one this prophecy is directed at, displaying the conquest of Africa and Italy under the naval power of Genseric, leader of the Vandals. Genseric attacked primarily the sea coasts, destroying a third of the ships and people (creatures) of the Roman Empire. The Vandals continued this marauding for forty years, from 428 AD through 468 AD.
Revelation 8:10) And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; 11) And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.
In prophecy, a star represents a leader of a group or nation, such as in the first three chapters of Revelation, where stars were used to portray leaders of a church. This burning star represents a great leader who would fall upon a third of the people (waters), another third of the Roman Empire. The continual reference to waters here suggests that this trumpet affects an area that is very fertile. The waters would be made bitter by this star, revealing a poison-like affect of this new leader. This leader was Attila, king of the Huns. His attacks were centered in the eastern third of the empire, the region of the Alps, some of the most fertile lands in Europe. His manner of conquest was utterly repulsive to everyone in the region, as implied by the name given to him here - Wormwood. It was Attila's goal and habit to not only conquer, but to exterminate; to completely erase any trace of the people he defeated. His conquests are accurately depicted by a poisoned water supply. The result of either is the complete annihilation of entire villages and provinces.
Revelation 8:12) And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.
These symbols of the sun, moon and stars relate to the governing system of Rome, with its emperors, senate and consuls. Under this trumpet, the final third of the Roman Empire was darkened, or extinguished. Following the many attacks of Odoacer, a king of Italy, the western third of the Roman Empire was, quite literally, extinguished. The emperor Romulus, also known as Augustulus, abdicated the throne, followed by the disbanding of the senate. The senate relinquished control and authority of the western empire to Zeno, ruler of the Byzantine Empire, swearing allegiance to him, and turning to him for protection.
13) And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!
This message of "woe" indicates that the remaining three trumpets will affect the entire earth, rather than just the area of the Roman Empire. Because of the more widespread meaning, the following trumpets are given in much more detail than the first four.
Revelation 9:1) And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. 2) And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. 3) And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4) And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. 5) And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment [was] as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. 6) And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them. 7) And the shapes of the locusts [were] like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads [were] as it were crowns like gold, and their faces [were] as the faces of men. 8) And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as [the teeth] of lions. 9) And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings [was] as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. 10) And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power [was] to hurt men five months. 11) And they had a king over them, [which is] the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue [is] Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath [his] name Apollyon. 12) One woe is past; [and], behold, there come two woes more hereafter.
Here again we are shown a star, a great leader. The term "bottomless pit" is from the Greek "abyssmos", and refers to any desolate, barren place, like a desert. Just prior to the sounding of this trumpet, the last Roman emperor at Constantinople (Heraclius) was in continual conflict with a Persian king, Chosroes II. As these two kingdoms battled each other, they exhausted their military capabilities, making way for the conquests of the new leader told of here. This new star did not fall on a specific place, but on the whole earth, and opened up the abyss. Smoke rose up out of the abyss, and out of the smoke came locusts. This is an accurate depiction of the rise of Mohamet (Mohammed), who led his followers out of the desert regions - the bottomless pit. As both the Roman Empire and the Persians were weakened, Mohamet seized the opportunity to raid villages over the entire region. The smoke from the bottomless pit portrays the dust from the desert as the legions of Saracens (Mohamet's followers) swarmed out of it like locusts.
In these verses we can see a vivid account of both the appearance of these soldiers and their actions. The locusts were shaped like horses, but had the faces of men, indicating men on horseback. This was the pride of the Saracens, each riding Arabian stallions. In contrast to the infantry style of warfare practiced by the preceding empires, the Saracens used cavalry methods, attacking swiftly and retreating just as swiftly to avoid counter-attacks. These locusts are said to have crowns of gold, symbolizing the golden turbans worn by the Saracens in battle. Having the hair of women denotes the Saracen practice of having uncut hair, as opposed to other cultures at the time, who associated long hair with femininity. The teeth of iron, like the same imagery used in the visions of Daniel, represent the ferocity of the attacks and conquests of the Saracens. The sound of these locusts was like that of many chariots of horses. Here again is the description of this army as a cavalry rather than an infantry. This cavalry attacked swiftly, the riders wearing breastplates and golden turbans, with hair like women.
In verses four and five it is said that these locusts, with tails like scorpions, were commanded not to hurt those who had the seal of God in their foreheads, nor the trees, grass or any green thing. It is also said that they would not kill, but would torment for five months. This reveals the nature of conquest under the Saracens, as well as the length of time they would occur. The Saracens did not utterly destroy villages the way the Huns and other preceding empires had done. They would conquer a region and leave its remaining citizens alive, forcing them to accept the Moslem religion. This is the scorpion's sting. The false religion these locusts left behind was a poison. At the death of Mohamet in 632 AD, the Saracens were commanded by Abu-bekr. He issued the following orders to his generals concerning warfare:
"When you fight the battles of the Lord, acquit yourselves like men, without turning your backs; but let not your victory be stained with the blood of women and children. Destroy no palm-trees, nor burn any fields of corn. Cut down no fruit-trees, nor do any mischief to cattle, only such as you kill to eat. When you make any covenant, or article, stand to it, and be as good as your word. As you go on, you will find some religious persons who live retired in monasteries, and propose to themselves to serve God that way; let them alone, and neither kill them nor destroy their monasteries: and you will find another sort of people that belong to the synagogue of Satan, who have shaven crowns; be sure you cleave their skulls, and give them no quarter till they either turn Mahometans or pay 'tribute.' " From "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" by Edward Gibbons, Vol. V, chap. 51, pp. 189, 190.
Verse ten repeats that these locusts would hurt men for five months, but verse eleven gives a clue as to when this five month period would begin. "And they had a king over them, [which is] the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue [is] Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath [his] name Apollyon." For hundreds of years, from the time of Mohamet to the close of the thirteenth century, the Saracens raided and looted villages throughout the area of the Roman Empire. During this time, they were divided into many different groups under various leaders, with no king over them all. Finally a king arose, named Othman, who gave birth to the Ottoman Empire. This king united the Saracens into one empire, with one system of government. The prophecy refers to this king as Abaddon in Hebrew and Apollyon in Greek. Both of these names simply mean "the destroyer".
To count the time period of five months, it is necessary to remember the prophetic symbolism of one day equaling one physical year. Five months is one hundred and fifty days, meaning one hundred and fifty literal years for this empire to hurt men. Beginning with the first battle under this one king, which occurred on July 27, 1299 AD, the one hundred and fifty years would reach until July 27 of 1449 AD. This date marks the close of the fifth trumpet age.
Revelation 9:13) And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, 14) Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. 15) And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men. 16) And the number of the army of the horsemen [were] two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them. 17) And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses [were] as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. 18) By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths. 19) For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails [were] like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt. 20) And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: 21) Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
The four angels bound in the Euphrates refers to the four primary Sultans of the Ottoman Empire. These were the Sultans of Aleppo, Iconium, Damascus and Bagdad, all regions that are watered by the Euphrates. These Sultans had been restrained through God's command that they would hurt, but not kill, "the third part of men" under the sixth trumpet. But these Sultans were now loosed, to kill or destroy the last vestige of the Roman Empire, centered in. The fact that these sultans were "loosed" indicates that the authority of the Roman Empire would be given to them, rather than taken by force. Late in the year 1448 AD, as the one hundred and fifty year period of the previous trumpet was about to close, the reigning king of the Eastern Empire (John Palaeologus) died leaving no son to take his place. His brother (Constantine XIII) was the lawful successor to the throne, but he refused to claim authority without the consent of the Turkish Sultan. This Sultan (Amurath) permitted Constantine to rule over the Eastern Empire in Constantinople. On July 27, 1449, exactly at the end of the one hundred and fifty year period, Constantine was crowned as emperor, by consent of the Ottoman Empire.
In essence, though, Constantine surrendered even before being crowned, as he admitted that he could not rule without Amurath's permission. This is the event that loosed the four Sultans, encouraging them to finally eradicate the remnant of the Roman Empire. In 1451 AD, Amurath was succeeded at his death by Mohamet II, who set his sights on Constantinople. Mohamet II attacked Constantinople on April 6, 1453, and the siege continued until May 16, 1453, when the city was defeated and the last of the Constantines was killed. Thus, the last remaining territory of the Roman Empire, or "the third part" was destroyed, and the Ottoman Empire reigned supreme.
During the battle at Constantinople, this prophecy describes the Turkish warriors quite vividly. The horsemen are said to wear breastplates of fire, jacinth and brimstone, or red, blue and yellow. These were the colors of the uniforms worn by the Turks. The heads of the horses (or horsemen) are said to be like lions, indicating strength and ferocity. These horsemen issued fire, smoke and brimstone (sulfur) out of their mouths, and it is with these three things that they killed. This vision relates the first time that firearms are known to have been used in battle. A rider on horseback, aiming and firing a blackpowder musket, would appear to be spewing fire, smoke and sulfur from his mouth.
The four Sultans were said to be loosed and prepared for "an hour, a day, a month and a year". In prophetic time, this would equal three hundred and sixty years (one year), plus thirty years (one month), plus one year (one day), plus fifteen days (one hour). Beginning at the end of the one hundred and fifty day period of the previous trumpet (July 27, 1449), this time period of three hundred ninety one years and fifteen days would end on August 11, 1840. This would mark the exact time that the power and independent rule of the Ottoman Empire would end. As with the Constantines though, this would be expected to be a non-violent loss of power.
This analysis of the prophetic time periods was first determined and publicly announced by a Baptist preacher named Josiah Litch in 1838. The entire world was waiting to see what would happen on August 11, 1840. In the preceding years, the Pasha of Egypt, Mehemet Ali, had been rebelling against the Ottoman Sultan. In 1839, the armies of the Egyptian province had captured the majority of the Turkish fleet, and held it as a bargaining tool, seeking independent rule for Egypt. This stand off in the Mediterranean Sea caused great difficulties for trade vessels, and threatened to halt trade altogether. This was a situation that could not be tolerated by other world powers, namely England, Austria, Russia and Prussia, who relied heavily on trade with the Middle East. These four world powers devised a settlement for this dispute, giving Mehemet Ali independent rule over Egypt in exchange for returning the captured fleet to the Ottoman Sultan.
The Sultan accepted this intervention and the terms set forth by the European nations. He sent Rifat Bey as an ambassador to Egypt with this signed agreement, along with the threat of military action by the four European powers if the Pasha refused. This agreement was received and signed by Mehemet Ali on August 11, 1840. Just as Constantine XIII had relinquished authority to the Turks, the Turks now relinquished authority to the four European powers, bringing the time period of this sixth seal to a close.
Revelation 11:15) And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become [the kingdoms] of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. 16) And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, 17) Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. 18) And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. 19) And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.
As mentioned previously, this seventh and final trumpet will signal the return of Christ. The lightenings, thunderings, earthquake and great hail are all events which take place under the seventh plague of God's wrath. These prophecies reveal that the opening of the seventh seal, the sounding of the seventh trumpet, and the pouring out of the seventh vial are simultaneous events. We stand in a point in time when only one seal remains unopened, and only one trumpet is left to sound. We know that before these things can happen we must endure the tribulations and persecutions under the beast empire, then watch as God pours out His wrath on the ungodly in the form of world-wide plagues. The other prophecies have been fulfilled, and the signs have been given.
Luke 21:25) And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; 26) Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. 27) And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28) And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. 29) And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; 30) When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. 31) So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.
Next in this series: "God's Warning Message"