REVELATION 8 - 9
THE TRUMPET JUDGMENTS
The interlude between the sixth and seventh Seal is now over. Chapter 8 opens with the breaking of the seventh Seal. This Seal introduces and commences the Trumpet Judgments. Time-wise, these judgments cover all of the rest of Earth's history. The events of the first five Seals took place during the first three and a half years of the Tribulation. They were indirect judgments and lead up to the Great Tribulation (the last three and a half years of the Tribulation). Beginning with the sixth Seal, God began to pour out direct judgments on the earth and we arrived at the beginning of the Great Tribulation. The Trumpets will complete God's direct judgments on the earth and they will be increasingly severe and punishing.
The Trumpet judgments are the epitome of God's supernatural interventions on Earth. By means of these judgments, God will put down the wicked and put all enemies under the feet of his Son while, at the same time, he extracts out of Satan’s dark kingdom all the remaining souls who will respond to his gracious gift of salvation. So, the breaking of the seventh Seal is a very pivotal point in earth's history indeed. When the Trumpets it unleashes have run their course, Satan and his dark kingdom will have been eradicated and God’s great offer of salvation will be complete. Psalm 46, speaks of these coming judgments in graphic terms:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah. There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. Come, behold the works of the LORD, who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; he burns the chariot in the fire. ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!’ The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.
When the seventh Seal was broken, I suspect that John, as well as all of the rest of Heaven, were caught flat footed by what happened next. This being the last Seal, they no doubt expected something immediate and spectacular to occur. What actually happened though was … nothing at all. John says, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Now, so far in the book of Revelation, you may have noticed that Heaven isn't exactly a quiet place. It is filled with activity and sound. We have heard the voices of people and angels, living creatures and awesome voices from God, his throne and from Christ. Back in chapter 5, we read that the Living Creatures there, never ceased to cry Holy, Holy, Holy, night and day. Heaven is filled with noise, praise, voices, thunders, singing and, no doubt, laughter as well. But, when the Lamb broke the seventh Seal from off his scroll, everything and everyone in Heaven became absolutely quiet. All activity and noise ceased. There was utter silence. Why will that be, do you think? I believe it is the calm before the storm. In light of our Lord’s long-suffering, gracious and merciful character, this great pause before he commences his final and ultimate judgments on Earth is both understandable and predictable. This great silence will occur simply because he whose mercy endures forever, will be demonstrating, one last time, his great reluctance to pour out his righteous and long overdue judgments on mankind.
Lamentations 3:33-34, says,
…For he does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. To crush under one's feet all the prisoners of the earth…
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. Second Peter 3:9
However, although God is a loving, long-suffering and merciful God … make no mistake about it … the day will come when he will act and crush under his nail scarred feet all the prisoners of the earth (Lamentations 3:34). Here in our text, that day has now arrived … the day when Almighty God will arise and deal with blasphemous and rebellious mankind who has so persistently spurned his Son and polluted the earth with all manner of evil. Over and over again, both in his Word and through the preaching of his servants, the Lord has warned the wicked that a day of reckoning will come. Now it has. This is the beginning of God's strange work (Isaiah 28:21).
Our text says that the silence in Heaven lasted for thirty minutes. That is not very long, actually. Yet, thirty minutes of total silence on such an august occasion and in the presence of such an innumerable host of beings will no doubt seem like an eternity. Surely, the air will be electric with anticipation and foreboding as all wait to see what God is about to do. Surely, the silence will be so palpable that one could cut it with a knife. One can almost hear the angels thinking … What will God do to those who have spurned his love and counted the sacrifice of his Son to be of no consequence? All must wait. All is silent … for God Almighty is about to arise and shake terribly the earth (Isaiah 2:21b).
Finally, something began to happen. John says, I saw seven angels stand before God. The Greek word translated before here is the word, ἐνώπιον (enopion). I believe this word is emphasizing a special class of angelic beings who are associated with the throne of the Almighty. Its root meaning is to “dwell with” or “camp out with.” So, I believe these particular angels are unique. They are Angels of the Presence. Gabriel is such an angel. When he rebuked Zechariah for not believing his message, he said with incredulity,
I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. Luke 1:19
We can just about read Gabriel's mind by that statement. He was thinking, How could anyone not believe the word of an Angel of the Presence? I believe the seven angels in our text here are of that elite group. This passage is another indication of their continuous presence before the Father. They are the same seven spirits who greeted us back in chapter one, by the way, and also the same angels who were burning before the throne in chapter 5. John says they were given seven trumpets.
Following the distribution of the seven trumpets, another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. Now, it is important to keep in mind that there are two altars in this scene. The brazen altar was the altar where sacrifices were laid and burned. It was located just outside the door of the Holy Place out in the courtyard. We know that this angel was standing at that altar because he took fire from it. The fire on the brazen altar was kept burning twenty-four hours a day. John saw the angel dip his golden censer into the fire and then take it inside the Holy Place. Twice daily, priests at the temple on earth took fire from the brazen altar of sacrifice and took it inside the Holy Place to the little four horned golden altar located just in front of the veil before the Holy of Holies. There, they mixed the fire with incense on the little golden altar before the Lord. Here, however, you will notice that an additional ingredient is said to be mixed in. Our text says that the angel mingled the fire and incense with the prayers of all the saints and, we read, the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand. This will be an event pregnant with significance on the day when it actually occurs. Psalm 141:2, says,
Let my prayer be set before you as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
The mingling in of the prayers of all the saints with the incense indicates that God’s final Trumpet judgments will come about in answer to the prayers of all of God’s people from all time. Over the centuries, countless prayers have been sent up to God by his people … prayers calling for deliverance, help, justice, vindication, intervention and vengeance. And, as with all yet unanswered prayers from the beginning of human history, they have not gone unnoticed nor been forgotten by God. Many of these prayers are imprecatory prayers (prayers calling for judgment). The cries of the martyrs under the altar, back at the breaking of the fifth Seal, were imprecatory prayers. They cried, How long O Lord, Holy and True, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth? (6:10) There have been many prayers to God that were like this down through the ages. Some of them are found in the Psalms. Here is an example of one from King David.
For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips, let them even be taken in their pride, and for the cursing and lying which they speak. Consume them in wrath, consume them, that they may not be; and let them know that God rules in Jacob to the ends of the earth. Selah. Psalm 59:12-13
All such prayers, along with countless others, will one day rise up afresh before God ... just prior to the blowing of the first Trumpet.
As John continued to watch, the angel with the fire emerged from the Holy Place with his now empty censer and John saw him approach the brazen altar. Arriving there, once again the angel dipped his censor into its fiery coals. This time, however, he suddenly and unexpectedly turned and threw the fiery coals down upon the earth. This is striking symbolism. The brazen altar was the place of sacrifice, you see … an altar where, down through ancient Jewish history, continuous offerings for sin had been slain and burned. Day after day, over and over again, each of these sacrifices pictured the sacrifice of God's Lamb/Son who would one day come and offer himself, once and for all, for the sins of the whole world. The significance of the angel's casting fire down to the earth from that particular altar is pregnant with significance. Earth-dwellers of that day will have been continuously rejecting Christ's sacrifice for them on the cross. Now, there is nothing left but to experience the fiery judgment of God for their stubborn rejection. Further, their punishment must come at the hands of that very same Lamb that was sacrificed for them in the first place!
After the smoke of the prayers of all the saints goes up, the fire of God’s judgments will begin to come down upon the earth. In concurrence with the casting of fire down to earth by the angel … there were also thunderings, flashes of lightenings and ominous noises (should read voices) from God’s throne and, down on Earth, there was an earthquake. You will remember this is also what occurred at God's throne just prior to the Seal judgments (4:5). It re-occurs here, just before the Trumpet judgments begin. [Note: The NKJV translated this word, φωναὶ (phonai) as noises, when it should have been rendered voices. It is the same word that was translated, voices back in 4:5 in the same context.]
THE FIRST TRUMPET SOUNDS …
HAIL AND FIRE MINGLED WITH BLOOD
COVER THE EARTH
So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. The first angel sounded: and hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. [Nu adds: and a third of the earth was burned up] and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.
Our text says the seven angels with the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. I have tried to picture that. What kind of preparations did John see? Practicing their notes? Cleaning their instruments? Arranging who would go first, second? Just asking … I can't say as I know. Getting back to business here, there is a very important prophecy in Micah that we should look at before we examine these judgments. Micah said,
As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt, I will show them wonders. The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might; they shall put their hand over their mouth; their ears shall be deaf. They shall lick the dust like a serpent; they shall crawl from their holes like snakes of the earth. They shall be afraid of the LORD our God, and shall fear because of you. Micah 7:15-17
This prophecy relates directly to the days of the Trumpet judgments and tells us why they will parallel the plagues that God sent upon the Egyptians in Moses' day. Wonders are scheduled for the earth ... wonders chosen specifically by God to be of the same nature as those that occurred when Israel was delivered from the hand of the Egyptians ... wonders that were designed specifically to remind the nations of God's love for, and special relationship to, his chosen people, the Jews.
Let's step aside again. May I say to you, if you don’t have a problem believing the literal historic and supernatural plagues of the Exodus, you are not likely to have a problem believing the literalness of the plagues of the Trumpet judgments we are about to see. Many have tried to explain both away, however. Not too long ago, I watched a program on PBS trying to explain away the literal miracles of the Bible. This is the common approach by the world to the miracles that God has performed in history. As a youth at a certain church camp, I remember being ridiculed by two preachers for believing that Jonah was swallowed by a whale! Ha! Ha! They then instructed us that this biblical story was just a myth. Not only did these skeptics not believe in the historic miracles of the Bible, but they were ignorant of the Bible’s presentation of them as well. The Bible says, Now God had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah (Jonah 1:17) … not a whale, as those two Biblical illiterates assumed. I can only imagine what they might say about the prophecies of which we are about to read. J.B. Smith, one of the great Bible expositors of yesteryear, commenting on these miraculous judgments, warned, One needs to be cautious how he regards the miracles in unfulfilled passages of divine prophecy lest he undermine his own faith in the miracles of divine history. Hear, hear!
When the first angel blew his trumpet, once again hail and fire fell upon Earth … just as it had done in the days of old during Moses’ time. However, this time it was far more severe than its ancient counterpart in Egypt. This time, it was worldwide and, in addition, it spattered Earth-dwellers with blood. How frightening that will be when it comes. Also, it destroyed a third of all the trees and grasses on Earth. Once again, it will be very difficult for men to separate this event from the supernatural. It will be another slap in the face to mankind’s perceived understanding of nature. This judgment is alluded to in other scriptures as well. Psalm 11:6, says,
Upon the wicked he will rain coals; Fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup.
Psalm 140:10, says,
Let burning coals fall upon them; let them be cast into the fire, into deep pits, that they rise not up again.
Joel prophesied about the effect this judgment will have upon the cattle in that day, saying,
How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate. O Lord, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field. The beasts of the field cry also unto thee… Joel 1:18-20a
The first Trumpet judgment will be the beginning of an environmentalist’s nightmare on Earth. However, we need to understand that God has no great concern for his creation when man, for whom it was created and who is the crown of that creation, is persisting in willful rebellion against him. To care about the creation when this judgment is occurring would be analogous to one’s son being killed while riding a bike and then being concerned about the bike. Make no mistake about it, God will not give a rat’s eyebrow for all the forests and grasses of Earth if, by means of burning them, just one man or woman might be saved. Notice, however, that no human being was killed by the first Trumpet judgment. It is an alarm. Someone has said, God always sounds an alarm before he judges. A third of the forests and grasses will perish, but only a third. God will still be exercising his restraint and long-suffering, you see. The God of all mercy is measured in his judgments and, even at this late hour, will still be waiting for men and women to turn to his Son and be saved. This first Trumpet parallels the seventh plague of Egypt found in Exodus 9:23,
And Moses stretched out his rod toward heaven; and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire darted to the ground. And the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt.
THE SECOND TRUMPET SOUNDS …
A BURNING MOUNTAINOUS OBJECT
STRIKES THE SEA
Then the second angel sounded: And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. And a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
If the first Trumpet was an alarm, the second will come as a disaster alert! You may have seen Hollywood’s movie, Deep Impact. It is the fictional story of a giant comet’s impact on Earth. If you saw that movie, you will have seen a graphic depiction of something that is strikingly similar to this future event and the devastation that will result from it. Unlike Hollywood's film, however, a comet will not cause this disaster. The description here is more in keeping with the impact of an asteroid accompanied by added supernatural effects. Notice that it is said that this object was thrown into the sea. What an impact that will make when it strikes the earth in that day. How awesome it will be when it comes. Yet, again, notice the thirds. God limits the destruction caused by this flung mountain of fire.
As a result, a third of the world’s ships will go down to Davy Jones Locker. Doubtless, this will be due to the giant tsunamis which such a hurled object will generate. A third of all sea life will perish as well and a third of the sea will be literally turned to blood. Again, these thirds continue to speak of the mercy and longsuffering of God in that day. Now, the question arises, is this real blood? Again, my mind goes back to those two pseudo-ministers I encountered at camp in my youth. I recall that they also spent a good deal of time attacking the blood that accompanied Moses' first plague on Egypt. The Bible says the waters of the Nile were turned to blood. They said that was absurd. They said, Probably, a volcano erupted up-river and red mud came down making the waters of the Nile just look like blood. May I say to you, either you believe what Scripture says or you do not. As far as I'm concerned, if the Bible says that it was blood, it was blood. When the judgment of the second Trumpet comes, it will parallel the first plague in Egypt in Exodus 7:20-21,
And Moses and Aaron did so, just as the LORD commanded. So he lifted up the rod and struck the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants. And all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. The fish that were in the river died, the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink the water of the river. So there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.
THE THIRD TRUMPET SOUNDS …
EARTH'S FRESH WATERS
Then the third angel sounded: And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter.
You will remember that, during the Exodus, God changed bitter water to sweet at Marah (Exodus 15:22-25) so that his people might have water to drink. Here, the opposite occurs. He will change sweet water to bitter by means of a great star. John saw it fall and strike the fresh waters of the earth. He was told the star's name was Wormwood. This is a significant name in Scripture and it helps us to understand God’s reason behind this judgment. In the Old Testament, wormwood is a word that is associated with idolatry. For example, we read in Deuteronomy 29:18,
…so that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations, and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood…
Wormwood is also a word used to describe man’s poor judgment (Amos 5:7) as well as calamities and sorrow (Jeremiah 9:15; 18:15). Putting the pieces of the puzzle together, the name of this great star suggests that the calamity and sorrow that will result it has come about because of man's poor choices in choosing to worship idols rather than the true and living God. It also will be in retribution for all the injustice, sorrow and pain that man's idolatry and bogus religions have inflicted on the world. The blowing of the third Trumpet will initiate the most severe judgment yet, and it will be the first to initiate loss of human life. John says many men died from the water. This third Trumpet is also a parallel of the first plague in Exodus.
THE FOURTH TRUMPET SOUNDS …
A THIRD OF DAY AND NIGHT EXPERIENCE
Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night.
When the fourth angel blew his trumpet, Earth's sources of light in the heavens were turned off and utter darkness came upon the earth for a third of each day and night. I believe God will send this plague to give lost men and women a taste of what it will be like to be eternally separated from him in the Lake of Fire. Jesus said,
For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 25:29-30
May we step aside here for a moment? Contrary to popular opinion, the Lake of Fire is a place of utter isolation and darkness. Such darkness is a fearful thing in itself. When I was a youngster, my parents and I went on an excursion to the famous Carlsbad Caverns in southeastern New Mexico. After we hiked down into the cave, the tour guide sat us all down and informed us that he was going to turn out the lights so we could experience absolute darkness. He then turned out the lights. Immediately, groans began to be heard. The darkness could almost be felt. He instructed us to hold our hands before our faces and see what we could see. We could see nothing. It was as if we had all gone blind. It was very sobering and we were all greatly relieved when the lights came back on.
On another occasion, my family and I were out camping at Wall Lake in the Gila National Forest (pronounced hee la). I awoke in the middle of the night to discover that the moon had gone down but, to my delight and amazement, I found that the stars themselves were flooding the camp with soft light. Being a city dweller, that was something I hadn’t experienced before. During the judgment of the fourth Trumpet, all lights from heavenly bodies will be quenched for a third of the nights and a third of the days and that will be a very long time, brother! For four hours during the day and four hours during the night, men will be confronted with absolute darkness, vividly demonstrating the condition their souls will experience in an eternity without Christ. How terrifying that will be can only be imagined. We are not told how many days this judgment will last but, if it persists for very many ... apart from divine intervention ... the Earth would freeze. This judgment will parallel the ninth plague of Exodus.
Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt.’ So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. Exodus 10:22
Both Isaiah and Jesus predicted this coming judgment.
For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine. Isaiah 13:10
And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken [Jesus’ words]. Luke 21:25-26
THE VISION OF THE ANGEL WITH
THE THREE WOES
And I looked, and I heard an [NU replaces: angel with: eagle] flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, ’Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!’”
Before the fifth Trumpet sounded, John saw a prepared eagle go forth to circumvent the earth and cry out a fearful message. Its bone-chilling warning was, Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound! Lange, in his commentary, pictures this as a spirit being that soars at great altitude so that it is visible to the far meridian of Earth. However, I take it for what it says. A talking eagle, you ask? Exactly. God sent a message to Balaam by the mouth of a jackass, did he not (Numbers 22:28)? God can use whatever instrument he chooses to get his Word out. What language will the eagle speak? We are not told. But, doubtless, it will be universally understood. The Greek words for woe here are Οὐαὶ οὐαὶ οὐαὶ (Owiiiiiii! ... Owiiiiiii! ... Owiiiiiii!). The eagle's cry will pierce the skies with this ominous onomatopoeia … followed by its sobering prophetic words. No doubt, this will impart quite a jolt to Earth-dwellers as they see and hear this macabre phenomenon. Will anyone give heed to his cry? I believe they will. After all, this eagle will be speaking the Word of God and faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17).
The final three Trumpet judgments to which God's prepared eagle will be referring to are called woes because they will bring unprecedented ruin to the earth and to its remaining rebellious peoples. The fifth Trumpet will be the first woe, the sixth will be the second woe and the seventh will be the third and final woe. Dr. McGee points out that there are over six hundred warnings about Hell in the Bible. He says, If you were driving your car down the road and you read over six hundred signs that said, 'TURN BACK, THIS ROAD LEADS TO DESTRUCTION', would you keep on going down that road? Could you blame someone else or sue the Highway Department if you suddenly drove off a cliff? Talk about no excuse! Earth-dwellers of this future day will have more opportunities to be saved and avoid disaster than all the other generations of human history combined. However, as we will shortly see, multitudes will simply harden their hearts the more and stiffen their necks the more in adamant unbelief at God's merciful warnings. Proverbs 29:1, will be fulfilled in that day in spades on those who obstinately continue to refuse the grace of God that is being offered to them...
He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.
THE FIRST WOE
HORDES OF DEMON LOCUSTS RELEASED FROM THE ABYSS
Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit. Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them. The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. They had hair like women's hair, and their teeth were like lions' teeth. And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle. They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months. And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon. One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things.
When the fifth angel blew his Trumpet, the first woe commenced down on Earth. John says he saw a star fallen from heaven. This symbol refers to a person. We know that because of the personal pronouns he and him that are used here. As we have already discussed, a star is sometimes used in the Bible to designate an angel. I believe that to be the case here. But who is this angel? There is a hint to his identity in the tense of the Greek word, fallen, that is used here. It is in the present tense which denotes an action that was completed in the past but whose effect continues on into the present. In other words this star has fallen, is fallen, and always will be fallen. Jesus said,
I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Luke 10:18b
This fallen angel is Satan himself. At the sounding of the fifth Trumpet, he will be given the key to the bottomless pit to go down and release a multitude of other fallen angels (demonic beings) who have long been imprisoned there. The Greek word translated bottomless pit here is, ἀβύσσου (aboussoo), from which we get our English word abyss. This is the first of seven mentions of the Abyss in Revelation. We learn from Luke 8, Jude 6 and Second Peter 2, that the Abyss is the temporary holding place for a certain class of fallen angels. Based on Peter's statement in Second Peter 2, I believe that the demons who are loose on Earth today are a different group. Nevertheless, all of them have a horror and an aversion to the Abyss. We see that in Christ’s encounter with some of them in Luke 8:31. There, the demons that he cast out of the wild man of Gadara begged him that he would not command them to go out into the abyss. Consider these scriptures also.
For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment… Second Peter 2:4
And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, he has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day. Jude 6
The Abyss is for real. Apparently, it is located somewhere in the bowels of the earth. At the sounding of the fifth Trumpet, Satan will be allowed to set loose a certain number of these long incarcerated spirits who will come forth aching for action and yearning to do Satan's bidding.
John says that when the Abyss was opened the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit. I witnessed the eruption of Mount Saint Helens in the state of Washington in 1980. As its ash and gasses exploded thousands of feet upwards into the atmosphere, I had the creepy feeling that the Abyss had been opened. How utterly awesome it will be when it actually occurs one day. The fifth Trumpet will be a terrifying and severe plague, indeed. Notice that the vegetation will be exempt whereas, in its parallel, the locust plague of Exodus 10, they ate all of the vegetation. These demons, when they come, will deal a much heavier blow than the locusts the Egyptians had to contend with in Moses' day. The fact that they are said to have been given authority to hurt men implies that these cruel creatures will come with a built-in desire to torture mankind.
Again, let’s step aside for a moment. The question arises … Why would Satan and his fallen angels help God carry out his judgments? The answer, I believe, lies in the fact that Satan and his demons actually hate mankind. I think that is because man is made in the image of God as well as the fact that man has been the object of God's love and purpose throughout history. This is more than sufficient cause for Satan and his demons’ hatred and envy of man. Add to that the fact that every individual human being has the potential, through faith in Christ, to be exalted to the very right hand of God on High (Ephesians 1), that really stirs up the animosity of Satan and his demons. Frankly, Satan and his crowd would be happy to see mankind obliterated. During the days of the fifth Trumpet, however, they will have to settle for mere infliction of suffering on men, probably little realizing that by doing so, God will be using them for his own purposes. The judgment of the fifth Trumpet is also prophesied so specifically in Joel 2:1-11 that we need to look at it here.
Blow the trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the LORD is coming, for it is at hand: a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, like the morning clouds spread over the mountains. A people come, great and strong, the like of whom has never been; nor will there ever be any such after them, even for many successive generations. A fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns; the land is like the Garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; surely nothing shall escape them. Their appearance is like the appearance of horses; and like swift steeds, so they run. With a noise like chariots over mountaintops they leap, like the noise of a flaming fire that devours the stubble, like a strong people set in battle array. Before them the people writhe in pain; all faces are drained of color. They run like mighty men, they climb the wall like men of war; every one marches in formation, and they do not break ranks. They do not push one another; every one marches in his own column. Though they lunge between the weapons, they are not cut down. They run to and fro in the city, they run on the wall; they climb into the houses, they enter at the windows like a thief. The earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble; the sun and moon grow dark, and the stars diminish their brightness. The LORD gives voice before his army, for his camp is very great; for strong is the One who executes his word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; who can endure it?
Many prophecies in the Bible have more than one fulfillment. This prophecy is a good example of a prophecy that has a double fulfillment. One fulfillment is usually a near fulfillment and the other is far. Although the prophet Joel was describing a local locust plague that would come upon Israel in his own day (the near fulfillment), his words far exceeded what took place at that time. So, they also referred to a second fulfillment that will occur at the time of the fifth Trumpet (the far fulfillment).
Returning to our text, notice it says here that the 144,000 were exempt from this plague because of God’s protective seal on their foreheads. This is important information in that it clues us in to the fact that all of the 144,000 will still be alive during the days of the fifth Trumpet, which is well into the Great Tribulation.
John continues, And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months, their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. We cannot be certain whether these demonic beings will be visible or not, but they certainly will be felt. Joel prophesied they will lunge between the weapons, they are not cut down. People will attempt to defend themselves from these demonic creatures but ... to no avail.
He continues ... In those days, men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them. For five months, men will seek to die because of this plague but they will not be allowed to do so. A shocking statement, is it not? Just how they will be prevented from dying we are not told. Apparently, those who attempt suicide will only add to their miseries. Men often brag that they are the captains of their own fate. I am reminded of that popular and smug song, I Did It My Way! At the judgment of the fifth Trumpet, God will call mankind on that boast. At that time, men and women will not even be able to kill themselves. Why do you think God will not allow people to die during those days? Would it surprise you if it was because of his mercy? If people were allowed to kill themselves, they would simply be transferring themselves into a far greater misery in Hell than they were experiencing under the fifth Trumpet ... and that misery would last forever.
Let me add a comment here. States and countries that have legalized euthanasia are inflicting a great tragedy on people. How sad that those who think they are being kind by providing relief from suffering are, in fact, multiplying their victim's awful suffering a thousand fold (if they are unsaved folks) by sending them on to a Christless eternity in the Lake of Fire. If they had not prematurely taken their lives … who knows if they might have been saved? The judgment of the fifth Trumpet is aimed at remedy of life. No one will be allowed to die during its days.
Before we leave this passage, it would be profitable to take a look at the description here of these demonic tormentors. They stand before us here, in all of their strutting, proud and monstrous demeanor. Remember, however, they are actually spirits (fallen angels). As spirit beings, like their demon comrades today, they are normally invisible. However, if they actually manifest themselves in that day as they are described here, they will greatly add to men’s terrors. All eight aspects of their appearance seems to point to self design and smack of unmitigated pride. John says:
…their shapes were like horses prepared for battle. By this guise, they flaunt their perceived prowess, power and speed.
…upon their heads were crowns of something like gold. The Greek word here for crowns is στέφανοι (stephanoi). This is the word for a victor's crown. Satan's demons prefer this crown. It is the same one that Satan's Antichrist was wearing at the first Seal judgment (6:2). Why do they desire a victor's crown? Well, I believe it has to do with the fact that they all have that something in them that wants to be better than Christ. When we get to chapter 14, we will see that Christ wears this crown. He is the only one who is truly worthy to wear it, by the way. He is the great Victor. He is the one who is victor over Satan, sin, the world and even death itself. These demons declare themselves to be victors, but as Dr. McGee comments, they are losers. Our text says their crowns are not even made of real gold! These reprobates possess no real wealth either!
…their faces are the faces of men. They probably present themselves with the faces of men to attempt to portray intelligence but, if they are so smart, why did they rebel against God in the first place?
…they have hair like women’s hair. This appears to be a vain attempt at beauty, but they are stupidly unaware of how grotesque they really appear.
…their teeth were like lion’s teeth. With their teeth they present themselves as strong and ferocious, but they have no power or strength other than what has been given them.
…they wear breastplates like breastplates of iron. As such, they masquerade as invincible, but the day will soon arrive when one little word will destroy them all.
…the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running to battle. With the noise of their wings, this mob will strike terror into the hearts of men. My son, Dave, loves to visit a spot in Mexico where all the Monarch butterflies migrate. He says there are so many millions of them that the air is filled with the constant whooshing of their wings and their combined weight often breaks limbs from off the trees! Isn't that amazing? These fellows, however, will be no butterflies and the roaring sound of their wings will be horrifying.
…they have tails like scorpions. Their tails are their diabolic instruments of torture. Someone has said, A camel is a race horse put together by a committee! I can’t help but think of that jocular truism here. Surely these demons must have concocted their own appearance by committee. No doubt they will be very proud of the result, scarcely realizing what monstrosities they actually are.
By the way, I do not believe you can find a clearer picture of our enemy, Satan, than is described to us here in Revelation 9. He hurts simply because it is his depraved nature to do so. The destruction and torment of human beings is his sheer, perverted pleasure. In verse 11, he is called in Hebrew, Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon ... the Destroyer. That just about says it all. One woe is past, two are yet to come.
THE SIXTH TRUMPET SOUNDS …
THE SECOND WOE
A SECOND DEMONIC INVASION COMMENCES
Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ’Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates’. So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind. Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them.
Before we go on, let's remind ourselves of two important things that will be happening on Earth during the days of these final judgments. First, God will be continuing to seek the redemption of all who will call upon his Son and be saved. And, at the same time, he will be steadily and increasingly upping the ante on the wicked by pouring out more and more severe wrath upon them. As you have it in Psalm 94:23,
He has brought on them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness; The LORD our God shall cut them off.
And again, in Psalm 37:10-11,
For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; indeed, you will look carefully for his place, but it shall be no more. But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
When John heard the sixth Trumpet sound, immediately he heard a voice speak from the four horns of the golden altar. This is the little altar that was inside the Holy Place. It was where the angel mixed the prayers of the saints with incense and offered them up to God back in 8:3. This altar is a square box in design and it has upward hooked horns at each of its four corners. In Old Testament times, once a year on the Great Day of Atonement, the blood of a sacrificial lamb was applied to each of these horns by the High Priest for the sins of the people. Year after year, this pictured God’s coming mercy through the blood of his provided Lamb, Christ Jesus. The fact that the voice that initiated the judgment of the sixth Trumpet called out from these horns indicates that the voice itself was that of the blood of Christ. At that time, most Earth-dwellers will still be adamantly rejecting the blood of God’s Lamb and thereby cementing their fate at the hands of the very One who loved them and died to set them free. As you have it in Hebrews 10:26-27,
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
The voice that spoke from the horns of the golden altar said, Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates. Who might they be? Well, let’s see what we can glean about them from the text:
It says they were bound. This is a strong indication that they are of the demon crowd. Only spirits that have rebelled against God in the past are said to be incarcerated in the Scriptures.
Then, it says they were prepared for this judgment. The present perfect participle in the Greek here indicates that they were prepared in the past and are, at this very moment, waiting to be loosed.
Next, it says they were at the great river Euphrates. This river is in the Mesopotamian Valley. It separates the far-east from the land of Palestine running from Turkey and Syria in the north down through Iraq to the Persian Gulf. American troops fought their way across this river several times in the war to liberate Iraq. It was in this very geographical area that sin was first known in the Garden of Eden. The first great judgment of mankind also fell here in the days of Noah when God destroyed the first original world and its inhabitants by water (Genesis 6).The first counterfeit religion was born here when, at Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar set up an image of himself and demanded all his subjects must worship it. The great enemies of God's people, the Babylonians, Syrians, Assyrians ... the Medes, the modern day Iranians and countless others have all flourished in this valley. It is at this river, so filled with the history of rebellion and sin, that four great evil principalities of the spirit-world are presently waiting ... chained there ... until the day of their release.
Then, it says they were prepared for the hour and day and month and year. The construction of these words in the Greek, with the absence of the article, indicates that it is not speaking about separate periods of time but rather an exact point in time. These evil principalities are waiting for the exact year, month, day and hour of the sounding of the sixth Trumpet that will release them from their chains.
Finally, it says they were released to kill a third of mankind. The sounding of the sixth Trumpet will precipitate a second outpouring of demonic beings upon the earth. John says he heard the number of them … two hundred million strong. The sixth Trumpet was aptly named the second woe, back in 8:13. It will be the severest judgment yet of the Great Tribulation.
And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfer yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone. By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed; by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which came out of their mouths. For [NU omits: their] the power [NU adds: of the horses] is in their mouth and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents, having heads and with them they do harm.
The outpouring of demonic beings from the now unlocked Abyss will be led by the four fallen principalities out of the Euphrates River. This time around, however, the result will be far more devastating than the previous release of demons. These four will go forth with the authority to kill a third of all humanity on Earth. You will remember that a quarter of Earth's population perished at the breaking of the fourth Seal back in 6:8. After the sixth Trumpet has run its course, over half of the world's population will have perished.
Let’s look at John's description of these two hundred million demons for a minute. He saw them come forth as mounted riders with armored breastplates which were fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow. These colors seem to reflect their fiery origin from out of the Abyss. Their horses' heads were like the heads of lions and their tails like serpents, having heads; and with them they do harm. When they come, in that day, they will come murdering and tormenting with a vengeance. Many have attempted to water this passage down. Some, using Augustine's allegorical method of interpretation, have said this is actually a picture of World War III with its armies and tanks and helicopters. The human heart has a very difficult time accepting that such a literal judgment could, or would, be sent from God on mankind. Yet, the Scripture says,
The LORD has made all for himself, yes, even the wicked for the day of doom. Proverbs 16:4
Again, the difficulty with Revelation is not so much in interpreting it as it is in believing it. Dr. Newel says of this Sixth Trumpet … believe and you scarcely need comment.
This judgment of death parallels the tenth plague in Exodus.
And it came to pass at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock. So Pharaoh rose in the night, he, all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead. Exodus 12:29-30
ut the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. And they did not repent of their murders or their [NU changes: sorceries to: drugs] or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
This certainly tags down the hardness of heart that will be the hallmark of the people who are left on Earth during the closing days of the Great Tribulation. It is significant that their sins, as listed here, read like today’s newspaper. This is yet another indicator that you and I are living very close to the days being described here.
John says they did not repent. Again, this demonstrates that God's purpose, even down to the last hour, will still be aimed at the remedy of life. It will still be his great desire that men and women repent and turn to his Christ for salvation. But, they will not. They are all in the same boat now. Our text says ... But the rest of mankind ... did not repent...
This includes all the remaining Jews who have not turned to Christ at that time. Ezekiel 33:11, comes to my mind.
Say to them, 'As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’
Though going unheeded, God will still be reaching out to wicked Israelites during those final days.
Now, although they are not mentioned here, I believe that most of the 144,000 will no longer be alive on Earth at this time. I say that because the single most important factor in the changing of a human heart is the Word of God. But our text says that the men who were left did not repent. This is a strong indicator to me that the Word of God is no longer being preached. Miracles, signs and even direct interventions by God cannot change one human heart. Those things may get people's attention, but there must be hearing of the Word of God in order for lives to be changed. Salvation cannot and does not take place apart from the Word of God. As you have it in Romans 10:13-14,
For, 'whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.' How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
And again, in First Peter 1:23,
Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, with liveth and abideth forever. (KJV)
The fact that, after the sixth Trumpet, those who were left did not repent, leads me to believe they have killed off most, if not all, of the 144,000, along with most of the others who were preaching the Word of God to them. And, by doing so, they have unwittingly sealed their own fate. Now, let's look briefly at this list of sins from which these Earth-dwellers will so doggedly refuse to turn from. It says:
…they worship demons and idols. This is mankind's oldest and most common sin. First Corinthians 10:19-20, informs us that demon and idol worship are synonymous. It is very prevalent in our day. In India alone, there are an estimated one hundred million plus idols associated with the Hindu religion. Romans 1:22-24, says,
Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man; and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore, God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves.
…they refused to turn from their murders. Romans 1, says when men walk away from God, he turns them over to their own evil devices. These devices are enumerated in that chapter and you will find murder is one of them (Romans 1:29). Today's news media is swamped with reports of the murders that are rising like a flood in our day. I give you Chicago and what is happening in Mexico as two examples. This is another indicator of the lateness of the hour in which we are living.
…they refused to repent of their drugs. This Greek word is very interesting. The word is φαρμάκων (farmakon). It is the word from which we get our word pharmacy. Until recently, it seemed completely illogical to translators of the Bible to translate this word drugs, although it is this word's primary root ... so they translated it sorceries. The NIV translates it, magic arts. However, here at the beginning of the 21st century, it has become apparent that the Spirit of God meant exactly what he said! NU's correction in the text is right on. The Spirit said, drugs, and he meant drugs. Drug abuse is behind much of the crime and lawlessness in the world today and it is a skyrocketing problem around the globe. It has become such a problem in our country that it has caused drug wars in Mexico that are so violent that our state department has feared a total collapse of the Mexican government. It is reported that, in the last few years, nearly fifty thousand people have been murdered over drugs in Mexico alone. Colorado, Washington and several other states have recently legalized marijuana in order to raise tax revenue by the sale of the same. In the days of the blowing of the sixth Trumpet, the Bible says that drugs will be a major problem. And, as far as God is concerned, he will demand that men repent of them. From the looks of it, I would say that day is just around the corner, wouldn’t you?
…they refused to repent of their sexual immorality. The tremendous increase today in sexual immorality and our society's unwholesome fixation on sex is another indicator of the lateness of the hour. Television, advertising and education is obsessed with sex, sex and more sex. It is alarming how sexual immorality has permeated our country and even our churches in the last decade. Premarital sex and homosexuality have become such accepted norms that, at the earliest ages, they are being taught in public schools as legitimate expressions of human sexuality. Laws are now being formulated and passed that forbid even speaking out against sexual immorality. A few years back, when I lived in Oregon, one of Portland's police chiefs was found to have taken a stand against homosexuality in a speech at a Christian peace officers conference nearly ten years previously. Upon uncovering that information, immediately a campaign was launched against him to have him fired. Ordination of homosexuals to the ministry is approved and practiced in more and more mainline denominations today. Pornography is on every corner and in the last few years, it has spread into homes across America and the world via the Internet. As a pastor, I encountered Christians who were unashamedly “shacking” up together. They insisted there was nothing wrong with it. Churches today are filled with people who blatantly give themselves to all manner of sexual immorality. This last wicked generation of which we are reading, will refuse to repent of their sexual immorality ... just as our generation is doing today.
…they refused to repent of their thefts. Nothing speaks louder of one’s self-absorption than stealing from one's neighbor. My daughter told me that if she wanted to get rid of anything in her neighborhood, all she had to do was to leave it out on the front porch. She said she had an old rug they didn't want to pay the garbage men to haul off, so they just put it out on the porch, and sure enough, in short order, it disappeared. Stealing is rampant in America today. Consumers pay billions of dollars in added costs so that stores can be compensated for their shoplifting losses. Don't you think we are very close to these very dark days that are being prophesied here in Revelation?
Well, there we have it. The second woe commenced by the sixth Trumpet is past. It will result in the death of one third of earth's remaining sin-hardened peoples. And those who are left, will still be adamantly refusing to turn from their wickedness. One woe is yet to come.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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