April 2, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy XLIV: Trumpets of Doom

We must preface the plagues of the trumpet judgment in light of God’s original plagues. God sent the original plagues on Pharaoh and the Egyptians. These ten plagues recounted in Exodus 7-12, brought about the release of Israel from bondage. If we begin in Revelation 8, John foresees a series of divine plagues that are the ultimate in disastrous for humanity. We should see Revelations plagues as parallel to Exodus’ albeit on a worldwide scale. Both parallels of plagues are warnings to the ungodly and give them an opportunity to repent. Because of a failure to repent and seek God, both sets of plagues are divine judgments that go beyond any natural explanation and are supernatural in origin in increasing supernatural-ness. As it can be expected when God deals with His chosen, both result in salvation and victory for the people of God.

In 8:2, John writes, “And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.” These seven angels are those “who stand before God” like those in Revelation 1:4; 3:1. They are always prepared, always available, and always obedient to carry out God’s will. They are good role models for us in terms of obedience. God gives these angels seven trumpets of judgment by which they will execute His will.

As stated in earlier posts, trumpets have always played a major role in God’s dealings with His
People: they assembled the Israelites for war, journeys, and special feasts (Numbers 10). A trumpet was sounded at Mount Sinai when the law was given; another was sounded at Jericho when the walls came down; another when a king was anointed (Joshua 6:1). They announced coming disaster in Amos 3:6-8. Here in Revelation they announce divine judgment in the day of the Lord as foreseen in the Minor Prophets of Joel 2:1 and Zechariah 1:14-16.

“Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake” Revelation 8:5

 There seems to be a connection between these prayers that go up and the judgment that comes down. Verse 5 says that the same censor that carried the prayers up to God is dipped down into the fire of the altar and flung earthward. The martyred saints of Revelation 6 prayed that God would avenge them. Their prayers are now going to be answered. In this context the “Thunder, lightning, and earthquakes” are symbols of God’s power and wrath just as in Ezekiel 10. This storm was supernatural in origin and force. There is the implication that horrific calamities cam e in its wake and the trumpet and bowl judgments were yet to come. It needs to be noted that all the trumpet judgments proceed out of the seventh seal judgment (8:1). The seven trumpets are not the same as the seven seals. Both the bowl judgments and the trumpet judgments are from within the seal judgments or spring forth from the last seal.

When the Lamb broke the seventh seal John saw not just one judgment but a whole new series of
judgments. Therefore, they are more severe than the first six seal judgments. These judgments have a cascading and intensifying effect the closer one approaches to the End.

Some of the judgments will be so harsh that it will lead even some of the hardened and hostile unbelievers to repentance but the bulk will remain stiff-necked and unrepentant as noted in Revelation 9:20-21. The rest of Chapter 8 gives us the first four trumpet judgments.  The first four trumpet judgments fall on creation and the last three on mankind.

The first four trumpets: God deprives the ungodly of earthly security because of their persecution and idolatry. These judgments are not so much intended to evoke repentance but to punish because of the permanently hardened, unrepentant stance of the unbelievers toward God and his people. This first trumpet blast signaled the beginning of a judgment that involved hail, fire, and blood. Although some have taken the judgments of Revelation and interpreted symbolically rather than literally, most must realize that these judgments are based on the Old Testament and there they were literal. There is no reason to believe that these judgments are to be interpreted in any other way than in their literal and obvious sense. The Old Testament prophets understood that the miracles of Egypt were to be repeated in the future also (Isaiah 10:22-25; Jeremiah 16:14-15; Ezek 38:22; Joel 2:30, etc)

An interesting question is this: “Why were these judgments “mixed with blood?” Blood in the Bible in prophetic literature is often symbolic of vengeance and blood and fire were often combined as symbols of judgment as in Isa 9:5. This judgment also is similar to the plagues on the  Egyptians this proving that the same God involved in the judgment of man in the end is the same God that brought the Hebrews out of Egypt all those years ago. An all-powerful God that is Sovereign then, now and always.

It appears the judgment of hail be the worst ever seen as it would also refer to the utter destruction of various crops of the earth like wheat, barley, rice, corn, etc. The consequences of losing a third of all trees and foliage will have a significant negative impact on our most basic need—oxygen, which is a by-product of trees photosynthesis from vegetation that would be destroyed.

In 8:8-9, “Something like a great mountain . . .” in a ball of fire, is cast into the sea. Asteroids are literally mountains hurling through space. There are many currently known that cross an orbit with the earth. These asteroids are giant masses of iron, rock, or literally mountains that could enter the atmosphere and burst into flame. John then writes that a third of the sea “became blood.” Although this could easily be caused supernaturally, it could also be caused by the tremendous amount of death resulting in blood poured into the sea or contamination from said death in the sea. The sea becoming blood-like could also simply mean or refer to a tremendous loss of life in a metaphorical sense. With apocalyptic writing we can never be quite sure unless the text itself explicitly says so.

The first plague in Egypt in Exodus 7:17-18 made the water undrinkable, fish died, and it had a terrible stench. In Revelation, parallel to Exodus the devastation will be vastly larger in its effect as a third of the living sea creatures will die. Since many of the creatures in the water constitute the large portion of the world’s food chains…the damage will become obvious. Their destruction will produce a significant domino effect on many higher forms of life.

Since we know that this sequentially a precursor to the second bowl judgment, found in Revelation 16:3-6, that will result in the  death of every living thing in the sea (Zephaniah 1:3), this would make sense.

So we see “…the third angel sounded his trumpet” and a falling star (possibly a meteorite) fell from heaven on the fresh water sources on earth. It also was on fire probably due to entry into the atmosphere at high speed. The name of this star was “Wormwood” which means “bitter” This “star” kills many men and causes a third of the fresh waters of the world to be bitter which points to them being inconsumable. This judgment recalls the bitter water that God gave the rebellious Israelites to drink in the wilderness, which the tree was cast into to turn it sweet in Exodus 15:23-25

Verse 12 sees, “the fourth angel sounded, in contrast to the first three trumpet judgments against the land, sea, rivers, and fountains of water, the fourth trumpet is aimed against the heavens. In contrast to this fact it should be noted that God created and made visible to the earth, the sun, the moon, and the stars. This trumpet blast announced judgment on a third of the heavenly bodies. The darkening of the heavenly bodies foretold here are an ominous warning of worse judgment to follow. Somehow, some way God will cut off light from the sun, moon and other heavenly bodies by a third just as in Exodus 10:21-23. This could come in the form of a celestial eclipse or possibly from volcanic ash or mad-made pollution in the atmosphere. A reduction in light will further exacerbate an already tenuous situation in terms of the foliage as in the form of a nuclear winter situation. The decrease in light would probably lower global temperatures and have a devastating effect on harvest or food grown in seasonal patterns, especially if it is the summer season in a given hemisphere. These celestial or atmospheric changes will be so drastic that the Bible tells us that a 24 hour day will be reduced by 1/3 to 16 hours. Of course parallels can be drawn to the similarity between this and the 9th plague of Egypt (Exodus 10:21-23). Jesus actually said that sun and moon would be σκοτισθήσεται smitten (Matt 24:29-30) and the days would be shortened for the elects sake which is to say that they appear to still be in the earth too at this time.

There are then three “woes” at the end of chapter 8 that actually correspond to the final 3 trumpet
Plagues outlined in the next chapters (9:1; 9:13; 11:14) and these three woes are specifically directed against the unbelieving world as judgment and punishment.

Fifth Trumpet

Along comes the Fifth Trumpet in 9:1-11. The star in 8:10 was part of the cosmic disturbance while this star appears to be spiritual in nature and origin – a divine agent or an angel because the text tells us keys are given to αὐτῳ / to him for the “bottomless pit” or literally the redundant phrase φρέατος  τῆς  ἀβύσσου / “the well of the abyss.” From Luke 8:31 we know for a fact that this “well of the abyss” is the abode of the demons and John states that Satan will be temporarily “jailed” there during our Lord’s reign on the earth in Revelation 20:1–3. The Antichrist/The Beast will ascend out of this pit in Rev. 11:7/ 17:8. It must be clarified that the pit of the abyss is not the lake of fire as that is the “abode” for Satan and all who follow him but part of that hidden underworld under  the Lord’s authority. Today, the fearsome army described here is already incarcerated, waiting for the hour of liberation and terror.

The fallen star is a being or person, the king over the beings in the pit (Revelation 9:11). He doesn’t have complete authority, for the key to the pit had to be given to him before he could release his army. My guess is this “star” could be Satan and his army of demons as Satan is sometimes referred to as Lucifer which means “brightness or light-bearer” and he is also known as the “morning star” (Isa. 14:12–14). Jesus has even said to His disciples, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven” in Luke 10:18.

The pit is opened and smoke emerged like a furnace had been opened. Interestingly, Jesus compared hell to a furnace of fire in Matthew 13:42. It is the thing that emerges from this smoke that sends chills up the collective spine of mankind: It is an army of demons, compared to locusts. As the eighth plague in Egypt was a devastating swarm of locusts just as Exodus 10:1–20. The magnitude of this is awe inspiring even for people with poor imaginations. These cannot be literal locusts because locusts do not have scorpion-tails that sting. Nor do these creatures devour vegetation. They have one purpose…to torment and sting people and thus create such pain that their victims will actually wish for death, but death will flee from them. This seems like the ultimate reversal for those that have abused their freewill given by God. They used all their freewill to curse and defame God and now, at the time they want it most, it will be revoked from them. They will not be able to commit suicide and will be forced to endure the torture, powerless to do anything about it.

This demonic army is given the assignment of tormenting all who have not been protected by the seal of God. This means that the 144,000 men from the tribes of Israel would therefore escape this painful judgment (Rev. 7:1–8). In fact, it is likely that all who have trusted the Lord will be sealed in some special way and protected from torment…but nothing in Revelation itself leads me to conclusively believe that there has to be a Pre-tribulation rapture. What I do know is that we will at some point be “snatched away” but Pretrib is holding less and less weight with me nowadays.

When one reads the description of these creatures, we realize that John is not writing about ordinary locusts. There is terminologies that would lead one to believe there is more going on here than meets the eye as is the case in Joel of the Minor Prophets. Regardless, it aptly portrays a powerful enemy armed for battle. With bodies like horses but faces like men, the demons’ heads are crowned and covered with long hair a la Gene Simmons of KISS but probably better looking. They have teeth like those of lions, and their skin is like a coat of mail. Apparently they will be able to fly and it will sound like an army of chariots rushing past. Obviously, real locusts do not have a king but this army swarm follows Satan and his name is Abaddon or “Destroyer.”

The Sixth Trumpet

We are at the golden altar of incense that the angel offered the prayers of the saints in Revelation 8:3–5 and now from this same altar a voice speaks, commanding that four angels be loosed. It is my belief that these "angels" need to be wicked because I severely doubt God's holy angels would be bound. Each angel released is in charge of part of the vast army that follows them or an army of 200 million beings if taken literally in the text. The truth is we are dealing with a myriad times a myriad or 10,000 times 10,000 which is the greatest numbers the writer could come up with. It was to be a number beyond imagining. It is not the total that is the issue here. This may or may not be the Chinese Army as some are so fond of spouting (who cares if it is?). It is the fact that the army is released at a precise time, for the specific purpose of killing and not just torture and torment. A time designated by God, not man, not Satan. They will kill a third of the world’s population. Since a fourth of mankind was already been killed in Revelation 6:8, this means that half of the world’s population will be dead by the time the sixth trumpet judgment is completed. We are talking about an enormous death toll beyond fathoming.

Contrary to what a lot of sensationalist interpreters believe, I do not believe we necessarily need to identify this as a literal army of men, moving in conquest across the globe. The focus in the  paragraph is on the horses, not the riders. Look closely at their descriptions. They are explicitly described and they sure don't sound like any horses I know of...except in nightmares. To assert that this is a literal army or to attribute implements of modern warfare to this is to miss the message John is seeking to convey.

It is the deadly power of these horses is in their mouths and tails or the fire, smoke, and brimstone coming from their mouths, and their tails that are biting like serpents. They can attack men from the front as well as from the rear. In other words there will be no place to run. Most likely this is more or another demonic army run by four fallen angels that are currently restrained by God and unable to act until God gives them permission. They are bound at the Euphrates River which in days past seems to have been the cradle of civilization and therefore an initial hotbed of wickedness, sin and false religion (Babel, mystery religions, etc.)

In these judgments and God is upholding His justice, His holy Law and vindicating His suffering people. All things considered these people may be getting off easy since the sins that men and women will be committing are pretty horrendous such as demon worship and idolatry. As there was at the time of John and as there is now, a great deal of “religion” or spiritualism will be practiced at this time, but it will be false religion. People will worship the works of their own hands: wealth, buildings they construct, machines they make, and the cities they build, as well as other lesser or petty idols. All of which will be made of things like gold, silver, stone, etc.

Murder and theft will be rampant as will very form of sexual immorality and “sorcery” which is the Greek word φαρμάκων / pharmakon, which means the use of drugs or other mind altering substances. Drugs were often used in pagan religious rites, mystery religions and  demon worship.

Mankind will be practically jumping over one another to break Mosaic commandments and violate moral laws. They'll be breaking the first two Mosaic commandments by making and
worshiping idols. In their murders, they'll violate the sixth, in their thefts, the eighth. By their fornication, they will break the seventh  It will be an age of lawlessness with “every man doing that which is right in his own eyes” Judges 21:25 but this time it will be unlike anything anyone has ever seen before.

We have now arrived at the middle of the Great Tribulation in verse Revelation 10–14 with much more devastation to follow...

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