THE REVELATION OF CHRIST
Lesson Number 16
THE FIRST FOUR TRUMPETS
"The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up. 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. 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. 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. And I looked, and I heard an angel 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!" (Revelation 8:2-6, NKJV)
Those who have a sentimental view of the Living God will find this a most
difficult section of Scripture. As well, if any entertain an inordinate affection for
nature, this passage will also tend to be offensive. This is a declaration of judgment
decisive judgment. It is not a period of negotiation, but of Divine indignation. Further,
it is not the account of Satanic activity (although he doubtless is involved), but of
Before we begin, it is important that we establish our hearts in the truth. In Christ Jesus, we have been "blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places" (Eph 1:3). The tumult which we will now confront does not take place in heavenly places. It is not a disruption of the heavenly court, or a thwarting of Divine purpose. This is a depiction of disruption upon the earth. It is a declaration of the frustration of the enemies of God, and is given to comfort the hearts of the saints. We sorely need a word from God as we fight the good fight of faith, assuring our hearts that the enemies of God have not gone unnoticed, nor will their cause ultimately triumph. All evil is destined to fail, and all righteousness is destined to triumph. The ungodly will all be overthrown, and the godly will all be victorious. These are basic postulates of Scripture. The understanding of them is a great source of strength to believers.
God is Judge, and known for Judgment
As we proceed through this section, the fierceness of the wrath of the Almighty will become evident. No child of God should be surprised or alarmed by this. God is declared to be a God of judgment. Think of the many affirmations of this truth. " . . . His work is perfect; For all His ways are . . . May the LORD, the Judge, render judgment this day between the children of Israel and the people of Ammon . . . Talk no more so very proudly; Let no arrogance come from your mouth, For the LORD is the God of knowledge; And by Him actions are weighed . . .God is angry with the wicked every day . . . For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds . . . The LORD is in His holy temple, The Lord's throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men . . . He loves righteousness and justice; The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD . . . Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face" (Deut 32:4; Judg 11:27; 1 Sam 2:3; Psa 7:9,11; 11:4; 33:5; 89:14).
Because of this, those who oppose God, reject His Son, and persecute His people, will be judged. That judgment will begin in this world, and be consummated on the day God has appointed for universal judgment.
God takes Vengeance
While God is "merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth" (Ex 34:6), He will take vengeance on those who refuse to respond to His grace, or seek to exploit, those qualities. The Lord does take vengeance, repaying those who trample on His mercy. While it is not pleasant to think on this subject, it is necessary to do so. It must be remembered that this aspect of the Divine nature required the atoning death of Christ. Salvation delivers us "from the wrath to come" (1 Thess 1:10).
"Vengeance is Mine, and recompense . . . I will render vengeance to My enemies, and repay those who hate Me. . . He will avenge the blood of His servants, And render vengeance to His adversaries; He will provide atonement for His land and His people . . . O LORD God, to whom vengeance belongs; O God, to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth! . . . You took vengeance on their deeds . . . To execute vengeance on the nations, And punishments on the peoples . . . Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you . . . God is jealous, and the LORD avenges; The LORD avenges and is furious. The LORD will take vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies . . . Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord . . . in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Deut 32:35,41,43; Psa 94:1; 99:8; 149:7; Isa 35:4; Nahum 1:2; Rom 12:19; 2 Thess 1:8).
This is not an "Old testament view" of God. Rather, it is a revelation of His nature, and is to be taken seriously. This aspect of God cannot be erased. Neither can men ignore it with impunity. Now in this time is "the day of salvation." It is a space provided by God to obtain mercy, and find grace to help in the time of need. For those availing themselves of His great salvation, the wrath due them has already fallen upon Christ Jesus. However, for those who reject the Son, counting His atonement unworthy of embrace, God will take vengeance upon them. Our text reveals this occurs, in measure, in this world. Often, the measure is far larger than men imagine possible. It is ever true, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb 10:31).
What is Sown will be Reaped
Another Kingdom principle revealed in this text involves sowing and reaping. "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (Gal 6:7). This law applies to both good and evil, Spirit and flesh. As it is written, "For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life" (Gal 6:8). Our text declares the reaping of corruption in epochal ways. As with agricultural sowing and reaping, what is harvested, when sowing to the flesh or Spirit, is in far greater measure than what is sown. Regarding wicked men it is written, "They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind" (Hos 8:7).
Declaring this same principle, Jesus said, "for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword" (Matt 26:52). The principle is stated again in the book of revelation. "If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword" (Rev 13:10). This is not the announcement of a possibility, but of an inevitability. "Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished" (Prov 11:21; 16:5). It is ever true that everything in which the wicked trust is powerless to save them in the day of God's wrath, whether introductory, or in the "great and notable day of the Lord." The things in which men trust utterly fail when the breath of the Almighty blows upon them. As it is written, "Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD'S wrath . . . " (Zeph 1:18). If we miss this perspective, we will not profit from the vision!
A Historical Perspective
There are historical perspectives to the trumpets, just as there were to the seals. While these are to be duly noted, our view of the text is not to be confined to a historical view. In history, the judgments declared in this text have been demonstrated. However, history cannot exhaust Divine principle! We have the nation of Israel as a notable example of this. They were given Divine advantages, yet despised them. Therefore, they reaped the judgment of God. As we behold them, we are to take care not to fall into the same snare. Solemnly we are warned, "Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, 'The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.' Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come" (1 Cor 10:6-11). It would be foolish to say the reaction of God to lust, idolatry, tempting God, and complaining was exhausted in the people of Israel. No person of sound mind would dare postulate such an absurdity. Yet, men have taken upon themselves to take the judgments of the seven trumpets and lock them within the confines of history-past. They do seriously err, and bring great impediment to the people of God.
A Significant Thing to See
The four trumpets deal a devastating blow to an inordinate attraction to the earth the realm of nature. Throughout history, men have idolized nature, creating gods to themselves from it. Rejecting the resounding testimony of nature, wicked men "changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things . . . and exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever" (Rom 1:23, 25). Even Israel, at the very foot of Mount Sinai, "changed their glory Into the image of an ox that eats grass" (Psa 106:20). Wicked Manasseh instituted the worship of nature when he "made a grove . . . and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served them" (2 Kgs 21:3). King Josiah, awakened by the reading of the Law, "put down" idolatrous priests who "burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven" (2 Kgs 23:5). The whole world, both Jew and Gentile, became guilty of worshiping the creation of ascribing the honor due to God alone, to what He had made.
Even in our time, the earth has become the object of unlawful affection. Phrases like "mother earth" and "earth day" should not be found in the mouths of God's people. That the exaltation of ecology is to a place of such prominence that it mandates the development and institution of special laws, is remarkable. That men would speak of "animal rights" while murdering the unborn, is evidence of a sophisticated form of idolatry that is, nevertheless, an abomination to God. God will pour judgments out upon the realm so highly revered by blinded souls, and will offer no apology for doing so.
Like the Judgment of Egypt
This section of Revelation is remarkably like the judgment of Egypt, who had enslaved and abused the people of God. The judgment of God was poured out upon their gods! The Lord affirmed, "against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment" (Ex 12:12). Looking back on the exodus, Moses declared, "upon their gods also the LORD executed judgments" (Num 33:4). I have provided a chart (figure 1) that lists the various gods of Egypt. The prominence of nature is evident in the gods they chose to serve gods which were really "no gods" at all 2 Kgs 19:18; Isa 37:19; Gal 4:8).
God Will Weaken the Invincible
In the first four trumpets, God will weaken what men imagine to be invincible. He will show the instability of everything that is made everything that sustains earth life everything to which men sinfully ascribe Divine attributes. Judgment will fall upon the earth, the trees, and the green grass. It will come to the sea, the creatures in the sea, and the ships men build to accomplish commerce by means of the sea. All sources of water, both rivers and streams, will be judged. Even the sun, the moon, and the stars noted for their stability will be shown to be inferior, and unworthy of our focus.
One other thing to note. The judgments will fall upon what is temporal, and will eventually pass away. There are no such judgments in the "heavenly places." We learn from this to detach ourselves from the natural order, which is "reserved unto fire" (2 Pet 3:7). Whatever knits the hearts and minds of men to the natural order is dangerous beyond description. Whether it is philosophy, worldly wisdom, carnal religion, or wicked lusts, when dominating, it moves the individual closer to judgment and eventual condemnation. I am persuaded this is a truth rarely perceived. We live in a time that is dominated by carnality in the church a situation of the greatest gravity. It has not escaped the attention of the Almighty!
Let all who name the name of Christ see to it that they put off the works of the flesh all of them. The Lord will honor all such efforts with a multiplication of grace and peace, a preservation in the day of wrath.
THE FIRST TRUMPET
"The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up." When one realizes this is but the introduction to coming judgments, the enormity of sin is at once established. It has defiled the entire natural realm to such a degree it must endure Divine judgment now, and finally be destroyed by fire. Western religion has cultured people for ease, and robbed them of an acute sensitivity to the malignancy of transgression. The life of relative ease has dulled the senses of the religious multitudes to such an extent that mere inconvenience is considered a great grief. Let all such deluded souls give heed to the sounding of the first trumpet.
I cannot help but recall the judgment upon Egypt, to which these trumpets bear a remarkable resemblance. For your reference, I have provided Figure 2, which lists the ten plagues God brought upon Egypt. Of particular note is the seventh plague, which also consisted of hail and fire. The plague is described in Exodus 9:23-24. "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. So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, so very heavy that there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation." Later, the Psalmist referred to this phenomenon. "He gave them hail for rain, And flaming fire in their land" (Psa 105:32).
Here is a judgment that, like the seventh plague upon Egypt, employed apparently irreconcilable forces hail and fire. These forces can only work together by Divine decree. Within the realm of nature, they are mutually exclusive when you have one, you cannot have the other. No matter how wise man is, he cannot mingle fire and ice. T
There is a remarkable principle to be seen here. With the elect, everything is being "worked together" for their good, whether trial or blessing, famine or plenty, sorrow or joy (Ro, 8:28). With Joseph, the hostility of his brothers, the lies of Potiphar's wife, the forgetfulness of the butler and baker, and the rising of a new pharaoh, worked together for his good. Perceiving this, he said to his brothers, "you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good" (Gen 50:20). In this plague, however, we have everything working together for judgment for calamity in the world. Just as Pilate and Herod became friends in their conspiracy against Christ, so God can bring together contrary forces in judgment against the wicked. Because of this, nothing is capable of averting the determined judgment of the Almighty. The wicked will not be able to escape judgment, though it tarry long. As it is written, "It will be as though a man fled from a lion, And a bear met him! Or as though he went into the house, Leaned his hand on the wall, And a serpent bit him!" (Amos 5:19).
Even at Mount Sinai, the Psalmist reveals that hailstones and coals of
fire attended the revelation of God. "From the brightness before Him, His thick
clouds passed with hailstones and coals of fire. The LORD thundered from heaven, And the
Most High uttered His voice, Hailstones and coals of fire" (Psa 18:12-13). Again, the
Psalmist refers to the judgment of God in terms of fire and hail combining to fulfil His
will. "Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word" (Psa
This is a description of the judgment of the Almighty, in which all forces combine against the wicked, with nothing contributing to their blessing, or working for their good. It is a dreadful description which constrains the righteous to fear the Lord, and cleave to His Son with purpose of heart. Away with insipid theologies that represent God as incapable of such judgments. Let men behold Him as He is!
Is it Real Hail and Fire?
Is this real hail and fire? or is it merely a figure of Divine judgment?
First, remember, it was real hail and fire experienced by Egypt, and there is no Divine
commitment that such cannot happen again, on even a larger scale. On one occasion, God
"cast down great hailstones from heaven" upon the enemies of Israel, killing
more with the hail that Israel did with the sword (Josh 10:11). Later in the book of
Revelation, the Spirit mentioned "huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds
each" (16:21). Let no person become so corrupted by academics that he thinks such to
be impossible. I personally abhor an approach to the Word of God that removes the element
of the supernatural, confining everything to the natural realm. Throughout Scripture, such
an approach is evidence of unbelief, hardness of heart, and a commitment to wickedness.
But we need not confine this trumpet to the forces of nature. As I have shown you, this is the language of Divine judgment, which will take varied forms. No child of God should be surprised by an outbreak of mighty hailstones and fire. But let none suppose that exhausts the meaning of this text. This portrays judgment that cannot be averted. Just as no intercession for Egypt could have spared it from the plagues, so nothing will be capable of averting the judgments of described in this text. Do you doubt that such a condition can be reached? Hear the word of the Lord. "So do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them; for I will not hear them in the time that they cry out to Me because of their trouble" (Jer 11:14). "Then the LORD said to me, 'Do not pray for this people, for their good'" (Jer 14:11). "Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favorable toward this people. Cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth" (Jer 15:1). If this is true of the children of Israel, what is possible with those who have openly declared themselves to be the enemies of God, who have taken upon themselves to malign His Son, resist His Spirit, and persecute is people?
Mingled with Blood
Here the judgment differs from the seventh plague. The meaning of the text is that hail and fire were mingled together in blood. What a dreadful scene! The idea is that men will die in this judgment. Nature will not bear the brunt of it alone. There will be violence, war, and bloodshed. Truly, there are enormous penalties to be paid for opposing the people of God! Throughout history, the persecutors of the godly have had to face Divine retribution in this world. Cain, Pharaoh, Jezebel, Ahab, Herod, and Jerusalem to name a few.
Again, the language is very precise, revealing Divine control at the most minute level. No judgment can extend beyond the perimeter of God's purpose. No divine fire can rage out of control, so to speak. Here is a judgment cast upon the earth that has a devastating effect upon vegetation, or plant life. "A third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up." Divine judgment is not neutralized it is a full third, not a fourth or a tenth. Yet, it is not thorough, allowing for recovery among the sensitive it is a third, not a half or the whole. It is the "trees" that are first burned, which are noted for strength and duration. Because they provide food, shade, and material for humanity, it is an epochal tragedy to have a third of them destroyed.
"All of the green," or living and productive, "grass" is burned up. The word "grass" means herbage or vegetation. This judgment also reminds us of the seventh plague upon Egypt. Not only was hail and fire sent upon the land, "the flax and the barley were struck, for the barley was in the head and the flax was in bud" (Ex 9:31). This is equivalent to "breaking the whole staff of bread" (Psa 105;16). By saying "green grass" ripened grain is meant. This too was a partial judgment, like that of Egypt, where "the wheat and the rye were not smitten: for they were not grown up" (Ex 9:32).
If you have perceived some of the events now taking place in the earth, it should not surprise you that such judgments are, indeed, possible. Fire raging out of control, and a blast of heat that is withering the fields are faint trumpet blasts, calling men to repentance. No believer can allow vain thoughts to creep into the mind, imagining that such things could not happen in our time, and where we are. We are in a nation that has rejected God at the government level a nation that allows for moral degradation, even defending the imagined right to be perverse. The church has grown cold because of abounding iniquity, and a spirit of lethargy has pervaded the land. The offspring of God are slain in the womb, and the elderly and infirm are considered expendable. Such conditions cry out for Diving vengeance, which will not long tarry.
An Historical View
History is a tablet upon which Divine workings are inscribed. They are written there for our learning. The large scale overthrow of the wicked is like a mighty trumpet blast from heaven! When I say "historical view," I am not affirming an exclusive view, but the enactment of Divine principle. Our consideration of Revelation is not to be confined to a single theological position. Rather, we are to behold its principles. We are also to be sensitive to the demonstration of those principles historically. There is also a necessity to see the principles in relation to our generation, as well as generations to come.
At the time of John's writing, the Roman empire had begun to be the seat of activity against the church. The first governmental opposition came from pagan Rome the land of the Caesars. They crucified the Lord, Paul, Peter, and would kill countless believers in their persecutions. At the height of their glory, God visited them with judgment. History confirms that about 400 A.D., the Goths (Visigoths) gathered from the unexplored lands of the North. They swept into Rome like a mighty hailstorm. With them, there was no mercy. Countries that bloomed like gardens were left barren deserts. The Goths killed and burned everything in their path. In 409 A.D., Alaric headed them into Rome itself, where the face of a foreign enemy had not been seen in 800 years. Rome was the Queen of the earth, but she had aligned herself against the Lord and His Christ. Of Alaric, history records the following. "Alaric, c.370-410, was a Visigothic king whose capture of Rome in 410 signaled the final decline of the Roman Empire in the West. The leader of Visigothic mercenaries in the Roman army, he rebelled (395) and was proclaimed king by his troops. He led his army toward Constantinople and then into Greece, where he took increasing advantage of the divisions between the eastern and western halves of the empire. In 397 the emperor in the East, Arcadius, gave Alaric military command of Illyria, from which he staged (401) an invasion of Italy. Twice forced to withdraw (402, 403) by the general Flavius Stilicho, he returned after the execution of Stilicho in 408. His first two sieges of Rome (408, 409) were ended by negotiation, but in 410 he stormed and devastated the city. He died while preparing to invade Africa." 1
Historians tell us that traitors opened the gates. In the dead of the night, Rome was besieged. Eight days after her fall, Alaric was dead, and the leaderless Goths returned to the regions of the North. Swift and decisive judgment had taken place like a mighty hailstorm mingled with fire. Devastation was left in the wake of the judgment. Rome stands for the greatest of the earth; the most unique government, the pinnacle of success, and the seat of organizational excellence. Her longevity moved some to call her "the eternal city." However, when God visited her in judgment, she fell quickly because she had aligned herself against the Most High.
Just as Rome was not the last foe of God's people, so their judgment was not the last upon the enemies of Christ. We have, in the last 50 years, witnessed the collapse of Germany, Japan, and Russia all of which persecuted the people of God. Should the very country in which we reside continue its anarchy against the Living God, it too will suffer His judgment.
We have witnessed in the first trumpet a preliminary judgment. There is more to come. Our exposure to this text should produce a profound sense or determination in us. Here is a side of the Lord flesh does not want to see. It is the role of thechurch, as the "pillar and ground of the truth," to keep men apprized of this truth, refusing to hide it from them.
THE SECOND TRUMPET
Let me remind you these judgments have been furthered by the prayers of
the saints. The cries of the godly have come up before the Lord, and He is answering them.
Learn that activity originated from heaven shakes the earth, causing disruption in the
temporal realm. Also, when Divine judgment takes place, all things harmonize for evil
against the wicked. Too, man's best glory fades in the withering effect of fiery
indignation, and the most stable falls. It is, indeed, "a fearful thing to fall into
the hands of the Living God."
"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." Again, we have a parallel to the plagues of Egypt except on a larger scale. In Egypt, God declared, "I will strike the waters which are in the river with the rod that is in my hand, and they shall be turned to blood. And the fish that are in the river shall die, the river shall stink, and the Egyptians will loathe to drink the water of the river" (Ex 7:17-18). The ecologists must have been alarmed! The river, probably the Nile, was a god to the Egyptians. For it to be turned into blood was a judgment of greatest magnitude. If men wonder if this can literally happen, let them consider that first plague in Egypt. God did that, and none should think it impossible that He can do it again. The nature of this volume, however, does not allow us to limit its affirmations to such phenomena. There are principles to be seen, history to be perceived, and coming judgment to be acknowledged.
A Great Burning Mountain
In the first trumpet, the stability of the trees proved no match for
Divine indignation. Now we see a mountain, noted for far greater stability than trees,
ignited with fire, and "tossed like a ball" (Isa 22;18) into the sea. When it
struck the sea, it reeked havoc. Blood, death, and destruction followed. These are violent
words, calculated to stir slumbering hearts, showing the sobriety with which life is to be
Here judgment that cannot be obstructed is declared. The mountain, most stable of all natural resources available to man, is cast into the sea. The mountain offers no hiding place, no refuge, no safety. It is indicative of the removal of hope, and of inevitable Divine confrontation. The text reminds me of the Lord's curse against Esau. "But I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation, and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness" (Mal 1:3, NASB). There is no hiding for the wicked when their mountain is violently thrown into the sea. As it is written, "Then they will begin 'to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us!' and to the hills, 'Cover us!'" (Lk 23:30). Again, it is written of the wicked, "And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb" (Rev 6:16).
The language also brings the words of Jesus to mind. "Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done" (Matt 21:21). The casting of a mountain into the sea is indicative of a curse a judgment from God, of which the cursing of the fig tree was a figure (Matt 21:19-21). Suddenly, an immoveable mountain, cast by Omnipotence into the sea! Something thought impossible taking place abruptly and effectively. Let every soul take heed not to live as though things will continue as they are!
A Figure of Speech
While there is no question about the possibility of a mountain being cast into the sea (as in a volcanic eruption), this is more a figure of speech. The Lord, as it were, draws near to His enemies in these trumpets, to cast them down. This is the meaning of Ezekiel's words. "All the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground. And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains" (Ezek 38:20-21). Micah also was inspired to speak in this manner. "The mountains will melt under Him, and the valleys will split like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place" (Micah 1:4). Here is the language of overthrow by miraculous means. This is not a commentary on earthly history, the march of nations, or the mere collapse of empires. While all of those things are involved, this is the judgment of the Almighty. It is not God using the deeds of men to accomplish His purpose, but causing things to happen. He is the One doing the deed. As it is written, "The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these" (Isa 45:7, NASB). The KJV uses the expression "create evil" in this verse. The "evil" in reference is not moral evil, but tragedy, or catastrophe. As Amos confirms, "If a trumpet is blown in a city will not the people tremble? If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it?" (Amos 3:6).
The Waters Partially Corrupted
Now the judgment of God is directed toward the waters the place of commerce and life-sustaining food. One third of the sea becomes blood but for God's mercy, it would ALL have become blood. The waters thus lose their vitality. The third part can no longer provide food, they are not good for drink, and are loathsome for travel. See the Divine control in this judgment. The great burning mountain does its work, but only to the extent of the Divine will and precisely so. God is incensed by the conduct of His offspring, yet is not ruled by His wrath. In this plague is an example of our Lord remembering mercy when pouring out His wrath (Hab 3:2).
There are other examples of water being turned into blood in scripture. Twice Moses turned water into blood (Ex 4:9; 7:17). In a conflict with the Moabites, the sun shone upon the water, causing the Moabites to believe it had turned into blood. This, they were discomfited by the Israelites (2 Kgs 3:22-23). In a lamentation against Pharaoh, king of Egypt, Ezekiel declared God would fill the valleys with Egyptian carcasses, and cause their blood to flow through the land like a mighty river (Ezek 32:5-6). Later in Revelation, we will encounter God's two witnesses, who have power to turn water into blood (Rev 11:6). Again, in the pouring out of the vials of judgment, an angel poured out his vial upon the sea, and it became as the blood of a dead man, and everything in it died (Rev 16:3).
This speaks of uncontested, yet measured, overthrow! Earth's successes shall begin to wane and vanish, as the hand of the Lord is upon it. Yet, provision will be made for repentance and recovery. As we proceed through this book, we will find this provision, however, will only confirm the hardness of heart that dominates the enemies of the Lord.
Partial Death to Creatures in the Water
And a third of the living creatures in the sea died. . . " So precise is the judgment, that the creatures of the sea only die where the judgment has taken place. Those affected by the curse are confined to the place and proportion of the curse, praise the Lord. A large part of life is destroyed, but not the largest! The enemies of God, therefore, who have shed the blood of His saints, will experience a foretaste of the greater wrath to come. They will behold how powerless they are in the wake of Divine power, and how precise and controlled is the execution of Divine wrath.
Partial Destruction of Ships
" . . . and a third of the ships were destroyed." Control! Control! Control! There is Sovereign control throughout judgment as well as mercy. The purpose of the Lord is never adjudicated in an ad hoc manner. It is always carried out with precision, thoroughly, and in strict accord with the Divine nature. Whatever one may choose to think about the free will, of man, it has no relevance whatsoever in the working of God. No person, regardless of the level of ingenuity or and consistency of determination can save one fish or one ship from the destroying hand of God. In a single and decisive act, God can bring commercial activity to a grinding halt. He did in the depression experienced by our country, and He can do it again. >
Here, the judgment of God is poured out upon earthly trade, bartering, business, success, and stability. Military superiority, often found upon the high seas, is brought down like crackling paper. Later, in the unveiling of God's judgment against the false church, spiritual Babylon, God devastated those upon the sea. The language is arresting. "For in one hour such great riches came to nothing. Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, 'What is like this great city?' They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, 'Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate'" (Rev 18:17-19). If you are ever tempted to become impatient with the seeming invincibility of the wicked, remember the trumpets! God can "break the ships of Tarshish with an east wind" (Psa 48;7).
A thriving sea commerce is depicted in Scripture as a sign of success. "All the ships of the sea and their sailors were with you in order to deal in your merchandise" (Ezek 27:9). In the same manner, judgment poured out upon the sea, sea life, and ships upon the sea, is a indication of the sudden failure of this means of support and success. Militarily speaking, many wars have been won on the high seas. In this trumpet, the overthrow of the ships indicates defeat in the very area where triumph was once enjoyed.
An Historical View
Historically, there was a significant overthrow of the enemies of God upon the high seas. About 422 A.D., hordes of warriors poured down from the North. They were even more savage than the Goths before them. They rushed over Gaul, swept through Spain, over the narrow strait of Gibralter, and ripped Africa from the hand of Rome. They then prepared to assault Rome by sea with a massive fleet, engaging in a fierce effort for mastery of the Mediterranean sea. For 600 years, no hostile ship had disputed Rome's mastery of the sea.
Rome, however, had publically aligned itself against the Lord and His Christ. They persecuted His people, and considered Jesus inferior to the Roman government. Thus, they would be judged upon the sea, just as surely as they were upon the land. The two fleets met at sea in the shock of battle, with the sea literally reddened with the blood of warriors. The Islands of the sea then fell into the hands of Barbarian Vandals. The Roman ensign was removed thirty years after the context began. Vandals then rushed the beautiful city of Rome, bringing it to the ground. For fourteen years, under the leadership of Genseric, the Vandals spared neither age nor gender, but engaged in wholesale slaughter. For 800 years, Rome had gathered the spoil of other nations. Now that very was taken away in Vandal fleets. It is, indeed, "a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God."
Of these Vandals, history records the following. "Among the barbarian peoples who attacked the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD were the Vandals, a Teutonic tribe that governed a North African kingdom from 439 to 534. By the 4th century the Vandals were living in the area of the Tisza River (in what is now eastern Hungary). As the Huns moved west later in that century, they pushed the Vandals before them. In December 406 the Vandals crossed the Rhine and invaded Gaul. They ravaged Roman territory there and in 409 invaded Spain. Following a series of defeats inflicted in 417 by the Visigoths, who were fighting on behalf of the Romans, the Vandals moved south to Andalusia. In 429 the new Vandal ruler Gaiseric abandoned Spain and invaded North Africa, which finally fell under his complete control in 439. Gaiseric, who ruled until 477, gained control of the western Mediterranean and sacked Rome in 455. It is to the latter act that the Vandals owe their name." 1
It is ever true, "Do not fight against the LORD God . . . for you shall not prosper!" (2 Chron 13:12). Holy prophets have seen this, and held on their way during fierce opposition. "But the LORD is with me as a mighty, awesome One. Therefore my persecutors will stumble, and will not prevail. They will be greatly ashamed, for they will not prosper" (Jer 20:11). We do well to emulate those early proclaimers of unpopular messages, thereby aligning ourselves with the faithful of the ages. God will fully justify our faith in Him, and willingness to wait for His time. The cause of the righteous, as well as thje righteous themselves will be fully vindicated. Yet a "little while," and he that shall come will come. All the records will then be balanced.
THE THIRD TRUMPET
"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." One after another, swiftly and effectively, the judgements of the Lord descend upon the earth. Already, the trees and all green grass have been destroyed. Then a third part of the sea is smitten, with a third part of the creatures in the sea, and a third of all ships being destroyed. Now judgment comes upon the flowing and springing sources of water. For the first time, "men" are said to die. The waters are made bitter by a falling star from heaven, causing the death of "many men." You sense the intensity of the plagues is growing. Just as blessings tend to increase, so do curses. As the path of the righteous grows "brighter and brighter," so the path of the wicked increases in darkness.
A Great Star Falls from Heaven
Jesus said falling stars would be a prelude to His return. "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matt 24:29-30). This indicated a disruption of powers residing in the heaven the demise, as it were of principalities and powers presiding over the despotic nations of the world. A depiction of this type of overthrow is found in the answer to Daniel's prayer (Dan 10:12-20). There is a parallel between the account of Daniel and that of our revelation text, although a slight variation in meaning exists.
In a more general sense, darkened and fallen stars are an indication of unusual trouble. Ezekiel used this type of language to describe the fall of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. "When I put out your light, I will cover the heavens, and make its stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, And the moon shall not give her light. All the bright lights of the heavens I will make dark over you, And bring darkness upon your land,' Says the Lord GOD. 'I will also trouble the hearts of many peoples, when I bring your destruction among the nations, into the countries which you have not known" (Ezek 32:7-9). Joel also used this type of language in a vivid depiction of the day of the Lord. "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?" (Joel 2:10-11). Here, then, is judgment from God, executed by his great army of men upon the earth.
This is the announcement of great trouble and sorrow! First fire burned up vegetation. Second, a burning mountain was cast into the sea, bringing violent disruption. Now a burning star falls from heaven into the rivers and springs of water. Fire in every case fire that goes before the presence of the Lord fiery judgment. Bit by bit, judgments come upon the world, diffusing its power, and heaping punishment upon it for its rejection of the reigning Lamb, and its treatment of the saints.
A Time of Intense Trouble and Sorrow
This is not an insignificant event. This falling star brings bitterness to life, making it more difficult to live than to die. It is interesting to note that the great cities on the banks of rivers have, for the most part, been replaced. Judgment came upon them, for nearly all of them were noted for heathenistic ways and opposition to the saints.
The name of this star is "Wormwood," or bitterness. Among other things, this reveals the emphasis is placed upon the effect produced rather than upon the instrument through whom came. It also speaks more of principle than of specifics, although historic occurrences are involved. Of old time, "wormwood" was a symbol describing turning away from the Lord. "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" (Deut 29:18). It also is a term accentuating the judgment of God, where men are made to taste the bitterness of their rejection of Him. "Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets: 'Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, And make them drink the water of gall; For from the prophets of Jerusalem Profaneness has gone out into all the land" (Jer 23:15; 9:15; Lam 3:15,19).
As the text indicates, this is a bitterness that eventuates in death. This
type of language is seen in Proverbs 5:4-5. "But in the end she is bitter as
wormwood, Sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, Her steps lay hold of
hell." This is the judgment of "life for life," which is a Divine
prerogative. It is a sentence that removes peace, prosperity, strength, and hope. It
brings affliction and torment, unsettling tranquility and removing ease and convenince.
What is more, it is a prolonged judgment with lingering effects.
We do have an historical judgment of this sort in Scripture. Habakkuk sounded the alarm in words much like those of our text. "Look among the nations and watch; Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days Which you would not believe, though it were told you. For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, A bitter and hasty nation Which marches through the breadth of the earth, To possess dwelling places that are not theirs. They are terrible and dreadful; Their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves. Their horses also are swifter than leopards, And more fierce than evening wolves. Their chargers charge ahead; Their cavalry comes from afar; They fly as the eagle that hastens to eat. They all come for violence; Their faces are set like the east wind. They gather captives like sand. They scoff at kings, And princes are scorned by them. They deride every stronghold, For they heap up earthen mounds and seize it" (Hab 1:5-10), NKJV). There is a "bitter and hasty nation," like "wormwood." They were terrible, dreadful, swift, fierce, violent, and scornful like a flaming star falling suddenly into the waters.
God does bring judgment through the means of others both individuals and nations (Isa 7:17-19; Ezek 6:3-7; 16:36-43; 23:22-28). We need to know the Lord is like this. It will assist us to temper our judgment, and not take matters into our own hands. If the martyrs of old did not retaliate, curse, or do despite to those who slew them for pleasure, what ought we o do toward those speaking evil of us? Just as surely as the God vindicated the martyrs, so will He exculpate all who have owned Him publically, at the expense of ridicule, hardship, and even death.
An Historical View
I want to emphasize that while God poured out judgment upon the eternal city of Rome, that does not exhaust the third trumpet. It still stands as a sure token of God's judgment, through other people, against all who abuse His children. At the time of this vision, Rome, in all of its glory and splendor, took it upon itself to persecute the saints of the most high God. Already, decisive blows had been struck against this city, but more was to come. About 440 A.D. there suddenly appeared a shooting star, or meteor-like destroyer. His name was Attila the Hun, called "the scourge of God." He appeared with 800,000 fighting men of fierce countenance. And where did he appear? On the Danube River! This horde had come from Central Asia, marched North of the Euxine Sea from Russia, and now knocked on the river-boundary of the Roman empire.
They overcame opposition on the Danube, and proceeded Westward, and crossed the Rhine River. On the River Marne, they were met in conflict with the hosts of Rome. Historians say that blood actually made the river run red, as an estimated 150,000 to 300,000 violently died. The awesome army proceeded Southwest, and on the banks of the Rhone river met with, and overcame, opposition. Then Attila and the Huns swept down from the Alps, and on the banks of the River Po contended for the mastery of Italy. Of Attila and the Huns, history records the following. "Attila, d. 453, a ruler of the nomadic Huns, harassed the eastern half of the Roman Empire during the 440s and devastated much of the western half of the empire in 451-52. Because of these exploits he came to be known as the 'Scourge of God.' In 434, Attila and his brother Bleda negotiated a treaty with the East Roman (Byzantine) emperor Theodosius II and obtained an immense annual tribute of about 300 kg (660 lb) of gold. After six years of peace, the Huns invaded the empire, destroyed several important cities, and defeated several imperial armies. After another treaty and payment of more tribute, peace was made. In 445, Attila murdered his brother and launched a new campaign against the empire. In 447 he struck again and forced the emperor to cede large areas of territory south of the Danube to the Huns. Another large tribute was also promised." 1
Rome, unable to contend with them, sent to negotiate with Attila, playing on the superstition, they thought, of the Huns. They told them how Alaric sacked Rome, and died three days later. They also reminded them that Genseric had done the same, and also died in a few months. The tactic worked, and Attila turned his hordes to the banks of the Danube. Notwithstanding, he had made the waters bitter for Rome, decidedly weakening her. She had persecuted the saints of the Most High God, and thus was given bitter gall and wormwood to drink.
Let it be said, "The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment" (2 Pet 2:9). How glorious to be relieved of the responsibility of correcting the transgression of others! Too, it refreshes the soul to simply "wait on the Lord" in times of trial.
THE FOURTH TRUMPET
"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." In strict accord with Divine purpose, the fourth angel blows his trumpet. Nature is again struck, but at the highest level. The sun, moon, and stars, objects of idolatry, yet gifts from God, are smitten . The source of light is reduced by one third! As in nature, so spiritually, illumination is essential to life. The smiting of the sun, moon, and stars, therefore, is language depicting great trouble and handicap.
Throughout Scripture this kind of language is used to express great commotion. Here are some examples. "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. I will punish the world for its evil, And the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, And will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible . . . After many days they will be punished. Then the moon will be disgraced And the sun ashamed; For the LORD of hosts will reign On Mount Zion and in Jerusalem And before His elders, gloriously . . . When I put out your light, I will cover the heavens, and make its stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, And the moon shall not give her light. All the bright lights of the heavens I will make dark over you, And bring darkness upon your land,' Says the Lord GOD . . . " (Isa 13:10-11; 24:22-23; Ezek 32:7-8). In these verses, a total overthrow is seen. Our text, using the same type of language, speaks of a partial overthrow a judgment in part: "ONE THIRD." This is the same type of judgment that will happen in "the day of the Lord" (2 Pet 3:10-13), except it is in part. Just as salvation is a precursor and sample of what is to come, so are the judgments we are witnessing antecedents to the final judgment. They reveal the nature of God His reaction to the abuses of wicked men.
While the actual smiting of nature is not to be ruled out, the strength of these terms is found in the truths of which they are a type, or figure. Let no one doubt that God can cause nature to rebel against humanity. He did in the flood, in the plagues against Egypt, and in various famines for which He called in the land. When nature aligns itself against us, we are to make an association of that condition with the Living God. "The LORD has His way In the whirlwind and in the storm" (Nah 1:3). By Divine decree, the sun stood still, causing two days in succession, without a night between them (Josh 10:12-13). Showing the control of the creation by the Creator, Isaiah was used to turn the shadow of the sun backward by ten degrees on a sun dial (Isa 38:8-10). Miraculously, a star led wise men from the East to the place where the "King of the Jews" was born (Matt 2:2-10). The Lord loosed the waters of the firmament in the flood (Gen 6), and caused the rain to cease and start again, at the word of Elijah (James 5:17-18). The Lord has imposed darkness upon the earth, contrary to astronomical laws (Ex 10:21-22; Lk 23:44). Let no one doubt that our God has control of the elements of nature! He can call for a famine, send a storm, and dry up the heavens. He can cause nature to work against man,disrupting its ordained routine. Further, we are to associate such disruptions with the Lord. Changing weather patterns and unusual environmental circumstances are not to be charged to coincidence.
There are three perspectives of Scriptural figures of speech. First, the language can be taken as it stands, as portraying general truth and principle. Second, it can be viewed spiritually, as paralleling occurrences in the spiritual realm. Third, it can be seen in historic happenings that provide men with an example of Divine intrusion into the affairs of men. It is my persuasion that all three of these are involved in the message of Revelation. There are general Kingdom principles declared in the these figures. There are great spiritual realities that are unfolded in them. Additionally, we can behold an outworking of these principles in history, thereby confirming to our hearts they are not mere myths or stories.
A Spiritual Principle Seen
The book of Revelation is opening the manner in which Christ is ruling the Kingdom. It is showing us how God works everything together for the good of His people, and everything for evil against those who blatantly oppose His Son, resist His truth, and persecute His people.
In this text, sources of light are reduced by one third again, a token of mercy. Mind you, the truth of God had been rejected by the dominating world government. Rome killed both the Apostle to the Jews, and the Apostle to the Gentiles. It enacted laws that opposed the Gospel being preached, the public confession of Christ, and living to God alone. The Lord therefore dimmed the light of the Gospel, as it were, imposing upon godless men spiritual darkness. This was a fulfillment of the word spoken by Amos. "And it shall come to pass in that day, says the Lord GOD, That I will make the sun go down at noon, And I will darken the earth in broad daylight; I will turn your feasts into mourning, And all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on every waist, And baldness on every head; I will make it like mourning for an only son, And its end like a bitter day. Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord GOD, That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, And from north to east; They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, But shall not find it" (Amos 8:9-12). See, the language is similar to that of our text. He speaks of a spiritual phenomenon in terms of the impacting of nature. As in our text, the darkness was partial. The sun went "down at noon."
When the truth of the Gospel is continually rejected, and finally
maligned, it will be withdrawn from men. Those who dare to tamper with the truth of God do
not know what they are doing. The Lord will not long endure the abuse of His servants and
the rejection of the "record He has given of His Son" (1 John 5:10-11).
The Dark Ages
Here is a prophecy, as we will see, of the dark ages--one of the most dreadful periods of human history. God can cause men to "grope in the dark without light" (Job 12:25). He can mandate that "their way be dark and slippery, and let the angel of the LORD pursue them" (Psa 35;6). He "set" men "in dark places," where the sun does not give its light, neither the moon nor the stars (Lam 3:6). He did this to the Jews, causing "blindness in part" to happen to them (Rom 11:20). He also caused this condition to take place in the Gentile world, that spurned the message of creation (Rom 1:21). Micah spoke of such darkness with powerful words. "Therefore you shall have night without vision, And you shall have darkness without divination; The sun shall go down on the prophets, And the day shall be dark for them" (Mic 3:6).
The acceptance of the truth of God brings great blessing at every level. But when that truth is censured and attacked, curses at released at every level. Nations have fallen simply because of their rejection of the truth of God. Great hardships have been endured by peoples because of opposition to the Gospel of Christ. Curses of famine, tempests, and pestilence, have been endured by whole bodies of people because of the a refusal to yield to the Living God. There are sufficient records in Scripture of such occurrences to make this quite clear. Even though Christ Jesus has come, there has not been a cessation of this type of thing. The destruction of Jerusalem over three and a half decades after Jesus returned to heaven, is sufficient to confirm this to be the case.
An Historical View
The historical view is showing the demise of the Roman Empire a government which seemed invincible. The four trumpets, from an historical point of view, declare that fall by stages. Founded in 509 B.C., ancient Rome finally fell in 476 A.D., nearly 1,000 years later.
In 476 A.D., Odoacer, king of Heruli, a Northern race, was encouraged by the apparent weakness of Rome, to come against it. He besieged and took the city in that year. Of him, history records, "A Germanic warrior and king of Italy, Odoacer, also known as Odovacar, b. c.433, dethroned the young emperor Romulus Augustulus on Aug. 28, 476, bringing the moribund Western Roman Empire to a formal end." 1 The Roman senate, that had met for 1,228 years, was driven from its chambers, and the mighty fabric of the Roman empire fell to the ash-heap of deposed empires, never to rise again.
With the fall of Rome came the dark ages a period of unparalleled spiritual ignorance. Of the dark ages, often called the middle ages, history says, "Dark Ages is the name traditionally given to the period in European history from the fall of the Roman Empire in the west (5th century) to the coronation of Charlemagne (800), or sometimes to the 10th century. The term has also been used to denote the entire Middle Ages down to the Renaissance (15th century). Modern historians avoid using the term because of its value-laden implications of barbarism and intellectual darkness." 1 Here is a period of 1,000 years, dominated by the ignorance of God. The Word of God was hidden away, inaccessible to the masses, and, therefore, heathenistic traditions penetrated the Christian shell of the church.
During this time, the church of God gave only a feeble light, hidden, as it were, beneath the rubble of religious tradition and superstition. Even the art of this era reflected hopelessness, confusion, and rank superstition. The Word of God was wrested from the hands of the people and buried in the recesses of monasteries. It was during this time that Roman Catholicism rose to power, with Papal Rome replacing Pagan Rome. It is a dark and evil epoch in Christian history! The world, which had, for the most part, rejected the Son of God, was sent "strong delusion." Its most glorious government crumbled to the ground. Ruthless barbarians ruled the world, and human life and dignity plummeted into the black hole of disregard.
Those who suppose they can be indifferent to, or even oppose the truth of God, do well to ponder the first four trumpets. They announce to us that God will reckon with His enemies in this world before the consummation of the ages. Both men and nations will reap what they have sown!
A SOLEMN WARNING SOUNDED
One might suppose what has been declared is judgment enough -- but it is not. Now another angel appears, sounding an alarm to the world. God has not finished. His wrath has only begun. "And I looked, and I heard an angel 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!'" The NASB, RSV, and NIV versions say John saw "an eagle flying" through the midst of the heavens. Because this represents a messenger, bearing a most somber communication, I gather "an angel" is the most appropriate language. While he may have taken the form of an eagle, it was the message that makes his appearance unique. Therefore, "an angel" is most suitable for the context.
Only 57% of the judgments are completed at this point four of seven. There are yet three trumpets to sound, and they will be even more fierce than the preceding four! Those who have a saccharine, or honeyed, view of the Almighty will find this section difficult to receive. Waves of wrath rush over the ungodly, effecting the whole world. Truly, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God" (Heb 10:31).
The phrase "inhabiters of the earth" is thought by some to be
confined to the ungodly. However, the expression is used again in chapter 12, where a
warning of the wrath of Satan is sounded (verse 12). From that second text, it becomes
clear that "inhabiters of the earth" is not confined to the ungodly. In chapter
twelve, Satan's wrath is vented against the people of God, depicted as "the woman
which brought forth the man child." While his diabolical efforts are thwarted, they
presume the presence of God's people in the realm of danger.
It is my persuasion that we are living in a segment perhaps the ending-- of this dreadful time, when great woe is pronounced upon those in the earth. While the ungodly themselves will suffer Divine reprisal, the godly will also go through great stress and trouble.
Notice, we have here a triple warning: "Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth." This is the only time in all of the Bible that such a warning is issued, and we do well to give it due consideration. What follows will be awesome.
There are a number of things that can be observed in this remarkable passage. Three of them will be sufficient to undergird what has been said.
Nature bears the brunt of man's sin. The sin of humanity has so infected
nature, that it bears the brunt of Divine wrath. This is pictured in the violent
influences upon it depicted in the first four trumpets. Trees, all green grass, the sea,
and the creatures in the sea are influenced. The rivers, the fountains of waters, the sun,
the moon, and the stars, are affected. While these all are symbolic, they are not only
symbolic. They confirm that the burden of mortality, or the bondage of corruption, has
been passed to the entire natural order because of man 's sin.
Pent up forces waiting to be released. All about us, Divine restraint may be detected. Many have marveled the Lord had been so longsuffering. Some even dare to imagine He is indifferent, asleep, or does not exist at all. But this is not the case. Angelic hosts, and the entire natural order waits for His bidding. In a moment sudden calamity can break forth with destructive force. This is not intended to cause cringing fear in the saints. It is to alert the ungodly of the serious jeopardy in which they daily live. It is also calculated to sharpen the saints perception, commitment, and aggressive involvement in the Kingdom of God.
The fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy. From the historical perspective, we are seeing the collapse of the feet of iron and clay, the final world empire of the vision of Daniel (Dan 2:31-45). The epitome of earthly government was seen in the vision of a giant statue. With a head of gold, the material of this image deteriorated from the head to the feet an indication of the declining nature of worldly power at its best. There were four divisions to that statue. "This image's head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay" (Dan 2:32-33). The statute was totally destroyed by a small stone, cut out of a mountain "without hands," that became a mountain filling the whole earth (Dan 2:34-35). Daniel, through inspiration, affirmed this stood for four successive kingdoms, each one replacing the one before it. The four consecutive empires were (1) the Babylonish, under Nebuchadnezzar, (2) The Medo-Persian empire, under Cyrus, (3) The Macedonian empire, under Alexander the Great and his successors, and (4) The Roman empire under the Caesars.
Daniel interprets the demise of these kingdoms as the triumph of the Kingdom of God. "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure" (Dan 2:44-45).
Historically speaking, what we have seen in the first four trumpets is the destruction of that fourth Kingdom of Rome. Indeed, the dream was "certain," and the interpretation was "sure."
Among other things, we will see throughout the remainder of this book the real nature of human government. It eventually opposes the government of God, however noble its beginnings may be. Also, all human governments will ultimately fail, as "The kingdoms of this world" will "become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!" (Rev 11:15).
Here, I provide a historical overview of these kingdoms as given by Adam Clarke.
I. HEAD OF GOLD. This was the first monarchy, begun by Nimrod, A.M.1771, B.C. 2233, and ending with the death of Belshazzar, A.M. 3466,B.C. 538, after having lasted nearly seventeen hundred years. In the time of Nebuchadnezzar it extended over Chaldea, Assyria, Arabia, Syria, and Palestine. HE, Nebuchadnezzar, was the head or gold.
II. BREASTS AND ARMS OF SILVER. The Medo-Persian empire; which properly began under Darius the Mede, allowing him to be the same with Cyaxares, son of Astyages, and uncle to Cyrus the great, son of Cambyses. He first fought under his uncle Cyaxares, defeated Neriglissar, king of the Assyrians, and Craesus, king of the Lydians; and, by the capture of Babylon, B.C. 538, terminated the Chaldean empire. On the death of his father Cambyses, and his uncle Cyaxares, B.C. 536, he became sole governor of the Medes and Persians, and thus established a potent empire on the ruins of that of the Chaldeans.
III. BELLY AND THIGHS OF BRASS. The Macedonian or Greek empire, founded by Alexander the Great. He subdued Greece, penetrated into Asia, took Tyre, reduced Egypt, overthrew Darius Codomanus at Arbela, Oct. 2, A.M. 3673, B.C. 331, and thus terminated the Persian monarchy. He crossed the Caucasus, subdued Hyrcania, and penetrated India as far as the Ganges; and having conquered all the countries that lay between the Adriatic sea and this river, the Ganges, he died A.M. 3681, B.C. 323; and after his death his empire became divided among his generals, Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy, and Seleucus. CASSANDER had Macedon and Greece; LYSIMACHUS had Thrace, and those parts of Asia which lay on the Hellespont and Bosphorus; PTOLEMY had Egypt, Lybia, Arabia, Palestine, and Coelesyria; SELEUCUS had Babylon, Media, Susiana, Persia, Assyria, Bactria, Hyrcania, and all other provinces, even to the Ganges. Thus this empire, founded on the ruin of that of the Persians, "had rule over all the earth."
IV. LEGS OF IRON, AND FEET AND TOES OF IRON AND CLAY. I think this means, in the first place, the kingdom of the LAGIDAE, in Egypt; and the kingdom of the SELEUCIDAE, in Syria. And, secondly, the ROMAN empire, which was properly composed of them.
1. PTOLEMY LAGUS, one of Alexander's generals, began the new kingdom of Egypt, A.M. 3692, B.C. 312, which was continued through a long race of sovereigns, till A.M. 3974, B.C. 30; when Octavius Caesar took Alexandria, having in the preceding year defeated Anthony and Cleopatra at the battle of Actium, and so Egypt became a Roman province. Thus ended the kingdom of the Lagidae, after it had lasted two hundred and eighty-two years.
2. SELEUCUS NICATOR, another of Alexander's generals, began the new kingdom of Syria, A.M. 3692, B.C. 312, which continued through a long race of sovereigns, till A.M. 3939, B.C. 65, when Pompey dethroned Antiochus Asiaticus, and Syria became a Roman province after it had lasted two hundred and forty-seven years. That the two legs of iron meant the kingdom of the Lagidae and that of the Seleucidae, seems strongly intimated by the characters given in the text."And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron. Forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things; and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise," ver. 40. 1. The iron here not only marks the strength of these kingdoms, but also their violence and cruelty towards the people of God. History is full of the miseries which the kings of Egypt and Syria inflicted on the Jews. 2. It is said that these legs should break in pieces and bruise. How many generals and princes were destroyed by Seleucus Nicator, and by Ptolemy, son of Lagus! Seleucus, particularly, could not consider himself secure on his throne till he had destroyed Antigonus, Nicanor, and Demetrius; and Ptolemy endeavored to secure himself by the ruin of Perdiccas, and the rest of his enemies.
3. The dividing of the kingdom, the iron and clayey mixture of the feet, point out the continual divisions which prevailed in those empires; and the mixture of the good and evil qualities which appeared in the successors of Seleucus and Ptolemy; none of them possessing the good qualities of the founders of those monarchies; neither their valor, wisdom, nor prudence.
4. The efforts which these princes made to strengthen their respective governments by alliances, which all proved not only useless but injurious, are here pointed out by their mingling themselves with the seed of men."But they shall not cleave one to another," ver. 43. Antiochus Theos, king of Syria, married both Laodice and Berenice, daughters of Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt. Antiochus Magnus, king of Syria, gave his daughter Cleopatra to Ptolemy Epiphanes, king of Egypt; but these marriages, instead of being the means of consolidating the union between those kingdoms, contributed more than any thing else to divide them, and excite the most bloody and destructive wars. In chap. 7:7, the prophet, having the same subject in view, says, "I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it," and in chap. 8:22:"Now that being broken," the horn of the rough goat, the Grecian monarchy, "whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power." These and other declarations point out those peculiar circumstances that distinctly mark the kingdom of the Seleucidae, and that of the Lagidae; both of which rose out of the Macedonian or Grecian empire, and both terminated in that of the Romans.
2. These TWO LEGS OF IRON became absorbed in the Roman government, which also partook of the iron nature; strong, military, and extensive in its victories; and by its various conquests united to and amalgamated with itself various nations, some strong, and some weak, so as to be fitly represented in the symbolical image by feet and toes, partly of iron and partly of clay. Thus, as the Lagidae and Seleucidae arose out of the wreck of the Grecian empire; so the Roman empire arose out of there ruin. But the empire became weakened by its conquests; and although, by mingling themselves with the seed of men, that is, by strong leagues, and matrimonial alliances, as mentioned above they endeavored to secure a perpetual sovereignty, yet they did not cleave to each other, and they also were swallowed up by the barbarous northern nations; and thus terminated those four most powerful monarchies.