The Seven Trumpet Judgements
The Seventh Seal and the Alter of Incense (8:1-5)
“1 When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2 Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. 3 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, 4 and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. 5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake”.
With the covering of the two parentheses completed, the narrative returns to the scroll with seven seals, and the last remaining seal still to be broken. The sixth seal had revealed that God would hold mankind accountable and judge the earth, ending by stating that “the great day of wrath has come”. The seventh seal opens the door to that reality. John describes the scene as an amazing change of emotion in heaven, chapter 5 shows a great multitude of angels, with the 24 elders, and “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea”, giving glory and honour to God, before the seals are opened. Chapter 8 reveals that there is now complete silence in heaven, the contrast is stark and ominous – what is about to happen? The sudden silence for half an hour after the explosive worship emphasizes the enormity of the events that are about to follow, with the darkness of the night of the “Day of the Lord” about to commence (the Great Tribulation). Seven angels appear before the Throne of God, and each is given a trumpet, and while the trumpets are being distributed an angel approaches the golden alter of incense. The importance of the silence in heaven becomes clear, the silence is not only to emphasize the severity of the timing, with God’s judgements about to commence, and for the blast of the trumpets to be clearly heard, but also to show respect to the prayers of the saints. These prayers are from the saints who long for their Bridegroom, and who have in faith, earnestly prayed for the Lord Jesus to establish His Kingdom and take His rightful place on the throne of David. For that to happen, mankind needs to be held accountable for their rebellion. The scene described by John gives a clear emphasis of the weight of importance placed on these prayers. John also reveals that there was “much incense,” which indicates that it is the prayers of all saints, from the early Church, right through to the present, who knew the importance of praying into prophecy, and the establishment of the Kingdom.
Trumpet blasts play an important role in communication in Scripture, throughout the Bible trumpets are used for three specific purposes:
- To assemble the people for worship and announcing feast days.
- To assemble the people for war. The blast of the trumpet would prepare the people and alarm the enemy.
- For special occasions, such as when the law was given, or when a king was enthroned.
On this occasion the blast of the trumpet announces the start of the pouring out of the wrath of Almighty God onto the earth.
As Jesus is our High Priest (Heb. 4:4-16) and mediator (1 Tim. 2:5), it is logical to assume that the angel doing the High Priestly duties of offering the incense is Jesus. He is given “much incense” to offer, by the 24 elders, which is placed on the Golden Altar of incense before the Throne of God. The smoke of the incense, is the prayers of God’s people, a sweet-smelling savour before the Lord, which goes up to God seated on His throne of authority and judgement. The message should be clear to all believers, God requires us to pray before He acts, so it is essential that believers pray into prophecy. Daniel 9 confirms this requirement, the chapter reveals that when Daniel, on reading the prophecy in Jeremiah that Judah’s period of captivity in Babylon would be 70 years, he committed the prophecy to the Lord in prayer. Then, not only did Daniel receive a confirmation from the Lord regarding the captivity time period, but he was also given the amazing revelation of the seventy weeks of prophecy, for his people.
Jesus, our High Priest, now turns the prayers into action, picking up the Golden Alter, He casts it down to earth. Then just as fireworks and pyrotechnic displays are used to highlight a major event, “peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake,” signal from heaven that the wrath of God has begun. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is about to become a side show in comparison.
The incense rising up to God from the altar of burnt offering, means that God accepted the prayers of the saints. This “fire taken from the altar and cast to the earth” is the fury of God. Our God is a consuming fire. God is angered, and He has decided it is time to punish those on the earth who have rejected Jesus Christ as their Saviour. The thunderclaps, lightning, and earthquake are the result of the fire from the altar, indicating that the action of heaven initiates a responsive action on earth, and introduces the fact that the seven angels are about to sound their trumpets.
So, the seventh seal held the seven trumpets within, the breaking of the seal reveals the important events leading up to the seven angels sounding out their trumpets. The seventh trumpet likewise releases the seven Bowl Judgements. The Trumpet Judgements start a chain reaction of important events that will introduce God’s active involvement in the affairs of mankind, which will continue through the Trumpet and Bowl Judgements, Armageddon and finally into the Millennial Kingdom.
Literal or symbolic?
An important question that needs to be answered before covering the Trumpet and Bowl Judgements is, are the judgments literal judgments or symbolic? The best way to decide this matter is to study them in connection with the literal plagues of Egypt. There is a strong connection between the literal plagues of Egypt and the judgements of Revelation, with five of the plagues of Egypt being repeated in the book of Revelation:
|Plagues of Egypt||Trumpet and Bowl Judgements|
|In the first plague, Moses turned water into blood.||Water is turned to blood in the second Trumpet Judgement, and in both the second and third Bowl Judgements.|
|In the sixth plague, the Egyptians are struck by an infestation of boils.||In the first Bowl Judgement ugly, festering sores break out on the people who have the mark of the beast.|
|In the seventh plague, Egypt experienced destructive hail.||The first Trumpet Judgement there will be hail and fire mixed with blood, which destroys all the grass and one third of the trees. In the seventh Bowl Judgement, there are 45kg hailstones.|
|The eight plague was a swarm of locusts that consumed all that was left after the hail storm.||The fifth Trumpet will be a terrifying plague of “demonic locusts”.|
|In the ninth plague Egypt experiences a plague of darkness over the land.||In the fourth Trumpet Judgement one third of the sun, the moon and the stars do not shine, and in the fifth Bowl Judgement the earth is plunged into great darkness.|
A careful study of the narrative in the book of Exodus will reveal that there are actually 11 judgements against Egypt, the Pharaoh and the army of Egypt were drowned in the Red Sea, Egypt lost both their king and their army. Likewise, the last Bowl Judgement is not the end of God’s judgements upon mankind, at Armageddon Jesus tramples the winepress of His wrath, and destroys the armies of mankind. However, instead of the waters of the sea flowing over the army, the blood of the army flows to the height of a horse’s bridle down to the sea. Then the leaders of this rebellion, the Antichrist and the False Prophet, are cast into the Lake of Fire.
The evidence revealed in the comparison between the plagues of Exodus, and the Judgements of Revelation, therefore point to a literal judgement upon mankind. Thinking logically, we see that God does not take symbolic vengeance against those that rebel against Him and persecute His saints – the judgements will be real and devastating.
The First Trumpet (8:6-7)
“6 Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them. 7 The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. 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”.
The Trumpets are often referred to as the “judgement in thirds”, as five of the judgments are measured by thirds. The first Trumpet Judgement results in “hail and fire, mixed with blood”, being thrown down upon the earth. There are some that will say that the “blood” is not actual blood, but rather a description of the colour of the fire reflected through the hail. Whichever way the Scripture is to be interpreted, the result is the same, the consequence of this judgement is that all the green grass is burned up, along with one third of earth and one third of all the trees. Joel gives a warning of occurrences on the Day of the Lord in his prophecy, that are remarkably similar:
“And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke” (Joel 2:30).
The Greek word used for trees, was most often used when referring to fruit trees in Scripture. For example: “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:10). Israel was referred to as the land of milk and honey, implying plentiful fields of green grass for grazing of dairy cows, and abundant fruit trees which are pollinated by bees. Therefore, with the grass and fruit trees being targeted, it is clear that the first judgement is focused on a reversal of a former blessing from God. Fertile lands of “milk and honey,” will become barren and desolate.
There is always speculation on the part of people, as to what the “hail and fire mixed with blood,” could possibly be, such as pollution, a meteor, and even nuclear devastation. I believe this interpretation to be a mistake, it seems people want a logical explanation connecting to the natural, just as there are theologians who need to give a natural, logical explanation for the 10 plagues upon Egypt. These theologians work hard at coming up with a chain of natural phenomena which could have been triggered by events such as changes in the climate and environmental disasters to explain the plagues. Explanations that always fall short of the depth of the judgement. An example of the natural, being forced upon the supernatural, is the belief that a toxic, fresh water red algae turned the Nile red and forced frogs out of the river into homes, and the death of multitudes of frogs resulted in plagues of insects and flies. The infestation of insects and flies would then have resulted in disease amongst the livestock and human population etc. Why do we so limit a God who created the universe? Jesus turned water into wine, walked on water and raised the dead – should we find natural explanations for these miracles? The clear and obvious answer is no, so why do people work so hard at explaining God’s miraculous judgements which come from His throne in heaven, by scrambling to find natural events?
Then there are those who deny the literal interpretation of the judgements claiming that they are symbolic. This method of interpretation opens a Pandora’s box of wild speculation, which causes more problems and arguments, and ultimately solving nothing. The literal interpretation is solid ground, all the rest is sinking sand.
The Second Trumpet (8:8-9)
“8 The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. 9 A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed”.
The focus of the judgement now turns from the land to the sea. The abundance that the land provides has been targeted by the first trumpet judgement, now the abundance of the sea is targeted, with an ecological and environmental disaster of unprecedented proportions. The oceans of the world are 71% of the surface of the earth, the contamination of one third of the oceans will result in mass deaths of the creatures of the sea. Most of the world’s goods are transported by ships on our oceans, a loss of one third of those ships and their cargo will have devastating consequences, with empty shelves in the stores and critical shortages. Giving thanks to God before meals is recognising that God is the provider of what we eat (Matthew 15:36), mankind has rejected God by accepting the Antichrist as their messiah, so the first judgements of God are focused on the food sources provided by God for mankind. All the major cereals, such as wheat, maize, rice, barley, and oats are from the grass family, which along with fruit trees and fish from the oceans will have been cut by a third. Their will be massive shortages of foods around the world, with prices for basic foods skyrocketing.
Many interpreters of the Trumpet and Bowl Judgements focus on the cause of the judgement and not the effect, where, as has been explained, the effect is the focus of God’s judgement. In the second Trumpet Judgement many Bible scholars speculate as to what the “great mountain” is, giving answers such as an advanced nuclear weapon, or an asteroid. As I have stated, these judgements are from the Throne of God, as in the case for Sodom and Gomorrah, they are not caused by man. So, while I would rule out a nuclear weapon, it is a possibility that it could be an asteroid plunging into the ocean, the impact would be devastating to marine life, and annihilate ships in the area. The resultant tsunami would be beyond all that have been witnessed before. The 1958 Lituya Bay tsunami is the largest wave recorded, with a 7.8 magnitude earthquake dislodging 90 million tons of rock into the bay. The resultant wall of water caused by the landslide washed out trees to a maximum elevation of 524 meters. “A great mountain” plunging into the oceans would devastate marine life, and the resultant waves would exceed that of the Lituya Bay tsunami, and ships traveling along the coast and in ports and harbours would be destroyed.
The Third Trumpet (8:10-11)
“10 The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. 11 The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter”.
God’s wrath having dealt with the land and the oceans now turns to the sources of fresh water, there are 100 principal rivers in the world, 33⅓ % of them and their tributaries are going to be contaminated, these rivers are the life blood of the regions they run through. The name of the destructive star is “Wormwood”, which refers to a shrub-like plant (Artemisia absinthium) that is extremely bitter, the inference being that the “star” will make the waters undrinkable. During the first plague of Egypt when the Nile was turned to blood, the Egyptians were able to obtain water by digging down to the table water and attaining fresh, uncontaminated water. It does not seem that this will be possible after the fourth trumpet, as Wormwood will also contaminate the table water. This will not only mean that the water will be undrinkable, but also not suitable for irrigation.
I do not see how people in their efforts to explain “the great star” can arrive at a natural explanation such as a meteor. How is it possible that one piece of rock is able to single out a third of the world’s rivers for contamination? The concept is ludicrous. The whole idea of the judgements is for people to understand that it is from the hand of the Great Creator God, and that He is withdrawing His blessings on creation in the most dramatic of ways. The third trumpet sees one-third of the world’s fresh water fish being added to the already substantial list of food shortages. With the bitterness of wormwood being a symbol for the sins of mankind, there is to be no doubt, that the years of mankind rejecting God, yet benefitting from His creation, are over.
With God protecting His saints during this time, one cannot help wonder if conditions will be similar to the nation of Israel camped at the pool of bitter waters at Mara (Exodus 15:23). Moses was instructed by the Lord to throw a log into the water, and the waters become sweet. Another name for the cross is a tree, so just as the death of Jesus on the cross can remove the bitterness of life, making it sweet, so too could the belief in Jesus change the wormwood water to sweet water. Therefore, the judgement will have no effect on believers during this time.
The Fourth Trumpet (8:12-13)
“12 The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night. 13 Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, ‘Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!’”
The fourth Judgement of the sun, moon and stars being darkened is a judgement on the whole earth, with the judgements not meaning fractions of the sun and the moon, but rather periods of time. So, there will be 16 hrs of darkness and 8 hrs of daylight, which will mean that there is one third less energy to support life on earth. The earth will experience a global winter, with temperatures dropping world-wide – predicted by Joel: “for the day of the Lord is coming… a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness!” (Joel 2:1-2), and Jesus, who said, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light” (Matthew 24:29).
A summary of the first four Trumpet Judgements reveals God’s control over creation, and His ability to withdrawing His blessings for mankind, by striking with sever judgements at the means of man’s ability to subsist; the basic needs of food and water are targeted. Then God shows mankind His control over the universe, with the rhythms of night and day, light and dark being adjusted at His will. God is sending a powerful message – He is the Great Creator God, who gives, but can also take away. For now, with the judgements being in thirds, God is still allowing provisions from His bounty, but this is not the end, the Bowl Judgements also target God’s provisions for mankind.
John’s attention is then drawn to a voice calling out three woes. The Greek word aetou refers to an eagle, but as it is similar to the Greek word aggelos meaning angel, the King James Versions therefore takes aetou as being scribal error, and gives the announcer of the three woes as an angel. However, both could be correct, as each of the cherubim that John saw before the throne of God had four faces, one of which was the face of an eagle (Ezekiel 10:14, Revelation 4). So, it is feasible that it is one of the four cherubim that is making the announcement, and it is the face of the eagle that John sees speaking.
Whichever Is correct, the warning that is cried out should be the main area of focus, as there is a grave warning, with three woes that are still to come upon mankind. The worst of the Trumpet Judgements is not over, as one-third of the world’s population are about to die. For this reason, the last three trumpets are called the “three woes,” with “woe” being interpreted as a warning of great sorrow and distress that is still to come.
The Fifth Trumpet (9:1)
“1 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen (had fallen) from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit”.
The first four seals are distinctly different from the last three seals, the four horsemen deal with the consequence caused by mankind because of their rejection of Jesus. The Antichrist’s rise to power is a consequence of this rebellion – a man filling the vacuum left by the rejection of God – which will ultimately lead to world-wide catastrophes, symbolised by the four horsemen. Likewise, the first four Trumpet Judgements are distinctly different to the “three woes,” and deal with God’s judgements upon mankind as a consequence of rejecting Him.
The fifth Trumpet Judgement starts with a star being seen by John, as the star is referred to by the pronoun “he”, and stars are used as symbols of angels in Scripture, the star is therefore recognised as an angel that had fallen from heaven. Most translations record that the angel “had fallen,” giving the past tense, while in other translations the verb tense used indicates that he already had fallen from heaven, thus the Scripture identifies the fallen star as none other than Lucifer himself, as was recorded by Isaiah 14:12:
“How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12).
John then writes that Satan is handed the key to the Bottomless Pit, and is given permission by God to release the demons kept captive there (Luke 8:31). Note that the Bottomless Pit, which is also referred to as the Abyss, is under God’s authority, and that Satan does not possess the keys of the Bottomless Pit, he has no control other than that which God allows him.
The Fifth trumpet (9:2-6)
“2 He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. 3 Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. 4 They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5 They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. 6 And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them”.
The term “bottomless pit” is intriguing, as how is it possible that there is a bottomless pit on earth? The only possible explanation is that the abyss is at the centre of the earth, with the earth tilted on its axis and rotating, the centre of the earth would never have a “bottom”.
The Apostle Peter in his second letter, seems to indicate that hell/Sheol and the Bottomless Pit/Abyss are the same place.
“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment” (2 Peter 2:4).
Moses confirms that Sheol is under the earth when he records that the rebellious Korah and his family “went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them” (Numbers 16:33). Then there is Paul letter to the Romans where he explains the path of Jesus as descending from heaven to earth, dying on the cross, descending into the Abyss, and then being raised to heaven (Romans 10:7 [NKJV]). So, Paul clearly equates the abyss with Sheol.
When Satan opens the “bottomless pit” there is an ominous scene of dense, scalding smoke pouring out from a great furnace, so intense is the pluming smoke that the sun is darkened, and the stench of sulphur fills the air. The setting is one of foreboding that all directors of horror movies strive for. Then, from the depths of the Abyss, a swarm of thousands upon thousands of locust like demons, fly out of the pit and spread out over the whole earth.
Jude indicates that there were some demons (fallen angels) who rebelled with Satan against God, overstepping their “position of authority,” and so they were are bound in chains and confined to the abyss:
“And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6).
It seems that because of the severity of the torment that these demons are able to bring against mankind, God has spared the earth from their presence by confining them to the Bottomless Pit. Luke supports this in his narrative of the wild man from Gerasenes, he records that Jesus cast out a legion of demons from the man, and that the demons begged Him not to punish them by banishing them to the Abyss (8:31). The Abyss will again be covered in the forthcoming studies, being mention in Revelation 11:7-8, and also in Revelation 20, where John records that Satan will be bound and confined to the Abyss for 1 000 years, during the Millennial Kingdom reign of Jesus.
The fact that the demons must avoid harming grass and trees, and are only to target those that do not have the seal of God on their foreheads, is a clear indicator that these demons are a judgement from God. There destructive activities are limited by God in that they are not allowed to kill, only torment, and they are only able to continue for five months. With the number 5 symbolising Grace, this indicates that God in his mercy, limits the extent of this severe judgement, where pain and suffering will be almost continuous. The possibility exists that not all will have received the mark of the beast by this time so the judgement may well be a last warning to repent.
In verse 5 John describes the agony experienced by those tormented by the demons as being comparable to scorpion stings. To describe the extent of the pain these individuals will experience is difficult, as there are 1 750 species of scorpions, and the pain from the poison of a scorpion sting varies. The rule of thumb for a scorpion is that the thicker the tail and smaller the pincers, the more poisonous the scorpion will be. The poison is neuro-toxic, and gives a burning sensation, ranging from mild to sever pain depending on the scorpion, which will last between a day to a week, again depending on the scorpion. With people being stung multiple times, continuously for five months, they will be on the brink of madness, which explains why John writes that these victims of the demonic plague will long for death, but the mercy of an eternal sleep will elude them. It is ironic that those who reject God will long for death, which will result in a far worse torment of an eternity in the Lake of Fire!
The fifth seal focused on the cry of the martyrs from under the alter, who had faced the persecution of the Antichrist, now the fifth trumpet records the cry of suffering from a rebellious mankind, who are tormented by demons from the Abyss. The first is a record of events in heaven, the second a record of the results of hell upon earth.
The Fifth Trumpet (9:7-11)
“7 In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, 8 their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; 9 they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. 10 They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails. 11 They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon”.
Over the next four verses John attempts to describe the demons, some theologians try to interpret John’s description in the light of modern warfare, with helicopters having a slight resemblance to John’s description. The interpretation must however, be seen from the perspective of a Judgement from the throne of God, not as a consequence of man’s rebellious actions. The attempt to find a connection to modern warfare misses the clear and obvious demonic connection that John emphasises, and there are no helicopters stored in the Abyss!
Symbolism may be used to interpret some of the images, for example, horses show the demon’s warlike character, while their crowns depict them as conquerors. The teeth of lions show them to be destructive and hurtful, wings symbolize their swiftness, while breastplates of iron indicate that they are indestructible and the sting in their tail gives them the power to hurt and harm, but not to kill. However, the main emphasis of John’s detailed visual imagery is that he is attempting to reveal the true horror of this judgement, which will be wrought by demonic forces. Fortunately for mankind, their period of torment is limited to five months. But, the next judgment is even worse.
One is left to wonder how beautiful angels who served God in heaven became horrific demonic locusts? A possible explanation is that just as creation was cursed by the fall of Adam and Eve, resulting in thorns and thistles, locusts and scorpions, so too did Satan’s fall result in a curse upon the angels who followed his lead, which caused a grotesque change in appearance.
The demonic hoard that is loosed from the Abyss to torment mankind, has a king named Abaddon in Hebrew, which is Apollyon in Greek, both are interpreted as meaning “destruction” – he is a king that destroys. This is a strange reversal, as John has been using locusts to describe the looks and behaviour of the demonic hoard, and locusts have a prerequisite for swarming, and move as a group in solidarity without a leader. However, the evidence would suggest that the King is not from the Bottomless Pit, but rather he is king over all the demons in the Bottomless Pit – Satan. As it is Satan who opens the Abyss, and he is a fallen archangel, the king of all demons (Matthew 12:24), John could well be referring to Satan as the leader of these demons, using a name for Satan that aptly describes him. Consistently throughout Scripture Satan has been given many different names that match his character, or status, such as: The tempter (1 Thessalonians 3:5), the evil one (1 John 5:18), the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4) and a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8). Therefore, John is merely giving Satan a name that suits the context of the Scripture, and John is making a record of events in the book of Revelation, in which Satan attempts to:
- Identify all the saints by the use of a coded mark so that he can have them put to death.
- Annihilate all the Jews, so there are none left for the establishment of the nation of Israel in the Millennial Kingdom.
- Completely destroy all of mankind in a great Last Days conflict, which is interrupted by the return of the King of Kings at Armageddon.
There is no more appropriate name for John to give to Satan, the king of all demons, than “Destroyer”. So, it is therefore Satan that controls the destructive work of the swarm of demons, under the limitations set by God.
The Sixth Trumpet (9:12-21)
“12 The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come. 13 Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, 14 saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 15 So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind. 16 The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. 17 And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the colour of fire and of sapphire and of sulphur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulphur came out of their mouths. 18 By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulphur coming out of their mouths. 19 For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound. 20 The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, 21 nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts”.
The first woe has been completed, leaving the population of the world reeling from the constant attack from the demonic swarm, but there is an ominous announcement, “that is one down, there are still two to come!”
John starts the narrative of the sixth Trumpet Judgement at the golden alter of incense where the prayers of the saints were offered, and which resulted in the commencement of the Trumpet Judgements. Now a command is given from the alter, indicating that the process started by the prayers, is controlled from where the prayers were offered. The call heard by John is most likely the voice of the heavenly High Priest Jesus, who commands the release of four angels bound at the Euphrates River. As the angels at the Euphrates are all bound, this indicates they are demons, who, John reveals, each have charge over a section of an army of 200 million other demons. From the fifth and sixth Trumpet Judgements it becomes clear that not all the angels that fell from heaven with Satan were allowed to freely exist with mankind, and become the demonic adversaries against which we wrestle against continually. The fifth trumpet reveals that there are demons bound in the Abyss, while the sixth trumpet now uncovers the existence of four demons bound at the great river, Euphrates. These four angels must be powerful demons whose abilities to torment man have been constrained by God up until this moment in time. The Euphrates is significant as it is the geographical divide between East and West, and was one of the four rivers that flowed in the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:10). The area has great significance with regards to the rebellion of mankind against God: the first sin by Adam and Eve was committed there (Genesis 3), the first murder by Cain occurred in the area (Genesis 4:8), the corruption on earth during the time of Noah took place in the region of the Euphrates (Genesis 6:5), the Tower of Babel, built by Nimrod in rebellion to God, was erected on the banks of the Euphrates, then the idolatry which was started in Babylon spread throughout the earth. The Euphrates is therefore a very appropriate place for a judgement of God to take place, using members of the demonic forces that had continually deceived mankind, to now hold mankind accountable.
The reason for these fallen angels being bound becomes clear as the force of 200 million demons unleashes the greatest carnage that the population of the earth has ever experienced, with a third of the world’s population being killed. There is a marked increase in severity of the judgements, from demons tormenting mankind in the fifth Trumpet, to these four angels who have the authority to kill on a massive scale. Remember, the consequence of man’s actions as revealed by the four horsemen of the seven sealed scroll, will also be taking place during the Great Tribulation, and they will result in a quarter of the worlds population dying. In comparison, just one judgement from God will see one-third of mankind dying. To try to estimate the numbers of people dying during these two judgements is pointless, as large numbers of people will be dying throughout the Great Tribulation, so there is no way for anyone to be able to work out the total killed by this judgement. So, there cannot be an accurate estimate of the numbers of casualties given, never the less, the fact remains that this judgement will see bloodshed on an unparalleled scale. The fact that John writes that these four powerful demons had been “prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year,” implies that these demons had been waiting thousands of years bound in chains for this very moment, a terrifying thought!
In Biblical times horses were reserved for warfare and combat, while donkeys were used for farm labour. Horses were seen as powerful and courageous, charging forward into battle, and are an apt description for the army that are clearly demonic beings, not real horses:
- “The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand” – an enormous army of two hundred million demons. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization there were just under 59 million horses on the earth in 2017, well short of the number required. Some theologians believe that the description given is of military tanks, not horses – a British military consultant has estimated there are a total of 53 000 tanks in the world, way off the mark!
- They wear “breastplates the colour of fire and of sapphire and of sulphur”.
- “The horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulphur came out of their mouths”.
- “Mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulphur coming out of their mouths”.
- “The power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound”.
There can be no possible explanation for these horsemen, which are so graphically described by John in such weird and grotesque terms, other than that this is a powerful picture of the horror and destruction of a supernatural demonic cavalry. Remember, the Trumpet and Bowl Judgements do not originate from man, they are from the throne of God to earth.
The sixth trumpet is the last of the Trumpet Judgements, as the seventh trumpet opens the door for the seven Bowl Judgements. It is worthwhile then, before moving on, to pause for a moment and recollect the combined devastation that the six Trumpet Judgements will bring upon the earth and mankind. The population of the earth will not be able to say that they were not warned, as scripture is very clear of what lies ahead:
“And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time” (Daniel 12:1).
“21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Matthew 24:21–22).
And, there are still the Bowl Judgements yet to come!
John finishes the sixth Trumpet Judgement by describing the hard-hearted nature of the survivors of the Trumpet Judgements. How is it possible that mankind after such hardship and torment, still remains unrepentant? John describes how they continued to worship idols, show contempt towards human life, practice witchcraft and the occult, be immoral and licentious (promiscuous and unprincipled in sexual matters), and covet after the things of the world. Paul gives the explanation for the hard-heartedness of mankind, when he writes in 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12, that because mankind has rejected the truth (Jesus), God will send a powerful delusion (the Antichrist), “so that all will believe the lie (the Antichrist) and so that all will be condemned”. This is a repeat of the warning Paul explains in Romans 1, that God in His anger will hand man over to a reprobate mind, which is a mind that continues to be blinkered to the consequences of corrupted and debauched behaviour, which John has so aptly described. Paul warns in 2 Thessalonians that if mankind continues to reject the salvation God has provided, through the work of Jesus on the cross, He will give them what they want – the counterfeit of Jesus – the Antichrist, who will lead them to destruction.
An example of a reprobate mind may be found in the book of Exodus, where the Pharaoh of Egypt was handed over to a reprobate mind by God, which is revealed in the hardness of his heart when he refused to free the Israelites from slavery. The Egyptians suffered through 10 devastating plagues because their Pharaoh could not recognise that there would be consequences to his rebellious actions. It is important to note that first, originally, Pharaoh hardened his own heart, before God stepped in and hardened Pharaoh’s heart. The extreme extent of the reprobate mind is seen when Pharaoh leads his army of chariots into the channel between the walls of water that parted for the Israelites to cross the Red Sea. After enduring ten plagues, any sane mind would know that to follow after the nation of Israel would be a grave mistake.
To conclude the sixth Trumpet Judgement, it is of interest to note that while the sixth Seal is as a consequence of spiritual depravation, resulting in a time of darkness, the sixth Trumpet, reveals the hardness of mankind’s hearts and the spiritual darkness.
Table of the Seven Trumpet Judgements
|1 (Rev 8:7)||“A third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up”.|
|2 (Rev 8:8-9)||“A great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed”.|
|3 (Rev 8:10-11)||“a great star fell from heaven, blazing 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 people died from the water, because it had been made bitter”.|
|4 (Rev 8:12-13)||“A third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night”.|
|5 (Rev 9:1-12)||A plague of demonic locusts, that will be given power like the power of scorpions, to torment for five months those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.|
|6 (Rev 9:13-21)||A 200-million-man army that results in a third of the world’s population being killed.|
|7 (Rev 11:15-19)||The Kingdom of God is declared.|
The Trumpet and Bowl Judgements Compared
|The Trumpets||The Judgements||The Bowls|
|1. 8:1-7||The earth||16:1-2|
|2. 8:8-9||The sea||16:3|
|3. 8:10-11||The rivers||16:4-7|
|4. 8:12-13||The heavens||16:8-9|
|5. 9:1-12||Mankind tormented||16:10-11|
|6. 9:13:21||An army||16:12-16|
|7. 11:15-19||Angry nations||16:17-21|