Notes on Chapters 8:6 - 11:19
Cecil N. Wright
I. FIRST FOUR TRUMPETS (8:7-12).
The sounding of the
Seven Trumpets results from the opening of the last of the Seven Seals,
and is an integral part of them. As stated in Thrones and Closed Book
(Notes on Chapters 4 & 5) the Seven Seals seem to be incorporate
in the Seven Trumpets, and in the Seven Trumpets incorporate the Seven
Bowls, so that the events of the Seventh Seal are not complete prior
to the completion of even those of the Seventh Bowl much later in the
text; also that the Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls are not necessarily consecutive,
but may in part be simultaneous and overlapping and represent simply
different aspects of the same general events.
As with the Seven
Seals, the Seven Trumpets are divided into two distinct groups of four
and three, respectively; and there is an interlude, or parenthetic episode,
between the sixth and seventh numbers of each series. The first four
Trumpets introduce judgments upon the Roman empire symbolized by disorders
affecting nature in four of its realms: the earth, the sea, the rivers,
and the heavenly bodies. The symbolism of the remaining Trumpets is
that of demonic disasters upon the inhabitants of the earth.
Descriptions of the
judgments correspond in large measure to the plagues of Egypt, but with
modifications. The first four are not as severe and widespread as the
last three – each affecting only a: "third part" of the category.
All are designed as warnings to repent, but the first four are not as
punitive as the last three, which are designated as "woe Trumpets.
Some have thought the first four symbolize the overthrow of the western
part of the Roman empire; the next two, the overthrow of the eastern
part; and the last, the complete and final destruction of all the enemies
of Christianity at the end of history. The interpretation adopted in
these notes, however, is that the latter has reference to the overthrow
of paganism in the Roman empire and its becoming nominally Christian,
with a complete reversal of the status of paganism and Christianity
in the empire – with rationale for said interpretation given later.
1. First Trumpet (v.7):
"and the first sounded, and there followed hail and fire, mingled
with blood, and they were cast upon the earth" and the third part
of the earth was burnt up, and the third part of the trees was burnt
up, and all green grass was burnt up."
This is reminiscent
of the plague of hail and fire upon Egypt (Exodus 9:22-26), but "blood"
is added, which seems to symbolize war. In that case, the scorched and
blasted land may indicate the devastation of destroying armies. It could
be symbolic of Gothic invasion from the north in A.D. 409 and the sacking
of Rome the next year under Alaric. Johnson points out some of the expressions
of Gibbon concerning it as follow: "the tremendous sound of the
Gothic Trumpet"; "At the first sound of the trumpet the Goths
left their farms" (for the invasion); "the Goths conflagration";
"Blood and conflagration and the burning of trees and herbage marked
their path." Italy had been invaded temporarily more than a century
earlier, but not nearly as extensively and for a period of 619 years
Rome itself had never been violated by the presence of a foreign enemy.
So, when Rome was sacked and conquered it was a staggering blow, spreading
consternation and gloom. But after six days the Gothic army evacuated
the city, and not long afterward Alaric died, with his brother-in-law
and successor concluding a treaty of peace two years later (412).
2. Second Trumpet
(vs.8-9): "And the second angel sounded and as it were a great
mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part
of the sea became blood; and there died the third part of the creatures
which were in the sea, even they that had life; and the third part of
the ships was destroyed."
In symbolism a mountain
usually represents a king or kingdom (cf. 17:9-10), and here it is a
"mountain burning with fire" – a volcanic mountain erupting
and being cast into the sea, giving it the appearance of blood – which
is reminiscent of the waters of the Nile in Egypt being turned to blood.
Bodies of water or seas often represent a multitude of people (cf.17:18),
but sometimes the literal and figurative are blended, as may be the
case here, since warfare in which ships are destroyed is indicated.
In the event, the attack on Rome would come from the sea instead of
land as under Alaric. And in harmony with this line of interpretation,
the symbolism of the Second Trumpet corresponds remarkably with the
invasion of the Vandals under Genseric.
Gibbon says of Genseric
that in "the destruction of the Roman empire" his name "has
deserved an equal rank with the names of Alaric and Attilla." He
began his conquest in Africa, taking Carthage and the whole of its province
from Rome in 439. He then "cast his eyes toward the sea" and
created a "naval power." With fleets that issued from the
ports of Carthage (and) claimed the empire of the Mediterranean"
– of which Rome had held undisputed mastery for six hundred years. In
the course of time he cast anchor at the mouth of the Tiber and advanced
from port of Ostia to the gates of the city of Rome. Gibbon states that
"Rome and its inhabitants were delivered to the licentiousness
of the Vandals and Moors, … The pillage lasted fourteen days and nights;
and all that remained of public or private wealth, or sacred or profane
treasure, was diligently transported to the vessels of Genseric."
This occurred in 455. Three years later when the Roman emperor had prepared
a navy of "three hundred large galleys, with an adequate proportion
of transports and smaller vessels," the Romans were defeated by
a surprise attack of the Vandals, when "many of their ships were
sunk, or taken, or burnt: and the preparations of three years were destroyed
in a single day" – in 458.
3. Third Trumpet (vs.10-11):
"And the third angel sounded, and there fell from heaven a great
star, burning as a torch, and it fell upon a third part of the rivers,
and upon the fountains of the waters; and the name of the star is called
wormwood: and a third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men
died of the waters, because they were made bitter."
A star usually symbolizes
a ruler or person of rank. In this case, a great burning star or meteor
flashed across the sky, as it were, and fell upon a third part of the
rivers, rendering them bitter, and many men died as a result. Meteors
appear and disappear suddenly, which would indicate a suddenness with
which the work of some significant personage would begin and/or end
against Rome. In this case, the symbolism is in striking harmony with
the career about Attila as a leader of the Huns, which embraced from
433 to 453, making him contemporary with Genseric part of the time,
but beginning his career about five years later. As a military leader
he was a star of the first magnitude, claming divinely given dominion
or the earth. And "in the reign of Attila, the Huns again became
the terror of the world," as they had been in earlier times and
other parts under previous leaders. Gibbon says he "alternately
insulted and invaded the East and the West, and urged the rapid downfall
of the Roman Empire."
It is said that before
the year 400 the Romans knew nothing about the Hungarian nation (not
to be confused with the present -day Hungarians, who had come into central
Europe from the depths of central Asia, but that about the time of Attila
appeared upon the banks of the Danube, the river boundary of the Roman
empire, with eight hundred thousand fighting men. Overcoming opposition
to the passage of the Danube, he rushed westward, crossed the Rhine
river and on the Marne engaged in a tremendous battle with the armies
of Rome, where the blood of the slaughtered is said to have made the
river run with blood, and that from one hundred fifty thousand to three
hundred thousand were slain. Then his army desolated the Rhine river
to its mouth and turning southward, it met again the host of Rome on
the banks of the Rhone river in furious combat. Finally, arriving on
the banks of the Po river Attila contended for the mastery of Italy
itself. Victorious, he marched further southward to take Rome. Unable
to contend longer, however, the emperor and the senate sent a commission
to meet him and obtain a treaty of peace. Upon receiving an immense
ransom, he departed, recrossed the Danube, and soon died (453) – at
Bud, on the north side of the Danube, which he had made the capital
of the Huns.
4. Fourth Trumpet
(v.12): "And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the
sun was smitten, and a third part of the moon, and the third part of
the stars; that the third part of them should be darkened, and the day
should not shine for the third part of it, and the night in like manner."
Johnson comments as
follows: "We have found the Goths struck their blow (by land) about
409; the Vandals from the sea about A.D. 422; and Attila upon the rivers
about A.D. 440. What follows? We are to seek the fulfillment in the
next and final invasion or Rome. It occurred A.D. 476. Odoacer, king
of the Heruli, a Northern race, encouraged by the apparent weakness
of the failing empire, besieged and took the almost helpless city. Augustulus,
the feeble emperor, was hurled down, the Roman Senate that had met for
twelve hundred and twenty-eight years, was driven from the Senate chambers,
the mighty fabric of the empire fell to the dust, and the great men
humbled never to rise again. Sun, moon, and stars, emperor, princes,
and great men, were smitten, lose their power, and cease to give light.
There now began the period called by all historians the ‘Dark Age.’"
(Incidentally, one of the plagues of Egypt was a preternatural darkness
for three days.)
Further by Johnson:
"The third part is named in each of these four judgments. The first
fall on the third part of the earth, the second on a third part of the
sea, the third on a third part of the rivers, and the fourth on a third
part of the sun, moon, and stars. If they were to fall upon a third
part of the great Roman world, (1) upon its land provinces, (2) upon
its seas,(3) upon its river systems, and (4) upon emperors and rulers
(sun, moon, and stars), the whole would thus be fulfilled. This is just
what took place. During a great part of the period when the events were
taking place which are covered by the seven trumpets, the great Roman
world was divided into three parts. Gibbon, Chap. LIII., says: ‘From
the age of Charlemagne to that of the Crusades, the world (for I overlook
the remote monarchy of China) was occupied and disputed by the three
great empires, or nations of the Greeks, the Saracens, and the Franks.’
‘Three classes of men during that interval are conspicuous, the Saracens
or Arabians, the Latins or Franks, inhabitants of the Western Europe,
and the Byzantine Greeks.’ –Phil. Inquiries , Part III. These quotations,
which might be multiplied, show that during the long period of a thousand
years, a period embraced in the vision of John, the civilized world
was divided into three distinct parts, a third part, the Western third
part called the Latin or Frank part, that all the calamities of the
four invasions of Goths, Vandals, Huns and Heruli fell. It was the Western
third part, the Old Roman Empire, which fell forever under the blows."
The striking correspondence
between symbolism and Roman history, including sequence, is the most
remarkable if not more than mere coincidence – if not divine prophecy
II. FIRST TWO "WOE" TRUMPETS (8:13 - 9:21).
John next said: "And
I saw , and I heard an eagle, flying in mid heaven, saying with a loud
voice, Woe, woe, woe, for them that dwell on the earth, by reason of
the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, who are yet to
This sets the last
three trumpets off in a separate class from the four preceding and indicates
increased misery for the inhabitants of the earth – likely the Roman
portion of the earth particularly. And between the sixth and the seventh
trumpets is an episode or interlude of significance for appreciation
of the last trumpet. Hence, now we notice only the fifth and sixth trumpets.
1. Fifth Trumpet (9:1-12):
"And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven fall
unto the earth: and there was given to him the key to the pit of the
abyss" (v.1). John did not see a star fall from heaven, as the
King James Version reads, but a star from heaven "having fallen
unto earth," as the Greek literally reads. A star is a symbol of
a leader. And in this case he may be "the angel of the abyss."
Abaddon in Hebrew and Apollyon in Greek, which means "Destroyer"
(v.11) – either Satan or one of his angels – possibly the latter symbolizing
some outstanding false teacher and military leader.. The "abyss"
is likely Tartarus (cf. 2 Peter 2:4) of the Hadean world, the abode
of the wicked until resurrection and judgment, and not Gehenna, the
lake of fire and brimstone, but whose occupants represent hellish influences.
Having the "key" to the abyss evidently represents power to
turn loose a multitude of evil workers.
"And he opened
the pit of the abyss; and there went up a smoke out of the pit, as the
smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason
of the smoke of the pit" (v.2). Smoke would darken the sun wherever
is spread, and may represent false teaching that, by shutting out the
light of truth, would darken the minds of men (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
"And out of the
smoke came forth locusts upon the earth; and power was given them, as
the scorpions of the earth have power" (v.3). This is reminiscent
of the plague of locusts upon Egypt, yet is different. Those destroyed
vegetation, but these were not allowed to do so, but to hurt man –"only
such men as have not the seal of God on their foreheads"—not kill
them, however, but torment them five months so grievously that they
would prefer death (vs. 4-6).
The description of
the locusts is interesting and quite unnatural. They were shaped like
"horses prepared for war," which indicates that they symbolized
warfare. They wore, not crowns of gold, but "as it were crowns
like unto gold," evidently a significant factor of identification
along with others. Their faces were as "men’s" hence must
have been bearded; their hair was as that of "women," hence
likely long; their teeth were as those of "lions," likely
indicating of fierceness. The sound of their wings was as that "of
chariots, of many horses rushing to war" – suggestive of great
numbers as well as their military mission. And they had tails like scorpions,
that is, with stings in them – to torment, but not to kill. (vs. 7-10.)
The combined factors
of identification have led historicist interpreters to believe that
the rise and spread of Mohammedanism (or Islam) is what is symbolized.
For one thing, it issued forth from Arabia, which was preeminently the
land of the locusts in the Middle East and apparently the source of
the locusts plague upon Egypt – being borne in on an east wind. Mohammed
proclaimed himself a prophet, set out at the head of an army to propagate
his religion by the sword, and conquered Arabia before his death in
632. Under successive leaders Mohammedan armies swept on from there,
with one conquest after another in the Eastern world and in parts of
the West. Syria fell in 634 (and Damascus established as the capital
of their budding empire), Jerusalem in 637, Egypt in 638, Persia in
640, North Africa in 689, and Spain in 711. Not until 732 in a decisive
battle at Tours, France, was the tide of conquest stayed. Twice after
that, in 675 and 716, they besieged Constantinople but were repulsed
each time. In 762 they moved their capital to Bagdad on the Tigris river
and called it "the city of Peace." And Gibbons says, "War
was no longer the passion of the Saracens" – a term by which the
Arabs were popularly known in the Middle Ages. And by the year 782 they
engaged in friendly correspondence with Christian rulers of Europe.
But indicative of their scourge, possibly at its worst, from 634 to
644, it reported that they had reduced 36,000 cities to obedience, destroyed
4,000 church buildings, and built 1,400 mosques. And Gibbons says: "At
the end of the first century of the Hegira [the flight of Mohammed from
Mecca in 622] the caliphs [successors of Mohammed] were the most potent
and absolute monarchs on the globe. Under the last of the Ommiades [a
dynasty of caliphs in the East from 661 to 750] the Arabian empire extended
two hundred days’ journey from east to west, from the confines of Tartary
and India to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean."
Furthermore, the Arabian
armies were fierce and composed of horsemen, famous for their beards,
wore their hair long, with yellow turbans on their heads, and are said
to have worn iron coats of armor. And when they invaded Syria in 632,
Abubeker, the successor of Mohammed, commanded: "Destroy no palm
trees, nor burn any fields of corn. Cut down no fruit trees." This
corresponds with "it is said unto them that they should not hurt
the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree, but
only such men as have not the seal of God on their forehead."
The question arises
as to who commanded to hurt "only such men as have not the seal
of God on their foreheads," whether God or the leader of the armies.
If the latter, he would mean those who did not accept Mohammed as a
prophet of God. If the former, reference would be to the true people
of God. Either interpretation is linguistically possible.
While it is true that
the Arabian armies were primarily interested in making converts to Mohammedanism,
and were dead set against paganism, they often exercised a great deal
of leniency toward professed Christians if they recognized the political
supremacy of Islam in the regions. "Ironically, considering the
Arabs’ reputation in the West for proselytizing by the sword, their
advance through Syria and Egypt was often welcomed by the Monophysite
populations, who found the Islamic conquerors more tolerant than their
own Orthodox brothers in Constantinople" (Religion at the Crossroads",
1980, p.40). Of conditions under later Islamic leaders (Turkish sultans)
it is said: "After he routed a Byzantine army in 1301, Osman was
joined by still more fighting Turks, and even Greek defectors. He also
welcomed Christians who recognized his authority – and thus the supremacy
of Islam.—and let them worship as they pleased" (Ibid. p.90). Also:
"the Greek-Orthodox Bulgarians, who had been persecuted by the
Catholic Hungarians, welcomed the religious tolerance under Ottoman
rule" (Ibid. p.94).
Although Islamic Arabs
did not completely subdue the Eastern (or Byzantine) part of the Roman
empire, they greatly shrank its borders and considerably weakened it
political fabric. And what they failed to do, the Ottoman Turks, who
were likewise Islamic, accomplished. And, if the symbolism of the fifth
trumpet (the first "Woe") referred to the former, that of
the Sixth Trumpet (the second "Woe") must refer to the latter.
2. Sixth Trumpet (9:13-21):
When the sixth angel sounded, John "heard a voice from the horns
of the golden alter before God, one saying to the sixth angel that had
the trumpet, Loose the four angels that are bound at the great river
Euphrates. And the fourth angels were loosed, that had been prepared
for the hour and day and month and year, that they should kill a the
third part of men. And the number of the armies of the horsemen was
twice ten thousand times the thousand: and I heard the number of them,"
said John (vs. 13-16).
Angels are messengers
or agents through which events are accomplished. In this case, the four
angels are agents of wrath that had been confined beyond the Euphrates,
the eastern boundary of the Roman empire. While four may be indicative
of strength, it could have reference to the four principalities under
the four grandsons of the leader who established the Turkish empire
in western Asia. Coming originally out of central Asia, and having converted
to Mohammedanism in the 9th and 10th centuries,
by the second half of the tenth century A.D. they extended themselves
as far west as the Euphrates river, the eastern boundary of the Roman
Empire, but, somehow, were "bound" there for sixty years.
In 1057, however they crossed the Euphrates with a tremendous cavalry
and marched upon the eastern part of the Roman empire. By the beginning
of the next century they were in control of most of it. By late in the
13th century, the Turkish empire had reorganized itself into
the Ottoman Turks in power. Then they crossed into Europe. The eastern
part of the Roman empire was soon shorn of all its territories and reduced
to the city of Constantinople. And in addition to clashing and fighting
back and forth with nearly every country that had been a part of the
western Roman empire, and wearying them to a standstill, in 1453 the
Turks successfully assaulted Constantinople with 200,000 soldiers, and
with battering rams and cannons – the first ever used in a siege – and
with a mighty slaughter took, on May 29, the last vestige of the once
mighty Roman empire, And when more than a century later it reached its
peak, the Ottoman empire extended from Persia throughout Asia Minor
(or Anatolia, as it was called), into parts of Arabia, into most of
southeastern Europe, throughout Syria and Palestine, and to Egypt and
most of northern Africa, and penetrated deeply into parts of other areas
where it molested but never gained and/or maintained control. Eventually
it disintegrated and weakened to the point of being the "sick man
of Europe." But on its way to ascendancy it achieved the disintegration
and overthrow of the last vestiges of the Roman empire – the Byzantine
portion – the Byzantine "third" of the civilized world – which
seemingly was its main providential mission. The Saracens had achieved
a part of that mission, and the Turks completed it and came to dominate
for a long period of time the territory the Saracens had taken as well
as that which they themselves additionally conquered.
Out of the mouths
of the preternatural horses seen in John’s symbolical vision "proceedeth
fire and brimstone. By these three plagues was the third of men killed,
… For the power of the horses is in their mouths, and in their tails:
for their tails are like unto serpents, and have heads; and with them
they do hurt." (vs.17-19).
have seen in this a reference to the use of gun powder and firearms,
employed for the first time in the campaigns of the Ottoman Turks –
since at a distance it might look as if the smoke of guns fired by the
riders was coming from the horses’ mouths, and that this was the source
of their power. The other source was their tails. Johnson remarks: "this
is a singular statement. No less singular is the fact that among the
Turks the horses tail is a emblem of power. The number of horses tails
determined rank. A Pacha of three tails is a great officer. The emblem
of rule of the Pacha, the most wasteful, oppressive, unjust rule the
world has ever seen, is likely the horse’s tail." If that seems
farfetched, "Perhaps the serpentlike tails only signify the biting
torture that would be felt by those who would have to suffer from the
new kind of warfare indicated" (John T Hinds. Commentary on the
Book of Revelation, Gospel Advocate company, 1937.)
"And the rest
of mankind, who were not killed with these plagues, repented not of
the works of the hands, that they should not worship demons, and the
idols of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of stone, and of wood;
which can neither see, nor hear, nor walk" and repented not of
their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor
of their thefts" (vs.20-21).
This has a special
reference to those who were guilty of idolatry and commonly associated
sins. Although both the Saracens and the Turks were Mohammedans and
were a scourge especially against such, they never succeeded either
in converting or killing all who practiced it. Christians were as much
opposed to idolatry as the Moslems (another name for Mohammedans) were,
but did not use the sword (or guns) against it.
III. Interlude (10:1 - 11:4).
1. The Little Open
Book (10:1-11). This is the first part of an interlude before sounding
the Seventh Trumpet. John sees another strong angel, not one of the
seven with trumpets, having in his hand a little open book, who set
his right foot upon the sea and his left foot upon the earth (land),
and cried with a loud voice, responded to by the "voices"
of the seven thunders – evidently ominous utterings, which John was
forbidden to record. Then the strong angel swore by the Creator that
there would be "delay no longer," but in the days of the voice
of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the "mystery of
God," according to what he had declared to his servants the prophets,
would be "finished." (vs.1-7.) That is, a significant consummation
that had been foretold would be accomplished. Then John was directed
to take the little open book from the strong angel standing upon the
sea and upon the land, and to "eat it up," which in his mouth
would be "sweet as honey" but in his stomach would be "bitter."
And he was told that he must "prophesy" (make known God’s
message) again in regard to (epi, as in John 12:16, where it
is translated "of") "many peoples and nations and tongues
and kings." It would be a message of mercy upon some, which would
be sweet, and of judgment upon others, which would be bitter to contemplate.
This may possibly have reference principally to the remainder of "The
Revelation" itself, concerned with the consummation, which is bitter-sweet
2. The Two Witnesses
(11:1-14): "And there was given unto me a reed like unto a rod:
And one said, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the alter, and
them that worship therein. And the court which is without the temple
leave without and measure it not; for it hath been given unto the nations:
and the holy city shall they tread under foot for forty and two months.
And I will give unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand
and two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth" (vs.1-3).
The measuring john
was to do so reminiscent of that described in Ezekiel, Chapters 40-43
– to obtain dimensions of the pattern for the people to conform to if
ashamed of their iniquities and interested in obedience to God (43:6-12)
and acceptable by him (v.27). John was to measure the temple (the church),
the alter (the worship), and the worshippers themselves. The outer court
was not to be included in the measuring, being the court of the nations
(Gentiles), who would tread under foot (persecute) the holy city (another
term for the church) for 42 months (3 ½ years). During that time (expression
also as 1260 days) God’s "two witnesses" would prophesy in
"sackcloth" – a symbol of sorrow and mourning – obviously
due to persecution. (A similar period of time was forecast, in Daniel
12:5-28, "a time, times, and a half." When there would be
a "breaking in pieces the power of the holy people." See also
7:25 and the context, vs. 15-28.)
The instrument for
the above measuring was "given" to John. Not something he
made; and , in harmony with the chapters referred to above from Ezekiel,
it must have been the word of God – in this case, the teaching of the
New Testament, already given to the apostles, who had been guided into
all truth (John 16:13). Obviously, that would also be the message of
God’s "two witnesses" who would prophesy in sackcloth for
3 ½ years.
These two witnesses
are described as "the two olive trees and the two candlesticks
(Gr. lampstands), standing before the Lord of the earth"
(v.4). this imagery seems to be suggested by Zechariah 4. The "olive
trees" would supply the oil necessary of the lamps to give light.
And, since the word of God is a "lamp" and a "light"
(Psalm 119:105), the "oil" would likely be the Holy spirit
by which the word is received by prophets and communicated. When Zechariah
asked what the two olive trees in his vision represented, he was told,
"This is the word of Jehovah unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might,
not by power, but by my Spirit, saith Jehovah of host" (4:6); Also,
"These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the
whole earth" (v.14) – referring to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah,
the high priest (3:1,8-9; cf. See Haggai 2:1-5) – so endowed (anointed)
by the Spirit of God as to do the work assigned to them by the Lord.
But the two witnesses
of our text in Revelation are not so specifically designated, though
they are called "prophets" – persons who by the Spirit of
God receive and communicate to others the word of God. They are described,
however, in terms reminiscent of Moses (Exodus 1:14-21 through Chapter
11) and Elijah (1 Kings 17:1-5 and James 5:17-18; 2 Kings 1:10-14) –
yet they are not these. In all probability, reference is symbolically
made to all Christian martyrs (witnesses) during the period under consideration
– for they are killed – by the "beast that comes up out of the
abyss and makes war with them (v.7) -- to be described later and referred
to again and again. (Some have thought them to represent the Old and
New Testaments, and surely they would speak forth the truths of such
– "the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus" (1:2.9; 6:9;
They are killed in
the great city where our Lord was crucified (v.8) – likely not referring
to his literal crucifixion, but to his being "crucified afresh"
by enemies of his cause (see Hebrews 6:4 for such a figurative use of
the word). And, if the crucifixion referred to is not literal, neither
would the city likely be the one where he was literally crucified. "Spiritually"
(that is figuratively) it is Jerusalem (because of its rejection of
Christ and the persecution of his people); Sodom (because of its moral
degradation); and Egypt (because of its cruelty and oppression). It
is the antithesis of the holy city (New Jerusalem, yet to be depicted),
and is preeminently the sin city (later referred to again and again
as Babylon and described as a great harlot sitting upon "many waters",
symbolizing "peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues",
(17:1-15), and likewise described as sitting upon a "scarlet colored
beast" (17:3), answering to one referred to above in 11:7).
Contempt for the witnesses
put to death is shown by refusal to allow them to be buried (which was
not true in literal Jerusalem in regard to Christ when he was crucified),
as well as by the merry-making of "the peoples and tribes and tongues
and nations" beholding their dead bodies in the city of their martyrdom
– answering not to any one city alone, but to the Roman empire as a
whole. Their rejoicing is short-lived, however, for after 3 ½ days the
martyred ones are described as being restored to life, and then called
into heaven. This evidently means that when the cause of the two witnesses
was thought to be so vanquished as never to revive, it not only recovered
but was even exalted (and therefore successful) beyond what it had ever
been before. That was greatly frightening to the enemies of Christianity,
and "in that hour" there was a "great earthquake"
causing a part of the city of sin to fall, with many killed, and the
rest giving "glory to God of heaven" – reminiscent of what
has already been depicted under different symbolism, and will be repeated
in various other ways as well. This has brought us through 11:13.
"The second Woe
is past: behold the Third Woe cometh quickly" (v.14).
IV. THIRD "WOE" TRUMPET (11:15-19).
1. Seventh Trumpet (11:15-18): "And the seventh angel sounded;
and there followed great voices in heaven, and they said, "The
kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his
Christ: and he shall reign for ever and ever."
This represents a promised consummation. The strong angel that
had said, "there shall be delay no longer" continued by saying,
"but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is
about to sound, then is finished the mystery of God according to the
good tidings which he declared to his servants the prophets" (10:6-7).
But it is doubtful if this refers to the victory of Christ at the end
of history, unless in prospect and by way of prelude and assurance.
It is more likely to be primarily his victory over paganism, to be symbolized
yet in various ways in addition to what has already been done, including
the symbolism of Chapter 19, after which there is still an interval
represented as more than one thousand years before the end of history,
as described in 20:1-10. See Chart of Revelation 6-22.
The 24 Elders responded to the above quoted declaration by worshipping
God saying, "We give thee thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who
art and who wast; because thou hast taken thy great power, and didst
reign. And the nations were wroth, and thy wrath came, and the time
of the dead to be judged, and the time to give reward to thy servants
the prophets, and to the saints, and to them that fear thy name, the
small and the great; and to destroy the earth." (vs.16-18.)
While this could
be said at the end of history, it is likewise applicable after the overthrow
of paganism and enthronement, as it were, of Christianity in the Roman
empire. Remember the symbolism of the two witnesses who were killed
and were then restored to life and even called up into heaven (vs.3-13)?
Also the promise to the souls under the alter (6:9-11)? Note likewise
the "first resurrection" and the enthronement of a thousand
years of the souls of those who "had been beheaded for the testimony
of Jesus, and for the word of God," etc., to be described in 20:4-6.
The latter appears to be the result of the sequel to, the overthrow
of paganism, apparently symbolized for the last time in chapter 19.
2. Verse 19:
"And there was opened the temple of God in heaven; and there was
seen in his temple the ark of his covenant; and there followed lightenings,
and voices, and thunders, and an earthquake, and great hail."
The first part
of this verse is designed to give assurance to the beleaguered saints
that God’s covenant with them (all he has promised them) is ever held
in remembrance, that they should not despair; and the second part describes
omens of judgments upon theirs and God’s enemies, to be further described
in succeeding chapters.
If the interpretation
adopted in these notes is correct, what has gone before general emphasis
upon secular history of the Roman empire from the giving of Revelation
till the dissolution of the empire, which had and would have a bearing
upon Christians and Christianity; whereas what is to follow will emphasize
more particularly and depict in greater detail the spiritual conflict
between Christianity and its various enemies in the Roman empire during
the same period, plus the final and over-all outcome at the end of history.
Tough there is
marked contrast between the first eleven and the second eleven chapters
of Revelation, John’s vantage point beginning with Chapter 4 does not
change till chapter 17 – being heaven itself – "in the Spirit,"
that is. Moreover, if the seven Seals incorporate the Seven Trumpets,
and the Seven Trumpets incorporate the Seven Bowls, then the effects
of these carry through to Chapter 20:6 – till nearly the end of history,
depicted in 20:7-15, and a glimpse beyond history (21:1 - 22:5).