Background to Revelation
John the Apostle, whilst in vision was taken through seven true churches throughout human history right up to the second coming of Jesus. These messages were aimed in particular to the followers of Jesus. The last day church, the Laodicea church, even though found with many faults and imperfections, still remains one of God's churches. Those who overcome from this church will sit with Christ on His throne.
John's second vision describes the opening of the seven seals. Here again the history of the church was described from John's day to a time when there would be silence in heaven. This indicates the absence of Jesus and the angels who go to the earth to gather the saints and bring them back into heaven. The change in colour of the horses depicts the slow and steady apostasy of the church.
As the church slowly lost its first love, the purity that comes through obedience to the law of God, He permitted bitter calamities to befall those who once professed obedience to Him. These were designed to bring back His people to the paths of righteousness. These troubles are described in the vision of the seven trumpets. In ancient Israel, the trumpet was used as a symbol of war. See Jeremiah 4:19, who writes about the advance of the Babylonian army against Judea. He says:
"Thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war."
The first four trumpets describe the assaults made by barbarian tribes on the crumbling Roman Empire and cover just a short period of time. From the invasion by Alaric and his Visigoths in 395 AD, to the final extinction of the Roman senate by Narses in 552 AD, only a little more than a century and a half ensued. During that time, however, an enormous amount of suffering was inflicted upon the inhabitants of the civilized world. Many citizens were slaughtered or reduced to slavery, flourishing cities were destroyed and fertile provinces turned into deserts. Since the Visigoths, Vandals and Heruli were nominal Christians, this partly tempered their treatment of the Romans. However, they were followers of Arius, which divided them from the so-called orthodox Christians. But the Huns were not Christians. Wherever they over-ran the land, the sufferings of the people were very great. No wonder the name of their leader, Attila, was Wormwood, (Chapter 8:11), indicating the bitterness of the cup, which he caused the Romans to drink!
The last three trumpets were called "woe" trumpet because an even greater amount of personal tragedy would befall the nations due to the assaults of the Saracens and Turks. The Saracen period covered approximately seven centuries, the Turkish nearly five centuries. It is difficult to realize today the terror, which the Turks inspired in Europe during the century of Martin Luther and the Reformation. Churches were crowded with worshippers, praying for deliverance from the seemingly invincible Turkish armies. The Turkish Sultan boasted that he would stable his horse in St Peter's cathedral and for a time it seemed that he would carry out his threat.
The calamities, which befell mankind under the "woe" trumpets failed to accomplish the work God intended. There was no change of heart, no turning to God. The sad record is given in Revelation 9:21:
"Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts."
The 7th Trumpet is only blown in the last hours of earth's history. The proclamation of Revelation 11:15 marks the return of Jesus and the age of peace, when the alarm of war, the sound of the trumpet shall no more be heard.
5th Trumpet: The Locusts from the Bottomless Pit.
History attributes the 5th and 6th Trumpets to the Saracens and the Turks.
9:1. And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. And to him was given the key to the bottomless pit.
Constantinople was besieged for the first time after the extinction of the Western Roman Empire by KHOSRAU II King of Persia (590-628) (Daniel and Revelation page 492).
KHOSRAU received an epistle from MOHAMMED (MAHOMET) inviting him to acknowledge the Arabian as the apostle of God. He rejected this and tore it up.
KHOSRAU fought a war against the Romans and HERACLIUS I (610-641). KHOSRAU was killed in AD 628 making way for the advance of the Arabs.
The star fallen from heaven represents MOHAMMED.
The Key = the defeat of KHOSRAU and end to the Persian Empire.
The Bottomless Pit = The Arabian Desert.
(Note: One of the first Biblical expositors on record to identify the Turks as the power portrayed under the 6th Trumpet was the Swiss reformer Heinrich Bullinger who died in AD 1575 although Martin Luther had already set for this trumpet as symbolic of the Moslems.)
9:2. And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke rose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. And the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit.
From the desert regions spread the doctrines of MOHAMMED. Compared to the spread of Christianity, which brought light to peoples minds, this new religion is portrayed in the Bible as bringing darkness to the minds of the people. Consequently Christianity was threatened by it.
9.3. Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
In the 8th century, a Spanish Monk by the name of BEATUS identified the locusts as Arabs. Reminiscent of the plague of locusts in Egypt (Exodus 10:13-15), these people seemed to fill the whole Earth. Their new religion spread as fast as locusts absorbing all who came into contact with its disciples. Not only was their attack speedy and victorious they introduced a code of vengeance for honors sake and this spread its deadly venom like the sting of a scorpion.
9.4 They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
After MOHAMMED's death in AD 632 his successor was Abu-Bekr, who told his soldiers to find another sort of people with shaven heads, which he believed were of the Synagogue of Satan, (Possibly an order of Monks of the Roman Catholic Church), and kill them all.
But Abu-Bekr told his soldiers: "destroy no palm tree or burn the fields of corn. Do not cut down any fruit tree of hurt any cattle except that which you kill to eat."
In the very act of going against the religion of Jesus, he repeated the words foretold in prophecy. (No Christian was killed who paid him tribute).
The Seal of God in their forehead were those who kept the Seventh Day Sabbath and had the law of God implanted in their hearts.
9.5: And they were not given authority to kill them but to torment them for 5 months. And their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man.
The locusts (Arabs) were not to kill all Christian's but they were to torment them for a period of 5 months. In prophetic writings, a day stands for 1 year. (See Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6). Consequently the Saracens tortured their Christian prisoners during a 150-year period).
(A scorpion's sting is painful but does not usually lead to death the Saracens tortured their victims ensuring they would live to be tortured again and again).
9.6. In those days' men will seek death and will not find it: they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.
The Saracens were relentless in their quest to dominate. Everything that was held dear or sacred to their victims was violated time and time again until those they conquered willed for death or an escape but they could not find it.
9.7. And the shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle and on their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men.
Shapes = likeness.
Like unto horses (See Joel 2:4 which is reminiscent of Revelation 9:7). Horses refer to cavalry, which was a prominent feature of the Arab forces. These Arabian horses would have long tales and face guards and blinkers to protect them when running into battle, probably made of bronze. Faces of men = humans riding the horses and as Arabs they would have turbans on their heads possibly a light colour cloth which shone in the sun.
9.8. They had hair like women's hair, and their teeth were like lions teeth.
The Saracens had long hair. Lion's teeth means they were ferocious and strong to devour their prey.
9.9. And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle.
The Saracens were known for wearing Cuirass's or breastplates in the days of Mohammed. This also suggests that they were impregnable or undefeatable. The Saracens used many horses and archers when going into battle. Their movement was swift as the wind. Wings denote swiftness.
9.10. They had tails like scorpions and there were stings in their tails. And they had power to hurt men five months.
A scorpion's sting is in its tail. The Saracen would inflict wounds on their victims through torture. (Compare with Chapter 9:5).
9.11. And they had a king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon.
Abaddon or Apollyon = destroyer.
The wise man Agur declared that "the locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by hands" (Prov 30:27). The locusts in the present passage, however, are more highly organized in their destructive work, for they have a ruler whose commands they follow. There are however, a number of different interpretations of whom this king is. Some apply the 5th and 6th Trumpets to the Moslem Arabs and Turks and believe the reference to the king over them is Osman (Othman) I (1299-1326), the traditional founder of the Ottoman Empire. His first attack upon the Greek Empire, which according to Gibbon took place on July 27th 1299, they take as marking the beginning of the 5-month period of torment (Revelation 9:7,10).
9:12. One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things.
The 6th Trumpet The Angels from the Euphrates.
9.13. Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden alter which is before God.
Angel = messenger (not always Angels from heaven. See notes on next verse). Horns were used at the ALTAR in the earthly sanctuary, which was the anti-type of the heavenly sanctuary. (See Exodus 37:26). The ALTAR is the same as the one in Revelation 8:35.
9.14. saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet. "Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates."
Previously John had seen four angels that had power to restrain the winds from blowing (Chap 7:1). These had worldwide power but the four angels in this chapter are believed to be four principle Sultans of the Ottoman Empire around the Euphrates. These were situated at Aleppo; Iconium; Damascus and Bagdad.
9.15: So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind.
The time had now come for these Turks to carry out their destructive work. The reference to a third is a fraction that appears quite often in Revelation (See Chapter 8: 8,9,11,12), Chapter 9:15, 18; Chapter 12:4 and Zech 13:8,9). It probably implies a substantial amount but not a major portion.
9.16. Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million and I heard the number of them.
The four angels are portrayed as executing judgment by means of a great army of cavalry. The Turkish horsemen were the most swift and mobile branch of the Army. There reached spread 600 miles from Tauris to Azeroum and the blood of 130,000 Christians was a grateful sacrifice to the Arabian people. The number is probably descriptive of the vast innumerable army, not the actual figure.
9.17. And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and brimstone.
The description of the horses and their riders seems to follow the familiar Hebrew inverted parallelism: first the horses, then the riders are mentioned, then the riders are described and finally the horses.
Breastplates of fiery red. John probably saw the rider's breastplates reflecting red from the light of the Sun. The uniforms of the riders appear to be blue and yellow. The horses themselves would have head plates over them to protect them from arrows or rifle shot. With their mains flowing behind them - John would have thought they looked majestic like a lion. A lion in prophecy also denotes strength.
Fire, Smoke and Brimstone. To John in vision, the Turkish cavalry when firing their firing by or over the heads of the horses would have made him think the horses were breathing fire and brimstone when the weapons were fired.
9.18. By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone, which came from the horse's mouths.
9.19: For their power is in their mouth and their tails; for their tails are like serpents, having heads; and with them they do harm.
These cavalry wreak havoc by shooting their rifles whilst mounted. The tail is a reference to the locust with a sting in its tail. The tail of the horse may also be a reference to the tail of a Turkish standard flowing in the wind.
9.20-21 But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; and the did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
Those that were not killed by the Turks did not learn any lessons from the death of their fellow men. They continued to practice those things, which God hates. Devil worship was common as was the worshipping of idols made by the hands of men. Even those things they made could not see, hear or walk; yet they still bowed down to them as gods. They continued to commit murder; to call upon the dead; to commit indecent acts of fornication; homosexuality, prostitution and all sorts of sexual immorality. Therefore God in His desire to correct these 'Christian's' from their false practices and to bring them back to His standard of righteousness, allowed the Saracens and Turks to act as His agents of punishment, but they did not repent and turn to God.
Do any of these practices, which God hates, happen today?
No matter that society accepts many of these practices as normal today, God does not change His mind and accept what He has previously detested. He would be a hypocrite if he allowed thousands in the past to die for practicing immoral acts and overlooked the same practices today. No. All who practice sexual immorality today will be judged. Their only hope is to give up immoral practices and repent (turn away from them) and obey God.
Notes: The Ottoman Empire - July 12, 1299 1449.
The Swiss reformer Heinrich Bullinger 1575 AD was the first biblical expositor to identify the TURKS as the power portrayed by the Sixth Trumpet.
Martyn Luther had previously said that the trumpet was the Moslems.
References taken from: 'A verse by verse commentary on Daniel and The Revelation, Volume IV & VII of the SDA Bible Commentary.'
For further study see comments by E.G.White 5,14,15, and Great Controversy p334. Also Daniel and Revelation by Uriah Smith
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