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Critique of Irvin Baxter's "Revelation Commentary," Part 3
by Karl Kemp
12/26/2015 / Bible Studies
We continue our discussion of the seals of the book of Revelation with the fourth seal here in Part 3 of this paper, starting with REVELATION 6:7.
(7) When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, 'Come.' (8) I looked, and behold, an ashen horse [In the margin the NASB has, "or, sickly pale," which can be considered the color of death. See above (in the second paragraph under "THE SEALS") on the meaning of the Greek adjective "chloros."]; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades [[The Greek noun is "hades," but the KJV translates "Hell." I believe it is clear that Hades is the correct translation here and in some other verses, including Rev. 1:18; 20:13 and 14. The KJV has "hell" in all three of those verses. However, the NKJV rightly has "Hades" in 1:18; 6:8; and 20:13, 14. I'll say more on Death and Hades as we continue with this verse.]] was following with him. [[It isn't surprising that Hades would follow Death. Hades is the abode for the dead, excluding true Christians, who go directly to be with the Lord at death (cf. Phil. 1:21-23; 2 Cor. 5:8; 1 Thess. 4:14; and Heb. 12:22, 23). The departed saints are with God now (but most of them have not yet received their resurrection/glorified bodies [cf. Matt. 27:52, 53]); when Christ returns (in the middle of the seven years) they will come with Him (cf., e.g., 1 Thess. 4:13-18).]] Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence [including plagues (cf. Luke 21:11)] and by the wild beasts of the earth. [[I understand these words to teach that throughout this age, up until about the time of the sounding of the sixth trumpet, the total number of premature deaths from all causes will be limited to a maximum of a fourth of the population.
Much of the popular end-time teaching of our day understands this verse to teach that at some time during the first half of Daniel's 70th week, within a very short period of time, a fourth of the entire population of the earth will be killed. I know of at least one minister who locates the fourth seal (and all of the seven seals) in the first half of the second half of Daniel's 70th week. With the present population of the earth, which is now 7.3 billion, that would be more than 1.8 billion people killed. For that many people to be killed within a short period of time would be a very big deal. During World War II, which lasted more than five years, the total number of deaths, including civilian deaths, was estimated to be some fifty to sixty million. Fifty million people is only some 2.8 percent of 1.8 billion.
I expect an increase in birth pangs (an increase in frequency and in intensity) in the last years of the "beginning of birth-pangs" (Matt. 24:8), in the years before the transition beyond the beginning of birth pangs at the abomination of desolation, which will be initiated about a month before the middle of Daniel's 70th week, about the time of the sounding of the sixth trumpet of the book of Revelation. But I don't expect a gigantic number of people to be killed during the first half of Daniel's 70th week before the abomination of desolation and the short great tribulation. It could, for example, be less than ten percent of 1.8 billion. We will discuss the first six trumpets as we continue with this paper. I believe that the events associated with these trumpets will all come to pass during the first half of Daniel's 70th week.]] (9) [On Rev. 6:9-11 also see pages 21-23 of "The Mid-Week Rapture."] When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar [On the sacrificial "altar," which is to be distinguished from the golden altar before the throne of Rev. 8:3, see Rev. 8:3, 5; 14:18; and 16:4-7.] the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained [[The emphasis here is undoubtedly on Christian martyrs, but I assume the martyrs for God from Old Testament days (starting with Abel) are included too. The apostle Paul was one of many saints who was sacrificed on this altar for God (cf. Phil. 2:17; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). In Rev. 20:4 John saw the souls of Christian martyrs, and he saw them come to life, which includes their receiving glorified bodies. The difference is that the martyrs of Rev. 6:9-11 refers to those martyred in the days preceding Christ's mid-week return, whereas the martyrs of Rev. 20:4 are those who will be martyred during the three and one-half year super-evil reign of Antichrist; they will not become Christians until after Christ's mid-week return and the rapture. (See under Rev. 20:4 in my paper on Revelation chapters 20-22 on my internet site.)]]; (10) and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'How long, O Lord [[The Greek noun normally translated "Lord" ("kurios") isn't used here. In the margin the NASB has "or, Master." The NIV has "Sovereign Lord." I assume these words were addressed to God the Father, the Person on the throne in Revelation chapters 4 and 5, the Person with the preeminent role in the Trinity. (I have four articles on my internet site that deal with the Trinity: "Who Do We Worship?"; "Who Do We Pray To?"; "More on the Trinity"; and "The Name Yahweh and God the Father and God the Son."]], holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" [[God will avenge the blood of His bondservants (cf., e.g., Rev. 17:1, 6; 18:20, 24; 19:2; Gen. 4:10; Deut. 32:43; Psalm 79:10; Luke 18:7, 8; Rom. 12:19; and 2 Thess. 1:4-10). He must eventually judge the world and make things right in accordance with His character as a righteous Judge and in accordance with His Word (both the Old Testament and New Testament). He cannot allow the persecution and murder of His people to continue forever; neither can He allow rebellion and chaos to continue forever. 2 Peter 3:9 helps explain God's delay in judging the world (cf. 1 Tim. 2:1-7).]] (11) And there was given to each of them a white robe [at the time the Lord Jesus returns and they are resurrected, right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week; these souls have to receive their glorified bodies before they can wear their white robes (cf., e.g., Rev. 3:4; 6:11; 7:14; and 19:8)]; and they were told that they should rest ["that they should wait"; the BAGD Greek Lexicon gives "rest" as the basic meaning for this verb ("anapauo"), but on this verse it says, "remain quiet (i.e. wait) for a short time"; the NIV has "wait"] for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also. [[They would still have to "wait for a little while" before God would avenge their blood and judge and remove those who shed the blood of God's people. (God won't fully avenge the persecution and shed blood of His people until the great-white-throne judgment at the end of the millennium, but He will have done a lot of judging by the end of Daniel's 70th week.) The book of Revelation goes on to show that after the Lord Jesus returns and the rapture takes place in the middle of Daniel's 70th week many more Christians will be martyred for Christ. Many of the people who become Christians after the rapture, centering in the end-time remnant of Israel, will be martyred during the super-evil reign of Antichrist throughout the second half of Daniel's 70th week.
The "little while" of Rev. 6:11 corresponds with the "short time" of Rev. 12:12 that the devil will have left to do his evil work after he is cast down to the earth in the middle of Daniel's 70th week, at which time he gives Antichrist "his power and his throne and great authority" (Rev. 13:2). In Rev. 20:4 we see the martyred saints ((those who will be martyred during the second half of Daniel's 70th week; Rev. 20:4 indicates that the martyrs pictured there were slain during the reign of Antichrist with the words "those who had been beheaded because of their testimony to Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast [Antichrist] or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands" [NIV])) come back to life; they will be resurrected into the full glory of eternal life and begin to reign with the glorified saints who will have been reigning with the Lord Jesus throughout the second half of the seven-year period. (See under Rev. 20:4 in my verse-by-verse study on Revelation chapters 20-22 on my internet site).]] (12) [[Here we have a brief, very condensed, early look at the arrival of judgment day before the seventh seal is removed and the all-important scroll can be opened. It is designed to show the terror of judgment day for those who have not been living for God and aren't ready for that day. We have to wait until the scroll is opened (at Rev. 8:1) to learn the details regarding God's end-time judgment of the world. Many of those details had not been revealed before (in the Bible). (I refer the reader to the discussions of Rev. 6:12-17 in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture," pages 301-304.)
I'll quote part of what William Hendriksen said under Rev. 6:12-17 ("More than Conquerors" [Baker, 1982], pages 107, 108). "The sixth seal...introduces the judgment day. It describes the one great catastrophe at the end of this age. [This "one great catastrophe" won't be finished in the full sense until after the millennium and the great-white-throne judgment. Hendriksen, now deceased, held the amillennial (no millennium) viewpoint.] The dread and terror, the awe and consternation of that day is pictured under the twofold symbolism of a crashing universe and a thoroughly frightened human race. The terror of that day refers, of course, only to the wicked. ...
What we have here is a symbolic picture of the terror of judgment day. The symbol, taken as a whole, teaches just one lesson, namely, that the final and complete effusion of God's wrath upon a world that has [rejected God the Father and His Son and] persecuted the Church will be terrible indeed. ... ...we do not deny, of course, that there will be a most thorough-going dislocation of the heavenly bodies and a rejuvenation of the universe, in connection with the end of this present age. Scripture clearly teaches this (2 Pet. 3:10, 12, etc.). Neither do we at all deny that also our present passage refers to this fact (cf. Matt. 24:39 [24:29]). But the main point of our passage is this: it stresses the terror of the day of wrath for the wicked. The dissolving elements, earthquake, falling stars, etc., add terror to the picture."]] I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake [[I believe it would be better to translate "a great shaking." This great shaking probably includes the intense shaking of the short great tribulation, which will come to pass under the sixth trumpet and will be over before the Lord Jesus returns and the rapture takes place in the middle of the seven years at the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet, and it undoubtedly includes the shaking pictured in Rev. 6:13, 14. (For the details, see under "The Sixth Trumpet and the Short Great Tribulation," later in this paper.) It apparently also includes all the shaking that will take place throughout the second half of Daniel's 70th week as God shakes the world in judgment. On the shaking of judgment day, cf., e.g., Isa. 2:19, 21; 13:13; 24:19, 20 [Isaiah chapter 2; 13:6-13; and chapter 24 are discussed in a verse-by-verse manner in my eschatological paper on Isaiah on my internet site.]; Hag. 2:6, 7, 21; and Heb. 12:26-29. On this great shaking/earthquake, also see under Rev. 16:18-20 in the paper on my internet site that deals with Rev. 14:6-19:21.]]; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood [cf., e.g., Joel 2:30-32 (Joel 2:30, 31 are quoted and discussed later in this paper: see the Contents of this paper); Matt. 24:29-31]; (13) and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. [[The stars here apparently refer first, and foremost, to the angels of Satan, who will be cast down to the earth with their leader (from their present privileged position in heavenly places) right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. See Rev. 12:4, 7-9: the third of the angels who follow Satan are cast down to the earth right in the middle of the seven-year period; those angels are called "stars" in Rev. 12:4. This is a major feature in God's end-time judgment of the world (see pages 15, 317-319 of "The Mid-Week Rapture" on these verses).
Matthew 24:29 is another important cross-reference for the stars falling at the time of Christ's return with the clouds of heaven, at the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet, right in the middle of the seven-year period. I'll quote the second half of Matt. 24:29: "and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of heaven will be shaken." Satan's kingdom will obviously be greatly shaken at the time he and his angels are overpowered and cast down to the earth. (Matthew 24:29 is discussed in my verse-by-verse study of Matthew chapter 24 on my internet site, for one place.) Also see Isa. 34:4. I should point out that the "host of heaven" in Isa. 34:4 refers to the stars.
We should probably also think of literal falling stars here in Rev. 6:13; Matt. 24:29; etc. This present natural/physical world must ultimately pass away/vanish to be replaced by God's new heaven and new earth (cf., e.g., Matt. 24:35; Rev. 20:11; 21:1).]] (14) The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up [I discuss the meaning of these words under this verse in my paper on Revelation chapters 1-10 on my internet site.], and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. [[By the time God is fully done shaking/judging and bringing forth His new heaven and new earth, everything associated with this present world - including the present sky, mountains, and islands - will have been removed, or made new (cf. Rev. 21:5). See Nah. 1:2-8; 2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 16:20; 20:11; and 21:1.]] (15) Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; (16) and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne [God the Father], and from the wrath of the Lamb [This is one of a very large number of verses that show that God the Father and God the Son are distinct Persons in the Trinity. Compare Isa. 2:10-22 (Isaiah chapter 2 is discussed verse-by-verse in the paper on Isaiah on my internet site.); Hos. 10:8; Luke 23:30.]; (17) for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" The great day of the wrath of God the Father and God the Son will officially begin when the Lord Jesus returns in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. ((God's wrath will also be manifested to a significant extent for those directly involved with the shaking of the short great tribulation of Matt. 24:21, 22, which equals (at least for the most part) the warfare of the sixth trumpet (Rev. 9:13-21). Antichrist's abomination of desolation, which will take place about a month before the Lord Jesus returns (cf. Dan. 12:11), will signal that it is time for the short great tribulation to take place (cf. Matt. 24:15, 21, 22).))
All the true Christians living on the earth will be able to stand because they will be ready for the return of the Lord Jesus; they live in the light of His return; they are the ones "who have loved His appearing" (2 Tim. 4:8); they will be glorified, raptured, and begin to reign with the Lord Jesus when He returns in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. (Compare, for example, Psalm 1:3-6; Nah. 1:6-8; and Luke 21:36.)
Revelation Chapter 7 is an interlude (a parenthetical insert) that answers the question of Rev. 6:17, "and who is able to stand." (Revelation chapter 7 is discussed in my paper on Revelation chapters 1-10 on my internet site, for one place.) Revelation chapter 7 deals with two groups of people who will be able to stand. Revelation 7:9-17 deal with the true Christians who will be living on the earth at that time. Those verses picture them having been caught up into eternal glory. Revelation 7:1-8 deal with the elect end-time remnant of Israel. Revelation 7:1-3 picture them being given a special seal for protection; for one thing, protection during the days of the sounding of the first six trumpets, especially the sixth trumpet, to make sure that each one of them remains alive to receive the Lord Jesus when/after He comes. (Compare what Michael the archangel does in Dan. 12:1.) They will not repent and submit to Him in faith until after He returns and the rapture takes place.
IRVIN BAXTER AND THE FIRST SIX TRUMPETS (Rev. 8:7-9:21)
Baxter discussed these trumpets on pages 44-55. After we somewhat briefly discuss Baxter's viewpoints on these trumpets, I'll include an excerpt from my paper on Revelation chapters 1-10 that deals with these trumpets. The excerpt also deals with Rev. 8:1-5, which is a very important introduction to the trumpets.
Baxter discussed the third trumpet first. He said that was the first trumpet that he understood first (in 1995), and it helped open the way for him to understand the other trumpets. It seems clear that Baxter wasn't passing on views that he had heard others teach on these trumpets; it seems that these views originated, at least for the most part, with him. (I assume that is true for much that he said on the seals, on Daniel chapter 7, and on Rev. 13:1-3 and on the trumpets. I won't deal with the bowls of wrath hardly at all in this paper) I haven't heard any other end-time teacher (there may be some) who interpreted the third trumpet (and most of the other trumpets) the way Baxter does. I don't see that there is any possibility that he is right. I'll give what I believe is the correct interpretation as we continue.
For one problem, I believe that the first six trumpets will all sound in the first half of Daniel's 70th week. They will come to pass, one after the other, to announce the imminent coming of the Lord Jesus to save His people and judge the world. I believe He will come right in the middle of the seven years, at the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet. The first six trumpets will probably be all-the-more-powerful attention-getters through being announced by the two witnesses of Revelation chapter 11 before they sound. The trumpets won't begin to sound until the event prophesied in Rev. 8:5 has come to pass, which will initiate God's end-time judgment of the world: "the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar [the sacrificial altar in heaven], and threw it to the earth."
I am confident that none of the trumpets have sounded yet in our day (this is the dominant viewpoint), and I am totally confident that the third trumpet did not take place in 1986, when Baxter says the third trumpet sounded. With Baxter's viewpoint the third trumpet was sounded at least twenty-nine years before Daniel's 70th week begins. And the first trumpet (he believes that the first trumpet probably was WWI and the second trumpet WWII) sounded something like a hundred years before Daniel's 70th week has begun. I won't comment further on the first and second trumpets except to say that the things that will take place under the sounding of those trumpets (Rev. 8:6-9) don't fit WWI and WWII well at all. (Baxter emphasizes the point that some one-third of the ships were destroyed in WWII. I believe it would take a whole lot more than that detail for WWII to fulfill what the Bible prophesies about the second trumpet.) As I mentioned I will discuss what I believe is the correct interpretation for all the trumpets below.
I'll quote Rev. 8:10-11, which deal with the sounding of the third trumpet, from the King James Version, which Baxter quoted: "And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter."
Baxter believes that the sounding of the third trumpet was fulfilled by the catastrophic nuclear accident that took place April, 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, which was part of the Soviet Union at that time. He began to consider this viewpoint when he learned that the Russian word translated "wormwood" is "chernobyl." After determining that the third trumpet referred to the Chernobyl disaster, the way was open to see WWII as the second trumpet and then it followed that the first trumpet was WWI. I don't believe there is any possibility that Baxter is right on any of the first three trumpets. So too for the fourth and fifth trumpets. He believes that they have already sounded too. We will briefly consider them as we continue.
Baxter isn't dogmatic on these trumpets. On page 49 he says "Of all of these trumpets, the one that seems most certain in the Chernobyl trumpet. That happened in 1986. If they are in order [which we certainly should expect], the fourth is the next one due to happen. The next question becomes: is there a chance that it has happened already, and if so, did we miss it?" I'll quote Rev. 8:12 from the KJV, which Baxter quoted here: "And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the stars, so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise."
Baxter discusses the fourth trumpet on pages 49 and 50 under the headings "The Fourth Trumpet" and the "Shortening of Days." I'll quote part of what Baxter says here: "Let me turn your attention to another prophecy, Matthew 24:22. Jesus gave a very interesting prophecy concerning the time of the Great Tribulation. He said in Matthew 24:21, 22, 'For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days shall be shortened [The NASB translates 'had been cut short,' which I believe is better, but the King James translation is acceptable here.], there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened [I prefer "cut short" with the NASB].'
Here Jesus prophesies of a shortening [or a cutting short] of days. The question becomes are the number of days shortened or is the length of days shortened? It has to refer to length of days. Here's why. God's Word cannot be changed. ...." Baxter goes on to state that the time involved for the reign of the Antichrist is fixed at 1,290 days (Dan. 12:11). Therefore, he says God "will shorten the length of the days and nights" (page 50), and he suggests that this has probably already happened, and that the rotation of the earth has speeded up. Baxter doesn't mention this detail in the book, but in the video he specifies that that the length of the days and nights will be shortened by one-third. Scientists keep track of the rotational speed of the earth, which (as Baxter says) determines the length of the day and night and it has not speeded up recently, even though it may feel like things have speeded up. In fact the rotational speed of the earth is constantly slowing down by a very small amount for one primary reason: the earth's interaction with the moon. (You can verify this on many internet sites through Google.) So, I have to disagree with Baxter's interpretation for the fourth trumpet.
Baxter is right that God isn't going to change the length of the great tribulation. The idea is that He predetermined that the great tribulation won't last long. I believe the short great tribulation will take place within the one-month period between the abomination of desolation and the mid-week return of the Lord Jesus. The short great tribulation will consist of very intense warfare, which equals the warfare of the sixth trumpet of the book of Revelation. This very intense warfare (the warfare of the short great tribulation of Matt. 24:21, 22) is also pictured (along with Rev. 9:13-21) in Joel 2:30 and Dan. 11:40-44, especially verse 44. We will discuss these super-important details under the major heading "The Sixth Trumpet (Rev. 9:13-21) and the Short Great Tribulation." They are discussed in more detail in my recently published book, "Introduction to the Mid-Week Rapture" that is available on amazon.com, for one place.
Baxter discusses the fifth trumpet (Rev. 9:1-11) on pages 50-52. I have to totally disagree with what he says regarding the fulfillment of this trumpet, which he believes has already happened. He believes the darkness that is caused by the smoke that comes up out of the "bottomless pit" (Rev. 9:2) was fulfilled when Saddam Hussein set the oil wells on fire in Kuwait in 1990, and he believes that the locusts that came out of the smoke of the "bottomless pit" (Rev. 9:3) refers to helicopters. On the video, but not in the book, he mentioned that the stings in the tails of the locusts (I'm confident that they are demonic locusts who come up out of the abyss) refers to tail gunners in some helicopters. As I mentioned, I will give what I believe is the correct interpretation for these six trumpets below.
Baxter discussed the sixth trumpet (Rev. 9:13-21) on pages 52-55. I'll just mention one detail (a very important detail) where I differ with him on these verses. He believes that this warfare could happen any time. I am sure that it cannot happen until after the seven-year treaty/covenant of Dan. 9:27; until after the two witnesses of Revelation chapter 11 have been ministering for some three years and five months; until after the first five trumpets have sounded in sequence and the events associated with those trumpets have come to pass; and after the temple has been built and the Jews have been worshiping in the temple for quite a while (until the last part of the first half of Daniel's 70th week; cf. Rev. 11:1, 2). For more on the sixth trumpet see the major heading below titled, "THE SIXTH TRUMPET (Rev. 9:13-21) AND THE SHORT GREAT TRIBULATION."
We will continue this study with a discussion of Rev. 8:1-5 in Part 4 of this paper. Revelation 8:1-5 are very important, very interesting verses that introduce the sounding of the seven trumpets of the book of Revelation.
Copyright by Karl Kemp
http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.
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