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Critique of Irvin Baxter's "Revelation Commentary," Part 6

by Karl Kemp  
12/30/2015 / Bible Studies

We will discuss Matthew 24:21, 22 and the short great tribulation, then go on to a verse-by-verse study of Rev. 9:13-21 and the sixth trumpet, which deals with the warfare of the short great tribulation.

Matthew 24:21, 22 and the Short Great Tribulation. "for then there will be a [I would skip this "a" with the KJV, NKJV, and the NIV.] great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall. [[It's extremely important for us to understand the short great tribulation; however, from my point of view, very few do understand it at the present time. We often hear that the final seven-year period (Daniel's 70th week) is the great tribulation, but that is clearly wrong: Matthew chapter 24 shows that it doesn't start until the time of the abomination of desolation, and it is clear that the abomination doesn't take place until the (approximate) middle of the seven years. As we discussed in the preceding section, I believe it will take place in the approximate middle of Daniel's 70th week, a month before the more precise middle. (The word "Then" at the beginning of Matt. 24:21 [and 24:16] refers to the time of the abomination.) Much more reasonable is the widespread viewpoint that the great tribulation refers to the second half of the seven-year period. Baxter (and many others) holds this viewpoint; however, I believe this view is also wrong.

The short great tribulation will begin about the time of the abomination of desolation (cf. Matt. 24:15, 21, 22), which will take place a month before the middle of Daniel's 70th week and will end before the Lord Jesus returns in the middle of the seven years. Matthew 24:29 shows that the great tribulation (spoken of in 24:21, 22) will be over before the mid-week return of Christ, which is pictured in Matt. 24:29-31. Note that Matt. 24:29 starts with the words "immediately after the tribulation of those days," referring back to the great tribulation spoken of in Matt. 24:21, 22. (The same Greek noun for tribulation is used in Matt. 24:21 and 29.) In Matt. 24:30, 31 we see the mid-week return of Christ with the clouds of the sky with power and great glory; with a great trumpet; and with the gathering of the saints in the rapture.

The primary passage that convinces me that the Lord Jesus will return right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week is Revelation chapters 11-13; these chapters are discussed verse-by-verse in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture" and in less detail in my newer book, "Introduction to the Mid-Week Rapture." Daniel chapter 12 also strongly confirms the mid-week return of the Lord Jesus and the rapture. It is discussed in both of my end-time books.

It is significant that the sun and moon's being darkened in Matt. 24:29 will be caused by all of the smoke and dust generated during the intense warfare of the short great tribulation (see Rev. 9:17, 18; Joel. 2:30, 31). It is also quite significant that the stars falling and the powers of the heavens being shaken at that time, right in the middle of the seven years (Matt. 24:29), is explained by Rev. 12:4, 7-9, where we read of Satan and his angels being cast down to the earth. Satan's angels are called stars in Rev. 12:4.

I consider Rev. 9:13-21 to be the most important of the three cross-references that I'll mention here that enable us to begin to understand the short great tribulation. (I'll briefly discuss the other two cross-references here and discuss them in more detail as we continue. We will come to a verse-by-verse study of Rev. 9:13-21 after we finish "Matthew 24:21, 22 and the Short Great Tribulation.") Revelation 9:13-21 prophesy regarding what will happen when the sixth trumpet of Revelation sounds; they speak of very intense warfare, undoubtedly nuclear (and perhaps chemical and/or biological or advanced weapon systems that we haven't seen before), that will take place in the general region that includes Israel. As I mentioned, the sixth trumpet will sound about the time of the abomination of desolation, about a month before the rapture.

The warfare described in Rev. 9:13-21, which constitutes at least the major part of the warfare of the short great tribulation of Matt. 24:21, 22, is a war between nations (not an attack against Christians; this is not to say that there won't be any such attacks during those days; such attacks have often taken place throughout the history of the Christian church); this warfare (described in Rev. 9:13-21) seems to start with an attack against Antichrist and his armies by a gigantic army (it could be as large as two-hundred million soldiers) coming against him. This invasion of troops and the intense warfare will certainly include staking out various claims for control of the land of Israel, and especially Jerusalem and the temple mount. We'll say more about this warfare as we continue.

The nation Israel will suffer greatly during the one-month period between the abomination of desolation and the mid-week return of Christ. Apparently they will be reduced to a repentant remnant during this period, ready (at least for the most part) to receive Christ Jesus when He comes. Based on Zech. 13:8 it seems that some two-thirds of the Israelites will be cut off and perish in those days (probably mostly in that one-month period). (See on Zech. 13:7-14:2 [pages 225-229 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture"]; see on Dan. 12:1 [pages 149-159], and see on Zech. 12:1-14 [pages 221-224].)

Daniel 11:40-12:1 are another important cross-reference for the warfare of the short great tribulation. Daniel 11:40-43 apparently deal with the preliminary warfare that leads up to the warfare of Rev. 9:13-21, and Dan. 11:44 apparently deals with the warfare of Rev. 9:13-21 in very brief form. The abomination of desolation will apparently take place at the time of the events of Dan. 11:41. Chapter 9 of "The Mid-Week Rapture" deals with Dan. 11:36-45.

Daniel 12:1 is a very significant verse for the short great tribulation. For one thing, there is widespread agreement that Jesus' words of Matt. 24:21 regarding a time of unequaled great tribulation/distress, though not a word-for-word quotation, derive from the words of Dan. 12:1. See pages 149-151, 155, 156 of "The Mid-Week Rapture" on Dan. 12:1.

Daniel chapter 12 (with Dan. 11:36-45) serves as a very strong confirmation of the fact that the rapture will take place right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. The time of great tribulation/distress mentioned in Dan. 12:1 will be over by the middle of Daniel's 70th week. Daniel 12:7 shows that three and one-half very difficult years still remain (after the short great tribulation has ended) for the end-time remnant of Israel (cf. Dan. 7:21, 25; Rev. 13:5, 7). Daniel 12:2 speaks of the mid-week resurrection of God's people (not that you could tell that it will take place in the middle of Daniel's 70th week based on Dan. 12:2 by itself).

Further strong confirmation that the time of short great tribulation is over and the resurrection (and rapture) takes place in the middle of the seven-year period is provided by Dan. 12:6, 7, which speak of "the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river." This apparently refers to the Lord Jesus Christ (the Angel/Messenger of the LORD [Yahweh]), seen in an exalted position above the earth (apparently relating to His coming in the clouds at the time of the rapture), at a time corresponding with the middle of Daniel's 70th week (in that He says that there are still three and one-half years to go). And last, I'll mention that Dan. 12:11 helps us see that the abomination of desolation will take place a month before the middle of Daniel's 70th week. To say the least, Daniel chapter 12 is a very important prophetic chapter. (These important points are all discussed in the two chapters of "The Mid-Week Rapture" that deal with Daniel chapter 12.) In my book, there is a section titled "The Time of the Sounding of the Seventh and Last Trumpet," starting on page 293. Under number 10 there, I discussed Daniel chapter 12 somewhat, but that discussion should be modified/expanded a little to include all that I have said in the last two paragraphs.

Revelation 7:14 must also be considered here since this verse speaks of "the great tribulation." These words undoubtedly build on Matt. 24:21. Revelation 7:9-17 are discussed in Article 19 of my e-book (and printed version of the e-book), "Introduction to the Mid-Week Rapture," for one place.

Joel 2:30, which we'll discuss further below, is a third important cross-reference for the warfare of the short great tribulation. This verse is doubly significant in that it mentions "columns of smoke." This smoke (and the dust) generated during the warfare of the short great tribulation will undoubtedly cause the darkening of the sun and moon pictured in Matt. 24:29. It's significant that Rev. 9:17, 18 mention smoke too. (As mentioned above, Rev. 9:13-21 are the most important cross-reference for the warfare of the great tribulation.) It's significant that Joel 2:30, 31 specifically mention the darkening of the sun and moon, and that they show that this darkening will take place (just) before the day of the Lord begins. Now we'll continue with MATTHEW 24:22:]] And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short." The "elect" are God's people, the Christians, but the elect here undoubtedly include those who will eventually become Christians (after the rapture), including the end-time remnant of Israel. Because of the intensity of the warfare of the short great tribulation (Revelation 9:15, 18 show that a third of mankind will be killed, which is overwhelming, even if this third probably deals with a third of a population substantially less than the total population of the earth), there wouldn't be any people left alive on the earth if these days weren't cut short in God's end-time plans.

Revelation 9:13-21. "Then the sixth angel sounded [his trumpet], and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God [[Revelation 8:3 spoke of the prayers of the saints (of us believers) being offered before God on this golden altar. As we discussed under Rev. 8:2-5, it is significant that the trumpets are sounded (in part) in answer to our prayers (prayers like "Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven" [Matt. 6:10]). The fact that the voice that gives directions regarding the judgment of the sixth trumpet comes from the horns of this same golden altar reinforces that idea here. The judgments of the trumpets (including the sixth trumpet) are not coming against us (God's people). Revelation 9:20, 21 confirm this important point. It's not clear who actually spoke (ultimately the voice reflects the will of God), but the voice somehow came from the horns of the golden altar. The altar itself could have spoken: Rev. 16:7 says, "And I heard the [sacrificial] altar saying, 'Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.' "]], (14) one saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, 'Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.' [[The sixth angel, who is a high-level good angel of God, does more than sound the trumpet. For one thing, he will release the four evil angels who are bound at the Euphrates River. This angel undoubtedly has the authority to make sure that the four evil angels do exactly what they're supposed to do and at the right time, in accordance with the will of God. The evil angels will be doing the kind of destructive things they like to do with their assigned roles for which they have been prepared (Rev. 9:15), but they (like Satan) certainly have no desire to serve God and do His will, quite the opposite.

The four angels will apparently go forth to gather very large armies of men, maybe four separate armies, from their assigned parts of the world (Rev. 9:15-19). (In Rev. 16:13-16, near the end of Daniel's 70th week, demons gather large armies of men to Armageddon under the sixth bowl of wrath.) The total number will be two hundred million (Rev. 9:16). The armies will cross the Euphrates River and come into that part of the world which includes Israel.]] (15) And the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released, so that they would kill a third of mankind. [[We aren't given any insight as to when and how these four evil angels had been prepared for their roles. It seems that God has already predetermined exactly when the sixth angel will sound his trumpet, down to the very hour (cf., e.g., Acts 1:7). This means that factors like the faithfulness, or lack of faithfulness, of Christians, even though they are very important, won't affect God's predetermined timing for the trumpets, including the seventh and last trumpet of the return of the Lord Jesus and the rapture. God leaves a lot of room for angels (good and evil) and for men (good and evil) to act, but He keeps things under control - thanks be to God!

The "third" factor, as we have seen, is typical for the trumpets. A third of mankind being killed is obviously a very big deal, even if the total number of those killed will probably be far less than a third of the total population of the earth. I'm certainly not being dogmatic on this point, just giving my opinion. The Bible can speak of a kingdom as a worldwide kingdom when it was understood by everybody that the kingdom didn't begin to cover the dimensions of the earth that were known at that time. I'll give a few examples from the book of Daniel that speak of "world-kingdoms": Referring to the Greek world-kingdom, Dan. 2:39 speaks of it as a kingdom "which will rule over all the earth" (Dan. 2:39). Referring to Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian world-kingdom, Dan. 4:1 says: "Nebuchadnezzar the king to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language that live in all the earth. ...." Those were Nebuchadnezzar's words, but Daniel prophesied the following words to Nebuchadnezzar in Dan. 4:22: "it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky AND YOUR DOMINION TO THE END OF THE EARTH [my emphasis]." Everybody who lived back then understood that only a small part of the entire world/earth/inhabited earth was being spoken of. I'll list several verses from the New Testament which use expressions like "the world," "all the inhabited earth," "to the ends of the world," "all over the world," "throughout the whole world," and "all the earth" where only a rather small part of the entire earth/world (typically the Roman world) was being referred to: Luke 2:1; Acts 11:28; 17:6; 19:27; 24:5; Rom. 1:8; and 10:18. The Roman world-kingdom covered about as much territory as the United States, not including Alaska. The Roman world-kingdom was much larger than the Babylonian world-kingdom.

The judgments of the first six trumpets will probably be centered in that part of the world that includes the revived Roman Empire and not extend outward nearly far enough to directly involve the entire globe. The sixth trumpet warfare will be very extensive; it undoubtedly could be called World War III; but, as I mentioned, I doubt that a third of the total population of the earth will be killed under this trumpet. (The entire world will be very much aware of what is happening during the sounding of the first six trumpets and will be affected by them, even if they aren't directly involved. The darkening of the sun, moon and stars by a third under the fourth trumpet will directly involve the entire world.) Keep in mind that the day of judgment won't officially begin until the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet; a third of mankind being killed is of staggering proportion. If it is true, for example, as I suggested (and I'm not the only one suggesting this), that the sea of the second trumpet (Rev. 8:8, 9) is the Mediterranean Sea, this is a strong basis for suggesting that the first six trumpet judgments probably won't directly involve all the world.

For one important point, I don't believe Antichrist's authority will extend to cover the earth, not even during his super-evil reign throughout the second half of Daniel's 70th week. Revelation 13:11-18 show that the false prophet will cause everyone who doesn't take Antichrist's mark and worship him to be killed, but Rev. 15:3, 4; 20:3 seem to show that there will be a very large number of people of the nations (people who had not become Christians; it could be more than a billion people) who will still be alive at the end of Daniel's 70th week (by the merciful plan of God) who will be repentant and will enter the millennial kingdom. These must necessarily be people who had not worshipped Antichrist or taken his mark (see Rev. 14:9-11). If Antichrist's authority extended worldwide he would have been able to kill all these people.

The present population of the earth (2015) is 7.3 billion people. A third of 7.3 billion would be 2.4 billion people killed. Let's briefly consider World War I and World War II to gain some perspective. The total number of deaths, including civilian deaths, attributed to WWI was about 20 million. For WWII the estimates typically run from 50 to 60 million. If only a tenth of a third of the present total population of the earth is killed during the sixth trumpet warfare, that would be 240 million people (a tenth of 2.4 billion), which would be quite awesome, and would greatly shake the world. Not only would 240 million be more than four times more than all those who lost their lives because of WWII, but the warfare of the sixth trumpet will apparently last only a few weeks while WWII lasted more than five years. For one thing, modern weapons systems (including nuclear, laser, biological, chemical, etc.), with their advanced delivery systems (including missiles, the aircraft of our day, and perhaps spacecraft and satellites) are much more potent and lethal than those used in WWII. I assume the number killed under the sixth trumpet will be closer to 240 million than 2.4 billion. One billion is closer to 240 million than to 2.4 billion!]] (16) The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. [[This number (which certainly seems to be a literal number; I believe it is a literal number) is rather mind-boggling, but not at all impossible. Such large numbers fit the picture of invading armies being compared to a locust invasion, which was briefly discussed above). With countries like China having a present population of 1.4 billion, and India having 1.3 billion, and with there being some 1.6 billion Moslems in the world today, etc., it's not hard to imagine a literal two hundred million soldiers. Back in the 50s China boasted that they could field an army of two hundred million.]] (17) And this is how I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them: the riders had breastplates the color of fire [reddish] and of hyacinth [bluish, like smoke; "In its only occurrence in the NT...'huakinthinos' appears to denote a dusky blue colour as of sulphurous smoke..." ("Vocabulary of the Greek Testament" by J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan [Eerdmans, 1972 reprint], page 647).] and of brimstone [[Or, sulfur, which is yellow; cf. Rev. 9:18; 14:10; 19:20; 20:10; and 21:8. It's not clear (nor is it important) whether some of the breastplates were "fiery red" (NKJV), some "hyacinth blue" (NKJV), and some "sulfur yellow" (NKJV), or whether each breastplate had all three colors. The translation of the NIV takes the viewpoint that the horses also had breastplates. These three colors go with the "fire and smoke and brimstone" that proceed from the mouths of the horses, spoken of in the second half of this verse.]]; and the heads of the horses are like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brimstone. [[It's clear that we aren't to think of literal horses carrying riders/soldiers; instead of horses we should think of modern weapon systems, like tanks, missile launchers, airplanes, and helicopters. Literal horses don't have heads like lions, and they don't have fire and smoke and brimstone coming out of their mouths. Out of the barrels of guns and out of the warheads of missiles, however, fire and smoke and brimstone do proceed. In John's day there were no words or concepts to describe modern weapon systems.]] (18) A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths. [See under Rev. 9:15.] (19) For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm. [On the mouths of the horses, see Rev. 9:17. Their "tails" probably include things like guns coming from the rear of tanks.] (20) The rest of mankind [The believers are not included here.], who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands [[As I mentioned, these words confirm the important point that the judgments of the sixth trumpet are not coming against God's people. They also confirm that mankind (at that time) is still being called to repent by God (cf., e.g., Rev. 14:6, 7 [These verses speak of the "eternal gospel" being proclaimed worldwide after the mid-week rapture along with a call to fear God (with repentance) and worship Him.]; 16:9, 11, 21). On the works of their hands, which refer to the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk, compare Deut. 4:28; 2 Kings 19:18; Psalms 115:4-8; 135:15-18; Jer. 1:16; Mic. 5:13; Acts 7:41; and 19:26. In our day most of the idolatry is more subtle (i.e., bowing before money, science, fame, the goddess of sex, sports, entertainment, etc.).

I'll quote part of what Philip E. Hughes said here ("Book of the Revelation" [Eerdmans, 1990], page 115), "The much vaunted civilization of our day may be free from graven images, but it is certainly not free from idolatry. As St. Paul explained long since, the person who is covetous is an idolater (Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5), and this means that virtually anything can become an idol: money, power, fame, pleasure, sex - in short, humanistic self-centeredness in all its forms. Accordingly, the idolatry of which St. John speaks here is not remote from us and irrelevant to our situation. The worship of false gods, who in fact are no gods, is the expression of ungodliness which goes hand in hand with the breaking of all God's commandments."]], so as not to worship demons [[Pagan religion/idolatry/sacrifices often involved the worship of demons, whether the worshippers were aware of it, or not (e.g., Deut. 32:17; Psalm 106:35-38; and 1 Cor. 10:14-22). In our modern world many who don't even believe that demons exist are yielding themselves to and being controlled by them to a significant extent. Demons can "help" Christian theologians (and leaders) come up with more "doctrines of demons" if we will accept their "help."]], 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; (21) and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries [[On sorceries, compare Ex. 22:18; Deut. 18:10; Isa. 47:9, 12; Mal. 3:5; Gal. 5:20; Rev. 21:8; and 22:15. I'll quote what John MacArthur said here ("Revelation 1-11" [Moody Press, 1999], pages 273, 274), "John describes a third sin his vision revealed will characterize that tragic time as sorceries, a Greek word ["pharmakon"] from which the English words 'pharmacy' and 'pharmaceuticals' derive. Drugs were and still are believed to induce a higher religious state of communion with deities. (For a discussion of such practices, see "Ephesians," "MacArthur New Testament Commentary" [Chicago: Moody, 1986], 229-34.) Pharmakon can also refer to poisons, amulets, charms, seances, witchcraft, incantations, magic spells, contacting mediums, or any other object that is tied to pagan idolatry to elicit lust or to seduce. People will dive deeper into the satanic trappings of false religion."]] nor of their immorality nor of their thefts. [[These words don't mean, I don't believe, that absolutely no people will repent, but the majority won't repent, even though they have every reason to repent. They will continue on in their sins (including unbelief) instead of repenting. These words help demonstrate why judgment day is necessary.]]

We will discuss Joel 2:30, 31 at the beginning of Part 7 of this paper. These verses also prophesy of the warfare of the short great tribulation that will take place between the abomination of desolation and the mid-week return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Copyright by Karl Kemp 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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