The First Six Judgment Trumpets
Revelation 8:6 - 9:21
In 2nd Thessalonians (2:6-8), the passage reads as follows in the Revised Version: “Now ye know that which restraineth, to the end that he (Anti-Christ) may be revealed in his own season. For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way (literally, “is out of the way” or “becomes out of the midst”). And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay by the breath of His mouth.” The “lawless one” is Anti-Christ.
Much argument has transpired as to what it is that “restraineth” and the “one who restraineth.” For my part, I think we can learn from Colossians 1:16, 17. That which restrains is the presence of the Spirit of Christ in the world; and the one who restrains is Christ. The passage says, “All things were created by Him (Christ) and for Him: And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist,” or “hold together.” Jesus Christ is, to this world what the beams and rafters are to a building. Take them out of the building (if you could), and it would collapse. One of these days, when Christ is ready to judge this world, He will withdraw Himself from this world. No man pulls an edifice to the ground without getting out of the midst of it. Christ will get out of the midst of this world, and then let the world fall into ruins. After that time He will build up a new world free from all wickedness.
Christ’s presence in this world in the form of the restraining Holy Spirit is the only thing that keeps wickedness and lawlessness down. Otherwise, the world would be intolerable because men would be far more wicked than they are now. Crime could not be held in check. From the time Christ begins to open that roll by breaking its seals, evil forces were released which also became Christ’s restraint – War, Famine, Pestilence and Wild Beasts. However, the loosening of this restraint is gradual.
After these evil forces are abroad, we find them bound (7:1) at the four corners of the earth. Four angels must loose them before they can do harm. Then, later, seven archangel trumpeters arrange among themselves in what order they shall be further loosed. This meaning is seen in the words, “And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound” (8:6). In fact, Christ’s judgments, which constitute this opening chapter of the Tribulation, are not His invention of trouble for the world. Since the world rejects Him, He will cease from restraining the world from harming itself. He will let wicked men have their own way and work out misery for themselves which must result from their choosing their own way unhindered.
His judgment and decision is expressed in 22:11: “He that is unjust let him be unjust still (or “yet more”); and he which is filthy let him be filthy still.” For the present, He will not allow them to plunge headlong into misery. The steps are gradual and regulated by seven angels blowing trumpets.
The destruction works out of their own iniquitous desires as the trumpets free them. In fact, we can trace it all back to that second Horseman--War. They have rejected the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, and have founded their nations on the military system. God said to Judah once, “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee.” So shall it be in the Great Tribulation. Those who will not be corrected by the fruit of their own wickedness and repent, God has doomed to destruction.
The nearer we get to the fulfillment of prophecy, the better we understand it. We can almost surmise what some of these things John describes may mean. In A.D. 96, John, the apostle, did not have human language to describe cannons, motors, airplanes, shots, bombs, and all the rest. The names were not invented until the things themselves were, and none of them existed in John’s day. He may have understood precisely all he attempted to describe. John may have had revelation of the very names used in our modern speech. Had he used them, they would not have helped us to understand these things until the prophecy came to completion. Therefore, his descriptions are better than names.
John tells us about the blowing of the first group of four trumpets, which bring the following disasters upon that “fourth part of the earth” shown in our map. The first trumpet looses wickedness, which brings “hail and fire mingled with blood” upon the land. One-third of the trees and grass, every green herb, is destroyed. This destruction is precisely what war does when the land is trampled upon by armies under the “hail and fire” of a storm of bullets and shells. The second trumpet looses war on the sea. Blood and fire do their terrible work until one-third of the shipping and one-third of the fisheries are destroyed.
When the third trumpet blows, John sees the poisoning of the fresh water bodies of the land, which causes a great many to die in consequence. These criminal methods will be resorted to more and more in warfare, for it is impossible to regulate evil.
The fourth trumpet blows differently than all the rest. It brings God’s interposition, not another view of the devastating effects of war. The sun, moon and stars fail to give their light for one-third of their due time. God sends a warning of the terrible things that will result if man rushes onward in his wicked career. This foreboding says the very worst part of the Tribulation is just ahead. An eagle flies across the sky, screaming, “Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels which are yet to sound” (8:13). (See R. V.) Of course, this eagle is not an ordinary eagle.
The fifth trumpet sounds, and such a great cloud of “locusts” is loosed on the earth that the sky is blackened. These locusts are not ordinary either, for they sting like scorpions. If the same thing is disclosed in Joel 2, and we are almost sure it is, then these “locusts” are probably warriors. Can this scene portray the use of aircraft for war? If we live until the time prophesied arrives, we shall see. Until then, we cannot be sure. At least, this account describes some form of torture which does not end in death though men long to die to escape it. These “locusts” are like “the scorpions of the earth” (9:3) and are not ordinary insects. They are an infernal invention that comes out of the bottomless pit. Mark well the king over them (9:11), for we shall hear more of him.
When the sixth trumpet blows, the command is sounded: “Loose the four angels which are bound at the great river Euphrates.” Please turn to the map and see precisely the location of the Euphrates. When one crosses the Euphrates, one passes into the Promised Land (Genesis15:18). Two hundred million “horsemen and warriors,” assemble in this region, for a great battle. However, they do not enter the Promised Land but remain in Turkey or Asia. These four “angels” bound there must be evil angels, for it is not necessary to bind good angels in order to secure the will of God.
A great archangel blows the sixth trumpet and looses these four “angels” of the devil. It seems likely these are those same destructive agents--War, Famine, Pestilence and Wild Beasts. They have not been allowed to operate in this region until a certain fixed month of a certain year at a certain fixed hour of the day and month. The War that has been raging in Europe now passes over into Asia. Lastly, our attention will be centered wholly upon the region around Jerusalem where the nations finally assemble for the great battle of Armageddon.
A tremendous battle will be waged, which will slay “the third part of the men.” Notice I added a “the” before “men.” Although it says so in the original Greek, for some reason “the” is not translated. Surely this interpretation means that one-third of the 200,000,000 men are slain and not one-third of the population of the earth is slain. They are killed by “fire and smoke and brimstone,” which implies more infernal inventions. Men use shells, which burst and kill hundreds by their poisonous fumes. Finally, it is announced in heaven that the time arrives for God to “destroy them which destroy the earth” (11:18). After this terrible battle, preparations go forward for that task.