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The Fifth and Sixth Trumpets

May 11th, 2015

Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit.

Revelation 9:1-2

Chapter 9 in Revelation describes the fifth and sixth trumpet judgments, and reveals the incredibly dark hearts of human beings. Some will repent during this time and believe, but the vast majority will refuse to, and their hard-heartedness will blind them to the truth of God. They will believe the devil’s lie rather than repent and trust in Christ.

The fifth trumpet (9:1-12) announces the unleashing of a huge demonic horde from the “bottomless pit,” abussos in Greek from which we get our word “abyss.” Christ had power to consign evil spirits to the Abyss in His ministry (Luke 8:31). This refers to a place that demons are held throughout the book of Revelation (11:7; 17:8: 20:1; 20:3). They are unleashed for five months like locusts and have tails that sting like scorpions but they were not allowed to kill people at this point. The apocalyptic imagery here is some of the most difficult in Revelation to understand, but clearly the basic ideas that John communicated here is that this force shall be overwhelming, unstoppable, deceptive, frightening, tormenting, intimidating, organized, and practically undefeatable.

We do read, however, that some will defy them “by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Rev. 12:11). Despite all of their strength and power, they will still be able to be overcome through faith in Christ.

The sixth trumpet (9:13-21), however, results in a massive army forming, some 200 million in number, and they unleashed their weapons on people, resulting in the death of one third of humanity. The term “plague” is used by some translations, but the original Greek word means “calamity” or “deadly blow.” But this could also be referring to germ and chemical warfare as much as to weaponry. It is violence unleashed against people, whatever form it takes.

We may presume also that this massive army is heading toward the Battle of Armageddon.

Yet the description of the world’s reaction is that the people despite their suffering, refused to repent from their sins and trust in Christ. The works of their hands were evil, they worshiped demons and idols – of course greed is also a form of idolatry (Col. 3:5), and they committed murders, relied on sorcery, and were sexually immoral. Well, this is the world we live in today. How many feel ashamed of their sins? How many feel justified in their behavior? What will it take for them to repent? God unleashes these judgments that people who are the hardest and most stubborn would come to their senses and repent and believe. A changed heart is essential for salvation, and whatever it costs for us to have a true change of heart, so long as we do convert and believe, it is worth it.

A word about the organization of the Revelation: If we breakdown the Revelation 4-22 we can find the following outline:

  • Revelation 4-5: A vision of the Throne Room of God in heaven – whatever understanding we gain of the end times we need to remember that God is on His throne and He will accomplish His will, and succeed over all who oppose Him.
  • Revelation 6-8:1: The Seal Judgments – the rise of the Antichrist and of warfare, famine, disease, persecution of Christians, and the sealing of 144,000 in Israel.
  • Revelation 8:2-11:19: The Trumpet Judgments – the out pouring of the wrath of God, physical deterioration of the earth, unleashing of demonic hordes, killing of one third of mankind, and the announcement of God’s kingdom reigning on this earth, the little book, the two witnesses.
  • Revelation 12-13: Insight into our spiritual conflict – (1) the woman, the child, and the dragon; (2) the beast from the sea; (3) the best from the earth.
  • Revelation 14: A final worldwide proclamation of the gospel
  • Revelation 15-16: The Bowl Judgments
  • Revelation 17-18: An explanation of the mystery of the Harlot, Babylon the Great -its nature, its fall, and the world’s reaction
  • Revelation 19: The victorious Return of Christ
  • Revelation 20: The Millennial Reign of Christ
  • Revelation 21-22: The New Heaven and the New Earth

Though the book describes itself as a prophecy (Rev. 1:3) and future oriented – “Write … the things that will take place after this” (Rev. 1:19), the inspired author keeps us informed of the greater spiritual conflict, the “back story” of spiritual realities behind the final events. He pulls back the mask of the evil that is in the world and reveals the true evil that is in demonic powers and allows us to see it plainly and truthfully.

The second series of judgments – the trumpet judgments – are, like the seal judgments (6:1-8:6), also divided into two sections. The first four come in rapid succession and are linked. The next three come afterwards and do so in the order of two and then one, and in both sets of judgments the final judgments introduces us to a new reality. The seventh trumpet announces the truth, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (11:15). So though we are only half way through the book, we are already at the end of time. Chapters 12-18 give spiritual insight into historical developments, but they are dealing with either a grand and overarching view of time or a very short period of time.

There have been efforts made to place some time descriptions to the different judgments. The best we can do, in my opinion, is to give them broad and general time tables. I interpret these final three series of judgments as taking place during Daniel’s seventieth week, described in Daniel 9:26-27, particularly after the phrase “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself.” The phrase, “not for Himself,” is a reference to the sinlessness of the Messiah. He was “cut off” or put to death, for our sins, not for His. “He who knew no sin became sin for us, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).

Daniel prophesied that these “seventy weeks” that are understood to be seventy periods of seven years, or 490 years in total (Daniel 9:24-27), are given in order to accomplish several things that all have to do with our redemption:

Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. Daniel 9:24

As Daniel described these weeks, he divided them into two sections, sixty-nine weeks and the seventieth week. The dating of these first sixty-nine weeks, or these first 483 years, stems from “a command to restore and build Jerusalem” (Dan. 9:25). There were three such commands, of King Cyrus in Ezra 1:1-4 (537 B.C.), of King Darius in Ezra 6:1-12 (520 B.C.), and of King Artaxerxes in Nehemiah 2:1-10 (444 B.C.).   There have been many attempts to try and reconcile the exact date of the command to rebuild Jerusalem to the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, and it has been difficult. In my opinion this is a battle not worth fighting for two reasons. First, the effort to rebuild would be layered, temple, streets, wall, infrastructure, etc., had to be rebuilt, and it took three decrees to do properly. Second, Daniel’s prophecy says only “after the sixty-two weeks” (understood to be sixty-nine weeks in total) “Messiah will be cut off.” So Daniel does not pin point a precise date, merely a general time frame, “after.” But even still, taking the last of these, and using the prophetic year of 360 days of Revelation 11:2,3, instead of the natural year of 365 and 1/4 days, it does bring the date from Artaxerxes command to A.D. 30-32, some flexibility given due to the difficulty of reconciling ancient calendars, which is a very reasonable date for the crucifixion of Jesus.

This means, therefore, that there was a gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of Daniel, and we are now in that time period we call the Church Age. The seventieth week begins with the rise of the Antichrist, and comprises the Great Tribulation. Here is how Daniel describes him:

And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. the end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined. Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate. Daniel 9:26b-27

So the prophetic descriptions of Daniel 9 are important for the understanding and the dating of the Great Tribulation, and Christ connected these two to each other in Matthew 24:15-21. There are requirements that must be met for these prophecies to be fulfilled literally, namely the Jews regathered into Israel and the temple rebuilt in Jerusalem. The Antichrist will make a pact with Israel and shall uphold his bargain for the first three and a half years of the Tribulation, allowing them to offer sacrifices, but then he shall break it and insist that all sacrifices be made to him. As Paul explained the Antichrist is one “who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thess 2:4).

So these future historical realities point to a sin problem that goes dark and deep in the human race. There will always be some during the judgments of God who repent from their sin and believe in Christ. Yet there will also be many who will refuse to do so, and they are the ones upon whom the judgments fall the hardest.

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