The Seven Trumpets: The Sixth and Seventh Trumpet
The Four Angels Are Released
A voice from the horns of the altar (the altar of incense) is heard commanding the release of the four angels. These are the four angels, holding back the four winds, who were told to wait (Revelation 7:1-3). In one sense “angel” and “wind” can be interchanged, as seen in Hebrews 1:7 because angels are spirits and the words for “spirit” and “wind” are the same. These angels have been prepared for this moment in time to kill a third of mankind.
The angels are located in the land between the rivers (Mesopotamia). The Euphrates served as the northern boundary of the Israelite nation (Genesis 15:18; I Kings 4:21). It was Israel’s enemies who amassed their army on the other side of the Euphrates and then eventually overwhelmed Israel (Isaiah 8:5-8). But here the roles are reversed. It is God’s army massing on the other side to strike against the wicked empire (Romans 1:18).
200 million horsemen pour over to attack. The horsemen wear breastplates of red, blue, and yellow – the colors for fire, smoke, and brimstone (sulfur). Thus, they are God’s wrathful judgment on evil nations, such as Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24).
The horses themselves are dangerous. They had heads like lions and breathed fire. Their tails were like serpents that could bite. Notice the contrast to Satan’s army, while fearsome, were locust with scorpion tails, they inflicted pain, but God’s army could destroy (Matthew 10:28). aftermath they leave behind.
The remainder, the two-thirds not destroyed by God’s army, did not learn from these events. They did not change, but continued to worship their idols (Romans 1:22-23), nor were they repentant of their others sins: murders, sorceries (drug use), sexual sins, and thefts (Romans 1:28).
These are punishments on the wicked world in general. Remember that God’s people were sealed so as to be protected (Revelation 7:3).
While the focus of Revelation is on the Roman Empire, we need to keep in mind that the fall of every great empire follows a similar pattern. Albertus Pieters once wrote, “As for the great happening of the trumpet series, I do not take much interest in locating them here or there in history, for it seems to me I know them. Have we not ourselves twice, in 1914-1918 and again in 1939-1945 seen the bottomless pit opened, and the heavens darkened by swarms of evil things that issued from it? Has not the earth in our own day, so that we can never forget it? So it seems to me, as I see the pageant unroll act after act; and finally, I turn away with profound confidence in the plans of Him that sitteth on the throne, written in the unsealed orders that are in the hands of the Lamb.”
The Angel with a Little Book
A mighty angel comes from heaven wearing a cloud. A cloud is associated with the glory of God (Exodus 16:9-10; 24:15-18). A rainbow, the sign of the covenant with Noah, is upon his head. His face glows with the glory of the sun, much like Moses’ face glowed after being in the presence of God (Exodus 34:29-30). The angel’s feet were like pillars of fire, perhaps another allusion to the trampling of God’s enemies (Malachi 4:1-3). He stands with one foot on the sea and the other foot on the land, indicating that his message is for the whole world.
In his hand was a little book which was open. It is a message from God, but it was not sealed as the earlier scroll was. Later in Revelation 10:8-11 we find that the book is the word of God.
The angel roars out words like a lion. The scene sounds similar to a description in Jeremiah 25:30-31. In response, seven thunders peal. When God responds in judgment, His voice is described as thunder (I Samuel 2:10; II Samuel 22:14; Isaiah 29:6). There are seven thunders, indicating perfection and it reminds us of the seven voices of God described in Psalms 29. But what is said, John is forbidden to write down. The book of Revelation reveals God’s plans for the future, but it is not a complete laying bare of all that God will do. God keeps some of his plans hidden.
However, the angel standing on the land and the sea solemnly declares in an oath that there will no longer be any delay. Likely he is referring back to prayers of the martyrs for justice and the fact that God had said they must wait (Revelation 6:9-11). The time for waiting is over. The angel lifts up his right hand in giving this oath. This is a common practice (Deuteronomy 32:40; Ezekiel 20:5) and it is where we pick up the practice. The scene is similar to what is found in Daniel 12:7.
In Revelation, the angel declares that action would take place during the sounding of the seventh trumpet and at that time the mystery of God would be finished. This would fulfill what was told to the prophets in the past. Many believe that the mystery being referred to is the defeat of the lawless one (II Thessalonians 2:3-8). Another possibility is that the mystery of salvation was almost finished (Romans 16:25-26) – in other words, the New Testament was almost finished.
A voice from heaven tells John to take the little book from the mighty angel. He is then told to eat the book. John found that it tasted sweet in his mouth, but it was bitter in his stomach. This is similar to Ezekiel’s reaction when given God’s word (Ezekiel 2:8-3:4, 14). God’s promises are sweet (Psalms 19:7-10; Jeremiah 15:16), but they include promises of trials and punishments which are bitter (Jeremiah 15:17-18). “The reception and comprehension of God’s word is sweet, but fraught with bitterness of spirit in the condemnation of sinners and the proclamation of the Scripture’s judgments against men and nations, declaring the consequences of disobedience, the wickedness of sin, and the terror and finality of judgment” [Homer Hailey].
John is then told that he must again prophesy about people, nations, languages, kings. This is a message that impacts the whole world.
The Two Witnesses
John is given a measuring rod, and he is told to measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship in it. Here the temple represents the church (Ephesians 2:19-22). Thus, the church is being measured to see if it is deserving of protection because of its obedience (II Corinthians 10:12-18; I John 4:1). This is similar to Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 40:2-42:20). Take special note of the purpose mentioned in Ezekiel 42:20. Israel came up short in measurement (Ezekiel 43:10-12).
However, John is told not to measure the outer court of the temple because that had been given to the nations (the word “Gentiles” means “nations). In the temple in Jerusalem, the outer court was called the Court of the Gentiles, it was closest non-Jews could come to worship God. Thus, non-Christians would not be given protection (a repeat of Revelation 7:3-8). The unbelievers would trample the holy city for 42 months. This is another way of indicating 3 ½ years, which is half of seven – the number for completeness and perfection. 3 ½ symbolizes incompleteness, uncertainty, and trials. This period appears a number of times:
- It is the time (42 months) Jerusalem is trampled (Revelation 11:2)
- It is the time (1260 days) the witnesses would prophesy in sackcloth (Revelation 11:3)
- It is the time (1260 days) the woman would be protected in the wilderness (Revelation 12:6)
- It is the time (time, times, and half a time) the would be nourished while protected from the serpent (Revelation 12:14)
It also appears in Daniel’s prophecies, which I believe deal with the same period of time:
- It is the period of time of the beast’s authority and blasphemies (Daniel 7:21)
- It is the period of time the saints would be in the beast’s hand (Daniel 7:25).
In other words, this is the period of time that Christians would be persecuted.
We are not talking about the physical city of Jerusalem. The church is the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2; Hebrews 12:22-23). Thus the church would be corrupted and persecuted by those who were not true believers, but these persecutions would not be able to reach the core of the church.
During the time of the trampling of Jerusalem (the church), two witnesses will prophesy, clothed in sackcloth. Why two? Because in order to secure a conviction in a court, there was a need for two witnesses at a minimum (Deuteronomy 19:15). This rule continues in the church (Matthew 18:16; II Corinthians 13:1; I Timothy 5:19).
The same two witnesses are called two olive trees and two lampstands. We already have seen lampstands referring to individual churches (Revelation 1:20). A lampstand can also refer to the word of God (Psalms 119:105). Lamps in those days burned oil to give light. The most common source of oil in this region were olive trees. A similar vision is found in Zechariah 4:2-6, 11-14. To have an olive tree next to a lamp means you have a constant supply of oil, so the lamp never need go out.
Taking this together, I believe the two witnesses are the church and the word of God. The fact that they are testifying in sackcloth reinforces that this was a time of misery and distress. Christians hold forth the word as a light in a crooked and dark world (Philippians 2:15-16). This again looks like a reference to the prophecy about the reign of the man of sin (II Thessalonians 2:3-12).
As the two witnesses testify, their enemies are consumed by a fire that comes from their mouths (Jeremiah 5:14). God’s word can burn by bothering people’s conscience. The witnesses were given authority to:
- Stop the rain, like Elijah. Note that Elijah’s drought lasted 3 ½ years (James 5:17)
- Turn water to blood, like Moses (Exodus 4:9)
- And to smite the earth with plagues as often as they desired
These allude to the prophets of old who displayed God’s power, which served as a witness to the truth of their words (Hebrews 2:3-4). Notice that they successfully finished their testimony. They were not interrupted.
At the end of their testimony, the beast from the abyss makes war against them. In Daniel, the beast refers to a king, kingdom, or an institution (Daniel 7:3, 17, 23). We will learn more about this beast later. In the battle, the beast kills the two witnesses and their bodies like in the street of the great city.
The city is spiritually called by three names: Sodom, Egypt and the city where the Lord was crucified (Jerusalem). Notice that Egypt is a country, not a city. This emphasizes that this great city is not any of those places, but has characteristics like those places. Sodom is infamous for its sexual sins, homosexuality in particular. Egypt was infamous for its idolatry and the bondage of God’s people. Both Sodom and Egypt are frequently used as representatives of worldly sins. Jerusalem is now listed among the great sinful places because of the death of Christ. It represents religious corruption. It is not directly named because the new Jerusalem is the church and the church is not connected with causing the Lord’s death. It could also mean its crime is so great that it does not even deserve to be named. And each of these three places was destroyed by God because of their sins. (By the way, this is a hint that the destruction of Jerusalem had already taken place.) Thus, the great city is full of sexual sins, idolatry, bondage to sin, and religious corruption with a rejection of God’s prophets and His Son. The implication is that it too will be destroyed by God.
The witnesses bodies lie on display for 3 ½ days without being buried. It is a testimony of the disrespect and contempt the city had for God’s witnesses. 3 ½ days would be another period of pain and tumult, but shorter than the previous time. And while the bodies are on display the people celebrate their death.
Satan wins a victory through his beast. He stops the church and the Bible from being spread, but he was able to do so before that spread of teaching had already been completed.
But just when it appears that Satan won, God resurrects His witnesses. A voice calls them to heaven and their enemies see them depart. Reading the accounts of Christian martyrs, you can see the frustrations of those killing them because they could not terrorize them. They watch them die with smiles on their faces and praises for God on their lips. And in their death, they joined God (Romans 8:35-37).
As they go, an earthquake causes a tenth of the city to collapse, killing 7,000 people. The church and the spread of the gospel revives and the evil city is given a significant wound. A tenth indicates a partial, restrained judgment and 7,000 killed indicates a complete accounting for the evil done.
The rest of the people are terrified and give glory to God, but it would be incorrect to conclude that they were converted, only forced to admit that God is great.
These three major events composed the sixth warning and this concludes the second woe. The third is coming quickly, but we don't specifically see it mentioned. "Woe" (or "alas") is mentioned again when Satan is cast to earth (Revelation 12:12), but this may be a repeat of the first woe. Woe again is pronounced at the fall of the great city (Revelation 18:10,16,19), whether this is the final woe is debated.
The Seventh Trumpet
Victory has been achieved! The kingdom of the word has become the kingdom of Christ. God is worshiped for his accomplishments. Jesus had promised that he would come quickly (Revelation 2:16; 3:10-11; 22:7, 12, 20) and that had been accomplished. It is not the final judgment, but the swiftness of God's judgment on the wicked. The earth was shaken and the unshakable remains (Hebrews 12:26-29). Therefore Daniel's prophesy was fulfilled (Daniel 2:44; 7:13-14).
Evil tried to rebel against God's design. In their defeat, their possessions were turned over to God's people. In Daniel, the beast prevailed for a time, but the saints won in the end. God always wins (Psalms 2).
The dead in Revelation 11:18 are those lost in sin (Ephesians 2:1,5) and not those physically dead. The dead are contrasted to God's bondservants, prophets, saints and those who fear God's name. Notice the implication that the earth remains, but at the final judgment the earth will be destroyed (II Peter 3:10-12).