Interpreting the seven trumpets of Revelation

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The Seven Trumpets

The Creation Concept

Charles D. Alexander
Herbert W. Armstrong
William Barclay
Gregory K. Beale
James B. Coffman
John Darby
A. C. Gaebelein
George Gifford
David Guzik
E. W. Hengstenberg
H. A. Ironside
B. W. Johnson
Alonso T. Jones
Jack Kelley
William Kelly
Don Koenig
Gordon E. Ladd
Clarence Larkin
Francis Nigel Lee
David B. Loughran
John MacArthur
Henry Madison Morris
Robert H. Mounce
John H. Ogwyn
David C. Pack
Jon Paulien
J. Dwight Pentecost
Peter Pett
Bob Pickle
Vern S. Poythress
John H. Pratt & Edward B. Elliott
Ken Raggio
James Stuart Russell
John Walvoord
Ronald Weinland
James White

Charles D. Alexander

1st trumpet

This corresponds with the seventh Egyptian plague. (Ex. 9:22-25) Hail is always a symbol of the divine wrath and justice. As it levels the fruitful field and destroys the trees of the forest so the divine judgment levels the pride of man and lays low the great ones of the earth. Trees and grass are OT symbols of the proud rulers of the world and the ungodly multitudes which they lead on to destruction.

2nd trumpet

We are now in a position to understand the meaning of the first two trumpets. The hail is not natural hail. It is accompanied by fire mingled with blood. It is a symbol of the wrath of a holy God working throughout history to limit and destroy the pride and the power of all which rises against God. The trees and grass are the worldly multitudes and their rulers. The great mountain is any and every organised worldly power which rises against the kingdom of God. The sea is the troubled ocean of wicked men (Isaiah 57:20: "The wicked are like the troubled sea ...") See also Rev. 17:15: "The waters which thou sawest , where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations and tongues;" and Jude 12-13: "These are spots in your feasts of charity, feeding themselves without fear; clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; TREES WHOSE FRUIT WITHERETH, without fruit, plucked up by the roots; RAGING WAVES OF THE SEA, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever."

The fish of the sea are men, sometimes converted men, rescued by the gospel fishermen from the sea of death (see Ezekiel 47:8-10, where the divine symbolism mocks at all the efforts of superficial prophetism to make Ezekiel's sanctuary river a natural watercourse flowing through Palestine, whereas John declares that that river is none other than the spiritual river of the Paradise of God. (Compare Ezek. 47:12 with Rev. 22:1-5) The ships destroyed in John's sea in Rev. 8:9, represent the worldly enterprise of mankind, in which man invests his collective hopes. They may be regarded as symbolic of apostate churches, institutions, governments, philosophies, false sciences, and other vanities which possess the minds and inspire the enterprises of unbelieving mankind, all of which are successively doomed to disappointment and destruction.

3rd trumpet

Rivers and fountains of water, embittered by the falling star of Wormwood ("Bitter"); a reference no doubt to the waters of Marah, similarly named (Exodus 15:23-26) sweetened by the tree-type of the Saviour, the trunk felled, but giving life to the world ("The Lord showed him a tree ..." Ex. 15:25). The reversion of the lifegiving Gospel fountains to death-dealing bitter waters, takes place whenever the lifegiving doctrines of divine grace are corrupted by apostate and carnal religion. The style never changes. In Jewish times the nation was divided between the doctrines of the Sadducees and the Pharisees respectively. We still have them in gentile times. We call them nowadays, rationalists and ritualists. The one boasts of the sovereignty of the human reason and the other of the efficacy of ritual sacramentalism - external observances - to save the soul. Both are enemies of faith and grace. They combine with worldly power (as at Pilate's judgment seat) to put truth out of the world. We have them today in the Catholicism which substitutes the outward and the sacramental for the inward and the spiritual, and the fallen Protestantism which by worldly philosophy places the human mind above the revelation of Holy Scripture.

4th trumpet

Here then, we surely have the darkening of heavenly light under the parable of those heavenly bodies, sun, moon and stars, which give light and guidance to men, measuring his days and giving him means of direction in the watery waste of ocean or the trackless sand of the desert. To lose one's way in uncharted seas or the desolate howling wilderness is a fate near to despair and death. In the spiritual realm these heavenly bodies represent those means by which God has been graciously pleased to direct men to eternal safety through the light of His Word, and the revelation of Christ in the gospel. God alone is light, and Christ declares, "I am the light of the world. "If the light which is in you be darkness, how great is that darkness." "He hath translated us from the power of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son.

5th trumpet

Bellarmine, the Roman Catholic theologian settled for Luther and the Protestants as the locusts of the Woe. The later Lutherans reckoned it was Calvin and the Calvinists: Vitringa goes back to the Goths and Vandals, while the Preterists find the total fulfillment in the wars leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Others with much greater plausibility have seen in the locusts the vast army of monks, nuns, and Jesuits.

...scarcely any two expositors agree in the division of the same subject among these trumpets; Mr. Faber observes: "So curious a circumstance may well be deemed the opprobrium of Apocalyptic interpretation, and may naturally lead us to suspect that the true key to the distinct application of the Trumpets has never yet been found, or, if found, has never yet been satisfactorily used."

The demonic activity of the locust woe is clearly identified by the appearance they present. ... The sound of their wings resembles war chariots racing to battle, indicating that their true purpose (as worked out in the false forms of religion) is not to save men but to destroy them eternally.

6th trumpet

... armies of implacable spirits of evil setting the human race against itself...The agents of God's justice, even though they be evil angels, are irresistible in battle, because they are urged on by divine decree. Their number is overwhelming. Their armoury is invincible. Their defence is impenetrable. Their armour and equipment show them to be other than human.

7th trumpet

"The kingdoms of this world are become our Lord's and of his Christ." ... the total power or dominion or this world has passed into the hands of Christ in accordance with the decree of the Father in the fundamental prophecy of Psalm 110, "Sit thou at my right hand till I make thine enemies thy footstool."

The Church is now brought into the scene, in the figure of the four and twenty Elders whom we first met in chapter 4, v.4. They have only a representative value as symbolising the redeemed church. We have here the total number of the elect from all ages, the united church of Old and New Testaments under the mystic double-twelve. This is the kingdom of Christ, wrested by His atoning work from the grasp of the Usurper in accord with the original decree that the Seed of the Woman must destroy the dominion of the Evil One, "It (the Seed) shall bruise thy head ...." (Genesis 3:15) ... The ascription by the Elders, "Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come" praises the divine attributes now brought into full recognition and understanding.

Copyright © 2010 by Douglas E. Cox
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