Article on Fifth Trumpet - Revelation 9: 1 - 12

  What Is the Significance of the Seven Trumpets of Revelation?

                by  Ted  Robertson

 

The Seven Trumpets can be found in Revelation 8:2-11:17.  This section of Revelation is less well understood than other areas of the book, (-1-) such as the Seven Churches, the Fall of Babylon, and the Millennium.  However, it behooves us to study all of God’s Word and not merely dwell on that material with which we are most comfortable.  For it is in studying the entire Scriptures that we may continually come into a fuller understanding of the philosophy of God: 

  • Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? … For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.  – Isaiah 28:9-10
  • Study to show thyself approved unto God.  – 2 Timothy 2:15

There is a wide-ranging consensus among Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) historicist scholars that the Seven Trumpets are warnings of judgments during the Christian Era. (-2-) Such judgments were warned of in the letter to the Church of Thyatira: (-3-)

Behold, I will cast her [i.e. the idolatrous influence of Jezebel in the Church] into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.  And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts:  and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.  – Revelation 2: 22-23 –  [underlining added for emphasis]

In this article we are interested in the Fifth and Sixth Trumpets.  There is a long line of theologians who have identified these two Trumpets as describing events related to the rise of Islam, beginning with Beatus, a Spanish monk, who is said to have identified Muslim Arabs with the symbol of locusts in the Eighth Century A.D.  [See SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. VII, p 791]   The list also includes widely recognized names as Martin Luther, John Foxe, Sir Isaac Newton, Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Newton, John Wesley, Timothy Dwight, and Joseph Galloway ( -4- )  Amongst historicists, the Fifth Trumpet is widely attributed to the rise of the Saracens – otherwise known as Arab Muslims.  The Sixth Trumpet is widely attributed to the rise of the Ottoman Empire.

It is the observed fulfillment of a particular time prophecy within the Sixth Trumpet that gave cause for people to believe in the validity of Scripture and the omniscience of God, the giver of prophecy, and thus, convert to Christianity.

                      

       The  Rise  of  Arab  Muslim  Empire   

The Fifth Trumpet of the first 12 verses of Revelation 9 has been identified by many expositors as associated with the rise of the Saracens and the Turks.  The Saracens – also known as Arab Muslims, especially under the Arab Caliphate from the 7th to the 11th Centuries – built an empire that at its height in 750 A.D. stretched across North Africa and the Middle East from Spain and Morocco to the borders of India (see Figure 1 below).  Beginning in modern-day Saudi Arabia, this conquering Muslim movement spread forth like smoke, locusts, and scorpions according to the biblical description:

  • And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.  And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth:  and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.  – Revelation 9: 2-3

A commentary on this topic says the following:
 With respect to the Moslems, the darkening of the sun may be thought of as the obscuration of the sun of Christianity.  The visitation [of locusts] is reminiscent of the plague of locusts that infested Egypt  [cross-reference Exodus 10: 13-15 ].  [ The SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. VII.  p. 791 ]

The Rise of the Islamic Empire or Caliphate    (Figure 1 )    Map from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Age_of_Caliphs.gif.

         

A detailed study of the Fifth Trumpet is very interesting and somewhat beyond the scope of this article.  However, Table 1 shows in brief a comparison of symbols mentioned and their identified counterpart in the Muslim world and can be used as a quick reference for studying the passage in light of historicism. (-5-) (-6-)    http://www.andrews.edu/~damsteeg/Foun.html.

  Table 1              Summary of Fifth Trumpet Terminology
                                              (Revelation 9: 1-12)

 Symbol                              Verse(s)              Interpretation
  Bottomless Pit                         1-2             Abyss, deserts of Arabia
  Smoke                                    2-3             Spreading influence of Islam
  Locusts                                   3,7             Islamic armies in their early phase of conquest
  Scorpions                              3,5,10           Hostility toward humanity
  God’s Seal in Forehead             4                Sincere Christians that Muslims allowed to live
  Five Months                            5,10             5 x 30 = 150 days = 150 years  (-7-) (-8-) (-9-)
  Like unto Horses                       7               Arab cavalry
  Crown                                       7               Victory symbol, Turban
  Faces of Men                            7               Humans
  Hair of Women                          8               Long hair allegedly worn by Arab warriors
  Teeth of Lions                           8               Strength, rapacity
  Breastplates of Iron                   9               Impregnability, Arabic body armor
  Wings                                        9               Swiftness in conquest

 

Lucifer, Muhammed, and Osman I
There are two distinct characters described in the passage on the Fifth Trumpet.  The first is found in the first verse: 

  • And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.  – Revelation 9: 1

This star has fallen to Earth, and may indeed be a similar reference to the following texts describing Lucifer, lightning, and a star falling to Earth:

  • How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!  –  Isaiah 14:12
  • And [Jesus] said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.  – Luke 10: 18
  • And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; and the name of the star is called Wormwood:  and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.  – Revelation 8: 10-11

While some historicists see the reference to “Wormwood” as fulfilled in Attila the Hun and his invasion of the Roman Empire in the Fifth Century A.D. (-10-)  it is also seen as a reference to Lucifer. (-11-) In either case, it would appear that the symbolic imagery described in Revelation 9:1 is of a negative association, and when taken together with verse 2, we can see that the Revelation of Jesus Christ (-12-) regarding Islam is that this religion is of a very questionable origin and not viewed in a positive light.  (Be sure to read the Bible Study column titled “What’s With Jesus Being a Muslim?”  for further discussion on this point.)  Indeed, a reading of the commentaries gives the following:

The darkness [referred to in verse 2] we may believe represents here erroneous teachings that veiled or denied the truth about God and about Jesus Christ.  We think of the Qur’an.  {See Maxwell, page 250} 

With respect to the Muslims, the darkening of the sun may be thought of as the obscuration of the sun of Christianity. {SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. VII, page 791.    

The other character referred to in the passage on the Fifth Trumpet is found just prior to the passage on the Sixth Trumpet:

  • And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue isAbad’don, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apol’ly-on.  –  Revelation 9:11

Besides the term “angel” referring to an actual angel, it can also be a reference to a human being. (-13-) The idea that the Muslims are organized and have a strong leader is the implication here.

If viewed as the leader of the Muslim movement, especially the establishment of the Islamic Empire or Caliphate as seen in Figure 1, this reference can be applied to Muhammed, the prophet of Islam, and other Muslim leaders {Maxwell, page 250 and 259}  through time who are influenced to spread this religion whose origins are referred to so unflatteringly in Revelation 9: 1-2.

There is also the prevailing view among historicists that this passage specifically refers to the rise of the Ottoman Turks and sets the stage for the introduction of the Sixth Trumpet.  When seen through this lens, the “king” is thought to be Osman I (ruled 1281-1326 A.D.),  (-14-)  the first Ottoman Sultan. (-15-).

It is interesting to note that the word Abaddon (a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew word Abbadon), the name given this leader in the text above, has an interesting derivation.  It means “destruction” and “ruin” and is paralleled with “hell” or the “realm of the dead” as seen in the following text: (-16-)

  • Hell is naked before him,  and destruction [i.e. Abbadon] hath no covering.  – Job 26:6

Apollyon is a Greek word meaning “one who destroys” {SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. VII. page 792} or just simply “destroyer.”  A historicist commentary says the following on the synthesis of Revelation 9 verses 1 and 11:

The “star” which had previously “fallen” from heaven – the “king” called “Abaddon,” “Apollyon,” and “Destroyer” – is obviously Satan, working through Islamic teachers and caliphs [i.e. the title for the leader of the community of Islam (-17-)  {Maxwell, page 250-251}

Another commentary that advocates the point of view that Revelation 9:11 is a prelude to the Sixth Trumpet says the following:

Having two different names in two languages, it is evident that the character rather than the name of the power is intended to be represented.  If so, as expressed in both languages, he is a destroyer.  Such has always been the character of the Ottoman government.  { Smith, page 503 }

It appears that these two interpretations are in agreement in that the results of Muslim leadership is chaotic and destructive for humankind.

Rise of the Ottomans

The Ottoman Empire began as one tribe of Turks that expanded its governing reach immensely over six centuries, and at its height commanded Asia Minor, Northern Africa, and Southeastern Europe (see Figure 2 below)  By the time Osman I began to attract “holy warriors” to his conquering cause, the Turks had been Muslims for some 400 years, abandoning their pagan beliefs in the Eighth Century A.D.  (-18-) {Maxwell, page 251}. 

Figure 2          The Muslim Ottoman Empire at Its Height
                    Map from http://www.dartmouth.edu/~gov46/ottoman-empire-1580.gif.

The Sixth Trumpet found in the passage of Revelation 9: 12-21 is assigned by historicists to the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire.  The Ottoman Turks represented the rise of a more organized empire than had heretofore prevailed in the Islamic world.  The Ottomans adopted and continued the conquest of Islam begun by their Arab counterparts:

In building up their state and empire, the Ottomans owed much to the tradition and social institutions of the Ghazi, those fighters for the faith [i.e. Islam] to whom they fervently adhered. { Kinross, page 30 }

Osman I was a committed jihadist – a perpetrator of violent and holy war against non-Muslims – as seen in the instructions he gave on his deathbed to his son Orhan (ruled 1326-1359 A.D).

“Cultivate justice and thereby embellish the earth.  Rejoice my departed soul with a beautiful series of victories … propagate religion by thy arms.  Promote the learned to honor, so the Divine Law shall be established.”   { Kinross. page 30 }

This vision indeed continued through the reign of Sultan Orhan and then to his son Sultan Murad I (ruled 1359-1389 A.D.) who faced the conquest of Eastern Christendom.

The tie had come to extend it sphere of conquest, to launch the Ottoman army as an offensive force for he subjugation of the remains of the Byzantine Empire….  Thanks initially to Murad I, the West was now to fall to the East as the East had fallen to the West in the centuries of the Greeks and Romans. { Kinross. page 43 }

This advocacy of jihad or holy war took very much the same form as it is practiced even today by such groups as al Qaeda. (-19-  An example is the use of the method of beheading meant to “spread terror of the Turkish invaders” {Kinross. page 46}  for dealing the punishing blow in the last Crusade when Sultan Bayezid I  (-20- (ruled 1389-1402 A.D.) ordered the beheading of 10,000 Christian fighters that surrendered at the Battle of Nicopolis {Kinross. page 69}  in 1396 A.D.; and as an expedient solution under Sultan Suleiman I the Magnificent (ruled 1520-1566 A.D.) for disposing of 500 Christian soldiers at a garrison at Peterwardein {Kinross. page 185} on the Danube in 1526 A.D.  The justification of this practice can be found in the sacred text of Islam:

So when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite the necks until when you have overcome them, then make (them) prisoners, and afterwards either set them free as a favor or let them ransom (themselves) until the war terminates.  That (shall be so); and if Allah had pleased He would certainly have exacted what is due from them, but that He may try some of you by means of others; and (as for) those who are slain in the way of Allah, He will by no means allow their deeds to perish.  – Qur’an 47:4 – [parentheses in original, underlining added for emphasis]

Warfare for the purpose of spreading the religion of Islam is justified throughout the Qur’an.  Following are two of the most evident texts addressing this doctrine:

But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.  – Qur’an 9:5 – [parentheses in original]

Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book [i.e. Jews and Christians], until they pay the Jizya [i.e. a special tax imposed on conquered non-Muslims] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.  – Qur’an 9:29 – [parentheses in original, brackets added for clarification]

There is perhaps no better example of such warfare during the time of the Ottoman Empire than the attack against Otranto, Italy, in 1480 A.D

The town was taken by surprise by a squadron of [Ottoman] cavalry, with much fire and bloodshed.  Eight hundred of its inhabitants were brutally put to death or refusing conversion to Islam, and were later canonized by the Pope. {Kinross. page 136}

Europe was under no delusions as to what Suleiman I the Magnificent, the greatest and most powerful of the Sultans, represented:

When Suleiman in his youth succeeded to the Ottoman throne, Cardinal Wolsey said of him to the Venetian ambassador at the court of King Henry VIII:  “This Sultan Suleiman is 25 years old and has good judgment; it is to be feared he will act like his father.”  The Doge [i.e. ruler of Venice] had written to his ambassador:  “The Sultan is young, very powerful, and extremely hostile to the Christian race.”  The Grand Turk [i.e. Sultan] … inspired the rulers of western Europe only with fear and mistrust as the “powerful and formidable enemy” of Christendom.  { Kinross. page 197 }

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