Harry Whittaker
Revelation - A Biblical Approach

Chapter 23 - The Sixth Trumpet: The Last Days (9:12-21)

As might be expected, there is no lack of indication to suggest that the details of the Sixth Trumpet have further reference to the Last Days. The very phrase: “prepared for the hour and day and month and year”, seems to point to the climax of all history, though one is left wondering if perhaps it alludes even more specifically to the hour of sacrifice on the day of Passover (or of Atonement) in the first month in the year of Jubilee. There is also close resemblance between angel-leaders of enormous armies held at Euphrates and the Sixth Vial with its drying up of the Euphrates in order that the armies of the nations might be gathered together for Armageddon (16:12, 14).


These mighty developments come in response to “a voice from the horns of the golden altar” of incense. Therefore this Woe comes on men because of the prayers of the saints (8:3). Not that in the Last Days, or at any other time, the saints in Christ will be invoking Woe upon the rest of the world, but rather this will be the inevitable outcome of the eager prayers for God’s Kingdom from the lips of those who sigh and cry for all the abominations that are done. The lesson should be well learned that it is not the part of the faithful to sit meekly and patiently with folded hands until at length in God’s good time the great day of deliverance is granted. There are too many Scriptures, which point to a close connection between the faith and prayers of the elect and the climatic fulfilment of God’s purpose, to warrant a passivity almost indistinguishable from lethargy. The kingdom will come when those who are to be its honoured subjects so intensely want it to come that they will not be said nay. Why is it that so few recognize that God can “appoint a day” for the great fulfilment of all things in other ways than by a date on the calendar? “Ye shall not see me until ye say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” It is in this way, by this contingency, that a time has been set to favour Zion. More on this difficult topic in Appendix - An Important and Difficult Problem.


The interpretation of Sixth Trumpet and Sixth Vial has been complicated by attempts at overmuch insistence on geography regarding the references to Euphrates. Strange that the inconsistency seems to have escaped notice that in exposition of the allusions to Babylon and to “the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, “ no attempt is made to emphasize geography. Here, properly enough, it is the spiritual implications of these expressions which are given due weight. Similarly, the Biblical associations of the river Euphrates are with the great political Enemy of the people of Israel: “In that day the Lord will shave with a razor that is hired, by them beyond the River (Euphrates), by the king of Assyria[40] (Isaiah 7:20). “Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the River, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks ... he shall reach even to the neck ... “ (8:7, 8).

The use of this figure fairly clearly requires reference of this Second Woe to a military power as great and dominant as Assyria was in its time. And all the details of this prophecy point to events as yet unmatched in human history. To interpret them of long-forgotten Turkish invasions of unimportant provinces is to be content with the shadow when a much more impressive fulness is within hand’s reach.

It seems reasonable to equate these four angels bound at Euphrates with the four (7:1, 2) who restrain the four winds (the spirit of God, Zechariah 6:5) until the final sealing of the elect is completed. And in turn these are probably the four horsemen of the first four Seals, associated with the Cherubim of God’s Glory when His authority is re-asserted in the earth in the Last Days.

The horsemen they marshal for such dire duty must be symbolic, as to the number of them and also their frightening appearance. It is just possible that such passages as Psalm 68:17; Daniel 7:10; Revelation 5:11 should be read as meaning that “two hundred thousand thousand” is the number of the angels of God to whom this great work of judgement is to be committed, but this is by no means obvious! In fact, the number just quoted from Revelation 9:16 may be specially intended to indicate an outnumbering of the angels of God. Did not Jesus prophecy concerning the great letting loose of evil in the Last Days that “the powers of heaven shall be shaken,” as though intimating that the mighty surge of evil will become so over-mastering as to be scarcely within the power of the angels of God to cope with it?


This mighty punitive army is described in terms of puzzling symbolism. Certainly the words read most appropriately as a figurative description of modern mechanized warfare. The horsemen are accoutred in breastplates of “fire, and jacinth, and brimstone.” The second of these is the word “hyacinth,” which is used uniformly in the Septuagint Version for the blue materials used in the tabernacle. Thus the triple expression comes three times (twice in the more comprehensible form: “fire, smoke, brimstone”), which, again three times over, is said to “issue from their mouths.” These details occur again in the judgement of the Third Thunder (14:10, 11), and also - strange contrast! - in the judgement meted out in connection with the Two Witnesses (11:5). The suggestion made in that context- that “the fire proceeding out of their mouth” symbolizes the divine vengeance that comes because of and not through the Witnesses-has some relevance here. Jn this case, it is because of the voice from the golden altar of incense (9:13). The saints in Christ, and their eager importunity for the coming of God’s Kingdom are the moving power behind the titanic events foreshadowed here.


Yet another Biblical association of this horde of invaders is with the destruction of Sodom: “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven ... and lo, the smoke of a furnace” (Genesis 19:24, 28). So whilst the Fifth Trumpet reminds the reader of the Lord’s warning: “As it was in the days of Noah ... “ (see Chapter 22), this Sixth Trumpet continues with a further reminder: “Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot ... “ (Luke 17:26, 28). Thus,one after another, the signposts point the reader to the Last Days for the true and altogether terrifying fulfilment of this apocalypse of wrath. It is, in very truth, the hour, the day, the month, the year - the moment of Destiny: “the Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord whose throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men ... Upon the wicked he will rain snares (N.E.B.: red-hot coals), fire and brimstone (cp. Sodom, and the Sixth Trumpet), and an horrible blast (as in Isaiah 30:30, 33).” And it is at this time that “his countenance doth behold the upright” (Psalm 11:4 7). The Greek word translated ‘‘brimstone’’ in these passages has interesting associations with fumigation and cleansing - how appropriate! - but also it is so close to the word for “divine” as almost to be mistaken for it (2 Peter 1:3, 4; Acts 17:29; Romans 1:20). The paradox is strange, yet accurate. Just as the armies in the parable of the Wedding Garment (Matthew 22:7) represent the massing of the brute force of Rome against Jerusalem and at the same time the wrath of heaven against an impious nation, so also this mighty multitude represents not only a crescendo and concentration of malevolence against God’s people such as the centuries have never known, but also the divinely contrived purging of those who still continue rebellious against Him right to the last.


The power of these tormentors is in their mouths (they have heads like lions) and also in the serpent mouths of their tails - a gruesome and telling figure, for it means that they have heads like Daniel’s first beast and tails like Daniel’s fourth beast (Daniel 7:4, 7). Just as, in Daniel 2, it is the whole of Nebuchadnezzar’s image which is destroyed by the stone, so also the great adversary of the Last Days is described as comprising all the four beast-empires of Daniel 7 (ch. 13: 2). Hence, also, the mention off our angels, leading on this great army. Does Isaiah supply the clue to this symbolism?: “the prophet that teachelh lies, he is the tail” (9:15). In this context of the Sixth Trumpet it is not impossible, then, that the False Prophet of Islam is suggested as the power waging holy war (Jihad) against Israel - “sanctify war” (Joel 3:9, 19). In the parallel Sixth Vial, one of the unclean spirits goes forth out of the mouth of the False Prophet.


That “their power is in their mouth” is stressed no less than three times; it must be important. But in what way? Can it be that there is allusion to the power of propaganda and psychological warfare, a factor the importance of which was discovered by Sennacherib (Isaiah 36) and then went neglected for centuries7 It is noteworthy that the power of the dragon, the beast and the false prophet is in their mouths (ch. 13:5 and 16:13) and, as has just been suggested, there can be little doubt that this army of horsemen represents the massed power of these Leaders of Evil.


Chapter 20 of this study concluded with emphasis on the close parallel between Jeremiah 8 and the Trumpets in Revelation. That correspondence should be considered again, with the great and final judgements of God against Israel well in mind. In Jeremiah’s time the utter hopelessness of the situation: “Is not the Lord in Zion? Is not her King in her?” is answered with the wonderful prophecies of “the righteous Branch, raised up unto David,” the one whose name is Jehovah our Righteousness, and who will reign and prosper (23:5, 6). In the First Century the comparable hopelessness signified by the utter desolation of Jerusalem was met with the message of the apostles and their successors, that the New Covenant foretold by Jeremiah (31:31-37) was none the less available to both Jews and Gentiles. Yet again, in the time when judgement dire and horrible falls in the Last Days on the unbelieving chosen people, the gloom of the situation is lightened by the message of the Seventh Trumpet: “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ”-that is, “the Lord is in Zion, and his King is in her.” This close association of the Sixth Trumpet with the Seventh and its quite unequivocal prophecy of the resurrection and the kingdom of Christ is one of the clearest evidences that could be wished for that the Trumpets, and the Sixth especially, should be interpreted with reference to the Last Days.


Yet the language about the worship of “idols of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of stone, and of wood, which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk” reads strangely with reference to Israel - until it is realized that this is an accurate description of all Twentieth-Century civilization. It is a completely materialistic society, which leaves God out of account, and worships things, things, things, “the works of their own hands.” In this respect the Jews stand in the first rank of all, so that today more than ever, and especially in the state of Israel, “ye serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell” (Deuteronomy 4:28). Isaiah 2 which is applied by Paul to the coming of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 1:9), has the same caustic denunciation of a people given over to the worship of things: “Their land also is full of silver and gold ... their land is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made: and the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself (before these gods): therefore - it is Isaiah’s personal prayer - forgive them not” (2:7-9). The entire passage should be studied as a vivid ultimate judgement on this obsessive materialism when God “ariseth to shake terribly the earth.”

There are many Scriptures, which foretell a repentance of Israel just before the Lord’s coming, but this will not be nation-wide. The response to the tribulations of the Sixth Trumpet indicates that the majority of Israel - “two parts” (Zechariah 13:8, 9) - will find no place for repentance: “yet they repented not of the works of their own hands ... neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their thefts.” This description, much of which had a very literal basis in its reference to the Jerusalem of A.D. 70, has to be “modernized” in its application to the Last Days, like so much of the language of the Apocalypse elsewhere (e.g. 19:14, 15; 17:12; 16:21).

This war of God against the widespread evils of idolatry among His people has an impressive parallel in one of Micah’s prophecies of the Last Days: “And I will cut off thy standing images (symbols of sex worship) out of the midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands” (Micah 5:12, 13). And yet that prophecy concludes with this: “And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the nations, which hearkened not” (5:15).

This overall picture of the Sixth Trumpet is of the Land being overrun in the time of the End by an irresistible army of multitudinous enemies. It is a time of utter helplessness for Israel, yet the mass of the nation fails to learn its lesson. Hearts are as hardened as Pharaoh’s, and judgement is as condign. Nevertheless this is not God’s last word. “The seven last plagues, in which is finished the wrath of God” are yet behind.

[40] Yet it should not be forgotten that Nineveh, the capital of the great Assyrian empire, was on the Tigris, not the Euphrates.
Previous Index Next