RTH-PICTURE OF THE SEVEN PENITENIAL TRUMPETS, ISSUING FROM THE OPENING OF THE SEVENTH SEAL
Rev_8:1 to Rev_9:21
1. Opening of the Seventh Seal
1And when he had [om. had] opened the seventh seal, there was [
=supervened] silence in [ins. the] heaven about the space of [om. the space of] half an hour. 2And I saw the seven angels which [who] stood [stand1] before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. 3And another angel came and stood at [or before2] the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with [or add it to3] the prayers of all [ins. the] saints upon the golden altar which was [is] before the throne. 4And the smoke of the incense, which came [om., which came] with [to or for]4 the prayers of the saints, ascended up [om. up] before God out of the angel’s hand. 5And the angel took the censer, and filled it with [from the] fire of the altar, and cast it [om. it] into [upon] the earth: and there were [supervened] voices, and thunderings [thunders, and voices], and lightnings, and an earthquake. 6And the seven angels which [who] had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to [om. to—ins. that they might] sound [trumpet].
2. First four Trumpets. Predominant human spiritual Sufferings under the figure of Sufferings in Nature
7The first angel [om. angel5] sounded [trumpeted], and there followed hail and fire mingled6 with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: [ins. and the third part of the earth was burnt up,]7 and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
8And the second angel sounded [trumpeted], and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; 9And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life [
] died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.
10And the third angel sounded [trumpeted], and there fell a great star from [ins. the] heaven, burning as it were [om. it were] a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of [ins. The8] waters; 11And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became9 wormwood: and many [ins. of the] men died of [from] the waters, because they were made bitter.
12And the fourth angel sounded [trumpeted], and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; [,] so as [om. so as—ins. that] the third part of them was [might be] darkened, and the day shone not [might not shine]10 for a [the] third part of it, and the night likewise [in like manner].
3. Last three. Trumpets, Predominant demonic Sufferings—in figures of Nature perverted into Unnaturalness
Rev_8:13 to Rev_9:21
13And I beheld [saw], and [ins. I] heard an angel [eagle11] flying through the midst of heaven [in mid-heaven], saying with a loud [great] voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of [them that dwell upon] the earth by reason of [
] the other [remaining] voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which [who] are yet [about] to sound [trumpet]!
a. Fifth Trumpet. First Woe
1And the fifth angel sounded [trumpeted], and I saw a star fall [fallen] from [ins. the] heaven unto [upon] the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless 2 [om. bottomless12] pit [ins. of the abyss]. And he opened the bottomless [om. bottomless] pit [ins. of the abyss]13; and there arose [ascended] a [om. a] smoke out of the pit,14 as the [om. the] smoke of a great furnace; and the sun [ins. was darkened] and the air were darkened [om. were darkened] by reason of [
] the smoke of the pit. 3And there came [om. there came] out of the smoke [ins. came forth] locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4And it was commanded [said to,
] them that they should [shall] not hurt [injure] the grass of the earth, neither [nor] any15 green thing, neither [nor] any15 tree; but only those [the] men which [who (
)] have not the seal of God in [upon] their [the16] foreheads. 5And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should [shall] be tormented17 five months: and their torment was [is] as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh [it hath stricken] a man. 6And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find18 it; and shall [ins. earnestly] desire to die, and death shall flee [fleeth19] from them.
7And the shapes of the locusts were like unto [om. unto] horses prepared unto battle; and on [upon] their heads were [om. were] as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were [om. were] as the [om. the] faces of men. 8And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. 9And they had breastplates, as it were [ins. iron] breastplates of iron [om. of iron]; and the sound of their wings was as the [a] sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. 10And they had [have] tails like unto [om. unto] scorpions, and there were [om. there were] stings [ins.; and] in their tails: and [om.: and—ins. is] their power20was [om. was] to hurt [injure] men five months. 11And they had [have] a king over them, which is [om. which is] the angel of the bottomless pit [om. bottomless pit—ins. abyss], [;] whose [his] name in the [om. the] Hebrew [,] tongue is [om. tongue is] Abaddon, but [; and] in the Greek tongue [om. tongue—ins. he] hath his [the] name Apollyon. [ins. The] 12one woe is past [hath passed]; and, [om. and,] behold, there come [ins. yet] two woes more hereafter [om. more hereafter—ins. after these things].
b. Sixth Trumpet. Second Woe
13 And21 the sixth angel sounded [trumpeted], and I heard a [or one (
] voice from the four22 horns of the golden altar which is before God, 14saying to the sixth angel [,] which had [the one having23] the trumpet, Loose the four angels which 15 [that] are bound in [at] the great river Euphrates. And the four angels were loosed, which [that] were [had been] prepared for an [the] hour, and a [om. a] day, and a [om. a] month, and a [om. a] year, for to [om. for to—ins. that they should] slay the third part of [ins. the] men. 16And the number of the army [armies] of the horsemen [cavalry24] were [was] two hundred thousand thousand 17 [two myriads of myriads]: and [om. and25] I heard the number of them. And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that [those who] sat on them, having breastplates of fire [fiery] and of jacinth [hyacinthine], and brimstone [sulphureous]: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued [goeth forth] fire and smoke and brimstone [or sulphur]. 18By these three [ins. plagues26] was [om. was—ins. were slain] the third part of [ins. the] men killed [om. killed], by the fire, and by [om. by27] the smoke, and by [om. by27] the 19 brimstone [or sulphur], which issued [went forth] out of their mouths. For their [om. their—ins. the] power [ins. of the horses]28 is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were [are] like unto serpents, and [om. and] had [having] heads, and with them [these] they do [om. do] hurt [injure]. 20And the rest of the men [,] which [who] were not killed [slain] by these plagues [,] yet [om. yet] repented not [did not even29 repent] of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils [the demons], and [ins. the] idols of gold, and [ins., of]30 silver, and [ins. of]30 brass, and [ins. of]30 stone, and of30 wood; which neither can [can neither] see, nor hear, nor walk: 21Neither repented they [And they did not31 repent] of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
The trumpet calls to war; the trumpet summons the congregation to assemble. Both points are embraced by the vision of the Seven Trumpets; it is the vision of the experiences of the Church as the Church Militant; the vision of her conflict in her spiritual assailments and perils.32 This spiritual conflict of the Church is evident from each individual feature of the vision. The prayers of all the Saints: the third, as a diminution of three, the number of spirit; the opening of the abyss; the horsemen, coming from the great river Euphrates, i. e. from the sphere of Babylon; the slaughter of mankind, effected by their demonic horses; and the impenitence still remaining after all these plagues—everything is indicative of spiritual circumstances.
These spiritual circumstances are, moreover, of such a nature that they can be overcome only by a mighty effort of Heaven itself; by a tension of the heavenly spirits in meditation, prayer and intercession. Hence there is silence in Heaven. Praise seems to grow dumb in Heaven itself. Heaven prays in consideration of the conflicts which are before the Church on earth. The heavenly hour is the decisive hour of the whole crisis; the entire half of this hour is employed in the celestial hallowing of the conflict of the Church Militant.
In the mean time, the seven Angels, with the trumpets which are given them, stand waiting. The other Angel, whose task it is to give a heavenly completeness to the earthly and imperfect prayers of the Saints is, doubtless, in accordance with Rom_8:26, the Spirit of Prayer, in connection with the symbolical intercession of Christ. In this character he approaches the heavenly altar of incense. His instrument is the golden censer—the heavenly purification and measurement of the prayers which ascend to Heaven mingled with pathological turbidity and eccentricity (comp. the
of Christ the High Priest, Heb_5:2). The incense given to him is offered upon the golden altar of incense before the Throne, and the smoke of it rises up and completes the imperfect prayers of the Saints before God.
By the retro-active power of this heavenly sacrifice of prayer, the earth is consecrated for her struggle: the Angel pours the fire of the altar, with which he has filled the censer, upon the earth. Then from the heavenly fire of prayer there issue on earth voices and thunders and lightnings and an earthquake: holy ideas and words, holy preachings and alarm-cries, holy illuminations and spiritual judgments, result in holy convulsions of the human world. Thus is set on foot a victorious counteraction against the onsets just beginning. Though seven terrible corruptive and destructive agencies are now, one after another, let loose against the earth, we must remember that the providence of God has encircled them with angelic might; that in Heaven they are transformed into seven grand dispensations; and that they are announced by Trumpets, which summon the Church to the conflict—summon her to resistance, by repentance and by a closer serriment in collectedness of spirit and in the life of Christian fellowship.
The first Trumpet sounds, and hail, mingled with fire and blood, falls upon the earth. This is, unmistakably, the dispensation of carnal zeal, of sensuous piety, of fanaticism (Luk_9:54), which falls upon the earth, i. e., the churchly form of the Kingdom of God (Psalms 93). The hail, or the icy coldness of men’s souls toward true spiritual life, corresponds with the fire of superstitious passions (see Nitzsch, System, p. 39); and the fire is continually more and more mingled with blood, as is demonstrated by the first appearance of fanaticism in sacred history, Genesis 34, and, further, by all kindred records, especially by the superstitious persecutions of heretics in the history of the Church. This unholy fire consumes the third part of the earth, i. e., the Church, or, in a universal sense, legal order; the third part of the trees (Psalms 1), i. e. pious personalities; and more than the third part of the green grass: the entire soul-pasturage of the Christian flock (Psalms 23) is more or less scorched and blasted, being converted partly into hay, partly into ashes.
The mountain, which is next introduced, is not a real mountain, but the appearance of a great burning mountain, rushing, like a giant meteor, through the air, as though hurled, by some mighty hand, upon the sea. This, manifestly, is the deceptive semblance of a great Divine ordinance, which, changed by the flames of bigot passion into a self-consuming crater, is inflicted, as a Divine judgment, upon the sea or national life. The third part of the sea is turned to blood by means of religious wars and abominations of all kinds springing from fanatical party spirit. The further consequence is that the third part of the creatures in the sea perish, and the third part of the ships are destroyed. The poisoning of Christian national life by the false fire-mountain destroys a third part of the healthful and gladsome popular life, and a third part of all human intercourse, blessing and prosperity. Whole nations, states and vital branches of the state are, so far as their spiritual existence is concerned, in good part ruined. History affords abundant illustrations of these Apocalyptic words.
From Heaven, from the kingdom of spirit, a great star falls, a real spiritual luminary, burning like a torch, i. e., like a great and brilliant world-light. If we contemplate its spiritual fall, we cannot fail to perceive, that it is the personified likeness of false liberty, of the fanaticism of negation, rushing upon us under the semblance of a new enlightenment for the world. For it falls upon the third part of the rivers, i. e. more general spiritual tendencies, or currents, as they are called at present (Isa_8:6; Isa_35:6); it falls also upon the fountains (Pro_25:6), i. e., creatively original minds, whence the currents proceed.
When it is said that the name of the star is called Wormwood, the idea immediately strikes us that it is indeed that embitterment by which—as in the history of Julian—a great portion of the heavenly knowledge-life, the enfranchising spiritual reform, is corrupted and transformed from a quietly shining heavenly star into a burning torch that falls from Heaven, and, instead of truly enlightening, poisons the fountains and currents of spiritual life. Thus a third part of the spiritual water of life, in society, culture and literature, is turned into a water of death, a soul-destroying partyism, sedition and sectarianism, inflicting even bodily death upon many men, by mortally embittering them (comp. Heb_3:8; Exo_17:7; Num_14:22; Deu_6:16).
A third part of the Heaven of spiritual life is closed, and thus the opening of the abyss at the blast of the fifth Trumpet is prepared. The third part of the sun is smitten; i. e., the third part of the sun of revelation is concealed and made of none effect by the united darkness of positive and negative fanaticism—superstition and unbelief. In like manner the third part of the moon is smitten. Together with the bright day-life of Christian knowledge, the night-life of the spiritual repose and peace of souls is, in a great degree, obscured; the spiritual life of nature, we might say, in accordance with Mar_4:27.
Thus, too, the third part of the stars is smitten; in spite of all the advances of astronomy, the joyous upward gaze of immortal souls into the heavenly home of the eternal Father-house (Joh_14:2) declines with many even to utter extinction. And it is in perfect accordance with the laws of polarity, that, together with the true day-life of the spirit, the true night-life of the heart, especially in the intercourse of spirits, has suffered great loss.
By this great spiritual obscuration of sun, moon and stars—an obscuration which, though on the one hand partial, is, on the other hand, lasting—preparation is made for the first of the three great woes. This woe, together with its successors, is heralded by an eagle which John sees and hears, by reason of the rustling of his wings, flying through the lofty midst of Heaven; an eagle proclaiming with a mighty voice a three-fold woe upon the inhabitants of the earth—a woe coming with the last three Trumpets. As the horse denotes regular rapid historic motion, so the eagle is indicative of a vehement and mighty movement toward a great catastrophe. This eagle flies along the meridian altitude of Heaven, thus being visible down to the very horizon, besides being able to descry the coming woes with his piercing glance, and to make himself heard by all with his mighty voice. Thus the eagle is indicative of the lofty and rapid flight of the seer-spirit over the earth, with its sharp outlook upon the catastrophes of the last times. It is the very genius of Apocalyptics, the eagle of John. That it does not denote the final judgments themselves (as Hengstenberg maintains), is evident from the fact, that it distinguishes them from itself as the three woful times of the future. In spite of its lofty eagle nature, it seems to suffer in human sympathy with the inhabitants of the earth, upon whom the judgments are coming.
Thus the way is prepared for the
Again a star falls from Heaven upon the earth, or, rather, it has already fallen when John sees it. If the previous falling star was the genius of all carnal levity, it is followed quite naturally by the genius of demonic gloom, the second Janus-face of the more general spiritual corruptions in Christian and, especially, modern times. This star receives the key to the pit of the abyss. The abyss is, undoubtedly, not equivalent to Sheol, or the realm of the dead, in the general sense of that term; but neither is it the same as Gehenna, in the full sense of that word as identical with the lake of fire. It is the hell-like or demonic region of the realm of disembodied and unembodied spirits—a region of torment, bounded on the one side by the brighter portion of Sheol and on the other by Gehenna (the remarks on p. 30 must be modified by the present comments; see p. 35). [See Excursus on Hades, p. 364 sqq.—E. R. C.]
It is declared, Rev_17:8, that the Beast ascends out of the abyss and goes into
; Rev_20:3, Satan is cast into the abyss; after the final revolt, however, he also is cast into the lake of fire, to which the Beast and the false Prophet have previously been banished. In the present passage, mention is made of the same demon-region which, 2Pe_2:4, is, through the medium of a verb, indirectly designated as Tartarus.
The pit of the abyss is manifestly the connecting channel by means of which the region of tormenting demons holds communication with the earth and with human life. It corresponds with the partial closure of Heaven. Not all of Heaven is closed; not all of the abyss is let loose upon the human world, but the connecting channel between earth and the abyss is now, in a mode entirely new, thrown open. As the revelation of Heaven, on its side, extends into the human world of spirit, so it is also with the pit of the abyss: it is opened in the demonic depths of the human psychical life itself through a demonic sympathy with the spirits of the abyss.
The genius of a God-estranged gloom is the star that opens the pit; the key in his hand is hopelessness, the more general form of despair. As the opening of the gloomy demonic death-realm below began with the darkening of the Gospel above, it is not in the modern world alone that a spirit of gloom has pressed into the Christian world. Rather, the origin of the sombre abysmal moods in Christendom is to be found in the land of the cultus of the dead, the cultus of graves—in Egypt. Again, during the whole of the Middle Ages we must distinguish between the monk’s garb, assumed by all Christian confederations, and the specific spirit of monkery in its dark form. In the course of time the latter has continually been assuming darker and darker forms, until in the modern world it touches its other and worldly extreme.
Substantially, however, the two extremes of gloom amount to about the same thing; they are connected in a decided estrangement from the Gospel, from inwardness, as well as in a fanatical racing and chasing, and in absolute fancifulness, whether in a religious or an irreligious garb.
The first result of the opening of the pit of the abyss is the thick-rising smoke—spiritual derangement exhibiting itself in a gloomy play of the fancy, darkening more than ever the sun of truth and consciousness and the clear air of prospect and hope. Then locusts break forth out of the smoke;—demonic hobgoblin forms, not eating grass, as do locusts, but, like scorpions, stinging men. They have no power over the objective region of genuine spiritual life—over the grass of the soul’s pasture, the verdure of new life, the trees of God by the rivers of water; their power is over those men who have not the seal of God on their foreheads. It is, therefore, manifest that good men, awakened men, well-meaning men, in a more general sense, may be exposed to them. Even those men, however, whom they successfully attack, they cannot directly kill; they have power only to torment them five months, i. e., to rob them of spiritual liberty, indicated by the numeral five, through a series of minor changes of time or of the moon. And in those days—those gloomy days of ancient and, especially, modern despair—men shall seek death and not find it; death shall even seem to flee before them. This does not exclude individual suicides on the extreme of these self-tormentings; in general, however, these gloomy soul-moods are below the level of the feeling of, and pleasure in, life. And what an array of phantoms, or mere semblances full of contradictions, do these tormenting spirits of modern soul-suffering constitute! The description of the text very significantly proclaims them to be nothing but fantastical and airy visions (see p. 22).
The phantasmagoria image forth, as war-horses, strong and passionate moods; they transform themselves into heads, wearing superb and kingly crowns, radiant with the semblance of gold; then they put on a humane face, as of man, and even assume a sentimentally soft deportment, indicated by the hair as of women, whilst yet they bite as though they had lions’ teeth. But above all, they love to disguise themselves as grand warlike phantoms; they appear in breast-plated war-hosts; their wings thunder like war-chariots charging to the battle; and with their fanciful terrors they change the world of Christian brotherhood more and more into a grand complex of camps. The venomous sting of these locusts is in their tails, which are like the tails of scorpions, the emblems of the evil spirit. Thus, too, the still worse power of the monsters of the sixth Trumpet lies not only in their mouths, but also in their tails. The meaning of this fact is, doubtless, that their effects increase and intensify toward the end; they make themselves felt particularly in the pains and painful consequences of party-trains. Their power is limited, however, and the Seer again brings into view its terminus, five months.
These demons of torment are, moreover, not isolated apparitions; they form a mysterious complex, a unity wherein, on the one hand, their fearful power lies, and, on the other, its limitation is contained. As Hades constitutes a unitous realm of the dead, governed by Death personified; and as the kingdom of evil, as beyond this life, is concentrated in Satan, whose manifest organ in this world is Antichrist, so, in the midst between Hades and the domain of Satan, the Abyss lies; this also is under the rule of a king, called, in Hebrew, Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon—the destroyer, waster. This king, in accordance with the distinct region and operation belonging to him, is the genius of despair, which must be regarded as specific destituteness of good or salvation, specific destruction. The two names doubtless signify, likewise, that the Hebrew form of his spoiling of souls is different from the Greek form; in the one case, he is wont to appear in the form of demonic possession; in the other, in that of melancholy madness. In view of all this, however, this whole terrible sphere of psychical torments must be clearly distinguished from the ethico-demonic plagues appearing at the sound of the sixth Trumpet.
This one woe passes; but it is the forerunner of two others which are still worse.
On account of the importance of what follows, this trumpet-blast is supplemented by a voice. The voice issues from the horns of the golden altar. Horns are symbols of protective power; the horns of the altar of incense, therefore, are significant of the perfect security of that spiritual life which proceeds from a life of prayer perfected in Heaven. In this sense the voice cries: Let loose! the Church is armed. Thus Christ Himself says: “It must needs be that offences come, but woe,” etc. (Mat_18:7; comp. 1Co_11:19). The following treats, doubtless, of offences in the strictest sense of the term—tares (see Mat_13:38-39). Loose the four Angels by the great river Euphrates.
With a grand assurance of victory, the vision brings out two fundamental features in the infliction of religious-ethical offences upon the earth. They appear at the start as four bound Angels. As emphatically as they, as offences, belong to the kingdom of darkness and are representative, in respect of the numeral four, of the spirit of the world (like the four beasts of Daniel 7)—just so certain is it that they are bound by God’s providence, and are unable prematurely to break forth to destroy His souls, and that, under angelic power, under the power of the four Angels who, according to Revelation 7, hold them bound, they must, as dispensations of God, themselves go forth for judgment, when the time comes, as His messengers. In respect of their inmost essence, they may be representative of four fundamental forms of the Satanic essence and worldliness; they are, however, fundamental forms disguised as angels of light (2Co_11:14; 2 Thessalonians 2). Thus all heresies, at their first appearance, claim to be truths in a higher form of knowledge, and also operate as powerful lies through the admixture of elements of truth. Schleiermacher, perchance, might have found his four ground-forms of heresy symbolized here, had he properly appreciated the Apocalyptic style.
Again, though these offences seek to press forth in their quiet preparedness, they are conditioned by their Divinely ordained time as to hour, day, month and year; as to the hours of decisive conflict, the days of their apparent victory, the moons of their periodic change, and the years of their collective domination. As it is their natural tendency to kill men (Joh_8:44), such is likewise their mission, inasmuch as they are instruments of judgment. Their murders, however, are spiritual murders; they deprive the third part of mankind of their spiritual life and prosperity.
After the portrayal of their peculiar essence, these fundamental forms vanish behind the prodigious train of horsemen forming their concrete appearance. What Bürger said of the dead [in the ballad of Lenore] is true also of erring spirits: they ride, and ride fast. One would think that a myriad might have been enough; but as a curse generates a curse, so the erring spirits is productive of more of its kind, even to myriads of myriads. The circumstance that the enormous number is twice given, may have its foundation in the fact that errors are divided into positive and negative ground-forms or extremes.
The concrete numeric form employed by the Seer does not, therefore, gain by its resolution into two hundred millions.
The Seer heard their number and could never forget it in its importance.
In these images of cavalry the horses themselves are the main thing. In Revelation 6 the horses are but the bearers, in symbolical colors, of the acting riders; here, on the contrary, only the horses seem to be actually operative; the riders work merely as weak directors of the movements of their steeds and by their symbolical breastplates and colors. Is the intimation intended that these riders, heretics, are, in many respects, not so bad as their horses, death-breathing heresies? Or is it suggested that the horses ordinarily run away with them; that they speedily lose control over the movements originated by themselves? Possibly both thoughts are intimated. At all events, they all, without exception, are strongly mailed against the darts of truth, of sincerity and soberness of spirit, for fanatics are chips of one block, though not in a predestinarian sense; there is among them a good deal of talent, ambition, ardor and a strong impulse of self-consciousness; but little genius, soul, piety and reverence. The colors of their breast-plates correspond with the fatal operations of their horses. The fire of fanaticism, so prone to be mingled with blood; the smoke of gloomy and confused mental disorders, already resolved into vapor; and the brimstone of still unused fuel floating about—how could the fundamental forms of false-lightism be more fitly characterized!
Again, the horses have heads as the heads of lions. Their arrogance, their aggressive appearance, assumes the semblance of true lion-heartedness, of genuine leonine strength. It is natural that their fatal operations issue from their mouths, though these may also, in a figurative sense, work by means of the pen. Besides the power in their mouths, they have power in their tails. These tails are still worse than those of the locusts of the fifth Seal; they are not like scorpions, but like serpents, which, after the manner of serpents, do harm with their heads. It is, perhaps, not out of the way to suppose that the Seer designed giving prominence, along with the direct dogmatic injuries, to the pernicious moral effects of offences or false principles; for thus they have a two-fold mortal agency—through head and tail. It is in the nature of the thing that an inestimable amount of bloodshed follows in the train of spiritual murders.
The Seer finally brings out the melancholy fact with which this cyclical world-picture closes; which is also, be it understood, a characteristic universal picture of the last time. The rest of the men, who were not killed by these plagues, are those who have not, through a fall into heresies, lost all spiritual life. In this respect, therefore, they offer a contrast to the others; yet even they have not suffered themselves to be roused to repentance. They are divided into two ranks, composed of those who are guilty in a religious point of view pre-eminently, and those whose guilt is pre-eminently moral—both ranks, however, being connected.
The principal offence of the one side is, that they are subject to the works of their hands, i. e., thoroughly externalized, sunk in externalisms, of which they do not repent. Demon-worship, a subtile service of devils—thus runs the terrible superscription, beneath which a pompous image-worship is set forth—idolatry with figures of gold, of silver, of brass, of stone, and of wood. The absolute irrationality of this idolatry is noticed by the Apocalypse as well as by the Old Testament. These idols can neither see, nor hear, nor walk; they are, therefore, less than the beasts.
On the other side, the chief superscription is that of murder—something which well corresponds with the service of the Devil; the individual forms—sorcery, fornication, theft—are at all events connected with this fundamental form. Sorcery [Magismus], in its most general import, is the duskiest side of immorality; it has a wide domain, from conscious impieties to ecclesiastical mechanisms. Fornication is a chief sin of heathen grossness under the mask of Christian culture. Theft understands sublimating itself into the most subtile and underhand forms of swindle and fraud.
We would submit the following general observations:
We have seen that the Seven Times Seven which forms the foundation of the Book, stands in a natural sequence. The same remark was applied, in particular, to the seven Churches. Again, if we examine the seven Seals, we cannot fail to recognize the naturalness of their sequence: war, dearth, all sorts of death, especially pestilence, martyrdom, earthquakes. The same remark holds good, furthermore, in regard to the
Trumpets: 1. Fanaticism; 2. A fanaticised community-life; 3. Negative embitterment; 4. Darkening of revelation and of the life of salvation; 5. Penitential demonic psychical sufferings; 6. Demonic mental or spiritual disorders, heresies—preparatory to apostasy.
[ABSTRACT OF VIEWS, ETC.]
By the American Editor
[Elliott regards the Trumpet-septenary as included in the seventh Seal, and also this Septenary as chronologically consecutive on that of the six Seals preceding. The Period of the first six Trumpets (to the close of the First Part of the Sixth, Rev_9:21) he regards as extending from A. D. 395 to 1453, including “the destruction of the Western Empire by the Goths, and the Eastern Empire by the Saracens and Turks.” The half hour’s silence in Heaven (Rev_8:1) he interprets as “the stillness from storms” in “the aerial firmament;” i. e., a continuance, for a brief period, of the calm brought to view, Rev_7:1; by the incense offering he understands the presentation of the prayers of the Sealed before God by Jesus, the great High Priest. The Trumpets he regards as fulfilling the uses of the trumpets under the Levitical law, which uses he represents as two: (1) “as regarded the Israelites, to proclaim the epochs of advancing time;” (2) “during war-time, and as regarded their enemies, to proclaim war against those enemies as from God Himself (Num_10:1-10).” The first four Trumpets he, in common with other interpreters, regards as intimately connected together; and he understands by them the four Gothic ravages which ended in the subversion of the Western Empire. He contends that during the period of these ravages the Roman world was, in fact, divided into three parts, viz. the Eastern (Asia Minor, Syria, Arabia, Egypt); the Central (Mœsia, Greece, Illyricum, Rhœtia); the Western (Italy, Gaul, Britain, Spain, Northwestern Africa); and that the third or Western part was destroyed. The first Trumpet (Rev_8:7): (A. D. 400–410) the Era of Alaric and Rhadagasius. The second (Rev_8:8-9): (A. D. 429–477) the Era of Genseric, to whom “was allotted… the conquest of the maritime provinces of Africa and the islands.” The third (Rev_8:10-11): (A. D. 450–453) the Era of Attila who, as a “baleful meteor,” “moved against the Western provinces along the Upper Danube, reached and crossed the Rhine at Basle, and thence tracing the same great frontier stream of the West down to Belgium, made its valley one scene of desolation and woe;” thence directing his steps to “ ‘the European fountains of waters’ in the Alpine heights and Alpine valleys of Italy.” The fourth (Rev_8:2): (about A. D. 476 or 479) the Era of Odoacer, by whom “the name and office of Roman Emperor of the West was abolished,” and “thus of the Roman imperial Sun, that third which appertained to the Western Empire was eclipsed, and shone no more.” By the Angel (Eagle) flying through mid-heaven (Rev_8:13), he understands the public “forewarnings of coming woe” that prevailed throughout the period from the death of Justinian, A. D. 565, to the rise of Mohammed and the Saracens—forewarnings in (1) the warning utterances of eminent fathers of the Church (Sulpitius Severus, Martin of Tours, Jerome, Hesychius, Evagrius, Theodoret, and especially Gregory the Great); (2) the generally diffused idea that the end of the world was approaching; (3) the threatening “outward state and aspect of things.” The fifth Trumpet (Rev_9:1-11): the Saracenic woe beginning with the public announcement by Mohammed of his alleged mission, A. D. 512, and extending through one hundred and fifty years (five prophetic months, Rev_8:5) to A. D. 762, when, in the establishment of Medinat al Salem (City of Peace) as the capital of the Saracenic Empire and the following tranquillity, occurred what Daubuz calls “the settlement of the locusts.” The sixth Trumpet, Part I. (Rev_8:13-13): the Turkish woe, extending from January 18th, A. D. 1057, the day on which the Turcomans went forth from Bagdad on their career of victory, to the day on which the investiture of Constantinople was completed, to May 16th, A. D. 1453 (i.e., 396 years, 118 days=the prophetic year, month and day, Rev_9:15).
Barnes agrees substantially with Elliott as to the periods of the Trumpets, and the nature of the judgments inflicted under them. He differs in certain points of interpretation, as will be seen under Explanations in Detail.
Wordsworth regards the description of the seventh Seal as closing with Rev_8:1, to be resumed in the glories set forth in chs. 21, 22; and maintains that the Seer then proceeds to portray the Divine judgments, from the beginning, on the enemies of the Church, under the Seven Trumpets. The Trumpets are prefaced by the prayers of the Saints (Rev_8:3-4), in answer to which the judgments are sent forth (Rev_8:5-6). The Trumpets correspond with the woes inflicted upon Egypt (Exo_9:23-26), and to the sevenfold encircling of Jericho (Jos_6:1-20); the first six are preparatory denunciations, warning, calling to repentance, and preparing for the seventh which will convene all nations to the general judgment. The first (Rev_8:7) is a retributive sequel to the second Seal, and represents the woes which fell upon the Roman Empire in the fourth century, when it was smitten by a hail storm from the North (the Gothic invasion). The second (Rev_8:8-9): the uprooting and destruction of Imperial Rome (which had been as a great Volcano) by the Goths, Vandals and Huns. The third (Rev_8:10-11): heretical teachers (represented by the fallen star), who embittered the waters of Holy Scripture. (“In the Seals heresy is represented as a trial of the Church; in the Trumpets it is treated as a judgment inflicted on (godless) men for sins.”) The fourth (Rev_8:12): “a prophecy of the great prevalence of errors, defections, apostasies and confusions in Christendom, such as abounded in the Seventh Century.” The fifth (Rev_9:1-11): the Mohammedan (Saracenic and Turkish) woe. The sixth (Rev_8:13-13): “This vision has revealed. … that the Holy Scriptures (four-fold Gospel), though bound as captives for a time, would be loosed by the command of God, and that they would traverse the world like an innumerable army. And although they are. … ministers of salvation unto many, yet the Vision has declared, that the Holy Scriptures would be like instruments of punishment and death to the enemies of God.” (!)
Alford regards the seventh Seal as having its completion in Rev_8:5; the preparation for the Trumpets, however, he looks upon as “evolved out of the opening of the seventh Seal.” The first four he regards as connected together by “the kind of exercise which their agency finds”—“the plagues indicated by them” being “entirely exercised on natural objects.” The fifth and sixth are in like manner connected; the plagues being inflicted on men—the former by pain, the latter by death; the seventh forming rather the solemn conclusion to the whole than a distinct judgment of itself. He affirms (1) that the series of visions reaches forward to the time of the end, and (2) that the infliction of the plagues is general, no particular city nor people being designated as their object. He assigns no date for the beginning of the Trumpets, and leaves us in doubt as to whether he regarded them as in the process of development or still future.
Lord apparently regards the seventh Seal as closing with Rev_8:5; the silence was symbolic of a short period (1) of contemplation, submission and faith amongst Angels and the Redeemed in Heaven, and (2) of quiet on Earth—the period of repose intervening between the close of persecution, A. D. 311, and the commencement, near the close of that year, of the civil wars by which Constantine was elevated to the throne; the voices, etc. (Rev_8:5), symbolize the agitations and revolutions which attended the elevation of Constantine and the subversion of Paganism. His interpretation of the Trumpets is substantially that of Elliott and Barnes.
Glasgow represents the seventh Seal as comprehending the Trumpets. The period of silence he identifies with the seven and a half days from the Ascension to Pentecost, the smoke of the incense with the Intercession of Christ, the fire thrown on the land with the effusion of the Holy Ghost. The Trumpets he regards as successive: I. The woes ending in the destruction of the Jewish state, one third of the people being destroyed by the Roman army. II. The expatriation of the Jews after the revolt under Barcochba (the mountain burning with the wrath of God cast into the sea of the pagan empire). III. Usurpation of Prelacy. IV. Arianism promoted by Constans and Constantine. V. The Mohammedan woe (Saracens and Turks). VI. The four bound Angels are kings, popes, inquisitors, and councils, previously kept in restraint, but who are now loosed to slay the third part of the men, i. e. true Christians—the period of persecution beginning A. D. 1123, and extending to the Reformation.—E. R. C.]
EXPLANATIONS IN DETAIL
Rev_8:1. Half an hour.—“The anxious expectancy of the inhabitants of Heaven” (Düsterdieck). Classical, but not Biblical: Stupor cœlitum (Eichhorn. Similar interpretations see in Düsterdieck, p. 299). Vitringa: The whole purport of the seventh Seal is: ecclesia in pace! Similar interpretations see in Düsterdieck, p. 301. Hengstenberg offers a most remarkable interpretation: Silence of Christ’s enemies (in Heaven!). We regard Düsterdieck’s polemic against the idea that there is a recapitulation in this place also, as utterly wrong; especially do we object to his unconditional rejection of Lyra’s interpretation, viz. that nothing but the Church’s battle against heretics is depicted, though it is true that this explanation would be applicable only to the sixth Trumpet, if heresies proper were alone involved. The fact that there is a difference between a supposed anxiety in Heaven and a readily intelligible tension of spirit and prayerful mood in the same blessed place needs no further exposition. See the Synoptical View.
[For different views of the
see Add. Note, p. 201 sq. Bishop Newton (after Philo) calls attention to the fact, that “while the sacrifices were made (2Ch_29:25-28), the voices and instruments and trumpets sounded; while the priest went into the Temple to burn incense (Luk_1:10), all were silent, and the people prayed to themselves.” (See also 2Ch_29:29). This silence was, so to speak, intensified on the great day of Atonement when, at the offering of the incense and the sacrifice, all save the High Priest withdrew from the Sanctuary (see Lev_16:17; also Kitto’s Cyc., Articles Atonement [Day of] and Incense). It was said to the souls under the altar in answer to their cries (the cries of their blood for vengeance), that they should rest until the full number of martyrs (or the time of martyrdom) had been completed (Rev_6:9-11). On the completion of the number, or the time (it matters not which, for they would be completed together), the Seer beheld in symbolic vision the offering, by the Great High Priest, of their prayers (doubtless inclusive of the cry of the blood of their sacrifice), together with the incense of His own merits before the Throne—it was fitting that during that highest offering every creature sound, even that of praise, should be hushed in Heaven.—E. R. C.]
Rev_8:2. And I saw.—This scene, depicted in Rev_8:2-6, can have taken place only in the pause of the
. Heaven is sunk in prayerful silence; it is also, however, busy preparing to encounter the ill effects of the events which transpire at the blast of the seven Trumpets. According to Ebrard, this scene of preparation takes place after the silence; according to Düsterdieck, the silence ceases with Rev_8:5, since there we read of thunder and voices. (Further on, however, he also makes the
end with Rev_8:6.) But these latter are but the general consequences of the sacred fire cast upon the earth.
The seven Angels who stand [Lange: Stood] before God; not who stepped [took their stations] before God (Luther). But neither is the reference to seven Angels who, by preference, stand permanently before God (Düsterdieck; Archangels, De Wette; the seven Spirits, Ewald). They are, undoubtedly, the Angels of the seven Trumpets (Ebrard, Hengstenberg), and the article—the seven Angels—has reference to the presupposition that these seven stand ready, waiting their Divine commission. With Hengstenberg, the idea of the seven Archangels shifts into that of Angels whose number is modified by that of the Trumpets.
Seven Trumpets.—See above. For an archæological treatise on the Trumpets, see Hengstenberg, p. 432 sqq. [Eng. Trans., p. 395 sqq.].
Rev_8:3. Another Angel.—“The other Angel, like the one mentioned in Revelation 7, is to be regarded as a real Angel,” says Düsterdieck. The meaning of this is, that the Apocalypse is not to be treated as a symbolical Book in this passage either. Hengstenberg, also, at first regards the Angel here described as occupying merely the position of a carrier, although he subsequently remarks that he is nothing but a symbolical figure. Manifestly, the former view is in opposition to the text. This Angel ministers at the heavenly altar of incense. For it is to such an altar alone that the present passage refers, as Grotius and others maintain; not to an altar of burnt-offering, as is the opinion of Hofmann and Ebrard.
The question might well be asked: What idea should we connect with a heavenly altar of burnt-offering? The altar of incense is quite another thing. Comp. Düsterdieck’s polemic against Hofmann and Ebrard, p. 305.
The attribute of this Angel is the golden censer; by the heavenly incense, which he burns, the prayers of all the Saints on earth are perfected. This Angel can even pour the holy altar fire upon the earth and waken voices, thunders, lightnings and earthquake. Can an Angel do all this? Such forced literalism should surely not bear the name of historical interpretation. If consistently retained, it would here of necessity lead to the Roman Catholic idea of angelic mediation. The inquiry is historical as to who is elsewhere in Scripture to be regarded as the perfecter of earthly petitions, by heavenly intercession or by the heavenly administration of prayer. The result of such inquiry precludes the possibility of this Angel being taken for any but Christ, in accordance with Bede, Böhmerr, and many others (1Jn_2:1), or the Holy Ghost (Rom_8:26). It might, however, also be maintained, that the heavenly perfecting of human prayers is generally represented by a symbolic angelic form (Grotius: angelus precum ecclesiæ).
A golden censer.—On
see the lexicons.
There was given unto him much incense.—Much of the spirit of prayer, of heavenly renunciation and heavenly confidence.
[Of what was the incense of the Tabernacle symbolic? In seeking an answer to this question, it should be remembered that it was compounded of the most precious spices, that in its normal condition it was most holy (Exo_30:34-36), but at the same time inefficacious for its peculiar uses until consumed by fire from the altar of burnt-offering; thus consumed, however, it was that without which the High Priest could not enter the Holy of Holies to offer the blood of the Atonement (Lev_16:12-14), and with which every morning and evening was sanctified (Exo_30:7-9). What can it symbolize but the excellencies of the God-man, most holy in their normal condition, but made effluent and efficacious for atonement and sanctification only by fire from the Altar of Sacrifice?—E. R. C.]
That he should add it to the prayers.—
has been differently interpreted to mean: as the prayers; in the prayers; or among them. The attempt has also been made by emendations and constructions to improve the simple sense, that this incense was intended for the prayers of the saints, that is, for their heavenly supplementation and perfection (Vitr., Calov. and others).
Upon the golden altar.—This, according to Ebrard, is the altar of incense, whilst, on the other hand, the altar mentioned elsewhere, in Rev_8:3; Rev_8:5, is an altar of burnt-offering. The altar of burnt-offering in Rev_6:9 should not be cited in support of this view, for that is to be found, in a symbolical sense, on earth. If, however, this description of a golden altar before the Throne be applied to the idea of the Temple, the golden altar is the Ark of the Covenant, Rev_11:19. The Ark of the Covenant was really an altar, and that the third and holiest; it was also golden. According to Lev_16:12—a passage misconstrued by Ebrard, p. 281; see in opposition to him Düsterdieck, p. 305—the offering of incense was, on the great Day of Atonement, made over the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of holies.
Rev_8:4. And the smoke. … ascended.—Ebrard: “The prayers of the Saints had ascended long before this; but had hitherto not been heard.” This relation between earthly prayers and heavenly intercessions, or perfectings, cannot possibly, however, be thus parted into separate times. The human prayers are, as it were, swallowed up by the smoke of the heavenly incense, whose attributive destination is “to the prayers of the Saints;” in this form, the smoke rises before God—locally speaking, this can mean only: over the Ark of the Covenant. Thus is the perfect acceptability of the prayers expressed. Their acceptance and answering is also, however, symbolically Bet forth.
Rev_8:5. And the Angel took the censer.—He fills it with fire from the altar of incense, and casts the fire upon the earth. Thus, rightly, Düsterdieck. Ebrard, on the other hand, is of opinion, that he must have taken the fire from the altar of burnt-offering, and then have set the censer down upon the altar of incense. Hence the fire, he thinks, is indicative of the flame in which the martyrs were burned, and is to be regarded as a fire of judgment. It is not to be wondered at that Hengstenberg even here finds a close connection between the fire of prayer and the fire of zeal which shall consume the adversaries. According to him, the silence in Heaven itself is but a silence of the annihilated enemies of God upon earth (p. 424 [Eng. Trans., p. 392 sq.]). Here, however, we have to do with the heavenly fire of Divine providence, which, having perfected the prayers, is now become a fire of saving grace. By its being cast upon the earth, the earth is rendered capable of bearing the judgments now following; by no means, however, are these voices, thunders, lightnings and earthquake significant of the judgments themselves. Comp. the voices, Mat_3:17; Mat_17:5; the thunder, Joh_12:29; the earthquake, Mat_28:2; Act_4:31; Act_16:26.
[The fire with which the incense was ignited was taken from the altar of burnt-offering (Lev_16:12); it is probable, however, that the coals cast upon the earth were taken from the golden altar, where the incense had been consumed: the fire of sacrifice which made effluent the virtues of Christ for the blessing of His people is poured back on earth for vengeance. The following explanation is suggested in Kitto’s Cyc. (Art. Incense), which is worthy of consideration: “A silver shovel was first filled with live coals (at the altar of burnt-offering), and afterwards emptied into a golden one, smaller than the former, so that some of the coals were spilled (Mishna, Tamid, v. 5, Yoma, iv. 4).” It is possible that this Temple custom may have been reproduced in the vision; the preceding explanation, however, seems the more probable.—E. R. C.]
Hengstenberg regards the earthquake as “the presage of imminent great revolutions.” But, be it observed, the earthquake was induced by fire from Heaven, which can here properly be said only of reformations. [?]
For general observations on the first four Trumpets, see Düsterdieck, p. 308.
Rev_8:7. Hail and fire, mingled with blood.—Comp. Exo_9:24; Joe_2:30. Düst.: “To explain allegorically all that John now sees,” i. e. to assume that the Apocalypse is a symbolico-allegorical Book,[“is an undertaking, which, there being no ground for it whatever in the text, can lead to nothing but arbitrary guesswork.”]. By sticking to the letter of the text, on the other hand, we arrive at the conclusion, that the third part of the earth (the surface of the earth, with all that is thereon) is burnt up, “and, still more, the third part of the trees and all the grass upon the whole earth.” All the abortive interpretations in the world cannot make us abandon our conviction that the Apocalypse has an allegorical meaning.
Düsterdieck cites Bede: Pœna gehennæ Grotius: Judæorum obduratio and iracundia sanguinaria (not bad!); Wetstein: Arma civilia, etc., p. 310. Sander, better than many others, interprets the figure as significant of the fire of false devotion, joined with bloodshed, placing the same, however, in the definite period of the time succeeding Constantine. The Kreuzritter thinks the migration of nations is referred to. Paulus believes that a great scarcity and famine is intended (the soil and vegetation being particularly involved in the dispensation). Gärtner thinks there is a reference to Arianism.
[By this Trumpet, Elliott and Barnes understand the desolation of the Western Empire by the Goths under Alaric and Rhadagasius (see p. 201; where also Elliott’s exposition of “the third part” may be found). These commentators regard their hypothesis as confirmed by the fact, that the nature of one of the elements of the plague (hail) indicates it as coming from the North, and the further fact that it was upon “the land” indicates that it was to fall on the continental provinces. Both these conditions were fulfilled in the invasion contemplated. Bishop Newton, who previously presented this view, farther supports it by the following extract from Philostorgius, a historian who wrote in this period: “The sword of the barbarians destroyed the greatest multitude of men; and among other calamities, dry heats with flashes of flame and whirlwinds of fire occasioned various and intolerable terrors; yea, and hail greater than could be held in a man’s hand fell down in several places, weighing as much as eight pounds (Hist. Ecc. l. 2. Revelation 7).” He also quotes from Claudian, who, in his poem on this very war, (De Bello Getico, 8:173), compares the invaders to a storm of hail.—E. R. C.]
See Jer_51:25; Exo_7:20.
“The text,” remarks Düsterdieck, “contains nothing of an allegorical nature.” And this though the literal apprehension admits of positively no well-founded conception. The above-cited commentator quotes, in illustration of the allegorical interpretation, Bede: Diabolus, etc., in mare sæculi missus est; Grotius: The mountain is the arx Antonia in Jerusalem; Hengstenberg, who, he says, “entertains, in general, the view, that all the Trumpet-visions except the last are representative of the same thing, viz. war;” Ebrard: The volcanic, Titanic energy of egoism, etc. Ebrard likewise supposes that the mountain is a volcano (like the Throne of God, Revelation 4.), which, by reason of its inward raging violence, plunges into the sea (
is subversive of this view). Düsterdieck believes the
to be indicative of the fact, that only a mass of fire resembling a great mountain is intended. But since the mountain is always significant of a fixed and permanent order of things,
merely denotes that this mountain lacks the reality of the spiritual mountain-nature. The same truth is involved in the fact, that the mountain is on fire, and that hence, to counteract its conflagration, it is thrown into the sea. Christian history is acquainted with many such burning mountains, which, by reason of fanaticism, have incurred judgment—beginning with the destruction of Jerusalem, the fall of Judaism, the casting of which into the sea of nations resulted in a considerable empoisonment of national life. Similarly, not only have states subsequently fallen—as, for instance, the