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The fifth Angel sounds his Trumpet. Great and fearful Signs follow. The first Woe is past. The sixth Angel succeeds, and soundeth his Trumpet, and very awful Events take place in the Earth.
(1) 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. (2) 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. (3) 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. (4) And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. (5) And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. (6) And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them. (7) And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. (8) And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. (9) And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. (10) And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months. (11) And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon. (12) One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.
The first thing to be noted in this account, by way of ascertaining the sense and meaning of it, is what is said, that to this star was given the of the bottomless pit, which clearly defines a person. For a star, literally considered, could not receive a key. So that here we gain one point towards our discovery. The next light thrown upon the passage is, that he is said to fall from heaven unto, the earth, that is, from the Church, frequently called Heaven, Hebrews 12:22 ; Revelation 21:2 . Hence, the person alluded to must have been, by profession at least, of the Church, (that is, one who in words acknowledged Christ,) before his fall from it. No w, there is no character in all the history of mankind, to whom it can be applied with such propriety as Mahomet, the false prophet. This impostor, as appears by his history, for a time professed Christianity. And what he hath said of Christ in his Alcoran, though most sadly perverted, shows what information he had acquired in head knowledge, concerning the Lord Jesus. Some, however, have thought, that the Pope of Rome is here meant. And some have thought, that both Mahomet and the Pope are alike intended. Certain it is, that both arose much about the same time, at the opening of the seventh century, about the year of our Lord God 600. But I think, that Mahomet is principally, if not altogether intended; because the transactions under the fifth and sixth trumpets, are chiefly, if not altogether, concerning the East; whereas the Pope's heresy is in the West. I confess, indeed, that the power here said to be exercised by him over the bottomless pit, best corresponds with the Pope, since by his, claims respecting purgatory, it should seem to be the most suited to him. But as the imposture of the false prophet, as well as the Pope both sprung from hell, it suits either, or both of them.
There is somewhat very striking in the account here given of opening the bottomless pit, and a smoke arising like the smoke of a furnace, to darken the sun and air. Whether Mahomet, or the Pope, their counsel is from hell. And the temptations of Satan, do not un-frequently darken the bright rays of Christ, the sun of righteousness, to his people's view. Not that Christ is himself obscured, for He shines forever the same. But his people, by reason of the clouds, do not always alike see him; just as the clouds in nature, which make sometimes a dark day. Angels above the clouds, in the clear atmosphere of the heavens, look down upon them, and they are not dark. It is only to us, who inhabit the regions below, which live under their influence, that are sensible of their quality.
I beg the Reader to make the same observation respecting these locusts as was before made of the key of the bottomless pit, that they, mean the persons of men: called locusts because of their number, and swarming as do those pernicious insects of the earth, and because of their deadly quality in poisoning. But that men are meant by then is evident, inasmuch as they were prohibited from hurting the grass, or herbage, or trees. It is men they were to hurt, and them only that were unsealed. There is somewhat very blessed in this information, for several reasons, and I pray the Reader not to overlook either.
First. It forms one of the sweetest thoughts, that the Lord had many then, and hath many now, of his hidden ones, in this Eastern part of the world, where the Impostor set up his standard, to oppose Christ; for otherwise, this precept, amounting to a prohibition, that they should only hurt those men which had not the seal of God in their foreheads, would have been unnecessary. I beg the Reader not to lose sight of this.
And, secondly. Let him take another precious thought from this passage, and observe, that God had sealed his people, though he permitted them, for wise purposes we cannot explain, to live under such governments.
And thirdly. Let him consider, that though now at this time, the awful delusion of this imposture hath continued for more than twelve hundred years, and is as great in its horrible tyranny over the consciences and bodies of men as ever; yet they of the Lord's people who are there still, are known to Christ, and known by Christ; and from time to time, are gathered out, and gathered home to Christ, to whom the gathering of his people must be, Genesis 49:10 .
Some have thought, and I see no reason to reject the observation, that by the grass which these locusts were prohibited from hurting, is meant, the humble followers of the Lord, who are low in the earth. And by the trees are meant the higher of the Lord's people, who are like the cedars of Lebanon. It may be so. But the most blessed thought is, that both, and every other, their safety is in being sealed, secured, and everlastingly blessed, in Christ. Come not near any on whom is the mark! Ezekiel 9:6 .
I do not mean to speak decidedly, when I say, I humbly presume, of what is said, that it was given to those locusts not to kill them, (that is, the Lord's people,) but that they should be tormented five months, is meant, not in relation to their bodies; for, certain it is, the false prophet slaughtered many who refused to abjure Christ; neither to their souls, for their power reached not to this spiritual part; but to the electing grace of God in Christ, on which account they were sealed. And this view of the subject, if I am right, becomes a sweet and precious subject indeed! Was it not this (I ask the question,) wherein Satan was prohibited, in the instance of Job? Behold! said God to the enemy, he is in thine hand, but save his life; that is, his person, according to the margin in Isaiah. Election is personal. Compare Job 2:6 with Isaiah 43:4 .
What is said of the figure of the locusts, their shape, and head, and crowns, together with their having a king over them, becomes only a confirmation that men are all along intended, and not reptiles. And here again, this authority is so much in resemblance both to Mahomet and the Pope, that it may be truly said, it is impossible to ascertain which it suits most. They are both properly called Abaddon, or Apollyon, which signifies a destroyer. Which hath destroyed most, is beyond all human knowledge to say; the Impostor of the East, or the son of perdition, as the Pope is elsewhere called, of the West, 2 Thessalonians 2:3 . But both, we are told, shall be finally cast alive into a lake of fire, burning with brimstone, Revelation 19:20 .
Reader let us pause for a moment, over the solemn subject! What awful events did the fifth trumpet dispensation bring, in the permission of two such dreadful heresies to arise, one in the East, and the other in the West. Who would have thought, when the empire became Christian, though only in the name, and profession of it; that such events would follow? And what a mystery it is, even now, that those antichristian powers should remain down to the present era, through a period of more than twelve hundred years!
One word more, while we are in a world of mysteries. What a time Satan hath had, from Adam's Call, to the present hour, over the whole earth, yea, God's children also, while uncalled by grace; and what ten thousand sighs, and groans, hath he called forth by his cruelty, from every heart of our nature, from the first of creation, to the end of the time-state, for to that time his empire is to extend?
And doth the Reader ponder thee things with amazement, and do they appear to him perfectly unfathomable? Let him then turn his thoughts within, and for a moment study that world of iniquity; I mean his own heart. And, if so be that the Lord hath called my Reader, by his regenerating grace, to a new, and spiritual life in Christ Jesus; he will learn more at home, by way of explaining things abroad, than all the books upon earth (excepting the Book of God) can teach him on the subject, to all eternity.
In false prophets, and lying deceivers, we behold the word of God fulfilled. They were of old ordained to this condemnation: Jude 1:4 . In Satan and his devices, we discover the cause of his malice; the devil is come down upon the earth having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time, Revelation 12:12 . In all these, we discover from God's word, both cause and effect. But, when God chooseth the heart of a sinner for his temple, and He who inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, prefers to abide there, which before was occupied by unclean devils; and instead of taking delight in making the heaven for his throne, and the earth for his footstool, sets up his throne in the broken and contrite heart, saying, here will I dwell, for I have a delight therein? here is a subject, enough to set all the world a wondering, and can only be explained by the words of God himself: my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord! Isaiah 55:8 .
(13) And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, (14) Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. (15) And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men. (16) And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them. (17) And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. (18) By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths. (19) For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt. (20) And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: (21) Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
Here we have the opening of the dispensation under the sixth trumpet ushered in with this solemn preface: One woe is past; and behold, there come two woes more hereafter! Reader! let us attend to what is here said, and ponder it well. For most certain it is, the present time-state of the Church is now under it. And when it will finish, and the two woes in it be accomplished, who shall say? Great events are involved in it, and which must come to pass before it will end; these things are most certain. It hath already run on to many hundred years; and the hour, and day, and month, and year allowed to it, are not yet fulfilled.
One point concerning this sixth trumpet, most clearly proves that it refers to the East; namely, in that the river Euphrates is by name mentioned. And the establishment of the empire of the impostor Mahomet, and his successors, over the East, is no less a proof that his is the delusion meant. Indeed, the propagating his imposture by sword, and with the army almost incredible, as here described, is a full confirmation.
I take great pleasure in calling the Reader's attention once more to the sealing of Israel, as represented Chapter 7 who occupied those parts, where the impostor's sword was to make great ravages. And, I beg the Reader never to lose sight of it, as often as he calls to mind the vast territories Mahometanism and Paganism still occupy in the East, and will occupy, until that blessed period shall arrive, when the Deliverer shall arise out of Zion, to turn away ungodliness from Jacob. In the mean time, it is a rich and full consolatory thought, the Lord's sealed ones are saved ones. Jesus hath marked them as his own; and it is his province to gather them out of all places, whither they are scattered in the cloudy and dark day, Ezekiel 34:12 .
One of the most interesting parts in this whole book of God, and which meets us more or less, everywhere through it, and in all directions, is the presence of Christ, giving commands, and guiding the whole events of his Church. This the Prophet Ezekiel learnt, in that vision which he saw, and from whence he was enabled, and directed to teach the Church, Ezekiel 1:26 . And John, in like manner, in these visions he here relates, is observing the same thing.
When the sixth Angel sounded, John saith, he heard a voice from the four horns of the golden Altar, which is before God. Several very interesting views arise from hence.
First. It could be no other than Christ that John heard, for the golden Altar is the propitiatory, or mercy-seat, for intercession. So that, a voice from hence, must have been Jesus speaking. He is the only Mediator, and High Priest, Exodus 30:1-10 .
Secondly. It is blessed to recollect he is always there. The opening of this trumpet dispensation, opens with this view of him, carrying on the office of his everlasting, unchanging priesthood, Hebrews 7:21-28 .
Thirdly. His command to the Angel, to loose the four Angels, proves no less, that he is a Priest upon his throne, and whom all the angels worship and obey, Zechariah 6:12-13 ; Hebrews 1:3-6 ; 1 Peter 3:22 .
Fourthly. The sameness of Christ, in his Person, in his Royalty, in his government, and watchful eye over his Church, is sweetly set forth on this occasion, as in the instance before, when he ascended from the East to seal his servants. There, the four Angels were commanded by him, to hold the winds till he had sealed them. And here, the four Angels, now the Lord had sealed his servants, were to let loose the ravages of the army on the Euphrates, for the carrying on the purposes of his government. Reader! what a mercy it is to have such an High Priest, such an Head, and Husband of his Church and People! Whatever events yet remain to be accomplished, under this sixth trumpet dispensation, oh! for grace to call to mind Jesus is at the four horns of the golden Altar before God! Oh! for faith to hear his gracious voice, as John heard, and to have our souls made blessed as John's was, in the grace and faith that is in Christ Jesus!
The close of this Chapter is very awful. It is said, that amidst all the persecutions which these enemies brought against the Church, and with which also they oppressed the world, the innumerable murders they committed, the sorceries they practiced, their fornication and thefts, they felt no sorrow, neither repentance. Reader! this is a sad but true representation of man, in his fallen, unrenewed state, and universally becomes true, not only in the instance of those here spoken of, but of the whole earth. There can be no true repentance, but from the grace of God. There can be no grace, but by regeneration. Without the new-birth, the heart remains hardened, through the deceitfulness of sin; yea, the spirit is dead in trespasses and sins, Hence, amidst all the studied reforms of men, all the fastings, and penance, and alms-giving, and stripes, pilgrimages, and vows, which the world hath set up, not an individual of the human race, from Adam downward, ever truly repented, unless a work of sovereign grace by regeneration, is wrought in the heart, to bring the sinner to God. Till God takes away the heart of stone, and gives the heart of flesh, there is no alteration of the old nature. If all the devils now in hell were liberated from their chains, devils they would still remain. And the damned spirits of the dead now there, must be everlastingly the same, since no repentance is given them. Think then, what an unspeakable mercy it must be, in the person and every instance of the Lord's people, when the Lord calls them by his grace, from the power of darkness, and translates them into the kingdom of his dear Son! Colossians 1:12-13 .
I must not close this Chapter, without first observing, that what is here said of worshipping devils, and idols of gold and silver, and of their murders and sorceries, and the like, seems to be much more suited to the Western heresy, than to the Eastern. We do not find in the fabled religion of Mahomet, and his imposture, anything like what is here said of the worship of idols, though abounding, as his infamous doctrine doth, of fornications and adulteries, and uncleanness, which the false prophet grants to his followers, yea, making the future paradise, which he holds out to them in another world, to be made up of the fullest gratification of all their sensual lusts. But the worshipping idols, in praying to crucifixes and the images of pretended saints, these things belong to the Western heresy under the Pope, and indeed very clearly define that character. She also, no less than Mahomet, hath her allowances of fornication, and uncleanness, and murders innumerable in her inquisition through all ages, even to the present hour, and is said to be drunken with the blood of the saints, Revelation 17:6 . And what can it be more properly called than sorceries, the exorcisms and pretended holy water, which are used to amuse and deceive the credulous? And what less name than thefts can it be called, the immense sums which in all ages have been gathered by the Pope and his priest's, in pretending to pray souls out of purgatory, and putting up masses for the dead? These things, which are the notorious traffic of the Western heresy, plainly define the character here meant. So, that though the former part in the opening of the sixth trumpet began at the river Euphrates, in the Turkish dominions, and most evidently alluded to Mahomet and his imposture, yet this latter part, as plainly refers to the heresy in the West, and points to the Pope, and his imposture. And there can be no impropriety in considering both. For the sixth trumpet includes in its operations, a period of many hundred years, and is not yet finished, neither will indeed, until in the days of the voice of the seventh Angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God shall be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the Prophets, Revelation 10:7 . Reader! pause over the contemplation, as we behold both these horrible delusions, which have been permitted as the scourge of the Church, for so many ages and generations. And while meditating on the subject, look up for grace, and you will find some very sweet and precious instructions arising therefrom, if so be the Lord is your Teacher.
As first, T he opposition from hell, to Christ and his kingdom, hath been all along permitted for the greater glory of God, and the good of his Church. The serpent's head when bruised, to intimate in due appointed time, his total and everlasting destruction, was to be accompanied with the bruising the seed of the Woman in the heel. Christ eminently proved this, in his unequalled sufferings. And all his redeemed, from the first martyr Abel, down to the present hour, and so on to the end of time, prove the same.
Secondly. The conflict though painful, hath a sure issue. The God of peace will bruise Satan under the feet of all his redeemed shortly. Satan having by his temptations overcome our nature, and involved the Church, as well as the world, in the ruins of the fall, hath made even Christ's mystical members, his lawful captives. For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage, 2 Peter 2:19 . But the head of those members hath overcome him, and therefore the Lord thus speaks. Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, Or the lawful captive be delivered? But thus saith the Lord, even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children. And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh, and they shall be drunken with their own blood as with sweet wine, and all flesh shall know, that I the Lord am thy Savior, and thy Redeemer, the mighty one of Jacob, Isaiah 49:24-26 .
Thirdly. In the mean time, God's sealed ones, are all saved ones. No weapon formed against them shall prosper. Their enemies may be permitted, to persecute, yea, burn, destroy, or kill the body. And martyrdom is blessed, when it is endured for Christ's sake. Prophets, Apostles, and Saints have waded through blood to the kingdom. Yea, Jesus himself, pre-eminent in all things, was in preeminent in suffering. But the end is peace. Fear not little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom, Luke 12:32 .
Lastly. When the sixth trumpet is fully run out, and all the woes to the Church are ended, then comes the Church's everlasting triumph. Then that event will take place, and which all the redeemed shall see, and they whose souls are now under the Altar calling for judgment, shall all rejoice together, when the devil that deceived the world, and the beast, and false prophet shall be all cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, and shall be tormented day and night forever. Amen!
READER! behold how the Lord's judgments rise higher and higher, in the scale of punishment! The four first trumpets were bringing forward very awful visitations in the earth, but those two of the woe trumpets, how far have they already exceeded in affliction! And who shall say what yet remains to be unfolded, before the period of the sixth trumpet is finished! Let you and I pause, as we contemplate the subject. Let us behold and look behold over the long space of so many centuries which have run out, since at the voice of the sixth trumpet sounding, the Lord Christ gave command, to loose the four angels at the river Euphrates. Contemplate what ravages have been made! what slaughters followed. And yet no reform, no repentance, no one effect of contrition produced, by the chastisement! Let us next look at home. Doth not the question arise, nationally considered, what then are we better than they! No, in no wise. What, though the worship of images is not by law established, and prayers to images and saints we are not commanded to do, yet, is the Lord Jesus Christ more honored than before? Is his Godhead, and his blood and righteousness, considered by all ranks of our people, as the very foundation of the faith once delivered to the saints? Alas! how greatly the reverse in this Christ-despising day and generation! And while like a flood, the awful heresy of denying his Godhead is running through the land, and threatens to carry all before it, there are no laws of restraint to stop the pulpit or the press, from saying or doing as their corrupt nature unsubdued by grace may tempt them, against the glorious Person and finished salvation of the Lord Our Righteousness. And what may we suppose will follow such daring ungodliness. Surely, if we calculate from what is past, what is probable to follow, before the sixth woe trumpet hath finished his period, very desolating consequences may be looked for. The ear of faith may hear that voice which was once heard and again and again repeated; and never more suited than now. Shall I not visit for these things, saith the Lord, shall not my soul be avenged of such a nation as this.
One sweet thought will comfort the Lord's faithful ones, under all. Jesus is as the helm. All plagues, whether locusts or men, whether fire or sword, have their power from him. The Church of God is still the Church of God, and everyone is sealed by him. Oh! the precious assurance. Here then Reader, every child of God may safely say with the Prophet, Lord! in the way of thy judgments have we waited for thee.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Revelation 9". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent