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Bible Commentaries

Seiss' Lectures on Leviticus and Revelation

Revelation 9

Verses 1-12

Revelation 9:1-66.9.12

Lecture 19.

(Revelation 8:13; Revelation 9:1-66.9.12)

THE WOE-TRUMPETS-THE EAGLE IN MID-HEAVEN-CLASS TO WHICH HE BELONGS-MERCY IN JUDGMENT-THE FIFTH TRUMPET-THE FALLEN STAR-THE LOCUSTS FROM THE ABYSS-THEIR FORMS, INTELLIGENCE, AND TORMENTS-NOT JEWISH ZEALOTS-NOT GOTHS AND VANDALS-NOT ADHERENTS AND PROPAGATORS OF FALSE DOCTRINE-NOT THE LUTHERANS-NOT THE SARACENS-BELONG TO THE DAY OF THE LORD-HELL TORMENTS A REALITY.

Revelation 8:13; Revelation 9:1-66.9.12. (Revised Text.)-And I beheld, and heard one eagle flying in mid-heaven, saying with a great voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the dwellers on the earth, by reason of the remaining voices of the trumpet of the three angels who are yet to sound.

And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star out of the heaven fallen into the earth; and to him was given the key of the well-pit of the abyss; and he opened the well-pit of the abyss; and there came out of the well-pit smoke, as smoke of a great furnace; and the sun was darkened, and the air, from the smoke of the well-pit. And out of the smoke came forth locusts into the earth; and to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was commanded them that they shall not injure the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads. And it was given to them that they should not kill them, but that they shall be tormented five months; and their torment [is] as the torment of a scorpion when he hath struck a man. And in those days the men shall seek death, and they shall not find it; and they shall fervently desire to die, and death fleeth from them.

And the forms of the locusts [are] like unto horses prepared for war; and on their heads as it were crowns like unto gold, and their faces as it were faces of men. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as of lions. And they had breastplates, as breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings, as the sound of chariots of many horses running into battle. And they have tails like unto scorpions and stings; and in their tails their power to injure the men five months. They have over them a king, the angel of the abyss, his name in Hebrew, Abaddon, and in the Greek he hath name Apollyon.

The one woe is past; behold, there cometh yet two woes after these things.


Four trumpets have been considered. The three most distinguished ones yet remain. They have a special preface, consisting of a heavenly proclamation of woe, woe, woe to the dwellers on the earth. It is a pre-announcement of the general character of what is to come, and a merciful forewarning of the judgments which these remaining trumpets are to bring. It is from this that they have the name of woe-trumpets. Let us then look:

I. AT THIS PRELIMINARY PROCLAMATION.

II. AT THE NATURE OF THE FIRST WOE.

I. Our English version describes this proclamation as made by an angel. This is admitted to be an erroneous reading. It is not sustained by the best and oldest manuscripts. The Codex Sinaiticus, the Codex Alexandrinus, and the Codex Vaticanus, the very best and most reliable authorities on the true reading of the New Testament, have ἀετος, eagle, instead of ἀγγελος, angel. The Syriac has eagle. Griesbach, Scholz, Lachman, Van Ess, Hengstenberg, Stuart, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Wordsworth, Ewald, Alford, and the best critics in general, accept eagle as the proper and original reading. Bengel, a century and a half ago, wrote "the Italian version, and other most ancient authorities, widely separated from each other in age and clime, and in very great numbers, clearly vindicate the reading of ἀετου, eagle, from all suspicion of gloss." As this agent is in heaven and speaks intelligent words, it is easily to be seen how interpreters and transcribers, on the ground of congruity, might be tempted to read angel instead of eagle; but, on the supposition that the original was angel, it is impossible to explain how the best, and the vast majority of ancient copies, came to have it eagle. I, therefore, take the true reading, and the only one critically defensible, to be eagle.


Are there, then, rapacious birds in heaven? No; nothing of the kind.

There are other eagles besides birds. The Saviour himself has spoken of them in more than one place. Speaking of the day of His future coming, He said to His disciples: "I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where [whither], Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together." (Luke 17:34-42.17.37)


Here, then, those ready and watching saints, who are to be mysteriously conveyed away from the earth upon the first manifestation of the day of the Lord, are called eagles. We find them spoken of also in the Saviour's great prophetic discourse in Matthew 24:26-40.24.28, where He admonishes His people not to trouble or disturb themselves to find Him in the day of His coming, and not to heed those who shall say, Behold, He is here, or there; "for," says He, "as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be; for wheresoever the carcass [slain body] is, there will the eagles be gathered together." Here, as Hilary observes, "He calls His saints eagles, soaring, as it were, to Him, the body, by a spiritual flight."


There are some who take these eagles to mean the Roman armies, which bore the eagle on their standards; and consider the carcass to be the corrupt Jewish population and state which the Romans destroyed. But the whole face and intent of the passage, and the common voice of antiquity, and of the great reformers, unite in referring the description to Christ and His people, at the time of the second Advent. We are naturally repelled from the idea that Christ should be represented as a dead body, or that His meek followers should be likened to birds of prey. But when more carefully considered, there appears eminent propriety in the figure.

Jesus is the Saviour, most of all by His death. It is by His fall that we rise, and by His death that we live. "He that was dead" is one of His particular titles, though He is alive for evermore. He gave His flesh for the life of the world. His own word is: "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day: for my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed." (John 6:53-43.6.55.)


He has also instituted a holy sacrament, concerning which He says: "Take, eat; this is my body which is broken for you. Drink; this is my blood which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins." He is the Lamb "slain from the foundation of the world." He is, therefore, the true slain body on which all saints feed, to whom they are gathered in spirit, faith, and loving sympathy now, and to whom they shall be gathered in person hereafter, to see Him as He is, and to be with Him forever. And as saints have their life from the slain Christ, they are rightfully likened to the eagles which live on fallen bodies. They are eagles of faith. They feed on the body and blood of their Saviour, broken and shed for them.[62]

[62] The congregated eagles are the assembly of saints and martyrs."--Chrysostom. "Christians are compared to eagles, because they partake in the royalty of Christ."--Origen. "Eagles are the saints whose youth is renewed like the eagles (Psalms 103:5), and who, according to the saying of Isaiah 40:31, mount up with wings as eagles, that they may ascend to Christ."--Jerome. "Christ's body crucified is that of which it is said: 'My flesh is meat indeed.'" (John 6:55.) "The eagles, which fly on the wings of the Spirit, flock to this body. To this body the eagles are gathered who believe Christ to have come in the flesh." (1 John 4:2.) "They fly to Him as to a dead body, because He died for us, so as all the saints fly to Christ wherever He is, and hereafter, as eagles, will be caught up to Him in the clouds"--Augustine. "As the eagles are gathered where the carcass is, so shall Christ's people be gathered where He is."--Luther.

As additional authorities on the same subject, we name Ambrose, Theophylact, Euthemius, Calvin, Brentius, Bullinger, Bucer, Gaulter, Beza, Pellican, Flacius, Musculus, Paræus, Piscater, Cocceius, Jansenius, Quesnel, Du Veil, Calovius, Suicer, Ravanell, Poole, Trapp, Cartwright, Pearce, Leigh, Andrewes, Wordsworth, etc.


But not all Christians are to the same extent, and so preeminently, the eagles. The eagle is a royal bird. It stands at the head of the feathered tribes, as the lion among beasts. There are also different orders and classes of saintship, as there are degrees of sanctity and spiritual attainment. When the Saviour first comes, according to His own word, He will take some and leave others--honour some servants, and cut off some other servants. And those who are "taken" while others are "left," are particularly and emphatically "the eagles." They are the heirs of royalty and dominion. They are to have crowns. They are to share in the official honours of eternity, as none but themselves ever will. And the qualities of these are eminently the qualities of eagles.


Eagles are great watchers. They have a quick, clear, penetrating, and far-reaching vision. In this respect they excel all birds. It is almost impossible to surprise or deceive them. Audubon once placed himself in ambush to watch an eagle's nest. The parent birds were absent when he took his position. When the female returned, "ere she alighted she glanced her quick and piercing eye around, and instantly perceived her haunt had been discovered, and, dropping her prey, with a loud shriek communicated the alarm to her mate." And the eagle saints are those who are not taken unawares when the day of the Lord comes. That day is to come as a thief, with stealth, unobserved by the common world; but it cannot surprise them. They are on the lookout for it. They have a clear and keen vision for all signs of its nearness, and they exercise that vision. They are ever on the watch, as commanded by the Lord. Whatever the duties in which they are engaged, both in their going out and in their coming in, they are never unmindful of what may at any time occur. They know their danger and they know their safety, and exercise a corresponding circumspection.

Eagles have elevated aspirations and instincts. They prefer the heights, both when they soar and when they rest. They make their homes among the most inaccessible crags, and excel all birds in their sublime ascensions. So eagle saints have their citizenship in heaven. They live in the world, but all their feelings, aims, affections, and desires are above it. Their greatest impulses are upward, ever upward. They love the higher atmosphere and the sublimer sunlight above the clouds and malarious mists and dangers of earthiness. They build their nests in the mountains of God, and prefer and long to be where they are never more annoyed with the vexations and dangers of this sordid world.

Eagles are stronger of wing than other birds. Their swiftness and power are astonishing. So the eagle saints are distinguished by their vigour of faith and hope. They are particularly strong in those truths and promises which lift heavenward, anticipate the dawn of a sublimer economy, and sit "in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Isaiah referred, in his day, to saints of these eminent qualities, and likens them to eagles, where he says: "They who wait for Jehovah, gain fresh strength, lift up their wings as eagles, run and are not weary, go forward and do not faint." (Isaiah 40:30-23.40.31; Delitzsch's Translation.) And in Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 32:11-5.32.12), Jehovah is likened to a parent eagle, and His elect to young eagles, whom He feeds, and upbears, and teaches to fly and rise to himself.[63]

[63] "This image, used in Exodus 19:4, is fully verified in Him who is called the Great Eagle (Revelation 12:14), and who bears His Church on eagle's wings through the wilderness of this world, and who ascended up into heaven with His young ones on His wings, and to whom, as their Parent, and their Life, and their Food, all true eagles of the Gospel, as His children, are gathered now on earth and will be gathered forever hereafter in heaven."--Wordsworth in loc.

"The comparison of Himself to the hen was adapted to the time of His first advent in humility. This latter reference to the eagle has relation to the time of His second advent in glory when the eagles of the Gospel will be gathered together where the body is."--Wordsworth in loc., on 2 Thessalonians 2:1.


We thus identify a class of eagles, other than the rapacious birds denoted by this name;--eagles that have voices, intelligence, and place in heaven.


These eagles are also in heaven before the judgments occur to which these trumpets refer. The Saviour himself, in Matthew 24:1-40.24.51, puts their gathering together where the body is, in advance of the sending forth of His angels with the great trumpet-sounding. When the sun is darkened, and the moon is obscured, and the stars fall, and the powers of the heavens are shaken, and the sign of the Son of Man appears, and all the tribes of the earth mourn; these eagles are already where the Lord, on whom they live, is. John saw them there, among other images, under that of "a flying eagle," before the Lamb took the book or ever a seal was broken; where also he heard them sing unto the Lamb: "Thou art worthy; for Thou wert slain, and redeemedst us to God by Thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and Thou madest us unto our God, kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth." (Revelation 4:5-66.4.10; Revelation 5:8-66.5.10.) And from among these was He whom John here beheld and heard flying in mid-heaven, saying with a great voice, "Woe, woe, woe, to the dwellers on the earth, by reason of the remaining voices of the trumpet of the three angels who are yet to sound."


The manner in which this eagle is spoken of, implies that there are others of the same class. The seer says: "I beheld and heard one eagle" thus flying and saying. This "one eagle" presupposes more eagles; as "one scribe," in Matthew 8:19, presupposes more scribes; as "one voice from the horns of the golden altar" (Matthew 9:13) presupposes more voices; as "one mighty angel" (Matthew 19:21) presupposes more angels.


The Church of the first born is to have a part in the administrations of the judgment upon the guilty world. "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?" (1 Corinthians 4:2.) Hence, when the first seals were broken, the voice of power was heard from the living ones. "Go!" And so here, "one eagle" has a mission which he executes between the sounding of the fourth and fifth trumpets, as the prelude to what the last three trumpets are to produce. Verily, we know not, and cannot half conceive what ministries and agencies of heavenly sublimity await us, if only we are faithful. We shall fly, like eagles, in mid-heaven, and mingle our voices with the trumpets of judgment, and fill offices of honour and celestial dignity among the transactions of archangels, as they go forth to close up the history of a rebellious world!


The precise manner in which this proclamation of the eagle is to reach men, is not stated. That it is to be heard on earth, I am quite sure. We can discern no reason why heaven should be thus specifically notified that the succeeding trumpets are woe-trumpets; nor yet for the introduction of such a special agency to inform John that they were to be woe-trumpets. The results of the blowing of them would necessarily make this sufficiently manifest to him. The intention of the proclamation itself is evidently merciful. I take it as a heavenly signal, given in the midst of the ongoing of the scenes of the day of judgment, to apprise men of the terrible plagues next to be enacted, that those then living, who have not become utterly blind and deaf to sacred things, may take warning and seek refuge against the oncoming calamities. It is one of the principles of the Divine administrations, that mercy is remembered in the midst of wrath; and, as long as there is any possibility of bringing men to a right mind, the opportunity for it is given. These three woe trumpets are to conclude the history of this world and to end forever this present economy. Hence, on the very eve of the end, and when the last awful visitations are about to fall upon the ungodly, still a mighty voice of warning goes forth from mid-heaven, that such as will heed it may prepare themselves, and cry for mercy before mercy is clean gone forever. God gives up the world to perdition with great reluctance. He has always said that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; and we thus behold Him true to His word up to the last.

II. We come, then, to the first of these eagle-announced woes. The fifth trumpet brings it. It is quite different in character from the four preceding trumpets. All are blasts of judgment, and all belong to the great day of the Lord; but no two of them are alike except in this, that they all bring calamity and suffering to the wicked dwellers upon the earth.


Thus far the trumpets have blown only the objects of physical nature, and wrought their effects through disturbances in the material world. The first trumpet smote the land, the trees, and the grass. The second smote the waters of the sea, the fishes, and the ships. The third smote the fountains, wells, and rivers. And the fourth obscured and darkened the sources of light and heat to the world. From these several successive blasts great suffering and mortality result to the children of men. But the trumpet now before us goes beyond the physical world and calls into action quite other agencies. The doors of separation between the earth and the prison of evil spirits are opened, and mysterious and malignant tenants of the underworld are permitted to overrun the globe, and to inflict torture and woe upon its unsanctified inhabitants.

John hears the fifth angel sound, and beholds a fallen star in the earth. This is not a meteor like that which he beheld on the sounding of the third angel. He does not see the falling, but recognizes the star as a fallen one-fallen, he does not say when or how. This star is an intelligent agent, for things are distinctly ascribed to "him" which could not be said except of a living being. A key is given him. He takes that key. He uses it for the unlocking of a door, and he lets forth from their prison some of the tenants of the abyss. All this argues active and intelligent agency, and furnishes the Divine intimation that we are not to consider this star to be of the same kind as the star under the third trumpet. It is not a material but a spiritual star, and a fallen one-one fallen out of the heaven. We know of such spiritual and celestial stars. When the capstone of the grand pyramid of creation was laid, the Almighty himself hath declared that "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." (Job 38:4-18.38.7.) These were angelic beings. We know, also, that there are "angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation." (Jude 1:6.) We read of "the angels that sinned," whom God did not spare. (2 Peter 2:4.) These are of various orders and degrees, "principalities and powers." (Ephesians 6:6; Colossians 2:15.) Among them is one of preeminent dignity, the leader and prince of all the rest-"the great dragon, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan." (Revelation 12:9.) Hence, we read of "the Devil and his angels." (Matthew 25:41.) Here, then, are fallen stars of a spiritual soft, and one of particular distinction and magnitude, answering to the description of the text. For the present they have possession of the aerial or heavenly spaces. (Ephesians 6:12.) Satan is particularly described as "the prince of the power of the air." (Ephesians 2:2.)[64] He is fallen morally, and fallen from the proper heaven of glory, and is eventually to be entirely ejected from the heavenly places now occupied by him and his angels, previous to the great binding which is to shut him up in the abyss. The Saviour refers prophetically to this, where He says: "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." (Luke 10:18.) This ejectment, in its final completeness, is described by John in the twelfth chapter, where he speaks of "war in the heaven," and the ejection of "Satan and his angels" by Michael and his hosts. After that, these impure spirits have no more place in heaven forever. But, even after this precipitation from the aerial regions, their work on earth is continued for a time with augmented fierceness and wrath. There may also be a preliminary precipitation of Satan into the earth, previous to the great battle between him and Michael, to which the fall spoken of in the text may refer. It may be the result of a Divine force, or it may be a voluntary casting of himself into the earth for augmented mischief. At any rate, Satan is a fallen spiritual star, and John beholds him fallen into the earth with particular malignity, and bent on letting loose against men all the evil powers which he can command. He also stands related to the inhabitants of the abyss as their chief lord, in a way which renders it congruous and fitting with all that we know of him, that we should see him in this "star out of the heaven fallen into the earth." Whatever the fall, whether moral or local, voluntary, or the result of force, it includes a will for mischief, and overflowing with malignity toward the children of men.

[64] Wordsworth has this note upon the place: "Satan and his angels, being cast down from heaven, but not being yet consigned to hell, have their empire in this lower air, and are therefore called the powers of the air and of darkness." The word οὐρανός is sometimes rendered heaven and sometimes air.

And because of the wickedness of the world, special powers are granted him. As people prefer the service of the devil, God allows them a full experience of his administrations. It has always been so. Because the nations before Christ, when they knew God, glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and changed the truth of God into a lie; He dropped the reins to them and gave them up to uncleanness, vile affections, and a reprobate mind, to be filled with all unrighteousness, and to receive in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. (Romans 1:19-45.1.32.) Because men receive not the truth and dislike it, God gives them what they love, and sends them strong delusions, that they may believe lies, and reap the reward of their perverse choice in its own line. And because men reject the Lordship of Christ for the lordship of Satan, God in judgment enlarges the powers of the lord of their preference that they may have the full benefit of the malignant will of their own chosen.


John beholds and describes how this is done. To this fallen star, he says "was given the key of the well-pit of the abyss." It was "given" to him, as all that Job had was given to the same fallen one, to do with it as he might list. Though Satan has great power, he is under bonds and limitations, beyond which he cannot go without permission. He is now allowed to employ his demons, but not to bring forth all the evil agencies who would fain serve him in his work of malignity. But, in the great day of judgment, and in augmentation of the punishments of the ungodly, he will be allowed to call into his service multitudes of evil beings now restrained and imprisoned in the underworld. Nor will he fail to use this power any more than he failed to exert his full liberty against Job. With the key to the well-pit of the abyss, he opens it, breaks down in part the wall of severance between earth and hell, and evokes a plague, such as the world has never before experienced.


Jehovah once said to Job: "Have the gates of Sheol been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?" (Job 17:13.) There are worlds of being and of darkness upon which man has never looked. There is a tenanted abyss of which the demons know, and concerning which they besought the Saviour that He would not send them into it.[65] It is a dark and horrible prison, in which many, many strange and evil things are shut up. Satan knows of that world, and would fain bring forth its malignant inhabitants into the earth if he only dared. At last, however, he receives permission to bring them, and the fifth trumpet gives the result.

[65] See Luke 8:27-42.8.31, upon which Doddridge remarks of the "abyss," that it is "the prison in which many of these fallen spirits are detained, and to which some, who may, like these, have been permitted for a while to range at large, are sometimes by Divine justice and power remanded."


As soon as the mouth of the pit is opened, a thick blackness issues from it like the black smoke of a great furnace--a blackness which fills the air and obscures the sun; and out of the smoky blackness proceed living things, horrible in shape, malignant in disposition, and armed with power to afflict and torment men's bodies. John calls them locusts; but they are supernatural, infernal, not earthly locusts. They neither consume nor injure any of the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree. They do not appear to eat at all, though they have teeth like the teeth of lions. They are winged creatures, and their flight is noisy, sounding like chariots and horses rushing into battle. They seem to dwell mostly in the air and in the smoke and darkness. Neither is there any indication that they are capable of being caught or killed.

The forms of these creatures are particularly described. They are a sort of infernal cherubim--antipodes of the Living ones conjoined with the heavenly throne. The horse, the man, the lion, the scorpion, are combined in them. Their general appearance is like horses caparisoned for battle. Their heads are surmounted by the semblance of crowns seemingly of gold. They have faces resembling the faces of men. They are hairy, with hair like women's hair. Their backs and breasts are encased as if with iron plates, after the manner of a Roman soldier, and they have tails of the size and shape of a scorpion. Their dimensions are not given. Scorpions vary in size; some kinds are six inches in length. Figuring to ourselves then, an outline of body, the tail of which would correspond to the size and make of a large scorpion, we reach quite formidable proportions.


These horrible creatures have a certain degree of intelligence. Commands are addressed to them. They are able to distinguish between those who have the seal of the living God upon their foreheads and other people. They have a king whom they obey. Earthly locusts have no king (Proverbs 30:27); but these have a king over them. This king is not Satan himself. Satan is, indeed, chief of all the powers of darkness, but he has archons and princes under him, with their own particular commands. It is Satan who opens the door for the egress of these hosts from the pit; but their immediate king is one of Satan's angels-"the angel of the abyss."


This king has a descriptive name. It is given in Hebrew and in Greek, showing that this administration has to do with Jews and Gentiles. Christ is named Jesus because He is the Saviour. This king is named Abaddon in Hebrew, and Apollyon in Greek, because he is a destroyer--the opposite of saviour.


But the destructive power of these locusts is limited. As Satan was not allowed to touch Job's life, so these creatures are forbidden to kill men, and the sealed ones they are not permitted to touch at all. The extent of their power is to horrify and torment "the men who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads." They inflict their torment by means of stings, like the stings of scorpions. These stings are in their tails, which tails resemble scorpions. They have power "as the scorpions of the earth have power." They are not "of the earth," as scorpions are "of the earth." They are supernatural beings, but they have the capacity to injure and torture men which natural scorpions have.

The pain from the sting of a scorpion, though not generally fatal, is, perhaps, the intensest that any animal can inflict upon the human body. The insect itself is the most irascible and malignant that lives, and its poison is like itself. Of a boy stung in the foot by a scorpion, Laborde relates that, although of a race which bears everything with remarkable patience, he rolled on the ground, grinding his teeth, and foaming at the mouth. It was a long time before his complainings moderated, and even then he could make no use of his foot, which was greatly inflamed. And such is the nature of the torment which these locusts from the pit inflict. They are also difficult to be guarded against, if they can be warded off at all, because they fly where they please, dart through the air, and dwell in darkness.

The duration of this extraordinary plague is "five months." No single generation of earthly locusts ever lasts so long. Twice is the period mentioned, as if the Holy Ghost would call special attention to it as marking the great severity of the plague. To be subjected to such intense anguish, and to have it endure for "five months," fills out a length and breadth of woe which only they who feel can fully know. Death itself would be preferable to such an existence. Willingly, also, would the sufferers of this torment resign life in preference to the continuance of it in such torture, if there were no interference to prevent death. But there is such interference. Not only are the locusts forbidden to kill, but the people afflicted by them are hindered from dying. The statement is, that they shall "fervently desire to die," and "shall seek death; "but the woeful peculiarity of "those days" is, that they cannot find death, and are obliged to live, whatever efforts they may make to escape from life. Perhaps these locusts themselves keep men from killing themselves. This trumpet accordingly introduces the very torments of hell upon the theatre of this present world.


Many, indeed, consider it mere fancy-work, fiction, and symbol, referring to events in the past history of the race and intended to describe quite other things than are thus literally depicted. But the account is given as an account of realities. There is no difficulty involved in the language employed. The grammatical sense is plain and obvious. Neither is there any intimation whatever of any other sense. And if any other sense was intended, there lives not a man who can tell, with any degree of certainty, what that other sense is. Many and great minds have laboured to make out an allegorical and historical interpretation of these locusts from the pit, but thus far, as Alford has justly remarked, only "an endless Babel" has been the result. Alford gives it up. Stuart gives it up. Hengstenberg gives it up. Vaughan gives it up. Others have given it up. And every candid man must give it up, on any scheme that will consistently interpret the Apocalypse as a whole, or preserve to the sacred records the credit and value which this book claims for its contents. Observe the facts.

These locusts cannot mean the zealots who spread slaughter and devastation through Judea about the time of the fall of Jerusalem, as some have supposed, because those marauders killed people, whereas the locusts are forbidden to kill anyone. Those zealots had no king; these locusts have a king. They were natural men; these locusts come up out of the abyss. They had neither wings nor stings; these locusts have both.

Neither do these locusts symbolize those nations of the North which ravaged Italy during the one hundred and fifty years from the invasion under Alaric to the capture of Rome by Totila, as others have supposed. Those invaders were not led by a single chief; these locusts were. They killed men; these locusts kill no one. They did not distinguish in their doings between any sealed or unsealed ones; these locusts do thus distinguish. They did not refrain from harming the trees, grass, and products of the earth; these locusts do thus refrain.

Nor yet do these locusts represent the adherents and propagators of false doctrines, as many have taught. Heresy is killing; but these locusts are forbidden to kill. There never has been any system of error, whose abettors have run their course within "five months," by any method of computation yet devised; or so stung and tormented the ungodly as to make them seek death for relief; or so discriminated between God's sealed ones and the wicked, as to assail only the latter. Arius and his heresies have been named, also Popery and its falsities, also Mohammedanism and its abominations; but, instead of being confined to "five months," or one hundred and fifty years, these have wrought for more than a thousand years, still work, and have never ceased to hurt and kill people of all classes, both literally and spiritually.

Neither does the description answer to Luther and the Lutherans, as Bellarmine and other Romish interpreters affirm. If Luther was the fallen star, who was the king over the Lutherans? The locusts were to continue "five months," but the Lutherans have wrought now for more than three hundred and fifty years, and still are the particular grief of Papists, who, on this showing, have not the seal of God! The locusts have stings to torment men; the Lutherans have never been tormentors nor persecutors. They have done great things to release mankind from the tortures and inflictions of the papacy, but no people have ever so suffered from the Lutherans or their doctrines, as to seek death in order to escape their torments, without ability to find it. All the Protestant nations, and even many Romanists themselves, refer to the Lutheran Reformation with joy and thanksgiving, as one of the happiest enfranchisements of modern times. It was heaven-wide from this locust plague.[66]

[66] See comments on Revelation 3:21.


Nor yet will this vision apply, except in a very dim and imperfect way, to the mighty Saracenic invasion, in which so many moderns locate its fulfilment. If Mahomet was this star, it is impossible to show wherein he experienced the fall ascribed to this star. If he was the star, he was also the king of the powers he set in motion; but the record plainly shows that the star and the king of the locusts are two distinct personages. If the cave of Hera was the mouth of the pit, the followers of Mahomet did not come out of that cave, as the locusts are said to come out of the abyss. If his flight from Mecca was his fall, then the pit was open and the smoke had begun to issue and breed locusts before the star's fall, which is again contrary to the record. If the smoke was Mahomet's false doctrines, then neither smoke nor locusts existed before the pit was opened, for the Arabians were not Mohammedans before Mahomet, but the vision represents the locusts as dwelling in the pit and in the smoke long ere the pit was opened or the smoke issued. It was after the smoke had already gone forth, and followers had been won, that Mahomet professed to have received the key from God; he had therefore opened the pit before he got the key with which to open it; neither was it ever pretended that this key of his was the key of hell. But this is not all.


The locusts were forbidden to touch any one upon whose forehead the seal of God was impressed; but the wrath and fury of the Mohammedan hordes were directed mainly and above all against Christians and Christendom. The locusts were to torment all who had not the seal of God upon them; but the Saracen invasion struck a very small part of the world outside of Christendom. The locusts were not allowed to take men's lives; it was the work of Mohammedanism to kill both body and soul--the bodies of those who refused to accept it, and the souls of those who embraced it. It was the command of Mahomet to all his devotees, and delivered in the name of his god: "When ye encounter the unbelievers, strike off their heads, until ye have made a great slaughter among them.... As for the infidels, let them perish." (Koran 47.) So they slew 50,000 in one battle, and 150,000 in another, and spread death and slaughter whithersoever they went. Does this look like the absence of power to kill?[67] The locusts were to do no injury to trees, crops, and vegetation. The Mohammedans destroyed with fire and sword the countries they invaded.[68] The locusts were so to torment men that they would seek to destroy their own lives, and yet should not be able to do it; but neither of these things occurred under the Mohammedans. Men loved to live then as now, and fought to defend themselves, and paid tribute to be permitted to live, and could easily find death if they wished. The locusts were in shape like horses prepared for war; Mohammedans had this appearance no more than any other armed hosts. The locusts wore seeming golden crowns; but "turbans of linen" very poorly meet the description, whilst, if the creatures are symbolical, the crowns are symbolical also. What, then, is the prophetic import of a turban? The locusts had breastplates, which are said to be symbols of invulnerability; but the Mohammedans were not invulnerable; they never went into battle without losing some of their number, and they were more than once defeated with great slaughter. The locusts have wings, and tails, and stings in their tails, and poison in their stings like the poison of scorpions; but, in no respect was this true of the Mohammedans, any more than of any other conquering hordes. The locusts have power to operate only for the space of "five months"--on the year-day theory, one hundred and fifty years--but the warlike expeditions of the Saracens ranged through more than four hundred years, and their power is not yet taken away. The king of the locusts is named Abaddon and Apollyon, but neither of these was the name of the Moslem prophet, nor do they describe him any more than many others who have acted a like part in the world. Smoke may very well represent false doctrine, but what was the sun and air obscured by Mohammedanism, when those who see only Mohammedanism in this vision are obliged to consider the Christianity and churches which the Saracens overrun, as even worse than Islamism itself? Besides, if Arabia, whence the Saracens came, is the well-pit of the abyss, as some seem to affirm, then it is into Arabia that the Devil is to be cast, and shut up, and sealed in, for the thousand years, if not also the place into which all the finally lost are to be consigned!

[67] "I cannot forbear noticing the caprice of historical interpreters. On the command not to kill the men, etc, in Revelation 9:5, Elliott says, 'i.e., not to annihilate them as a political Christian body.' If. then, the same rule of interpretation is to hold, the 6th verse must mean that the 'political Christian body' will be so sorely beset by these Mohammedan locusts, that it will vehemently desire to be annihilated, and not find any way. For it surely cannot be allowed that the killing of men should be said of their annihilation as a political body in one verse, and their desiring to die in the next should be said of something totally different, and applicable to their individual misery. Is it in consequence of foreseeing this difficulty that Mr. Elliott has, as in the case of many important details in other places, omitted all consideration of this verse?"--Alford in loc.

[68] Against this, the historical interpreters quote the command given to the Saracen army on the invasion of Syria: "Destroy no palm-trees nor burn any fields of corn. Cut down no fruit-trees." But this was not the command of Mahomet or the Koran, but of Abubekr, and there is no instance of its repetition in all the Saracenic wars. The command itself shows what was the general habit of these fanatical hordes; besides, it excepted only palm and fruit trees, leaving other trees to be dealt with as inclination might prompt. It is simply absurd to speak of the Saracenic armies as having refrained from injuring trees and grass.


But apart from all this, God himself has named this book the book of "The Apocalypse--the coming--of Jesus Christ." John accordingly, also tells us that what he describes he saw in the day of the Lord-among the scenes and transactions of the great day of judgment as they were made to pass before him in vision. It is impossible, therefore, that this trumpet should refer to the past, unless the day of the Lord is passed and the judgment is over, and the Apocalypse of Jesus has already taken place.


We have seen that the seven Churches span the whole period, from the time of the apostle to the commencement of the day of Judgment. We have also had the declaration of the Saviour himself, that what else John saw and wrote in this book relates to a period of time after the Church period has passed. The seven trumpets come in under the breaking of the seventh seal, and the Church period is ended before any of the seals are broken. The Saracenic invasion occurred in the midst of the Church period. Hence, the locust-plague of the fifth trumpet cannot possibly be the Arabic irruption under Mahomet, unless an event can be both in the middle and at the end of the same period, at one and the same time. Judgments, indeed, prefigure each other, and every feature of the great consummation has its forerunners and prelibations. And so there may have been a dim and inchoate likeness of this trumpet in the Saracenic scourge. But the height and fulness of it, and its only proper fulfilment, remains to be accomplished in the great day to come-the Day of the Lord-the period of Christ's unveiling-when it will be literally realized in all its horrible details.


Nay, more, it is clearly in evidence from the record itself, that all the occurrences under the sixth seal, and all that comes after the sixth seal, up to the events under the fifth trumpet, do really transpire within the natural earthly lifetime of the same persons. When these locusts issue from the pit, they find living among men certain people "who have the seal of God upon their foreheads," and whom they are not allowed to touch, because of that seal. It will not answer to jump at the conclusion that these were God's children in general, because it is specifically told us in a preceding chapter who they are. There is a definite number of them-144,000-and every one of them of Jewish blood. Their sealing occurs under the sixth seal. And here, under the fifth trumpet, they are yet on earth, among men, and as liable to the torture of the locusts as any others, but for the seal of the living God impressed upon their foreheads. They are not successors to the 144,000 sealed ones, for the work of sealing was finished before a single trumpet was blown, and the idea of succession is specifically excluded, first, by the definiteness of their number, and second, by the declaration that "they are virgins."

We thus find the same men living under the fifth trumpet, who were already living under the sixth seal. The "five months" must accordingly mean five months, and not 150 years, and the locusts from the pit cannot be the Saracens, or anything else than what they are literally described to be. They are extraordinary and infernal agents, whom Satan is permitted to let loose upon the guilty world, as a part of the judgment of the great day. All the seals, trumpets, and vials of this book relate to that day. It is a day of miracle throughout--a day of wonders--a day of fierce and tormenting wrath. It is everywhere so described in the Scriptures. And we do greatly mistreat the records which God has given for our learning, if we allow the sceptical rationalizing of our own darkened hearts to persuade us that such supernatural things are impossible, and therefore must not be literally understood. On the same ground the whole doctrine of the judgment may be explained away and, every article of the distinctive Christian faith, until we have nothing left but a book of preeminent pretensions and equally preeminent obscurity, uncertainty, and emptiness.


It appears, then, that hell and hell-torments are not the mere fictions which some have pronounced them. Neither are they as remote from this present world as men often dream. There is a fiery abyss, with myriads of evil beings in it, malignant and horrible, and there is but a door between this world and that.[69] Heaven is just as near; but heaven is above, and hell is beneath. Mortal man and his world lie between two mighty, opposite, spiritual spheres, both touching directly upon him, each operative to conform him to itself, and he predestined, as he yields to one or the other, to be conjoined eventually to the society on high, or to companionship with devils and all evil beings beneath. To doubt this, is to mistake concerning the most momentous things of our existence, and to have all our senses closed to the most startling realities of our lives. As we are heavenly in our inclinations and efforts, and open and yielding to things Divine, heaven opens to us, and spirits of heaven become our helpers, comforters, protectors, and guides; and as we are devilish in our temper, unbelieving, defiant of God, and self-sufficient, the doors of separation between us and hell gradually yield, and the smoke of the pit gathers over us, and the spirits of perdition come forth to move among us and to do us mischief. And at the last, as the saints of God are taken up out of the world on the one side, the angels of hell with their malignity and torments are let in on the other.

[69] King, in his Morsels of Criticism, after commenting on Isaiah 24:22; Psalms 69:15; Ezekiel 26:20; Ezekiel 31:16; Isaiah 14:9; Numbers 16:33; Ephesians 2:10; Psalms 28:1; Psalms 38:4; Job 17:16; Luke 8:31; 1 Peter 3:18-60.3.20, etc., remarks: "Upon the whole, therefore, we may, consistently both with the words of Holy Scripture and with philosophical ideas, conclude, or at least suspect, if we do not venture to affirm, it that there is a place of habitation of, some kind or other, in the lowest depths, and in the heart of the earth, and that this place is indeed άδης, or hell." "The abyss cannot possibly mean the sea.... ὰβυσσος is by no means a word made use of in any of the Gospels for the sea."--Vol. II, pp. 373-404.



People are prone to persuade themselves that this world of sense and time is all that we need be concerned about, and hence have no fears of an unseen world of evil, and no decided or active desire for the blessings of an unseen world of good. They live only for earth, not dreaming that this brief life is only the vestibule to worlds of mightier and eternal moment. Their houses are built by the very margin of hell, and yet they rest and feast in them without a feeling of insecurity or of danger. The flames of perdition clamour after them beneath the pavements on which they walk, but they have no sense of fear or serious apprehension. God and angels are ever busy to win their attention to the ways of safety, but they turn a deaf ear and drift along as they list, crying, Peace! Peace! And so will the wicked and the unbelieving go on, until ignored and offended Omnipotence gives over the power to Satan to let loose upon them these horrid beings from the abyss, under whose torment they will wish they never had lived at all, and vainly attempt to make their escape from what they once considered their chief and only good.

Friends and Brethren: The judgments of God are coming--they are coming. The agents for them are ready and at hand. They are to alight with awful severity upon all the rebellious and ungodly. They will not be delayed either till this life is over. They are coming in this present world. Men shall feel them while yet they stand upon their feet, and go on with their unbelief and earthiness. Hell is to be let in upon the living earth, and no human hand can stay its torments. And as the generations of the rebellious and the unsanctified complete their five months of horror and writhing under the scorpion stings of these infernal tormentors, the first woe will be fulfilled, whilst yet two other and more horrible ones follow.


God Almighty, in His mercy, save us from the evils of those days! Amen.

Verses 13-21

Lecture 20

(Revelation 9:13-66.9.21)

THE SIXTH TRUMPET--STATE OF SOCIETY AT THIS PERIOD--DEMON-WORSHIP--SPIRITUALISM--REVIVAL OF IDOLATRY--HEATHENISH CONDITION OF MORALS--A PERIOD OF MURDER, SORCERY, LEWDNESS, DISHONESTY--THE PARTICULAR JUDGMENT INDUCED--CRY FROM THE HORNS OF THE ALTAR--THE FOUR EUPHRATEAN ANGELS-PLACE OF THEIR DETENTION--SPIRIT HORSES--THEIR MEANS OF HARMING MEN--THEIR HAVOC WITH HUMAN LIFE--HOW LONG THEY CONTINUE THEIR DESTRUCTIVE WORK-THE INTENT OF THIS WOE--NO REFORMATION WROUGHT--THE FOLLY OF WAITING FOR JUDGMENTS TO BRING TO A BETTER LIFE.

Revelation 9:13-66.9.21. (Revised Text.) And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard one voice out of the four horns of the altar of gold [which is] before God, saying to the sixth angel, who had the trumpet: Loose the four angels which are bound upon [over or near] that great river Euphrates.


And there were loosed the four angels who had been made ready for the hour, and day, and month, and year, that they should kill the third of the men. And the number of the hosts of horse [was] two myriads of myriads; I heard the number of them.

And thus saw I the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them: they have fiery, hyacinthine, and sulphureous coasts of mail; and the heads of the horses as it were heads of lions; and out of their mouths issueth fire, and smoke, and sulphur.

From these three plagues were killed the third of the men, by the fire, and the smoke, and the sulphur, which issueth out of their mouths; for the power of the horses is in their mouths, and in their tails; for their tails [are] like serpents, having heads, and with them they injure.

And the rest of the men, who were not killed by these plagues, repented not from the works of their hands, that they should not worship the demons, and the idols of gold, and silver, and copper, and stone, and wood, which can neither see, nor hear, nor walk; and they repented not out of their murders, nor out of their sorceries [or use of drugs], nor out of their fornication, nor out of their thefts.


These words describe one of the greatest and most terrific judgments we have thus far encountered. In approaching its consideration, I propose to notice

I. THE STATE OF SOCIETY AT THE TIME.

II. THE NATURE OF THE JUDGMENT VISITED UPON IT.

I. The Apostle Paul assures us, that, as time advances toward its conclusion, "Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." (2 Timothy 3:13.) I have also repeatedly quoted bis startling description of the "perilous times" which will come "in the last days." (2 Timothy 3:1-55.3.5.) But Paul was not alone in these gloomy anticipations. Peter and Jude likewise speak of them. Nor were these statements without full warrant in the utterances of the Saviour himself, who particularly and often admonished his disciples, that the gigantic iniquities and sensualities of the days of Noah and of Lot, would repeat themselves as the end approached, and that the judgments of the great day would be preeminently deserved by the generation then living. It would, hence, be strange, if, in the visions of those terrible adjudications, we were to find no corresponding notices of the bad state of morals then prevailing. And when such notices are found, as in the words before us, it would be contrary to the tenor of the Scriptures on the subject, to take them as mere poetic exaggerations, or as anything other than a literal and true portraiture of the world at that time. Taking the words, then, as they have been written for our learning, we here have an account of the moral state of mankind in the period of the sixth trumpet.

1. It is a period of abounding demon-worship. What demons are, is to some extent an unsettled question. Justin Martyr, and some other Christian fathers, regarded them as the spirits of those giants who were born of the sons of God and the daughters of men, in the days preceding the flood. John of Damascus, considered them the fallen angels. According to Plutarch, Hesiod, as he himself, held demons to be "the spirits of mortals when separated from their earthly bodies." Zoroaster, Thales, Pythagoras, Plato, and the heathen authors generally, viewed them as spiritual beings, intermediate between supreme Deity and mortals, and mostly the souls of heroes and distinguished persons who had departed this life. Lucian makes his dialogist ask: What is man? Answer: A mortal god. And what is a god? Answer: An immortal man. This gives the common heathen doctrine on the subject. Philo says, "The souls of dead men are called demons." The account which demons themselves mostly give of themselves, according to those who have most to do with them, is the same. Josephus gives it as the orthodox Jewish opinion, that demons are none other than the spirits of the wicked dead. With very few exceptions, the Christian fathers were of like opinion. Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Augustine, and the vast majority of early Christian writers, regarded demons as the souls or spirits of the unsanctified dead. And the burden of evidence and authority is to the effect, that demons are the souls of dead men, particularly the spirits of those who bore a bad character in this life.[70]

[70] See an argument on this subject elaborated in the Lectures and Addresses of Alexander Campbell, pp. 379-402.


It is acknowledged, both in Scripture and in the classics, that the "immortals" whom the heathen adored, were once men: and Paul assures us that the sacrifices of the Gentiles made to these "immortals," were sacrifices to demons, and that their sacred feasts were in honour of demons, (1 Corinthians 10:20-46.10.21.)[71] This would seem to give us scriptural authority for believing that demons are what the Jews and early Christians believed them to be. They are, at any rate, invisible spiritual beings, unholy in character, belonging to the kingdom of evil, and having a vicious and pernicious penchant to interfere in the affairs of mankind in the flesh. The Greeks often applied the name of demons to what they considered good spirits; but the Scriptures always use the word with reference to unclean and wicked spirits only. There is no such thing known in the Bible as a good demon. The Scriptures everywhere distinguish demons from "the devil," Satan; but our English translators continually call them "devils," a name which fitly describes them.

[71] Compare Deuteronomy 18:10; Deuteronomy 32:17; Leviticus 17:7, et seq.; 2 Chronicles 11:15; Psalms 106:37.


Among the Jews, in the Saviour's time, these wicked spirits incorporated themselves in the bodies of living men, intruding themselves between the soul and the nervous organism, getting possession of men's physical powers, measurably superseding the wills of those affected, so as to speak and act by means of human organs.

Among the Gentiles, many of the persons thus affected were accepted as inspired prophets and prophetesses; and it had become a regular science to know how to induce such connections with demonic powers, and how, at option, to bring their influence to bear, whether for religious or for secular purposes.

There always have been ways of coming into communication with these unclean spirits, of consulting them, and securing their aid. Hence the scriptural allusions to those who have familiar spirits, enchanters, wizards, witches, magicians, soothsayers, diviners, necromancers, and the like. Long before the time of Moses, we read of consultations of the spirits of the dead, and the veneration of demons as helpers and guides, to whom it was the custom to resort. Special statutes were given against it in the laws of Moses, as great unfaithfulness and sin against God. The assumption all the way through is, that there was reality in what was pretended in these instances, and a very dangerous iniquity. The lying prophets whom Ahab followed to his ruin, were really inspired by wicked spirits. Paul encountered a girl at Philippi, whose keepers got great gain from her extraordinary powers resulting from being possessed of an evil spirit. He cast out the demon, and her peculiar power was gone, and Paul was thrust into prison for interfering with the men's business. This case explains the whole system of heathen oracles and mantology, as the heathen writers themselves explained it.

Modern spiritism, or so-called spiritualism, is but a revival of the same thing-a branch of the same iniquity. There doubtless is some reality in it; and it is confessedly a system of intercourse with the dead, whose spirits are invoked in various forms and methods, to teach wisdom; to dictate faith, religion, and life; to comfort and help in trouble and necessity; and to serve as saviours and as gods. It is demon-worship brought to life again. It claims to have vast multitudes of adherents, even among the baptized and nominally Christian. It is influencing whole communities of men and women, who are prepared to commit themselves body and soul, for time and eternity, into the care of these lying demon guides. It has made inroads upon people of all classes, and is received by many as a distinct and the only true religion. Its oracles are loud and hopeful in the prediction, that it will soon enlist to itself the governments and reigning classes of the whole world. The Word of God also forewarns, that it will be vastly successful. "The Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils[72]; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats." (1 Timothy 4:1-54.4.3.)[73] Instead of fearing, loving, and trusting in God above all things, people will bestow their loving confidence upon unclean spirits, invoking them for guidance, and placing religious dependence in their impious falsities. Having no relish for the saving Gospel of Christ, God will send them strong delusion, that they may believe a lie, and be visited with the damnation their perverseness deserves. And at the time this sixth trumpet sounds, the prevailing religion of the world will be this selfsame worship of demons, and following of demons' doctrines.

[72] Διδασκαλίαι δαιμονίων--doctrines suggested by demons; doctrines engendered by the the operation of evil spirits. The sense of this passage has been wrongly given by Mede and many others, in understanding the genitive as objective, as if it meant doctrines concerning demons. The true and only tenable exegesis is, not that men shall apostatize by accepting doctrines about demons, but that they will decline from the true mystery of godliness by taking into their confidence doctrines which demons teach.--See Wordsworth, Alford, Conybeare and Howson, etc.


[73] For an exposition of this text in its application to modern "spiritualism," see Prophetic Times, vol. ii, pp. 138, 174, 185; vol. iii, pp. 14, 30, 46, 62, 75; vol. v, p. 134. On the general subject, see the author's monograph, entitled "The Wonderful Confederation." Epiphanius, as given and translated by Mede (p. 637), thus paraphrases the passage: "Some shall apostatize from the sound doctrine, giving heed to fables and doctrines of demons; for they shall be worshippers of dead men, as they were worshipped in Israel."

2. In connection with this demon-worship, will be the revival of idolatry. It is itself idolatry; but, with it, idols of gold, and silver, and copper, and stone, and wood, which can neither see, nor hear, nor walk, will again command the genius of men for their construction, and be set up to please their demon-lords, to facilitate spiritual intercourse, and to help out the foul devotions of the infatuated people.


It may appear too disparaging to the understanding of this enlightened age, to entertain the possibility of a return to the ancient worship of images. People may feel insulted at the thought. But the way for it is opening, and the process to effect it is already going on. The minds of antichristian religionists everywhere are fast relapsing into the old heathenish philosophies, and I know not what is to hinder their acceptance of the religions with which those philosophies are conjoined. Modifications of them may be made, to conform them somewhat to the requirements of an altered condition of the public mind and taste; but idol-worship will again become, as it is even now becoming, the religion of some who claim to be among the most enlightened and the very illuminators of mankind. Socrates had his demon-guide, and Socrates approved idolatry; and if men accept the Socratic philosophy in preference to the religion of the Bible, and submit to be taught by demons as their most trustworthy oracles, what is to prevent them from becoming philosophic idol-worshippers, especially if their spirit-friends should so dictate, and accompany those dictations with the power of working wonders. A little further on in this book, we read of a "false prophet," who teaches the dwellers upon earth to make an image, to which he gives the power of utterance, so that it both speaks and causes all who refuse to worship it to be put to death. (Revelation 13:14-66.13.16.)[74] All this is simply the culmination of the system already in vogue, showing a base, persecuting, and murderous idolatry, also the source and manner of its introduction. The symptoms and tendencies are even now strongly in this very direction. What is Planchette, but a household god to many, who resort to it as a means of spiritual communion, and speak to it, interrogate it, and reverently seek unto it, for light, consolation, and guidance? What are the numerous and various inventions, constructed and constructing to please the spirits, and meant to serve as material forms and instruments through which the demon-gods are to manifest themselves, and hold communion with their devotees? Is not much of the best science and mechanical skill of spiritualists now employed, in answer to spirit-bidding, fashioning implements for closer and easier commerce with these invisible powers? Do not such machines and images of gold, and silver, and copper, and stone, and wood, already exist? And are they not kept in devoted places as holy things, made the centres of circles of people gathered around them for intercourse with devils, as with the world of hope and blessedness, consulted with pious affection, and guarded and revered with all the awe, and sometimes tearful devotion with which the ancient heathen approached the oracles and images of their gods? Only let all this grow and mature, in the line in which it has begun and is growing, and bald image-worship will soon live again in what claims to be the enlightened society of modern times, and men and women of boasted intelligence will everywhere be found paying their adorations at the shrines of devils, as to gods. And just this is one of the leading features of the time when the sixth trumpet sounds.

[74] describing these idols, in Revelation 9:20, John says that they "can neither see, nor hear, nor walk;" but he specially refrains from saying that they cannot speak, or give out oracles; for here he tells us that one at least does speak, so as to give intimation of the will of the gods who communicate through it. Grotius relates out of an ecclesiastical writer, that there was a statue of the notorious magician, Apollonius, which spoke, being actuated by some assistant demon.

3. And corresponding with the heathen character of the dominant religion, will then be a heathen state of morals also.

Murder will be among the commonest of crimes. Sensual and selfish passion will make sad havoc of human life, with no serious thought about it on the part of the leaders of public sentiment. Fœticide, infanticide, homicide, and all forms of sin against human life, will characterize society, and be tolerated and passed as if no great harm were done. And well would it be for us, if such were not largely the state of things even now.

Sorceries, impure practices with evil agencies, and particularly with poisonous drugs, is also given as one of the dominant forms of vice and sin in those days. The word specially includes tampering with one's own or another's health, by means of drugs, potions, intoxications, and often with magical arts and incantations, the invocation of spiritual agencies, the putting under influences promotive of sins of impurity both bodily and spiritual. We have only to think of the use of alcoholic stimulants[75], of opium, of tobacco, of the rage for cosmetics and medicaments to increase love attractions, of resorts to the pharmacopoeia in connection with sensuality,--of the magical agents and treatments alleged to come from the spirit-world for the benefit of people in this,--of the thousand impositions in the way of medicines and remedial agents, encouraging mankind to recklessness in transgression with the hope of easily repairing the damages of nature's penalties,--of the growing prevalence of crime induced by these things, setting loose and stimulating to activity the vilest passions, which are eating out the moral sense of society,--for the beginnings of that moral degeneracy to which the seer here alludes as characteristic of the period when the sixth trumpet is sounded.

[75] Matheetees, Apocalypse Expounded, says: "It is remarkable, that the sin of drunkenness is not among those here enumerated." He is entirely mistaken. The word φαρμακεία--the use of φάρμακα--directly embraces indulgence in intoxicating potions. It is a generic term including drunkenness among its leading species.


And interlinked with these sorceries, and reacting the one on the other, will also be the general subversion of marriage and its laws, and the deluging of society with the sins of fornication and adultery. The Apostle uses the word "fornication" alone, as embracing all forms of lewdness, but as if to intimate that marriage will then be hardly recognized any more. And already we hear the institution of legal wedlock denounced and condemned as tyrannical, and all rules, but those of affinity and desire, repudiated as unjust. Already, in some circles, we find the doctrines of free love put forth and defended in the name of right, a better religion, and a higher law. And it would be strange indeed, if the revival of the old heathen philosophies and religions, which justified, sanctioned, and sanctified promiscuous concubinage, did not also bring with it a revival of all these old heathen abominations. So also has the holy apostle written, that "in the last days... men shall be... incontinent" And here the seer enumerates "fornication" as one of the outstanding features in the social character of those times.


And last in the catalogue stands the statement of general and abounding dishonesty, the obliteration of moral distinctions, the disregard of other's rights, and the practice of fraud, theft, and deceit wherever it is possible. Pollok makes his ancient bard of earth tell of a time, when

--"Blood trod upon the heels of Blood;
Revenge, in desperate mood, at midnight met
Revenge; War brayed to War, Deceit deceived
Deceit, Lie cheated Lie, and Treachery
Mined under Treachery, and Perjury
Swore back go Perjury, and Blasphemy
Arose with hideous Blasphemy, and Curse
Loud answered Curse; and drunkard, stumbling fell
O'er drunkard fallen; and husband husband met
Returning each from other's bed denied;
Thief stole from thief, and robber on the way
Knocked robber down; and Lewdness, Violence,
And Hate, met Lewdness, Violence, and Hate.
And Mercy, weary with beseeching, had
Retired behind the sword of Justice, red
With ultimate and unrepenting wrath."


And that time, with just this condition of things, will have come, when this sixth trumpet sounds. We need not wonder, therefore, that it brings a plague of horror and judgment upon mankind, exceeding all that we yet have had to contemplate.[76]

[76] "We may, a moment or two, compare the state of men at that time with former times, when the long-suffering of God was exhausted, and judgment burst forth.

"1. This day is worse than the times of the flood. Then the earth was corrupt before God, and filled with violence. Here corruption of every kind, both between man and man, and man and the Most High, prevails; and murders, the highest of the crimes of violence, are numerous. Besides this, there are idolatry and demon-worship, which are not named as existing before the flood. If then, even in that day, and despite of their few advantages, wrath broke out, overturning the usual course of things, how much more then!

"2. Of the men of Sodom we read, that they were 'wicked, and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.' Sins of Sodom are here, and others superadded. If miracle avenged iniquity then, much more now!

"3. Oppression, rising even to murder, sorcery, and idolatry, were found in Egypt. But other sins are found here. No marvel then, if plagues like those of Egypt overtake the world then!

"4. Like to these were the sins of the nations of Canaan, when God commanded their extermination by Israel. On them fell supernatural judgments, combined with the sword of the tribes.

"5. The days of Ahab and Jezebel resemble these. Then was there murder of the righteous, and taking of his inheritance by fraud; fornication, idolatry, and sorcery. Then fell the judgment of three and a half years' drought. Why should it not fall again on earth under like or greater sins?

"6. These are like the times of Israel and Judah, when Nebuchadnezzar sent and carried them away captives, destroying temple and city. Is it any wonder then, if the next chapter but one foretells judgment coming on both the temple and metropolis of Israel once more? The type of the Assyrian came in Zedekiah's days; but now that transgressors are come to the full, the great usurper appears.

"The world has heard the Gospel and refused it. Far greater is its responsibility in that day, than in any previous one. Far stouter and more deeply rooted is its attitude of resistance, than at any former time.

"Things are advancing with no slack pace towards this dismal consummation. Beneath the thin crust of formal Christianity, the germs of these trespassers here and there peep forth. Idolatry is putting forth its feelers; and the giving heed to seducing spirits is already visible. On this basis all the other evils will establish themselves."--The Apocalypse Expounded by Scripture, vol. ii, pp. 438, 439.


Notice then,

II. THE NATURE OF THIS VISITATION.

1. It is evoked by a cry out of the four horns of the altar. It comes from the immediate presence of God, and therefore with the sanction of God. The call itself is the common voice of all four of the horns of the altar, indicating the energy and the universality of the demand for vengeance, and of that vengeance itself. The call from the altar also reflects the character of a particular apostasy for which this invitation is sent. When there is a voice invocative of judgment, the locality of it expresses where the sin has been which is to be avenged. The voice that went up against Cain for the murder of his brother, cried from the ground which had received Abel's blood. The voice of woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and establisheth a city by iniquity, comes from the stones and beams of the houses of that town and city. And when a call for retribution comes from the altar, it is because of some great crimes against that altar, and what connects with it. The united outcry of these golden horns tells of iniquity with special reference to them. They were not mere ornaments. God ordered them there to receive the blood of sacrifice for Israel's sins on the great day of atonement, and whensoever the whole people would seek to purge themselves from their transgressions. In these cases there went up from these golden horns the voice of blood, crying to God to spare. But here is a voice for the letting loose of the powers of judgment. The implication is that God's appointed way of forgiveness has been set aside; that the Divine system of gracious atonement and salvation has been rejected and despised; that the one propitiation provided of God has been abandoned and contemned; that the great High Priest and only Mediator between God and man has been disowned, and thrust away to give place to other helpers; that mankind in their guilt have blasphemously pronounced against God's plan of reconciliation; and that the wickedness of earth has risen so high, especially in point of antagonism to the cross, and the doctrine of redemption by the blood of Jesus, that even the altar itself, which otherwise cries only for mercy, is forced into a cry for vengeance. It is terrible enough when sin cries to God against the transgressor; but when the very altar, sin's only recourse, and the very horns of the altar, the sinner's only availing pleaders, unite in that cry, and utter it before God as their own, it is impossible to conceive an intenser density of gathering retribution, or a heavier surcharge of the enginery of the Almighty's judgments.

2. The command issues to the Angel who sounds this trumpet. This is further proof that these angel-trumpeters are of a superior order. Other angels are concerned, and yet this particular angel has binding and loosing power over them. The command itself, is the command of the contemned Saviour. It goes out from the presence of Almighty Sovereignty, and with its sanctions.


But it is addressed to the angel. He obeys it as his Divine commission, and thus presides over the administration ushered in by his trumpet. He looses the imprisoned forces, and sets them free for action. And thus, from under his hand go forth the powers which smite the impious dwellers on the earth with terror, death, and torment.

3. Other angels are the more direct executors of the woe. Some have taken these to be good angels. I do not so regard them. Good angels are free, not bound. Good angels would not destroy men, except by special command of God; but these had only to be loosed, and they at once rushed forth for slaughter, impelled to the dreadful business by their own malicious nature. But for their being bound, the implication is that they would have done the same all along. We also read of apostate angels whom God hath "delivered into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto the judgment of the great day." (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6.) This would seem to imply that, when the great day comes, they may perchance, for particular purposes, have their bonds relaxed. The common idea is that they are reserved for their own judgment; but it may after all be for some one else's judgment. These woes all belong to the administrations of "the great day." This sixth trumpet is quite on the margin of the mighty consummation of all that day's proceedings. And if the record implies any such loosing of those everlasting chains, here is the place and time for it; and what this trumpeter-angel did, would seem to be the very loosing referred to. They are not loosed for salvation-not loosed from their reservation unto eternal punishment,--but loosed from their restraint against inflicting death and torment upon men, and now in judgment permitted to act out their evil will upon earth's guilty inhabitants. They were bound in mercy to our race, and here they are let loose in wrath and judgment.


These bound angels "had been made ready for the hour, and day, and month, and year." How had they been made ready, except as fallen angels they had been put in chains, and held in constraint during all the preceding ages, with the foreknowledge and intent of their being loosed at this particular time, for this particular judgment?

These angels are four in number. We know not how many kept not their first estate. There doubtless were very many, and not all of the same rank. Paul enumerates various classes of wicked agencies--the devil, chiefs, powers, world-lords, spirits of wickedness in the aerial regions. (Ephesians 6:12.) These four are a particular four, "the four." Either the wicked angels, then, are not all bound at one and the same place, or these four are to be regarded as specially distinguished from others in the relation they hold to the kingdom of evil. I infer that they are particular magnates in the realm of evil powers, with large commands and dependencies subject to them. The myriads of subordinate agents which their loosing brings into action, argues in this direction. Perhaps there are but four fallen angels of this particular rank, authority, and temper, with Satan as the chief of all. At any rate, the four evil angels here spoken of, are a particular four, confined to a particular place, held for a particular service, and representatives of myriad hosts, bound with their binding, loosed with their loosing, and acting their will the moment the bands of their forced inaction are taken off. Their number also indicates the universality of their operations.


A particular locality is named as the place of their detention: "upon,--ἐπὶ, over, near, at,--that great river Euphrates." It was in this locality that the powers of evil made their first attempts against the human race. It was in this locality that the first murder was committed. It was in this region that the great apostasies, both before and after the flood, had their centres. It was in this region that Israel's most oppressive enemies resided, and that the Jews were compelled to drag out the long and weary years of their great captivity. It was in this region that the great oppressive world-powers took their commencement. It is the region where all this world's beginnings were made-where man first saw the light, first sinned, fell from his first estate, was banished from Paradise, and introduced all earth's miseries-where Satan first alighted upon our planet, won his first triumphs, and first set his foul agencies against man in operation. The Euphrates itself is one of the primeval rivers, and the only one we know of that remains. And there, where guilt came into the place of innocence, and Babylon supplanted Eden, and hell sent up its Upas instead of the Tree of Life, and death came in upon the children of men, these four fallen sons of light, with their evil hosts, rave in the bonds,[77] imposed in mercy, but, at the appointed hour, in wrath to be relaxed, that earth's blaspheming millions may feel what shall then have been so richly merited.

[77] It is an old Rabbinical tradition, dwelt upon by Heinrichs, that evil spirits are detained, and have their place in the deserts bordering on the Euphrates. This idea was doubtless derived from the Scriptures themselves. Isaiah represents Babylon as doomed to be the abode of Ziim, or evil spirits of the desert. The goat for Azazel, in the ceremonies of the great day of atonement, was always conveyed out into the wilderness. It is, indeed, not known what is meant by Azazel; but the scapegoat was burdened with the sins of Israel, and sent to destruction; which, in the oriental mind, would mean, to where the cursed spirits are. The Book of Enoch represents Azazel as an apostate angel, and says, "The Lord said to Raphael, bind Azazel hand and foot; cast him into darkness; and, opening the desert in Dudael, cast him in there." Revelation 10:6-66.10.7. The Saviour himself says of the unclean spirit gone out of a man. that he "walketh through dry [desert] places, seeking rest and finding none;" that is, as Liddell and Scott explain the word, in places "like the Delta of Egypt," "and therefore in the East," adds Green. The region of the Euphrates, above all, abounds with the sort of territory which the Jews regarded as the abode of evil spirits. Its topography and its history are such, that, if evil spirits are at all consigned to earthly spaces, as seems to be the case, it is just here that we would most naturally expect to find them in greatest numbers.

4. The moment the four bound angels are released from their constraint, hosts of death-dealing cavalry overrun the earth. There are such things as supernatural horses. Horses of fire took up Elijah into heaven. Horses and chariots of fire protected Elisha at Dothan. Heavenly horses and horsemen introduce the dominion of Christ, as described in a later chapter in this book. They are the forces which pertain to the celestial kingdom. And here John beholds troops of horse of like unearthly order, but pertaining to an opposite realm, the infernal cavalry. They are the powers of the four loosed angels, inbreathed with the spirit of death and destruction, and putting into execution their murderous and malignant will. As there are infernal locusts, so there are infernal horses; and as the former were let forth to overrun the world with their torments under the fifth trumpet, so the latter are let forth to overrun the world with still more terrible inflictions under the sixth.

The number of these "hosts of horse" is enormous. Such a cavalcade in point of multitude, has never been marshalled on earth. John could not count them. No spectator could count them. They are as multitudinous as the Psalmist's chariots of God. (Psalms 68:17.) John "heard the number of them: " "two myriads of myriads," just two hundred millions, one-sixth as many as the present entire population of the globe! This one particular should settle forever, that Turkish cavalry and the Moslem conquests are in no proper sense the subjects of this vision.


What the seer, describes, he calls horses, while yet he says that they are not proper horses. Their heads are like lions' heads. Their tails are serpentine, eels, one of the fathers calls them, and terminate in heads like serpents' heads. They have riders, and yet the riders are parts of themselves, to whom no separate actions are ascribed. It is not the riders but the horses which do all the mischief. They are covered with coats of mail, the colours of which are the colours of fire, and hyacinthe, and sulphur, answering to the elements which they emit from their mouths. They do not eat, nor does it appear that they are capable of being wounded or killed. "Out of their mouths issueth fire, and smoke, and sulphur," the very elements of hell. Though leonine, they do not seize with their jaws, nor take flesh into their mouths, nor slay with teeth or claws. They stifle and destroy with their sooty, sulphureous, fiery breath-with "the fire, and the smoke, and the sulphur, which issueth out of their mouths." Some say this means gunpowder, discharged from the muzzles of fire-arms and cannon! But, strange to say, when it comes to a following chapter, where it is recorded of the two prophesying witnesses, that "if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth and devoureth their enemies," these interpreters at once drop gunpowder, and substitute prophetic denunciations and prayers! If it is gunpowder in one place, it must be gunpowder in the other. But it is neither gunpowder nor prayers in either case, but simply what the holy seer says it is,-the elements of hell hurled upon the guilty while they still live in the flesh; in the one case by the holy power of God direct, and in the other through the agency of malicious and infernal spirit-powers, which are permitted to put themselves forth in these horrid forms. Israel was once exhorted to consider that Egypt's horsemen were "flesh and not spirit;" but here the case is reversed, and men have to do with horses and horsemen which are spirit and not flesh.[78]

[78] "We must not here think of earthly human horsemen."--Ebrard in loc.


These agents have two means of harming men. They stifle and kill by what they belch forth from their mouths, and they hurt and injure with their snake-headed tails; "for the power of the horses is in their mouths, and in their tails." As to what issues from their mouths, it would seem as if it were not always the same, but varying and alternating between fire, smoke, and sulphureous fumes; either being fatal to human life. The fire would scorch and burn men to death, and the smoke or the sulphur would stifle and smother them. The three things are named as "three plagues," and the description is, that life is destroyed by each separately, as well as by the three conjointly.[79] Hence, to meet one of these two hundred millions of infernal horses face to face, is certain death, either by burning or stifling. As to the serpentine tails, nothing is said of power to kill, but only of power to injure, to lame, maim, sting, or hurt.

[79] "We have here three destructive agencies, emphatically distinguished as separate agencies. It is first stated generally that the third part of men was destroyed by these three, and then, to prevent as it were a mistake, the three are again separately enumerated, each with its own article, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone."--T. K. Arnold. Ebrard interprets the passage in the same way.


The idea of serpentine tails suggests a capacity for lashing with painful and disabling strokes; whilst the snake-heads at the ends suggest the additional capacity to bite and sting. At any rate, the tails of these horses are parts of the horses themselves, used by them as instruments of mischief, by which great suffering is inflicted. Yet Elliott, Barnes, and commentators of their class, see nothing in these appendages, but the tails cut from dead horses, dried, and hung on poles, which the Turks carry as standards! Well may Alford remark, "I will venture to say, that a more self-condemnatory interpretation was never broached than this of the horsetails of the Pachas."

5. Fearful havoc of human life is made by these infernal horses. To say nothing of the dread and horror which their presence inspires, and the confusion which their advent strikes into every department of society, it is here written, that, by these horses, one out of every three of the whole human family is killed, destroyed from the face of the earth. It was a dreadful time for Egypt, when the destroying angel went through the land and smote down the firstborn of every house. It evoked a cry from that guilty people, at which the world still trembles whenever the record is recited. But there, there could scarcely have been more than one in every ten; whilst here one out of every three is killed. Suppose the population of the earth to consist of twelve hundred millions, this one visitation takes off four hundred millions-more than ten times as many as the entire population of the United States! Nor would the mere numbers of the slain be so appalling, but for the dreadful manner in which they are put to death, and the awful dangers amid which the living are necessitated to do for the dead.

6. The continuance of this plague is equally extraordinary. The tormenting locusts continued for five months; this, it would seem, is to continue for more than thirteen. "The hour, and day, and month, and year," noted by the seer, would seem most naturally intended to measure the exact duration of the plague. If so, it is to last one year, one month, one day, and one hour. The four specifications are given with a single article, which accordingly embraces them as a single period of time; and the adding of these specifications together assigns to these operations just a day and an hour more than thirteen months.[80] Think of having to live amid such perils and such scenes, subject every moment to be horrified, smitten, stung, stifled and destroyed, for the space of three hundred and ninety-one days, with men, women, and children, associates and friends suffering and dying about you every day and every hour, killed by the visible monsters of hell, that throng about your path by day and about your dwelling at night? The mere contemplation of it makes one's flesh chill with horror! What then, must it be for those who experience it!

[80] So Elliott conceives the meaning of the passage, aggregating together the hour, day, month, and year. There is a parallel instance in Daniel 12:7, where the Septuagint has εις καιρον, καιρονς, και ἠμιου καιρου, for a time, times, and half a time, which is accepted as a chronological formula equivalent to the aggregated sum of the three specifications; that is, a year, two years, and half a year added together, making twelve hundred and sixty days. So here we have the same εις followed by similar specifications of time, which, aggregated into one sum, make a period of thirteen months, one day, and one hour, during which this killing and injuring are to go on.

7. The object of this woe is partly retributive and partly reformatory. It belongs to the judicial administrations of the great day. It is God's terrific judgment upon the world, which has disowned allegiance to Him, and rejected the mediation of His Son. It is the righteous indignation of outraged justice which can no longer endure the superlative wickednesses of men. The trampled law of eternal right must assert its dignity. Christ cannot submit to the taunts, and thongs, and mockery of Pilate's hall forever. The blood of the covenant cannot be trampled under foot, and accounted an unholy thing, with unceasing impunity. There is a point over which the greatest forbearance and long-suffering dare not go, and at which mercy itself cries out for unsparing justice. And as these people, against all the light and warnings sent them, still drive on with their devil-worship, idolatry, murders, sorceries, lewdness, and dishonesties, until they have filled the measure of their guilt, and wearied out the very patience of indulgent God, the horses of hell are let loose upon them, to sweep one-third of them to speedy perdition.


And yet, in wrath God remembers mercy. He suffers only one-third of the race to fall a prey to this tremendous woe. Two-thirds of mankind He spares, not because they deserve to be spared, but that by means of their awful trials they might perchance be led to repent of their sins, and lay hold of salvation before it is clean gone forever. Ah, yes, the Lord is good and gracious, even in the severest of his visitations. He delighteth not in the death of the wicked, but would rather that they should turn from their evil ways and live.

But alas for those who continue in sin till trouble brings them to a better life! Those content to give their good days to the devil's service, seldom come to reformation in their evil days. While the pressure of judgment is on them, they may cry, God have mercy! and think to lead a different life; but their vows and prayers vanish with their sorrows, and they are presently where they were before, only the more hardened in their iniquities. Thus was it in this case. The powers of hell had been let loose upon the guilty world. Times of danger, death, and horror, fell upon the people. The wrath of offended God flashed through the earth for thirteen months, until it seemed as if the entire race would be consumed. A plague unprecedented stripped the globe of one-third of its population, by a form of death giving visible demonstration of the truth of God's warnings to the wicked. There was left no room for any one any more to doubt the reality of hell, or his close proximity to it; for hell had come in upon the earth! And yet, "the rest of the men, who were not killed by these plagues, repented not from the works of their hands, that they should not worship the demons, and the idols of gold, and silver, and copper, and stone, and wood, which can neither see, nor hear, nor walk; and they repented not out of their murders, nor out of their sorceries, nor out of their fornication, nor out of their thefts."


Such is depraved and infatuated human nature. "Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him." (Proverbs 27:22.) If people will not listen in the days of peaceful opportunity, there remaineth very little hope for them. "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." (Luke 16:31.)

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Bibliographical Information
Seiss, Joseph A. "Commentary on Revelation 9". Seiss' Lectures on Leviticus and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sei/revelation-9.html.