Politics & Prophecy: A Lawyer’s View of the End Times
Part 2 – Judgment of the Nations
by Gerald R. Thompson
Rev. 8:6-9:21 (summarized below) –
1st Trumpet – Hail and fire mixed with blood burning up one-third of the earth’s land and vegetation. We know from 2 Pet. 3:7-13 that the earth is reserved for judgment by fire, but that is a pretty obvious reference to the end of time, when God destroys the present earth completely and creates a new heaven and new earth. Rev. 21:1.
This judgment is more of a direct parallel with the 7th plague of Exodus, although no one is mentioned as being killed as a result. It appears to be primarily a judgment on the land. However, the fact that hail and fire are mixed with blood signifies it is a punishment visited on those who have blood on their hands. Since one-third of the earth’s land is affected, the bloodguiltiness will be widespread.
2nd Trumpet – A great mountain thrown into the sea, resulting in the destruction of one-third of all sea life and ships on the sea, with one-third of the sea turning to blood. Again, I see a possible literal and figurative fulfillment. We know that God turned water into literal blood back in Egypt in the time of Moses (1st plague of the Exodus), so there is no reason to think He can’t do it again on a larger scale. Simply killing one-third of all sea life could release a great deal of blood into the oceans, but that is not all that’s happening here. This is quite possibly a literal conversion of water to blood as a judgment against those who have shed innocent blood.
It’s also hard to escape the possible symbolic reference to a mountain and the seas, meaning a kingdom and the peoples of the earth, whenever these terms are used figuratively. Under this interpretation, assuming the great mountain is the Antichrist kingdom, it will result in the killing of one-third of the world population upon its destruction.
However, I do not think the context here suggests a symbolic reading. The context is a destruction of sea life – meaning aquatic species, not people. There is an explicit killing of one-third of the world’s population in the 6th trumpet, so there is no reason to force that reading here. What is being referred to is likely either a tremendous land slide that falls into the ocean, or possibly an asteroid that falls into the ocean.
3rd Trumpet – A star falls from heaven named Wormwood, turning a third of all rivers and springs bitter, killing many people. “Bitter water” is essentially poisoned or toxic water, and Wormwood speaks of a form of poison or toxin. Again, the reference to a star and rivers indicates, in a figurative sense, the falling of Satan and the spiritual poisoning of a third of mankind by his deceptions, to the point where these fanatical followers will die.
Could this 3rd trumpet be a reference to literal rivers and springs? Possibly. As we will see shortly, in the 3rd bowl a third of the rivers and springs will be turned to blood. So it is possible the 3rd trumpet refers to another third of those same waters. If so, water contamination is going to be a major factor in the Tribulation. A lot of people are going to be thirsty and may die as a result, since rivers and springs refers to fresh (drinking) water.
Note: It should be pretty obvious that when judgment comes on the earth, environmental disasters will befall mankind, but not because of industrial pollution or greenhouse gases. I have news for everyone – God actually made people as carbon emitters by design, so taxing carbon or labeling it as a pollutant is slapping God in the face. When global environmental disaster comes, it will be by the hand of God and be brought because of moral sin (idolatry and lawlessness), not because man is fulfilling the dominion mandate to subdue the earth and creating carbon emissions in the process.
4th Trumpet – A third of the sun, moon and stars are darkened. Possibly a reiteration of the 6th seal and Mat. 24, but I tend to think not. Whether such things will happen on multiple occasions, I can’t say for sure, but the event described here does not have a lot in common with the great day of the Lord. It is curious that here we are told the sun, moon and stars will each be darkened by a third. Not completely darkened or obstructed (as by clouds), but in some other way yet to be revealed. Not the same as the sun being blackened, the moon turning to blood, and the stars falling from the sky as described in the 6th seal and Mat. 24.
I think there are two possible meanings of this judgment. First, it could be a type of darkening in parallel with the 9th plague of Exodus, but I tend not to view it that way. For one thing, the Exodus plague involved utter darkness, and this will not have nearly the same effect. The other possibility is that God is showing He has complete and utter control of the heavenly host, and that they serve Him, not the other way around. It’s a question of who is in charge. I lean toward that view.
5th Trumpet (First Woe) – A star fallen from heaven is given the key to the bottomless pit, which he opens. Smoke or a dark cloud rises from the pit, from which come special tormenting locusts who have the power to sting people with their tails like scorpions. They can torment, but not kill, anyone on earth who does not have the seal of God on their foreheads for a period of five months. People will want to die, but God will not let them die. A vivid description of the locusts is given: horses with gold crowns on their heads, human faces, women’s hair, lion’s teeth, iron breastplates, wings, and scorpion tails.
I’ve read a lot of strange interpretations of this text. Some interpret the locusts literally and have tried to draw a picture of all the features on one literal beast. Others interpret the locusts as Muslim hordes wearing military gear. Even supposing Islam is the religion of the Antichrist, there is no reason to start thinking that all the end times prophecies are about Muslims. If you look back at the table of common symbols, the interpretation is actually quite easy.
The star fallen from heaven is Satan. We know this not only because he releases the horde held in the bottomless pit whose one task is to torment the human race, but also because in Rev. 9:11 we are told that he is an angel, he is king over the horde, and his names include Abaddon (Hebrew) and Apollyon (Greek), both of which mean destroyer. Clearly this is Satan.
The locust horde is undoubtedly the demons (fallen angels) who have been sent to the abyss when cast out of people throughout history or have been detained there by God. See Luke 8:31. The abyss is where Satan and his demons will be locked up for 1,000 years after Jesus returns. See Rev. 20:1-3. The Bible only ever speaks of the bottomless pit as a jail for fallen angels. Nobody else ever goes in or out of the abyss. The locust horde must be demons, which means that locusts are to be taken symbolically, not literally.
In modern vernacular, these are the “dark armies” whose coming is foretold in devilish prophecy. As Satan the deceiver sells it, when the dark armies come they will overthrow the tyrant Jehovah. But it will be to no avail. Jehovah will conquer them and punish them forever. Yes, the demon horde will look ugly and scary. Think Indiana Jones style scary ghosts, only worse. But will they be literal/physical beasts? Probably not.
Now why, you may ask, is Satan letting loose his demons so they can torment only the wicked on the earth, and none of the righteous? What does this profit him? Well, the Tribulation is a time of great harvest – that is, human death where the fate of immortal souls is forever determined. It will be a time of great harvest for God – hence the many Tribulation saints who will see Satan’s lies and God’s judgment and turn to Jesus.
But it will also be a time of great harvest for Satan, as many millions of people will not yield to God and die unsaved – just as Satan wants. Misery loves company, and Satan wants to take as many people with him to destruction as he can. If he can have fun tormenting them on their way to hell, why not? That’s just the kind of guy Satan is. Also see Rev. 14:14-20 re: the two great harvests.
Don’t bother trying to convert the five month period into prophetic years, or look for fulfillment in the past. In this instance, five months is five months in the future. As a last point, the only people mentioned in Revelation as having the seal of God on their foreheads are the 144,000 of Israel, so this is likely a reference to them as being spared the torture of the locusts. I take it there will be few, if any, other Christians alive at this time. The scripture simply does not say that all believers at that time will have the seal of God on their foreheads, so I cannot assume it.
6th Trumpet (Second Woe) – Four angels who were bound at the river Euphrates will be released at an appointed hour, day, month and year to kill a third of mankind. We are told there is an army of 200,000,000 mounted troops who apparently will do this killing. The job of the angels, apparently, is to rally the troops and spur them to action. The killing will be accomplished by fire, smoke and sulphur coming from the mouths of the horses. We are also told that the people who remain and are not killed will not repent of their idolatry and wickedness.
Whether the four angels are fallen or not is hard to say, and I don’t know that it matters. The angels of heaven, or the “heavenly host,” literally means an angelic army ready to make war. So warrior angels could be either good or evil. It is interesting that they are bound at this place for this specific time and task, but I don’t know why that would make them any more or less fallen angels.
I was taught as a youth that since China was the only nation on earth that could field an army of 200,000,000 men, this must be a prophecy about the coming Chinese invasion. Looking back at it now, I can’t imagine what people were thinking – except that people tend to view prophecy through the lens of their own experience.
Thus, the Revived Roman Empire theory sprang up after the Reformation out of a disdain for Roman Catholicism. Similarly, both China (the supposed king of the east) and Russia (the supposed king of the north) became popular prophecy targets in the 20th century during the rise of communism.
Even though this text (Rev. 9:13-21) nowhere mentions the 200,000,000 men as coming from the “east,” it is often linked with Rev. 16:12 (the 6th bowl) because they both mention one or more angels and the river Euphrates. But even though China is indeed east of Israel, in prophecy the kings of the east always means the nations between Israel and Iran. China is probably not in view here.
This prophecy, as well as the prior one, is the subject of much conjecture. Much of which centers around the idea that the horses are really modern tanks that poor John just could not adequately describe, as this explains the fire, smoke and sulphur coming from the mouths of the horses.
However, the purpose of this army of 200,000,000 is not to attack Jerusalem or the people of God. Thus, I do not think this is a Muslim horde, or even any human army, because the purpose of the human armies (in a separate battle) is to make war with God and His holy city. This 6th trumpet is something else. It is apparent indiscriminate killing of a third of all mankind, and it makes no mention of a geographic target destination (i.e., Israel). The killing angels come from the Euphrates, but where do they go? Will they find a third of mankind sitting right there in Iraq?
We are also not told where the army comes from. We know where the four angels come from but where does the army come from? A scenario as likely as any other is that the demon horde, the dark army, which could previously only torment, is now sent out to kill. They have a new mission, and the four angels who are released give them their new orders.
I find it curious that v. 20 says the rest of mankind did not repent. It seems to imply that there were no Christians around – just freshly killed unbelievers and surviving tormented unbelievers. Perhaps the Christians have already been killed, and are waiting for vengeance as the Tribulation saints we will discuss later.
Here we are just a little over half way through the judgments and already half of the world population is killed. The four horsemen account for one-quarter of the world being killed, leaving three-quarters. One third of the remainder is killed with the 6th trumpet, leaving half the original amount. The four horsemen (the Antichrist) and the four angels bound at the Euphrates would necessarily be separate actors, since the Antichrist is human, not an angel. So these two accounts of mass death are separate, not the same thing referred to twice.
Interlude, or The Second Woe Part 2. Before the 7th trumpet sounds, we are told of the little scroll (Rev. 10:1-11) and the Two Witnesses (Rev. 11:1-14). I discuss the two witnesses in detail later.
The little scroll is held by an angel of great power, having authority over all the earth (land and sea), who calls out in a loud voice. This is followed by seven thunders which speak things John is told not to write down. Then the little scroll is given to John to eat – it tastes sweet but turns bitter in his stomach. Finally, John is commanded to prophesy about many peoples, nations, languages and kings. The little scroll is symbolic of God’s word. It tastes sweet to those who partake of it, but it can have bitter consequences in life. It is likely an allegory of the book of Revelation as a whole.
7th Trumpet (Third Woe) – Rev. 11:15-19 – An announcement is made in heaven that the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of Christ forever. The twenty-four elders in heaven worship God, then the temple in heaven is opened, revealing “the ark of his covenant.” In a sense, the 7th trumpet is a statement of what end times prophecy is all about – the establishment of the kingdom of Christ forever, the judgment of the dead, the rewarding of the servants of God, and destroying the destroyers of the earth. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Whether the ark of the covenant referred to here is the same as the one from the Old Testament (which is now missing and everyone is looking for), I cannot say. Insufficient data.
We are told in Rev. 10:7 that when the 7th trumpet is sounded, “the mystery of God would be fulfilled.” All of this points to a summation of things, namely, the judgment of the nations completed, Jesus returning, and the establishment of His earthly (millennial) kingdom. So in preparation for that, the next thing the scripture does is introduce us to the Satanic Trinity.[Here I will skip Rev. Chap. 12-14 as these are discussed in Part 4.]
Rev. 15:1-8 is essentially an introduction to the seven bowls, called the seven plagues in this chapter. We are told that with these plagues the wrath of God is finished. Then we see the Tribulation saints standing by a sea of glass (the “crystal sea”) singing praises to God, followed by the glory of God displayed in His sanctuary, which no one could enter until the plagues were finished.
I take it from these verses that the seven bowls will be poured out near the end of the Tribulation. This is indicated by the fact they complete the wrath of God, and also because the Tribulation saints are no longer under the altar crying out for revenge as they were in the 5th Seal (Rev. 6:9-11). Rather, they are waiting to enter God’s sanctuary, indicating that God is nearly ready to change gears from pouring out wrath to communing with His people.
Rev. 16:1-21 (summarized below) –
1st Bowl – Painful sores are inflicted on people who have the mark of the Beast. This plague recalls the 6th plague of Exodus, namely, the boils. Boils are painful sores on the skin. Like the boils in Egypt, only the wicked are struck with this plague. The plague of boils is an outward sign which symbolizes the corruption and foulness within.
2nd Bowl – The entire sea is turned to blood and every living thing in it dies. This judgment is similar to, but separate from, the 2nd Trumpet when one-third of the seas are turned to blood. There would be no point listing one event as impacting one-third of the seas and the other as impacting all of the seas if they were actually the same event. Because the 2nd Bowl is worldwide, it suggests every single nation has serious blood on its hands, so that we may assume Christians and Jews will be persecuted worldwide and not just in the Mideast.
Recall the 6th trumpet, when I suggested that no saints may still be alive when certain things take place. Not because the saints have all been raptured away, but because they will all have been martyred. Most of the seven bowls seem to be worldwide judgments of a most severe nature, so it is possible nearly all the saints (except perhaps the 144,000) have already perished by this point.
Quite frankly, there would be nothing to be gained by trying to survive in the flesh as a believer at this point, if you are the kind who is inclined to build an underground bunker with seven years of supplies inside. As a believer, there is no way you could survive in the flesh after the First Resurrection (coincident with the Second Coming) because you would be transformed by rapture. Even if you could pass into the Millennium in the flesh as a believer, why would you want to?
3rd Bowl – Rivers and springs are also turned to blood. Both the 2nd and 3rd Bowls recall the 1st plague of Exodus and turning water to blood, but this time on a worldwide scale. See Ex. 7:20-21, where not only is the Nile river turned to blood, but “there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt,” suggesting both salt and fresh water were affected. Obviously, if all sea life dies, it eliminates a major food source worldwide. Most everyone on earth will be affected. I also assume all shipping and navigation on water will be stopped as a consequence because, among other things, blood is thicker than water – literally, not just figuratively.
Here we also have the symbolism of turning water into blood explained in verse 6: “For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!” So turning water to blood is given as a sign of judgment to those who have shed innocent blood. The fact that after the 3rd bowl all water sources on earth have been turned to blood indicates that all people, or at least all nations, remaining at that time are guilty of shedding innocent blood.
4th Bowl – The sun begins to scorch people and burn them. This is a plague not seen in Egypt, which would seem by its nature to be indiscriminate, affecting everyone on earth. So again, perhaps the saints are not around at this time. A literal scorched earth plague.
All the predictions of global warming will finally come true, but not because of greenhouse gases. This global warming won’t be so much a man-made condition resulting from actions in the physical world as it will be a consequence of moral and spiritual failure, i.e., wickedness. The scripture indicates afflicted people will not repent, which is pretty consistent with global warming advocates today.
God gave mankind the Dominion Mandate (Gen. 1:28) to subdue and rule over the earth, which imposed a duty of stewardship for the earth. But that authority was given to people as individuals and families, not to governments. The Dominion Mandate is the foundation for the concept of private property, and as such gives each family authority to subdue only their own little piece of the planet. Plus, it is a command to rule over the earth – not preserve it free from human utilization.
There is no human authority to save the planet as such, nor any public or collective authority to take dominion. Planetary preservation is God’s task. He will keep it preserved for judgment against asteroids, alien attacks and man-made environmental disasters. He will bring environmental disasters upon it (water to blood, killing vegetation, scorched earth, etc.) for moral and spiritual reasons. He will also reform the earth and reset its environment (see the 7th bowl below) in preparation for the earthly kingdom of Christ.
Saving the planet is out of the hands of man and in the hands of God. He will deal with it as He wishes. In the meantime, we should worry more about keeping God’s laws than anything else.
5th Bowl – The throne of the beast and its kingdom is plunged into darkness. Affected people gnaw their tongues and curse God, but do not repent. This judgment again recalls the plague of darkness in Egypt for three days (the 9th plague – Ex. 10:20-21). This time, no time limit is given. It also appears not to be worldwide, as it is specifically directed to the throne of the beast and its kingdom. For this reason, I conclude this is a separate event from the partial darkening of the sun, moon and stars discussed earlier.
We have not yet discussed the beast kingdom, which is the kingdom of Satan. Notice how this plague is delivered straight into the heart of Satan’s kingdom, i.e., his throne. I suppose I should mention here that this may not be just a symbolic reference – the Bible actually tells us where Satan’s throne is. Rev. 2:13 places it in the ancient city of Pergamum, on the western edge of modern day Turkey. Does this necessarily mean Turkey will be the headquarters of the kingdom of the beast? We will have to wait and see.
In any event, there are two symbolic meanings here: 1) even the very center of Satan’s power is not exempt from the judgment of God; and 2) this judgment is a foretaste of the eternal outer darkness of hell. A possible third symbolic meaning is that the kingdom of Satan is ever associated with the color black, including such things as a black stone, a black flag, and black clothing – the very opposite of things associated with God, such as fire, light, and the color white. Did you think the black flag of the current enemies of Israel was merely a random choice?
6th Bowl – The river Euphrates is dried up to prepare the way for the kings of the east. Three demonic spirits like frogs come out of the mouths of the dragon, beast and false prophet (the Satanic trinity) to perform signs and assemble the kings of the world for war. The battle is referred to as the great day of God the Almighty and the place is at Armageddon. The kings of the east are likely Iran and Iraq. China is not in view here.
Again, I do not see this as the same event portrayed in the 6th trumpet. There, the dark army slaughters a third of mankind indiscriminately and worldwide. Here, the kings of the world assemble to make war against God specifically at Jerusalem. These are two different events. Both the Great Day of the Lord and Armageddon are discussed in much greater detail later. The inclusion of this event among the seven bowls is probably just for emphasis and does not portend multiple battles at Armageddon.
7th Bowl (The Great Earthquake) – Lightning, thunder, and the greatest earthquake in the history of the world. The great city is split into three parts, cities around the world fall, every island flees away, and no mountains are found. As if that were not enough, hailstones weighing a hundred pounds fall on people, and the people continued to curse God.
The 6th and 7th bowls appear to be part 1 and part 2 of the same general event – the Great Day of the Lord. In other words, the summing up and conclusion of God’s judgment against the nations. Reading these two judgments together is consistent with Ezek. 38:17-23, which appears to speak of the same earthquake, as it has the same results (the mountains are thrown down and man made structures crumble) and the same timing (in connection with Armageddon). Ezekiel also mentions hailstones.
We have already considered how the great earthquake of the 7th Bowl is most probably the same earthquake described in the 6th Seal (Rev. 6:12-17). See also Isa. ch. 24, especially Isa. 24:19 – “The earth is utterly broken, the earth is split apart, the earth is violently shaken.” The whole of Isa. 24 is a judgment on the earth, and is an interesting companion to the prophecies of Revelation.
The great city is probably Jerusalem. Jerusalem is referred to as the great city in Rev. 11:8, so I lean towards that interpretation. Plus, the earthquake is so violent that apparently all the cities on earth will crumble and fall – except this one. The great city will only be split into three parts – not destroyed. If there is any city on earth God would spare from destruction, it is Jerusalem.
If the great city is Jerusalem, it will make major changes to the landscape, as we know the Mt. of Olives just to the east of Jerusalem will be split in two and a wide valley created between the two halves when Jesus returns (Zech. 14:4). Ostensibly, the Second Coming occurs right on the heals of Armageddon, so these two rearrangements of Jerusalem and immediate vicinity will occur right on top of each other. Viewed another way, we must assume the great earthquake is the final event of the Tribulation.
Why will God shake the world like this? It will function as a giant reset button. The only comparable event in world history is Noah’s flood, which cracked the earth’s crust, releasing the water below the surface (Gen. 7:11) and creating the oceans. That crack is still visible today (the mid-Atlantic ridge). But the point is, the flood wiped out nearly everyone, washed away all traces of prior civilization, and human society started over.
We know God will not destroy the world with water again, so to wipe the earth clean He has to use an earthquake. (The destruction of the earth by fire is reserved for the very end of history.) As such, the earthquake literally wipes the slate (earth) clean for the Millennium without destroying it. If Jesus is going to establish an earthly kingdom, it only makes sense to eliminate the remnants of the corrupt past – the temples and mosques of false worship, the buildings and structures of former governments, the institutions of false learning, the accumulations of wealth of the wicked, etc.
Also, by leveling the mountains, it makes much more of the earth’s surface inhabitable and capable of being farmed, etc. Not to mention, the earth’s surface temperatures would be moderated (less extremes). What better way to usher in a time of unparalleled peace and prosperity on the earth?
But what sense does it really make for God to level the entire earth with an earthquake immediately before the Second Coming, only to destroy it by fire immediately after? If God is going to destroy the earth coincident with the Second Coming, why do it twice? It only makes sense if the destruction by earthquake and by fire are separated by a significant amount of time, such as a thousand years.
In fact, the prophecy of the great earthquake – since it levels the earth but does not actually eliminate the present earth (unlike the destruction by fire, which will actually eliminate the present earth) – by its nature suggests the present earth will continue for some time afterwards. Therefore, greater attention should be paid to this prophecy, as it logically implies an earthly kingdom of Christ must follow before eternity (and the destruction by fire) sets in. The great earthquake will signify that the earth is ready for new leadership – the rule of the world by nations is over, and the rule of the world by Christ is ready to begin. Thus, the great earthquake is a prophecy of no small importance, and deserves emphasis.
In the totality of history, God will destroy the earth three times: 1) with a flood of water (Noah’s flood); 2) with the great earthquake (the last event of the Tribulation) that will raise every valley, topple every mountain, and make every island flee; and 3) the ultimate destruction of the earth with fire (2 Pet. 3:7, 12). I have heard sermons on the first and the third, but never the second. Why? Most likely it reflects the belief of many (i.e., amills and postmills) that once Jesus returns, history will end and the burning of the earth and heavens by fire will follow swiftly.
But don’t lose the significance of these three destructive events, namely, that each marks a fundamental change in the way the world is governed. And each destruction makes it possible for the next form of world government to to be ushered in. Thus, before the flood, the patriarchs were in charge – there simply were no nations or civil governments. After the flood and until the earthquake comes, the world is ruled by nations (our present situation). After the great earthquake, this present earth will be ruled by Jesus Christ for the duration. And after the destruction by fire, God will dwell and reign among His people forever on the new earth. Don’t tell me the consideration of government is a secondary issue in scripture – the governing of the world is what it’s all about, baby.