Does the seventh seal include the seven trumpets?

TO: General Table of Contents

Some interpreters understand several parts of the Apocalypse as somewhat repetitious, each leading its readers through the same period, adding new perspectives each time.  In this view—called “recapitulation”—each part of Revelation ends at the final consummation (the return of Christ or beyond).  For instance, some interpreters would understand the seven seals and the seven trumpets to both cover the period from the cross to the return of Christ or beyond.

In contrast, other interpreters understand the visions of Revelation to represent chronologically sequential events, with only one final climax at the end of the book.  One application of this principle is the large number of scholars that suggest that the seventh seal includes the seven trumpets, and that the seventh trumpet includes the seven plagues.  In this way the seven seals comprise the rest of the book.

The purpose of this article is to investigate this specific issue.  This issue may not matter too much to a preterist, even though preterists often defend recapitulation (repetition).  However, it is a decisive question for other interpretations of the Apocalypse.

The major parts of Revelation may be presented as follows:

  • The seven letters in chapters 1 to 3.
  • The seven seals (4:1 to 8:1).  The question to be answered in this article is where the seventh seal ends.
  • The seven trumpets (chapters 8 to 11).
  • The seven wars (chapters 12 to 14).  These wars are not listed numerically as the letters, seals and trumpets are, but “wars” is a good description of this part of Revelation, and an article is available that analyses this part of Revelation into seven wars.
  • The seven plagues (chapters 15 to perhaps 19)
  • The Millennium (chapter 20)
  • The New Heaven and New Earth (chapters 21 to 22).

This article will focus specifically on the seals and the trumpets, but will also refer to some of the other sections from time to time.

The proposal that the trumpets are all included in the seventh seal is based on the assumption that the seventh seal includes the whole of Rev 8:1-6.  Revelation 8:1-6 is therefore key in this analysis:

(1)  When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.  (2)  And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.  (3)  Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne.  (4)  And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.  (5)  Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.  (6)  And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound them. (NASB)

The person who numbered the text of Revelation put the seventh seal in a new chapter with the trumpets.  That person must have had the view that the seventh seal consists of the seven trumpets.  There is really nothing that happens when the seventh seal is broken—only silence.  The same applies to the seventh trumpet—nothing happens in that trumpet, except that God is praised for taking control of the earth.  This is justification for the view that the real action of the seventh seal is the seven trumpets, and that the seventh trumpet really consists of the seven plagues.  However, the numbering of the text is not inspired.  It was added about a thousand years after Christ.

It is proposed here that the seventh seal only comprises 8:1, and that 8:2 is the start of the series of trumpets.  This proposal is based on the following observations:

INTRODUCTIONS

The first point to be made is that every major part of Revelation has an introduction.  This is important for a proper understanding of the structure of Revelation.  Furthermore, it will be shown that the introductions are aligned to the themes of the various major parts.  The point that will be made is that the theme of the seals is very different from the theme of the trumpets.  The theme of the seals is about God’s people, and salvation.  The theme of the trumpets is about the people that do not believe in God, and about what God do to bring them back to Him.  It will then be proposed that if the themes are so different that the trumpets cannot be part of the seals.

Understanding of the introductions is also important for analysing the issue in this article.  The introduction for the major part will not be identified:

The introduction to the seven letters

Revelation 1 provides an introduction to the entire Book of Revelation (1:1-8), followed by a vision of Christ that serves as the introduction to the seven letters (1:9-20).  This vision provides the context for the letters, and most of the letters start with a reference to this vision.

Another important characteristic of the introductory scenes is that they all are heavenly scenes, in particular scenes of the temple in heaven, focussing on some aspect of the temple that is aligned to the theme for that part of Revelation.  In the introduction to the letters Christ is seen between the lampstands (1:13).  The lampstands represent the churches (1:20).  The theme of the letters is then messages from God to correct His church.

You may question why it is said that these lampstands is in heaven:

  • Firstly, Revelation indicates specifically that there is a temple in heaven (Rev 7:15; 11:19; 14:17; 15:5).  This might be a foreign concept to the reader, so please read these verses, and also Hebrews 8 and 9.  Then add to this concept the concept that, in the ancient Jewish temple, the lampstand was in the temple (Hebr. 9:2).  If the temple in Revelation is in heaven, and the lampstands are in the temple, then the lampstands must also be in heaven.
  • Secondly, Rev 1:20 does say that “the seven lampstands are the seven churches”, but according to 2:5 each church has a lampstand.  The lampstand therefore represents the church.  The churches are on earth, but their lampstands are represented as if they are in heaven.
  • Thirdly, notice that these are not lamps, but lampstands.  But if these are lampstands, there must be lamps as well, and in Revelation the Holy Spirit is represented as lamps in heaven:

“And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God” (4:5).  The churches are the stands on which the Holy Spirit “burns”.

If the lamps are represented as in heaven the lampstands must also be in heaven.

  • Fourthly, Revelation is a symbolic book.  We should not think about a physical temple in heaven.  The temple was the place to which the Israelite in ancient times went to obtain forgiveness from sin.  As stated by Hebrews 8:5, the ancient Jewish temple was a copy.  It was a physical representation of the means by which God solves the sin problem.  Therefore, the temple in heaven is really the processes God applies to rid the universe of the sin problem.  In that sense the temple in heaven includes the earth.  The sacrifice for the temple in heaven was made on earth (Hebr. 9:23).  Therefore, when we refer to the “temple in heaven” it must rather be understood as in contrast with a physical temple on earth, and not as something physically in heaven.  These wonderful works of God is something that we will study for millennia to come.  It is not something that we can now fully understand
  • Lastly, it will be shown that all the other introductions are clearly scenes from the temple in heaven.

In conclusion, the theme of the letters is messages from God to correct His church.  If they overcome the world through His love, He promises them to sit with Him on His Father’s throne (3:21).

The introduction to seven seals

The throne vision of Revelation chapters 4 and 5 functions as an introduction to the seven seals.  In Revelation 5 a slain Lamb (Jesus) receives a book.  The book is sealed with seven seals.  Each of the “seals” then starts with the Lamb opening a seal (6:1 to 8:1).  Similar to the letters, the throne vision provides the context for the seals.

As for the introduction to the letters, this is a scene from the temple in heaven, and the aspect of the temple on which it focuses is aligned to the theme of this part of Revelation. In the introduction to the seals God’s throne (4:2), which is in His temple (7:15) is prominent.  At the end of the seals all God’s people are around His throne (7:9).  But perhaps the key temple symbol in the seals is the slain Lamb:

“And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain” (5:6)

This is perhaps the key temple symbol in the seals because the seals are about salvation, as indicated by the following two quotes—one from the introduction and one from the sixth seal:

And they *sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.  “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” (5:9-10)

… And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  “For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple … (7:14, 15)

The blood of Christ therefore brings people to the throne of God, and the symbol of the slain Lamb introduces that theme.  The theme of the seals is perhaps best illustrated by the question from the lost multitudes:

for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Rev 6:17)

Jesus receives the sealed book at the throne (5:1), and eventually gathers all His people around the throne of God (7:9).  Non-believers are not specifically mentioned in the seals, except when they hide, like Adam, from the One sitting on the throne on “the great day of their wrath” (6:15-17).  As in the seven letters the focus is on God’s people (5:9; 6:9; 7:3, 9).  They must all come to the judgement throne of Christ, where they will be changed to see things as He does.

The introduction to seven trumpets

The vision of the angel serving at the golden altar, throwing fire on the earth, (8:3-5) is the introduction to the seven trumpets.  In the first place, this scene provides the context for the trumpets as the reader will notice fire everywhere in the trumpets (8:8, 10, 9:2, 17, 10:1; 11:5), and in the trumpets things typically fall on the earth or come down from heaven to the earth:

  • In the first trumpet fire is thrown to the earth; and much of the earth is burned up (8:7).
  • In the second a great burning mountain is thrown into the sea (8:8, 9).
  • In the third a great burning star fell from heaven (8:10, 11)
  • In the fifth a star from heaven fall to the earth, and the sun and the air were darkened by smoke, like the smoke of a great furnace (9:1-3).
  • In the sixth fire and smoke and brimstone proceed from the mouths of horses, killing third of mankind (9:17, 18).
  • In the interruption a strong angel come down out of heaven with feet like pillars of fire, brings a little opened book (10:1, 2), and fire flows out of the mouth of God’s two witnesses to devours their enemies (11:5).

The point is that the fire which the angels throws to earth in 8:5 results in the fire that we see everywhere in the trumpets, which means that 8:2-5 provides to context to the trumpets.

Secondly, as with the introduction to the letters and the seals, the vision in 8:2:5 is of something in the temple in heaven, particularly of the golden altar.  This introduces the theme of the trumpets.  In the ancient Jewish system individual sinners brought their sacrifices to the altar of burnt offering outside the temple, but sacrifices for the collective sins of the people were made at the golden altar inside the temple.  Revelation represents “much incense” (the benefits of the sacrifice on the cross) and the prayers of the saints on this altar because the trumpets represent God’s messages to a lost world.  In contrast to the seals the focus in the trumpets are on non-believers (9:4, 20).  God’s messages to them are symbolised of in the interruption in the form of John having to “prophecy again” (10:11) and the two witnesses (11:3).  But in the end, the focus is again on the non-believers, but now they worship God because they fear His power (11:13), not because they love Him.  This happens at the end of the sixth trumpet, which is equivalent to the non-believers hiding from God at the end of the sixth seal (6:15-17).  The trumpets, as prefigured in the incense and prayers offered on the golden altar, represent everything God does to reconcile non-believers to Him.

A further relationship between the introductory scenes is flashes of lightning, voices and thunders.  These were not seen in the introduction to the letters, but they are seen in the introduction of both the seals and the trumpets (4:5; 8:5)

Something else found in the introductions of both the seals and the trumpets is “incense” in connection with “prayers of the saints”.  In the introduction to the seals the incense is defined as the prayers of the saints (5:8), while, in the introduction to the trumpets, incense is offered on the altar “with” the prayers of the saints.  The term “prayers of the saints” is found only twice in Revelation, namely in the introduction to the seals (5:8) and in the introduction to the trumpets (8:3-4).

The introduction to seven wars

The first trumpet is blown in Rev 8:7.  Each trumpet is clearly identified. The last trumpet begins with Rev 11:15.  This trumpet is beyond the end of current world history, as indicated by the following:

  • “loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ …” (11:15)
  • the twenty-four elders, … saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.  … (11:16, 17)
  • The term “the one that is to come”—occurring elsewhere in Revelation as part of the formula of the divine name “who is and who was and who is to come” (e.g. 1:4)—is omitted in Rev 11:17.  In 11:17 God is designated only as the one “who is and who was”, pointing to the fact that He now has come and that the end of world history has arrived.

There is almost general agreement that something new starts with Rev 12 because:

  • The seventh trumpet ends current world history, while Revelation 12 jumps back to the time Jesus came as a human being (12:2, 5);
  • New characters are introduced.  A woman and a dragon are introduced in Rev 12. In Rev 13, the dragon empowers a beast from the sea. Then a beast from the earth arises and instigates the inhabitants of the earth to establish an image of the beast. The dragon and the beasts belong together and form a counter-trinity.  The major evil powers therefore enter the scene.  The woman opposes that evil trinity.

Revelation 12 is therefore a new part of Revelation.  The question is where 11:19 fits.  Is it the end of the trumpet vision as many scholars suggest, or is it the introduction of the seven wars in chapters 12 to 14, or is it both, as others propose?

In 11:19 the “temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm”.  For the following reasons it is proposed that 11:19 is the introduction of the seven wars in chapters 12 to 14:

ONE:   Rev 11:19, 12:1 and 12:3 present three successive scenes—the ark, the woman and the dragon.  The phrase “it was seen” (translated “appeared” in the NASB) occurs just three times in Revelation: namely in these three verses.  These three verses therefore belong together, which connects 11:19 with the subsequent two scenes.

TWO:  A further link between these three scenes is the phrase “in heaven” in each of these scenes.  There are differences between Rev 11:19 and Rev 12:1 and Rev 12:3, but such differences are not surprising, because introductory verses are always somewhat different from the section it introduces.

THREE:  Just like the introduction to the seals (4:5) and the trumpets (8:5), 11:19 refers to the heavenly temple.  Rev 11:19 uses the word “temple” (naos) twice.  John is allowed to see the innermost part of the heavenly sanctuary containing the Ark of the Covenant.  Both the golden altar (8:3-trumpets) and the ark (11:19) were part of the ancient temple furniture (Hebr. 9:4).  The Ark contained the Ten Commandments, and the wars on Revelation 12 to 14 are wars against God’s commandments.  This is indicated by the following:

    • God’s people are described as commandment-keepers (12:17; 14:12).
    • In the wars the first commandments are disobeyed.  The people of the world worship the dragon and the beast (13:4), they blaspheme God (13:6) and erect and worship an image (13:14, 15).
    • Therefore the plagues come from the “tabernacle of testimony” (15:5), which is Old Testament language from the temple of the Ten Commandments (Ex 25:16).

FOUR:  Still a further link with the other introductions are flashes of lightning, voices, thunders seen and heard also in 11:19.  Actually, each time thunder, voices, and flashes of lightning are enumerated, another element is added.   These three elements are found in Rev 4:5.  The introduction to the trumpets adds earthquakes (8:5).  In Rev. 11:19 a fifth element is added, namely a great hail.   The same five elements are found in 16:18-21.

FIVE:  Rev 11:18 is a fitting end to the trumpets because summarizes the final events that are described more extensively in the following chapters of Revelation.  It says:

  1. “the nations were enraged” summarises the seven wars in Revelation 12 to 14;
  2. “and Your wrath came” summarises the plagues Revelation 15 to 19;
  3. “and the time came for the dead to be judged” is the judgement before the great white throne in Revelation 20;
  4. “to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints” summarises the description of the new heaven and new earth in chapters 21 and 22, and
  5. “and to destroy those who destroy the earth”, explains the lake of fire and the second death (21:8).

The introduction to seven Plagues

The vision of the angels receiving the plagues from one of the four living beings (15:7) is the introduction to the seven plagues.  This is again a temple scene.  The temple here is called the “tabernacle of testimony” (15:5) which emphasizes the “testimony” a name for the Ten Commandments (Ex 25:16).

Introductions provides themes

It is important to note that these introductions always are scenes from the temple in heaven, and that the aspect of the temple that is seen is aligned to the theme of that part of Revelation.  The point here is that the themes of the seals and the plagues are very different.  The seals deals with the redemption of God’s people while the trumpets deal word God’s efforts to bring the lost back to Him.  Because the theme of these two part of revelation are so different, the trumpets cannot be part of the seals.

ENDS WITH THE RETURN OF CHRIST

Perhaps the most convincing argument is that the seals and the trumpets and the wars (Revelation 12-14) all end with “the end—the final consummation—which includes the return of Christ.  If the seals end with “the end”, then the trumpets must jump back in time, and at least to some extent cover the same period as the seals.  The following paragraphs therefore indicate that the seals and the trumpets do end with “the end”.

Since Rev 8:1 is introduced by neither “I saw” nor “I heard”, it seems that this verse has a very close relation to the preceding material.  With the sixth seal, not only the heavenly signs pointing to Jesus’ second coming have been fulfilled (6:12-14)—the day of the Lord itself—the “great day of their wrath”, has come (6:17).  In the extension of the sixth seal God’s people are perceived as already standing before His throne (Rev 7:9, 15).  This answers the question at the very end of the sixth chapter: “Who is able to stand?”  They are led by the Lamb to the water of life (7:17).  The climax has been reached.  Then the seventh seal adds silence in heaven.  So, the seals lead up to the final consummation.  Having reached Christ’s second corning, the Millennium, judgment, and new creation, a return to the old earth as described by the trumpets does not make sense if understood chronologically. If Rev 8:2-6—which draws with it Rev 8-9—would be connected with 8:1, the progression of Rev 6 and 7 up to 8:1 would be reversed and the climax destroyed.

The same is true at the end of the trumpets.  As illustrated above, in the seventh trumpet “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord” (11:15).  Then, in the next chapter, we read about Christ becoming a human being (12:2, 5).  Because the seals, trumpets and wars (Rev 12 to 14) all end with the end of human history as we know it, they must overlap in terms of periods covered.

SILENCE

This conclusion is supported by an understanding of the “silence” in 8:1.  In Revelation 5 describes John sees a Lamb taking a book sealed with seven seals.  When He opens the seals (Revelation 6), dramatic events occur on earth.  However, in 7:9 the scene returns to heaven with the great multitude standing before the throne and before the Lamb.  Then, when the last seal is broken, and the book is now completely open, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour, in contrast to the flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder which previously came out from the throne (4:5).  The silence must be because the book is now completely open, and can be completely read.  To understand this we need to understand what this book is.

There are various books in Revelation:

  • One is the book Revelation itself (Rev 1:11; 22:10; 22:18; 22:19).
  • Another book is the little opened book which the angel brings from heaven, which John has to eat so that he can prophecy (Rev 10).  Some believe this is the same book as the book the Lamb receives in Revelation 5, but the seventh seal will only be completely lifted after the end of current world history—after the return of Christ (6:17), while the angel’s book in Revelation 10 is already open when brought down to earth, and it is brought down as something that must be prophesied (10:11), which must happen before the return of Christ.
  • The third is the book of life.  In this book are written the names of the overcomers (3:5).  They will inherit the New Jerusalem (21:7), while all other people will suffer the second death in the lake of fire (20:15).  This is one of the books that will be used in the judgement (20:12).  This book is also called “the book of life of the Lamb” (13:8), or “the Lamb’s book of life” (21:27).  This implies that the book that is received by the Lamb in Revelation 5 is the book of life.  This is supported by the following observations:
    1. The book received in Revelation 5 is only completely unsealed at the end of current human history while the book of life is opened in the last judgement at the end of the Millennium (20:12).
    2. Jesus “has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals” (5:5).  In other words, His sacrifice on the cross gave Him the authority to open the book.  But we also know that through the cross Jesus “purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (5:9).  The book is therefore intimately tied to the redemption of man.  In other words, to open this book is to redeem God’s people.

The fact that the book with the seven seals is the book of life means that the seventh seal (8:1) happens in the final judgement at the end of the Millennium:

(Rev 20:12)  And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.

This silence then results from the judgement before the great white throne.  After this there is only the new heaven and new earth.  There is no space left for a return to earth for the events described in the trumpets.  This serves to confirm the previous conclusion, namely that the seals, the trumpets and the wars all end at the great consummation.

STARTS WITH THE CROSS

The seals start at the time of John.  As discussed elsewhere, the twofold introductory scene in Rev 4-5 points to Jesus’s enthronement in heaven after His sacrifice, possibly in 31 A.D.  The seals reach even beyond Christ’s second coming.  Thus the seals cover the entire Christian time span.

The vision of the seven wars (chapters 12 to 14), starts with a woman giving birth to a male child, which is a reference to the time God came as a man.  It ends with the harvest at the end of Revelation 14, which is the war Armageddon.  (See the article on Armageddon.)  The vision of the seven wars therefore again covers the Christian period.

Therefore the question is not whether the Apocalypse uses recapitulation—this issue is clear.  The question is rather whether the trumpets recapitulate the seals, which is possible given that the preceding and succeeding parts do cover the same period of time.

The “much incense” given to the angel serving at the altar (8:3) may be viewed as the benefits from the sacrifice at the cross.  In Revelation 5, at the inauguration of Christ’s ministry in heaven, the elders have bowls “full of incense” (5:8), which may be the “much incense” given to the angel at the altar in 8:3.  Notice in the following wonderful and joyous passage how Revelation 5 links the incense to the Lamb taking the book, and how taking the book is linked to His blood sacrifice at the cross, and to redemption:

When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.  And they *sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.  (Rev 5:8-9)

It is therefore proposed that the “much incense” results from the Lamb’s sacrifice, and that the incense is given to the angel immediately after the sacrifice was offered.  This would mean that the trumpets also cover the full Christian period.

TIME, TIMES AND HALF A TIME

One of the seven wars in Revelation 12 to 14 is the “time, time and a half” of Dan 7 and 12 (Rev 12:6, 14).

Both the trumpets and the seven wars (Revelation 12 to 14) refer to the period of “time, times, and half” (11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:6).  Both these parts of Revelation therefore cover this important period.  Everywhere in Daniel (where the period is first mentioned—Dan 7:25 & 12:7) and in Revelation this is the period of persecution of God’s people.  Because the seals revolves God’s people, and their persecution (6:9; 7:14), the seal necessarily also cover this period, which would mean that the seven seals, the seven trumpets and the seven wars all cover the “time, time and a half”.

The interpretation of the “time, times, and half” is critical to a correct understanding of the prophecies.  A separate article is available on this period.

CHIASTIC STRUCTURE

8:2-6 has a literary structure called a chiasm.  In such a structure the first element corresponds to the last, and the second to the one immediately preceding the last, etc.  The chiastic structure for 8:2-6 is as follows:

A Seven angels with seven trumpets (2)
B Angel, altar, censer (3a)
C Incense, prayers of the saints (3b)
D Altar before the throne (3c)
C’ Incense, prayers of the saints (4)
B’ Angel, censer, altar (5)
A’ Seven angels with seven trumpets (6)

This means that 8:2-6 forms a self-contained unit.  Rev 8:1 does not seem to have a place in this chiastic structure, which would mean 8:1 does not form part of the trumpets.

AND I SAW

Rev 8:2 starts with the words “and I saw”.  In Revelation the words “and I saw” or similar phrases are used to introduce a new section or at least a new aspect of a vision.   The same principle should be applied to 8:2.  it might be better to understand “and I saw” in 8:2 as introducing a new part of the Apocalypse.

In the seventh seal (8:1) the content (silence in heaven for half an hour) is presented immediately without a preceding “and I saw” used in all other seals, probably because silence cannot be seen and it would be awkward to say “and I heard silence”.

TREES AND STARS

There are things in Revelation that do not make sense if Revelation is understood as a single series of literal, physical and chronological events:

  • In the first trumpet (8:7) a third of the earth and a third of the trees and all the green grass are burned up. However, in the fifth trumpet (9:4), the grass and the trees are protected.
  • Under the sixth seal (Rev 6:12-14) the stars fall to the earth.  However, the fourth trumpet and the fourth bowl (plague) visions presuppose that the heavenly bodies are still in place (8:12; 16:8).

HEAVEN—EARTH—HEAVEN

The seals are initiated in heaven (Rev 4-5: Introduction), executed on earth (Rev 6:1-7:8—6 seals) and consummated in heaven (Rev 7:9-8:1).  The trumpets follow the same pattern.  They start in heaven (8:2-6: Introduction), are executed on earth (Rev 8:7-11:14; 6 trumpets) and ends in heaven (Rev 11:12, 15-18 Part of the 6th trumpet, 7th trumpet).

If the trumpets are a continuation of the seals, why would the scene return to heaven before it continues with the trumpets?  Would the “heaven-earth-heaven” sequences in both the seals and the trumpets not indicate that they are separate from each other?

DIFFERENCES

A further indication that the trumpets are not part of the seals, and of the seventh seal in particular, is the differences:

And I saw” statements are found throughout the entire seal series, including its introductory part.  None of the other groups of seven in Revelation are so intensely characterized by “and I saw” statements as is the vision of the seven seals.  With the trumpets this formula is found only rarely.

The seven trumpets start with a common formula, namely “and the. . .angel sounded the trumpet”.  This formula is prefigured by 8:2 and 8:6. It is quite different from the formula used in the seals: “and when it opened the … seal I heard the … living being saying” which draws on Rev 4-5.

There are no time periods mentioned in the seals.  In trumpets contain several time periods and indications of the passing of time:

  • After the first four trumpets an eagle warns those who dwell on the earth about the last three trumpets (8:13).
  • In the fifth the earth-dwellers are tormented for five months (9:5)
  • The sixth starts at a specific point in time when the four angels are released (9:15)
  • The interlude mentions the 42 months during which the holy city will be tread underfoot and the 1260 days during which the two witnesses will prophesy clothed in sackcloth (11:2, 3)
  • When the two witnesses finish their testimony the beast from the earth will kill them (11:7).  They will be dead for 3.5 days (11:11).
  • 11:13 mention another specific point in time, when the two witnesses are resurrected and ascend to heaven, with catastrophic results on earth.

The role-players in the seals are quite different from the trumpets:

  • In the first seals the Lamb is the centre of attention.  He is mentioned ten times within the seals, but not at all with the trumpets.
  • In the trumpets angels are very important.   In the seals they are only spectators.  Since no angels occur in the first six seals (except in the interruption) one probably should not expect to find them in the seventh seal.
  • In the seals the four living creatures and twenty-four elders are found in the introduction (4:4, 6; 5:5, 11, 14), in each of the first four seals and in the interruption (7::11, 15).  In the seals they are found only in the seventh.

There is a marked difference with respect to the people on which the seals and the trumpets focus, as already discussed above:

  • The trumpets to focus on the earth dwellers (8:13), namely the people without the seal of God (9:4) and the people that rejoice over the death of the two witnesses (11:10).
  • The seals focus on the people of God (6:9; 7:3, 14).

These differences imply that the seals and the trumpets are two distinct parts of Revelation, and that the trumpets are not part of the seventh seal.

THE SEALING AND THE SIXTH TRUMPET

Rev 7:1-8 describes the sealing of God’s people.  They must all be sealed before the winds can be released.  Four angels hold back the four winds “so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree” (7:1).  In Revelation the number four means “world-wide”.  As in Daniel 7:2, the winds must be understood as things that cause conflict.  God’s people are therefore prepared (sealed) for a difficult period.  Until they are sealed, four angels hold back the four winds of heaven.

In Revelation the closest parallel to the sealing is the sixth trumpet.  This trumpet also mentions four angels.  It says that the four angels are bound (9:14) at the “great river Euphrates” (9:14).  The Euphrates must be understood as Babylon’s river, because the ancient city Babylon was built on the Euphrates River, and Babylon is a prominent symbol in Revelation.  The Euphrates is then the “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues” on which Babylon sits (7:15).  Four synonyms (peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues) again used to indicate that all the people of the world are included.  The sixth trumpet releases the four angels on a specific point in time (9:15) to “kill a third of mankind” (9:15).

Note the similarities between the sealing and the sixth trumpet:

  • In the one devastation is held in check.  In the other devastation is released.
  • In both a crowd which is numbered.  In the sealing it is “one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel” (7:4).  In the sixth trumpet it is the “two hundred million horsemen”.  The phrase “I heard their number” is found only in 7:4 and in 9:16.
  • Four angels are mentioned in both sections.  In the sealing they are holding back the winds (7:1).  In the sixth plague they are released (9:14).  In the sealing they are said to be granted to harm the earth and the sea (7:2).  In the sixth trumpet they kill a third of mankind (9:15).

On the basis of these similarities it is proposed that the sixth trumpet is the release of the winds warned of in the sealing.  This conclusion is confirmed if the plagues (Rev 15 +16) are compared with the sealing and the sixth trumpet:

  • The plagues are poured out on all people with the mark of the beast (16:2).  The mark of the beast is the opposite of the seal of God (13:16-14:1).  The plagues are therefore poured out as soon as every person on earth has either received the mark of the beast or the seal of God.  The release of the winds, referred to in the sealing (7:1-3), is then the same as the plagues of Revelation 16.
  • The sixth trumpet is the same as the plaguesbecause:
    • The sixth trumpet also refers to “plagues” (9:18, 20).  It is only the sixth trumpet, the two witnesses (11:6) and the section on the plagues (15:1, 6, 8; 16:9, 21; 18:4, 8) that refer to “plagues”.  The later occurrences of the word “plagues” refer back to the plagues of Revelation 16 (21:9; 22:18).
    • Only the sixth trumpet (9:20, 21) and the plagues (16:9, 11) refer to people that “repent not”.

If it is accepted that the sixth trumpet is the release of the winds, then the previous (fifth) trumpet, which is the torment of the people without the seal of God for five months (9:4) is the same as or overlaps the sealing-period.  This is confirmed by the reference to the seal of God in this trumpet.  Further, the sealing (7:1-8) must logically precede 6:17, because 6:17 is the “the great day of their wrath”, when “every mountain and island were moved out of their places” (6:14).  The fifth trumpet therefore preceded the sixth seal.  It is then impossible for the trumpets to be included in the seventh seal.

Commentators that believe the seventh seal includes the seven trumpets typically also believe that the seven plagues are included in the seventh trumpet.   The above analysis also proposes that this is not the case.

DANIEL

A strong relation between the Book of Revelation and the Book of Daniel must be recognized.  For example:

  • The beast from the sea (Rev 13:1-2) is directly linked to the four beasts of Daniel 7.
  • The seven heads of the beast in Revelation are or include the beasts in Daniel.
  • The important period of a “time, times and half”, found in Revelation 11, 12 and 13, originates from Daniel.
  • The interruption of the trumpets in Revelation 10 and 11 are actually a continuation of Daniel 12.  (See the article on this interruption for more detail.)
  • Both books belong to the same type of literature, namely, apocalyptic prophecy. These are the only predominantly apocalyptic books in the whole Bible.

The Book of Daniel undeniably contains recapitulation:  In Daniel one series adds additional elements to the preceding one. Whereas Dan 2 discusses the political dimension—that is, the kingdoms of the world—Dan 7 adds a religious dimension, namely, the saints, and Dan 8 adds another spiritual dimension, namely, the sanctuary.

Since the Book of Revelation depends on the Book of Daniel, we might also expect recapitulation in the Apocalypse.

 

CONCLUSION

The question in the article is whether the trumpets are part of the sixth seal.  A range of evidence has been offered to indicate that this is not the case.

  1. It has been illustrated that each major part of Revelation has an introduction, and that 8:2-6 is the introduction to the trumpets.  This implies that these parts are distinct from each other.
  2. These verses (8:2-6) have a chiastic structure that excludes 8:1.  These five verses (8:2-6), which carried with them all the trumpets, is therefore not part of the seventh seal.  This is supported by the fact that the initiating words “and I saw” is only given in 8:2.
  3. It has been shown that each of the major parts of Revelation have a different theme.  It therefore does not make sense to propose that one such part is included in another.
  4. Each of the major parts of Revelation ends with the return of Christ and beyond, and the seals, trumpets and wars probably all start at the time of Christ.  They must therefore overlap in terms of period covered.
  5. Although this only confirms that the seals end at the final consummation of things, it was shown that the silence coincide with the last judgement before the great white throne, because the book in the seals is the book of life.
  6. The seals, trumpets and wars all cover the important period of the “time, times and half a time”.
  7. A number of differences between the seals and the trumpets have been listed, such as phrases often used, the presence and absence of time references, the important issue of differences in the role-players and the very important issue of the differences in people groups that the seals and the trumpets focus on.  These differences imply that the trumpets are not part of the seals.
  8. If Revelation is read literally and sequentially, then there are certain contradictions.  For instance under the sixth seal the stars fall to the earth but later they are still in place.
  9. It is generally accepted that the visions in Daniel build on each other—each providing additional insights with respect to periods covered by previous visions.  Since Revelation is built on Daniel it is more than likely that the same principle applies in Revelation.
  10. Lastly, and possible most complex, is has been shown that the fifth trumpet precedes the sixth seal.  It is then impossible for the trumpets to be included in the seals.

The argument that the seven trumpets are included in the seventh seal is based on the fact that nothing happens in the seventh seal—only silence.  It is submitted that this is very scant evidence against the evidence submitted above.

It is proposed here that the seventh seal does not include 8:2-6 chronologically, but it does include those verses, and therefore the trumpets, thematically.  What is meant by this statement is that the silence refers to the judgement of the dead at the end of the Millennium, and the trumpets explain what God did to turn them from their disastrous paths.  In other words, in the first six seals the focus is on God’s people, in the seventh and in the trumpets the attention turns to the “the nations” (11:2).

In conclusion, instead of viewing the trumpets as coming out of the last seal, it seems to be more appropriate to view Rev 4-5 and Rev 8:2-6 as introductory scenes providing the vocabulary for the introductory formulas used with each of the seven trumpets.  The seven trumpets apparently start with Rev 8:2 and end with Rev 11:18. Rev 11:19 already belongs to the next part, functioning as an introductory sanctuary scene.

TO: General Table of Contents

The Seven Heads of the Beast

Three beasts in Revelation have seven heads.  They are the Dragon (12:3), the Sea Beast (13:1) and the Scarlet Beast (17:3).  These three beasts have been identified in a separate article.  The purpose of this article is to determine what these seven heads represent.  The heads are explained by Revelation as follows:

“Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while.  (Rev 17:9-10 NASB)

The popular Preterist interpretation—the view of academics, generally—is that the seven heads or mountains are the Seven Hills of Rome, and that the seven kings are something different, namely literal emperors of the Roman Empire.  However, the heads and the kings are the same.  This means that the heads do not exist simultaneously—they follow each other chronologically (see 19:9-10 quoted above).  They therefore cannot be the Seven Hills of Rome.

The following justify the statement that the heads are the same as the kings:

(A) The KJV and NKJV translations give the incorrect impression that the kings (17:10) are different from the heads and mountains upon which the woman sits, mentioned in 17:9.  The KJV begins 17:10 with, “And there are seven kings.”  Even worse, the NKJV says, “There are also seven kings.”  As in the NASB quoted above, it should read “And they are seven kings”.  All the Greek texts, although differing in word order, include the following words, literally translated, “and kings they are seven”.  The words “there” and “also” in the KJV and NKJV translations are not in the Greek.

(B) According to 17:9 the heads are mountains.  Nobody disputes that.  What is disputed is whether the kings in 17:10 are the same as the mountains.  But the relationship between kings (17:10) and mountains (17:9) is well-established in Scripture—mountains represent the power of kingdoms and their individual kings (Isaiah 2:2-3; Jeremiah 17:3; 31:23; 51:24, 25; Ezekiel 17:22-23; Zech. 4:7).  In Habakkuk 3:6 the mountains may be seen as the nations which God scattered.  The stone (Dan 2:34) becomes a great mountain (Dan 2:35), which is explained as “a kingdom which will never be destroyed” (Dan 2:44).  And “Now it will come about that In the last days The mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it” (Isa 2:2 NASB).  If the heads are mountains, and the mountains are kings, then the heads are kings as well.

GENERAL PRINCIPLES

So what are the heads?  Firstly, the beast consists of the seven heads.  Imagine a beast with seven heads.  Now take away the seven heads.  What is left is a dead carcass.  Without its heads these is no beast.  This is confirmed by the text when it says that the harlot (Babylon) sits on both the Beast and on its seven heads (17:3, 9).  In Daniel 7 there is a leopard with four heads (Dan 7:6).  This is interpreted as Greece, and the four heads are interpreted as the four Grecian kingdoms that arose after Alexander’s death.  Also in this case the beast (leopard) consists of the four heads and it not something apart from them.  The relationship between the beast and its heads is similar to the relationship between the image of a man in Daniel 2and the metals it consists of.  The image consists of the metals, while the metals represent chronologic kingdoms.  Actually, there is no Beast.  It is only the heads that exist.  The Beast is the sum of the heads.  Everywhere that Revelation says that the beast does something, it is actually one of the heads (kings) that is doing it.

Secondly, the heads follow each other chronologically (17:10) and represent the exercise of the beast’s oppressive rule through one head at a time over the course of history.  The heads can therefore be understood as seven consecutive phases of the Beast.

Thirdly, the term “king” represents “kingdom” in prophetic symbols, just as a leader represents his people.  For example, Daniel called Nebuchadnezzar that “head of gold” but explained that another “kingdom” would follow (Dan 2:37ff).  In Daniel 7:17 and 23 the four beast are first explained as “kings” but later as “kingdoms”.  Most non-Preterist interpreters therefore take the seven kings to be world empires, but they disagree on which.

Fourthly, many people find heads by looking at empires that precede the ancient Babylonian Empire.  It is proposed here that such a procedure is not consistent with the principle that Revelation is built on Daniel.  According to this principle, one should not look outside of Daniel for the interpretation of the heads.  This approach is confirmed by the fact that the beasts of Revelation all have 7 heads and 10 horns, while the beasts in Daniel 7 have, in total, also have 7 heads and 10 horns, implying a close relationship between the beasts of Daniel and Revelation.

This does not mean that the seven heads are the same as the seven heads of the beasts of Daniel 7.  Daniel’s third empire (Greece) had four heads (Dan 7:6).  If the seven heads of Revelation’s beast were the same as the seven heads of the beasts of Daniel 7, then the third to sixth heads would be the four Grecian empires, which existed simultaneously.  This would be inconsistent with Revelation, because, according to 17:10, the sixth head follows in time after the fifth.

THE FIRST FIVE HEADS

On the basis of the principle discussed above that we should identify the heads from the beasts in Daniel, the four beasts in Daniel are the first four heads.  They are:

  • Babylon
  • Mede-Persia
  • Greece
  • Rome

The dragon with seven heads (Rev 12) is identified as Satan (12:9), but that identification is in the context of the war in heaven.  When it stands before the woman that carries the promised child, it has seven heads (12:3-4) which are “seven kings” (17:10).  In that context it therefore also represents an earthly power.  In particular it represents Rome, the fourth beast of Daniel 7, because that was the empire ruling at the birth of Jesus.  On the basis of the principle above, namely that the beasts of Revelation are actually heads, it is confirmed that Romeis one of the heads.

The beast that comes out of the sea, with seven heads, (the Sea Beast) inherits from four other animals:

And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.  (Rev 13:2 NASB)

The leopard, bear and lion are the first three animals in Daniel 7 (7:3-5).  The fourth animal in Daniel 7 is not compared to any known animal but is described as “dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth” (Dan 7:7).  This sounds like a dragon.  The Sea Beast therefore inherits from each of the four beasts in Daniel.  In the article on the seven headed beasts of Revelation it was for this reason and others concluded that the Sea Beast is the 11th horn growing out of Daniel’s fourth empire.  On the basis of the principle that the beasts of Revelation are actually heads, it is proposed that this 11th horn is the fifth head.

THE LAST TWO HEADS

Revelation mentions something about the 11th horn (the Sea Beast) which is not mentioned by Daniel, namely that this beast receives a deadly wound (13,3), but recovers from that wound to become the most destructive force ever in history.  After its fatal wound was healed, the whole earth was “amazed” after the beast” (13:3), and they (“everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life”—13:8) worshiped the dragon and the beast (13:4, 8).  This wound is not mentioned by Daniel.

It is very important to note that Revelation 17 indicates that the wound-period is the sixth head.  This is based on the following observations:

(A) The recovery from the wound is the same as the ascension from the Abyss, for the following reasons:

    • What happens after the recovery of the wound is the same as what happens after the beast comes out of the Abyss (whole world—not in book of life—worship 13:8; 17:8).  (See the article on the seven headed beasts for more information.)
    • It is quite unexpected that the anti-God persecuting powers go through a period of incapacity.  It is therefore likely that the period of incapacity in Revelation 13 (wound) is the same as the period of incapacity in Revelation 17 (wilderness, “is not”, Abyss).

(B) Revelation explains both the seven heads and the beast in terms of the past, the present and the future (see table below).  The sixth head is the “present” head, but at “present” the beast is in the Abyss.  The Abyss-period is therefore the 6th head.

PAST

PRESENT

FUTURE

Beast

Was

Is not

Come up from the abyss

Seven heads

Five was

One is

Other has not yet come

CONCLUSION

To conclude, let us revisit:  The heads of Revelation are limited to the beasts in Daniel.  Daniel mentions five “beasts”, if we add the 11th horn, which we must, because it is the main anti-God power in Daniel, and it is also the main anti-God power in Revelation (Sea Beast).  These are then the first five heads.  Revelation informs us that the fifth beast actually has three phases, because it receives a deadly wound somewhere during its existence, but recovers from that wound.  Revelation also tells us that the wound-period is the sixth head.  This results in the following seven heads:

  1. Babylon
  2. Mede-Persia
  3. Greece
  4. Rome
  5. Little horn
  6. Little horn mortally wounded (13:3) / in abyss (17:8) / in wilderness (17:3)
  7. Little horn resurrected (13:4)—Time of the False Prophet and Image of the Beast

This interpretation provides a challenge, because many commentaries hold that the explanation of the vision in Revelation 17 is given relative to John time.  This would mean that the sixth head (17:8) is in John’s time.  Please see the discussion of Revelation 17 for a response to this challenge.

TO: General Table of Contents

The Beasts with Seven Heads

There are three beasts in Revelation that are described as having seven heads and ten horns, namely:

  • the Dragon (Revelation 12);
  • the Sea Beast (Revelation 13) and
  • the Scarlet Beast on which the harlot sits (Revelation 17)

Commentators agree these are not literal beasts.  Because they all have seven heads and ten horns there must be some relationship between them.  What are these beasts?  How they relate to each other?  Are they the same, or do they symbolize different things?

DANIEL 7

While the beasts of Revelation each have 7 heads and 10 horns, the beasts of Daniel 7 have, in total, 7 heads and 10 horns.  The beasts of Daniel 7 are:

  • a lion (7:4);
  • a bear (7:5);
  • a leopard with four heads (7:6) and;;
  • a “dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong” beast with ten horns (Dan 7:7).

The 7 heads and 10 horns of the beasts of Revelation means that they have some relationship to the beasts of Daniel 7.  It implies that they are part of the series of beasts in Daniel 7.  This series of beasts of Daniel 7 are represented by a single image of a man in Daniel 2, where each body part represents an empire.  The head is the first (the ancient Babylonian empire) and the feet are the last, to be destroyed by the return of Christ.  Where-as the beasts of Daniel 7 emphasize their individuality, the image in Daniel 2 indicates that, from God’s perspective, they all form part of a single entity.  It may be more appropriate to compare the beasts of Revelation to this image of a man.  It is proposed that all three seven headed beasts in Revelation are different perspectives on the image of Daniel 2.

To make the relationship between Daniel’s and Revelation’s beasts completely clear, Revelation 13 tells us that the Sea Beast “was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the Dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority” (13:2 NASB).  The leopard, bear and lion are the first three beasts of Daniel 7, while “Dragon” would be a good description for the fourth beast of Daniel 7.  This means that the Sea-beast inherits something from each of the four beasts of Daniel 7.  It seems therefore abundant­ly clear that the beasts of Revelation are part of the series of beast-kingdoms described in Daniel.  They provide additional information about the empires represented by Daniel, and as we shall see, particularly about the last empire.

The discussion of Daniel 7 identifies the beasts as follows:

  1. Lion = Babylonian Empire
  2. Bear = Mede-Persian Empire
  3. Leopard = Grecian Empire
  4. Dragon = Roman Empire

However, the main actor in the drama of Daniel 7 is neither of these four.  Most of the verses in Daniel 7 describe a fifth power, namely the 11th horn that grows out of the fourth beast (Dan 7:8).  An analysis of Daniel 7 will show that this chapter allocates more verses to this 11th horn than perhaps of all four beasts put together.  This 11th horn is the focal point of Daniel 7, and the four beasts are described as its predecessors merely so that we may be able to identify this horn.

Initially there are 10 horns that grow on Daniel’s fourth beast.  This is explained as “out of this kingdom (Roman Empire) ten kings will arise” (Dan 7:24).  The Roman Empire came to its end over hundreds of year as its territory was systematically eroded.  The ten horns represent the nations that were formed as the Empire dissolved.  Since “king” and “kingdom” are synonyms in Daniel (Dan 7:17, 23), each of the ten horns may be understood as a kingdom; a series of kings.

Then an eleven horn will arise from the Roman Empire.  It dominates the other kingdoms (Dan 7:20, 24), “speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One” (Dan 7:25).  Daniel 7 predicts that this 11th horn will be the most significant opposition to God and to His people of all time.  It will become so important that a court that will sit in heaven to judge between this horn and God’s people (7:26, 9-11 and 14).  At the return of Christ this 11th horn will be destroyed (7:26, 11), and the everlasting kingdom will be given to the saints (7:27) and to the Son of man (7:13-14).  This 11th horn will therefore be a continuation (horn) of the Roman Empire in some way, and will exist until the return of Jesus.

It is proposed here that this 11th horn is the Church of Rome.  About 200 years ago arguably all Protestant commentators accepted this interpretation.  Today more or less nobody believes it anymore.  Over the last 200 year the Church of Rome has not been able to destroy Bibles and persecute the saints, but it has been able to erase from human memory most of what it did during the Middle Ages.  Today it is no longer socially acceptable to identify this Church with the great persecuting power of Daniel.

In academic circles Antiochus Epiphanies IV has been awarded this honour, based on the assumption that Daniel was not written, as the book indicates, in the time of ancient Babylon, in the sixth century before Christ, but that it was written in the time of Antiochus in about 165 BC.  This view is not accepted here.  The present author has made a study of when Daniel was written, and sufficient evidence exists in the book itself, such as the amazing historical accuracy of the fifth chapter, and outside the book, such as in the Dead Sea scrolls, that Daniel was written in the sixth century B.C.  A lengthy article is available on this topic.

In non-academic circles the dispensationalist view is dominant, postponing the Antichrist to a future seven year period after a secret rapture.

Today there is considerable resistance against any conspiracy theory.  People do not want to believe that there exists today a massive conspiracy to brain wash the peoples of the world.  People, even Christians, no longer believe in the existence of Satan, and therefore they do not believe in any form of conspiracy.  But Revelation warns us “those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality” (17:2).  It is maintained here, against the massive resistance, that the Roman Church is the 11th horn of Daniel 7.

Just think about the macro sequence of the Daniel 7 prophecy.  Four empires are described, the fourth being Rome.  Rome will break up into a large number of nations, and the Antichrist will be among them; stronger than the others, but still among them.  This requires an Antichrist that fit this sequence.  Neither the Antiochus nor futuristic theories fit this pattern.  It has been proposed above that we are informed of this sequence of beasts in order that we may be able to identify the 11th horn.  But the Antiochus and futuristic interpretations separate the 11th horn form its ancestry.

Also consider the continuity between Rome and the Antichrist; Rome will continue to exist until the return of Christ.  In Daniel 2 Rome is represented by the legs of iron.  In the feet Rome continues because the feet are made partly of iron and partly of clay, until the image is struck at it feet by Christ’s return, which vaporises the whole image (Dan 2:45).  In Daniel 7 the great persecuting power is a horn that grows on the fourth beast, and this horn continues its evil work until the return of Christ.  Antiochus and an Antichrist that will exist after a secret rapture do not satisfy the requirement of continuity with Rome.  But the Roman Church does.  It is a direct descendent from the Roman Empire.  As Rome became weaker and weaker, the Church grew stronger and stronger.  In this way, over time, the Pope replaced the Caesars, and inherited many of their titles.

Today people do not want to think any more about the history of the Roman Church, how it actively destroyed Bibles and killed God’s people.  The Roman Church is not the continuation of the early church.  The Roman Church developed in the church in Rome, and in an effort to become acceptable, it adopted heathen theories.  It became strong.  It even became the official religion of the Roman Empire, and was able to systematically destroy the remnant of the true church.  It replaced the gospel with a different religion; one where one is able to buy salvation; one that is based on the ancient mother-child religion from the time of Nimrod and Semiramis.  It has become a church that is based on wealth, splendour and power, mesmerizing the world with it dignity, power and wealth.

Since the reformation the Roman Church has been able to institute a counter reformation, and both theories, namely Antiochus and the futuristic Antichrist, have been developed by the counter-reformation.  It has been so successful that today very few people identify the Roman Church any longer as the Antichrist of Daniel.  However, consider the identifications provided by Daniel:

TEN KINGS:  According to Daniel 7 “ten kings” will arise out of “this kingdom”  (Rome) (v24).  Rome did break up into a large number of nations, such as the Visigoths, Ostrogoths and Vandals.  This, by itself, was a remarkable prophecy, made long before it happened, even if one assume Daniel was written in 165 BC, because each of the previous empires were conquered by one single mighty nation.  Babylon was conquered by Mede-Persia, Mede-Persia by Greece, and Greece by Rome.  In contrast, Rome’s end came over hundreds of years, as the “barbarian nations” eroded it from all sides.  This break-up happens before the 11thhorn became dominant.  How does this fit the Antiochus or the futuristic interpretations?  The text of the prophecy is completely incompatible with these interpretations. The Antiochus interpretation is based on the proposal that Media is the second empire, Persia the third and Greece the fourth,  which is contrary to the direct statement of the angel in Daniel 8:20, and contrary to the consistent information in Daniel that Mede-Persia was a single empire.  But even if we accept their proposal that Media and Persia be split, what are the 10 horns on Greece?  In Daniel 8 Greece is represented as a goat with four horns, not ten.  And where to you find 10 horns that fit the futuristic interpretation?  Remember that this Antichristian power of Daniel 7 subdues three of the horns.  What three horns are subdues by Antiochus or by an end time Antichrist?The point is that there are identifying marks in Daniel, and we have to use them to identify the Antichrist, and not be guided by politically acceptable notions.

AFTER THEM:  The eleventh horn will arise “after them” (v24).  Initially the Roman Church was purely a church.  It was only later that it also assumed political authority over other nations.  After what ten horns did Antiochus or will an end time Antichrist arise?

DIFFERENT:  “He will be different from the previous ones” (v24), which the Roman Church was, being partly religious, partly political.

SUBDUE THREE:  The 11th horn “will subdue three kings” (v24).  Certain Arian nations (Heruldi, Vandals and Ostrogoths), not believing in the deity of Christ, opposed the Church.  They were subdued before the Church was able to become dominant.  But these nations did continue to exist.  In the end all 11 horns existed simultaneously.  How does this satisfy the Antiochus or futuristic interpretations?

LARGER:  The 11th horn is “larger in appearance than its associates” (v20).  During the long dark period of history known as the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church dealt with a high hand.  She made and unmade kings:

Emperors and kings had to … be in communion with the Pope, as essential conditions of their reigning lawfully; if these conditions were broken, of which the Pope was the judge, then … he could … declare their ruler unfit to reign. [Cath Dic, 257]

Sixtus V (Cath. Ency. I729) excommunicated Protestant Henry of Navarre, and sent an army to unseat him.  Sixtus promised the Spanish King a subsidy for the Armada, with which England was to be subjugated.  Let’s take a look at how Pope Gregory compels King Henry to freeze three days before he would receive him:

Striped of his royal robes, and clad as a penitent, Henry had to come barefooted mid ice and snow, and crave for admission to the presence of the pope. All day he remained at the door of the citadel, fasting and exposed to the inclemency of the wintry weather, but was refused admission. A second and third day he thus humiliated and disciplined himself, and finally on 28 January, l077, he was received by the pontiff and absolved from censure, but on condition that he would appear at the proposed council and submit himself to its decision. Cath. Ency. VI, 794

Imagine the head of a significant nation today having to ask the pope for forgiveness in this way.  All of this shows how arrogant the Catholic Church was during the dark ages and how she ruled over the kingdoms of Europe.

WAR WITH THE SAINTS:  The 11th horn was “waging war with the saints and overpowering them” (v21).  Rome’s long history was marked with the shedding of the blood of saints.  In 1208 Pope Innocent III warred against the Waldines and Albigines (Bohemian Brethren), in which one million perished. From the beginning of the Jesuits 1540-1580 it is estimated that 900,000 were destroyed through papal cruelty.  One hundred fifty thousand perished by the inquisition in thirty years.  In the low lands 50,000 persons were hanged, beheaded, burned alive or buried alive for the crime of heresy (Christianity).  Within 38 years from the edict of Charles V, 18,000 were executed.  The Popes tried to put down the reformation in Germany and Switzerland.  One might consider the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, Martyrdom of John Calas, John Wycliff, John Huss, Jerome of Prague, Tyndale, Luther, Persecutions in Germany, France, Scotland, England, Ireland, persecution of Quakers. The historian W.E. H. Lecky says, “The Church of Rome has shed more innocent blood than any other institution that ever existed among mankind, will be questioned by no Protestant who has a complete knowledge of history.” Some historians have estimated that the persecuting hands of Rome have been reddened by the blood of fifty million saints. I doubt that anyone can come close to the exact number.

SPEAK AGAINST THE MOST HIGH:  It will “speak out against the Most High” (v25).  This may be found in statements by the Church claiming what belongs to God, for instance: “we (popes) hold on this earth the place of God Almighty.”  Christ “is the head of the body” (Col 1:18), but the pope claims to be head of all churches.  “Christ Jesus … will judge the living and the dead” (2 Tim. 4:1), but the Pope claims to be the Judge of the Living and the Dead.  Jesus promised “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth. (John 14:16-17), but the Pope claim to “hold upon this earth the place of God almighty”.  Jesus said ” do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers” (Mat 23:8), but the church claims that the supreme teacher in the church is the Roman Pontiff.  For more information and references see the section on the Roman Church in the article on Babylon.

ALTER LAW:  It will “intend to make alterations in times and in law” (Dan 7:25).  The Church allows worship of images, and legalised many other sins, such as the forgiveness of sins for a price.  She changed the laws with respect to the Lord’s Supper and enacted celibacy of the clergy.  In 1075 Gregory VII declared all clerical marriages invalid.  This was the greatest mass divorce in history.  She changed the 10 commandments.  The deification of Mary is really the continuation of the ancient Semiramis religion.  The picture of the woman with the child in her arms is really a picture of Semiramis with a child (Tammuz).The Catholic Church acknowledges that its doctrines are not based on the Bible, but on “traditions”.  First Timothy 4:1‑5 gives us one of the primary doctrines of the Antichrist, namely celibacy among the priests.  This has led to horrible atro­cities in the Roman Catholic Church.  In Chiniquy’s book, Fifty Years in the Roman Catholic Church, he says that a young student priest was question­ing a superior about this doctrine of Rome and received the following reply: “You have spoken as a true heretic…you speak of the Holy Scriptures just as a Protestant would.  You appeal to them as the only source of Christian truth and knowledge. Have you forgotten that we have the holy traditionsto guide us, the authority of which is equal to the Scriptures?”Such a position nullified Scripture on the basis of human tradition(Mark7:13).  It refuses to allow people to carry out their responsibility to func­tion as Berean believers, “examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

TIME, TIMES AND HALF:  The “saints … given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time” (v25).  Because the “time, times and half a time” is the period of the prominent horn of Daniel 7 (v25), and because the horns of Daniel 7 are the kingdoms of Europe after Imperial Rome broke up, it is proposed that the “time, times and half a time” is a symbol for the Middle Ages.  The only place outside of Daniel where the phrase “time, times and half a time” appears, is in Revelation 12.  A study of the sequence of seven wars confirms that this is the Middle Ages.  Please read the article “Overview of Revelation 12 to 14” for more information.

It is therefore concluded that the Roman Church fits the identifying marks provided by Daniel, and that the alternative theories do not

The next question is; how do the beasts of Revelation relate to the five empires of Daniel?

DRAGON

The first seven-headed beast that we come across in Revelation is the “great red Dragon having seven heads and ten horns” (12:3).  It is also the seven-headed beast that disappears last from the scene.  The Sea Beast disappears before the Millennium into the lake of fire (19:20, but the dragon is only thrown into the lake of fire after the Millennium (20:10).

Revelation 12 provides a high level overview of various wars between God and Satan, from the war between the woman and the serpent since the Garden of Eden, until the final great conflict of Revelation 13.  In each of these wars the dragon is the antagonist, even the war in heaven (12:7-12).

In the context of the war in heaven, and when imprisoned during the Millennium, the dragon is specifically identified as Satan (12:7-9; 20:2) and as such exists for all human history.  In this sense it continues to exist beyond the return of Christ (20:2), and only vanishes only from the pages of Revelation when it is thrown in the lake of fire after the Millennium (20:10).

However, when first introduced as standing before the woman, it is presented as having 7 heads and 10 horns (12:3).  Both the heads and the horns are “kings” (17:10, 12).  The dragon therefore also represents kingdoms.  Because it has exactly 7 heads and 10 horns it is part of the continuum of beasts of Daniel 7.  Therefore, when in conflict with the woman’s Child Jesus (12:5), it represents the specific earthly authority at the time of Jesus’s earthly life, namely the fourth kingdom (beast) in Daniel 7, which is the Roman Empire.  This is supported by the observation that “dragon” would be a good name for the fourth beats of Daniel 7.

The article titled “overview of Revelation 12 to 14” indicates that the dragon is involved in various others wars, such as:

  • The war against the woman before the “time, times and half a time” (12:13)
  • The war against the woman during the “time, times and half a time” (12:14, 15)
  • The war against the woman’s “other children” (12:17), which follows after the “time, times and half a time”, and is the war of Revelation 13

As discussed in the article on the overview of Revelation 12 to 14, some of these wars are beyond the time of Imperial Rome.  “Dragon”, in these wars, may then represent either Satan or the continuing influence of the Roman Empire.

SEA BEAST

The Sea-beast is frequently mentioned as working with the Dragon (e.g. 16:13), which means it is not the same as the Dragon.  The Sea Beast is here identified as the 11th horn of Daniel 7, namely the Roman Church, for the following reasons:

  1. Because the Sea Beast also has 7 heads and 10 horns (13:1) it must, like the dragon, be part of the continuum of empires of Daniel 7.
  2. The Sea Beast inherits something for each of the first four beasts of Daniel 7 (compare Rev 13:2 with the beasts of Daniel 7):
    • like a leopard (Greece);
    • feet were like those of a bear (Medo-Persia);
    • mouth like the mouth of a lion (Babylon);
    • throne and great authority from the dragon (Rome)  (13:2)

Because the Sea-beast inherits something from each of the four animals of Daniel 7, it must come in existence after them.  Therefore it is the fifth; namely the 11th horn.

  1. It is the Dragon that calls up the Beast from the Sea (13:1) and the Dragon gave the Sea Beast his power and his throne and great authority (13:2).  This implies that the Sea Beast is the Dragon’s successor.  Since the dragon is the Roman Empire (when represented as having seven heads and ten horns), and since the 11th horn is the real successor of the Roman Empire (Daniel 7), the Sea Beast is the 11th horn.
  2. Further comparisons of the 11th horn with the Sea-beast will verify this conclusion.
    • Both persecute the saints for “a time, times, and half a time” (Dan 7:25; Rev 13:5).  (Comparing 12:6 to 12:14 proves that “a time, times, and half a time” is equal to 1260 days, and 42 months x 30 days = 1260 days.)
    • Both overpower the saints (Dan 7:21; Rev 13:7).
    • Both blaspheme God (Dan 7:8, 20; Rev 15:5).

The Sea Beast goes through three phases.  It first arises from the sea, then dies and then is resurrected (13:3, 4).  After its resurrection “the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast” (13:3).  All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain (13:8; 17:8).  We have therefore now effectively identified seven phases:

  1. Babylon
  2. Mede-Persia
  3. Greece
  4. Rome
  5. 11th horn after it arose from the sea
  6. 11th horn after it died
  7. 11th horn resurrected

THE SCARLET BEAST IS DIFFERENT

The Scarlet Beast of Revelation 17 is mentioned briefly in 11:7, but is described more fully in Revelation 17.  The Scarlet Beast is not the same as the Sea Beast of Revelation 13:

They differ in terms of associates:

  • The Sea Beast receives it power from the Dragon (13:2) and gives his authority to the Land Beast (13:12).  In Revelation we often find this evil trio working together (e.g. 16:13; 19:20-20:2).  In contrast the Scarlet Beast is never mentioned as working with or having a relationship with any of this trio.
  • The Scarlet Beast is mentioned with Babylon, while the evil trio (Dragon, Sea Beast and Land Beast) is never mentioned in the same breath as Babylon.  It almost seems as if different sets of symbols are used in Revelation 13 and 17.

In Revelation 13 the people worship the Sea Beast (13:3-4).  The Sea Beast therefore reigns.  In contrast, in Revelation 17 the harlot sits on the Scarlet Beast (17:3).  She therefore rules over the Scarlet Beast (17:18), while the Scarlet Beast is presented in a subservient role.  Therefore, while the Sea Beast rules, the Scarlet Beast is ruled over.

The relationships between the beasts and the peoples of the world are also different.  In Revelation 13 the Sea Beast is worshipped by the people, and is therefore something apart from the people.  In contrast, in Revelation 17 the harlot (Babylon) sits on both the beast and the waters (people—17:1, 15), indicating a close relationship between the beast and the people.

SCARLET BEAST IS …

It is therefore clear that the Scarlet Beast is something very different from the Dragon and the Sea Beast.  But the Scarlet Beast must relate in some way to the beasts of Daniel 7 because it has seven heads and ten horns.  So what is going on?  Observations from the text include:

  1. The Scarlet Beast exists for all of human history:The harlot is identified in the article on Babylon as “false religion”.  The harlot (Babylon) exists for all of human history because “in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth” (18:24), and because she is the “mother (origin) of harlots” (17:5).  If she exists for all human history, the same must apply to the scarlet beast.In contrast, the Sea Beast of Revelation 13 is a specific organisation, coming into existence at a specific point in time, when it comes out of the sea (13:1) of the human population (Daniel 7:3, 17).
  2. The Scarlet Beast represents the “kings of the earth”:The harlot (Babylon) sitting on the Scarlet Beast is explained in 17:18:

“The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth”.

Because the Scarlet Beast represents the “kings” and kingdoms of the world, and because it exists for the whole of human history, it must represent all the kingdoms of Daniel 7.  It cannot be limited to only one of those kingdoms.  It therefore includes both the Dragon and the Sea Beast.

  1. The Sea Beast includes Babylon. This is clear when the Sea Beast “make war with the saints and to overcome them” (13:7), while actually Babylon must carry the blame for all martyr deaths of God’s people (18:24).  This is also indicated by the fact that the Sea Beast is in charge, similar to Babylon.

Revelation 17 therefore presents the anti-God powers for all of human history, but shows that it consists of two components; a political (beast) and a religious (harlot) component, with the religious component reigning over the political.  It is further proposed that the Sea Beast represents that same anti-God power, consisting of both the political and religious components, but limited to one specific organisation in one period of human history.

The symbolism of Revelation 17 informs us that the kingdoms of the world are always under the control of the deceiving influence of Babylon.  Babylon corrupts the minds of the people (17:2) and kills the saints (18:24).  Babylon exists during all the empires of Daniel 7.

TO: General Table of Contents

The Purpose of the Plagues

THE QUESTION

Nobody is saved during plagues.  This is indicated by the empty temple (15:8), which symbolises that intercession and therefore salvation is no longer available, and by the repeated mention of unbelievers not repenting (v9, 11, 21).

Many believe that the plagues are punitive in nature. “Punitive” means it is for punishment only, without any saving purpose.  In other words, God will “punish” the wicked for the sake of punishment only.  Many also believe that the wicked that will be resurrected after the millennium, will then again be severely punished (either by burning forever or as long as “they deserve”), for no other reason but to make them suffer.  This is the average Christian’s idea of a “loving God.”

These views are not supported in this commentary.  But the question remains, why does a loving God, which dearly loves His creation, even the people that received the mark of the beast, torment men in the fearful manner described in Revelation 16 when there will be no opportunity for Intercession and salvation?  Why doesn’t Christ return and end the reign of sin immediately after everybody have made their final choice?

EGYPT TYPOLOGY

The Egypt typology in the plagues can lead us to the answer.

Both the catastrophes that befell Egypt and the end time scourges are called plagues.  Both the Egyptians and the end time plagues include sores, water turning to blood, darkness and frogs (Ex. 7:17-21; 8:2-13; 9:8-11; 10:21-23).  The fact that the plagues of Egypt underlie the symbolism in Revelation 16 informs us that the principles are the same in both sets of plagues.

As Israel was enslaved and subjected to harsh treatment in Egypt, the persecution of God’s people (13:15) will act as catalyst for the end time plagues.

As in Egypt, the plagues testify to the authority of God.  Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? (Ex. 5:1, 2)  Then the LORD said to Moses … Go to Pharaoh … say to him … By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, I will strike the water that is in the Nile with the staff that is in my hand, and it will be turned to blood.  (Ex. 7:14-17 NASB; see also 8:22)

As in Egypt, God will deliver His people and defeat their enemies through supernatural means.

We usually think of slavery as the problem God solved in sending the ten plagues on Egypt, and this is certainly correct.  But the bigger issue, the one that fuelled the slavery problem, was false worship.  The Egyptians worshiped the sun, the river, and other things.  The Hebrews in Egypt did not have religious liberty.  Moses was not free to teach them what they had, over generations, forgotten.  Similarly during the end time plagues the bigger issue is false versus true worship.  As in Egypt, the plagues are designed to demonstrate how false the claims of false religion are, and how futile the reliance was upon them:

‘For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments (Ex. 12:12 NASB)

But there is still a more profound principle involved.  In redeeming Israel from Egypt God chose to act very visibly.  In redeeming Israel from historical Babylon He acted less visibly.  He sent strong forces against Babylon and arranged that these strong forces are favourable towards Israel.  God could have done the same in the redemption of Israel from Egypt.  Why did He act so visibly?  He could have controlled events in such a way that people would not be able to see that He is at work.  In contrast, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and that His purpose was to instruct the Egyptians and the nations of the true God:

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them, (Exo 10:1 NASB)

“Thus I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.”  (Exo 14:4 NASB; see also 7:3; 4:21; 10:20, 27; 11:10; 14:8)

The deliverance from Egypt served as visible lesson to the peoples of the world.  He wanted to instruct His people, and perhaps also the other nations, through the plagues.  In His mercy He wanted them to learn of the existence and power of the real God:

“TheEgyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.”  (Exo 7:5 NASB)

For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.”  (Rom 9:17 NASB)

It is therefore concluded here that the same applies to the end time plagues, namely that the end time plagues serve as a visible lesson.  It is submitted that God will not let people suffer simply for the sake of punishment.  But the question is, for whom is it a lesson, what is that lesson, and why is the lesson needed?

RESPONSES TO THE PLAGUES

Revelation chapter 16 consists of descriptions of the plagues, but also includes responses to the plagues:

  • The response of unbelievers; not repent + blaspheme God (16:9, 11, 21)
  • Warning to the believers to watch their clothes (16:15)
  • Declarations of the righteousness of God’s judgements (15:3-4; 16:5-7; 19:2)

Most commentaries spend much time on the plagues, with fleeting references to the responses to the plagues.  It is proposed here is that the responses to the plagues contain the real messages to us, because they explain the plagues.

Three times (16:9, 11, 21) it is said that the people blaspheme God and do not repent, as if the purpose is to see whether they would.  Remember that before the plagues start to fall, the people of the world are divided into two clearly demarcated groups.  The people with the mark of the beast are not allowed to buy and sell.  The others are not.  Remember also that the plagues only fall on one of the two groups, namely the large group with the mark of the Beast (16:2).  They must therefore become increasingly aware of some sort of supernatural support for the hated minority.  The plagues therefore lead men to increasingly realize that they have been fighting against God.  But instead of repenting, they curse Him even more bitterly than ever and become even more resolute in their opposition.  Those suffering from the plagues refuse to admit themselves wrong, even in the face of these severe judgments that would lead honest contrite men to amend their ways.  It is therefore concluded that one purpose of the plagues is to show that these people are hardened beyond repentance.  The plagues serve to graphically demonstrate and to reveal the spirit of rebellion which controls their hearts, and to show what becomes of God’s beautiful creatures when they separate themselves from Him.  As it is put in the warning with respect to Armageddon, men will walk about naked and all will see their shame (16:15).  Armageddon is where God reveals what really is inside people, as Paul also wrote:

on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.  (Rom 2:16 NASB)

Sin changed people.  There is a point where it becomes impossible for a person to freely turn to God.  Then that person has received the mark of the beast, or stated in different words, committed the unpardonable sin.  Then that person cannot be saved, not because God does not want to save the person.  Something has changed in that individual which makes it impossible to become one with God again:

but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy.  (2Ch 36:16 NASB)

The plagues are not some arbitrary punishment.  It has an eternal purpose and benefit.  The tares as it were are proved to be tares, (cf. Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) When those being tested have passed the point of no return, God continues to test them to provide abundant witness of their unwillingness and inability to return.  They refuse to yield to His will and show themselves to be what they really are; devoted servants to Satan.  The refusal to repent proves them to be unalterably opposed to God.

The second category of response to the plagues is the warning to God’s people to “keep their clothes” (16:15).  The plagues follow and continue the period of the most intense persecution of believers ever.  Under the extremely difficult circumstances created by the plagues, their persecutors continue to blaspheme God, and therefore continue to persecute the saints.  God will withdraw His restraining Spirit, to allow the lost to do whatever they want to God’s people.  This trial will test the characters of the saints.  It will show what have become of sinners who were washed clean with the blood of Christ.  The plagues will demonstrate that the remnant would rather die than disobey God.

The third type of response to the plagues is praise to God for His righteous judgements.  Satan is called the accuser by Revelation (12:10).  He accuses God of poor judgement, for instance in the case of Job (Job 1:9, 10) and Joshua (Zech. 3:1).  Throughout history Satan has maligned the character of God who sentenced Satan and his angels to the lake of fire (Matt. 25:41).  The plagues prove to the intelligent creatures of the universe that the distinction that God made between the peoples of the world is faultless.  It proves that the people that follow the beast are so hardened that they would not repent even under the most trying circumstances.  The plagues also prove that the people with the seal of God are willing to forsake everything for the promise of God.  Together these issues prove thatGod judged rightly, as confirmed in the plagues (16:5, 7) and afterwards (19:2).  This is a major purpose of the plagues.

LOVE REQUIRES UNDERSTANDING

The question is who needs to learn these lessons, and why.  To answer these questions require some abstract thinking.

A fundamental principle, easily overlooked due Revelation’s graphic word pictures, is that God’s government is based on unconditional love.  He loves all His creatures.  He loved them so much He was willing to die for them (John 3:16).  And He wants us to love Him.  That is the greatest commandment (Mat 22:37-38), but love cannot be commanded.  Love that is commanded is no love.  Fear cannot generate love.  Love can only be generated by an appreciation of the other’s character.  You can only love somebody that you know and understand.  Therefore God wants us to know and understand Him.  He wants us to trust Him.  He wants us to understand and agree with His decisions and actions.

Most importantly, in the context of Armageddon, He wants us to understand why He destroys people that we love.  God desires everybody to understand that His decisions are right.  He is not a dictator.  He wants to be loved.  He wants us to be completely convinced of His trustworthiness; that He can be trusted to always make the best decision for every person.  That is why Armageddon is a revelation of what is really inside each person.  Then we will understand the indescribable greatness and rightness of His love and judgement.  Then we will all understand God as completely reliable and live in complete safety and trust is the wonderful, perfect world which He will create out of this mess on earth:

“Behold, I am making all things new” (21:5).

LOVE REQUIRES UNQUALIFIED FREEDOM

But the issue is actually more profound than this.  Love is only love it is the result of free will.  Therefore, all God’s creatures are completely free.  The only obedience that God wants is the obedience that springs from love.  Obedience that is forced, or based on fear, even in the slightest degree, is no obedience at all.  God desires only the obedience of complete admiration and love.

Now this results in a weighty conclusion.  If we fear that God will punish us if we do something that He does not like, then we are not completely free, and our obedience is forced.  Therefore God’s intelligent creatures are free to do whatever they wish, without fear of retribution.  Because love is the foundation of God’s government, we have to conclude that freedom is complete.

Satan was a “covering cherub” (Ezek. 18:16).  He perhaps was the created being that was the closest to God, with the most complete understanding of Him, but still Satan sinned, because he did not fear punishment.

GOD MUST EARN THE RIGHT TO BRING EVIL TO AN END.

God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.  (1Jn 1:5 NASB)  God is love (1Jn 4:8, 16).  Therefore God’s character is to allow unqualified freedom.  Under the principle of complete, unqualified freedom God has no right to bring Satan and his government to an end.  But the Bible is clear that Satan’s government will be eliminated.  So let us try to probe this through a series of questions.

(1) Perhaps the most fundamental question about God’s character is why He allowed sin to develop in the first place.  Why does sin exist?  It is proposed here that God could have chosen to create robots, programmed to always say “i love you”.  But He wanted to create free intelligent creatures, with the ability to say “no” to Him.  This automatically created the potential for resistance to the will of the Father (sin).

(2) Why did He not “zap” Satan when he harboured the first thoughts of sin?  He could have erased any memory of Satan from our minds, could He not?  It is proposed here that that would be contrary to God’s character.  We can take extreme comfort in the fact that God is not an exterminating dictator.  God allows us freedom.

(3) Why did God not make an end to sin after Jesus won the victory on the cross?  It is certainly obvious that God would make an end to sin as soon as possible.  It is submitted here that the victory on the cross was sufficient for our salvation, but on the basis of the fact that sin is still alive and well 2000 years after the cross we must unfortunately conclude that the cross does not provide God with the right to make a complete end to evil.

(4) What would give God the right to make an end to evil?  It is proposed here that the agreement of all His intelligent creatures (complete consensus for all eternity) is required before God can exterminate evil.  God cannot afford to make an end to evil until all questions with respect to evil have been completely answered.  Thus, and only thus, will evil be prevented from ever again erupting anywhere in the universe.  In the new heavens and new earth the redeemed will exercise their complete freedom knowing what the end result of selfishness is.

Many people of God as a judge, wanting to condemn.  God is not a judge.  In the judgement scene in Daniel many thrones are set up, and the books were opened (Dan 7:9).  It is therefore not only God that judge, and God does not need books.  According to Revelation the judgement will be given to the saved (20:4).  God wants His created being to judge for themselves.  Obviously God knows and understands everything, but He wants us to understand.  And once the universe agrees that this is the right thing to do, God will eliminate all destructive forces from the universe, and love will again be the source of all actions and decisions.  If we want to compare God to a human professional, He is more of a doctor, trying to save.

WHO NEEDS ANSWERS?

Most people think that all sinless heavenly beings do not need more information to understand that rebellion against God is bad, but this is or at least was not so.  We need to understand a little of how sin developed.

Sin existed before man was created, and was brought to earth by the Serpent of old (12:9).

Sin originated in Satan.  God said of him: “You were blameless in your ways From the day you were created Until unrighteousness was found in you” (Ezek. 28:15).  His sin was that he wanted to be the most adored being.  He wanted to be adored even as God (Isa 14:13, 14).  This sin developed because of his extraordinary beauty, as described by Ezekiel 18:13.  This implies that his beauty exceeded that of the other heavenly beings.  Logically sin did not spring up in Satan one bad morning.  It developed over a long time.  Knowing how God deals with sinners on earth, Satan must have been warned repeatedly of the consequences of the direction he was taking.  Based on the principle of freedom God would have told Satan what the end result will be of his sin.  But we know that eventually Satan gave himself over to sin.

But sin did not remain only with Satan.  We know that he succeeded in leading a very large portion of the perfect angels away from God (Rev 12:7).  He was therefore able to convince some of the angels, but the others not.  What was Satan’s modus operandi?  Satan obviously did not openly admit his intentions.  He obviously covered his motives under a blanket of words, masterfully flattering the angels when they agree with him and accusing them of not willing to suffer for the best interest of the universe when they disagree with him.  It was not clear from the beginning what the end result of Satan’s strategies would be.  He marketed his strategies as evolvement to a higher state of being, beneficial to all, and consistent with God’s principles.  He created in his followers a desire for power and self-reliance and to be honoured by fellow creatures.  Many (most? all?) of the angels did not understand what the end of this new development will be, even those that stayed loyal to God.  Therefore even the loyal angels need answers.

Satan is the extreme master debater.  He, with the assistance of his myriads of angels, is able to put a convincing slant on anything.  Against this verbal onslaught the purpose of the plagues is to provide answers to all the intelligentsia of the universe.

SIN DESTROYS, NOT GOD.

God had to let sin develop to where we are today, and also to where the world will be during the plagues, to provide answers.  A further question which may be added to the list above is what causes the death of sinners.  When God said in the garden of Eden “from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Gen 2:17), was He saying that He will kill Adam and Eve, or did He say that the fruit are poisonous?  It is submitted here that the purpose of the plagues is to prove that separation from God results in degeneration and finally destruction.  The purpose is to understand that it is not God that destroys, but separation from God that destroys.

To elaborate on this principle: To reject God out of one’s life is to reject the source and the principle of life.  God is the Source of everything, and He continually upholds everything by His power.  He is not somewhere out there, while we carry on down here.  No.  We cannot see Him because He works at such a micro level that He is invisible to us.  But still, the law of the universe is the law of love.  He gives us everything.  We return to Him a flood of love and thanksgiving.  To disconnect this circuit of life is what Satan did, and that started the degeneration which eventually also engulfed our planet.

GOD WILL DESTROY

Once this principle is proven beyond doubt, namely that it is not God that destroys, but separation from God that destroys, then God will destroy the destroyers of the earth (Rev 11:18; compare 19:21).  However:

‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! (Ezek. 33:11).

Through the plagues God’s justice in destroying the unbelievers and delivering the believers is made evident.  It is proven that Satan’s followers will kill God’s people, as they would kill each other.  It is proven abundantly that Satan’s kingdom is an evil that must be destroyed before there will be peace and freedom in the universe.  Through the unconverted Satan is permitted to demonstrate what the universe would be like if he was allowed to control it.  This gives God the right to destroy evil.  This is the ultimate purpose of the plagues, namely to ratify the justice of God’s judgements.  The plagues are described as “great and marvellous” (15:1) because because God’s judgements are wonderfully perfect.  The justice of God in ending human history is made evident to men as well as angels:

For it is written, “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.”  (Rom 14:11 NASB; compare Isa 45:23)

so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  (Php 2:10 NASB)

These plagues are therefore not vindictive.  God is never vindictive, because He is Love.

GOD ONLY RELEASES THE PLAGUES ONCE HIS PEOPLE ARE READY.

God wants to make an end to sin as soon as possible because He hates sin and the results there-of.  Furthermore, He is Almighty.  He can do what He pleases.  The question is therefore why He has not made an end to sin a long time ago.  What is God waiting for?  Why has He not made an end to sin immediately after Jesus’s victory on the cross?

One possible response is that God wants to give everybody time to repent (2 Peter 3:9).  This is true with respect to individuals, but if this principle is applied to the world as a whole, the end will never come.

At some point in time God will make an end to the current world.  To be able to do that, while still giving everybody ample opportunity to repent, He will create an intensified spiritual war on earth, by allowing Satan much increased influence on earth (Revelation 13), but at the same time by proclaiming the gospel with more power than ever before (Revelation 14).  This will allow and also compel every thinking person to make a choice between God’s and Satan’s government.  Thus God can make an end to the world while still giving everybody sufficient opportunity to repent.

But this still begs the question; why did God not bring this crisis about long ago, so as to bring an end to sin thousands of years ago?  Certainly He wants to.  The only reason can be that He is not able to do.  If we look into Revelation for a reason, we find that He is delaying the end until there is a group of believers that are able stand in the time of utmost testing, when the winds are released:

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree.  And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.”  (Rev 7:1-3 NASB)

Now what has this to do with the plagues?  Answer: The winds are the plagues.  This may be proved as follows: Immediately before the plagues are poured out the world’s population is divided between two clearly demarcated groups:

After the seven plague angels are introduced (15:1), but before the plagues are poured out (16:2), we are shown “those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass” (15:2).  This is therefore everybody that was victorious in the conflict of Revelation 13.

The plagues fall “on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image” (16:2).  This is therefore all the other people of earth.

We find the same two contrasting groups of people in Revelation 13 and 14, but there the “victorious” group is called the 144,000:

The Image “causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead” (13:16). … the name of the beast or the number of his name

Although it is in the next chapter, only three verses later we read about the 144,000 with the seal of God on their foreheads (14:1).

The group in Revelation 13 is the same as the group in Revelation 16; both groups have the mark of the beast.  This means that the other two groups are also the same; the “victorious ones” (15:2) are the 144,000 (14:1).  The number of the 144,000 is therefore complete before the plagues are poured out (15:2).  This means the plagues are held back until the 144,000 are sealed (ready).  Therefore, God will not release the plagues before He has a group of people that are able to remain standing in this severe period of time, when the restraint of His Holy Spirit will be removed, and Satan will be able to do whatever he wants to God’s followers.  God’s people will have to be able to remain standing for Him without the protection of the Holy Spirit.

The previous conclusion can also be proved in another way:

The sixth trumpet is the same as the plagues.  (Only in these two sections we find the mention that the people repent not. See more detail in the discussion of the sixth trumpet.)

The sixth trumpet starts with the releasing of the winds.  (Notice that four angels “hold back’ the winds (7:1), while four angels are release at the start of the sixth trumpet.)

This again means that the plagues (sixth trumpet), are held back until the 144,000 are sealed.

Satan has studied the Bible since it was written, and knows much better than we do what it says.  And still He resists.  The Bible is clear that Satan will never be reconciled to God.  His end will be in the lake of fire (Rev 20:10).  Therefore he tries his best to postpone his destination.  And he has been successful for 2000 years since the cross.  He knows that God cannot bring sin to an end before God has a group of followers that will not compromise their believe in God, even in the most severe situation, when—like Job—every support system will be taken away from them, and death at the hands of their enemies will seem sure.  Therefore Satan does whatever he can to prevent God’s people from achieving that level of commitment.  That is why Satan is working so hard to create division between churches and church members, and to lure God’s people into every form of temptation.  His life depends on it.

But that is also why it is now time that we stop giving in to Satan temptations, and learn to always and in all respects follow God.  This is probably the most important conclusion of this commentary.

IN CONCLUSION

The explanations offered here perhaps only scratch the surface of the real issues in the universe, but it is important to understand that this little planet is important in the universe wide conflict between good and evil.  This planet is Satan’s last stronghold (12:9) because he lost the war in heaven (12:8).  Here the final battles in the cosmic war will be fought.  Are we ready?

TO: General Table of Contents