1. And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.
2. And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.
3. And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth; and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
4. And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.
5. And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.
6. And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.
7. And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men.
8. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions.
9. And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.
10. And they had tails like unto scorpions; and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.
11. And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.
Vs. 1—11.—The scene of the events announced by the sounding of the first "woe—trumpet," is the eastern Roman empire. A variety of symbols is here employed to represent the judgment to be inflicted. The principal agents and events are,—a "star, locusts, Apollyon their king, their depredations, the time of their continuance."
Neither Boniface III. nor Mahomet answers to the symbol "falling star." Allowing that a star, as a symbol, may represent a person in either civil or ecclesiastical office, no successful aspirants to places of power, as both of these were, can be here understood. Obviously degradation and not elevation is intended. Either dethronement of a prince or apostacy of a theological dignitary must be intended.
No character in history at the time referred to, so well agrees to the symbol of a fallen star as the monk Sergius, who is known to have been the coadjutor of Mahomet, He had been a monk of the Christian sect called Nestorians from Nestorius their leader. This monk Setgins had been excommunicated for heresy and immorality. He was glad to serve the devil as dictator to Mahomet in composing the Koran, which bears internal evidence of having been written by one who was acquainted with the Sacred Scriptures. When this degraded man had finished his task, he was put to death by Iris master, lest he should betray the imposture.
He opened the bottomless pit, from which issued a smoke darkening the whole face of the heavens. The pit is hell, whence came the smoke,—the diabolical system of delusion. From the same place comes the character afterwards to appear under the aspect of a beast, (ch. xi. 7.) Locusts constituted one of the plagues of Egypt, and they are the emblem of a destroying army. (Exod. x. 14—19; Joel i. 4—6.) And this is their import here. They represent the deluded and destructive followers of Mahomet, who in vast multitudes laid waste the nations of western Asia, southern Europe, and northern Africa. The Saracens, originating in Arabia, the national locality of the literal locusts, in great multitudes like clouds, laid waste the fairest and most populous portions of the earth for a succession of ages.
These symbolic locusts have also the property of scorpions, a poisonous reptile, resembling in some degree a lizard combined with a lobster, armed with a sting in the end of its tail. Wicked and impenitent men are compared to scorpions. (Ezek. ii. 6.) But these locusts are under restraint. They are permitted to hurt only "those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads." The time of their continuance is "five months," of thirty days each, making 150 years,—"a day for a year." (Ezek. iv. 6.) In the year 606, Mahomet began his imposture by retiring to the cave of Hera. In 612 he appeared publicly as the apostle of his new religion at the head of his deluded followers. Between 612 and 762, he and the warlike chiefs who succeeded him, overran with terrible destruction, Syria, Persia, India, Egypt and Spain. Although the Saracenic empire continued for a longer time, yet from this time it lost the disorderly Locust character and because a more settled commonwealth. In the year 762, the city of Bagdad was built by one of the caliphs, who called it "the city of peace." This put a stop to the devastations of the locusts, when the empire began to decline. It was foretold, however, that during the time of successful war by these cruel invaders, they would inflict such miseries upon their wretched victims, that they would earnestly but vainly desire death to put an end to their exquisite torments. It is farther said that these locusts resembled horses, as indeed they do, especially in their heads. The Arabians excelled in horsemanship, and their chief force lay in cavalry. The "crowns upon their heads" may refer to the turbans worn by the Arabians as part of their national costume; or to the kingdoms which they subdued. Flowing hair is also characteristic of these people. Their "teeth" like those of lions indicated their strength and fury to destroy. "Breast—plates of iron,"—defensive armour, indicates self—protection by the most effectual public measures. The sound of their wings may denote the fury of their assaults, and the rapidity of their conquests. But the deadly stings in their tails were their most fatal instruments of torture, symbolizing the poison of their abominable and ruinous religion.
Their king is "Abaddon or Apollyon," the destroyer: for so is his name by interpretation, both in Hebrew and Greek. He is from the "bottomless pit," from hell, the vicegerent of the devil. Mahomet in person, and in the person of his official successors, will alone answer to this duplicate symbol.
This is, without a rational shadow of ground for controversy, the Great Eastern Antichrist, sufficiently distinguished from the Western. The western combination against real Christianity never attained to power by successful conquest of the nations; but on the contrary by chicanery, insidious policy, flattery of princes and priestcraft. This enemy is described with sufficient accuracy and peculiar precision in the subsequent part of the Apocalypse. Prophecy has a determinate meaning; and we are not at liberty to give loose reins to our imagination: otherwise we shall bewilder, rather than satisfy the devout and earnest inquirer.
12. One woe is past: and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.
V. 12.—Before the time of the sixth trumpet, intimation is given that some pause shall intervene prior to the judgments which are to follow:—" One woe is past." The object of the first woe is the nominally Christian Roman empire, which still stands in its Eastern section; and is to be totally demolished by the second woe—trumpet: for the Western section, recovering from the effects of the first four trumpets, is the object of the third and last woe. The "man of Sin," the "little horn" of Daniel, is actuating the "ten horns" to "scatter Judah," etc., during the time of the Mahometan conquests in the East; by which the whole Roman empire is ripening for the harvest of the vials of wrath.
13. And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,
14. Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.
15. And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.
16. And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand; and I heard the number of them.
17. And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire, and smoke, and brimstone.
18. By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.
19. For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt.
Vs. 13—19.—At the sounding of the sixth trumpet, a "voice comes from the four horns of the golden altar," the immediate presence of the Almighty. This indicates punishment to be inflicted upon men for corrupting the gospel, similar to the judgment of fire from the "golden censer," (ch. viii. 5.) The effects of the first woe may be supposed to reach from the early part of the seventh century to the latter part of the thirteenth,—the period of Arabian locusts. During the latter part of this time, the Turks were held in check by the Crusaders, who strove to wrest the Holy Land from the infidels. The "four angels" are the four Turkish Sultanies. The river Euphrates is to be taken in this place literally, as designating the geographical locality of these combined powers, which were the instruments employed by the enthroned Mediator, to demolish the remaining part of the Roman empire,—"the third part of men." The time occupied in this barbarous work of slaughter is "an hour, a day, a month and a year," about equal to 391 years; or from the year 1281 to 1672. The Western empire had been overthrown by the first four trumpets, the Eastern nearly ruined under the fifth; and under the sixth it was finally subverted. The numbers which the Turks brought into the field are here said to be "two hundred thousand thousand," a definite for an indefinite number as usual, a vast army. And historians tell us that they were, in fact, from four to seven hundred thousand, and a large proportion of them cavalry.
From the year 1672, one of their own historians dates the Decay of the Othman empire! Since that date, the Turkish power is well known to have been straitened by the Russian empire.
These eastern warriors and their horses are described by their military costume and their arms. Fire is red, jacinth blue, and brimstone yellow,—the chosen colors of the Ottoman warriors, their military uniform. The heads of their horses "as the heads of lions," denote strength, fierceness and cruelty. "Fire, smoke and brimstone issuing out of their mouths," may be supposed to indicate the employment of gunpowder, first invented about that time, as an element of destruction. The commander at the siege of Constantinople is said to have employed cannon, some of which were of such caliber as to send stones of three hundred pounds weight! Thus their power was in their "mouth:" but like the locusts, they had in their tails power to do hurt,"—the deadly poison of the Koran. The Turks left behind them wherever they went, as the Saracens had done before, the poisonous and ruinous religion of Mahomet, more durable and injurious to men than all their bloody conquests. By this abominable system of delusion, the remains of the Greek church in the Eastern division of the Roman empire, were almost extirpated; Christianity was nearly extinguished in that part of the world where the gospel had shone brightly, and there Mahometanism continues till the present day. Such has been the desolating effect of the sixth,—the second woe trumpet. Thus the Judge of all the earth punishes impenitent communities.
Besides the positive effects of the second wo, we have intimation of some that are negative in the close of this chapter.
20. And the rest of the men, which were not killed by these plagues, yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood; which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:
21. Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
Vs. 20, 21. The "rest of the men that were not killed by these plagues," or morally destroyed by becoming Mahometans, by the foregoing calamities, were not brought to repentance of their evil deeds. The population of the Western Latin empire and nominal Christian church, still persisted in their idolatries and immoralities. Both individually and as associated, they openly violated both tables of the moral law. It is evident from these two verses, that the, sins enumerated in them were the procuring causes of the divine judgments symbolized by the trumpets,—the two woe—trumpets, all the trumpets,—yes, including the seventh and the last. Professing Christians both in the Greek and Latin churches, after all the plagues inflicted by the angels of the past six trumpets, continue to this day in the practice of worshipping demons, angels and saints, for which they can produce no better arguments than their Pagan predecessors whom the Lord charges with "worshipping devils" here and elsewhere. (1 Cor. x. 20; Ps. cvi. 87.) In their stupid worship of senseless images, consecration of places, etc., who cannot perceive the identity of modern Papists and prelates with those portrayed by the pen of inspiration in the passage before us? The horrible "murders," massacres and bloody persecutions of the saints, are verified in authentic history. Papal bulls, imperial and royal edicts, issued against heretics, answer to the second part of this awful picture. Then follow "sorceries," plainly pointing out pretended revelations, false miracles, etc. To these are to be added "fornications," corporeal and spiritual, in a mass of superstitions added to, or supplanting divine ordinances; together with vows of celibacy, monkeries and nunneries,—followed by public license of brothels, And finally,— "thefts." By these are to be understood the illegal exactions and oppressive impositions, by which the nations of Christendom have been plundered of their revenues to enrich the lordly hierarchy of apostate Christendom. This state of things still continuing after the sixth angel sounds his trumpet, and no evidence of repentance; who can doubt that the same community is yet to be visited with the "third woe?" Surely the Lord may justly still say, "For three transgressions, and for four, (of Antichrist,) I will not turn away the punishment thereof." The eastern church, in which the first corruptions prevailed, was punished by the first woe of the Saracens; and this not producing repentance, her ruin was completed by the second wo of the Ottomans. So, when God judges, he will overcome; therefore the western church, still persisting in her abominations, without repentance, shall be destroyed by the third woe. Let not the pious reader suppose that by these penal inflictions on churches, the church of Christ is to perish. No, no. But, on the contrary, their overthrow is subservient to her preservation. This also will appear with increasing evidence as we proceed with our meditations on this instructive book.
In the mean time it may be well to remark here, at the close of those woes which developed the rise and progress of Mahometanism that the creed of this religious sect is substantially the same as that of those Christians called Socinians. Both presumptuously and arrogantly claim to be the worshippers of the one God,—commonly called Unitarians. This is one of the "depths of Satan." All who worship, as well as believe in, three co—equal Divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, believe in, and worship one God, and in this sense are Unitarians, the only scriptural Unitarians. "Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father." (1 John ii. 23.) And the same is true of such who "have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost." (Acts xix. 2.) "He is Antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son,"—a deceiver and an Antichrist. It is doubtless in view of these soul—ruining heresies, that the beloved disciple tendered the caution,—"Little children, keep yourselves from idols." (1 John v. 21.)
We would expect the tenth chapter to begin with the sounding of the seventh trumpet; but we find it is not so. Indeed, we shall not find any direct intimation of the work of the seventh angel till we come to the fourteenth verse of the eleventh chapter. The sixth trumpet continues to reverberate throughout Christendom for centuries; and during the intermediate time, our attention is called to another scene, which the Lord Jesus deemed necessary as preparatory.