WRATH OF MAN OR WRATH OF GOD?
There is a tendency among prophecy students, myself included, to look at John’s visions and assume we’re reading a 1st Century man’s description of 21st Century technological monstrosities. The problem with trying to nail it all down that way is, there are some events which are not human-orchestrated, but are the unadulterated wrath of God.
My belief is that Revelation, and all end-time prophecy, describes both. Most of the time, rather than miraculously intervene, God chooses to just allow what He has already set in motion to continue (under the constraints of His scientific and spiritual laws), and watch the dominoes fall. In the case of punishment, judgement and/or wrath, He usually lets us become victims of our own evil stupidity. For the most part, the last days will be similar. The suffering will be global and catastrophic because the “salt of the earth” has been removed (Matthew 5:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:17), and God has handed the nations over to their own sin. However, He will also intervene directly–dealing out wrath via supernatural forces–more than He ever has in recorded history (including the Flood and the Exodus).
So it’s a mistake to interpret everything prophesied as one or the other. It’s important to keep that in mind as you examine the trumpet judgements.
The first trumpet (Revelation 8:7) is most likely coincident with the second horseman “coming out of the gate” (6:3) as it were, and specifically with the Magog invasion prophesied by Exekiel.
WWIII on land?
God will pour torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on the Russians, Iranians and other nations in the coalition invading Israel (Ezekiel 38:22). The implications of Exekiel 39:6 might very well be a nuclear exchange between Russia and a nation which could potentially thwart such an invasion, whose people dwell safely in the coastlands. “Hail and fire mixed with blood” (8:7) sounds like a 1st Century man’s description of atomic warfare.
A third of the land and trees are burnt up. This seems logical, especially if North America and northern Asia are subjected to nuclear holocaust. What has always intrigued me is that John strays from the “judgement by thirds” pattern to reveal that all the green grass is burnt up. Why not just a third, like the trees and earth? And then what about the yellow grass, brown grass, etc.? Or does all the green grass compose 1/3rd of all grass of every color? Maybe I’m paying too much attention to this detail, but I don’t believe it was included by mistake.
WWIII at sea?
At the 2nd trumpet (8:8), wrath strikes the oceans. I once heard Hal Lindsey say Revelation 8:8-9 describes a thermonuclear naval battle. He could be right. A naval confrontation is prophesied by Daniel (Daniel 11:28-30). Radiation poisoning could certainly account for 1/3rd of oceanic life dying off. Shockwaves, tidal waves and other side-effects of nuclear war could result in a third of all ships being destroyed. What else could cause this sort of catastrophy? Natural tidal waves and hurricanes can destroy ships and coastal structures, but don’t normally kill off noticeable portions of marine life. A red tide, I am told, kills off everything in its path. This would have to be one doozy of a red tide.
Besides man-made Weapons of Mass Destruction, the only potential source for a calamity of this magnitude could be a plague sent by God, similar to one He sent upon Egypt, which turned the Nile and other water into blood (Exodus 7:20-21). And don’t forget that the two witnesses have the ability to call down this curse (Revelation 11:6).
When John starts off by describing something “like a huge mountain, all ablaze…thrown into the sea,” however, I tend to lean more toward the WMD/wrath of man explanation.
The second trumpet, therefore, also coincides nicely with the ride of the second horseman. John has relayed glimpses of war on land and war at sea. Not just any war, but the war people have speculated about since 1945: World War III.
With the 3rd trumpet (8:10) we have a prophesy concerning a contamination of 1/3rd the earth’s drinkable water supply. Remember the hint we’ve had about thirst in the last days (7:16)? Anyway, this contamination is triggered by “a great star, blazing like a torch” which falls from the sky. For some reason, this “star” has a name; and for some reason, John tells us: Wormwood.
The Greek word “wormwood” was translated from is “absynthe.” If you translate this word into Russian instead of English, you get “Chernobyl.”
Chernobyl, for those unaware of even recent historic events, was the site of the worst nuclear accident in history.
The founder of End Times Magazine, a preacher in Richmond, Indiana named Irvin Baxter, researched this atomic meltdown some time ago, and discovered that the disaster is more far-reaching than we in the West ever imagined, and long-term effects might continue to haunt us for some time in the future. In fact, it led him to conclude that Chernobyl is indeed the fulfillment of the 3rd trumpet judgement.
Of course this made it necessary, assuming a chronological sequence, to imagine that the first 2 trumpet judgements had already taken place. Baxter decided that John was summarizing the first 2 world wars with the first 2 trumpet judgements.
The burning up of vegetation in the 1st trumpet judgement, he said, was a reference to the “scorched earth” policies implemented by European armies. The mountain all ablaze, hurled into the sea, was John’s description of the mushroom cloud(s) over the island of Japan, Baxter decided. And his research revealed that roughly a third of all shipping was destroyed during WWII–counting both non-combat vessels and capital ships.
I do find his hypothesis interesting, but I don’t subscribe to it. Too much has to be allegorized to accept it: Even if every tree and blade of grass in Europe had been burnt up in WWI (which they weren’t), that is a long way from a 3rd of the trees and grass on Earth. Yes, some fighting took place on other continents, but it was miniscule compared to the war in Europe. What about a 3rd of the oceans turning to blood during WWII, and a 3rd of all marine life dying? Didn’t happen–at least nobody noticed, if it did.
Still, Chernobyl/wormwood is too big a coincidence to blow off. Perhaps the contamination from that disaster has yet to infiltrate some underground aquifers that encroach into the water resources of Europe and Asia.
But John described something that will fall from the sky upon the rivers and springs of water. NOT something like a great star, blazing like a torch, which rises up FROM THE EARTH, as the Soviet nuclear disaster did.
So I lean toward believing this future disaster will also be called “Chernobyl.” This could manifest in a number of ways. I suspect it might be a WMD. Nuclear weapons have specialized purposes sometimes. Tactical nukes are for destroying armies on the ground. An air-burst nuke over Kansas would create an electromagnetic pulse which might knock out every electrical device in the USA. Then there is the Neutron Bomb, meant to wipe out the population while leaving buildings intact. Russian atomic warheads have a much shorter shelf life than US counterparts, but are also particularly “dirty.” Wormwood could be a “salted” bomb which specifically targets water supply. If it does turn out to be a weapon of Russian manufacture, I can see its designers naming it “Chernobyl II.” Then again, Chernobyl may be a nickname given it by the media, similar to how the Strategic Defense Initiative (the ballistic missile defense which our foreign enemies avidly pursue for themselves while our domestic enemies vehemently forbid for us) was impugned as “Star Wars.” …Or how “Kleenex” has become synonomous with all facial tissue and “Jew” is used to describe all descendants of Israel–not just Judah.
Though I suspect Wormwood will be a man-made weapon, I won’t rule out the possibility that God can use a flaming meteor, comet, or whatever, to usher in another Exodus-style plague.
Signs in the Sun, Moon and Stars
The 4th trumpet judgement is a tricky prophecy to interpret. Given that I see potential nuclear fulfillment of the previous 3 trumpet judgements, it’s tempting to attribute this plague to thermonuclear side effects.
In a full-scale atomic exchange, it has been theorized that so much smoke and soot will rise into the troposphere that the sun will be blotted out. “Nuclear winter” theory has been disputed; but it’s still within the realm of possibility that another side-effect of a full-scale nuclear attack is damage to or destruction of the O-zone layer, paving the way for the 4th bowl judgement of chapter 16:8-9, once the smoke and soot clouds dissipate.
As I suggested before, this could plunge a 3rd of the earth into darkness, arguably fulfilling the prophecy even though a 3rd of the sun itself is not literally darkened by a “nuclear winter” type scenario.
This also resonates with Joel 2:1-2.
Yet this is hardly the only possible fulfillment of this prophecy, or even necessarily the best.
If a huge meteor or asteroid impacted the earth, similar to that which spawned the alleged “ice age,” it could theoretically cause such a dust cloud that the sun is darkened over a 3rd of the earth.
There is a chance I’m not being literal enough. Maybe a 3rd of the sun itself is literally darkened. Perhaps our sun will enter its death cycle during this time. The red giant stage could account for the moon turning red. The white dwarf stage could account for the darkness mentioned. Supernova could be what scorches men (Revelation 16:8), later. (Revelation 21:23 suggests there might be no sun or moon left after the judgements are complete. And yes, I’m aware that scientists claim processes like these take billions of years, but evidence in the Grand Canyon and around Mt. St. Hellen’s, for instance, prove that “evolution” doesn’t take nearly as long. Scientists would also laugh at my suggestion because huge numbers are thrown out there regarding the increase of a star’s size at red giant stage, etc. Maybe this idea is laughable–I won’t pretend to know all the intricacies of science. But the scientific community has had to revise and edit their understanding of the universe many times over the last few centuries. I’ll just trust the One who’s never had to revise because He instituted the scientific laws to begin with.)
Then again, a near pass by Mars could account for some of what Jesus and the prophets describe, including tremendous earthquakes, tidal waves (remember in Luke 21:25 Jesus propesied that nations will be perplexed by the roaring and tossing of the sea?) and meteor storms. Also, perhaps, the illusion of a red moon. What could so disrupt the stability of earth’s orbit (Isaiah 24:20) as to put us on a near-pass course with Mars? Detonations of multiple 25 megaton warheads, perhaps.
BTW, this sign in the heavens was also forecast in Joel 2:31, Acts 2:20 Isaiah 13:10,Ezekiel 32:7, Mark 13:24 and Matthew 24:29.
While one can argue that a 3rd of the sun, moon and stars being struck means that smoke or dust blots them out over a 3rd of the earth, it’s not so easy to make this theory fit John’s statement that “a 3rd of the day was without light, and also a 3rd of the night.”
This has a universal application which can’t be explained by local phenomenon (even on a continental scale). So it looks like either some other cosmic object falls into an intruding orbit with the earth, eclipsing the sun (hence its reflection off the moon) for a 3rd of the day and night; or the earth’s orbit and/or rotation is also knocked so out of whack that the 24-hour day is literally trimmed by a 3rd. This possibly gives insight to Jesus’ statement in Matthew 24:22 and Mark 13:20 that the days will be cut short so that the elect may survive. (Survive what, you should wonder? The scorching heat of the sun with no O-zone to filter it? Or more man-made catastrophes?)
By the way, there was a solar eclipse in February, 2008, which turned the moon blood red while completely blocking the Sun in the Middle East, momentarily.
THE 3 WOES:
If the 4th trumpet is tricky to interpret, the 5th trumpet is potentially controversial.
I say that because I was once firmly entrenched in the “wrath of man” camp regarding this prophecy. I’m leaning the other way now. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
John writes that “a star that had fallen to earth” is given a key to the shaft of the Abyss. If the reader is still stuck in the symbolism used above (wherein “star” is used to describe a meteor, asteroid or MIRV), he will be tempted to suppose that some inanimate object fell from the sky and punched an opening into some great underground cavern. But Revelation 12:4 makes it clear that “star” is an idiom sometimes used for angels–In these instances, fallen angels, called demons or devils elsewhere.
This fallen angel opens the Abyss, and smoke comes out. This smoke darkens the Sun and sky. Hmm…
Locusts With a King
Out of the smoke, locusts come down upon the earth. Even before my stint in the military, as a child, I was convinced John was describing helicopters. The sound of their wings sound like many horses and chariots rushing into battle. What else could they be? Anyone who has participated in a large air mobile operation can appreciate how the sound of the rotorblades fits this description. From there it’s easy to say the human-like faces John saw were the pilots, through the windshields; tails and stings like scorpions could be the miniguns or other cannons; lion’s teeth could be the missiles they carry or the Flying Tiger-style fang graphics many crews paint on their gunships; “something like crowns of gold” must be the main rotors…then, once I learned a little about NBC (nuclear/biological/chemical) warfare, I decided that the “hair like women’s hair” was chemical agent contrails flowing behind the choppers–a chemical agent which doesn’t harm the environment, but afflicts humans horrendously for 5 months.
As clever as this extrapolation is, if I do say so myself, it has problems. Primarily, how would chopper crews, or their weapons systems, know how to differentiate between human targets on the ground as described in Revelation 9:4? And why would they even try? If these things John saw are answerable to the beast only (piloted by humans), and not ultimately to God (like demons/evil spirits), why are they instructed not to harm people with God’s seal? Why would God task human chopper crews to undertake this mission, and not angels?
If these are “good guy” angels sent by God, why would they need choppers?
And yet, a hyper-literal translation doesn’t work here either. If these are literally just plain-jane locusts, why would they leave the grass and trees alone? Is that what locusts do? Furthermore, these “locusts” are under a king, and Proverbs 30:27 tells us that locusts have no king. John’s visual description of these creatures also sets these far apart from the locusts known in nature.
If you step back a moment from obsessing about the “breastplates of iron” and so forth, and take a look at the big picture, you may notice some parallels with what was done to Job:
Satan was given permission by God to afflict Job, first by destroying his family and bringing financial ruin upon him, then by wracking his body with painful sores. Job cursed the day he was born, but the devil was forbidden from taking his life.
In the last days families will be destroyed (Matthew 24:10; Mark 13:12), economic disaster will strike (Revelation 6:6), then the Destroyer is allowed to torment men so severely that they seek death…but he isn’t given permission to kill them.
Whereas Job passed his test, mankind at large will fail theirs.
During the Passover, when the Destroyer went through Egypt killing the firstborn, he spared everyone whose doorjamb was marked with Lamb’s blood. During this plague, the Destroyer runs roughshod over the whole world, passing over those whose foreheads are marked with the seal of the living God.
3 times in chapter 9, when writing about these “locusts,” John makes allusions to scorpions–they are given power like scorpions, the agony they cause is like that suffered when a scorpion stings, and their tails are compared to scorpion tails. How interesting that Jesus gives his disciples authority to trample on snakes and scorpions in Luke 10:9, assuring no harm will come to them.
Anyway, I am now convinced that this judgement is a manifestation of supernatural wrath, not man-made calamity.
Angels of Death Unchained
Here’s another strange concept introduced with the 6th trumpet: 4 angels have been waiting for a specific hour and day and month and year to kill a 3rd of mankind. They are bound at a specific location: the river Euphrates. Again, these are not “good guy” angels,or they wouldn’t need to be bound.
Then, with no polite literary transition, John is suddenly describing an army of gargantuan, unheard-of proportions. There are some blanks to be filled in here, it would seem.
First of all, flashing forward to the 6th bowl judgement, we learn that the Euphrates will be dried up to prepare the way for the “kings of the East” (Revelation 16:12) Flashing back to Isaiah 11, we learn that, after a 2nd regathering of Israel to the Holy land, the Lord will sweep a scorching wind over the great river, breaking it into 7 streams so that men can march across in sandals.
A 3rd of mankind is to be wiped out this time. An army will march over the Euphrates so enormous that the cavalry alone numbers 200 million (Revelation 9:16), while the infantry still wears sandals. Could this describe any earthly army other than the Red Chinese (or a Chinese-dominated coalition–after all, “kings of the east” is plural)? China has had the manpower to raise such an army for a long time, though only in recent years have they had the resources to equip and field one (thanks, in part, to the USA’s suicidal trade policies, and handouts). When you consider the colors of the “breastplates” John mentions, the red and yellow come as no surprise since most overtly communist countries, mainland China included, feature those colors in their national flags. “Satellite” puppet states like Tibet and Mongolia 1ncorporate blue into the color scheme. North Korea, Laos and Cambodia use blue with the Bolshevik red.
This gargantuan armada is mentioned in the next breath after the 4 angels are released to kill a third of mankind. There is a relationship between these angels and this invasion force. I suspect these angels’ mission is similar to that of the 3 frog-like spirits who span the globe drawing the armies of the world (16:13-14) together for the Supreme Mac Daddy of all battles. Similar to the relationship between Lucifer and certain kings of Tyre and Babylon.
What’s the big deal about the Euphrates? For some time, I’ve pondered what sort of strategic significance this river could have, that it would need to be dried up before an invading armada could cross. The Tigris, running parallel to it, is wider, deeper and flows more water. US forces have not found the Euphrates to be a notable obstacle in their invasion/occupation of Iraq. Turkey built a dam on this river a couple decades ago, so it could conceivably be dried up without an act of God. But like I said, it doesn’t seem to be much of a military obstacle anyway.
So I had to turn from strategic considerations and look at it another way: The Euphrates, biblically, is the dividing line between East and West. It, the Tigris, Pishon and Gihon originally split off from the river flowing through Eden (probably when the planet had only one contenental land mass, hence maps from that era would look alien to us). More importantly, it is the eastern boundary of the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Though present-day Israel is crammed onto a postage stamp between the Jordan and the Mediterranean (which the media, the PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al-Quaeda, et al believe is still too much living space for the Israelis), God sees Israel’s rightful territory as significantly larger. When certain armies (or angels) cross this boundary, it may not mean much on a human general’s map, but it is a major development on the Lord’s radar screen.
Also, consider that Babel, the first world capitol, throne of the first world dictator, was built along the Euphrates. Babel later became Babylon, the birthplace of all the pagan religions of the world, and will become an important spiritual nexus in the coming world government.
Despite the horrific suffering caused by these plagues, and this war, mankind won’t repent from their murders, thievery or sexual immorality. Look around and you can see the truth of that. But the Word says people also won’t repent of magic arts, demon worship, and idol worship.
Whoa: We’ve heard of devil worship–that’s just on the lunatic fringe of the Pagan Left, isn’t it? But magic arts and idol worship? 21st Century people are just too sophisticated to engage in such B-Movie skullduggery, aren’t they? Well, you’d be surprised what sophisticated, civilized people are capable of given the appropriate circumstances and motivation.
Wiccanism (witchcraft/magic arts) is an established, protected religion which is growing even now. A lot of it is mularky, but some is not. Consider Pharoah’s magicians during the time of the Exodus, or the witch King Saul consulted.
Idols (often called “gods” in biblical times) are anything you consider more important than God and/or trust more than you trust God. In ancient times these were statues, usually representing a demon who accepted the worship by proxy. Today it can be money; what money can buy; careers; political parties and causes; celebrities; and self. The Lord will have no other gods before Him. Magic arts and demon worship go hand-in-hand. Where do you suppose the supernatural power of witchcraft comes from?
A Remarkable Interjection
Now the revelation of the trumpet judgements is interrupted for a vision. An “angel” descends from heaven, described with heavy symbolism. “Angel” means “messenger” here. There are clues to this messenger’s identity: 1st off, He swears by the Creator (10:6). Who do you suppose could swear thus without fear of repercussions? 2nd, his shout is like the roar of a lion. 3rd, he is holding a scroll, and the last time we saw a scroll, it was given to the only One worthy to open it. If I were a betting man, I’d say this is our Messiah.
He swears that there will be no more delay; the mystery of God will now be fulfilled. This could mesh with the sky receding like a scroll in the 6th Seal judgement, and could also include the disclosure of what the seven thunders spoke; the unlocking of the prophecy sealed in Daniel, and much more.
John is told to eat the scroll. It tastes sweet in his mouth, but turns his stomach bitter. (This is why I quit eating at Jack in the Box, by the way.) All kidding aside,I have my own interpretation of this which may or may not resonate with others. We are to pray for our Lord’s return (“…Thy kingdom come, thy will be done…”) and Christians are supposed to eagerly anticipate Jesus returning and taking his rightful place on the throne of David, ruling literally over all the earth. And we do. That tastes as sweet as honey, doesn’t it? But read this book and understand what the prerequisites are to that glorious day, and there’s a big ol’ bitter taste.
The whole concept of justice, for me, has this effect: It is quite appealing to my intellect, as a theory…it “tastes sweet” in my mind. Yet perfect justice is all encompassing. All wickedness is going to be dealt with, and I am not without sin. My soul is secured by the blood, but I am no more immune from suffering than the early Church was, or any Christian martyrs have been. Folks, it is going to get very bad here before our Lord returns. If you believe what Jesus Himself said in Matthew 24:21/Mark 13:19, there is coming a period of miserable suffering such as the world has never seen. That means even historic tribulations like the Black Death, the Inquisition and the Holocaust in Europe were not as bad as what the world will go through before His Kingdom comes. Perfect justice is gonna be very bitter when it digests.
I also love my country, but America is undoubtedly going to pay dearly for her wickedness. The God-hating traitors that keep getting elected will not escape the coming wrath, no matter how the media spins and conceals their treachery. Sweet! But this entire nation is going to be held accountable for sanctioning what those professional politicians have done and are doing. Bitter. Americans have less of an excuse than citizens of any other nation. We could have held our public servants accountable by peaceful, lawful means over the last century. The Church in America could have influenced the surrounding culture, rather than the other way around. The founding fathers got us to first-and-goal at the one yard line, and the milquetoast American Christians punted.
John pauses here to zoom in on Jerusalem and show us, in microcosm, what’s happening during the first 3.5 year half of Israel’s 70th “week.” For these 42 months, the Man with the Plan, and the global government forming under him, will have an infuriating thorn in their side. Two bold men will be speaking the truth during this age of deception. And no, they won’t be reporters from Fox News. What these two guys reveal will be a major embarrassment to the Beast and all of those who follow him. And they can’t be silenced. And they can’t be killed off! Not until their testimony is done, at the halfway mark. After murdering them, the Man takes over Jerusalem, since he’s in the neighborhood, violates the very covenant he enforced to win the trust of Israel, puts a stop to the daily sacrifice in the Temple and has an image of himself established inside the Holy of Holies, so that the world will worship him as god.
There are rumblings, peals of thunder, lightning, voices, an earthquake and a great hailstorm. This should sound very familiar by now. And John reveals here that the “Temple in Heaven” will open, revealing the Ark of God’s Covenant. As I mentioned before, this is probably not the fancy golden box rescued from the Nazis by Indiana Jones, but the real thing that object was designed to represent.
At this time the mystery of God has been accomplished. Whoever survives to this point will have their eyes opened, so to speak.
Amen. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.