The Meaning of the First Six Trumpets (Trumpets 4)

Here’s a nutshell summary of the key themes in the first six trumpets. 1) The first trumpet uses the Old Testament language of God’s judgments (hail, fire and blood– Exod. 9:23-26; Isa 10:16-20; Ezek. 38:22) directed against symbols of God’s OT people (vegetation and trees– Isa. 28:2ff.; Ezek. 20:47-48). Hence the first trumpet represents God’s judgment on the Jerusalem that had rejected Christ (Matt. 23:37-38; Luke 23:28-31). 2) The second trumpet recalls in general God’s judgments on those who opposed Him (Exod. 7:19-21), and in particular the fall of ancient Babylon (Jer. 51:24-25, 41-42). This trumpet seems to describe the fall of the Roman Empire.

3) The symbolism of the third trumpet parallels biblical imagery for the work of Satan (Isa. 14:12-19; Luke 10:18; Rev. 12:9). But the symbolism of lamp, springs, rivers and water suggest spiritual life and growth (Psa. 1:3; 84:6-7; 119:105; Jer. 2:13). The falling of the star and the embittering of the waters connect the two ideas suggesting a perversion of truth and a rise of apostasy. This trumpet, then, may foretell the condition of the church in the Middle Ages. 4) In the fourth trumpet, on the other hand, a third of the sources of light (sun, moon and stars) are darkened, in other words, the symbols of truth are partially eclipsed. This could represent the rise of secularism after the Middle Ages or the deepening of apostasy in the church during the Middle Ages (Exod. 10:21-23; Job 38:2; Isa. 8:22; John 1:4-11; 3:18-21).

5) With the fifth trumpet the partial darkness of the fourth trumpet becomes total and worldwide (Rev. 9:1-2; Luke 8:31). If the fourth trumpet represents the rise of secularism after the Middle Ages, the fifth would represent the triumph of secularism in the modern age. With God and truth totally eclipsed, sinful mankind is left to the demonic torment of suicidal desires (Rev. 9:3-11; Luke 8:31; 10:17-20). The only safety is in genuine relationship with God (Rev. 9:4).

6) While the first five trumpets have many allusions to ancient Egypt, the sixth trumpet particularly echoes biblical accounts regarding ancient Babylon. There are references to the river of Babylon (Rev. 9:14), the idolatry of Babylon (Rev. 9:20; Dan 5:4, 23) and the fall of Babylon (Rev. 9:21; Isa 47:9-12). There are also many parallels with the sixth bowl (Euphrates, battle language, demonic imagery– Rev. 16:12-16). So the sixth trumpet portrays the rise of end-time Babylon, with its opposition to God arising from within the church (Rev. 17:4-5).

The readings in this blog are an attempt to take seriously the exegetical meaning of the trumpets, how the imagery would have been understood when it was originally written. It also takes seriously the apocalyptic nature of the trumpets and God’s ability to foretell the main lines of history in John’s future. The trumpets are not easy to understand, but when the imagery is read with an eye to its Old Testament backgrounds, the meaning is easier to follow.

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