Part 2: The First Four Trumpets

PART II THE TRUMPETS. (Chap. viii. 2 - Xi. i8.)
(Chapters 17-19)
THE FIRST FOUR TRUMPETS. (Chap. viii. 2 - 13.)
The last seal is loosed, and the book of Revelation lies open before us; yet just here it is undoubtedly true that we have reached the most difficult part of the whole. As we go on, we shall find ourselves in the midst of scenes with which the Old Testament prophets have made us in measure familiar - a part which can be compared in this very prophecy to "a little open book." In the seals, we have found also what was more simple by its very breadth and generality. We have here evidently predictions more definite, and yet the application of which may never be made known to us. as they do not seem to come into that "open book," - do not seem to find their place where the Old Testament can shed its light in the same way upon them. Yet we are not left to that mere "private interpretation" which is forbidden us; and it is well to inquire at the beginning, what helps we have to interpretation from other parts of Scripture.

The series of trumpets is septenary, as we know - just as those of the seals and vials are. Not only so, but, as already said, the here becomes, by the interposed vision between the sixth and seventh, in structure, an 8. And in this, the seals are plainly similar; the vials really, though more obscurely. This naturally invites further comparison; and then at once we perceive that the vials are certainly in other respects also a parallel to the trumpets. In the first of each, the earth is affected; in the second, the sea; in the third, the rivers and fountains of waters; in the fourth, the sun; in the fifth, there is darkness; in the sixth, the river Euphrates is the scene: the general resemblance cannot be doubted.

No such resemblance can be traced if we compare the seals, however; though the similarity of structure should yield us something. The structure itself, so definite and plainly numerical, may speak to those who have ears to hear it, and we shall seek to gain from it what we can. But there is a third witness, whose help we shall do well to avail ourselves of, and that is, the historical interpretation, which just here - strangely as it may seem - is at its plainest. There is a very striking and satisfactory agreement among those of the historical school with regard to the fifth and sixth trumpets at least; and the harmony pleads for some substantial truth in what they agree about. We must at all events inquire as to this.

Strictly, according to the structure, the first five verses of this chapter belong to the seventh seal; but for our purpose it is more convenient to connect them with the trumpet-series, which they introduce. The judgments following they show us to be the answer of God to the cry of His people, though in His heart for them before they cry, This is what the order plainly teaches: "And I saw the seven angels which stand before God, and seven trumpets were given unto them." Thus all is prepared of God beforehand; yet He must be inquired of, to do it for them, and therefore we have next the prayers of all the saints ascending up to God. There is now a union of all hearts together: the common distress leads to united prayer; and He who has given special assurance that He will answer the prayer of two or three that unitedly ask of Him, how can He withdraw Himself from such supplication?

But we see another thing, - the action of the angel at the altar of incense: "And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense which came with the prayers of the saints ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand." Thus the fragrance of Christ’s acceptability gives efficacy to His people’s prayers a thing perfectly familiar to us as Christians, and which scarcely needs interpretation, but which, as pictured for us here, has this element of strangeness in it - the figure of an angel-priest. Why, if it be Christ who of necessity must take this place, why is He shown us as an angel? "For He taketh not hold of angels, but of the seed of Abraham He taketh hold. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High-Priest in things pertaining to God." (Heb. ii. i6, i7.) If, then, to be the priest men need, He must be made like to men, why does He appear here as an angel, and not as a man?

There is no need for doubt that what has been answered by many is the true explanation, and that the angel-figure here speaks of personal distance still from those for whom yet He intercedes. We have many like examples in Scripture, and one which is of special interest in this connection. Those who appear in the eighteenth of Genesis as "men" to Abraham, go on to Sodom as "angels "in the nineteenth. They go there to deliver Lot, but are not able to show him the intimacy which they show to Abraham. "Just man "as he is, and "vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked," he is yet one "saved so as through the fire." Found, not in his tent door at Mamre, but in the "gate of Sodom," he is one of those righteous men but in an evil place, for whom Abraham intercedes with God, and when delivered, it is said of him that "God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in the midst of which Lot dwelt." (Gen. xix. 29.)

Lot may thus fitly represent this very remnant of Israel at the last, whose prayers are here coming up before God; who have had opportunity to have known the Church’s pilgrim path, but have refused it, and to whom Christ is even yet a stranger, though interceding for them. If we remember the priestly character of the heavenly elders in the fifth chapter here, and "their vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints" (v. 8) we may see further resemblance between these pictures so far apart. And how touching is it to see how in the troubles which encompass Lot in Sodom, these angels begin to appear as "men" again! (Gen. XIX. 10, 12, i6.) Sweet grace of God, shining out in the very midst of the trial from which it could not, because of our need of it, exempt us!

Thus the angel-priest, in its very incongruity of thought, exactly suits the place in which we find it. It is "the time of Jacob’s trouble," - needed, because he is yet Jacob, but out of which he shall be delivered when its work is once accomplished. (Jer. xxx. 7.) Thus their prayers offered are heard; and, as inheriting on the earth, the answer to them involves the purging of the earth. "And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it unto the earth; and there were voices and thunderings and lightnings, and an earthquake. And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound."

This fire, because from the altar, some have difficulty in believing to be judgment. They remember how a live coal from the altar purged Isaiah’s lips, and cannot see how that which has fed upon the sacrifice can be any longer wrath against men. But this is easily answered; for while, where the heart turns to God, this is certainly true, it is in no wise true for those who do not turn. For them, there is no sacrifice that avails; rather it pleads against its rejecters: the wrath of God against sin has not been set aside, but demonstrated an awful reality by the cross; and where the precious blood has not cleanseth from sin, the wrath of God rests only the more heavily on those who slight it. The signs of judgment following are therefore in perfect keeping with the fact that it is the fire of the altar that evokes them, as they are with their being the answer to the prayers of a people who cry (with the saints under the fifth seal, or with the widow to whom the Lord compares them,), "Avenge me of mine adversary." (Luke xviii. 3.)

Every thing finds its place when once we are in the track of the divine thoughts; and in all this there is no difficulty when we have learnt the period to which it applies. It is a suited introduction to the trumpets which follow, and in which, according to the old institution (Num. x. 9), God Himself now declares Himself in behalf of His people, and against their enemies. There is much more difficulty when we come to consider separately the trumpets themselves. "And the first sounded, and there followed hail and fire, mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of the earth was burnt up, and the third part of the trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up."

Hail with fire we find in other parts of Scripture, as in nature also. It is one of the most solemn figures of the divine judgment which nature furnishes. It was one of the plagues of Egypt. In the eighteenth psalm it is found connected with similar judgment. "The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave His voice, - hailstones and coals of fire." Electricity and hail are products of the same cause, a mass of heated air saturated with vapour, rising to a higher level, and meeting the check of a cold current. It is a product of cold, the withdrawal of heat, as darkness is the absence of light; and light and heat, cold and darkness, are akin to one another. Cold stands (with darkness) for the withdrawal of God, as fire (which is both heat and light) for the glow of His presence, which, as against sin, is wrath. And both these things can consist together, however they may seem contradictory - "hailstones and coals of fire" be poured out together. God’s forsaking is angry, necessarily, and thus what would be a ministry of refreshment is turned into a storm of judgment. There is a concord of contraries against those that cast off God; for those who love Him, all things work together for good.

The blood mingled is of course a sign of death - a violent death, - and shows the deadly character of this visitation, by which a third part of the prophetic earth is desolated, a third part of the trees burnt up, and prosperity (if the green grass implies that,) everywhere destroyed. This judgment seems to affect, therefore, especially the lower ranks of the people, though, as necessarily would be the case, many of the higher also; but it does not affect especially those in authority. They have not escaped, as we have seen, in the general convulsion under the sixth seal ; - nay, the heavens fleeing away might seem to intimate that the very possibility of true government was departed. Yet this might be while in fact governments go on, and we find in what follows here that they do go on, although never really recovering themselves. Under this trumpet now begins, as it would seem, what shall really cause them to collapse. A people impoverished by that which spares the governing classes, who does not realize the danger to these of such a state of things? And the second trumpet seems to show us in reality what we might anticipate to grow out of this.

"And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain, burning with fire, was cast into the sea; and the third part of the sea became blood; and the third part of the creatures which were in the sea and had life died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed." The comparison of Babylon to such a mountain (Jer. li. 25) may put us in the track of the meaning here. It is a power mighty, firmly seated and exalted, yet full of volcanic forces in conflict, by which not only her own bowels shall be torn out, but ruin spread around. This cast into the sea of the nations, - already in commotion, as the "sea" implies - produces death and disaster beyond that of the preceding trumpet. Human life is more directly attacked by it. Such a state of eruption was in France at the end of the last century, and may well illustrate (as others have suggested) what seems intended. The fierce outburst of revolt against all forms of monarchy, the fruit of centuries of insolent tyranny under which men had been crushed, set Europe in convulsion. History is full of such portents of that which shall be, and we do well to take heed to them. Especially as the end approaches may we expect to find it so: there is growth on to and preparation for that which at last takes those who have not received the warning by surprise.

The third part of the ships being destroyed would seem naturally to imply the destruction of commerce to this extent, the intercourse between the nations necessarily affected by the reign of terror around. The third trumpet sounds, and a star falls from heaven, burning like a torch. "And it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters. And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter."

The heavens are the sphere of government, whether civil or spiritual; a ruler of either kind might be here indicated therefore, and the historical application is in general to Attila, king of the Huns; yet the fall from heaven, the poisoning of the sources of refreshment, as well as the parallel, if not the deeper, connection with the sixth trumpet, seem to point much more strongly to an apostate teacher, by whose fall the springs of spiritual truth should be embittered, causing men to perish. With all the misery that has hitherto been depicted as coming upon men under these apocalyptic symbols, we have not before had any clear intimation of this, which we know, however, to be a principal ingredient in the full cup of bitterness which will then be meted out to men. Because they have not received the love of the truth, that they might be saved, God will send them strong delusion, that they may believe a lie; and here would seem to be the beginning of this.

In the French revolution at the end of the last century, the revolt against the existing governments linked itself with an uprise against Christianity ; and the socialistic and anarchical movements which have followed, with however little present success, are uniformly allied with infidel and atheistic avowals as extreme as any of that time. Russian "nihilism" fulfills its name in demanding "No law, no religion - nihil!" and as the first thing, "Tear out of your hearts the belief in the existence of God." Here is forestalled the one "who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped;" nor is it a contradiction to this that one with such nihilism on his standard should exalt himself into the place of God: the atheist Comte devised for his followers a new worship, with forms borrowed from Rome, and a peremptory spirit, which have gained for it from a noted infidel of the day the title of "Catholicism minus Christianity." This was his proposition, as stated by himself: "The re-organization of human society, without God or king, through the systematic worship of humanity."

This was a delirium! True, but such dreams will come again, as the Word of God declares, in that fever of the world to which, with its quick pulse now, it is fast approaching. Apostasy is written already upon what men would fain have the dawn of a new day, and the being who has raised himself from the chattering ape to link the lightning to his chariot of progress, what shall stay him now? These are the words from the lips of Truth itself: "I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive."

We have already considered in a measure the doctrine of a personal antichrist yet to come, and we shall be repeatedly recalled to the consideration of it as we go on with Revelation. Here it is only the place to say that his birthplace in the book seems to be under this third seal, though his descent more strictly than his rise. He is born of apostasy, as the second epistle to the Thessalonians (chap. 3. 3) would lead us to anticipate.

And now, under the fourth trumpet, a scene occurs which may be compared with that under the sixth seal, but which in the comparison reveals important differences. Then, a convulsion affected (as would appear) the whole earth: now, it is only the governing powers that are affected by it; and that, not every where, but a third part of the sun and of the moon and of the stars, so that the day shines not for a third part of it, and the night likewise. These last words in connection with the similar limitation to a third part in the preceding seals, seem plain enough. The day does not shine in a third part of the sphere of its dominion, nor the night (in its moon and stars) either. Certainly this would not be the natural result of the darkening of a third part of sun and moon, and intimates to us that we have not here a literal phenomenon such as is represented, but figures of other things. Royal or imperial authority has collapsed, with its train of satellites, within such limits as a "third part" may designate; and with this, the first series of the trumpets ends. As ordinarily in these septenary series, the last three are cut off from these first four, which have a certain oneness of application, as the use of this "third part" employed in them throughout also would imply; for the next trumpet has no intimation of this kind. The sixth has it again, but the seventh refuses all such limitation.

The meaning of this trumpet, then, is simple; but its proper significance must be gained from its connection with the series of which it forms a part, and indeed with any prophecies elsewhere which by comparison may throw light upon it.

In general, also, the historical application attains here a consistency which claims attention ; and that there is some substantial truth in it (though not the full truth) there is no need to doubt. The minds of so many of the Lord’s people as have explored the book of Revelation by this light have not been left so utterly dark and untaught of the Spirit as to have allowed them to wander utterly astray. Scripture is larger in compass than we think, and this is by no means the only part of prophecy in which a certain fulfillment has anticipated and, as it were, typified the final and exhaustive one. In this very book, those who receive the addresses to the seven churches as prophetic of the history of the professing church at large can surely not deny, or seek to deny, a primary application to churches actually existing in the apostle’s day. And here the foundation of the historical interpretation is already laid. The stream of prophecy in the seals and trumpets in this case naturally has its germinant fulfillment from that very time; and if we refuse it, we refuse not only the comfort we should gain from seeing the Lord’s control of the whole course of man’s spiritual history for so many centuries, but also lose for the final application a guiding clue with which the grace of God has furnished us. That it is not a full, exhaustive fulfillment will not in this case either affect its being a fulfillment. It will be in perfect keeping with its place that it shall not be a complete one; for were it this, no room for the final one would be left.

Now the general interpretation of the first four trumpets applies them to the breaking up of the Roman empire by the barbarian inroads of Goths, Vandals, and Huns, until its final extinction in the west by the hands of Odoacer. The eastern half survived to a latter day, but it was henceforth Grecian rather than Roman, Rome itself, with all that constituted its greatness, - nay, its being, in the days of its ancient glory, having departed from it. This application agrees with the unity of these trumpets, while it gives a sufficient reason for the series coming to an end, and the fifth and sixth trumpets turning now to judgments upon the eastern half, by the hands of Saracen and Turk, the seventh being in its character universal. The Roman empire, let us remember, as the last empire of Daniel’s visions, and that which existed in the Lord’s lifetime upon earth, and by the authority of which He was crucified, stands as the representative of the world-power in its rebellion against God. (Comp. Ps. ii. with Acts iv. 25 - 28) No wonder, therefore, if its history should be given under these war trumpets, the last of which gives the full victory of Christ over all the opposition. It is consistent with this that Satan in the twelfth chapter of this book should as the dragon be pictured with the seven heads and ten horns of the Roman beast. He is the spiritual prince of this world, and in this way is clothed with the power of the world, which we see here again is Roman.

So again, the "earth," which both in Greek and Hebrew may mean "land," and is often by no means the equivalent of the world, seems almost constantly in these prophecies, till the final one, to be the Roman earth, the territory of the Roman empire in its widest, and of which the western part seems to be the "third part" mentioned in the trumpets. As to this third part, Mr. Elliott urges, that during the period of these early trumpets, "the Roman world was, in fact, divided into three parts, viz., the Eastern (Asia Minor, Syria, Arabia, Egypt); the Central (Mysia, Greece, Illyricum, Rhaetia); the Western (Italy, Gaul, Britain, Spain, north-western Africa); and that the third, or western, part was destroyed."

Others would make the "third part" equivalent to the territory peculiar to the third beast of Daniel, or the Greek empire; but this seems certainly not the truth: for in this case, according to the historical interpretation, the end of the eastern empire must be found under the fourth trumpet, whereas the fifth trumpet goes back before this, to introduce the Saracens!

Of all interpretations, that only seems consistent which applies the "third part" to the western part of the Roman earth, and in this way the term may have a further significance, as that part in which the Roman empire is yet to revive again, as it will revive for judgment in the latter days, - the "third" being very often connected in Scripture, as is well known, with the thought of resurrection.

The Roman empire has indeed long been extinct, both in the west and in the east, and it is of this very extinction that the historical interpretation of the trumpets speaks, yet the voice of prophecy clearly assures us that it must be existing at the time of the end, when, because of the words of the little horn, judgment comes down upon it.

(Dan. vii. ii.) The nineteenth chapter of this book unites with the book of Daniel in this testimony: for it is when the Lord appears that the beast is seen, along with the kings of the earth, arrayed in opposition against Him. Thus it is plain that the Roman empire must be existent at the end. It has yet, therefore, to rise again, and in the thirteenth chapter we see it, in fact, rising out of the sea: while in the seventeenth, where the woman Babylon has her seat upon it, it is said, "The beast that thou sawest was, and is not, and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition." (v. 8.) So it is called, "The beast that was, and is not, and shall come." (v. 5, R. V.)

Nothing can be much plainer than the fact that the Roman empire will revive again. But not only so; it is also declared by the same sure Word that it will revive to be smitten again in one of its heads, and apparently to death, yet its wound is healed and it lives. (chap. xii. 3, 12, 14.) It is after this that it becomes idolatrous, as Daniel has intimated to us it will, and all the world wonders after it. (ve. 2, 8, 12.)

It is not yet the place to go fully into this, but so much is clear as enables us to see how the historical interpretation of these trumpets points, or may point, to a future fulfillment of them. One other thing which the book of Revelation notes will make more complete our means of interpretation.

The beast, as seen in Revelation, has seven heads, or kings; and these are successive rulers - or forms of rule - over the empire: for "five," says the angel, "are fallen, and one is, and another is yet to come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space." ‘the heads, then, in this primary view, are seven, but five had passed away - commentators quote them from Livy - the sixth, the imperial power, existed at that time: the seventh was wholly future, and, in contrast with the long continuance of the sixth, would continue only a short space.

But there is an eighth head, and the beast himself is this. The last statement has been supposed to mean that the head exercised the whole authority of the empire; but it would seem nothing strange for the head of empire to exercise imperial authority. Does it not rather mean that the beast that is seen all through these chapters is the beast of this eighth head?

But the seventh head, where does it come in? There are some things that would seem to give us help with regard to this. For the empire plainly collapsed under its sixth head, and the seventh could not be until the empire again existed. There are questions here that have to be settled with the historical interpretation; but in the meantime the course of the trumpets as we have already followed it, confirmed by their historical interpretation also, would suggest that we have in them, and indeed from the commencement of the seals, the history of the seventh head. The rider upon the white horse, to whom a crown is given, may well be the person under whom the empire is at first re-established. And of such an one Napoleon, though not (as some have thought) the seventh head himself, may be well the foreshadow. The sixth seal does not point to his overthrow: it is a wider, temporary convulsion which affects all classes - high and low together; and in the pause that follows, they would seem to recover themselves. The trumpets begin, however, at once to threaten overthrow. The very escape of the governing classes under the first trumpet seems to prepare the way for the outburst under the second, which is an eruption from beneath, - fierce with passionate revolt; to which is added, under the third, apostasy, the giving up of the restraint of divine government, soon to grow into the last, worst form of Christianity according to Satan - Antichrist: the opposition to incarnate Deity of deified humanity.

The result is, under the fourth trumpet, as it would appear, the imperial power smitten, the seventh head wounded to death, and with it the recently established empire overthrown beyond mere human power to revive again. But this brings in the help of one mightier than man - the awful power of Satan, working with an energy proportionate to the shortness of the time which is now his. The beast arises out of the abyss, its deadly wound is healed; the dragon gives him his power and throne and great authority; and all the world wonders and worships. (chap. xiii. 2 - 4.)

Then indeed it is "Woe! woe! woe! to the inhabiters of the earth."

(Chap. ix. 1 - 12.)
At the sound of the fifth trumpet a star is seen, not to fall, as the common version puts it, but already fallen from heaven to earth. This seems naturally to connect thus with the apostasy under the third trumpet, nor is it likely that the apostasy of any other should be as noteworthy as his whose course is recorded here. At all events, it is an apostate, surely, that is before us, and to him is committed "the key of the abyss."

The force of the words have first of all to be considered. A "pit" is in the Old Testament often a synonym for a dungeon, and every thing unites to show this to be the meaning here ; while the "abyss " is not other than the pit itself, but only a further definition of it the dungeon which is the abyss. So the demons pray that they may not be sent into the deep, or "abyss" (Luke viii. 31), and Satan is, in the twentieth chapter, shut up there. In the Old Testament parallel to the same in Revelation, it is said, "They shall be gathered together as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in prison." (Isa. xxiv. 22.) Here the abyss is the "pit," or prison, clearly. The key is used in this place as in the later one - here, the "key of the pit of the abyss;" there, simply "the key of the abyss." The abyss is not, however, "hell " - the "lake of fire,"- as we may see by the fact that it is, in one passage (Rom. x. 7), used in connection with the Lord: "Who shall descend into the deep (the abyss)? - that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead." Here, as the heavens are inaccessible to man for height, so is the abyss for depth. The literal meaning (" bottomless ") must not be pressed, as our own use of the word shows, and the Greek was similar ; the Septuagint use it for the "deep" upon which darkness rested on the first day.

The connection of the "pit" with the state of the dead in the Old Testament is similar to that of the "abyss" here in the New. We have this again in Revelation, where the "beast," in its last phase, is said to come up out of the abyss. This seems naturally to refer to the wounding to death, and revival (chap. xiii. 3, 12, 14). Some have even contended, seeing the identification of the beast (the empire) with its last head (chap. xvii. ii), for the literal resurrection of a person in this case; but this is only a wild extravagance: for resurrection literally could only be from God, and the beast in its last form is wholly under the power of Satan. (xiii. I, 2). The rising up out of the abyss is figurative, therefore, as the beast itself is; and indeed the use of the word seems figurative throughout.

Now Christ has "the keys of hades and of death" (chap. i. i8); and it is not to be imagined that He should give up into the hand of an apostate, whether man or spirit, any portion of His own authority. We must not think, therefore, (as has been done,) of a literal opening of hades, and an irruption of the spirits of the lost upon the earth. Fancies like these easily gain ascendency over a certain class of minds; and yet who could seriously maintain such an outbreak of wickedness on the part of those shut up, like the rich man in hades, to await judgment? Were it so, there would be "deeds done" out of the body, as well as "in the body," to give account of in the day of judgment. But, in fact, the locusts are not said even to come out of the pit. Nothing is said to come out of it but the smoke which darkens the sun and air; and out of the smoke the locusts come. It may be natural to think that, after all, they cannot be bred of the smoke, and that they must come with the smoke out of the pit; but naturalistic interpretations may easily deceive us, where the spiritual sense is the whole matter, and for the spiritual meaning there is no difficulty. The smoke is not, as in other places, the smoke of torment, but the fumes of malign spiritual influences which darken the air and the supreme source of light itself. Out of this darkness we can easily understand the locusts to be bred.

It is quite in accordance with their origin that their power should be represented as that of the scorpions of the earth - that is, in their poisonous sting - and their distinction from natural locusts is seen in this, that they do not touch the locusts’ food, but are a plague only upon men, and these the unsealed. Remembering that it is in Israel that the sealing is found, the inference seems just that these unsealed ones are Israelites, and the sphere of this plague is in the east. They do not kill - as, in general, the scorpion does not, - but inflict torment to which death is preferable; and their power lasts five months.

We next find them pictured as warriors - a military power subordinated to what is their grand interest and aim, the propagation of poisonous falsehood. Thus "the shapes of the locusts were like horses prepared unto battle;" and, as in the certainty of triumph beforehand, "upon their heads were as it were crowns like gold." Little matter of real triumph had they, as the limiting words here show. "Their faces were as faces of men" also, - they had the dignity and apparent independence of such; while yet "they had hair as the hair of women," being in the fullest subjection to the dark and dreadful power that ruled over them. "Their teeth as the teeth of lions" show the savage, tenacious grip with which they can hold their prey; their breastplates of iron, perhaps, the fence of a hardened conscience; the sound of their wings, like that of the locust-hosts they resemble, conveys the hopeless terror which they inspire. Finally, we are again told of their scorpion-stings, and their power to hurt men five months.

They have a king over them - the angel of the abyss, whose name is given, almost exactly the same in meaning, in Hebrew and in Greek. The use of the Hebrew unites, with other indications we have had, to assure us that it is upon Israel that this woe comes, while the Greek no less plainly indicates that the angel here has also to do with the Gentiles: according to both, he is the "destroyer;" and it is natural to think of Satan in such connections, while it seems not probable that the angel of the abyss is the same person with the fallen star.

The historical application in this case is one in which there is great unanimity among interpreters. They apply it to Mohammed, and the Saracens, whose astonishing successes were manifestly gained under the inspiration of a false religion. They came in swarms from the very country of the locusts, and their turbaned heads with men’s beards and women’s hair, their cuirasses, the sparing of the trees and corn, and even of life where there was submission, with their time of prevalence, according to the year-day reckoning, one hundred and fifty years, - all these things have been pointed out as fulfillment of the vision. It has been objected, on the other hand, that such points as these are below the dignity of Scripture, and that the terms are moral. While this is surely true if we think of the full intention, it is to be considered, on the other hand, whether God does not allow and intend oftentimes a correspondence between such outward things and what is deeper, just as the face of a man may be a real index to his spirit. Just because they are external, they are well fitted to strike the imagination; and the parable is, as we know, a very common method of instruction every where in Scripture. Thus God would open our eyes to see what is indeed all around us; and to stop at what is external, or to ignore it, is alike an error.

In any case, and for reasons which we have already considered, we cannot take this Saracenic scourge as any complete fulfillment of the locust vision. Nor can we, on the other hand, connect it as fully and certainly with other prophecy as would be necessary for very clear interpretation. What seems indicated, however, with regard to its final fulfillment in a time yet to come, is the rise and propagation of that delusion to which we know both the mass of mere Christian profession and of the unbelieving Jews will in the end surrender themselves. (2 Thess. ii.) The antichrist of that time will be, there is little doubt, both an apostate from Christianity and from the faith of his Jewish fathers (Dan. xi. 37); and his apostasy will remove (under divine permission) the present restraint upon the power of evil. It will be as if the abyss had opened its mouth to darken the light of heaven; a mist of confusion will roll in upon men’s minds, which will under satanic influence soon find definite expression in forms of blasphemy and a host of armed adherents ready to force upon others the doctrines of the pit. As has been said, it is apparently with Israel that this trumpet has to do, but yet the Greek name of the leader seems to speak also of the connection with the Gentiles. If the application here made be the true one, then we know that the "wicked one" will not be a Jewish false Christ merely, but will also head the apostasy of Christendom. In this sense also it may be that the "beast" under its last head - the revived Roman empire - is said to come up out of tile abyss, its actual revival being due to the dark and dreadful power which is presented to us here, - so exceeding in malignity all that has preceded it, that its advent is called, in the language of inspiration, "the first woe."