SUMMARY.--The Silence in Heaven.
The Seven Angels with the Seven Trumpets.
The Incense Offered.
The Fire Cast on the Earth.
The First Angel Sounds; Hail, Fire, and Blood Follow.
The Second Trumpet and the Mountain Cast into the Sea.
The Third Trumpet and the Great Burning Stars.
The Fourth Trumpet and the Sun Darkened.
In the opening of the
we are told that four angels were holding back hurtful winds or
destroying agencies until a great work was done for the Church. That
work accomplished, the eighth chapter describes how four angels let
loose four terrible agencies to a work of destruction. The first four
are entirely separated from the remaining three
and do a separate work. There ought not to be a doubt that the
four agencies let loose by the four trumpet angels of the
are the same as the four hurtful winds held back by the angels
1, 2. When he opened the seventh seal. It is the Lamb who opens
all the seals.
There was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.
There has been a great effort among commentators to interpret the
meaning of this silence. I think that it is a hush of awe before the
march of the awful judgments about to come, the calm before the storm
breaks forth, the oppressive silence before 
the burst of battle. It is designed to emphasize the events that
2. And I saw. Thus John introduces the vision of each seal. The
vision is not the silence in heaven, but what John saw. On this
point some commentators make a mistake here. What he saw was the
seven angels which stand before God; that is, the angels who
act as his immediate ministering servants, to whom were given seven
trumpets. The seventh seal, therefore, embraces these angels and their
trumpets, and all they do in the following verses belongs to this seal.
The seventh and last seal will not be exhausted until the seven trumpet
angels have discharged their mission.
3-5. And another angel came and stood over the altar. The scene
reveals the altar of the tabernacle, "a pattern made after heavenly
This is the altar of sacrifice from which the coal was always taken to
light the incense
This angel receives the incense and offers it upon the
golden altar, the altar of incense. The incense is "the prayers
of the saints;" these to reach the throne must be lighted from the
altar of sacrifice; or by faith in the blood of the Lamb of God.
4. And the smoke. As the smoke arose before the throne, so the
prayers of the saints in the name of the crucified Savior arise to God.
The special significance of all this is that in the terrible judgments
about to follow, the prayers of the true and faithful saints will still
come before God, and his providence will be over them.
5. And the angel . . . filled it with the fire of the
altar, and cast it upon the earth. Fire is usually a symbol of
suffering. This fire cast from the altar upon the earth indicates that
the judgments of God are about to fall upon it. The earth in the
sense used by John is the great Roman Empire, which embraced the
There followed thunders, etc. These mutterings and the quaking
are ominous of the terrible scenes to follow when the angels sound
6. And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets. See
There is the utmost deliberation. All must be made ready. The four
angels hold back the winds
then there was the silence of half an hour
now the seven angels
prepared themselves to sound. This implies that all things were
being made ready for the great events to follow. Trumpets. The
trumpet is used to give a signal. Usually it implied the march or
charge of armies. See
Joel 2:1, 15;
Jer. 4:5; Ezek. 33:1-6.
Sometimes it calls the people to worship. See
Num. 31:6; 1 Chron. 15:24.
The reader will see that the first is likely to be the significance
7. The first angel sounded. When the trumpet sounded there
followed the wonderful scenes described. When the first trumpet is
blown John beholds a mighty storm-cloud rush over the earth. From it
pour hail and fire mingled with blood. They fall upon the earth
and a third part is scorched and blasted. These terms
indicate desolation by some kind of judgments. The scene of the
desolation is "the earth," or the Roman Empire in John's use of the
term. The blood indicates carnage. The scorched and blasted land
indicates the devastation of destroying armies. The language implies a
terrible destruction descending upon a third of the world known to
8, 9. And the second angel sounded. Then the scene changes. Now
a great burning mountain is cast into the sea. The sea is the theatre
of destruction. Again there is fire and blood indicating carnage and
destruction. In the first judgment the third part of the earth suffers;
but now a third part of the sea. The symbols imply that some mighty
volcanic power shall be turned upon the sea, and make it a scene of
awful warfare and destruction.
10, 11. And the third angel sounded. With the third trumpet the
vision again changes. Now a great, burning, blazing meteor falls upon a
third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of the waters.
A "third part of the earth,"
a "third part of the sea,"
and now "a third part of the rivers" are
subjected to judgments.
11. And the name of the star is called Wormwood. That is, it is
bitterness, because it shall fill the world with bitter sorrow. A star
is a symbol of a great leader. Such a star as this, a blazing meteor,
is a symbol of a leader who suddenly appears, rapidly does an awfully
baleful work, and then disappears. In some way the rivers will be the
scenes of his malign influence. They shall become bitterness and shall
be scenes of death.
12. And the fourth angel sounded. Again the scene changes. Now
it is the third part of the sun, and of the moon, and of the stars that
is smitten, and darkness follows. The sun is a symbol of the supreme
ruler, and the moon and stars of inferior dignities. If the Roman
emperor, ruler of the world, should be cast from power, his empire
overthrown, the consuls, senators, and great men who supported his
power be cast to the dust, and a period of intellectual and moral
darkness should follow, it would fully meet the symbolism.
13. And I beheld, and heard an angel. An eagle in the Revision.
The flight of this messenger through the midst of heaven shows that an
epoch has been passed with the four trumpet visions, and that another
epoch is about to begin. The voice proclaims,
Woe, woe, woe. There are three woes; there are three woe angels.
Upon the inhabitants of the earth. Upon the earth as known to
John. The 
geographical scene of those events which are historical must be looked
for somewhere within the bounds of the great Roman world.
I have explained briefly the symbolical significance of the visions
which follow each trumpet blast of the first four angels. The next
question is whether history has anything corresponding which follows
the overthrow of Paganism and triumph of Christianity as predicted in
the sixth seal. Thus far we have a complete correspondence between the
series of symbols and the events of history, following each in regular
order, events and symbols corresponding. Does this correspondence
continue? Do we find that, as the four trumpet blasts are blown, four
hurtful agencies long held back (the four winds) rush to the
destruction of the Roman Empire? Let us see:
1. About A. D. 400, the "four winds"
could be held no longer. The Goths gathered out of the mysterious lands
of the unexplored North, and, like a mighty torrent, threw themselves,
a mighty, dauntless, savage host, upon Rome. Barbarous as the Indians
of the desert, they left behind their march, scarred, scorched,
blackened, bloody and desolated lands. Countries blooming like garden
were turned into treeless deserts. In A. D. 409, under Alaric,
their king, they descended on Italy. It had not seen the face of a
foreign enemy for eight hundred years. At last the hosts gathered
around the Imperial City. After a long siege, in the dead hour of
night, the gates were opened by the hands of traitors and the
barbarians rushed in. For three days the sack went on before they were
glutted with blood and spoil. Then, their leader having died, they
retired, loaded with spoil. The iron hail of war, the fire of burning
towns and cities, mingled with the blood of the slain defenders, the
scorched and blackened lands denuded of their fruit trees, and the
grass trodden under foot by the march of armies all correspond
surprisingly with the language of the Scripture. It is strange, also,
how the infidel Gibbon has chosen the very language of inspiration to
describe some of the events of this period. I will quote a few phrases
found in his thirty-first chapter and descriptive of the great invasion
of Alaric and the Goths. "The tremendous sound of the Gothic
trumpet" stirred the host to invasion. "At the first sound of
the trumpet the Goths left their farms" to rush on in invasion.
"The Gothic conflagration" consumed the empire. "Blood and
conflagration and the burning of trees and herbage marked their path."
Here is surely a remarkable fulfillment of the symbolism that follows
the First Trumpet.
2. The second trumpet implies a warfare upon the sea. Let us turn to
history. The Goths completed their work about A. D. 409. About ten
years later another mighty horde of northern barbarians was sweeping
south. The principal tribe was called the Vandals, from whence our
word vandalism. They rushed over Gaul, swept through Spain,
leaped over the narrow straits of Gibraltar, and wrested northern
Africa from the Roman dominion. Then they threw themselves like a
burning mountain upon the sea
and filled it with fire and blood. In order that they might assail
Rome on the seas and carry their armies to the islands and to Italy,
they built fleets and struggled for the mastery of the Mediterranean.
For six hundred years no ship hostile to Rome had disputed the mastery
of the sea, but now it becomes the theatre of war. Fleets meet in the
shock of battle; the sea is reddened with the blood of the slain; the
Roman ensign goes down, dyed in blood; the islands of the sea fall into
the hands of the fierce barbarian, and at last, near thirty years after
the contest began, their fleets land their armies in Italy, and they
rush upon Rome. The city is besieged, falls, and for fourteen days a
pitiless barbarian soldiery spare neither age nor sex. The spoil
gathered for eight hundred years, from a hundred conquered nations, is
carried away and loaded upon the Vandal fleets, and the blasted,
scourged, and pillaged Capital is abandoned as unworthy to be held as a
permanent possession. Surely these facts correspond to the Second
3. The blazing meteor that follows the sound of the third
trumpet has been found to imply some mighty leader who suddenly appears
and enters upon a baleful work. Is there such a leader? Before
A. D. 440, the Romans knew nothing of the Hungarian nation. About
that time there suddenly appeared, as a meteor would flash in the sky,
a warrior upon the banks of the river Danube, with eight hundred
thousand fighting men under his banners. They had come from the depths
of Central Asia, marched north of the Euxine Sea through Russia, and
now knocked at the river boundary of the Roman Empire.
Overcoming opposition to their passage of the Danube, they rushed
westward, crossed the river Rhine, and on the river Marne
were met in conflict by the hosts of Rome. The historians tell us that
the blood of slaughtered heroes made the river run with blood, and that
from one hundred and fifty thousand to three hundred thousand bodies of
the dead attested the fury of the conflict. Then they desolated the
river Rhine to its mouth. Turning southward, on the banks of the
river Rhone, the hosts met again in fury. Then, descending from
the Alps, the fierce warrior, on the banks of the river Po,
contended for the mastery of Italy. Victorious, he marched southward
to seize the imperial prize. Unable to contend longer, Rome sent a
priestly deputation to ask him to depart. By rich bribes and by work
on his superstition they succeeded, and he retired, made Buda, on the
river Danube, his capital and founded the Hungarian nation. When he
died, his followers turned the waters of the Danube from its course,
buried him in its bed, and then let them return to flow over the grave
of the hero. Beneath the waters of the river Danube still lie the bones
of the star called Wormwood, that fell upon the rivers. The trumpets
have blown, three awful blows have been struck, and the weakened empire
is ready to fall when the fourth trumpet blows.
4. The fourth trumpet. Read again the
We have found that the Goths struck their blow about A. D. 409;
the Vandals from the sea about A. D. 422; and Attila upon the
rivers about A. D. 440. What follows? We are to seek the
fulfillment in the next and final invasion of Rome. It occurred
A. D. 476. Odoacer, king of the Heruli, a Northern race,
encouraged by the apparent weakness of the falling empire, besieged and
took the almost helpless city. Augustulus, the feeble emperor, was
hurled down, the Roman Senate that had met for twelve hundred and
twenty-eight years, was driven from the Senate chambers, the mighty
fabric of the empire fell to the dust, and the great men were humbled
never to rise again. Sun, moon, and stars, emperor, princes, and great
men, are smitten, lose their power, and cease to give light. Nay, more.
There now began the period called by all historians the "Dark Ages."
The fall of Rome introduced the period when, intellectually and
spiritually, the day and night were darkened; when the minds of men
were blinded, and when the Church, falling gradually into apostasy,
gave forth for ages only a feeble light to human souls. Again the
correspondence is complete.
third part is named each of these four judgments. The first
falls on a third part of the earth
the second on a third part of the sea,
the third on a third part of the rivers,
and the fourth on a third part of the sun, moon, and stars.
If they were to fall upon a third part of the great Roman world,
(1) upon its land provinces, (2) upon its seas, (3) upon its river
systems, and (4) upon emperors and rulers (sun, moon and stars), the
whole would thus be fulfilled. This is just what took place.
During a great part of the period when the events were taking place
which are covered by the seven trumpets, the great Roman world was
divided into three parts. Gibbon, Chapter LIII., says: "From the age of
Charlemagne to that of the Crusades, the world (for I overlook the
remote monarchy of China) was occupied and disputed by the three
great empires, or nations of the Greeks, the
Saracens, and the Franks." "The three great
nations of the world, the Greeks, the Saracens, and
the Franks, encountered each other on the plains of
Italy."--Chapter LVI. "Three classes of men during the interval
are conspicuous, the Saracens, or Arabians, the Latins or
Franks, inhabitants of Western Europe, and the Byzantine
Greeks."--Phil. Inquiries, Part III. These quotations, which
might be multiplied, show that during the long period of a thousand
years, a period embraced in the fulfillment of the visions of John, the
civilized world was divided into three distinct parts, and that these
were clearly marked in history. It is upon one of these parts,
a third part, the Western third part, called the Latin or Frank
part, that all the calamities of the four invasions of Goths, Vandals,
Huns, and Heruli fell. It was the Western third part, the Old
Roman Empire, which fell forever under their blows.