Having already presented in previous posts (click here and here) the view promoted by many able and godly expositors of the past that the fifth trumpet points figuratively to the 7th century rise of Islam* and its subsequent conquests I will now present what I believe the 3rd trumpet represents figuratively. Since the third trumpet appears before the fifth trumpet one should expect the events associated with the third trumpet to occur prior to the events associated with the fifth trumpet though that does not mean there can be no degree of overlap between the two time periods. It would be reasonable to believe that the third trumpet is associated with the first centuries of professing Christianity after the writing of the Book of Revelation. At least up to the 7th century. Since the conquering activity of the “locusts” of chapter 9 lasted many years it is also possible that the agents associated with the third trumpet have had a long career of activity as well. Possibly a career that began some time before the 7th century and continued some time beyond it. And may still be continuing today like in the case of Islam.
* the historic, economic and demographic importance of Islam cannot be denied; what other anti-Christian religion outside of Popery has persecuted Christians with as much zeal and cruelty while seeking to extend its tentacles to all the countries of the world? the Book of Revelation doesn’t deal with politically correct, theologically “respectable”, vague generalities that don’t offend anyone in particular but real, tangible, historic enemies of the Cross (e.g. Islam, Popery, Roman Paganism of the first centuries, Infidelity-Atheism); if the Book of Daniel deals with real, tangible, historic entities (e.g. Roman empire, Alexander the Great, Xerxes, Antiochus Epiphanes) then the same should be expected of the Book of Revelation
I sincerely believe after looking at the symbolism of the third trumpet that it figuratively points to a spiritual declension within professing Christianity and I believe this vision ties in with the rise of the doctrines of demons mentioned by the apostle Paul (1st Timothy 4:1-3). This is what I will attempt to show. This deplorable religious state of affairs (apostasy, wordliness, idolatry – see Revelation 9:20-21) within professing Christianity would lead God to use the figurative “locust plague” of the fifth trumpet to punish/chasten the apostates (see “Revelation 9’s Locusts Are Not Revolution 9’s Beatles – Part 6”). But despite that great temporal judgment those members of “spiritual Egypt” (Revelation 11:8) as well as their “spiritual Pharaoh” would not repent of their idolatry and wickedness leading God to smite “spiritual Egypt” some time after the fifth trumpet plague of “locusts” with a figurative plague of “frogs”. This idolatry still continues today but “Glory to God!” this idolatry will be judged with one final judgment (Revelation chapter 18).
“And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, 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.” (Revelation 8:10-11)
>> POINT 1 : “a great star from heaven” <<
If one reads the description of the star falling upon the “third part of the rivers”** one should ask oneself the question : can this refer to a literal star (not a meteorite or rock or mountain – compare with Revelation 8:8) literally falling on literal rivers? Could anyone survive such a cataclysmic physical event? Who would be around to worship the Beast after all of that happens (Revelation chapter 13)? I don’t believe this falling star should be taken literally.
** that’s a lot of rivers if the rivers are to be taken literally
The first verse of the Book of Revelation is an exegetical guidepost: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto HIS SERVANTS*** things which must shortly come to pass; He sent and SIGNIFIED (SIGN-ified = using SIGNS) it by His angel unto His servant John.” Because of the use of signs and similitudes throughout the book one cannot jump into Revelation and take everything literally. Especially in a book mentioning “mysteries” (1:20; 17:7). There are signs and symbols used to convey spiritual truths to be understood by God’s elect (2:11a), Christ’s true servants (1:1), while hidden to the ungodly (e.g. Roman Catholics, apostate Protestants, etc…).
*** notice that it says “servants”; true believers bear fruit and don’t merely rest on a profession of faith; the Book of Revelation is to be understood by people who actually serve Christ; to each of the seven churches Christ says “I know THY WORKS”
In the first chapter of the book the Lord Jesus Christ Himself said this about “stars” :
“The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:20)
The debate is whether these “messengers” – the meaning of the Greek word translated “angels” – of the churches are literal angels (spirit beings who serve God) or church elders/pastors. I believe and I can be wrong that the “angels” are first and foremost church leaders in the context of the letters to the 7 churches but I believe in chapter 9, verse 1, the “star” is referring to an angelic being and not a human because of the “bottomless pit” (mentioned in chapter 20 in reference to Satan, a spirit being). I think the immediate context must guide our interpretation.
In the Book of Jude FALSE TEACHERS are called “wandering STARS” in verse 13.
I believe the 12 “STARS” in the Woman’s**** crown in Revelation chapter 12 represent the 12 APOSTLES.
**** the Woman representing the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16) persecuted by the Pagan Roman empire of the Caesars (the red dragon) with the “Israel of God” representing the true “children of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7) whether they be Jews or Gentiles
In the Book of Daniel, in chapter 12*****, I believe that the people who turn many to righteousness and shine as “stars” for ever and ever is a prophetic reference to the apostles at the time of the “end” of the Mosaic economy. So again we have an association of church leaders to “stars”.
***** Philip Mauro in his book “The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation” demonstrates convincingly that Daniel chapter 12 when properly interpreted points to the time of Christ and not the end of the world; one quick point to mention : the “resurrection” of both the just AND WICKED mentioned in verse 2 is not universal : “MANY OF THEM (not all!) that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake”
>> POINT 2 : “there fell a great star” <<
If the “star” represents a church leader then what does it mean for a “star” to “fall”? If the “star” is to be understood figuratively then so must “the falling”. I believe “falling” here represents turning away from the truth, from righteousness and from love of God:
“Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are JUSTIFIED BY THE LAW; YE ARE FALLEN FROM GRACE.” (Galatians 5:4)
“Now unto Him that is able to keep you from FALLING, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” (Jude 24)
“I say then, Have they (the unbelieving Jews in the context) STUMBLED that they should FALL?” (Romans 11:11a)
The Lord Jesus Christ had this to say to the Church of Ephesus in the second chapter of Revelation : “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because THOU HAST LEFT THY FIRST LOVE. REMEMBER THEREFORE FROM WHENCE THOU ART FALLEN, AND REPENT, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Revelation 2:4-5)
I believe the “great STAR falling” in Revelation 8:10-11 symbolically represents a very prominent CHURCH LEADER who has FALLEN from grace (apostasy) in some way or another. One probably attached to a great city of the early Christian world (e.g. Rome, Alexandria, Constantinople).
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary : “The symbolizers interpret the star fallen from heaven as a chief minister… falling from his high place in the Church, and instead of shining with heavenly light as a star, becoming a torch lit with earthly fire and smoldering with smoke.”
Let us not forget that the “mystery of iniquity” was already at work in Paul’s day (2nd Thessalonians 2:7) and that the book of Revelation first addressed to Christians in the first century is about things which would “SHORTLY come to pass” (Revelation 1:1).
>> POINT 3 : “the name of the star is called Wormwood” <<
It is interesting to note the first time the word “wormwood” appears in the Bible because I believe this is a very important clue in interpreting the “fallen star”: “Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, WHOSE HEART TURNETH AWAY [APOSTASY] this day from the LORD our God, TO GO AND SERVE THE GODS of these nations [IDOLATRY]; lest there should be among you A ROOT THAT BEARETH GALL AND WORMWOOD.” (Deuteronomy 29:18)
We see here in the Bible that wormwood is figuratively associated with APOSTASY and IDOLATRY. The figurative use of “wormwood” strengthens the argument that the “fallen star” is here a symbol of RELIGIOUS APOSTASY – falling away from grace and falling into idolatry – and not of political upheaval/judgment (e.g. Attila the Hun, Barbarian invaders) as some have believed. If literal IDOLATRY be specifically intended then that would exclude other great apostates (e.g. Arius, Pelagius).
Here is what Matthew Poole wrote concerning Deuteronomy 29:18 : “A root: either, 1. An evil heart inclining you to such cursed idolatry, and bringing forth bitter fruits. Or rather, 2. Some secret and subtle APOSTATE, who lurks and works like a root under ground, and slyly conveys his poison to the infection of others; for both the foregoing and following words speak of some particular person. Gall and wormwood… bitter fruits, not only distasteful to God, but also poisonful and destructive…”
Here is what Adam Clarke wrote concerning the same verse: “A root that beareth gall and wormwood – That is, as the apostle expresses it, Hebrews 3:12, An evil heart of unbelief departing from the living God; for to this place he evidently refers. It may also signify FALSE DOCTRINES, or IDOLATROUS PERSONS among themselves.”
If the rise of IDOLATRY within professing Christianity be intended by the figurative use of “wormwood” in Revelation chapter 8 then that would tie the third trumpet vision with the idolaters of chapter 9, verse 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 demons, and IDOLS of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk.”
Let us not forget that there is nothing new under the sun. There was a time in the Old Testament when literal idols defiled the physical temple of God. Should it be a surprise then that literal idols would eventually creep into the New Testament house of God (local churches – see 1st Timothy 3:15), the outer court of the temple of professing Christianity (Revelation 11:1-2)?
>> POINT 4 : “the third part of the waters became wormwood” <<
In the Book of Revelation, “waters” can represent peoples (Revelation 17:15) but “water” in other parts of Scripture can also speak of God’s grace and the Gospel message (e.g. Jesus speaking to the woman at the well in John chapter 4). At the end of Revelation the Lord Jesus Christ invites people to drink of the “water of life” (22:17). This “water of life” is to be understood spiritually as in the case of the “water” Christ offered to the Samaritan woman (John chapter 4). Just as there is spiritual bread there is also spiritual water.
It is also interesting to note that at the end of Revelation chapter 7 we read the words “living FOUNTAINS OF WATERS” (7:17) which are to be understood figuratively and which are the same words found in the description of things associated with the third trumpet of chapter 8 : “FOUNTAINS OF WATERS” (8:10).
“Therefore with joy shall ye draw WATER OUT OF THE WELLS OF SALVATION.” (Isaiah 12:3)
“If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink.” (John 7:37b)
Now in the context of Revelation chapter 8, men are drinking these “waters” so the “wormwood waters” cannot symbolically represent “peoples” unless one believes cannibalism is being described here. The “waters” are not “peoples” but are distinguished from the “men” who drink.
If pure water can symbolically represent the true Gospel then surely poisoned and muddied waters must speak symbolically of a false Gospel, right? Or at least of false doctrine undermining the Gospel outwardly professed.
God speaking of wicked “shepherds” (not literal shepherds of sheep in the context) said this: “Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture (not literal pasture), but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures? and to have drunk of the deep WATERS, but YE (wicked shepherds) MUST FOUL THE RESIDUE WITH YOUR FEET?” (Ezekiel 34:18)
People drinking in “the foul water” of a false Gospel or of false doctrine concerning essentials of the faith (e.g. a false view of Christ and of the Trinity) can never have any life toward God. They remain dead. And those who heard the truth but turn away by drinking in “bitter waters” are “twice dead” (Jude 12) before God. The “dog” returns to his vomit because he always remained a dog deep inside.
Not all of the rivers were made “bitter”. Only a “third part”. That means that this fallen “star” did not outwardly corrupt all doctrines. He retains a degree of Christian truth (e.g. Trinity, deity of Christ) at least outwardly.
Did not James speak of “bitter” water in connection with wicked words?
“Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing…. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” (James 4:10a,11)
In connection with the “waters” becoming “bitter”, it is interesting to note this about Simon the magician, a false Christian guilty of simony (a sin prevalent in the history of Roman Catholicism) : he was in the “gall of BITTERness” (Acts 8:23).
I believe the “waters” which are polluted by “the great star” (apostate church leader) represent Christian doctrines and truth (the Gospel message) which have been twisted and corrupted by the “fallen star”. Since I believe the figurative use of “wormwood” points to idolatry in particular rather than just general apostasy this “fallen star” points to the idolatrous Roman papacy.
John Trapp : “That grand apostate of Rome [the bishop of Rome] may well he meant by this blazing, burning comet. He was in falling by degrees from the time of Constantine till Phocas, who sat upon the chair of pestilence…. The third part of the rivers] i.e. Corrupted true doctrine, and perverted the Scriptures with his false glosses…. Was called Wormwood] Because himself was in the gall of bitterness, and did embitter others. See Jeremiah 23:15; Deuteronomy 29:18, with Junius’s note there.”
If as many Protestant historicists believed the first two trumpets are to be associated with events after the Constantinian revolution (e.g. Barbarian invasions) it is less probable that Arius is intended because he died decades before the Barbarian invasions. John Gill and Matthew Poole believed the fallen star could point to Pelagius who gave to the world the poisoned doctrinal water of Pelagianism and maybe they were right. Considering the fact that great expositors who agreed on the identity of the locusts of Revelation 9 (Islam) did not agree with the identity of the fallen star associated with the third trumpet (e.g. Arius, Pelagius, the pope) I will not be dogmatic about the precise identification of the fallen star though I believe it highly probable that the apostasy of the bishop of Rome is intended by the third trumpet symbolism. I do find it interesting that at least one pope was infected by the heresy of Arianism (Pope Liberius) and another was infected by the heresy of Pelagianism (Pope Zosimus). Though divided about the identity of the fallen star of the third trumpet the Protestant historicists did agree that the events occurred before the rise of Islam.
If John’s first epistle deals a lot with false professing Christianity, should it be any wonder that important portions of the Book of Revelation also deal with false Christianity? Let us remember that the first mention of the word “Antichrist” appears in his first epistle and it is in connection with “apostasy” : “… as ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists… They [the antichrists of John’s day] went out from us [APOSTASY], but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (1st John 2:18b,19)
Before the revealing of the son of perdition (man of sin) apostasy must occur beforehand (2nd Thessalonians 2:3). Would it be farfetched to think that the Book of Revelation would mention this apostasy in some way (explicitly or figuratively) after Christ addresses the seven churches (chapters 2 and 3) and before the first mention of the Roman Antichrist Beast (a.k.a. the “son of perdition”) in chapter 11?
Did not Peter warn us of the rise of idolatry within professing Christianity? “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you…” (2nd Peter 2:1a) Where did false prophets in the Old Testament lead others? Into idolatry. “If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them…” (Deuteronomy 13:1-2)
John Dowling’s “History of Romanism” (public domain, free download)
Joseph Mede’s “Apostasy of the Latter Times” (public domain, free download)