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The Seven Trumpets



FEBRUARY 16, 2019

“The Seven Trumpets”


The Sabbath School Quarterly for this week presents a broad general overview of the seven trumpets. However, we also need to consider a few details of some of the trumpets, especially as they relate to the third angel’s message. In Monday’s lesson we read this sentence:


“The seventh trumpet announces that the time has arrived for God to assume His rightful rule.” During this trumpet’s era, the mystery of God will be finished (Rev 10:17). The “mystery of God” is the gospel (Rom 16:25; Eph 6:19; Col 1:27). Under this last trumpet “the nations” are “angry” (Rev 11:18). God restrains the angry nations so the third angel can finish its God designed work: “At that time, while the work of salvation is closing, trouble will be coming on the earth, and the nations will be angry, yet held in check so as not to prevent the work of the third angel.” EW 85-86.


     Jones wrote an 11 part series, beginning July 31, 1900, which he titled “The Third Angel’s Message. Its Basis in the Seven Trumpets.” Time elements in the fifth and sixth trumpets form that basis. The first angel began its message in 1840 with the second angel following in the spring of 1844. The third angel followed in the fall of 1844. More on this later.


The third angel’s message, undeniably, is justification by the faith as clearly taught in Galatians 2:16. “The faith of Jesus” is the message of justification by faith in Revelation 14:12. Mrs. White stated unequivocally that, “justification by faith”…“is the third angel's message in verity.” Review and Herald, April 1, 1890. To deny justification’s place in the third angel’s message is to deny the message itself. To affirm justification by faith in that message is to affirm the third angel’s message.


     So, what do the trumpets have to do with the third angel’s message? Much in every way. The fifth and six trumpets underlie the message of the third angel and thus of justification by faith in the end time of earth’s history.


    Early on, in the initial understanding of the third angel’s message, after the disappointment of 1844, this angel pointed God’s people to the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary:


“The third angel closes his message thus: ‘Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.’ As he repeated these words, he pointed to the heavenly sanctuary. The minds of all who embrace this message are directed to the most holy place, where Jesus stands before the ark, making His final intercession for all those for whom mercy still lingers and for those who have ignorantly broken the law of God. This atonement is made for the righteous dead as well as for the righteous living. It includes all who died trusting in Christ, but who, not having received the light upon God's commandments, had sinned ignorantly in transgressing its precepts. EW, 254.


     Both the final atonement and justification by faith are joined in the third angel’s message. This message of justification by faith is essential for the finishing of the atonement in the second apartment of the heavenly temple. Luther and other Reformers taught a message that originated in the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary. Luther “clearly taught” “the great doctrine of justification by faith” (GC 253). His message prepared people to die, but did not prepare people for translation. Justification by faith in the end time—in the third angel’s message—is the message from the second apartment of heaven’s Most Holy Place. This message prepares God’s people for translation.


     “The mystery of God” will be completed during the time of the seventh trumpet by the “loud cry” of justification by faith which began in 1888— 44 years after the third angel first began its proclamation.  


     In the prelude to the messages of the seven trumpets, heaven’s altar of incense is brought into sharp focus (Rev 8:3-4). “Much incense” was offered “with the prayers of the saints.” The incense is the merits of Christ’s righteousness. The believer’s prayers were, and continue to be, mixed with Christ’s incense—His righteousness. “Such was the work of ministration in the first apartment of the sanctuary in heaven.” The Great Controversy, 420.


     But there is also a disturbing picture in Rev 8:5 where the verse states, “Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.” This is not the close of the general probation that precedes Christ’s advent. The first apartment ministry of Christ continues as recorded in Rev 9:11 as John hears “a voice from the four horns of the altar” during the time of the sixth trumpet message.


     The picture in 8:5 is about things transpiring on earth which caused Christ’s intercession of mercy to change into specific judgments against the most violent opposers of His people in both pagan and papal Rome.


    Hundreds of years earlier Daniel wrote of the great nations of Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, Pagan and Papal Rome. The first three nations passed from the world scene by the time John wrote the book of Revelation. The universal monarchy in his day was pagan Rome. John’s work was to give the prophetic history of the fall of Rome and to proclaim to us the various means by which that great persecuting system of Rome would come to its end.


      Historically, in A.D. 330, Constantine moved the capital from Rome to Constantinople. Rome’s unity had been preserved intact, for the most part, until that time. But “after that, division and subdivision became the order of the day, until the final ruin of the empire.” James White, An Exposition of the Seven Trumpets of Revelation VII & IX, third edition, p. 1.


     Seven years after Constantine moved the capital from Rome to that city named for him, he divided the Roman Empire into three parts with a part given to each of his three sons.  Constantius Gallus, a member of the Constantinian dynasty was Caesar of the Roman Empire from 351–354. Within three years after his death in 354, the Huns were so powerful that Roman armies dared not attack them. This was because the Roman Empire was in a downhill spiral with no stopping place until its ruin. By 476 the Roman Empire of 1000 years was no more. That year the Germanic leader, Odoacer, became the first Barbarian to rule from Rome.


     James White wrote, “The sounding of the first four trumpets comes in as a complement to the prophecy of Dan. 2 and 7. It describes the fall of the Roman Empire, and the manner of breaking it up into ten parts as represented by the ten toes of the image, or the ten horns of the beast.” Ibid.


    Authors Miller, Litch, the Whites, Smith, Haskell, Jones and Waggoner along with others unitedly proclaimed that the trumpets were God’s judgments against Rome in its two phases—pagan and papal. This information is readily available in the written materials of the above mentioned authors, but because of the limited length of this SS Insight, they will not be sourced here. A major factor in the fall of Rome was when a false version of Christianity joined itself to pagan Rome. As a result, the heavenly censer was thrown down and judgment commenced. The first four trumpets had to do with the fall of pagan Rome; the last three with Byzantine and papal Christianity.


    When papal Rome became the head of a variant brand of Christianity in 538 A.D., another religio-state entity arose in less than 100 years. Mohammed solidified Arab tribes into his newly founded religion. The Muslim religion (both Arabian Saracens and Ottoman Turks) paralleled the papacy both in rising and falling. Both zeniths were reached during the time of the Protestant Reformation. And both lost their political power within 100 years of each other. 1260 years was allotted to the Papacy—from 538 until 1798. Muslim dominion began in 622 and ended in 1840. The Muslim power held in check papal power for several hundred years. When the papacy lost its secular power, the time came shortly after when the Ottoman Muslims too lost their sovereignty. Thus both papal and Muslim dominions were taken away.


     Let’s consider the time elements in the fifth and sixth trumpet messages that are the time basis of the three angel’s messages, beginning with the third angel’s message.


“Then a third angel followed them…” (Revelation 14:9). The word “third” implies two preceding angels. Going backward we find an additional angel in the words:

 “And another angel followed…” (v.8). This, in turn, shows that another angel has also preceded this one. Going to verse 6 there is yet,

“… another angel… (v.6), further certifying that an angel has gone before this.


     We search backwards until we find “an” angel. This is found in Rev 8:13 with the “woe” judgments near the center of the trumpet messages:


    “And I looked, and I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”


     Four trumpets had already sounded (8:6-12). Then came the “woe trumpets” – the last three of the seven trumpet judgments. Beginning in 8:13 there is a series of angels connected by the word “another” straight through to 1844, the time the third angel of Revelation 14 when this message pointed to the closing work of Christ’s ministry in the second apartment of the heavenly temple, and to the message of “the faith of Jesus” – heaven’s message of justification by faith as joined to the cleansing of the sanctuary.


     Before the 1840s, for over 1,000 years, Bible students agreed generally about the interpretation of the woe trumpets as referring to Muslims. Willian Miller and Josiah Litch were in agreement with this understanding. However, they took another step forward. Both men specifically studied the time elements of the fifth (1st woe) and sixth (2nd woe) trumpets (Rev 9:5, 10, 15. They applied the day for a year principle. The 5 prophetic months were 150 literal years and that the prophetic “hour, and a day, and a month, and a year” of Rev 9:15 were 391 years and 15 days. Litch joined, sequentially, the time elements of Rev 9 – the 150 and the 391 years for a total of 541 years and 15 days ending in 1840. Of course there were expositors who opposed Litch’s interpretation. These had abandoned the Historical School of prophetic interpretation, along with the year-day principle for all prophetic time periods. Litch was undaunted. He continued to write and to preach about these time periods. After studying historical records he came to the conclusion that the Muslim Ottoman Empire would lose its dominion sometime in 1840.


     One of the historical works Litch referred to was Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire from which he got the beginning date for the Muslim advancement:


It was on the twenty-seventh of July, in the year twelve hundred and ninety-nine of the Christian era, that Othman first invaded the territory of Nicomedia [an ancient city of northwest Asia Minor near the Bosporus in present-day Turkey]; and the singular accuracy of the date seems to disclose some foresight of the rapid and destructive growth of the monster. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. VI, Chapter 64, p. 26.


   J.N. Loughborough, in his book, The Great Second Advent Movement, p. 129, wrote:


In 1838 Dr. Josiah Litch, of Philadelphia, Pa, having embraced the truth set forth by William Miller, united in the work of giving greater publicity to the message. He prepared articles for the public print on the subject of the seven trumpets of Revelation. He took the unqualified position that the 6th trumpet would cease to sound and the Ottoman power [would] fall on the 11th day of August 1840, and that would demonstrate to the world that a day in symbolic prophecy represents a year of literal time.


     Loughborough continued,


Infidel’s discussed the question in their meetings and said, “Here is a man that ventures something, and if this matter comes out as he says, it will establish his claim without a doubt that a day in prophecy symbolizes a year, and that 2300 days are so many years, and that they will terminate in 1844.” Ibid., p. 130.


    The publication of Dr. Litch's lecture made a general stir, and many thousands were motivated with intense interest to watch for the termination of the difficulties that had sprung up between Mehemet Ali, the Pasha of Egypt, and the Turkish sultan. Hundreds of infidels said:


“If this affair terminates as the doctor has asserted, it will establish the ‘year-day’ principle of interpreting symbolic time, and we will be Adventists.” Ibid.


    Some of the brethren, even those who believed with Litch on time periods, trembled with fear for the result “if it should not come to pass” as he said. They attempted to get him to not be so positive about the time elements. However, this did not discourage him. He went forward to do all in his power to give publicity to his views on the Turkish question. Public journals spread abroad the claim he made on the subject. Ibid., p. 129.


    The following is Litch’s reasoning written August 1, 1840:


Allowing the first period, 150 years [the 5 months of Rev 9:5, 10], to have been exactly fulfilled before Deacozes ascended the throne by permission of the Turks, and that the 391 years, fifteen days, commenced at the close of the first period [Rev 9:12-15], it will end on the 11th of August, 1840, when the Ottoman power in Constantinople may be expected to be broken. And this, I believe, will be found to be the case. Josiah Litch, Signs of the Times, and Expositor, August 1, 1840.


     Following is the understanding of the time elements of Rev 9:10, 15 –


                              July 27, 1299

                        (1st Woe)     150 years

                              July 27, 1449

                        (2nd Woe) 391 years, 15 days

                             Aug 11, 1840


      On that very day “... England, Russia, Austria, and Prussia interposed, and determined on a settlement of the difficulty . . .” [between the Pasha of Egypt, and the Turkish Sultan]. J. N. Loughborough, The Great Second Advent Movement, p. 130.


    “At the very time specified, Turkey, through her ambassadors, accepted the protection of the allied powers of Europe, and thus placed herself under the control of Christian nations. The event exactly fulfilled the prediction.” The Great Controversy, 335.


      On August 11, 1840 the first angel’s message began with a divine power which brought conviction to thousands of people concerning Miller’s prediction regarding 1844. That message reached every missionary station in the world. Tens of thousands of people accepted Miller’s Advent message.


     Here is a summary of the time elements regarding time basis of the three angels of Rev 14:


“an angel”                         1299  (8:13)

“another angel”                 1840  (14:6)          

“another angel” spring of 1844   (14:8)

“a third angel”       fall of 1844   (14:9)


    Loughborough recorded the following powerful testimony from Josiah Litch about some converted infidels who wrote to him:


This striking fulfillment of the prophecy had a tremendous effect upon the public mind. It intensified the interest of the people to hear upon the subject of fulfilled and fulfilling prophecy.... “Dr. Litch said that within a few months after August 11, 1840, he had received letters from more than 1,000 prominent infidels, some of them leaders of infidel clubs, in which they stated that they had given up the battle against the Bible, and  had accepted it as God's Revelation to man.” J.N. Loughborough, The Great Second Advent Movement, p. 132.


     In closing, the fulfillment of the time elements in the fifth and sixth trumpets produced a compelling urgency which set in motion a deepening attentiveness on the part of religious and secular people, including infidels and atheists, regarding the 1844 Advent Movement as proclaimed by Miller and his associates. The purpose of the seven trumpets as connected to the third angel’s message demonstrates its basis in its inherent teaching of justification by faith along with the closing work of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary. This purpose brings assurance to God’s people that the day for a year principle is true and demonstrable today.


-Jerry Finneman