Revelation Chapters 7 to 9 – Persecution and Heresy In The Early Church

St. John’s Prophecy on the Church’s Christological Crisis – From The Ante-Nicene Times Until The Fall of Rome

 

.

Introduction

Revelation chapters seven, eight and nine are an interesting time period when grouped together, as they appear to describe a sequence of events beginning with the spread of Christianity under a period of relative peace throughout the Roman Empire until the fall of Rome in 476 AD. The prophetic content in the Apocalypse begins in Chapter 6 with setting the stage and cast of characters for the coming age of the Church. However, chapter 7 begins to prophecy about a time in history which we would consider to be the latter part of the Apostolic Era. Chapter 8 details key events and crisis during the Ante-Nicene era of the Church, while Chapter 9 continues on with critical events that threatened the livelihood of the Church during from the age of the ecumenical councils through the post-Nicene era until the Fall of Rome.
.
Remember that Christ himself promised to John in the beginning of the Apocalypse that he would provide insight into events “which must shortly come to pass.” The Preterist schools of prophetic interpretation assume this statement “which must shortly come to pass” means everything described in the Book of Revelation was fulfilled by the fall and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. This is a grave misunderstanding of the statement and promise by Christ, for John’s Apocalypse was written between 90 to 96 AD, and we will see events spoken of from the beginning of chapter seven begin fulfillment within John’s exact time frame of exile on the island of Patmos and chapter eight thereafter describes many other events from the second century. These earlier events shape the course of history for the church as it struggles to challenge new ideas about the nature of Christ. These struggles set the stage for the final major crisis of the church in the East and West during it’s long period of persecution and divisions from the middle ages until the modern era.
.
.

Revelation Chapter 7

Empire in Transition – The Relative Calm Before The Storm

John begins chapter seven by starting the vision in is own time period, so that he can provide more details on the breaking of the seals.

.

Revelation 7:1-3 “And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.”
.
We first begin with the four angels standing on the four corners of the earth holding back the four winds. What do the four corners represent? The four corners set the stage where the story of the Apocalypse will be told, around the lands of the Roman Empire situated around the Mediterranean Sea. The “earth” represents the civilized Roman provinces and cities situated around the Roman Empire. The “sea” represents the barbarian tribes which attack the outer regions of the empire as when the rough seas hit the shore. The “winds” represent the activities of Satan and his demons to use the barbarian and warring tribes to attack or spread pestilence upon the earth. The fruit-bearing “trees” represent the churches and great church fathers who were spreading the Gospel. During this period of the Roman Empire after Christ, the four angels of God held the movements of the barbarian nations to a standstill and prevented any significant attacks on the Roman Empire until the Gospel of salvation was preached to the elect. And history shows that there were no significant wars and crisis during this time period as the Gospel spread throughout the empire. “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.” This command tells the four angels to keep the Romans and barbarian tribes and other Asian empires from fighting each other and the keep peaceful until the number of sealed servants are marked and baptized into the faith. This time period of political stability was most crucial for the teaching of the Gospel. The “seal” on the forehead means that the servant has true knowledge of the nature of God and Christ and his commandments and are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity.
.

The 144,000 of all the tribes of the children of Israel

.

The Foundation Stones of the 144,000 Jewish Christians

Revelation 7:4-8 “And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar weresealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
.
This is a strong reminder by the author for the skeptics and unbelieving Jews that the birth of Christianity was primarily a Jewish movement to preach the good news of the salvation of Jesus Christ before it were to spread to the gentile nations. The tree trunk is Jewish, the branches and leaves represent the gentiles. This 144,000 are the Jews represented from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. That these would be Jews from Israel or scattered Jews (some who might have lost their way to paganism) from as far back as the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, no one knows. But these 144,000 from the seed of Abraham are chosen by grace to help proclaim and spread the Gospel to the gentile nations, and they will have a special place in heaven in the city as part of one of the twelve foundation stones for the heavenly Jerusalem.
.

The Early Great Persecutions of the Gentile Greeks and Romans

Revelation 7:9-10 “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.”
.
Next we have a vision of the gentile Christian converts before the throne clothed in white robes. These Christians were numbered so high that John was unable to count the number. What is the special significance of these Christians? John is given the answer in the following verses.
.

Persecutions under Diocletian
.
Revelation 7:13-14 “And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. “
.

These gentiles that are visible before the throne of God are the martyrs of the faith that suffered through the great persecutions and slaughter at the hands of the Romans from 33 AD until 312 AD.  History documents this Great Tribulation, in which the Christians suffered at the hands of the unbelieving Jews and gentiles. The first persecutions at the hands of the Romans began in 64 A.D. by emperor Nero and lasting until 312 A.D. before Constantine. Statistics vary on the number of Christians killed during this time period, but it has been documented to be as high as 2 million Christians through the Roman and Persian empires. During this time period of persecutions, the four angels continue to hold back the four winds from the barbarian nations to allow the dissemination of the Gospel. For as the the severity of the persecutions increased, the number of converts to the faith increased to replace them. The baptism by blood is what causes the robe to become bright and white. As the four winds were held back in the Roman Empire, the Christians were suffering persecutions like the sheep led to the slaughterhouse. In summary, chapter 7 of the Apocalypse reveals to us a time we easily confirm in the history books of an era of Jewish establishment of Christianity, and gentile conversions and persecutions. The events fall into the time period between the  “Apostolic Era” of Christianity through the “Ante-Nicene Era” which is also when we have a period of continued political stability in the late great Roman Empire. And we now conclude this stability of the empire was due to the four angels holding back the four winds upon the “earth.”

.

Revelation Chapter 8

Now we move on to Chapter 8, which contains many important symbols that make the text very difficult to understand unless these symbols are taken in the proper context. We reviewed a few of these symbols (“sun”, “moon”, “stars”) earlier a previous article. Other important symbols identified in this chapter include “earth”, “sea”, “trees”, “islands” or “ships”.   Before we dive into chapter 8 let’s review these symbols. The “earth” represents the Roman Empire, the center of civilization through it’s schools of philosophy, math, science, architecture and arts. The “sea” represents the surrounding barbarian nations from North Europe, Asia and Africa. The “trees” describe the churches who bear fruit for the nourishment and sustainment of the people of the earth, whereas the “ships” and “islands” represent the bishops and churches in the sea, which provide safety and sustainment in the less populated regions which include Persia and parts of Asia. The bishops navigate the ships full of Christians on their fleet through the treacherous sea waves and the islands provide spiritual nourishment and safety to the Christians from the storms of paganism in the barbarian regions or sea. These symbols are the keys to understanding the seven trumpets and help to identify the threats to the new flourishing faith entering the second and third centuries, called the Ante-Nicene era of the church.
.

Marcion of Sinope

.

The First Trumpet – Heresies Within the Roman Empire

Revelation 8:6-7 “And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.”
.
The first trumpet and it’s effects were cast upon the “earth”, or upon the lands which are known today as the former Roman Empire. The second century church faced many pains as the faith began to spread within the empire. But the largest threat to the orthodox Christian faith would be new dualistic heresies that would challenge the faith through the next two centuries. Many of the converted pagan Greeks would bring their Platonic philosophical ideas into the faith and attempt to merge these ideas within Christianity, giving rise to the heresy of Gnosticism. The Gnostics claimed a “secret/hidden” knowledge or “gnosis” of interpreting scriptures. They promoted the dualistic belief of the spirit an matter and believed the material world was evil. They claimed to have a higher knowledge of the spirit world around them. Therefore, they mixed this hidden spiritual knowledge or “fire” with the teachings of the “blood” of the New Covenant scriptures, and attempted to introduce alternative Gospels to the four we have in the canon today. But another dualistic belief system very similar to Gnosticism would be introduced by Marcion in Rome about the year 144 AD. Marcionism promoted that the God of the Old Testament was a punishing tyrant who was jealous and genocidal, and thus Marcion combined the wrathful “hail” and “fire” with the “blood” of the New Testament. Marcion also rejected the human (body and “blood”) nature of Christ. Marcion attempted to create a new official canon in which he completely rejected the entire old testament, the Gospels and other epistles, and promoted Paul’s epistles. Thus, the “green grass” of the old testament scriptures were “burnt up.” However, the Old Testament and four Gospels do not characterize such a tyrant God but in reality provides to us the nourishment and comfort of “living waters”, as the prophet and King David proclaims that our Lord of the Old Testament is a Good Shepherd in Psalm 23, He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. Thus, the dualist philosophical ideas presented in Gnosticism and Marcionism would be the first to create significant heresy and schism in the early church, and a “third part of the trees” to become “burnt up”, that is one third of the churches and bishops (“trees”) in the Roman Empire would become separated from the true orthodox Christian faith. Marcionism was denounced as a heresy and refuted by Tertullian in his work “Adversus Marcionem in 208 AD. After his excommunication, Marcion would return back to Asia minor where he lead many churches into heresy and develop and promote his on gospel, called the Gospel of Marcion.
.

Mani
.
.

The Second Trumpet: The Great Monotheistic Heresy of the East

Revelation 8:8-9 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 first trumpet sounded upon the “earth”, or within the Roman Empire to announce the arrival of the Gnostic and Marcionian heresies. The second trumpet would affect the “sea” or the barbarian regions outside of the empire to announce the arrival of a similar heresy in the middle of the 3rd century. This new teaching which branched from Gnostic thought is described as “a great mountain burning with fire” and would have significant impact in the barbarian regions to the east of the Roman Empire and would find it’s roots in the Sassanian Empire of Persia. This second trumpet is identified with Mani, the Iranian prophet and founder of a new monotheistic religion called Manichaeism. Manichaeism is a Gnostic religion that was once widespread but today no longer exists. Mani’s background was primarily a mix a Judaism and Christianity, and received heavenly visions at the age of 12 and 24 to preach the “true Gospel of Christ”. At around the year 240, Mani traveled to India and studied Hinduism and various eastern philosophies. Mani would combine some of these eastern philosophies with Gnosticism and Christian teachings. Mani taught that the teachings of Jesus, Buddha and Zoroaster were incomplete, and that his new religion “of Light” was the completed teachings for everyone to follow. This new combined religion of Manichaeism promoted a dualistic view of the universe such as the struggle between good and evil and struggle between spiritual world of light and a material world of darkness. Manichaeism quickly spread through lands known today as south-eastern Turkey, Syria and Iran, India and as far away as China. It flourished between the 3rd and 7th century, and at its peak was one of the largest monotheistic religions in the world that was the main rival to Christianity in the quest to defeat paganism. It survived longer in the eastern “sea” than in the west and faded away from existence in China around the 14th century. As a result of the dominance and influence of Manichaeism, 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.” That is, the “third part of the creatures” would be swept away by the tide of Mani. These creatures of the sea we know to be “fish” or Christians, as the disciples of Christ were destined to become “fishers of men.” One third of the “ships” were destroyed as many churches (ships) located in the region called the “sea” would be associated with Manichaeism. This second trumpet calls to significance of this monotheistic movement, which would help to plant the seed for another more aggressive and fateful monotheistic religion to sweep these same countries in the next few centuries.
.
.

Third Trumpet: Fall of the Greatest Father & Theologian of the Church

Revelation 8:10-11 “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.”

Origen
.

The first two trumpets described heresies that would arise to outwardly attack the true Christian faith and viewed as a competitor to the new monotheistic faith worshiping the True God. The third angel’s trumpet would announce a significant event that would occur from within the young universal Christian church. Recall from our previous study,we were to conclude that the “stars” in scripture represent great leaders or bishops. For example, the “seven stars are the angels of the seven churches” in Revelation confirm that these are the bishops or leaders of the eastern Asia minor churches.  So then, the third angel describes that there would be a “great star” that would fall from “heaven” or as we say in today language:  a “fall from grace” to humiliation. A star that is also depicted as “burning as it were a lamp,” that is, a beacon of the light of Christ to all Christians to behold.  However, this shining star would soon fall would become a great scourge and punishment to the church that would continue to have effects into future generations. This fall would be the cause of all the Christological heresies to come because of its great influence and inspiration. This great star which reflected the light of Christ and guided and navigated the world through the darkness of the night of Satan, the great start which would lose its luminosity and come dark and from heaven is none other than Origen.

.
Origen was one of the greatest fathers of the church in the 3rd century, a skilled writer and theologian from Alexandria. Origen was born in 185 AD and died in 250 AD. He studied under Clement of Alexandria and was influenced by his thought. Origen became more famous than any other church father in his works and deeds, and was recognized for his intelligence and theological abilities. Origen wrote many commentaries on scripture and his works are some of the most influential through the history of the Church. However, Origen was never canonized as a saint because of some of his teachings contradicted the teachings of the Apostles. Origen was anathematised in the forth ecumenical council and other later councils due to some of his heretical teachings. Origen’s downfall was his mistake of interpreting scriptures “allegorically” in that he eventually fell into error by proposing new interpretation on the nature of Christ. He taught that the only begotten Son cannot behold the Father, and the Holy Spirit cannot behold the Son. These teachings would influence Arius to derive his own teachings. Therefore, Origin is recognized by the author of the Apocalypse as the “Father of all Christological Heresies.” Origen was at first a bright navigating star and teacher of the early church with his uncanny ability to interpret scriptures. However, Origen brought Platonic philosophies into interpreting scriptures allegorically and ended up confusing and misinterpreting the scriptures. John describes him as a star fallen from grace named “Wormwood” that would embitter the “rivers and fountains of waters” of scripture. The “rivers” represent the priests, bishops and teachers of the Church, while”fountains of water” represent the scriptures. In John 7:37-38 Jesus said: “(…)“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. To the one who believes in Me, it is just as the Scripture has said: ‘Streams of living water’” will flow from within him.” And King David describes the source of these fountains of water in the Psalms 68:26: “Bless God in the congregations, Even the LORD, you who are of the fountain of Israel”. Many, especially in the schools of Alexandria, would accept the views of Origen, and as a result he would be the cause of many bishops or “rivers” to misinterpret scriptures and become poisoned with respect to the exact nature of Christ and the Trinity. This would, at a future appointed time in church history, lead “many men,” or clergy and laypeople to “die” or be cut off and excommunicated as the result of embracing doctrines that were not in agreement on the true nature of Christ, the God-Man. Origen’s Platonic philosophies and allegorical interpretation of the Scriptures inadvertently planted the seed of heresy in the Church that would have devastating consequences for the future unity of the True Apostolic Faith.
.
.

The Fourth Trumpet: Ante-Nicene Christological Heresies

Revelation 8:12 “And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.”
.
The fourth trumpet describes the resulting fallout from the influence of Origen upon the church up to the beginning of the fourth century before Constantine’s reign. This mysterious verse should be much easier to understand after reviewing the analysis of the sun, moon and stars in our earlier article. This trumpet was also directed to the “earth” or churches within the Roman Empire (and churches of the East in the Sassanian Empire). This impact would be most felt in some of the Christological heresies to come out of schools of Alexandria. As discussed previously, the Sun represents Christ, the Moon which gives it’s light in the absence of Jesus Christ on the earth is the Moon. The stars which also contribute their guiding light in the darkness of the light are the fathers, apostles and bishops of the church.
.
Therefore, the sounding of the fourth trumpet announces a time after the consequence of the poisoning of the scriptures by Wormwood when the sun, the moon and stars were smitten, so that the true teachings of the nature of Christ would be misinterpreted and obscured by one third of the church and the hierarchy within the church. The resulting fallout by the darkening of the doctrines and nature of the Sun of Righteousness, Jesus Christ, are a foreshadow of woes to come, as announced by the angel in the next verse.
.
Revelation 8:13 “And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabitants of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!
.

The angel flying in the midst of heaven provides to us some critical clues on the nature between the earlier trumpets and the last three trumpets, or “woes” that would befall on the Christian church. The succession of each of the first four trumpets begin with smaller heresies with the most minor impact on the church.  Each trumpet would increase in severity and its punishment and fallout. The last three trumpets or “woes” are announced as much more severe and devastating punishments to the people of the “earth” or the then known civilized world due to influence of Satan becoming greater at darkening the light of the Sun.  The fifth trumpet and first “woe” would have a significant impact in fulfilling the spirit of the Antichrist and eventually lead to the “destroyer” and “man of perdition” to be made manifest. And we will soon see the seventh trumpet will be the most punishing and longest lasting woe upon the Church and its effects will last the entire remaining days of the middle ages until the modern era. Now, let us examine the fifth trumpet and first woe in more detail. The sounding of the fifth trumpet brings us to witness a key event at beginning of the 4th century.

.

The Fifth Trumpet and Obscuring of the Sun and Air
.

Fifth Trumpet – The Fall and Greatest Heresy of Abaddon & Apollyon

Revelation 9:1 “And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.”
.

John describes another “star” that would that would fall upon the “earth” or the Roman Empire. The first star of Origen was described as a bright lamp, while this second “star” or bishop does not shine the same initial brightness. Thus, he would be considered a great person in the pages of history, but not recognized for any luminous theological contribution to the light of the Sun. This second star appears to be much more damaging than the first star with it’s impact it would have upon the Christian world.

.
Revelation 9:2  “And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.”
.

This fallen star or bishop of the church would have the ability through the angel to “open the pit of the abyss”, or to release a new heresy that would be so destructive and damaging to the teachings of Christianity and their doctrines of Jesus Christ. This second fallen star darkened the Sun through the “smoke” or “great heresy” brought out of the abyss by Satan the deceiver. This star initially received the light from Christ, but fell into the earth as it adopted teachings from the Devil, which by his impact made the smoke to rise from the abyss.  As the smoke causes the obscuring of the Sun of Righteousness to become dark, then Christ’s true nature and influence in the church becomes darkened and weakened. The smoke would also obscure the “air” which here represents the Holy Spirit. Just as the physical Sun transmit the light rays to us through the transmission through space and the earth’s atmosphere, the spiritual Sun of Righteousness, Christ, would enlighten our minds through the activities of the Holy Spirit. But the smoke from this heresy sent from the Devil would also darken and poison the view of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity.

.
The “impact statement” or declaration made by the falling star hitting the earth and opening the abyss would cause much confusion and terror upon the Christian world. Who was this fallen leader and what was his primary “impact statement” or “teaching” that would cause such destruction and division within the history of the Christian church? The pages of history scream loud to us with this answer. This person who opened the “abyss” was Arius, and his new heresy would darken the true nature of Christ and the Holy Spirit and his impact would be felt everywhere throughout Christendom and shake the church from it’s very foundations. Arius was influenced by the writings of Origen, and referenced Origen’s theories on the Logos in defining his own teachings. Arius was bishop in the Church of Alexandria and had a deep hatred jealousy for Patriarch Alexander has they both contended for the newly elected position in Alexandria, of which Arius came up on the short end and lost his bid. In around 313 A.D, Arius accused Alexander of promoting Sabellianism with some of his teachings on the Holy Trinity. Arius countered and introduced the following teaching that would create a damaging impact and crater on the church: “If the Father gave birth to the Son, and the Son then had a beginning of existence, the Son is then a creature, and not eternal like the father.  Therefore, there is a time the Son did not exist, and thus cannot be of the same essence as the Father.”  Arius thus darkened the view of the Sun of Righteousness Jesus Christ by denying his eternal essence as the Son of God being of one essence with the Father, and lowered the status of Christ from creator to creature of God who came into existence from nonexistence. Soon these heretical ideas would be waged against the relationship of the Holy Spirit, and thus both the “Sun” and “Air” of the church were darkened. When Arius refused to renounce this teaching in 321, he was removed from this position by more than one hundred bishops gathered together in Egypt and excommunicated by Patriarch Alexander, calling Arius the “forerunner of the Antichrist.”  This statement of Arius could not have been any more accurate, for Arius sowed the seeds for an even greater heresy that would attack the church three centuries later from a new monotheistic religion that treated Christ as a creature and rejected a co-eternal ruling of the Father with the Son and Holy Spirit. That final and third woe is described in Revelation Chapter 13.
.

Arius and the First Ecumenical Council Bishops
.
Revelation 9:3-5 “And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.”
.
The “locusts” are the fanatical supporters of the king of the abyss – Arius. The supporters would have a fixed period of time in which they would appear to have more power and influence than the true orthodox Christian faith. Why is the term “locusts” used?  Because locusts are an irritating nuisance or annoyance to anyone that encounters them, but not deadly as they fly around a person.  When they combine with strength in numbers, the locust can move fast across the earth as they inflict damage on crops and vegetation. However, they were commanded to “not hurt the grass of the earth” that is the “green pastures” of the scriptures or neither the and fruit-bearing “trees” or true Christian fathers and teachers. In a similar manner as an actual locust, the “locust hordes” of Arius would spread fast around the outer areas of the Roman Empire and attack the true Christians with the promotion of their heresy, but they were not allowed to change any of the canonized scriptures and doctrines and style of worship handed down from the Apostles.
.

Arianism was formerly condemned at the first ecumenical council called in Nicaea in 325 A.D., attended by 300 bishops from all over the world. The Nicene creed was drafted to help combat the heresy of Arius and provide the true Christians with the necessary armor to fight and defend the divinity of Christ, and in the process sealed up the smoke rising from the bottomless pit that attempted to darken the Sun. But the supporters of Arius would continue to push and promote his teachings and be allowed to torment the Church for a period of “five months.” What is the exact duration meant here? Again, we reference the prophetic time clock countable by the Day-Year Principle of prophetic interpretation to calculate and verify the historic time period. Taking a “day” equal to a “year”, we can measure the five months to be 5 x 30 days = 150 “days’’, or 150 years. Therefore, five months represents 150 years which is the timetable in which the scourge of Arianism would be allowed to threaten the very foundation of the Church.  Only the nominal Christians described as “only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads” would be the ones most susceptible to falling to Arianism. The power of Arius would not be allowed to destroy the foundation of the Church, but it was given authority to lead astray the faithless Christians and “shake out the rotten apples” from the fruit-bearing tree branch.

.
Revelation 9:6 “And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.”
.

Many Christians living during this time period of the spread of Arianism would engage in lengthy and often violent disagreements over this new heresy promoted by Arius. The true Christians were distraught from the dissension and doubts to the exact nature of Christ, and the excommunications and charges of heresy, that they preferred and longed to go back to the earlier days in the church where the Christians suffered persecution and martyrdom because they understood the true nature of Christ. During this new era after Constantine the church was granted preferred status as the official religion of the empire, but with this era of relative peace the torture of the heresy and civil wars resulting from Arianism became unbearable to the point that Christians preferred to revert back to the glory days of the martyrs living in the days of great persecution.

.
Revelation 9:7-10 “And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.”
.

The shapes of the “locusts” describe many of the supporters of Arianism, as the first large groups to adopt and support Arianism were the northern barbarian invading tribes like the Goths.  These armies attached the Roman empire and eventually converted to and promoted an Arian form of Christianity.  These invading hordes are described like fast moving warlike migrating insects would travel across the northern borders of the Roman Empire from province to province, causing physical destruction where they went. In the meantime, the other supporting locusts attacked from within to provide highly sophisticated theological ideas and disputes in advocating Arianism. They even convinced Constantine the Great to recall Arius from exile.  Other successors were attracted to the Arian doctrines and persecuted bishops like Athanansius. Others as a result began to swing the pendulum to far away from the threat of Arianism and in their defense they created additional heresies. Arianism was given “power” which was to “hurt men five months”. It was not possible to stop this scourge before the end of it’s allotted period of time. In the year 381, the second ecumenical council was called by over 150 bishops in Constantinople to further fight other heresies derived from Arianism, such as Apollinarianism and Macedonianism and to define the dogma of the Holy Spirit. Macedonius was a patriarch of Constantinople and believed that the Holy Spirit was a creature, thus obscuring the “Air” in a similar manner to the “Sun”. Even still, after the second council the smoke covering the Sun was not completely removed, and Nestorius, another Patriarch of Constantinople, created another heresy in response to Apollinarianism in which he called into question that Mary was the “Mother of God” and taught that the human and divine natures of Jesus were separate. So, then a third ecumenical council was called in the year 431 to define the existence of one Son, both God and Man existing in one hypostasis. Even this teaching of one hypostasis of Christ didn’t entirely clear the smoke covering the Sun, and there was still some darkness concerning the divine and human natures of Christ. So the famous fourth ecumenical council was called in Chalcedon in the year 451 to state that Jesus Christ exists in “two natures” to fight the doctrine of “monophysitism.” Finally, the ruling of the fourth Ecumenical council would cause the smoke covering the Sun and the Air to disappear completely. The locusts would be scattered as a result of the four ecumenical councils and settle and convert the barbarian tribes in the “sea.” In observing the time frame of five months or the 150-year scourge of Arianism, we can calculate the time from the first ecumenical council to the fourth to be 126 years. But Arianism sprang from the bottomless pit about 12 years prior in 313, and the smoke didn’t vanish until approximately 10 years after the fourth council. Therefore, we have approximately 150 total years of the time of domination by the heresies created by the locusts from Arius in the beginning of the 150 years until Nestorius at the end of the 150 year period.

.
Revelation 9:11 “And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.”
.

This particular verse in the apocalypse is the most fantastic play on words by the author John for aiding us in correctly identifying Arius as the forerunner to the Antichrist who opened the abyss at the sounding of the 5th trumpet. The king of the “locusts” and angel of the bottomless pit or abyss is given the name in Hebrew as Abaddon, or the name in Greek as Apollyon. We shall highlight some key points which help confirm the identification of Arius.

  • All three names start with the letter A: Arius, Abaddon, Apollyon
  • For the word abyss, if we turn the b upside down to a Greek letter “rho”, the name become aρyss, or “aryss” phonetically in Greek, which is very close phonetically to saying “arius”.
  • Arius spelled in Greek is: Ἄρειος,  = Areios means “of Ares” or “devoted to Ares.”  This word also has been used to mean “warlike, martial” because Ares is the Greek god of war.
  • In Greek, ἀρειά (areia)  is defined and translated as “threats, menaces” and ἀρειή (areiē) means “cursing”, “threatening.”.   This terminology is very synonymous to locusts or scorpions described in the text of the 5th trumpet.
  • The Greek god Ares (Αρης) is derived from the Greek word αρη (are) which means “bane” or ”ruin“. The definition or synonym for the word bane is woe, destruction, or poison. This is all synonyms describing the “man of perdition,” “man of destruction,” “man of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:3) and the “one who makes desolate” (Daniel 9:27). It is very interesting to note that the 5th Trumpet is called the 1st woe, where “woe” is a synonym to the definition of Ares as either a bane, ruin, or destruction, and these are all synonyms of terms used by Daniel and St. Paul.
  • Constantine the Great himself in his letter to Arius and his supporters even referred to Arius as Ares the god of war – (…) “Come now Ares Arius, there is need for shields. Do not do this, we beg; at least, then, let Aphrodite’s intercourse detain you”
  • Abaddon and Apollyon both mean “” Apollyon a word derived from the Greek apollyein which means “to destroy utterly” which also fits in line with “man of destruction” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 or “mystery of lawlessness” in 2 Thessalonians 2:7
  • Apollo’s identification is primarily as the sun-god, which is interesting given the fact the fifth trumpet describes the obscuring of the metaphysical Sun of God, or Sun of Righteousness.
  • One wonders if there is a relationship to Apollyon and Apollinaris, who created a new almost opposite heresy while trying to fight Arianism, stressing more the divinity of Christ with and denying the human nature of Jesus. This heresy obscuring the Sun was also condemned at the fourth ecumenical council.
.

In summary, Arius historically fits with the description of the 5th Trumpet and the obscuring of the divinity and humanity of Christ during the fourth and fifth centuries in the Church, and is strongly associated with the definitions of Abaddon and Apollyon.

.
.
Revelation 9:12 “One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.”
.

The first “woe” which tormented the church for “five months” or 150 years from the 1st ecumenical council until the fourth ecumenical council is finally completed. We learn significant lessons from these scourges, that God will allow starts to fall from grace and be used as instruments of the devil to try to divide and conquer the Church.   We also learn that the Church is triumphant through these trials and tribulation because the Gates of Hell will not prevail. We also learn important and valuable theological doctrines formulated during this period on the nature of Christ, the God-Man, which are defended by the first four ecumenical councils and stand as a testimony today with our pronouncement of the Nicene Creed during Divine Liturgy. We now await for the final two “woes” to come with the sixth and seventh trumpets.

.

The Sixth Trumpet – The Barbarian Invasions and Fall of Rome

Revelation 9:13-14 “And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.”
.

In Revelation 7:1-3 John saw a vision of the four angels situated on the four corners of the Roman Empire. As we previously explained, the “earth” represents the civilized power of Rome, while the “sea” represents the warring barbarian tribes surrounding the empire. The winds were prevented from blowing on the earth or sea, or to damage any of the fruit-bearing “trees” or churches established in the empire until the number of servants are marked with the seal of God on their foreheads. The “winds” which move and toss the sea’s waves to the sea-shore of the earth represent the demonic activity which influences and controls the barbarian tribes or movement of plagues and pestilences on the outer borders (sea-shore) of the Roman empire. The initial command was to maintain the peace between the Romans and Barbarians until the 140,000 Jews establish Christianity and preach it to the gentiles. Now that the number of sealed servants is completed and the God-Man has been dogmatized, we have the six angel’s trumpet sounding, and the command was given then to “loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.”  This event marks the second “woe”, set to bring about significant political and social change upon the empire.  The four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates signifies that the “four winds” set for release would begin East of the Roman Empire in the barbarous regions of Asia and Eastern Europe. These in effect would cause the other winds to be loosened in the North and West of Europe, then to the south in North Africa and finally in the Southeastern corner of Arabia. It appears through studying the late antiquity migrations in history, that there was an orderly flow of the winds from the East, to the West, then to the South-East, and finally from the South to both the East and the North. Since the loosening began with the migration of the Huns in the East, we have the reason why the four angels are bound “in the great river Euphrates” awaiting the signal to advance from the alter. Therefore, we have the most significant event in history of Europe leading us the start of the middle ages with thegreat migration of nations of the barbarians from Asia into norther Europe to bring about the dissolution of the Roman Empire climaxing with the fall of Rome.

.

Barbarian Invasions of Europe – Fifth Century Source:http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/european-invasions/
.
Revelation 9:15 “And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.”
.

The second “woe” begins, ad the four angels and four winds fall upon the Roman Empire to force it’s collapse. This verse in chapter 9 predicts the fall of Roman Empire almost down to the exact year. Using the Day-Year principle of prophetic interpretation,we can estimate the predetermined time in which Rome’s destruction was called for. The statement “prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year” predicts the number of years in the calculation. A year represents 360 or 365 “days” or years, a month is 30 “days” or years, a “day” is one year, and an hour is 15 literal days. So we can calculate the total number of years to be 360 + 30 + 1 = 391 years, or 365 + 30 + 1 = 396 solar years.

.

This must be calculated from a range of dates that begin with the rise of the Roman Empire in 27 BC until the time that John wrote the Apocalypse. John was thought to have penned revelation between 90 to 96 A.D. under the reign and persecution of Domitian when he was thought to be exiled on Patmos. Most commentators (who do not support the Preterist interpretation who promote the early date for John’s apocalypse) primarily point to 96 A.D. based on sources from early church fathers. To mark the start of the Roman Empire, we know that Octavius appointed himself “Augustus“, which means the first emperor in 27 BC.  Taking 27 BC and 96 A.D. as the starting and ending points of the range, we can calculate the approximate years in which the four winds were loosened to begin the process of the fall until the final collapse:

.
27 BC + 396 years = 369 AD.  The year 369 AD is very close in time to the significant starting point of the Great Migration of Nations, when attacks on the empire began and Rome would suffer irreversible major territorial loss, in the year 376 AD with large-scale invasions of Goths and others.  Tervingi entered Roman territory (after a clash with the Huns) in 376 AD.   This is the start of the release of the four winds.
.
Rome fell in 476 AD, placing it near the end of the range. This still falls in the range of Domitian’s reign, i.e. 80 AD + 396 years = 476 AD, where John’s Apocalypse could have been written.
.
96 BC + 391 = 487 AD. This is the year is the ending point when Clovis’s decisive victory over Syagrius. The year 486 AD coincides with the end of the release of the four winds
.

It is estimated that between the 5th and 6th centuries, “a third part of men” were slayed due to war and pestilence, as we will see in the next verses.

.

So then, what is the cause of the Great Migration of Nations? The history books try to provide reasons for this, but the Apocalypse is clear. The Great Migration and invasions by the Barbarian tribes is the release of the four winds bound in the great river Euphrates at the sound of the sixth trumpet.

.

Fall of Rome – 476 AD
.
Revelation 9:16-19 “And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them. And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths. For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt.”
.
The first armies that moved from the East were numbered approximately 200,000 soldiers. John goes on to detail the description of these invading armies. Leading back to the fifth trumpet, we know many of the Gothic tribes converted to Aryan form of Christianity and continued to issue the smoke and brimstone that would cause the Sun to remained obscured. “Their tails were like unto serpents” is the same as in the fifth trumpet to describe the sting of Arianism that the Christians would endure as they invaded and brought their form of Aryan Christianity with them into the lands around the Mediterranean Sea. The power from these invasions would cause a third part of men to be killed through not only war but also through plague.
.

Atilla the Hun – would push the Barbarian Tribes to the West
.

After the fall of Rome in the West, the Eastern Byzantine Empire would continue to battle the Vandals and Goths to try to recover territory lost due the barbarian invasions of the Western Roman Empire. As Justinian attempted to move supplies across the Mediterranean to battle the Goth an Vandals, the supplies brought from Egypt to Constantinople would bring with it the bubonic plague called the Plague of Justinian in the year 541. It was though that the source of this plague blew in from the winds of the East and China into Europe and kill an estimated 25 million Europeans and affecting half of the European continent. Therefore, the downfall of the Western Roman Empire and the rise of the Byzantine Empire in the 6th century would witness a significant death toll due to war casualties and the bubonic plague.

.
Revelation 9:20-21 “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 devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.”
.

We see from the above statement by the author the reason for these barbarian attacks and plagues.  It was to bring about the repentance and return from idolatry to worship the one true God. Those who survived the Fall of the Western Roman Empire and Justinian Plague did not repent of their worshiping of false gods and idols of gold and silver and stone. Even well after the sixth plague, idolatry would be mixed with Christianity and embraced by the survivors of the plagues, and the Christians in the coming centuries would not repent of their murders and sorceries or fornication. God sent the migrating locusts hordes to the Christians in order to torment them for five months, or 150 years, by striking them with Arian stings of a scorpions tail, while at the same time he sent the Attila the Hun and his horsemen, the Vandals and Goths and other plagues to destroy the idolatry of the rest of the pagans in Europe.

.

The sixth trumpet closes out the age of antiquity and brings Europe into a new period called the “middle ages” or “dark ages.” It is this time period of history that would bring the longest and most severe punishment from God during the “days of the seventh angel,” which would last for 1260 years until the dawn of the Reformation and Age of Discovery. This is the prophesied third “woe” of the seventh and last trumpet before the mystery of God will finally be revealed to the world for the salvation of all.

.
© 2018 by Jonathan Photius

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s