Our Past and Future Hope – Chapter Eight: Eastern Antichrist

Revelation 9

This is chapter eight of Our Past and Future Hope: Reintroducing a Traditional Faith-Building Eschatology by Jason Giles. The Contents page is here.

The paperback and Kindle versions are now available here.

The PDF/Epub ebook version is available here.

Due to the popularity of the modern interpretation of Revelation, all eyes are on Israel. Many of the major signs of the end times are thought to occur there: a future Antichrist is expected to come after another Temple is built in Jerusalem. He sets his sights on the Holy Land to conquer it and proclaim himself as God. Jews are among those who are ‘left behind’ after the rapture to suffer under Antichrist, while a remnant of them marked by God resist and turn to Jesus.

Because Israel is the focal point, the surrounding Muslim population is also in view. Will Antichrist come from one of these nations that hate Israel? Haven’t they always declared Jews to be their enemies, and don’t they want to wipe Israel off of the map? Among the many guesses of who Antichrist might be, perhaps it will be an Islamic king or religious leader. It seems only logical, and so Christians pay close attention to news of the Middle East.

It turns out that the rise of Islam as an antichristian power is foretold in Revelation, and with surprising detail. Not only its rise, but also its ultimate downfall alongside the beast.

So far, most of our attention has been on the Western part of the Roman Empire (the fourth beast), the changes it went through in its history, and especially its appropriation by the little horn (a.k.a. the man of sin, the beast out of the earth, the whore of Babylon). But Revelation introduces another power that rises out of the East simultaneously, bringing about the downfall of that portion of the old Roman Empire known as the Byzantine Empire. It terrorizes that part of the world for centuries, and casts a darkness over the whole region that remains to this day.

The Fifth Trumpet

The book of Revelation is God’s view of the church age. In the traditional historicist interpretation of prophecy, Revelation is a divine view of history from the time when it was written (96 A.D) to the current day. The first seven seals tell the story of the pagan Roman Empire and its eventual conversion to Christianity. The next four trumpets foretold the judgment of the Western Roman Empire, and its eventual downfall in 476. A sweeping summary of these and other events in Revelation is given in chapter 11 of this book, but it is worth studying these remarkable fulfillments in detail (free resources are listed in Appendix A).

The fifth, sixth, and seventh trumpets are distinctly devastating, called ‘woes’ by the angels (Revelation 8:13, 9:12). They complete the judgments started against the Roman Empire, as two-thirds of it still remained.1 In Revelation 9, the sounding of the fifth trumpet releases strange beings that reveal a new setting in the East:

The fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from the sky which had fallen to the earth. The key to the pit of the abyss was given to him. 2 He opened the pit of the abyss, and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke from a burning furnace. The sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke from the pit. 3 Then out of the smoke came locusts on the earth, and power was given to them, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4 They were told that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree, but only those people who don’t have God’s seal on their foreheads. 5 They were given power, not to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a person. 6 In those days people will seek death, and will in no way find it. They will desire to die, and death will flee from them.

7 The shapes of the locusts were like horses prepared for war. On their heads were something like golden crowns, and their faces were like people’s faces. 8 They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like those of lions. 9 They had breastplates, like breastplates of iron. The sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, or of many horses rushing to war. 10 They have tails like those of scorpions, and stings. In their tails they have power to harm men for five months. 11 They have over them as king the angel of the abyss. His name in Hebrew is “Abaddon”, but in Greek, he has the name “Apollyon”.

12 The first woe is past. Behold, there are still two woes coming after this. (Revelation 9:1-12, WEB)

Commentators of the traditional interpretation of Revelation are unanimous in their understanding of the fifth trumpet: the setting, timing, and descriptions given in this prophecy point to the Muslim conquests starting with Muhammad, the Arab religious, social, and political leader, and founder of Islam.

The Setting

In the Bible, the source of locusts is from the East. In Exodus, the Lord commands Moses:

“Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come up on the land of Egypt, and eat every herb of the land, even all that the hail has left.” Moses stretched out his rod over the land of Egypt, and Yahweh brought an east wind on the land all that day, and all night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts. (Exodus 10:12b-13, WEB).

When used as a symbol in apocalyptic prophecy, a plague of locusts naturally draws our minds to their common source, and the place where they chiefly occur- in this case, Arabia. The Bible often uses symbols like this that are relevant to the location of the subject: “When Judah is to be symbolized, the olive, the vine, and the fig-tree are selected; when Egypt is referred to, the reed is chosen; when Babylon, the willow. And so, in the animal kingdom, the lion is the symbol of Judah; the wild ass, of the Arabs; the crocodile, of Egypt, etc.”2

The Timing

The timing is right because this point of Revelation comes after the downfall of the Western Roman Empire in 476. Interestingly, the Papacy and Islam grew in power and influence at very similar times: the Pope was declared ‘Universal Bishop’ by Emperor Phocas in 606, while Muhammad received his visions that led to the writing of the Quran in 610. The Papacy gained control over kingdoms starting in 756, while the Muslim conquests reached their apex at about 750. According to Revelation 16, both are destroyed at about the same time (see chapter 11 of this book for more on that future event).

The plague of locusts is allowed to torment people for five months, which is the natural life cycle of the locust “from the springtime hatching of the egg to the death of the locust in the fall.”3 This is the same amount of time as 150 days. When the day-year principle is followed, that would mean 150 years. From the time when Muhammad first began to preach in 612, to the end of Muslim conquests with the founding of the capital of Baghdad in 762, is exactly 150 years.

The Fallen Star

This plague of locusts comes from a cloud of smoke rising out of the abyss, opened by “a star from the sky which had fallen to the earth” (Revelation 9:1, WEB). “A star is a common metaphor for kings in the ancient Near East.”4 Barnes writes that “A star is a natural emblem of a prince, of a ruler, of one distinguished by rank or by talent,”5 and it is used that way in the Bible in Numbers 24:17 and Isaiah 14:12. A leader is given the key to the abyss, unleashing smoke and darkness over the land, and a plague of locusts. Muhammad is best suited to these descriptions. According to Barnes:

He was like a star that fell from heaven (Revelation 9:1), a bright and illustrious prince, as if heaven-endowed, but fallen. Would anything better characterize the genius, the power, and the splendid but perverted talent of Muhammed? Muhammed was, moreover, by birth, of the princely house of the Koreish, governors of Mecca, and to no one could the term be more appropriate than to one of that family… there was to be one monarch – one ruling spirit to which all these hosts were subject. And never was anything more appropriate than this title as applied to the leader of the Arabic hosts. All those hosts were subject to one mind – to the command of the single leader that originated the scheme.6

The Locusts

The description of the locusts released by the fifth trumpet are fitting symbols for the armies led by Muhammad and those after him who conquered Arabia and beyond. An interesting tradition of Muhammad states that “there is an inscription on the locust’s chest that says: ‘The greatest army of God.’”7 A similar tradition speaks of locusts dropping into the hands of Muhammad, “bearing on their wings this inscription; ‘We are the army of the great God.’”8

Their numbers – Locusts are known for swarming in great numbers and covering the land. This is used to symbolize great armies in the Bible. Below are two out of many examples:

‘They will cut down her forest,’ says Yahweh, ‘though it can’t be searched; because they are more than the locusts, and are innumerable.’ (Jeremiah 46:23, WEB)

The sword will cut you off. It will devour you like the grasshopper. Multiply like grasshoppers. Multiply like the locust. (Nahum 3:15b, WEB)

According to Barnes, “Nothing would better represent the numbers of the Saracenic hordes that came out of Arabia, and that spread over the East – over Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Spain, and that threatened to spread over Europe – than such an army of locusts.”9

Their mounts – Locusts are an appropriate symbol for horses, and a plague of locusts for armies that are known for their cavalry. The verses directly mention horses: “The shapes of the locusts were like horses prepared for war” (Revelation 9:7a, WEB). Throughout history, locusts have been compared to horses due to similar head shapes, and the Italian word for grasshopper is cavaletta, or ‘little horse.’ A later verse says, “The sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle” (Revelation 9:9b). The armies of Muhammad were famous for their cavalry, and the sound of their horses’ charging would have been terrifying.

Their faces – The verse says, “their faces were like people’s faces” (Revelation 9:7b, WEB), but it could also be translated specifically like men (as it is in the KJV) instead of people generically. The Arabic armies had a special regard for their facial hair, and to this day the beard and mustache are regulated by the Quran. They had faces that were distinctly ‘manly’ rather than being shaved.

Their hair – The verse says, “They had hair like women’s hair” (Revelation 9:8a, WEB). They have faces like men, perhaps denoting masculine facial hair, but their hair is like women’s hair, long and effeminate. Many contemporary historians before, during, and after this period describe this style of a beard and mustache combined with the long, uncut hair the Arabs wore.

Their ‘golden crowns’ – The verse says, “On their heads were something like golden crowns” (Revelation 9:7, WEB). John states that they were not literally gold crowns, but ‘something like’ them- the general shape encircled their heads, and the color resembled gold. Barnes writes:

The writer saw such head-ornaments as he was accustomed to see. They were not exactly crowns or diadems, but they had a resemblance to them, and he therefore uses this language: “and on their heads were as it were crowns.” Suppose that these were turbans, and that they were not in common use in the time of John, and that they had, therefore, no name, would not this be the exact language which he would use in describing them? The same remarks may be made respecting the other expression… they were not pure gold, but they had a resemblance to it. Would not a yellow turban correspond with all that is said in this description?10

A saying often attributed to Muhammad goes, “The turbans are the crowns of the Arabs.”11 Muhammad is said to have encouraged the wearing of turbans: “The turban distinguishes the Muslims from the Mushriks (polytheists).”12 There is no unanimous consensus on what color they wore, but yellow is among the likely traditions. In the Arabian peninsula, the most famous type of colored turban is yellow.13

Their armor – The verse says, “They had breastplates, like breastplates of iron” (Revelation 9:9a, WEB). The Arabic armies were noted for wearing steel and iron breastplates (a.k.a. cuirasses). The pre-Islamic Poem of Antar makes at least four references to a warrior’s cuirass or breastplate.14 The Quran says, “God hath given you coats of mail to defend you in your wars.”15

Their limits – Verse four says, “They were told that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree…” (Revelation 9:4a, WEB). Unlike the normal behavior of a plague of locusts, or even of literal armies, they were commanded not to harm the land. This is precisely what was commanded of the Arabic armies:

Remember that you are always in the presence of God, on the verge of death, in the assurance of judgment, and the hope of paradise. Avoid injustice and oppression; consult with your brethren, and study to preserve the love and confidence of your troops. When you fight the battles of the Lord, acquit yourselves like men, without turning your backs; but let not the victory be stained with the blood of women or children. Destroy no palm-trees, nor burn any fields of grain. Cut down no fruit-trees, nor do any mischief to cattle, only such as you kill to eat. When you make any covenant or article, stand to it, and be as good as your word. As you go on, you will find some religious persons who live retired in monasteries, and propose to themselves to serve God in that way; let them alone, and neither kill them, nor destroy their monasteries,” etc.16

Their mission – They were not to hurt the land, “…but only those people who don’t have God’s seal on their foreheads” (Revelation 9:4b). The armies under Muhammad were commanded to harm those who they considered to be idolators- first among their own people, and then against all infidels. “They were given power, not to kill them, but to torment them for five months” (Revelation 9:5, WEB): those who would not convert to Islam were allowed to live if they paid tribute. As quoted above, they were commanded not to destroy monasteries, or women and children- they were not allowed to destroy the church- but they would definitely harm it for the 150 years given to them. This is exactly what they did in their history of conquest.

The Sixth Trumpet

With the sounding of the fifth trumpet, the first woe spread a cloud of darkness over the East. Muhammad ‘the Prophet’ preached the Quran, becoming a powerful king and warlord. Islam was established as an oppressive new religious and political force that spread from Arabia and even penetrated Europe. They successfully conquered another third of the remaining Roman (Byzantine) Empire.17 But the plague of locusts eventually subsided, and they settled in the Eastern territories they had won in swift conquest. “The first woe is past. Behold, there are still two woes coming after this” (Revelation 9:12, WEB).

With the sounding of the sixth trumpet, Eastern Antichrist would be unleashed once more in the form of “one of the mightiest and longest-lasting dynasties in world history”18: the Ottoman (or Turkish) Empire.

13 The sixth angel sounded. I heard a voice from the horns of the golden altar which is before God, 14 saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Free the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates!”

15 The four angels were freed who had been prepared for that hour and day and month and year, so that they might kill one third of mankind. 16 The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million. I heard the number of them.

17 Thus I saw the horses in the vision, and those who sat on them, having breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the horses’ heads resembled lions’ heads. Out of their mouths proceed fire, smoke, and sulfur. 18 By these three plagues were one third of mankind killed: by the fire, the smoke, and the sulfur, which proceeded out of their mouths. 19 For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails. For their tails are like serpents, and have heads, and with them they harm. 20 The rest of mankind, who were not killed with these plagues, didn’t repent of the works of their hands, that they wouldn’t worship demons, and the idols of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of stone, and of wood; which can’t see, hear, or walk. 21 They didn’t repent of their murders, their sorceries, their sexual immorality, or their thefts. (Revelation 9:13-21, WEB)

Once again, the setting, timing, and descriptions in this passage pinpoint the identity of this massive army and its leaders. This army would finish what the locusts started, completing the divine judgment over the last remaining third of the Byzantine Empire.

The Setting

This woe also starts in the East, where the four angels are bound at the river Euphrates. “The River Euphrates is called great because in ancient times it served as the primary boundary between the great threatening powers to the east and the more western world, including the Roman Empire.”19 The Arabic armies under Muhammad and afterward did not get very far past ‘the great river’- they were defeated in their attempts to conquer Constantinople and subjugate Europe. After tormenting those regions for 150 years, they would settle in the more Eastern territories they had won with the founding of Baghdad, which is near the Euphrates.

This new power had been ‘prepared’, however, to be unleashed for this very purpose. They would cross over the great river Euphrates into the remainder of the Byzantine Empire “so that they might kill one third of mankind” (Revelation 9:15b)- that is, they would cause the downfall of the last third of the Eastern Roman world, culminating in the downfall of its capital, Constantinople.

The Timing

The times and successive events given in this prophecy coincide remarkably with history. The rise of the Turkmen is also the reunification of the Muslim world, revived to conquer once again. It is the next major Islamic power to rise in the East, making it a natural fit for the fulfillment of the sixth trumpet. Barnes writes:

If the previous trumpet referred to the Saracens, or to the rise of the Muhammedan power among the Arabs, then the Turkish dominion, being the next in succession, would be what would most naturally be symbolized. The Turkish power rose on the decline of the Arabic, and was the next important power in affecting the destinies of the world.20

The beginning of this rise is traced to a man named Tughril Beg: “After the death of the Prophet Muhammad, Islam took a firm hold on the region. Succession struggles between local Caliphs (kings) came to an end in 1055 when Tughril Beg, a warrior from the Turkish steppes, established a Seljuk dynasty.”21 Tughril gained the title of ‘temporal lieutenant of the prophet [Muhammad]’ after conquering Baghdad in 1055, uniting the Turks and other Muslims under an Islamic banner. Soon after this preparation, they crossed the Euphrates River to wage war against the Byzantine Empire in 1057.

The time given to this conquering force is an “hour and day and month and year” (Revelation 9:15), when added together would be about 396 days. When the ‘day-year’ principle is applied, this would be about 396 years. This united Islamic army would have 396 years to bring about the downfall of the Byzantine Empire.

Amazingly, this is precisely what happened. From the time Tughril Beg led the renewed Muslim army under the banner of Muhammad across the Euphrates in 1057, the resulting Turkish Empire would go on win battle after battle in Europe for centuries. In 1453, they would go on to conquer the capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople, the date that marks its end in history. The time between these two events is 396 years!22

So another incredible time prophecy is fulfilled exactly as laid out in Scripture. From the 2300 ‘evenings and mornings’ of Daniel 8, fulfilled exactly to the day; to the ‘seventy weeks’ in Daniel 9, where we see clearly how a day equals a year in prophecy; to the prophecy of Jesus in Matthew 24, when the Temple was destroyed within a generation; the 150 years given to the locusts to conquer in this chapter; and once again, the 396 years foretold when the remaining third of the Roman Empire would be destroyed by the revived Eastern Antichrist.

There are still more to marvel at as well. All of these are labeled ‘unfulfilled’ and pushed into the future with the modern popular interpretation, but history reveals that God gave us these time prophecies for a good reason. The majority of the church today only finds confusion and uncertainty in these prophecies- we can no longer afford to ignore the fact that God is truly faithful to his promises. Understanding them fills us with faith and assurance, knowing that the ‘times, time, and half a time’ will also be fulfilled.

The Armies of the Horsemen

The description of the powers released by the sixth trumpet also confirms the identity of this revived Eastern Antichrist:

Four Angels – The trumpet blow is said to release four angels, symbolic of four different powers. Barnes comments that this would be the most natural sense of the text: “It has been made a question why the number four is specified, and whether the forces were in any sense made up of four divisions, nations, or people…. it must be admitted that the most obvious interpretation would be to refer it to some combination of forces, or to some union of powers.”23

Tughril Beg is noted above as the ‘temporal lieutenant of the prophet’, but he is the warlord of a union of four different kingdoms: “the original power that had established itself in Persia, under Malek Shah, and the three subordinate powers that sprung out of that of Kerman, Syria, and Roum.”24 It is appropriate that four angels symbolize this union of four kingdoms that crosses the Euphrates.

Prepared, yet bound – The verses in this passage show that the angels had been prepared to conquer the remaining third of the Roman Empire, but were somehow bound at the Euphrates. God told the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “‘Free the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates!’ The four angels were freed who had been prepared for that hour and day and month and year…” (Revelation 9:14b-15a, WEB). Miller explains the fulfillment of these symbols:

The Turks had most of the dominions east of the Euphrates under their control by the eleventh century and seemingly were restrained there. The Euphrates was no barrier to them but they did not cross it for further conquests, until the mid eleventh century.25

Barnes also writes:

These Turkish hordes had been long restrained in the East. They had subdued Persia. They had then achieved the conquest of India. They had conquered Bagdad, and the entire East was under their control. Yet for a long time they had now been inactive, and it would seem as if they had been bound or restrained by some mighty power from moving in their conquests to the West.26

The biblical image of the revived Eastern Antichrist being prepared, yet bound until released by God, matches what happened in history.

Armies of horsemen – The Turkish armies were known for being composed primarily of cavalry. According to Collins:

The description of the sixth trumpet forces as “mounted troops” (NIV) is most apt for the Turkish invaders, as they are well-known for use of horses in warfare. With the contemporary armies of Western Europe, the majority of the fighting men were foot soldiers, with a minority of knights as cavalry, whereas the Turkish armies consisted of cavalry and were therefore very swift and powerful.27

When historians describe the Turkish armies, they note the massive amount of horsemen in them. Gibbon said that even as early as 1050, “The myriads of the Turkish horse overspread a frontier of six hundred miles, from Taurus to Arzeroum.”28

Two hundred million – This number is translated literally as “twice ten thousand times ten thousand,”29 or “two myriads of myriads.”30 It would be the largest force ever fielded in history if the number is taken literally, but Collins writes that “this symbolic language probably should be understood to mean ‘too many to count.’”31 According to Haynes:

This is the only time this number, “twice-ten-thousand” is used in the New Testament. “Twice-ten-thousand” is unique, and oddly specific. Like it’s a clue. And it is. The Hebrew equivalent only occurs in Psalm 68:17, where the Hebrew reads, “The chariots of God are twice-ten-thousand and multiplied thousands” [my trans.]. In Hebrew it’s not a precise number, just a vast number. That’s how we should read the quotation here also.32

The Turkish Empire’s armies of horsemen were indeed vast throughout its history. But even if the number just means an innumerable host, there is another connection to the Turkish hosts: they would number their forces by ‘myriads’, or tens of thousands. That is why the historian Gibbon used ‘myriads’ to describe their numbers in the quote above. Barnes remarks, “One thing is clear, that to no other invading hosts could the language used here be so well applied, and if it were supposed that John was writing after the event, this would be the language which he would be likely to employ – for this is nearly the identical language employed by the historian Gibbon.”33

Breastplates of red, blue, and yellow – The verse says, “Thus I saw the horses in the vision, and those who sat on them, having breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow” (Revelation 9:17a, WEB). The English scholar Charles Daubuz writes that “this has a literal accomplishment, for the Ottomans, from the first time of their appearance, have affected to wear such warlike apparel of scarlet, blue, and yellow.”34 When looking for confirmation of this in other sources, I saw paintings of Ottoman battles from many different eras, and their uniform was nearly always a striking mix of red, blue, and yellow.

Fire, smoke, and sulfur – The verse says that “the horses’ heads resembled lions’ heads. Out of their mouths proceed fire, smoke, and sulfur” (Revelation 9:17b, WEB). This is symbolic of the Turks’ introduction of the use of gunpowder in warfare. “It was their use of enormous cannon that they succeeded in 1573 in breaking down the great walls of Constantinople and taking both the city and the empire.”35 Among the many cannons they used in the assault, they had made the largest cannon in history up to that point: twenty-seven feet long, a barrel lined with eight inches of solid bronze and a diameter of thirty inches, capable of firing stones weighing over half a ton.36 A Turkish historian’s description of their use brings to mind the fire, smoke, and sulfur mentioned in Scripture:

The Moslems placed their cannon in an effective position. The gates and ramparts of Constantinople were pierced in a thousand places. The flame which issued from the mouths of those instruments of warfare, of brazen bodies and fiery jaws, cast grief and dismay among the miscreants. The smoke which spread itself in the air rendered the brightness of day sombre as night; and the face of the world soon became as dark as the black fortune of the unhappy infidels.37

Mouths and tails – The verse says, “For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails. For their tails are like serpents, and have heads, and with them they harm” (Revelation 9:19, WEB). It was previously shown how the power out their mouths was the fire, smoke, and sulfur of their cannons. As for the tails, the Turkish forces used the strange standard of horsetails to signify ranks. The ‘heads,’ or commanders, of their armies would ride into battle with these standards. Barnes writes:

This remarkable standard or ensign is found only among the Turks, and, if there was an intended reference to them, the symbol here would be the proper one to be adopted. The meaning of the passage where it is said that “their power is in their tails” would seem to be, that their tails were the symbol or emblem of their authority – as in fact the horse’s tail is in the appointment of a pasha. The image before the mind of John would seem to have been, that he saw the horses belching out fire and smoke, and, what was equally strange, he saw that their power of spreading desolation was connected with the tails of horses. Anyone looking on a body of cavalry with such banners or ensigns would be struck with this unusual and remarkable appearance, and would speak of their banners as concentrating and directing their power.38

They Did Not Repent

With the fall of Constantinople, the entire Roman world was destroyed, both East and West. Despite these woes, those who lived did not repent of their evil deeds. The verses say:

20 The rest of mankind, who were not killed with these plagues, didn’t repent of the works of their hands, that they wouldn’t worship demons, and the idols of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of stone, and of wood; which can’t see, hear, or walk. 21 They didn’t repent of their murders, their sorceries, their sexual immorality, or their thefts. (Revelation 9:20-21 WEB)

All of these sins could be found in both old pagan Rome before its destruction, but also in the revived Papal Rome.

Worship of demons and idols – “Homage rendered to the spirits of departed people, and substituted in the place of the worship of the true God, would meet all that is properly implied here,”39 i.e., praying to saints and their images. Collins writes,

During the entire period of the fifth and sixth trumpet, the sixth through the fifteenth centuries, the worship of saints was widely practiced in both the Eastern and Western churches, as having its beginnings in the fourth century. Philip Schaff comments that the worship of saints “was a Christian substitute for heathen idolatry and hero worship, and well suited to the tastes and antecedents of the barbarian races, but was equally popular among the cultivated Greeks.”40

Murders – The Papacy would persecute and kill anyone who dissented from their commands. A prime example of this is the 12th-century Christian movement of the Waldensians. They were severely persecuted for rejecting some of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church:

The confession of sins was guided by their leaders but did not require a priest; they rejected the use of indulgences. Baptism was to be by full immersion in water and was not administered to infants. Eventually, the elements of the Eucharist (bread and wine) were understood as symbols only, and the Waldenses denied the doctrine of transubstantiation. They also rejected the notion of purgatory and of prayers offered for the dead. Their views were based on a simplified biblicism, moral rigour, and criticism of abuses in the contemporary church. They accepted the Bible as the sole, total authority of all doctrine. Additionally, a formal church building was not viewed as necessary to worship God, and thus many Waldenses held services in their homes, stables, or other locations.41

The Papacy called a crusade against them for holding these beliefs, and entire towns and villages of Waldensians were slaughtered. It is estimated that a million people were killed.42 There are many more cases like this one:

It is supposed that fifty million of persons have perished in these persecutions of the Waldenses, Albigenses, Bohemian Brethren, Wycliffites, and Protestants; that some fifteen million of Indians perished in Cuba, Mexico, and South America, in the wars of the Spaniards, professedly to propagate the Catholic faith; that three million and a half of Moors and Jews perished, by Catholic persecution and arms, in Spain; and that thus, probably no less than sixty-eight million and five hundred thousand human beings have been put to death by this one persecuting power.43

Sorceries – This is fulfilled in Catholicism with supposed miracles: “Puppets, relics, images of the saints, and other paraphernalia were commonly alleged to perform miracles in exchange for payment.”44 Barnes points out that “false and pretended miracles; arts adapted to deceive through the imagination; the supposed virtue and efficacy of relics; and frauds calculated to impose on mankind, have characterized those portions of the world where the Roman religion has prevailed, and been one of the principal means of its advancement.”45

Sexual immorality – The list of sexual immorality among the clergy in the Roman Catholic Church during this period is long; the periods of the most evil Popes called the Pornacracies have been mentioned in an earlier chapter of this book. The history of Octavianus, elected Pope John XII in 955, is enough to illustrate the magnitude of the depravity here:

In his first years as pope, the people of Rome accused John XII of incest, murder, and rape. John used the papal treasury as his personal spending account to finance his many vices. He indulged in the city’s prostitutes, housing many of them in the Lateran Palace for his own pleasure. When he wasn’t in his brothel, John seduced Roman widows and kidnapped female pilgrims on their way to St. Peter’s Basilica. As stories of his inclinations spread throughout Europe, the number of women traveling on pilgrimage significantly decreased.

The pope was a man ruled by his passions. Lavishing wealth and power on one of his mistresses, he made her governor of Rome. No woman was safe from John’s lust. When he seduced his father’s long-time mistress, she became pregnant, and she bled to death during childbirth. After almost a decade of his sexual antics, Pope John XII died in the bed of his latest mistress. Although the Church records state that he died of a stroke, other sources claim that the woman’s husband broke into the room and caught the lovers together. The cuckolded husband beat John to death in a jealous rage.46

Thefts – Fulfilled in the money extorted from Catholics in different ways- charging them to handle relics of saints; elevating patron saints and charging for their favor; the sale of indulgences; mandatory pilgrimages; pressuring laymen to gift their estate to the church in their will; charging for masses to be held for dead relatives said to be in purgatory.47

Traditional Vs. Modern Interpretation

It was noted at the beginning of this chapter that many Christians today sense that Muslim nations or leaders play a role in the end times, even if they can’t quite pin down which Scriptures foretell it. Yet Revelation 9 clearly speaks to the darkness of understanding that originates in the East, and still covers the nations gripped by Islam.

The mistake we often make, however, is to pit ourselves against Muslims as enemies. This is evident in our distrust of immigrants and refugees from these nations, such as President Trump’s executive order in 2017 banning people from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the USA. We act out of fear, demanding that our nation’s leaders take proactive measures against Muslim nations in our Global War On Terror.

One thing that should become clear from the historical interpretation of these passages is that our battle is not against flesh and blood– it is not against Muslims, it is not against Catholics, it is not against Atheists. Antichrist is not just one single person. Our battle is “against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12b, WEB). These Antichristian powers are spiritual, and our primary weapon against them is prayer. According to Haynes,

We should never be afraid of Islam, or think about it the same way again. Like the Babylonians against Judah, God raised up invaders who deny Jesus Christ to punish so-called believers who were disloyal to Jesus Christ. It’s the same irony Habakkuk complained about when God sent Babylon to punish Judah: God used a more wicked nation to punish the wicked nation (Hab 1:13)… Before you look down on apostate Christians, or on Muslims, look at your own prayer life: Judging from our love for Jesus, how Christian are we?48

Our hearts should be filled with compassion and mourning for the suffering these nations have endured under the first and second woe. Miller writes,

Islamic nations have been so held in the bondage of this false doctrine for over 1300 years. One cannot preach the gospel in those lands. If one could preach the gospel, there is still the confusion of Islam in the minds of its adherents that darkens the understanding. One would pray that this will soon change; that in those lands, freedom from religious coercion could soon be a fact of life and political freedom might follow.49

But our hope is real- the Kingdom of God prevails, and all nations, East and West, will one day bow to Christ. The beast and the false prophet will be destroyed, and the dragon bound. Therefore, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you!”

  1. Called the Byzantine Empire, the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium. It was “the continuation of the Roman Empire primarily in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist for an additional thousand years until the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire in 1453.” From Wikipedia, “Byzantine Empire”.
    Available online at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byzantine_Empire ↩︎
  2. Albert Barnes, “Notes, Critical, Illustrative, and Practical”, Revelation 9:3.
    Available online at https://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cmt/barnes/rev009.htm ↩︎
  3. Oral Collins, “The Final Prophecy of Jesus”, 204. ↩︎
  4. John Walton, Victor Matthews, Mark Chavalas, “The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament”, 162. ↩︎
  5. Barnes, ibid, Revelation 8:10. ↩︎
  6. Barnes, ibid, Revelation 9:11. ↩︎
  7. M. J. Kister, “The Locust’s Wing: Some Notes on Locust in the Hadith”, 351.
    Available online at http://www.kister.huji.ac.il/sites/default/files/Locust_0.pdf ↩︎
  8. Charles Forster, “Mahometanism Unveiled Vol. 1”, 217.
    Available online at https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.31686/page/n267/mode/2up ↩︎
  9. Barnes, ibid, Revelation 9:11. ↩︎
  10. Barnes, ibid, Revelation 9:7. ↩︎
  11. Kister, “‘The Crowns of this Community’… Some Notes on the Turban in the Muslim Tradition”, 217.
    Available online at http://www.kister.huji.ac.il/sites/default/files/crowns.pdf ↩︎
  12. Shaykh Fadl al-Rahman al-A’zami, “The Status of the Turban in Light of the Sunnah.”
    Available online at https://www.ilmgate.org/the-status-of-the-turban-in-light-of-the-sunnah/ ↩︎
  13. Wikipedia, “Turban.”
    Available online at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turban ↩︎
  14. Barnes, ibid, Revelation 9:11. ↩︎
  15. Barnes, ibid, Revelation 9:11. ↩︎
  16. Edward Gibbon, “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 5”, Chapter LI: Conquests By The Arabs. Part II.
    Available online at https://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/gibbon/05/daf05016.htm ↩︎
  17. The Western Roman Empire had fallen in 476. Two thirds of it remained in the form of the Eastern/’Byzantine Empire, and the initial Muslim conquests took another. A third was left. ↩︎
  18. History.com, “Ottoman Empire.”
    Available online at https://www.history.com/topics/middle-east/ottoman-empire ↩︎
  19. Collins, ibid, 208. ↩︎
  20. Barnes, ibid, Revelation 9:20. ↩︎
  21. Felicity Arbuthnot, Nikki van der Gaag, “A History of Iraq”.
    Available online at https://newint.org/features/1999/09/05/history ↩︎
  22. Collins writes, “‘This very hour and day and month and year’ may be understood on the year-day principle as a composite period of 396 years, 118 days. Togrul Beg, the Seljuk Turk launched his campaign to conquer the Greek Empire from Baghdad on January 18, A.D. 1057… Constantinople fell on May 29, 1453- 396 years and 130 days… just 12 days more than the forecast period of 396 years and 118 days… On the year-day time scale, the fall of Constantinople exceeded this period by less than one-half hour! Although one might well be satisfied with this as an adequate and remarkable fulfillment of the symbolic formula, Elliott takes this a step further and notes that if one subtracts 12 days of the siege, one arrives at the 40th day, about which Gibbon states, “After a siege of forty days the fate of Constantinople could no longer be averted” (1.527). Thus, we can be satisfied that from God’s point of view, the time formula may well have been fulfilled to the very day!” Ibid, 216-217 ↩︎
  23. Barnes, ibid, Revelation 9:14. ↩︎
  24. Barnes, ibid, Revelation 9:20. ↩︎
  25. Fred Miller, “Revelation: a Panorama of the Gospel Age”, 86.
    Available online at http://moellerhaus.com/turkish.htm ↩︎
  26. Barnes, ibid, Revelation 9:20. ↩︎
  27. Collins, ibid, 214. ↩︎
  28. Edward Gibbon, ibid, Chapter LI: Conquests By The Arabs. Part II.
    Available online at https://sacred-texts.com/cla/gibbon/05/daf05043.htm ↩︎
  29. Collins, ibid, 210. ↩︎
  30. Barnes, ibid, Revelation 9:16. ↩︎
  31. Collins, ibid, 210. ↩︎
  32. Joe Haynes, “Revelation 9:13-21 The Sixth Trumpet (NOTES)”, 1.
    Available online at http://bcchurch.ca/SermonNotes/Revelation9-13-21-The%20Sixth%20Trumpet.pdf ↩︎
  33. Barnes, ibid, Revelation 9:20. ↩︎
  34. Charles Daubuz, “A perpetual commentary on the Revelation of St. John”, 444.
    Available online at https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015014811064&view=1up&seq=5 ↩︎
  35. Collins, ibid, 215. ↩︎
  36. Roger Crowley, “The Guns of Constantinople.”
    Available online at https://www.historynet.com/the-guns-of-constantinople/?r ↩︎
  37. From Edward Bishop Elliott, “Horae Apocalypticae Vol 1”, 512. The footnote reads “Cited appropriately by Dr. Keith (in Apoc. Vol. ii. p. 46) from the Tadg al Tivarikh (or Diadem of Histories) of Saadeddin, ‘the preceptor and historiographer of Murad 3 , and prince of Ottoman historians,’ as translated in David’s Grammar of the Turkish language.”
    Available online at https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=4yJNAQAAMAAJ&rdid=book-4yJNAQAAMAAJ&rdot=1 ↩︎
  38. Barnes, ibid, Revelation 9:20. ↩︎
  39. Barnes, ibid, Revelation 9:20. ↩︎
  40. Collins, ibid, 218. ↩︎
  41. Britannica, “Waldenses”.
    Available online at https://www.britannica.com/topic/Waldenses ↩︎
  42. This number may seem sensational, and it would be if the scope was limited to specific events and regions (like the Spanish Inquisition). Historical theologian Nathan Busenitz remarks, “If the term is used in a broad sense—to represent all Roman Catholic activity against non-Catholics—then the numbers rise dramatically. If the historian includes forms of torture and killing that did not involve a formal trial, along with religious wars and other forms of Catholic violence enacted against Protestants and other non-Catholics (in areas outside of Spain and Portugal), then one can easily speak in terms of millions of people who were killed.”
    Available online at https://thecripplegate.com/how-many-people-died-in-the-inquisition/
    For a detailed view of these numbers, see David A. Plaisted’s “Estimates of the Number Killed by the Papacy in the Middle Ages and Later”.
    Available online at https://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/827989/15116787/1321289366180/50+million+protestants+killed.pdf ↩︎
  43. Barnes, ibid, Revelation 9:20. ↩︎
  44. Collins, ibid, 221. ↩︎
  45. Barnes, ibid, Revelation 9:20. ↩︎
  46. Jennifer Conerly, “17 Popes Who Didn’t Practice What They Preached.”
    Available online at https://historycollection.com/17-popes-who-didnt-practiced-what-they-preached/14/ ↩︎
  47. Barnes, ibid, Revelation 9:20. ↩︎
  48. Haynes, ibid. ↩︎
  49. Miller, ibid, 82. ↩︎