A king over them - A supreme head; some think Mohammed, some think Vespasian.
The angel of the bottomless pit - The chief envoy of Satan.
Abaddon - From אבד abad, he destroyed.
Apollyon - From απο, intensive, and ολλυω, to destroy. The meaning is the same both in the Hebrew and Greek.
And they had a king over them - A ruler who marshalled their hosts. Locusts often, and indeed generally, move in bands, though they do not appear to be under the direction of anyone as a particular ruler or guide. In this case it struck John as a remarkable peculiarity that they had a king - a king who, it would seem, had the absolute control, and to whom was to be traced all the destruction which would ensue from their emerging from the bottomless pit.
Which is the angel of the bottomless pit - See the notes on Revelation 9:1. The word “angel” here would seem to refer to the chief of the evil angels, who presided over the dark and gloomy regions from whence the locusts seemed to emerge. This may either mean that this evil angel seemed to command them personally, or that his spirit was infused into the leader of these hosts.
Whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon - The name Abaddon means literally “destruction,” and is the same as Apollyon.
But in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon - From ἀπόλλυμι apollumi- “to destroy.” The word properly denotes “a destroyer,” and the name is given to this king of the hosts, represented by the locusts, because this would be his principal characteristic.
After this minute explanation of the literal meaning of the symbol, it may be useful, before attempting to apply it, and to ascertain the events designed to be represented, to have a distinct impression of the principal image - the locust. It is evident that this is, in many respects, a creature of the imagination, and that we are not to expect the exact representation to be found in any forms of actual existence in the animal creation. The following engraving, prepared by Mr. Elliott (vol. i. p. 410), will give a sufficiently accurate representation of this symbolical figure as it appeared to John.
The question now is, whether any events occurred in history, subsequent to and succeeding those supposed to be referred to in the fourth trumpet, to which this symbol would be applicable. Reasons have already been suggested for supposing that there was a transfer of the seat of the operations to another part of the world. The first four trumpets referred to a continual series of events of the same general character, and having a proper close. These have been explained as referring to the successive shocks which terminated in the downfall of the Western empire. At the close of that series there is a pause in the representation Revelation 8:13, and a solemn proclamation that other scenes were to open distinguished for woe. These were to be symbolized in the sounding of the remaining three trumpets, embracing the whole period until the consummation of all things - or sketching great and momentous events in the future, until the volume sealed with the seven seals Revelation 5:1 should have been wholly unrolled and its contents disclosed. The whole scene now is changed. Rome has fallen. It has passed into the hands of strangers. The power that had spread itself over the world has, in that form, come to an end, and is to exist no more - though, as we shall see (Exodus 10:13, and they must therefore have come from some portion of Arabia - for Arabia is the land that lies over against Egypt in the east. Such, too, is the testimony of Volney; “the most judicious,” as Mr. Gibbon calls him, “of modern travelers.” “The inhabitants of Syria,” says he, “have remarked that locusts come constantly from the desert of Arabia,” ch. 20:sect. 5.
All that is necessary to say further on this point is, that on the supposition that it was the design of the Spirit of inspiration in the passage before us to refer to the followers of Muhammed, the image of the locusts was that which would be naturally selected. There was no other one so appropriate and so striking; no one that would so naturally designate the country of Arabia. As some confirmation of this, or as showing how natural the symbol would be, a remark may be introduced from Mr. Forster. In his Mohammedanism Unveiled, vol. i. p. 217, he says, “In the Bedoween romance of Antar, the locust is introduced as the national emblem of the Ishmaelites. And it is a remarkable coincidence that Muslim tradition speaks of locusts having dropped into the hands of Muhammed, bearing on their wings this inscription - ‹We are the army of the Great God.‘” These circumstances will show the propriety of the symbol on the supposition that it refers to Arabia and the Saracens.
(2) the people. The question is, whether there was anything in the symbol, as described by John, which would properly designate the followers of Muhammed, on the supposition that it was designed to have such a reference:
(a) As to numbers. “They (the Midianite Arabs) came as locusts for multitude,” John 6:5. See the notes on Revelation 9:3. 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. “One hundred years after his flight (Muhammed) from Mecca,” says Mr. Gibbon, “the arms and the reign of his successors extended from India to the Atlantic Ocean, over the various and distant provinces which may be comprised under the names of Persia, Syria, Egypt, Africa, and Spain,” vol. iii. p. 410. “At the end of the first century of the Hegira the caliphs were the most potent and absolute monarchs on the globe. Under the last of the Ommiades the Arabian empire extended two hundred days‘ journey from east to west, from the confines of Tartary and India to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean” (ibid. p. 460). In regard to the immense hosts employed in these conquests, an idea may be formed by a perusal of the whole fifty-first chapter in Gibbon (vol. iii. pp. 408-461). Those hosts issued primarily from Arabia, and in their numbers would be well compared with the swarms of locusts that issued from the same country, so numerous as to darken the sky.
(b) The description of the people.
“Their faces were as the faces of men” This would seem to be in contrast with other people, or to denote something that was unique in the appearance of the persons represented. In other words, the meaning would seem to be, that there was something manly and warlike in their appearance, so far as their faces were concerned. It is remarkable that the appearance of the Goths (represented, as I suppose, under the previous trumpets) is described by Jerome (compare on Revelation 9:8. And yet this strictly accords with the appearance of the Arabs or Saracens. Pliny, the contemporary of John, speaks of the Arabs then as having the hair long and uncut, with the moustache on the upper lip, or the beard: Arabes mitrati sunt, aut intoso crine. Barba abraditur, praeterquam in superiore labro. Aliis et haec intonsa(Nat. Hist. vol. 6, p. 28). So Solinus describes them in the third century (Plurimis crinis intonsus, mitrata capita, pars rasa in cutem barba, 100:53); so Ammianus Marcellinus, in the fourth century (Crinitus quidam a Saracenorum cuneo, vol. xxxi. p. 16); and so Claudian, Theodore of Mopsuesta, and Jerome, in the fifth. Jerome lived about two centuries before the great Saracen invasion; and as he lived at Bethlehem, on the borders of Arabia, he must have been familiar with the appearance of the Arabs. Still later, in that most characteristic of Arab poems, Antar, a poem written in the time of Muhammed‘s childhood, we find the moustache, and the beard, and the long flowing hair on the shoulder, and the turban, all specified as characteristic of the Arabians: “He adjusted himself properly, twisted his whiskers, and folded up his hair under his turban, drawing it from off his shoulders,” vol. i. p. 340. “His hair flowed down on his shoulders,” vol. i. p. 169. “Antar cut off Maudi‘s hair in revenge and insult,” vol. iii. p. 117. “We will hang him up by his hair,” vol. iv. p. 325. See Elliott, vol. i. pp. 411,412. Compare Newton on the Prophecies, p. 485.
“And on their heads were as it were crowns of gold” See the notes on Revelation 9:7. That is, diadems, or something that appeared like crowns, or chaplets. This will agree well with the turban worn by the Arabs or Saracens, and which was quite characteristic of them in the early periods when they became known. So in the passage already quoted, Pliny speaks of them as Arabes mitrati; so Solinus, mitrata capita; so in the poem of Antar, “he folded up his hair under his turbans.” It is remarkable also that Ezekiel Ezekiel 23:42 describes the turbans of the Sabean or Keturite Arabs under the very appellation used here by John: “Sabeans from the wilderness, which put beautiful crowns upon their heads.” So in the preface to Antar, it is said, “It was a usual saying among them, that God had bestowed four special things on the Arabs; that their turbans should be unto them instead of diadems, their tents instead of walls and houses, their swords instead of intrenchments, and their poems instead of written laws.” Mr. Forster, in his Mohammedanism Unveiled, quotes as a precept of Muhammed; “Make a point of wearing turbans, because it is the way of angels.” Turbans might then with propriety be represented as crowns, and no doubt these were often so gilded and ornamented that they might be spoken of as “crowns of gold.”
“They had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron” See the notes on Revelation 9:9. As a symbol, this would be properly descriptive of the Arabians or Saracens. In the poem Antar the steel and iron cuirasses of the Arab warriors are frequently noticed: “A warrior immersed in steel armor,” vol. ii. p. 203. “Fifteen thousand men armed with cuirasses, and well accoutred for war,” vol. ii. p. 42. “They were clothed in iron armor, and brilliant cuirasses,” vol. i. p. 23. “Out of the dust appeared horsemen clad in iron,” vol. iii. p. 274. The same thing occurs in the Koran: “God hath given you coats of mail to defend you in your wars,” vol. ii. p. 104. In the history of Muhammed we read expressly of the cuirasses of himself and of his Arab troops. Seven cuirasses are noted in the list of Muhammed‘s private armory (Gagnier, vol. iii. p. 328-334). In his second battle with the Koreish, seven hundred of his little army are spoken of by Mr. Gibbon as armed with cuirasses. See Elliott, vol. i. p. 413. These illustrations will show with what propriety the locusts in the symbol were represented as having breastplates like breastplates of iron. On the supposition that this referred to the Arabs and the Saracens this would have been the very symbol which would have been used. Indeed, all the features in the symbol are precisely such as would properly be employed on the supposition that the reference was to them. It is true that beforehand it might not have been practicable to describe exactly what people were referred to, but:
(a)it would be easy to see that some fearful calamity was to be anticipated from the ravages of hosts of fearful invaders; and,
(b)when the events occurred, there would be no difficulty in determining to whom this application should be made.
(3) “the time when this would occur.” As to this there can be no difficulty in the application to the Saracens. On the supposition that the four first trumpets refer to the downfall of the Western empire, then the proper time supposed to be represented by this symbol is subsequent to that; and yet the manner in which the last three trumpets are introduced Revelation 8:13 shows that there would be an interval between the sounding of the last of the four trumpets and the sounding of the fifth. The events referred to, as I have supposed, as represented by the fourth trumpet, occurred in the close of the fifth century (476-490 a.d.). The principal events in the seventh century were connected with the invasions and conquests of the Saracens. The interval of a century is not more than the fair interpretation of the proclamation in Revelation 8:13 would justify.
(4) “the commission given to the symbolical locusts.” This embraces the following things:
(a)They were not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing;
(b)they were especially to go against those who had not the seal of God in their foreheads;
(c)they were not to kill them, but were to torment them.
“They were not to hurt the grass of the earth, ” see the notes at Revelation 9:4. This agrees remarkably with an express command in the Koran. The often-quoted order of the Caliph Aboubekir, the father-in-law and successor of Muhammed, issued to the Saracen hordes on their invasion of Syria, shows what was understood to be the spirit of their religion: “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 (‹and to them it was given that they should not kill them,‘ ver 5), nor destroy their monasteries,” etc. (Gibbon, iii. 417,418).
So Mr. Gibbon notices this precept of the Koran: “In the siege of Tayaf,” says he, “sixty miles from Mecca, Muhammed violated his own laws by the extirpation of the fruit-trees,” ii. 392. The same order existed among the Hebrews, and it is not improbable that Muhammed derived his precept from the command of Moses Deuteronomy 20:19, though what was mercy among the Hebrews was probably mere policy with him. This precept is the more remarkable because it has been the usual custom in war, and particularly among barbarians and semi-barbarians, to destroy grain and fruit, and especially to cut down fruit-trees, in order to do greater injury to an enemy. Thus, we have seen (notes on Revelation 8:7), that in the invasion of the Goths their course was marked by desolations of this kind. Thus, in more modern times, it has been common to carry the desolations of war into gardens, orchards, and vineyards. In the single province of Upper Messenia the troops of Muhammed Ali, in the war with Greece, cut down half a million of olive-trees, and thus stripped the country of its means of wealth. So Scio was a beautiful spot, the seat of delightful villas, and gardens, and orchards; and in one day all this beauty was destroyed. On the supposition, therefore, that this prediction had reference to the Saracens, nothing could be more appropriate. Indeed, in all the history of barbarous and savage warfare it would be difficult to find another distinct command that no injury should be done to gardens and orchards.
(d) Their commission was expressly against “those men who had not the seal of God in their foreheads.” See the notes on Revelation 9:4. That is, they were to go either against those who were not really the friends of God, or those who in their estimation were not. Perhaps, if there were nothing in the connection to demand a different interpretation, the former would be the most natural explanation of the passage; but the language way be understood as referring to the purpose which they considered themselves as called upon to execute: that is, that they were to go against those whom they regarded as being strangers to the true God, to wit, idolaters. Now it is well known that Muhammed considered himself called upon, principally, to make war with idolaters, and that he went forth, professedly, to bring them into subjection to the service of the true God. “The means of persuasion,” says Mr. Gibbon, “had been tried, the season of forbearance was elapsed, and he was now commanded to propagate his religion by the sword, to destroy the monuments of idolatry, and, without regarding the sanctity of days or months, to pursue the unbelieving nations of the earth,” iii. 387. “The fair option of friendship, or submission, or battle, was proposed to the enemies of Muhammed” (ibid.). “The sword,” says Muhammed, “is the key of heaven and hell; a drop of blood shed in the cause of God, a night spent in arms, is of more avail than two months of fasting and prayer: whosoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven; at the day of judgment his wounds shall be resplendent as vermilion, and odoriferous as musk; and the loss of his limbs shall be supplied by the wings of angels and cherubim” (Gibbon, iii. 387) The first conflicts waged by Muhammed were against the idolaters of his own country - those who can, on no supposition, be regarded as “having the seal of God in their foreheads”; his subsequent wars were against infidels of all classes; that is, against those whom he regarded as not having the “seal of God in their foreheads,” or as being the enemies of God.
(e) The other part of the commission was “not to kill, but to torment them.” See the notes at Revelation 9:5. Compare the quotation from the command of Aboubekir, as quoted above: “Let not the victory be stained with the blood of women and children.” “Let them alone, and neither kill them nor destroy their monasteries.” The meaning of this, if understood as applied to their commission against Christendom, would seem to be, that they were not to go forth to “kill,” but to “torment” them; to wit, by the calamities which they would bring upon Christian nations for a definite period. Indeed, as we have seen above, it was an express command of Aboubekir that they should not put those to death who were found leading quiet and peaceable lives in monasteries, though against another class he did give an express command to “cleave their skulls.” See Gibbon, iii. 418. As applicable to the conflicts of the Saracens with Christians, the meaning here would seem to be, that the power conceded to those who are represented by the locusts was not to cut off and to destroy the church, but it was to bring upon it various calamities to continue for a definite period.
Accordingly, some of the severest afflictions which have come upon the church have undoubtedly proceeded from the followers of the Prophet of Mecca. There were times in the early history of that religion when, to all human appearance, it would universally prevail, and wholly supplant the Christian church. But the church still survived, and no power was at any time given to the Saracenic hosts to destroy it altogether. In respect to this, some remarkable facts have occurred in history. The followers of the false prophet contemplated the subjugation of Europe, and the destruction of Christianity, from two quarters - the East and the West - expecting to make a junction of the two armies in the north of Italy, and to march down to Rome. Twice did they attack the vital part of Christendom by besieging Constantinople: first, in the seven years‘ siege, which lasted from 668 a.d. to 675 a.d.; and, secondly, in the years 716-718, when Leo the Isaurian was on the imperial throne.
But on both occasions they were obliged to retire defeated and disgraced - Gibbon, iii. 461ff. Again, they renewed their attack on the West. Having conquered Northern Africa, they passed over into Spain, subdued that country and Portugal, and extended their conquests as far as the Loire. At that time they designed to subdue France, and having united with the forces which they expected from the East, they intended to make a descent on Italy, and complete the conquest of Europe. This purpose was defeated by the valor of Charles Martel, and Europe and the Christian world were saved from subjugation (Gibbon, iii. 467, following). “A victorious line of march,” says Mr. Gibbon, “had been prolonged above a thousand miles, from the rock of Gibraltar to the banks of the Loire; the repetition of an equal space would have carried the Saracens to the confines of Poland and the Highlands of Scotland. The Rhine is not more impassable than the Nile or the Euphrates, and the Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Muhammed.” The arrest of the Saracen hosts before Europe was subdued, was what there was no reason to anticipate, and it even yet perplexes historians to be able to account for it.
The calm historian,” says Mr. Gibbon, “who strives to follow the rapid course of the Saracens, must study to explain by what means the church and state were saved from this impending, and, as it should seem, inevitable danger.” “These conquests,” says Mr. Hallam, “which astonish the careless and superficial, are less perplexing to a calm inquirer than their cessation - the loss of half the Roman empire than the preservation of the rest” (Middle Ages, ii. 3,169). These illustrations may serve to explain the meaning of the symbol - that their grand commission was not to annihilate or root out, but to annoy and afflict. Indeed, they did not go forth with a primary design to destroy. The announcement of the Mussulman always was “the Koran, the tribute, or the sword,” and when there was submission, either by embracing his religion or by tribute, life was always spared. “The fair option of friendship, or submission, or battle,” says Mr. Gibbon (iii. 387), “was proposed to the enemies of Muhammed.” Compare also vol. iii. 453,456. The torment mentioned here, I suppose, refers to the calamities brought upon the Christian world - on Egypt, and Northern Africa, and Spain, and Gaul, and the East - by the hordes which came out of Arabia, and which swept over all those countries like a troublesome and destructive host of locusts. Indeed, would any image better represent the effects of the Saracenic invasions than such a countless host of locusts? Even now, can we find an image that would better represent this?
(5) the leader of this host:
(a) 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.
(b) He was a king. That is, 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.
(c) The name Abaddon, or Apollyon - Destroyer, Revelation 9:11. This name would be appropriate to one who spread his conquests so far over the world; who wasted so many cities and towns; who overthrew so many kingdoms; and who laid the foundation of ultimate conquests by which so many human beings were sent to the grave.
(d) The description of the leader “as the angel of the bottomless pit,” Revelation 9:11. If this be regarded as meaning that “the angel of the bottomless pit” - the spirit of darkness himself - originated the scheme, and animated these hosts, what term would better characterize the leader? And if it be a poetic description of Muhammed as sent out by that presiding spirit of evil, how could a better representative of the spirit of the nether world have been sent out upon the earth than he was - one more talented, more sagacious, more powerful, more warlike, more wicked, more suited to subdue the nations of the earth to the dominion of the Prince of Darkness, and to hold them for ages under his yoke?
(6) the duration of the torment. It is said Revelation 9:5 that this would be five months; that is, prophetically, 150 years. See the notes on Revelation 9:5. The Hegira, or flight of Muhammed, occurred 622 a.d.; the Saracens first issued from the desert into Syria, and began their series of wars on Christendom, 629 a.d. Reckoning from these periods respectively, the five months, or 150 years, would extend to 772 or 779 a.d. It is not necessary to understand this period of 150 years of the actual continued existence of the bodies symbolized by the locusts, but only of the period in which they would inflict their “torment” - “that they should be tormented five months.” That is, this would be the period of the intensity of the woe inflicted by them; there would be at that time some marked intermission of the torrent. The question then is, whether, in the history of the Saracens, there was any period after their career of conquest had been continued for about a hundred and fifty years, which would mark the intermission or cessation of these “torments.”
If so, then this is all that is necessary to determine the applicability of the symbol to the Arabian hordes. Now, in reply to this question, we have only to refer to Mr. Gibbon. The table of contents profixed to chapters forty-one and forty-two of his work would supply all the information desired. I looked at that table, after making the estimate as to what period the “five months,” or hundred and fifty years, would conduct us to, to see whether anything occurred at about that time in the Muhammedan power and influence, which could be regarded as marking the time of the intermission or cessation of the calamities inflicted by the Arabic hordes on the Christian world. After Mr. Gibbon had recorded in detail (vol. iii. 360-460) the character and conquests of the Arabian hordes under Muhammed and his successors, I find the statement of the decline of their power at just about the period to which the hundred and fifty years would lead us, for at that very time an important change came over the followers of the prophet of Mecca turning them from the love of conquest to the pursuits of literature and science.
From that period they ceased to be formidable to the church; their limits were gradually contracted; their power diminished; and the Christian world, in regard to them, was substantially at peace. This change in the character and purposes of the Saracens is thus described by Mr. Gibbon, at the close of the reign of the caliph Abdalrahman, whose reign commenced 755 a.d., and under whom the peaceful sway of the Ommiades of Spain began, which continued for a period of two hundred and fifty years. “The luxury of the caliphs, so useless to their private happiness, relaxed the nerves, and terminated the progress, of the Arabian empire. Temporal and spiritual conquest had been the sole occupation of the first successors of Muhammed; and after supplying themselves with the necessaries of life, the whole revenue was scrupulously devoted to that salutary work. The Abassides were impoverished by the multitude of their needs, and their contempt of economy. Instead of pursuing the great object of ambition, their leisure, their affections, and the powers of their minds were diverted by pomp and pleasure: the rewards of valor were embezzled by women and eunuchs, and the royal camp was encumbered by the luxury of the palace. A similar temper was diffused among the subjects of the caliph. Their stern enthusiasm was softened by time and prosperity: they sought riches in the occupations of industry, fame in the pursuits of literature, and happiness in the tranquility of domestic life.
War was no longer the passion of the Saracens; and the increase of pay, the repetition of donatives, were insufficient to allure the posterity of those voluntary champions who had crowded to the standard of Aboubekir and Omar for the hopes of spoil and of paradise,” iii. 477,478. Of the Ommiades, or princes who succeeded Abdalrahman, Mr. Gibbon remarks in general - “Their mutual designs or declarations of war evaporated without effect; but instead of opening a door to the conquest of Europe, Spain was dissevered from the trunk of the monarchy, engaged in perpetual hostility with the East, and inclined to peace and friendship with the Christian sovereigns of Constantinople and France,” iii. p. 472. How much does this look like some change occurring by which they would cease to be a source of “torment” to the nations with whom they now dwelt! From this period they gave themselves to the arts of peace; cultivated literature and science; lost entirely their spirit of conquest, and their ambition for universal dominion, until they gradually withdrew, or were driven, from those parts of the Christian world where they had inspired most terror, and which in the days of their power and ambition they had invaded. By turning merely to the “table of contents” of Mr. Gibbon‘s history, the following periods, occurring at about the time that would be embraced in the “five months,” or hundred and fifty years, are distinctly marked:
d 668-675First siege of Constantinople by the Arabs.
d 677Peace and tribute.
d 716-718Second siege of Constantinople.
d 716-718Failure and retreat of the Saracens.
d 716-718Invention and use of the Greek fire.
d 721Invasion of France by the Arabs.
d 732Defeat of the Saracens by Charles Martel.
d 732They retreat before the Franks.
d 746-750The elevation of the Abassides.
d 750Fall of the Ommiades.
d 755Revolt of Spain.
d 755Triple division of the caliphate.
d 750-960Magnificence of the caliphs.
d 750-960Its consequences on private and public happiness.
d 754 etc.Introduction of learning among the Arabians.
d 754 etc.Their real progress in the sciences.”
It will be seen from this that the decline of their military and civil power; their defeats in their attempts to subjugate Europe; their turning their attention to the peaceful pursuits of literature and science, synchronize remarkably with the period that would be indicated by the five months, or 150 years. It should be added, also, that in the year 762, Almanzor, the caliph, built Bagdad, and made it the capital of the Saracen empire. Henceforward that became the seat of Arabic learning, luxury, and power, and the wealth and talent of the Saracen empire were gradually drawn to that capital, and they ceased to vex and annoy the Christian world. The building of Bagdad occurred within just ten years of the time indicated by the “five months” - reckoning that from the Hegira, or flight of Muhammed; or reckoning from the time when Muhammed began to preach (609 ad - Gibbon, iii. 383), it wanted only three years of coinciding exactly with the period.
These considerations show with what propriety the fifth trumpet - the symbol of the locusts - is referred to the Arabian hordes under the guidance of Muhammed and his successors. On the supposition that it was the design of John to symbolize these events, the symbo has been chosen which of all others was best adapted to the end. If, now that these events are past, we should endeavor to find some symbol which would appropriately represent them, we could not find one that would be more striking or appropriate than what is here employed by John.
In the New York Journal of Commerce of November 14, 1833, appeared a long article regarding this wonderful phenomenon, containing this statement: “No philosopher or scholar has told or recorded an event, I suppose, like that of yesterday morning. A prophet eighteen hundred years ago foretold it exactly, if we will be at the trouble of understanding stars falling to mean falling stars, ... in the only sense in which it is possible to be literally true.” GC 334.1
Thus was displayed the last of those signs of His coming, concerning which Jesus bade His disciples: “When ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.” Matthew 24:33. After these signs, John beheld, as the great event next impending, the heavens departing as a scroll, while the earth quaked, mountains and islands removed out of their places, and the wicked in terror sought to flee from the presence of the Son of man. Revelation 6:12-17. GC 334.2
Many who witnessed the falling of the stars, looked upon it as a herald of the coming judgment, “an awful type, a sure forerunner, a merciful sign, of that great and dreadful day.”—“The Old Countryman,” in Portland Evening Advertiser, November 26, 1833. Thus the attention of the people was directed to the fulfillment of prophecy, and many were led to give heed to the warning of the second advent. GC 334.3Read in context »