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THE SECOND TRUMPET

 

 

The second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood, and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed.

 

We saw that when the first trumpet sounded there was some destruction that followed. The message of the first trumpet burned up one-third of the trees and all green grass. This destruction was good in that it represented the conversion to Christianity significant portions of Jews and Gentiles as the church followed Christ, its leader, and was deeply committed to His word. The second trumpet sounds and is also followed by some destruction; however, in this case, the destruction is not a good thing.

 

Something Like a Great Mountain

 

The thing that was immediately affected by the sounding of the trumpet was “something like a great mountain.” The writer of Hebrews likens the church to a great mountain in Hebrews 12:18, 22–24,

 

For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, . . . But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

 

Writer’s purpose is to guard the church against apostasy. First he establishes the similarity between Mt. Sinai of the Old Testament and the church of the New Testament given under the symbol of Mt. Zion. On Mt. Sinai God’s word was given that confirmed the sinfulness of the human race and in establishing the church, the New Testament Mt. Zion, God’s word was given that introduced redemption from sin. He ascribes 6 characteristics to the New Testament Mt. Zion:

 

1.         It is the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem;

2.         It is an innumerable company of angels—those that are truly in God’s service;

3.         It is the church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven—that is to say, the Lamb’s book of life.

4.         It is coming to God the righteous Judge of all mankind to whom all mankind will give account.

5.         It is coming to the assembly of people that have been made perfect—that is, complete in Christ, saved from sin.

6.         And it is coming to Jesus, Who is both our Advocate with God and our Savior from sin.

 

The second trumpet is a warning against apostasy. What was affected by the trumpet was not Mt. Zion itself, but something LIKE a great mountain. Jesus said that the gates of hell cannot prevail against His church. There is nothing coming from outside that can take the church down. Since the church is made up of real people, the only thing that can harm the church is something that comes from within its ranks. Apostasy is and has always been the greatest danger the church has ever faced.

The article on apostasy from Dictionary of Theological Terms by Alan Cairns explains apostasy for us:

 

Greek apostasia, “a falling away,” a revolt or defection from the truth of God. 2 Thessalonians 2:3 indicates that apostates will welcome the Antichrist when he is revealed. The use of the word in Acts 21:21 shows that it properly describes a forsaking of the great truths of the written word. Historically, the first great area of apostasy was in Christology. Apostasy’s first attack was on the incarnate Word of God. The next was on the written word. Textual corruption was often introduced into the canonical Scriptures to manufacture support from some aberrant view of a point of doctrine. At a very early stage, the scene was set for sacerdotalism and sacramentalism. The identification of the church with the Roman Empire was a major factor in her drift into apostasy, but undoubtedly the falling away from Biblical purity was mostly due to the erection of the monstrous system of papal tyranny that finally overran the Western church.[1]

 

The Rider With a Great Sword

 

The second seal revealed instead of Jesus on a white horse, the visible church had another rider and the horse’s color had changed to red. The rider had a great sword and used it to take peace from the earth and turn people against each other. The letter to the church at Smyrna says this happened due to the infiltration “of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”

The seed of apostasy is heresy, or the corruption of true and correct teaching. The first heresy the church faced was Gnosticism, which denied the human nature of Christ—the Christology of which Cairns speaks. The battle was effectively fought during the lifetimes of the original Apostles as can be seen in the epistles of the New Testament. However proponents of Gnosticism continued to work their influence. Harold Brown notes in his book on heresies: “We may date this crisis in the half century between the time that the old Roman (Apostles’) Creed began to come into use, around 125, and Irenaeus’ composition of Against Heresies (180–189).”[2]

Jesus Christ repels all attempts of the devil to prevail against His church and every action of Christ against the devil is successful even though it might not appear successful by human opinions.

The writer of Hebrews describes Christ’s actions against those that try to infiltrate His church in Hebrews 12:25–29,

 

See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, "Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven." Now this, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.

 

Christ’s voice shakes the earth and the heaven, quoting from Haggai 2:6. That is, the church standing firm on the gospel and the word of God exposes heresy for what it is—earthly error and not heavenly truth. As Christ’s gospel shook the unbelieving earth during His earthly ministry and in the early centuries of the church, under the second trumpet it shakes both the earth and the heaven, “Yet once more, which indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.” (Verse 27)

This shaking is described in the second trumpet as “something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea.” The battle against heresy was a protracted battle that lasted for centuries. Hebrews 12:28 tells us we have a kingdom, or a mountain, which cannot be shaken. The gates of hell cannot prevail against the church Jesus built. As the church confronts the various heresies that arise over the centuries, which is a period that lasts from the late third century to the time of the Nicene Creed in 425 AD, the fire of the word of God under the power of the Holy Spirit is successful in shaking the advocates of those heresies out of the church. For example we have this comment from the Apostle Paul concerning heretics in Romans 16:17–20,

 

Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

 

And specifically concerning Gnosticism we have the comments of John in 1 John 4:1–3,

 

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.

 

And John closes his comments regarding Gnosticism with this terse statement in verse 6, “By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”

 

Thrown Into the Sea

 

The heretics and their followers are the something like a great mountain that was burned with fire and thrown into the sea. In our study of the sixth seal we learned that the sea represents an element of mankind that is not among the redeemed; specifically, it is the church world without salvation—Christianity in name only.

While the church was learning the power of anathema during this time, it was the fire or the voice of God that was actually throwing the heresies and heretics out of the church.

Where did the heretics go? They led their followers into their own churches. These were largely individual congregations or congregations in regions where the heretics had influence. The church had only known itself by the name of the church of God, and the heretics continued to call their churches by that name—there were no denominational names taken by any of these churches.

What was the condition of these heretical churches? “A third of the sea became blood.” Not everyone in these congregations subscribed to the heresies; in fact, most of the common people did not actually understand the significance of the heresies they were being taught and were essentially untouched by them. However, the leaders and active supporters of the heresies held to these teachings and rejected the true word of God on the points at issue. The result was that they became blood.

Again looking at Hebrew 12 verse 24 it says that the church are those that have come “to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.” The blood of Abel cried out against Cain, who had murdered him. The blood of Christ is sacred under the gospel, and the heretics that denied the truths concerning Christ became guilty of the blood of Christ—they denied Him and crucified Him afresh. While many in those particular churches remained true to the orthodox teaching, many followed their leaders and are included with the third of the living creatures in the sea that died in verse 9.

A third of the ships were destroyed. Ships carry cargo and are representative of ministers that carry the message of their church. During this time, the influence of the heretics was significantly damaged and was not able to overthrow the true church.

 

The Ephesian Pitfall

 

However, remember that the rider of the red horse took peace and killed people with a sword. The leadership of the church fell into the pitfall of the Ephesian church in that they loved the battle more than they loved Christ the result of which was a synagogue of Satan developed in which correct doctrine was substituted for a genuine conversion experience of salvation.

In time the scene was set for sacerdotalism and sacramentalism as mentioned by Cairns. The ministry was taking on the nature of a priesthood that supposedly administered salvation in the name of Christ. Salvation was becoming a matter of participating in sacraments, mainly, the Eucharist or the mass.

 

The WHY Behind Apostasy

 

The second trumpet shows us the WHY behind apostasy. As errors in teaching attack the truth of the gospel it is all too easy for men to take the battle out of the Lord’s hand into their own hands.

We must first learn to recognize the differences between opinion and manner of expression as opposed to real error and false teaching. There is the tendency to think that our way of explaining a teaching is the only way and that anything that differs is false doctrine. We tend not to listen to each other. Instead of cutting off people, it would be wise to sit down and ask them, “What do you mean?” It might be surprising to learn that we mean the same thing but express it differently.

On the other hand, we cannot allow a synagogue of Satan to develop; that is, to allow “those who say they are Jews and are not” to function as part of the church. Nowadays the Biblical church is dispersed among so much that is called Christianity. We really want to see a coming together of the redeemed in a visible sense but we must keep a right attitude and have the spirit of discernment working in our midst.

 

 



[1] Cairns, Alan,  Dictionary of Theological Terms,  Ambassador Emerald International: Belfast, Greenville,  2002,  pp. 36–37.

[2] Brown, Harold O. J.,  Heresies,  Hendrickson Publishers: Peabody, MA,  1998,  p. 55.