the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the
moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third
of the day did not shine, and likewise the night. And I looked, and I heard an
angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe,
woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the
trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!” Revelation 8:12–13.
we find when the fourth trumpet sounds is the visible church-at-large in a
completely fallen state. A third of the sun, moon, and stars were struck
resulting in darkness. We know from our study of the Revelation so far that
these heavenly bodies represent the word of God in some form. We understand the
sun to be the New Testament, the moon to be the Old Testament, and the stars are
the ministry sent to guide the church with the light of God’s word.
about 600 AD apostasy had become so engrained in the visible church and ritual
had been substituted for the experience of salvation. So, within the limits of
the visible church-at-large there was nothing but darkness. However, notice that
the darkness was not total; only thirds had been affected. From this we see
God’s judgment on the apostasy that has taken down a portion of the church
that professes to be the church of God. Matthew Henry makes five significant
points on this darkness:
Where the gospel comes to a people, and is but coldly received, and has not its
proper effects upon their hearts and lives, it is usually followed with dreadful
judgments. (2.) God gives warning to men of his judgments before he sends them;
he sounds an alarm by the written word, by ministers, by men’s own
consciences, and by the signs of the times; so that, if a people be surprised,
it is their own fault. (3.) The anger of God against a people makes dreadful
work among them; it embitters all their comforts, and makes even life itself
bitter and burdensome. (4.) God does not in this world stir up all his wrath,
but sets bounds to the most terrible judgments. (5.) Corruptions of doctrine and
worship in the church are themselves great judgments, and the usual causes and
tokens of other judgments coming on a people.
looks not just at the moment. At the time of the fourth trumpet God looks back
over almost 6 centuries of the gospel during which time He has constantly given
warning and alarm as the zeal for truth and righteousness was declining. Now
that the visible church-at-large has gone into total apostasy the anger of God
is loosed causing a situation where God says, “You do not want the truth so I
am taking it away from you.” Without the light of God’s word corruptions of
doctrine and worship become entrenched to such a degree that they can never be
taken away. However, as Dr. Henry points out, God sets bounds even on the most
terrible judgments. Only one-third of the light goes out meaning there is still
light. Without going into detail, the light that remained was seen by such men
as John Wycliffe and John Huss. Albert Barnes helps us with this comment:
is not as if the sun, the moon, and the stars were entirely blotted out, for
there was still some remaining light: that is, there was a continuance of the
existing state of things—as if these heavenly bodies should still give an
obscure and partial light. Perhaps it is also intended by the symbol, that there
would be light again. The world was not to go into a state of total and
of the Sun, Moon and Stars
back at the fourth seal, we saw this apostate church represented by a pale horse
whose rider is Death. The horse was the color of death and its rider was the
personification of death. We will also recall in the letter to the church at
Thyatira that this rider was called Jezebel. Death follows this dead
church-at-large and it was said of Jezebel that she, that is the leaders of the
apostate church, causes her followers to commit adultery with her and descend to
the depths of Satan.
Jezebel represents the papacy that arose to take the vast majority of the
visible church-at-large out from under the rule of Christ. While the Roman
church claims a lineage of popes intact from the person of the Apostle Peter,
this is essentially fiction. In reality, the total power of the Bishop of Rome
over the church-at-large began with Gregory the Great in 590 AD. It is said that
Gregory was the last of the Church Fathers and the first of the medieval popes.
fourth trumpet says that because of the darkening of the sun, moon, and stars, a
third of the day and the night did not shine. When the church abandons the truth
of God’s word severe consequences happen to the integrity of that church.
sufficient light, the most trivial things become mountains that become dividing
points. The Roman Church and the Greek Church, both in the same darkness, found
a point of doctrine over which to divide and further destroy the influence of
Christianity during the Middle Ages. The Roman Church said the Holy Spirit
proceeds from both the Father and the Son; the Greek Church said the Holy Spirit
proceeds from only the Father. In 606 AD the division between the Roman Catholic
Church and the Greek Orthodox Church took place over this issue and both
churches anathematized each other as heretics.
we use the figure of a 24-hour day to mean the Middle Ages, considering the
Roman Church as the day and the Greek Church as the night (or turn them around),
both were apostate and did not shine for the entire day of the Middle Ages.
the visible church-at-large was totally apostate, there was still some light of
God’s word that was shining. During the mediaeval age several separatist and
independent groups emerged, such as the Cathari, the Beguines, and the Waldenses.
These were populations in Europe that rebelled against the authority of the pope
and the corruption of the bishops and priests. These groups had views on the
gospel that reached back to a purer church, although in cases there were some
unique and even heretical understandings of doctrine and practice. However, even
with some oddities, they were far closer to the truth of God’s word than the
apostate church. For this they were sorely persecuted.
of the Fallen Church
Jezebel nature of the papacy and its priesthood is said to seduce people to
commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. The Roman Church
had far more influence in Europe and expanded its influence much further than
did the Orthodox Church. While both have their Jezebel elements, those elements
are more obvious and pervasive in the Roman Church.
sexual immorality attributed to this Jezebel ministry in the letter to Thyatira
represents the spiritual corruption of the apostate church. In the gospels Jesus
taught that sexual immorality violates and breaks the marriage bond. (Matthew
19:9) The church is the bride of Christ. A false gospel has the same effect on
the bond between Christ and the church as adultery has on a marriage.
feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as
a pure bride to her one husband. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived
Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure
devotion to Christ. For if some one comes and preaches another Jesus than the
one we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received,
or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you submit to it
readily enough. (2 Corinthians 11:2–4, RSV)
is the legal head of His church and the husband of His bride, the church.
Fornication occurred when the Bishop of Rome was declared the Universal Pope,
Vicar of Christ and effectively took the visible church away from its true
husband. Shaff writes of the morals of the clergy at this time: “Clerical
immorality reached the lowest depth in the tenth and eleventh centuries, when
Rome was a sink of iniquity, and the popes themselves set the worst example.”
The gospel had become completely lost in the ministry of the church and was
The mass as the repetition of the sacrifice of Christ for sins of
both the living and the dead.
The sermon became the reading of writings of the church fathers.
Even this was often neglected. Shaff comments on the quality of the preaching:
“The great majority of priests were too ignorant to prepare a sermon, and
barely understood the Latin liturgical forms.”
The seven sacraments: baptism, the Eucharist, confirmation,
penance, marriage, ordination, and extreme unction.
The worship of saints
The worship of images and relics.
this time the visible church ceased to be Christian and became pagan draped in
the rags of nominal Christian trappings. The sun, moon and stars were darkened.
No light shined in the day and in the night—the Roman Church and the Orthodox
Church. It is tragic that without the light of God’s word people just become
religious and do not realize the salvation that God makes possible through Jesus
Christ. We cannot say that no one was saved during the Middle Ages, but real
salvation was scarce. There are notable examples of people that were truly born
again but for the most part they were persecuted and put to death.
“Woe” Means Hoper for the People of God
dark a picture that is sounded by the fourth trumpet, its final notes give hope
to God’s people during this time.
I looked, and I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a
loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the
remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”
angels of the church, the stars that were not shining, are challenged by an
angel that cries out to the church. This angel obviously represents a
reformation that was percolating within the corruption of the visible church.
This angel represents men such as John Wycliffe and John Huss who translated the
Bible into their native languages and preached and wrote tracts on the real
gospel. They died before the actual
Reformation but their work stirred people and prepared them for the Reformation
that did come. Their work is described as “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of
the earth.” The remaining blasts of the next three angels will expose this
earthly church and call out God’s people to the true gospel of salvation from
did a church built by Jesus with the promise that the gates of hell would not
prevail against it fall so deeply into apostasy from which it would never
first trumpet reminded us that the success of the conquering church is the
commitment to follow its head and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, regardless of
the cost. They quit following Jesus.
second trumpet warned us of the danger of success in the battle against error.
We can become too confident in our religious and church abilities and start
following ourselves instead of Christ. They saw themselves as the only ones that
third trumpet warns us not to change the gospel message of salvation from sin
and the holy life. When people do not hear of repentance and faith in Christ
they become bitter because they have religion without salvation.
the fourth trumpet warns us against a ministry with no light of the gospel. Such
a ministry marries people to a false Christ and leads them into idolatry and
we also see that Christ works against apostasy and in time restores the true
bride of Christ, His church. Even in this last time of the seventh seal with all
the spiritual corruption that surrounds us we have the hope that Christ will
again restore the visible bride of Christ and prepare us for His second coming.