LAWTON CHURCH OF GOD, LAWTON OKLAHOMA

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THE FIFTH TRUMPET, PART 1

 

 

Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit. Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them. The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. They had hair like women's hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle. They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months.  And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon. One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things. Revelation 9:1–12.

 

Three woes were pronounced on the inhabitants of the earth under the fourth trumpet. This is the first woe.

When we listened to the fourth trumpet we heard an angel crying out the woe message and suggested that this angel was a precursor to the Reformation. There is a lot of activity under the fifth trumpet. We see a star fall from heaven to earth; A bottomless pit from which smoke rises to cover the earth; we see locusts coming out of the pit whose task was to hurt men for five months; we learn of the strange appearance of these locusts; and we get to meet the angel of the bottomless pit.

 

The Protestant Reformation

 

The fifth trumpet sounds bringing the Protestant Reformation into view and what do we see? A star fall from heaven to the earth. This almost sounds like the third and fourth trumpets. The truth is that the visible church-at-large liked the tunes played by those trumpets as it drew further away from God over a period of about 1000 years. Now we see the Reformation but we are quickly made to see that even though God restored the light of the gospel under the Reformation, what came out was not totally the restoration of the biblical church.

Many godly men took bold stands against the pope and the Roman Church; they proclaimed justification by faith and sanctification through the new birth. But, they were used to the man-rule that had become so much the part of the visible church-at-large that they followed the pattern that had been set before them. The result of this was a star falling from heaven and opening the bottomless pit.

It seems unkind and judgmental to classify men such as Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin as a fallen star. These were devout men that feared God and loved the truth of God’s word to the degree they were able to comprehend. There are certain things attendant to their works that were wrong, but before condemning any of them too strongly it must be remembered what environments they came out of and the terrible circumstances under which they lived. They were not correct in everything they taught or did, but God used them to revive critical truths of the gospel and the work of salvation.

It was not so much that these men were the fallen star, they were the beginning of that star and it was those that followed them that descended from heaven to the earth.

The Protestant Reformation was active during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It began in central Europe. It was a time of great conflict and persecution for those that left the Roman Church. The negative of the Reformation was directed at the corruption of the Church of Rome, papalism, and religious practices that obscured the gospel, mainly the mass and the sale of indulgences. The positive of the Reformation was the restoration of the gospel truth of salvation emphasizing justification by faith and sanctification through the new birth and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

As the initial phase of the Reformation cooled a greater emphasis was placed on the differentiation of the Protestant churches even though their creeds were quite similar for the most part. Rather than one united Protestant church, Protestant churches chose to become the state churches in the countries where they existed. There were numerous attempts at unity, and there was a general acceptance among the churches, yet they chose to remain separate.

 

The Lack of Unity

 

The lack of practical unity among the Protestants had an unintended consequence. When Jesus established His church He gave it the keys of the kingdom of heaven as recorded in Matthew 16:19, “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

The Reformers understood that the keys to the kingdom of heaven means the preaching of the gospel. As the gospel is presented to people, if they reject it that rejection is recorded in heaven and they are bound to the consequences of rejecting God’s plan of salvation. As the gospel is presented to people, if they accept it that acceptance is recorded in heaven in the Lamb’s book of life. The Reformers understood this, nevertheless their lack of practical unity resulted in another key being given to them. Instead of the keys to the kingdom of heaven they are given the key to the bottomless pit.

What is the bottomless pit? The Greek word pit means a well or a pit dug in the earth for water. The word bottomless means without any bottom. Putting the words together it is a deep and obscure place the depth of which is unknown. This bottomless pit describes the bulk of churches that came into existence during the Reformation.

Jesus built His church on a sure foundation. Paul affirms this foundation in 1 Corinthians 3:11, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” In Ephesians 2:19–22 Paul reminds the Ephesian church of their foundation so that they would not be moved off of it.

 

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

 

Remember that Jesus gave the church the keys to the kingdom of heaven, which statement was made to the apostles. Here Paul includes that fact in the foundation: Jesus Christ the chief corner stone and the work He did through the Apostles to establish the church.

Even though the Reformation churches taught the gospel of salvation from sin through faith, instead of receiving the keys to the kingdom of God they were given the key to the bottomless pit. Instead of building the new churches on the foundation of Christ and the Apostles they chose to take the state, the national government of their various countries, for their foundation. Unintentionally, the built their churches on a deep and obscure place the depth of which is unknown: a bottomless pit.

 

The Smoke

 

Not only was their foundation wrong, smoke came out of this bottomless pit that darkened the sun and the air. This smoke is the creeds that were devised to document the various doctrinal positions of the churches.

The Augsburg Confession is often thought of as the first Protestant creed. It was written by Martin Luther in 1530. However, this creed was preceded by the Sixty-Seven Articles of Ulrich Zwingli written in 1523 and Luther wrote a catechism in 1529.

Each of the national churches had a creed, articles of confession, and/or a catechism that were essentially the same as all the other churches with minor differences in wording or the arrangement of the articles. However, there were some significant differences that stood in the way of unity other than the national distinctions:

1.      The significance and meaning of the Lord’s Supper.

2.      Baptismal regeneration.

3.      Predestination and perseverance of believers.

4.      Church organization: episcopal, presbyterian, congregational.

In addition to the national churches, many independent churches came into being. Later in the sixteenth century there was a division in the Calvinistic churches, especially the Dutch Reformed Church, over predestination and free will that produced the Arminian Articles in 1610 and eventually led to the Wesleyan revivals in England in the eighteenth century. Most of these creeds are biblically sound and correct in most of their content but in spite of the truth they contained they were smoke that obscured the sun and filled the air. The truths they contained established their people in the gospel truth as they came out of the spiritual darkness of Romanism. But in spite of plain teachings on the church and its unity in Christ, the creeds were grounds for divisions that prevented such unity.

As the leaders of the Reformation died and new generations replaced them the churches fell into the formality similar to what they had left. In most cases they national churches functioned more as the religious arm of the national government rather than as the white horse going forth conquering and to conquer. In fact, the smoke of the creeds did not produce such horses; rather, it produced locusts.