Sunday, February 21, 2016

A Review of Revelation -- Part 8 -- A Call to Repentance: further thoughts on the four trumpets and discussion of two of the last three trumps

The plains of Megiddo (source).

[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6] [Part 7] [Part 8] [Part 9] [Part 10] [Part 11] [Part 12]

The last installment in this series discussed Chapter 8 of Revelation and touched on the first four of seven trumpets that follow the opening of the seventh seal. 

To briefly recap, when the Seventh Seal was opened, there was silence in Heaven for a space of a half hour: this could be an actual half-hour, or, using the information from the scriptures of a 1,000 year to 1 day time differential between earth and Heaven, it could represent an approximate 21 year period on earth. At the end of the period of silence, four angels sound trumpets in succession: after the first, there is a fall of hail and fire mingled with blood that burned up a third of the trees and all the grass; the second was followed by the fall of burning mountain into the sea so that a third of the sea became blood and destroying a third of the life and ships in the oceans; after the third trumpet, the star called wormwood fell, poisoning a third of the lakes and rivers; and after the fourth angel sounded, the sun, moon and third part of the stars were darkened, they did not shine for a third part of the day and night.

The four trumps described above could result from a single natural disaster or type of disaster. I've noted before the environmental impact from major volcanic eruptions, including the 1815 Mt. Tambora explosion, the Rinjani eruption of 1257 or 1258 (see also here), and the Laki eruption in 1783. See also my post entitled "Boom" which discusses the impact of a super volcano in the last portion of the article. The point is that a major volcanic explosion (or series of explosions) would throw tremendous amounts of material into the air, including dust and chemicals which would form sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid and hydroflouric acid. This haze would not only dim or reduce the amount of sunlight, but reduce temperatures. We could expect major crop shortages around the world. And, as noted in relation to these historical eruptions, we could see animals literally being dissolved from acid fallout, and streams and lakes poisoned. Four trumpets suggests the possibility of four eruptions.

Brandt emphasizes in his book that we should not take the repeated references of a "third" as necessarily literal, but as an indication that the Lord will put a limit on the impact of these calamities: "these calamities will not, at least initially, overtake the inhabitants of earth." Brandt goes on to indicate that "[i]n His mercy and love, the Lord warns and reproves, providing ample opportunity for mankind to observe and repent." Brandt quotes at length from Joseph F. Smith (for those that are not LDS, he was a later president of the Church, not to be confused with Joseph Smith or yet another president of the Church named Joseph Fielding Smith), who wrote:
Judgment is not an end in itself. Calamities are only permitted by a merciful Father, in order to bring about redemption. Behind the fearful storms of judgment, which often strikes the just and unjust alike, overwhelming the wicked and the righteous, there arises bright and clear the dawn of the day of salvation ... What He permitted to occur seems clearly to have been for the purpose of calling attention, by the finger of His power, to the wickedness and sings of men--not alone to the sins of the people of the stricken city, for there are many elsewhere who are just as evil minded, but to the transgressions of all mankind, that all may take warning and repent. Men who stand in the way of God's wise purposes, whether they be good or evil, must suffer in the turmoil. Thus it is that often the righteous suffer for the unrighteous; and it is not satisfactory to the thinking mind to say that therefore God is unjust. The perfect Christ suffered, the just for the unjust.
Or as the Anonymous Conservative might describe it, these disasters are intended to stimulate our amygdala and, thus, cause us to act in the face of possible danger and return us to the conservative K-strategy that has served us so well in the past.

Brandt suggests that the "half hour" of silence is the final time for the missionaries and members to preach the gospel. As I indicated in my prior post on this topic, after the testimony of the missionary and members will come the testimony of the Lord: i.e., the four trumps. Chapter 8 then closes with verse 13, which reads:
And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!
This appears to be yet another time and opportunity given by the Lord to the inhabitants of the Earth to repent.

Moving into the final three woes, Brandt observes that "[a]s devastating as the natural disasters foreseen by John may be, the sorrow brought to the world because of personal wickedness and the ravages of war eclipse the natural disasters by several fold." (Underline added).  Chapter 9 of the Revelation reads:
 1 And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. 
 2 And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. 
 3 And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 
 4 And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. 
 5 And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. 
 6 And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them. 
 7 And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. 
 8 And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. 
 9 And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. 
 10 And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months. 
 11 And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon. 
 12 One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter. 
 13 And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, 
 14 Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. 
 15 And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men. 
 16 And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them. 
 17 And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. 
 18 By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths. 
 19 For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt. 
 20 And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: 
 21 Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
The reference to "a star" falling from heaven apparently signifies a spiritual being (see e.g., Job 38:7) who will have the power to open the bottomless pit. It likely refers to Satan (aka Lucifer) who was cast from heaven. (See Isaiah 14:12 and 15; Luke 10:18; Rom. 9:22) (See also Abraham 3; D&C 75:25; D&C 76:26 and 33). Brandt explains: "John's symbolism means that the devil is accorded dominion over the hosts of hell--those souls who have subjected themselves to his will."

The term pit is associated in the scriptures with hell: a place of torment. The Greek phrasing used literally means the "bottemless pit," or the deepest chasms of Hades. "Clearly John's imagery of this first woe is figurative  and also quite disconcerting. He depicts a time in the last days when wickedness covers the earth as a plague, the devil has control over many of the inhabitants to stir up chaos and mischief, bringing torment and sorrow as he enslaves them in gross wickedness and fights against righteousness." Rather than "figurative," I believe that a better understanding is achieved if we realize that John's perception of these events are "spiritual" rather than, necessarily, physical: i.e., John is seeing what lies beyond our senses--what is really going on behind the scenes.

Brandt compares the plume of smoke to the "mists of darkness" that Nephi saw in his vision; that is, "an oppressive veil of spiritual blackness that blinds men's minds and leads them into forbidden paths where they are lost." These are the spiritual counterpart of the blinding mists that darkened the sun and moon in Chapter 7.  Brandt writes:
The fallen angel stokes the fires of deception and sets out snares of entrapment. He has worked for decades to interject false principles, perversions, and anger into the world through lies, temptations and by means of his satanic minions. The result is darkened minds and angry souls.
* * * 
The smoke's purpose is to smother goodness and truth. ...
* * * 
Eventually, if society wanders in the haze long enough, it begins to acclimate and forget the glorious vistas that lie above the filthy smog. ...
He also warns that the members of the Church are not exempt from this spiritual darkness, but it poses a risk to anyone that does not hold to the iron rod.

With the smoke arises a swarm of locust. Brandt explains that "[t]he Hebrew word for locust, arbeth ..., means 'many' and most often refers to a black swarm of devouring locusts that frequently spread across the land," devastating all in their path. He further explains:
Young locust nymphs, usually called hoppers (grasshoppers), are by themselves relatively harmless as they live and feed in small groups or in isolation. But the combination of abundant rain, food, and other favorable climatic factors can create conditions where hoppers multiply into large numbers. [Ed: the circumstances that give rise to r-strategies]. The resulting hordes begin to crowd together and interact more frequently one with another. These associations stimulate metabolic and behavioral changes that cause the insects to transform from solitary and relatively benign creatures to aggressive, gregarious legions of marauders. The transformation brings both physical and behavioral metamorphosis, changing the hopper into a locust. Frequently, their colors alter from green to yellow exhibiting patches of reds or oranges as signs to would-be predators that they are now toxic and should not be eaten. Some actually develop poison within their organs making them unsavory and harmful; and this venom serves to drive their militant behavior. 
The transformation from hopper to locust presents an important symbolic lesson to the reader. The wickedness of an individual, while harmful, has limited scope in society. As evil grows and dark behavior becomes the cultural norm, societies undergo behavioral and even physical changes. Evil in humanity amplifies geometrically and with it comes perniciousness and misery; spiritual devastation plagues the inhabitants. John's vision of the locust swarm symbolizes a terrible transformation in the last days. Society which was once largely guided by the light of Christ, has become as swarms of unclean spirits, slaves to sin, consorting collectively in wickedness. The Spirit of the Lord has ceased to strive with many (2 Ne. 26:11). The resulting culture breeds "doleful creatures" compared to jackals and hyenas, an environment where satyrs (demons) choose to dance (Isa. 13:21: 34:14). Society is ripening for a speedy destruction.
However, as the imagery indicates, the locust are not literally grasshoppers, but men and evil spirits. as evidences by the human features. While Brandt emphasizes that the locust are the evil spirits under the control of Satan, he also writes:
We should not dismiss the possibility that among the various classes of swarming locusts are oppressive military forces, including terrorist cells, militias, and the armies of despots. There are other groups, however, who sting with the venoms of immorality, pride, pornography, drug abuse and alcoholism, child slavery and incest, dishonesty, theft and materialism, sorcery and murder, and the most abominable secret combinations. These locusts fly under many logos and banners in every earthly location. Their design is not to kill, but to captivate and subject all who can be deceived with the pains and torment of iniquity.
The locust are also described as having stings in their tails and the ability to hurt (not kill) men for 5 months. This, according to Brandt, is the span of the dry season and therefore the locust. He notes that the limit of 5 months indicate a definite duration, but that the actual duration "is probably much longer as it is not taken from the earth until the wicked are removed." Interestingly, though, is Brandt's discussion of the torment caused by the stings, which he compares to the mental anguish and torment that the wicked suffer while in the "gall of bitterness." Brandt notes, for instance, that the wicked feel no hope and languish in despair, having no peace. He mentions the mental and physical torment that Zeezrom realized after he realized his folly and wickedness, desiring death and obliteration to the suffering, which was not relieved until he sought and obtained forgiveness. (See Alma 14 and 15). Brandt compares it to the armies of wicked Nephites, as Nephite civilization expired, who "did curse God, and wish to die. Nevertheless they would struggle with the sword for their lives." (Morm. 2:14). Mick Smith likewise writes about Rev. 9:6:
According to Revelation men shall seek death, and shall not find it. This explains the agony of the condemnation these men [and women] are experiencing. Not only are they being tormented 'not unto death,' but they are so miserable that they would rather pass through death than experience what is taking place in their lives. It is a sad commentary on their lives that at the moment when they are surrounded wickedness and tribulation, rather than turn to their Lord and repent, they would prefer to seek death.
There is one group that is not afflicted, however: those "sealed with the seal of God." (Rev. 9:4). As Brandt notes:
The sting has no effect [on those sealed of God] as they have not been infected with serious sin. The faithful cling to the principles of truth and the Spirit, who guides and protects their course through the darkened world. They hold firm to the Iron Rod (1 Ne. 15:24; 1 Ne. 8:20; 11:25), to patience and faith; they hearken to the words of the prophets with exactness. Such obedience provides them safe passage through the dangerous smoke created by Satan.
... Even as the wicked are surrounded by demons, so the righteous will be encircled by the Spirit of the Lord and by protecting angels.
Mick Smith, in his book on Revelation, notes the sealing of the righteous on the forehead has significance as "[t]he forehead is the center of thought, or where ideas enter into the mind, and those who are sealed will know within their mind or forehead that they are sealed to the Lord." I would note that the protection may not be equal, as we have been told that only those under the protection of the priesthood have the promise of divine protection.

Moreover, the locust will achieve some great measure of success, fleeting as it may be. "The vision shows that their heads are adorned with crowns of gold. The crown stephanos means 'wreath' or 'athletic laurel' awarded to victorious generals or athletes."

Moving onto the second woe, Brandt notes that the natural consequence of increased wickedness is conflict. (See D&C 1:35, where the Lord warns that peace will be taken from the earth). Brandt writes:
As the world increases in wickedness, there will be an ever-widening gap between honorable and evil individuals. People will gravitate under their chosen philosophical, political, ideological and cultural banners. Some will support righteousness and will rally to the banner of the Lord, while others will yield their hearts to Satan and become captive to his seductive crafts. ... As the destroyer's influence gains power in the world, the spirit of enmity will manifest itself in the hearts of the children of men. Wicked elements in society will breed avarice against honorable principles and combine against righteousness. In time that same enmity will drive them to contend with one against another.
(See D&C 87:6). I would point out that we see this already occurring as the offspring of the social left now devour their elders who are not sufficiently ideological pure; and as the flood of immigrants welcomed by the globalists threaten to overwhelm and destroy their very nations.

In any event, the wickedness of the first woe lays the groundwork for the second woe: the army (numbered in the Revelation as 200,000,000) by which "the third part of men [were] killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths."

As background, the voice ordering the release of the four angels (and armies) comes from between the horns of alter. Understanding this reference requires some knowledge of the temple sacrifice practices under the Law of Moses. Yearly on the Day of Atonement, the high priest made an offering in behalf of Israel, in which he sprinkled blood of the sacrifice on the horns of the alter. This was a petition for mercy from the Lord on behalf of the congregation, to forestall His judgment. (Lev. 4:18-20). Brandt also notes that the horns were a place of refuge from retribution by accused lawbreakers until civil due process could be completed. (1 Kgs. 2:28-35). With this in mind, the meaning of John's vision becomes clear: "By commanding that the four angels, previously bound in the bottomless pit, be loosed upon the world, the voice ominously announces that the Lord's previous intervention forestalling the powers of evil has passed and mercy with it." Brandt further explains that the term "angel" in this case does not mean messengers of God, as we usually understand the term, but "are four devils, counter-angels to the four angels mentioned in Revelation 7:1." These angels will summon massive armies from among the nations (Ezek. 38:8 and Zech. 12:3), for the sole purpose to slay a third part of men.

Brandt explains: "The demons work unopposed 'for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year.' The use of the single articles for all four time designations signifies that the work of death will begin at a pre-appointed time, an exact hour designated by God." Consequently, "[t]he tragedy will not be permitted to commence until the wicked have massed under the banner of the devil's servants and God's servants have been prepared and readied for the calamity to begin." I would point out that we have been told, in fact, that the missionaries will be called home prior to that day.

As before, reference to the death of "a third part" designates also that this war will also have its limits. Nevertheless, this conflict will be greater than any before or subsequent to it. (Joel 2:2-3). "The destination of this innumerable alliance of troops is the battlefield of Armageddon and eventually the city of Jerusalem." (See Ezek. 38:8; Zeck. 12:3 and 14:2; D&C 133:35). Nonetheless, the battle of Armageddon is not the end, either. "True it will be massive and terrible, but it does not signify the end of the world; other events will follow Armageddon prior to the final destruction of the wicked."

According to the King James Version (KJV), this army is called from beyond the Euphrates. Brandt mentions that in Joseph Smith's translation, the term "Euphrates" is replaced with "bottomless pit," which suggests to me that there may be a physical location to the pit. In any event, Brandt explains that the significance of the reference to the Euphrates is that the river represents one of the bounds outlining the land promised by the Lord to Abraham and his descendants. Also, Israel's most formidable enemies have lain beyond the Euphrates. Thus, "[w]hile the demons themselves will come from the bottomless pit, many of Israel's mortal enemies will march from the north and the east beyond the natural boundary of the Euphrates River." This, of course, carries Brandt into a discussion of Ezekiel 38 and 39, and Gog and the people of Magog and their allies. Notwithstanding the list of nations in Ezekiel 38, other prophecies indicate that the conflict will involve "all nations." (Zech. 14:2, Jer. 25:15-27). The prophet Joel described their method of warfare: "A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the Garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them." (Joel 2:3).

Brandt believes that this army will be gathered by the Anti-Christ and his minions:
Blasphemies will spew from the mouths of the Anti-Christ and the false prophet, who proclaim the world alliance will establish peace, order and security, and that the war is a moral necessity. Behind the scenes secret combinations will actively engage and influence the nations to unite together. Radical religious leaders will claim that their genocidal ends against their long time adversary, the Jews, are justified because God has sanctioned it.
However, there will also be profit motive. (Ezek. 38:10-13).

As to the number of 200,000,000, Brandt points out that the actual text reads "two myriads of myriads," where myriads have been translated as meaning 10,000. It should be read merely as "countless." (See Joel 1:6 and Ezek. 38:15). Armies will come from the north, east and south. "Some scholars are that they will come in two waves." (Brandt quotes Draper for the proposition that "John seems to use the plural rather than the singular to show that more than one invasion into the territory will be attempted and will succeed."). Brandt interprets the description of the forces, and the fire coming from their mouth, head and tails, as John's attempt to describe modern military equipment. Although getting beyond the scope of Chapter 9 of Revelation, Brandt notes that the armies will be thwarted by both the two witnesses or prophets mentioned later in Revelation (see also D&C 77:15), and cataclysmic disasters from the Lord. (Ezek. 39:6). According to Ezekiel, only 1/6 of the enemy troops that attack will survive (many of the more wicked Jews will also perish). Yet, according to John's vision, the peoples of the earth will continue in their wickedness. (Rev. 9:20-21). Looking at the example of civilizational collapse given in The Book of Mormon, Brandt surmises that "[t]he wicked remnants, still reeling in defeat, turn on each other, seeking blood and revenge." (See also 1 Ne. 22:13).

Brandt attempts to describe while the people will still not repent, and suggests it is because of their faith in their idols of gold, silver, brass, stone and wood, and cites a portion of a talk by Pres. Spencer W. Kimball, who compared our vast armaments and navies to idols to which we pray "for deliverance and depend upon them for protection ... like the gods of Baal."

Brandt concludes:
The great destruction and subsequent collapse of those who fought against God following the tremendous war throws all the world into strife and instability. In the ensuing chaos each nation, state, city, or township will seek every means to survive. But it will be for naught, for the evil works of the wicked in Babylon have come into 'remembrance before God' (Rev. 16:19). Driven by the spirit of the devil, they are left to themselves to destroy each other by the most barbarous means. The third and final woe is the worst of all. It begins with desolating scourges and bloody conflicts and culminates in the fiery advent of [the] Lord. When the Lord comes in purifying fire, no unhallowed soul will escape.
He also states that "[t]he trumpets signal the final hours of decision, when every man must choose what he believes and to whom he will give his allegiance. By this time there will be no place for fence sitting, no quarter for casual observing from afar, and not dithering."

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