” The sixth angel sounded his trumpet . . . And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind.”
– Revelation 9:13-15
“Dear Mr. Wilson:
I came across your website about four years ago. I disagree with you on several points, but I keep coming back because some of your studies have really helped me to put some pieces together. Your end time scenario on the Second Coming is very strange to me.
About a month ago I downloaded your study on the seven trumpets and I was surprised to find answers to several things I have wondered about. I am a Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) and this past week our pastor spoke on the seven trumpets during the worship hour. Because your article was fresh in my mind, I listened very closely to what he had to say. He began by saying that Bible prophecy can have dual fulfillments because history repeats itself. Using Matthew 24, he presented a parallel between the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the world.
Then, using the four trumpets in Revelation 8, he presented a parallel between the fall of the Roman Empire and the end of the world. His sermon left me in a deep quandary because SDAs believe the seven trumpets occurred long ago. Also, our prophet, Ellen G. White, says the seven trumpets are in the past.
In 1888 she wrote about the sixth trumpet saying, “In the year 1840 another remarkable fulfillment of prophecy excited widespread interest. . . . At the very time specified [in Revelation 9:15], Turkey, through her ambassadors, accepted the protection of the allied powers of Europe, and thus placed herself under the control of Christian nations.
The event exactly fulfilled the prediction.” (The Great Controversy, pages 334, 335, underlining by Faye). Now, I am really confused. I know that you believe the seven trumpets are in the future and after reading your article, that makes sense. Do you think a dual fulfillment is possible?
Thank you for your email. You have asked a good question that involves three important issues and I am happy to respond. Because you have read my article on the seven trumpets, you already know that I believe the seven trumpets are future events.
Therefore, I hope you will accept this response as an examination of certain facts and not as an attack on you or your church. I am confident that when our love, faith, and knowledge of God are carefully built upon Scripture, we please God. Man’s understanding of God’s truth is constantly advancing.
If we allow the Bible to speak for itself, God will continue to give us greater light. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus will reveal things that could not have been known at other times. (See Colossians 1:26 for an example) However, if we dilute or distort the Word of God with external authorities, we will surely trample on the clarity and power of God’s Word so truth gets buried. With these things said, please consider the following three issues:
1. Five Types of Prophecy
As I count them, there are five different types of prophecy in the Bible and each type has a specific focus with a distinctive set of rules for interpretation. If we mix or merge these five types of prophecy together, the result will be worthless conclusions and gross confusion. Matthew 24 and Revelation 8 are different types of prophecy and I believe they were inappropriately used by your pastor to demonstrate that dual fulfillment is possible. The five types of prophecy are:
a. Messianic prophecies (prophecies concerning the birth and ministry of Jesus)
b. Day of the Lord prophecies (prophecies concerning the establishment of the kingdom of God)
c. Judaic prophecies (prophecies concerning God’s covenant with Israel)
d. Local prophecies (prophecies focused on current events, like Noah and the flood)
e. Apocalyptic prophecies (prophecies concerning chronological progression)
Matthew 24 cannot have a dual fulfillment. There are elements in Matthew 24 that pertain to the destruction of Jerusalem. Look at these verses: “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” (Matthew 24:15,16)
There are also elements in Matthew 24 that pertain to the end of the world. Consider these verses: “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.” (Matthew 24:21-23)
These elements are separate and distinct. Everything Jesus predicted about the destruction of Jerusalem has been fulfilled and everything Jesus predicted about the end of the world will be fulfilled. In other words, the abomination that causes desolation will not stand in the holy place a second time. (For a discussion on the meaning of this phrase, please see pages 228-233 in my book, Daniel: Unlocked for the Final Generation.)
One more point. In Matthew 24, Jesus also said, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:37) Using the dual fulfillment argument, should we look for another flood? Of course not. The full-fillment of a prophecy occurs when the specifications given are perfectly full-filled; anything less than perfection must be disqualified.
2. The Importance of Chronological Order
The books of Daniel and Revelation contain five and twelve apocalyptic prophecies respectively. Each of the seventeen prophecies are in chronological order and they fit together perfectly when properly assembled. The books of Daniel and Revelation are all about time and timing.
In fact, eighteen prophetic time periods are found in these two books. The prophecies in Daniel and Revelation can be compared to a tall wedding cake having seventeen layers. The toothpicks that hold the cake layers together are the prophetic events in each prophecy that connect and align the layers with each other.
In other words, dates or events in one layer connect to dates and events in other layers. When all seventeen layers are properly aligned, a glorious story about Jesus and His salvation is the result! The harmony that comes from the sum of all the parts is mind boggling.
Some of the seventeen prophecies in Daniel and Revelation have ordinal numbers in them. This feature forces events to occur in chronological order. For example, trumpet four has to occur between trumpets three and five. There is no wiggle room on this point. The same is true for the seven seals and the seven bowls.
If the chronological order stated in the Word of God cannot be trusted, no one has the authority to tell the whole world God’s intended order. I hope you will ponder the significance of this statement. God Himself has declared the order of events in His Word. Therefore, the seven trumpets cannot occur twice because the seventh trumpet occurs at the close of salvation, when the Ark of the Covenant is shown from Heaven (Revelation 11:19), and these events occur a few weeks before the Second Coming.
Although I am sure he means well, your pastor is doing more harm than good. He is not talking about dual fulfillment even though he may be using such language. Actually, he is advocating dual interpretation. In other words, he may believe the seven trumpets were one thing at one time and they can be something else in the future. This is impossible. The meaning of the fifth trumpet cannot change with time. The fifth trumpet has a set a specifications that cannot be changed or manipulated.
The fifth trumpet only occurs when the specifications given in the fifth trumpet are met. Period. If the fifth trumpet marks the release of the devil and his angels from the spirit realm so that Lucifer can physically masquerade on Earth as Almighty God, how many times can this happen?
Moreover, if Lucifer is permitted to kill a third of mankind to set up his theocracy during the sixth trumpet, how many times can this happen? If the sixth seal is the Second Coming, how many times can the sixth seal be broken and the Second Coming take place? How many times can the seven bowls occur? Dual fulfillment and dual interpretation is pure fiction.
Valid rules of interpretation will not permit the fifth trumpet to be interpreted “one way” at one time and interpreted “another way” at another time. When dual interpretation is taken to its logical conclusion, fiction is the result. Claims of dual fulfillment and dual interpretation are beguiling.
Once this sophistry invades prophetic study, Bible truth is trampled underfoot because a perfect full-fillment of prophecy cannot be found. Even worse, no one can anticipate a prophetic full-fillment because there is no way to determine what a second fulfillment would look like! Again, there is a simple rule that eliminates this problem. “A full-filling only occurs when the specifications are perfectly met and this includes the given order of the events.”
3. Ellen G. White
Faye, I assume that you included Ellen G. White’s position on the sixth trumpet because her views on the Bible largely determine what members of the SDA Church will accept and reject as truth. As I wrote earlier, speaking against any religious authority is difficult because deeply religious people – whether they are Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Baptists, Mormons, or Adventists – are offended whenever someone says their beloved prophet, pope, or clergy is in error. Nevertheless, please consider the following:
During the 1830s, a licensed Baptist minister from Low Hampton, New York, named William Miller, began preaching that Jesus would return to Earth “about 1843.” He concluded the 2,300 days mentioned in Daniel 8:14 would terminate in the Spring of 1843 and that Jesus would return to Earth during that year.
The Millerite message grew quickly. At its peak, historians say somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 people in New England embraced Miller’s explanation of prophecy. This is remarkable given the fact that news could travel no faster than horseback in those days.
Because Miller declared Jesus would return to Earth in 1843, pastors and adversaries constantly ridiculed and taunted him with, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” (Matthew 24:36)
Miller and his associates deflected this charge by saying that they did not know “the day and hour.” They also claimed that there was a great deal of prophetic evidence indicating that 1843 would be the end of the world – evidence such as the great Lisbon earthquake in 1755, the mysterious darkness that fell over New England at noon in 1780, and thousands of stars that fell in 1833.
Because the world did not end in 1843, we have the advantage of studying the Millerite movement in reverse to see what went wrong. In a nutshell, Miller’s conclusion on 1843 created a fatal problem which no one could foresee. The Millerites reasoned backwards.
Here is the logic: If our conclusion is right and since the world ends in 1843, then there must be a historical fulfillment and explanation for everything written in the books of Daniel and Revelation. The Millerites (unwittingly) abused the Bible by forcing it to support their conclusion instead of allowing the Bible to speak for itself and tell them things they needed to know.
It is highly important that we recognize this flaw because it is a perpetual problem. The Millerite movement was built on a false assumption and it eventually imploded because it forced the Bible to defend a conclusion rather than allowing the Bible to speak for itself. Sometimes the Bible speaks so softly that you must really strain to hear from it.
In 1838, Dr. Josiah Litch, a scholarly Methodist minister from Massachusetts, published a 48 page booklet supporting Miller’s prophetic position. Litch had been studying the prophecies for some time when he became aware of the Millerite movement. Litch became involved in the movement and he produced a discovery that brought thousands into the Millerite movement in 1840.
Looking through the corridor of history for a fulfillment for each of the seven trumpets, Litch came up with an explanation for the fifth and sixth trumpets that was better and more concise than anything heard before. Litch’s exposition on Revelation 9 fit within the paradigm of 1843 like a hand fits within a glove.
Basically, Dr. Litch thought he discovered a time capsule. He translated the five months in Revelation 9:5 to mean 150 years (using a day for a year) and the time period called “an hour, day, month and year” in Revelation 9:16 he translated as 391 years and 15 days. In other words, Dr. Litch believed the fifth and sixth trumpets spanned a total of 541 years and 15 days.
Based on the time span, Dr. Litch concluded the fifth trumpet marked the rise of Othman, a Moslem commander who founded the Ottoman Empire. Litch calculated the five months mentioned in Revelation 9:5 began on July 27, 1299 when Othman began to assault (torment) the Greeks and the 150 years (using a day for a year) of torment ended when Constantine was crowned at Sparta in 1449. (This Constantine is not to be confused with the Constantine who ruled over Rome during the fourth century A.D.)
Shortly after Constantine was crowned, Constantinople fell to the Moslems and according to Litch, the Ottoman Empire ruled over the Greeks for 391 years and 15 days. Litch concluded in 1838 that the Ottoman Empire would fall two years later, specifically on August 11, 1840. Litch’s prophetic position was hot news!
It was widely published throughout New England and everyone waited anxiously to see what would happen. “At the very time specified,” Ellen White wrote in 1888, “Turkey, through her ambassadors, accepted the protection of the allied powers of Europe, and thus placed herself under the control Christian nations.” The Millerites were overjoyed.
Their prophetic interpretation was on track. The Ottoman Empire had fallen and their joy increased as hundreds of new converts swelled the Millerite movement. Seeing was believing. The end of the world was less than four years away!
Three Tragic Outcomes
There are three tragic outcomes in this story. First, Jesus did not come in 1843 (the date was later changed to the Spring of 1844 and changed again to October 22, 1844) and this was a bitter disappointment for thousands of Millerites – the disappointment was so deep that many abandoned their faith in Jesus altogether.
Second, history reveals that the Ottoman Empire did not fall on August 11, 1840 as Litch predicted. Consequently, anyone still clinging to Litch’s interpretation on the fifth and sixth trumpets is trusting in a meaningless interpretation. Third, by 1850 many Protestant churches in the United States abandoned the study of Daniel and Revelation altogether because Miller’s fiasco had proven that a historical approach to prophecy could not be trusted.
The Millerites reaped a bitter harvest because they (unwittingly) forced the Bible to support their conclusions. Ironically, history is about to be repeated. Millions of Christians today are forcing the Bible to support their prophetic conclusions and they will be bitterly disappointed when they discover that there is no pretribulation rapture and no way to escape the destruction of the seven trumpets.
On the other hand, millions of Christians who hold to a historical interpretation of prophecy will also be bitterly disappointed when they discover there is no escape from the seven trumpets! In both cases, the result will be the same – an overwhelming disappointment and spiritual bitterness.
In 1873 (35 years later), Dr. Litch published a book titled, A Complete Harmony of Daniel and the Apocalypse (published by Claxton, Remsen & Haffelfinger, Philadelphia) and to his credit, he indicated that his previous view on the seven trumpets had been wrong.
After the failures of 1843 and 1844, he went back to the Bible to see where he went wrong. He found some answers and became convinced that the seven trumpets would be seven future events (including a meteoric firestorm that burns up a third of Earth and two civilization threatening asteroid impacts). Litch concluded the seven trumpets will take place just before the Second Coming. (See pages 155-158.)
Just the Facts
Faye, I have considered the SDA position on the seven trumpets and it makes no sense to me. It is basically the same position the Millerites held. It appears to me that the SDA Church defends the Millerite position on the seven trumpets for two primary reasons.
First, Ellen G. White (who was a Millerite) believed the seven trumpets were historical in nature and any deviation from the prophet’s “pen of inspiration” is thought to be an abomination. In other words, some SDAs believe that God spoke through Ellen White and her words have the weight and authority of Scripture.
Second, Seventh-day Adventists are committed to a historical position on prophecy because they believe the historical approach uniquely identifies the true Antichrist, which they believe is the pope, and they also believe the mark of the beast is Sunday observance.
Some SDA scholars have recognized that Litch’s August 11, 1840 date is meaningless. For example, Mervyn Maxwell positions the 391 years between 1453 and 1844. Unfortunately, SDAs are locked in the historical approach because (a) no one within the church can openly say the prophet was wrong, and (b) the SDA Church believes that any other approach to prophecy undermines the identity of the Antichrist and the mark of the beast.
I have asked some SDA pastors and scholars about the church’s relationship to the seven trumpets. Usually, they brush aside the importance of the topic with one of two arguments. First, they often say the trumpets are in the past and are not essential to our salvation.
Some, like your pastor, may say that a dual fulfillment is possible. This seems to open the door for further Bible study without directly addressing Ellen White’s authority or statements on the matter. In other words, the dual fulfillment argument allows staunch members to hold to their historical view, but also allows newer members to embrace another view. (Ironically, the Catholic Church did the same thing at the turn of the 16
th century by offering the preterist and futurist views of prophecy simultaneously.) For reasons already presented, dual fulfillment is impossible. Multiple interpretations make putty out of the “more sure word of prophecy.” Let me be clear, the intended meaning of a passage does not change with time and a fulfillment only occurs when all of the specifications are perfectly full-filled.
Second, a few Adventists claim that Ellen White believed the seven trumpets are yet future and they quote from a book written in 1890, Selected Messages Volume III, page 426. This quote says, “Solemn events before us are yet to transpire. Trumpet after trumpet is to be sounded; vial after vial poured out one after another upon the inhabitants of the earth.”
To me, this argument is not academically honest for four reasons. First, if Ellen White believed the seven trumpets were future, why didn’t she correct her errant position published two years earlier in the 1888 edition of The Great Controversy?
This book was published 27 years before she died and that is plenty of time to correct a glaring mistake. Second, if Ellen White believed the “seven trumpets” were future, why didn’t she say something specifically about the seven trumpets being future events? For someone who wrote 250,000 handwritten pages during her lifetime, there is total silence about any of the seven trumpets as future events. This silence speaks for itself.
Third, my research indicates that Ellen White mentioned the word “trumpets” 95 times in her writings. In all of these references she either treats the seven trumpets as seven historical events or uses the word “trumpet” to identify a warning instrument, such as: “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming.It is close at hand.” (Joel 2:1)
Finally, some Seventh-day Adventists say that her statement on the sixth trumpet in The Great Controversy should not be taken as though she is presenting her thoughts, rather she is presenting Litch’s view on the sixth trumpet. This argument is a smokescreen.
If Ellen White knew that Litch was in error, why didn’t she say so? Litch’s error occurred in 1840. Ellen White lived 75 years after 1840 and she never once wrote a word about Litch’s error. Truthfully, if she is writing about Litch’s position in The Great Controversy, she leaves the reader with the idea that Litch’s position is perfectly valid! After hearing this fourth argument a few times, I conclude that Seventh-day Adventists are avoiding the fact that she is factually wrong. (My research has revealed that she is factually wrong in several areas, but that is another matter.)
In closing, I believe the historical position on the seven trumpets the SDA Church defends is not valid. Further, the SDA Church does not use valid rules of interpretation and history does not support their claims of fulfillment in several prophetic topics. Faye, I know my remarks are painful, but this is an honest review of my conclusions. The three most compelling reasons I believe the historical view cannot be supported are:
1. The Ottoman Empire Did Not Fall in 1840
From 1783 to 1914, the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire were increasingly reduced through a series of defeats. The war waged against the Sultan of Turkey in 1840 ended in 1841 without significant changes in territory. During World War I, Turkey allied with Germany and lost even more territory.
Most historians today agree that the Ottoman Empire ended during World War I. In 1923, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey proclaimed Turkey to be a republic and Turkey remains a sovereign nation to this day. History does not validate that the Ottoman Empire fell on August 11, 1840 and it is no surprise that historians do not regard August 11, 1840 as having any significance in Turkish history.
2. Faulty Understanding of the Greek Language
Dr. Litch reached the August 11, 1840 date through a faulty translation of Scripture. The KJV says: “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.” (Revelation 9:15) Dr. Litch applied the day/year principle to this verse and derived 391 years and 15 days out of the hour, day, month, and year mentioned. The translation should read: “And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind.”
Greek scholars around the world (who have no position to defend one way or another) widely agree that the syntax of Revelation 9:15 points to a specific point in time and is therefore punctiliar. The phrase should not be regarded as the sum of chronological units of time. (See the NIV, NEB, NEV, RSV, and ASV.) In other words, the sixth trumpet says nothing about 391 years and 15 days.
3. August 11, 1840 Is the Wrong Date
The final problem with the August 11, 1840 date is that Dr. Litch failed to adjust his 391 year, 15 day prophecy according to a change in the calendar which occurred in October, 1582. Pope Gregory XIII removed ten days from the Julian Calendar that year to reset the Julian Calendar with respect to the Sun. Therefore, Dr. Litch’s August 11, 1840 date should have been adjusted to August 21, 1840 and absolutely nothing of historical consequence occurred on that date.
I know that my response may be difficult to accept, but the truth speaks for itself. Once the 1843 paradigm of the Millerite movement is understood and once the historical facts are put on the table, it is clear that the historical position advocated by Miller, Litch, and Ellen White is factually wrong.
Of course, well meaning SDA pastors may promote the illusion of dual fulfillments, but multiple interpretations only harms and further obscures the truth. Why not let the Bible speak for itself? I have no doubts that Miller, Litch, and White did their best to understand God’s truth and if they were alive today, I believe they would eagerly update their thinking.
Previous generations could not know all that we know today because man’s understanding of God’s truth is progressive. To reach the intended meaning of apocalyptic prophecy, we have to use valid rules of interpretation. If the bitter failure of the Millerite movement teaches us anything, it proves there is no other way!