Trumpet

For Gill, the blowing of the 6th trumpet finishes off the eastern empire. The 5th trumpet unleashed antichrist in the form of the superstitions of Roman Catholicism and the false religion of Islam. The purpose was to destroy Rome’s civil world system (Rome Pagan, as he calls it). Fundamental to his view, remember, is the split of the Roman empire into an eastern empire and a western empire. This 6th trumpet is critical to “destroy the whole [eastern] empire” (see Gill’s comments on Rev. 9:15). 

Of all the sections I’ve studied of John Gill thus far, this one appears the most problematic.

The 6th Trumpet

The 6th trumpet releases four angels. They oversee the unleashing of some 200 million mounted troops to destroy 1/3 of mankind. In Gill’s framework, these four angels are not angelic beings, but rather human “messengers.” They are called angels because of their power and might. He names them as the Turks (or, Muslims), casually mentioning that “most interpreters agree” (see Gill’s comments on Rev. 9:15). Specifically, he sees this trumpet as fulfilled in the rise of the (Islamic) Ottomon empire. They are numbered as four either because of their four names (Saracens, Turks, Tartars, and Arabians) or their four governments (in Iconium, Baghdad, Aleppo, and Damascus). 

Gill even offers dates. He takes great pains to extrapolate the “hour” of their reign of terror:

An hour, which is the twenty-fourth of a day or year, in the prophetic style is fifteen days, and a day is a year, and a month is thirty years, and a year is three hundred sixty-five years and a quarter, or ninety-one days; in all, three hundred and ninety-six years, and a hundred days; which is the precise time between A.D. 1057, when the Turkish empire begun . . . and A.D. 1453, in which year Constantinople was taken by the Turks, and an end put to the eastern Roman empire, signified by the third part of men.1He suggests a possible alternative date as the beginning of Ottomon’s reign on May 19, 1301 to September 1, 1697, the date Prince Eugene conquered the Turks.

John Gill, comments on Revelation 9:15

The killing of a third of mankind is the fall of the eastern empire. The “breastplates of fire” represent either sparkling iron breastplates or internal breastplates of wrath and fury. He repeatedly mentions that the “fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths” refers to guns. He states:

Gunpowder set on fire is fitly signified by fire, smoke, and brimstone.

John Gill, comments on Revelation 9:17

The “three plagues” refer to vast numbers killed by gunfire. Their “mouths” refer to guns also. The “tails” refer either to foot soldiers in the rear or to Muhammad, the false prophet, who brings up the rear. 

Those who “did not repent” refer to the antichristian western empire. The popes and their followers saw what happened to the eastern empire. Yet, they continued in their superstitions and false religion. For instance, Gill states forthrightly:

[M]any of the popes were necromancers, given to the magic art . . . all sorts of uncleanness; not only simple fornication, but adultery, incest, sodomy, and all unnatural lusts; brothel-houses have been set up and licensed by authority, which have yielded to the popes a yearly revenue of forty thousand ducats; . . . who under pretence of granting indulgences and pardons, and praying souls out of purgatory, with other tricks, cheat men of their money, plunder their estates, and devour widows’ houses; . . . and still go on in the same wicked way, and by their hardness and impenitence treasure up wrath against the day of wrath. 

John Gill, comments on Revelation 9:20

Reflections

Given those Romish atrocities, I can sympathize with Gill. It would be hard for him to imagine how wickedness could proliferate beyond that description. Yet, everyone would agree the current state of the church today—Roman or Protestant—is wickeder. 

Interpretationally, we detect several issues. First, his earlier choice to lock into actual historical events is beginning to cause him problems. When the text doesn’t seem to fit, he begins allegorizing elements of the text to make it work; which leads to . . . 

Second, he waffles between a literal interpretation and a spiritualized interpretation with no explanation as to why the “back and forth” shift. For instance, he spiritualizes freely at points: the “four angels” are humans, the “third of mankind” is an empire, and the “three plagues” are gunfire. Yet, he takes things literally at other points: The “mounted troops” are literal (although the number of them is not), as are the “horses” (but not their tails). These inconsistencies are bothersome. 

Third, I was surprised to see him engage in numerology. No more comment needed on that. 

Fourth, his take on gunfire is reminiscent of Hal Lindsey’s references to helicopters and nuclear bombs. Enough said.

Fifth, his naming of dates (while courageous) also is difficult to take seriously. He didn’t make his case from the grammar and syntax of the God-breathed text.  

From an interpretational standpoint, of all the sections I’ve studied of Gill thus far, this one appears the most problematic. It seems as if he’s “massaging” the text to make it fit his view. I suspect he will find his stride again in the seven vial judgments to come. Here, though, its seems too strained. 

References

References
1 He suggests a possible alternative date as the beginning of Ottomon’s reign on May 19, 1301 to September 1, 1697, the date Prince Eugene conquered the Turks.
Author Trumpet

Chip Thornton

Pastor of FBC Springville, Alabama. Chip is a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he earned his Ph.D. in expository preaching. He enjoys spending time with his family, has a passion for discipleship, and is committed to biblical exposition.