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SEALS, TRUMPETS & VIALS
How many of you believe that we are very close to the very final last days of this world's system?
The book of Revelation is called the "Apocalypse" in Greek. The word means the unveiling. The book reveals the character of Jesus (it is all about Him) and also unveils God's purpose and plan in the last days. The Revelation tells us that the wrath of God will poured out onto the earth during the last 3.5 yrs of the Great Tribulation. There will be plagues on the wicked and on the Beast. Tribulation saints, however, will not be affected by this wrath. For details on the protection of the saints, see my study about the Bozrah deliverance.
We currently live in a period of inaugurated eschatology. This means that from a biblical viewpoint we are already in the last days.
Hebrews 1:2 " In these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world." According to the author of Hebrews, they were already in the last days over 1900 years ago.
Acts 2:17 (quoting from Joel) "'AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,' God says, 'THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS.'" According to the Prophet Joel, the last days commenced at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on believers.
In 2 Tim 3:1 Paul says that in the last days difficult times will come. Difficult times have already been a serious tribulation issue for hundreds of millions of Christians for almost 2000 years. Christians living in Muslim lands and communist countries are already experiencing very difficult tribulation. Jesus speaks of the last days in his end times discourse in Mat 24. Much of what He says is referencing the Roman war of 66-70AD, although I think there is also a final and ultimate parallel with the Great Tribulation, yet to come.
I believe we are currently
living in the last days with tribulation. The verses above are speaking to us.
However we have not yet entered the Great Tribulation. Jesus said that the Great
Tribulation would be a cut short time period. that it would pass quickly for
the sake of the elect. Another words, we must suffer though it (see
my study on the Rapture).
This lesson is about the seals, trumps, and vials (STV). There are 21 measures total. 7seals, 7 trumpets, and 7 bowls/vials. Many people believe that these are in a single file chronological order. All 21 events are separate individual plagues according to this very popular idea, which is found predominantly in Pre-Trib Dispensational circles. That theory is an orderly clean outline. It puts all of the actions yet into the future. I've heard people say that when the 7th seal is opened the 7 trumpets come out from it, likewise, 7 vials emerge from within 7th trumpet. I don't think so, that systematic progression is too chronological. Remember, this was written by John an ancient Middle Eastern Jew. He didn't have a Swiss timepiece, and had no Daytimer for his appointments. John certainly didn't make up box charts in Excel to categorically systemize his data, as I have below.
Have you ever read Isaiah? Isaiah contains about 30 millennial prophecies. It probably has about 50 messianic prophecies (more than any other prophet) and maybe 100 short term prophecies about Assyria. Isaiah includes prophecies about Babylon, which is medium range about 100yrs away and extremely long range prophecies about the eternal new earth. The chronology of all these different prophecies is not laid out chapter by chapter. They are all stirred up and well mixed, like a bowl full of tabouleh. You might read a millennial prophecy, and then the text jumps backward into a messianic prophecy. Some people have suggested that Revelation and Isaiah are both in a cyclic or chiastic order. They repeat from the beginning several times over. William Hendricksen did a good study in the 1940's called More Than Conquerors about Revelation's 7 cycles from the 1st Advent till the 2nd Advent and beyond. He called the system 'Progressive Parallelism.' Although I disagree with many of his details, I think he is on to something with the cyclical pattern. Point being these books are not in a lineal chronological format.
The book of Isaiah and all of the Biblical prophets do not contain a chronological progression. That is what we expect in our society; it is a cultural expectation of the West. We must remember that Scripture was not written by an American. It is not a bus schedule. It was written as Hebrew poetry. Neither Revelation, nor Isaiah can be read in a straight line chronological format.
Dispensationalists also tend to think that all of Revelation is futuristic of the Great Tribulation and beyond. I agree that much of it is, but as we are living in these last days, some of it has been fulfilled already. This is known as inaugurated eschatology, it is already started. We are the proof- Gentiles who worship the God of Israel per Isa 60:3 "nations will come to your light." Jesus is that light. This study will be based on the idea that much of the intensity of STV is yet future and will take place during a literal 3.5 year period of Great Tribulation immediately before the Second Coming. However, the process of the Revelation has already started, so that it is not entirely future. The ball is already rolling during these Last Days.
Dispensationalists also attempt to literalize scripture as much as possible. Usually, this is an excellent hermeneutic and a worthy trait. However, you get into trouble when literalizing Hebraic apocalyptic literature. The apocalyptic style is highly symbolic. The Revelation is complete with a 7 headed dragon, Jesus as a lamb, and 2 witnesses described as candlesticks and olive trees. None of that should be taken literally. It is a symbol. A symbol describes something using the imagery of another thing. This study of STV will be based on symbolism. Another words almost everything described is a riddle. It really means something else, not to be taken literally. However, it is should be taken as a real event in tangible time and space, as opposed to an allegory which only has a moral to the story but no no real event. I will suggest that the STV are real events, most yet future, but are described in terms of symbols.
So let's progress with the study of the seals, trumpets and vials from Revelation 6, 8,9, a few verses in 11 (7th T) and chapter 16. I'm not doing them in straight lineal fashion. I'm not proposing all of it as yet future and unfulfilled. And I'm not suggesting that any of it should be understood literally. So instead of flipping through your Bibles, I'd like to follow with me on a chart I've prepared. Please print and layout the PDF chart that goes with this study. Look at both simultaneously as we read and study the text.
PRINT PDF CHART HERE
Entire study in PDF file- for printing all 28 pages to be read on couch at leisure instead of straining your eyes on computer screen.
One more point- before we get started. All verses quoted here are straight out of the King James Version of the Word of God, but the sequencing chart and my overall presentation is from the Word of Jay. It is my interpretation and theory of how it fits all fits together. I really don't think God gave us prophecy so that we could know the future. Basically, the future is none ya business. God alone knows the future. We are told to trust in Him day by day (Mat 6:25-34). I believe the reason God included prophecy in Scripture is so that after it happens, retroactively, people can go back and read it again. Wow!! All things happened exactly as had been prophesied by Scripture. He is God! Praise Him! The Bible is true. Jesus Himself confirms this intent of prophecy in John 14:29: "So that when it happens, you will believe." This is the biblical purpose in prophecy, to be a faith builder for Jesus. Some prophecy is as of today still unfulfilled. The wow factor is intended for a yet future generation. Some has been fulfilled and we, the Born Again Church, are the fruit of that fulfillment. So I can't promise that my sequencing chart or my symbol understanding or even any part of my overall interpretation is perfectly correct, but I think it makes sense. I hope you find some wisdom.
The seals of Revelation 6 have a very close parallel with Mat 24/Luke 21, Jesus' endtimes discourse. Notice the close connections:
Mat 24 :4 & Luke 21:8 = False Christs
1st Seal = Conquest on a white horse
Mat 24:6 &Luke 21:9 = War and rumor of War
2nd Seal = War
Mat 24:7-8 &Luke 21:11 = Famine Earthquakes and Plagues
3rd and 4th Seal = Famine and Plague
Mat 24:9-14 & Luke 21:12:19 = Tribulation of the Church
5th Seal = Martyrs
Mat 24:29-30 & Luke 21:25-28 = Signs in the Heavens
6th Seal = Signs in the Heavens
I believe the first 5 seals have already been opened. They are in constant duration from the 1st Century till the Coming of Christ. During the Great Tribulation (yet future) they will intensify in character and effect.
John sees a big scroll that has 7 seals on it, and he cries because nobody can open it. But then the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lamb of God stands up and He decides to open it, He is the only one able to do it. This is of course Jesus Christ.
Seals are a wax impression. They are a security device to make sure nobody tampers with the scroll.
The first 4 seals are known as 4 Horsemen of Apocalypse. They are allegorical; no real horsemen with magical celestial appearance are expected to be seen galloping during the this church age of tribulation or during the future Great Tribulation.
FIRST SEAL - False-Christ on a White Horse (See also Mat 24:5, Luke 21:8) or alternately the Church who overcomes (Rom 12:21, 1John 2:13, Rev 21:7).
Rev 6:1-2 And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.
A popular theory is that the rider represents the yet future Antichrist, leader of the beast, as a false parallel to Jesus. He has not yet come upon the scene, so that puts all of the horsemen as a future unfulfilled event. This is a fairly standard dispensational teaching that these things are "not yet the end" and "just the beginning of birth pains" (Mat 24:6,8).
However, high ranking military and government officials did not ride horses. The emporer, the generals and centurions always rode in a 4 horse chariot.
This rider more likely correlates with Mat 24:4:
And Jesus answered and said to them, "See to it that no one misleads you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many."
It is notable that the rider carries a bow, not a sword. Swords are the standard issue of government warriors and emperors. Nations are subjected by the power of the sword. A bow may represent religious figures, in this case false teachers and religious cults. When did false teachers and false Christs start appearing on the world scene? Almost immediately after the death of Jesus.
Look at the chart- I think these riders appear on the world scene in the 1st century. They continue to this day and will continue with even greater intensity as the labor contractions get closer and closer together, culminating in the Great Tribulation and the return of Jesus Christ.
This interpretation as false christs is possible, although I find it a bit lackluster. All through chapter 5 the cherubim and elders sing songs and give worship to the glorious Lamb who opens the wondrous scroll. For the first seal to only reveal false teachers and antichrists is somewhat anticlimactic. They are nothing more than self inflated losers, amplifying their shame.
Many commentators have pointed out that a false christ (antichrist) would not be portrayed in Scripture as riding on a white horse, since white is clearly a symbol of holiness and purity. They will certainly be deceptive and portray their evil selves as pure and white, but Scripture sees through the veil of deception and portrays them in truth, which would not include a white horse. Some believe that this is Jesus Christ coming on a white horse at the second coming as in Rev 19:11, which along with 19:14 are the only other references a rider on a white horse is used in the Bible. I strongly approve of allowing the Bible to interpret itself. Look for other references with the same word for the best understanding of a verses intent. However, the text (including the Greek) have the seals listed in ordinal numeration: first, second, third, etc. War, famine and death will not FOLLOW the glorious appearance of Jesus. His appearance will cause the abrupt cessation of war, famine and death, not cause more of it.
I must, however, agree with the observation of the white horse. So as an alternate interpretation, and my possible preference, perhaps this warrior on a white horse is the Holy Spirit filled church. As well as the purity of a white horse, we take note of the victor's laurel wreath crown, the stephanos. This is the same crown bestowed on the saints during the Bema seat in 2Tim 4:8, James 1:12 and 1 Pet 5:4. Of the 18 times this word is used in Scripture, 17 instances are in reference to Jesus and his saints. Notably, it occurs 4 times in the Revelation preceding this reference. This is important, and fundamental to my observation, when reading this book in Greek (or English for that matter) stephanos or crown has already been mentioned 4 times as applied to the saints.
This person goes forth "conquering", and to "conquer." The Greek words used here in both instances are participles of nikaō. We derive the athletic shoe Nike from this Greek word for victory. Seven times earlier in the book of Revelation spoken to the seven churches, Christ says that believers will conquer (KJV "overcometh"). The juxtaposition of the churches overcoming in the first three chapters of the book, and then this character going out overcoming and to overcome, lends very strong textual evidence that this is the church. The English translations (almost all of them) change "overcomer" to "conqueror" and loose the literary connection. By repeating the same word used earlier, the first thought that comes to a Greek reader's mind is the overcoming church. This is in blessed accordance with Paul's emphatic words of Rom 8:37, by the power of Christ we are hyper-conquerors (KJV-"more than conquerors").
Perhaps instead of envisioning a man on a white horse, we should be thinking about a woman on a white horse, since the church is always portrayed in the female gender. The masculine pronouns "he that sat", "crown given to him" are assumed. The Greek does not use pronouns, The verbs are conjugated in the third person singular without reference to gender. The translators assumed a male figure. If this interpretation of a woman riding on a white horse is correct, then it is a very interesting counter parallel to Rev 17:3 with a woman on a scarlet beast.
These counter parallels, and repeated words are very important to the literary composition of the Apocalypse. For instance, In Rev 1:4 and again in 4:8, Jesus is proclaimed as the one "who was, and is and is to come." The meaning is clear: He WAS born as a man, he IS sitting at the right hand of God, and he WILL come again at the Parousia. As a counter parallel in Rev 17:8, the beast is said to be the one "who was, and is not, and will come again." The exact meaning of that phrase is not so clear, but the antithesis parallel to Jesus Christ is obvious.
My point being is that a holy woman sitting on a white horse fits with the literary composition of opposites in tension as seen against a woman riding a scarlet beast better than the antichrist on a white horse.
Of course, adherents to a dispensational pre-tribulational rapture will have difficulties with this interpretation, since they would believe the church to be absent by chapter 6, which they consider to be entirely yet future. See my study on the rapture.
I am not sure what the bow represents. The Greek word toxon is used nowhere else in the NT. The word is unique, making its interpretation difficult. Some people have noticed that arrows are not mentioned and they interpolate that the rider must not have any arrows. This is not a valid conclusion. Clothes are not mentioned either, but I do not assume the rider to be naked. Bows are not always seen as a weapon of war, they are also used as tools of a messenger. Jonathan shot a bow in order to signal David. An arrow can carry a message.
It may be worth noticing that the Hebrew word for bow (keshet) means both a bow as in an archer's weapon and the same word also means a rainbow. A rainbow looks like an arch bowing across the sky. We even use the homonym in English. In Gen 9 after Noah's boat docked we are told that the bow in the sky shall be a covenant. Perhaps the rider on the white horse is carrying the sign of God's covenant.
The person, whoever it is, on the white horse appears before the trouble starts. If it is either false messiahs or the church does not affect the balance of the prophecy. In parallel with Mat 24, it could be antichrists (ultimately fulfilled with the Anti-Christ). However, due to the literary repetition of certain key words, I think I prefer the church fulfilling the first seal. That will surely induce the cherubim and elders to sing another stanza of their praise song.
SECOND SEAL - War on a Red Horse
Rev 6:3-4 And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.
The color of this horse is not exactly red. It is fiery red. The Greek word means the color of fire, which is bright red heavily streaked with yellow and oranges. The animal may probably have hot blue hoofs. Clearly, this is not a literal view of a horse. This "fiery red" color is only found in one other passage in Scripture. In Rev 12:3 it says that the Dragon, the serpent named Satan, is also "fiery red." This is pure evil. As the first rider likely represents the good guys being on a righteously white horse, this rider has mounted a Satanically pyrrhic steed.
Again, notice the stark contrast of opposites in tension. This poetic device is frequently used by John of Patmos and will reoccur many times.
Some spiritualizing commentators (such as Hendrickson) think that this red horse represents martyrdom. They point out that this rider carries a sword. The Greek word used here machaira actually means small sword, like a dagger, so this weapon is a big dagger, as opposed to another Greek sword the rhomphaia the large heavy sword used by the Hellenistic army. Machaira are instruments for swiping and cutting up meat. They are easily wielded and easily concealed. They have a curved blade like a scimitar, as opposed to a long straight blade for thrusting. Machaira are the traditional sacrificial knife of the priests and were the common instrument used for executions and beheadings. Jesus forewarned his disciples in Mat 10:34 that "I came not to send peace, but a sword [machaira]." The rider on a satanically red horse carrying a sacrificial dagger represents they propose the martyrdom that follows the white horse of the covenant carrying church.
I used to like this interpretation. However, notice that the rider is given permission by God to "take peace from the land and kill one another." One another, each other, reciprocally killing, mutual warfare is a good translation of the Greek. The martyred saints are like sheep to the slaughter. They do not retaliate. They do not fight back.
So I changed my mind. I must agree with the dispensational reading and most common interpretation that this rider represents demonically sponsored war. Following along in Mat 24:6, we read:
You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
Wars are not the final sign of the end. This is the introduction to the end. The preview started about 2000yrs ago. As the Deliverance approaches the wars will intensify. Finally, the war against the saints during the Great Tribulation will be the ultimate fulfillment of this seal.
THIRD SEAL - Famine on a Black Horse
Rev 6:5-6 And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.
The word in Greek used for "measure" is choinix. It is about a liter, a little more than a quart (or 4cups). A choinix of flour would yield about 5-6 small pita loaves. If only eating bread and water, this is as much as would be the daily ration of a slave. It is a meager portion just to survive.
The "penny" referenced by King James is the Roman denarius. It is a small silver coin, about like our dime, but more valuable. A denarius is about 1/10 oz of silver. This was the standard daily wage for unskilled labor. The angel is proclaiming that a worker will need to spend the entire day's wage just for basic meager food. Wheat is more expensive then barley, if a man had a family, then he would be buying the less expensive barley. It is cheaper at only 3 choinix for a day's wage. Some scholars have estimated that this price is ten to twelve times what it should have been. Even if thier math is wrong, everyone agrees that it is greatly inflated. Many people will stave when the black horse rides.
Why is the barley less expensive than the wheat? Both grains have about the same nutritional value with similar amount of calories, protein, and carbohydrates. Both grains have similar requirements for threshing and milling. In the proper season both grains have similar value and abundance. Barley is a winter crop and is harvested in early spring. Wheat is a summer crop and is harvested in late summer. This seems to indicate that the worst of the famine will be occuring after the long hard winter, during the early spring, when the wheat commodity is at its most expensive. Late winter-early spring is the expected time for famines to occur.
The rider carries a pair of balances. The same Greek word is elsewhere translated "yoke" (eg: Mat 11:29-30, Acts 15:10). Signifying the equality of either side. As it is imperative to equally yoke beasts of burden, lest you break the neck of the weaker animal, so too the scales must be balanced in commerce for buying and selling. In time of famine, the scales become heavy with silver.
"Do not damage the oil and the wine" probably means that the rich and powerful are enjoying luxuries that are still available. The common people are starving while the rulers are feasting. This happened during Ethiopia's great famine in the 1980's, and during the Rwanda problems a few years ago. More often than naturally occurring crop failure and pestilence, famine is usually caused artificially with war and genocide.
This is of course nothing new. Although famine has been extant for thousands of years, it will likely increase in both duration and severity as the birth of the kingdom draws neigh.
FOURTH SEAL - Death on a Pale Horse- Kill 1/4th All Humans
Rev 6:7-8 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
Death is sitting on the pale horse and Hell is folowing like a trailer. Death & Hell in this verse are synonymous. Hell is actually the Greek word hades which is a poetic word for the grave. Hades is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word sheol. For a comprehensive study of these words within context of the original language, see chapter 1 of my book Dead Soul Syndrome.
The author of the Revelation picks this phrase from Eze 14:21NASB " For thus says the Lord God...'I send My four severe judgments against Jerusalem: sword, famine, wild beasts and plague.'"
This fourth rider sweeps up all the dead that have been killed by the Red, Black and Pale cavaliers. The people are killed in four different ways: with the sword, an instrument of war probably wielded by the rider of the second seal, although it is a different Greek word for sword. Death kills by famine, which is a more direct translation than KJ 'hunger' and is likely related to the black horse of the third seal. Intrinsically, he kills with death, which is an odd but certainly correct expression: to kill with death. And finally he kills with a beast of the earth. The Greek text is singular: "the beast of the earth." The Greek word for beast is therion. It is used 30 times in the Revelation, the other 29 instances ALL refer to the evil system of the Antichrist. Why did the translators lead us to believe that lions, tigers and bears would become a deadly threat under the fourth rider? I believe a better understanding is that this rider on the pale horse rides continually through till the end and collects the lives massacred by the False Prophet (Beast of the earth) per Rev 13.
Wild animals had been in view for Ezekiel, but mauling people to death is not in view here. Man-eating lions have been extinct in the Middle East for centuries. Syrian brown bears are, ironically extinct in Syria and all points south. They are limited to national parks in the Caucus mountains of Armenia, Turkey and Iran. They are no more a threat to urban populations in Israel than Yellowstone grizzlies are to Los Angles. However, the Beast of the earth, the clerical system of Islam, will slay all to refuse to worship their god Allah.
Death is riding concurrently with War and Famine. He continues, as they all do though the Great Tribulation's 42 months while the Antichristic Muslim beast is martyring believers and massacring his own people. Death brings up the rear as the grim reaper swallowing the lives of all those in the path of this cavalry. 25% of the world population dies from war and famine as well as plague and persecution of the False Prophet.
Although statistics are hard to come by, over the course of the the last 2000 years since the Ascension of Christ, I suppose that we are on track with this death rate. These 3 evil horsemen are period long problems (look at the chart). These problems are indicative of the entire church age-not just the 3.5 years of Great Tribulation. In Mat 24, notice that Jesus while speaking directly to the apostles says 'YOU shall have tribulation' (emphasis mine). These are not a plague that just happens in a day, like some of the upcoming trump/vials. So, the 25% is probably inclusive (all together) of the horsemen seals period long.
It should be noted that the color of this horse is chloros. Instead of pale it is more accurately a green horse. In Mark 6:39 Jesus tells a crowd of 5000 to sit down on the green [chloros] grass while he feeds them from a few loaves and small fish. In Rev 8:7, the 1st Trumpet destroys the green [chloros] grass. And again, in Rev 9:4, the 5th Trumpet hurts evil people but does not harm the green [chloros] grass. Chloros means verdant vegetative green, like leaves and grass. It does not mean pale.
Verdant green horses do not exist, so obviously this is symbolic. Some commentators have suggested that this is representative of Islam. Green is the scared color of Islam, think of the Saudi flag. They have suggested that the 4th horse symbolizes the advent of Islam in the seventh century (circa 650AD). This seems possible. There is no doubt that Islam has killed with the sword those who defy the Shahada creed, the famine could be a spiritual famine for truth about God, killing with death could be spiritual death, and killing by the beast of earth may not have officially started yet, but will be within an Islamic context according to my studies. Currently, about 25% of the world population is Muslim. This would fit the symbol if the death is to be understood as spiritual. I don't have any real objections to this idea, except that I think it builds too much of a theory upon a single word, chloros. Maybe.
FIFTH SEAL - Saints under the Altar
Rev 6:9-11 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
This closely parallels Jesus' words about persecution in Mat24, Mark 13 and Luke 21.
Mat 24:9 "Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name."
Mark 13:9-10 "But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. 10 The gospel must first be preached to all the nations."
This is the point at which, I believe, we stand today. The gospel is being preached to all the nations. Believers are being persecuted and martyred for their witness. The time is dragging on longer than most people had anticipated (2000 yrs and counting). The souls of the martyrs in heaven are getting restless and asking Jesus- "are we there yet?" Just like little children in the back seat during a long car ride.
This seal is probably about as literal as we are going to get: the saints are martyred. Terrible persecution of Christians started even before the destruction of the Temple in 70AD. In the 1st century, during the lives of most of the apostles (to whom Jesus was personally speaking), Nero killed and tortured many believers due to their faith.
Domitian (ad95), Decius (ad 250), and Diocletian (ad300) are famed as the most brutal of the Roman persecutors. However, most all of the first 3 centuries saw a blood stained witness for Christ. The Greek word 'martyros' means witness. Christians are commanded to be witnesses for God. The word quickly changed it meaning, so that today to be a martyr is synonymous with death because of your witness.
Today, in the early 21st century, most Christians that are reading this webpage are probably comfortably sitting in a climate controlled building, reading a computer screen while sipping coffee. Praise God for the modern life. We in the West have thankfully been insulated from persecution and martyrdom (so far). We have become ethnocentric in our biblical interpretation and many people assume that this passage does not apply to our own day. However, millions of Jesus-loving believers, this very hour, are enduring great hardship and death due to their witness for the gospel. Followers of Jesus Christ are executed, imprisoned, beaten, publicly humiliated and have property rights breached in many countries around the world. Asia tends to be the worst continent. Communist countries such as China, Laos, North Korea, and Myanmar stand out as terrible places to currently profess Christ. The Muslim world has for many centuries reduced Christians to near poverty status as second class citizens. More recently, many Muslim countries have become even worse with outright slaughter of Christian villages in Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria, and other places. Iran and Saudi Arabia probably have the strictest shari'a laws enacted, preventing Christians from free open worship.
The saints of the persecuting world are currently receiving the white robe and being told to wait for God's justice yet a little season until the full number of brethren are also killed. This seal was broken open in the 1st century. Believers have continued to be slain for their testimony up until and including the present day. The number of martyrs is not yet complete. During the Great Tribulation more souls will be added under the altar, right up until the time that the full cup of God's wrath destroys the beast and his followers at the brightness of Christ's return.
That is the first 5 seals. They are inaugurated prophecy. These events have already started and continue today. The first 5 seals are a self-contained overlapping series which started in apostolic days and will culminate at the return of Jesus. Each will progressively get more intense and more common as the time of finishing approaches. They continue right through till the end of the Great Tribulation. Just as labor contractions for a pregnant woman start off small and grow more painful and with more rapid succession, so too these first 5 seals have been enacted and march across the Middle East today.
This is the point in the book of Revelation at which we currently live, an epoch of tribulation. From here onward, the prophecy is purely future and points toward the time of the end. The very next verse goes on to the 6th seal, but were going to skip it for now. Let's move over to chapter 7 and 8 with the trumpets.
In Chapter 7, there is an interlude. An angel says in v3, "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads." Before the trumpets are blown to punish the earth and its wicked inhabitants, we are specifically told that believers will be protected from God's wrath. God is an excellent marksman, he targets his punishments very well. The trumpets and vials do not have adverse effect on believers, they are geared specifically toward those who have accepted the mark of the beast. No such interlude or promise of protection was given before the seals were popped one by one. Under the seals, the church endures and overcomes for Christ. But believers have no problems caused by the Trumpets and Vials.
In the current world, before the Great Tribulation of the last days, Christians are not immune to catastrophe. This is one of reasons for considering the Trumpets and Vials to be yet future; the sealing of the 144k in Rev 7:3 must happen first. For a closer identification of the 144k sealed, see my EDOM POWERPOINT. If I am correct that the sealing of the 144k happens before the trumpets are sounded, then that means that the sealing is the next event on the prophetic calendar.
This is probably not a metal trumpet, but a shofar, a bugle made from the horn of a ram. The Romans did have bronze bugles. A bannerman would lead the army with a bugle tune of Roman patriotism. Also bronze trumpets were played at games in the Coliseum and the Circus Maximus in Rome. The Israelites had silver trumpets, probably bronze ones too. Moses fashioned silver trumpets for camp use in the wilderness according to Numbers 10. Metal trumpets in antiquity were usually made from bronze, which is an alloy of copper and tin. Brass, a bright yellow copper alloy containing zinc, was not invented until the renaissance of the 1500's. All ancient bugles had no valves; that is also a modern invention. Incidentally The Latin word for trumpet is tuba; it looked like our bugle. In this passage, these angels are probably blowing the Hebrew ram's horn, a shofar.
None of these events should be understood as literal. When reading Hebrew apocalyptic literature, literalism will mess you up. The true identity is wrapped in a cloak of symbols. However, this is the Revelation and by the power of the Holy Spirit, these things can be revealed and made known to us. As the Parousia [Coming of Christ] draws nearer, I believe that more and more details will be made known to the church.
FIRST TRUMPET - Hail with Blood on Land - Radicalization of Islam (See also Ex 9:22-26)
Rev 8:7 The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
Hail, fire and blood fall out of the sky. Hail is frozen rock hard water. Hail does not slake thirst like rain, instead it is destructive like cannonballs falling out of the sky. Blood is unclean for consumption and fire is a sign of God's judgment. Instead of a literal storm of this very odd precipitation, I think this describes the hardening of the hearts of the people of the Middle East. This is the radicalization of Islam. Fundamentalism is growing at an alarming rate in previously moderate countries like Egypt and Jordan.
No less than 16 passages in Scripture compare men to grass, such as Ps 92:7 "they spring up like grass" or Ps 103:15 "men wither like grass", Isa 37:27 "They were as the grass of the field", or 1 Pet 1:24 "All flesh is as grass, it withers and falls away." Trees are in at least 20 passages symbolic of leaders of men, such as Judges 9:7 the parable of the trees as tribes of Israel, Ps 1:3 "He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water", Jer 11:16 "The LORD called your name, Green Olive Tree", or Ezk 31:3 "Indeed Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon." There are many more dendrological analogies in the Psalms and Proverbs.
I like literal interpretations as much as anybody. However the book of Revelation is a book of symbols, so a non-literal understanding for many of these Trumpets and Vials is my preferred interpretation. Instead of massive destruction breaking out on the planet, I lean toward this symbolizing 1/3 of Muslims turning into radical jihadi fundamentalists. The 1st horn may be sounding very very soon.
SECOND TRUMPET - Mountain in Sea - Ascent of Antichrist
Rev 8:8-9 And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.
A literalist interpretation is that this burning mountain represents a giant volcano, somewhere in the Middle East expoding its top off into the ocean causing tsunami and sealife death. Volcanologists and Discovery Channel tell us that there is massive volcano in the Canary Islands, off the African coast called Mt. Cumbre Vieja on La Palma island. This huge mountain is ready to catastrophically explode any time now. If Cumbre Vieja blew its top off then it would quite literally be "a mountain burning with fire cast into the sea." It would cause a killer tsunami that will nearly wipe out the east coast of the USA and much of Western Europe.
That is an interesting idea and plausible if we take the literal path for this trumpet, but the Canary Islands are out past Morocco in the Atlantic. It is too far West. Cumbre Vieja could possibly destroy 1/3 of the ships in the Atlantic Ocean, but not the Mediterranean. I doubt that would be a big effect on Middle East. Cumbre Vieja is too Euro-centric. The prophecy revolves around Israel, so if we are thinking literal, then we must find volcanoes closer to Jerusalem.
Harrat ar Rahah in Northern Saudi Arabia or Jabal al Druze in southern Syria are both volcanoes along the great rift that seem to be among possibilities for a literal understanding of the 2nd Trumpet. Neither has erupted for hundreds of years, but are still considered active geologically.
However, I am not at all convinced that this apocalyptic vision is intended to be received in simple literal terms. It says that the sea became blood, is that going to be literally fulfilled too with trans-substantiation of the ocean? Unwrapping the cloak of figurative language requires a study of the Hebrew Old Testament.
Mountains represent political governments or nations in Hebrew idiom. For example Isa 2:2 "In the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established"; Jer 51:25 "Behold, I am against you [Babylon], O destroying mountain, who destroys the whole earth"; see also many others like Zech 4:7 and Ps 46:2.
The sea is a well known biblical metaphor for gentile nations, Notice the parallel repetition proving synonymy in Isa 60:5 "the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come"; again in Isa 17:12 "Oh, the raging of many nations--they rage like the raging sea!"; Jesus even uses this common Hebrew metaphor in Lk 21:25 "nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea." In Rev 17:15 the interpretive angel point blank explains the symbolism "The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages."
Fire can be a symbol of God's purity (burning bush) or of God's holy judgment (lake of fire), so context is vitally important. In this situation, that the mountain of government is upon fire as it is cast into the nations signifies its satanic dominion. Remember that the second horseman of Rev 6 was fiery red and the dragon of Rev 12 is pyretic in nature.
The 'creatures' that die likely means that politicians/government officials die during his takeover revolution. This is probably an internal civil war among the leadership of the caliphate precipitating the rise of Antichrist. Dan 11:23 "And with only a few people he will rise to power." I doubt 1/3 of the creatures refers to the greater population, for the rise of antichirst will be with intrigue and slick words within the Islamic community. The 'ships' that are destroyed is likewise symbolic. Ships are for trade and interaction with far away nations. In antiquity ships carried people and merchandise between countries. Ships were never used for domestic commerce, they are a symbol of international commerce Destroying ships means to sever trade, travel, commerce and ambassadorial relations with non-Muslim lands. The extreme fundamentalist Islamic nation will in this way isolate itself from Islamic unbelievers.
In symbolic language this probably represents the rise to power of the future caliphate's Islamic antichrist within the Middle Eastern super state to be revived in the Last Days. His government will plunge upon the people of the surrounding nations with speed and intrigue when people do not expect it (Dan 11:21). That interpretation is not nearly as ear tickling as some of the literalist Armageddon horror stories of asteroids and volcanic natural disasters that kill millions. 21st century people love sensationalism having been raised on a steady diet of drama TV shows, so this vision of the advent of Antichrist, having nothing to do at all with the ocean, may seem dull to the sensationalists. But I think it is more Biblical.
THIRD TRUMPET - Woodwood in Rivers - Apostasy of Secular Christians (See also Deut 29:18, Prov 5:4, Dan 11:22)
Rev 8:10-11 And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.
This falling asteroid or meteorite shower is called Wormwood. Wormwood is a bitter herb native to Middle East. It grows about 24 inches tall and is found in rocky dry land. Wormwood is poisonous in large quantities, but is regularly used for medicine. It is an antibiotic in small measured doses. Wormwood kills bacteria and prevents infection. The herb has a numbing quality, so it is used as anesthetic. Additionally, it is intoxicating and has been abused. Wormwood was used in Europe as an ingredient in the liquor absinthe. The herb is used to make a tea for helping pregnant women during the pain of labor. It is used for companion planting by farmers, not too close but close enough to your crops, because of the secretions of its roots exerts an inhibiting effect on insects and weeds. It has also been historically used to repel fleas and moths indoors. The name "wormwood" comes from Middle English, because of the traditional use as a cure for intestinal worms. You do need to be careful though, too much of it will kill you. Wormwood is mentioned 1/2 dozen times in Bible, I give a couple of references in the parenthesis above.
The most important of these internal counter references is Deut 29:18. Moses says be extra careful that you don't go whoring after idols from the nations. Don't let false doctrine and bad teachers influence you " that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood." Moses is not talking about garden herbs; he is metaphorically talking about idolatry and paganism. The Revelation is heavily based on the Hebrew Bible, if a modern Christian interpreter ignore the OT they will inevitably wander down some pig trail of bad interpretation. My hermeneutic throughout this study is that to properly understand the symbolism of the Trumpets, we must use internal cross referencing from the Hebrew Scriptures. The bible consistently points back to itself. Every passage is intertwined with other bible passages. We must permit one inspired author to define and set the stage for another inspired author.
Of course, this means that the third trumpet is entirely symbolic and has nothing to do with asteroids, toxic plants, or rivers. The 'great star' is likely an important leader, a man is represented as a star in Rev 9:1 "a star falls from heaven and to HIM was given a key." Notice the star is a person. That this authoritative teacher is burning as a lamp, brings to mind Jesus' dominical saying that Christians are a lamp to the world. I propose that the star from heaven is a Middle Eastern Christian leader and teacher of great prestige and authority who apostatizes and converts to Islam. He poisons the beleaguered Christians of the Land with bitterness toward the gospel of Christ crucified. Rivers carry fresh water. Fountains or natural springs gushing up with ground water are one the the most reliable sources of fresh water throughout Israel. The river and fountain metaphor is symbolic of Christian communities, that carry the life giving message of God's grace.
Dan 11:21-22 says that a vile person with usurp the throne of Syria. This was historically fulfilled in the Seleucid Empire with the exploits of Antiochus Epiphenes. It will be prophetically fulfilled with the AntiChrist. The text says in verse 22 that he sweeps away a "prince of the covenant." The historical ante-type was Antiochus' removal of good Zadokite high priest Onias III and the installation of Hellenized Jason as high priest in Jerusalem in 175BC. The ultimate prophetic reality is likely this falling star from heaven in the 3rd Trumpet. A good minister turns into a bad minister. See my commentary on Dan 11 for a complete review of this incredible prophetic chapter.
Dan 11:32 continues by warning us that the contemptible king of the North will "with flattery corrupt those who have violated the covenant." This is apostasy and is reinforced by many NT verses such as 2Thes 2:3 where the apostasy precedes the Parousia; Matt 24:10 "many will turn from the faith", Acts 20:29 wolves enter and will not spare the flock; and 2Pet 2:2 false prophets will deny Jesus.
The poisoning of Wormwood and the death of many who drink the venom is spiritual not physical, but still quite literal, this is no allegory. Converting to Islam under threat of death, or even acquiescing to Chr-islam under peer pressure of society, means denying Jesus as Lord, God, Resurrected Messiah and singular Master. The vision forewarns us that 1/3 of secular Christians will drink the kool-aid. True born again believers who trust in God for salvation and strength, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, need not fear the poison of Wormwood's fallen super star. God will of course preserve and protect His true children. The apostasy is the falling away of secular ChINOs- Christians In Name Only.
FOURTH TRUMPET - Sun Smitten- 1/3 Darkened (See Matt 24:22)
Rev 8:12-13 And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise. 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!
Some believers prefer a more literal interpratation than I am providing in this study. For their benefit, let's consider a completely literalistic explanation of the events at the 4th Trumpet by my guest scholar, Allen Beechick. Click here for study of AMPUTATED DAYS. His theory in a nutshell: Jesus warned in Matt 24:22 that the days of the Great Tribulation would be cut short. He could not have meant that the 42 months of the Great Tribulation would be reduced by a month or two, because 42 months, exactly 1260 days, precisely 3.5 years had already been prophesied elsewhere and the Scripture cannot be broken. The study suggests that the number of hours in each day will be reduced. Literally. Another words the earth will spin faster by 1/3, yielding a reduction of 8hrs. The world will experience 16hour days instead of 24 hour days. The day light hours are actually reduced so that the sun does not give its light quite literally. Nights are equally reduced so that the moon and stars pass by about four hours quicker each night.
This is certainly an extremely literal interpretation. I'm not sure if I agree with it, as noted I tend to see rich opulent symbolism in the Revelation. But for once in my life, I don't have much to say. I do not know what the symbolism is intending, if figurative, for the 4th Trumpet.
The Three Woes indicate that the Great Tribulation has now started. The first 3 trumpets are future to our current world system, but commence before the real action of the final 3.5 years. I think this 4th horn is sounded at the beginning of the Great Tribulation. This is in the midst of the week of years of the treaty that Antichrist makes with God's people, the Christians. See my study evidencing that the treaty of Daniel 9:27 is with believing Christians and not rabbinic Jews.
The Great Tribulation will bring torment and anguish to Muslims who have subscribed to the doctrinal propaganda of the Islamic beast. God's wrath will not yet bring death. Instead it will cause punishment and pain commensurate with their blasphemy against Jesus. Death will not appear until the Son returns and personally slays them.
FIFTH TRUMPET - Locust/Scorpion/Demons Torment for 5 months- No killing allowed
Rev 9:1-12 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them. 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. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. 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. And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months. 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. One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.
The passage gives a colorful description of exactly what these locusts looked like. John must have been very close. Some prophecy teachers think this is John's way of describing helicopters. They note that the locusts have faces of men (the pilots), breastplates of iron (metal covering on helicopter), they will shoot flaming arrows (bullets and missiles), having tails of scorpions (back propeller), hair like a woman's (top propeller blades), and their wings sound like 1,000 horses running into battle (quite noisy). They figure that because John had never seen a helicopter he describes them this way. However, it is definitely not helicopters. Notice the text says that they come out of the bottomless pit. I believe helicopters come from Boeing or Bell. They are only allowed to hurt the wicked, those without God's seal. They don't actually kill anybody- only torment for 5 months. And the clincher, down in verse11 the name of their king is Abbadon. These are demons, not helicopters.
They come from the bottomless pit, in Greek it is called the abyss. This is the same pit where Satan will be held captive during the Millennium in Rev 20:1-2. In Luke 8:31, Jesus casts out a bunch of demons, collectively called Legion, from a crazy man. The demons beg Christ not to send them to the Abyss. An additional parallel reference is in 2 Peter 2:4, wherein we are told that a large company of especially bad demons are held prisoner in Tarterus for crimes committed in the pre-flood world. This most likely is the Abyss. Probably, these demons who have been locked up for eons will be released to harass the empire of the beast.
Their power will be to hurt, but not kill, unbelieving people for 5 months. What do you suppose will happen when the 5 months are expired? Will the demonic locusts cease tormenting and settle down into a peaceful lifestyle? Certainly not. Will they voluntarily return to the pit from whence they came? Get real, no way! Most likely these 5 months are the final 5 months out of the 42 months given to the Dragon and Beast. At the end of the 5 months, Christ returns. When Christ returns all evil dominions and powers are forcefully put down by the sword from his mouth. Satan and demons (including these grasshoppers) are cast into the Abyss for the Millennium. This is likely the same abyss that they came from.
Thus the beginning of the 5 months when the locusts are first set free is after the 37th regnal month of the Beast's reign.
During the last 5 months before the Glorious Appearance is the plague of demon gnats. If taken literally, this is a period of reduced length days, when devout adherents of Islam will be tormented not by literally visible bad grasshoppers, but by spiritual and invisible demons, who inflict pain and disease which is probably quite physical. Job was persecuted by an spiritual enemy Satan, but his torment was quite physical and literal. I expect the same here.
Different from Job, however, believers have been filled with the Holy Ghost so that demonic powers have no control to hurt us. Jesus said in Luke 10:19:
"Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and
over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you."
Christ is not referring to literal bee stings, fire ants, snake bites and scorpions. I personally have been struck by all of those (it was a non-poisonous snake). I believe Christ is alluding to the demonic scorpions that will besiege the world during the Great Tribulation. Christians will be unaffected by these demonic grasshopper scorpions.
The compelling blood of Christ offers great power to Christians as they fight this spiritual battle against evil. By the magnificent name of Jesus Christ, we can conquer all things and nothing shall destroy us! We are victorious because Christ is with us; therefore, no one, not even nasty weird grasshopper-scorpions, could possibly be against us (Romans 8:31).
Now the passage moves directly into the 6th trumpet, but again we will in our study break off and return later for the climax of the 6th big blow. Let's turn to chapter 16: The Vials.
With the vials we circle back to the beginning of the End Times, before the start of the Great Tribulation proper for another pass. We are revisiting the same information again with a slightly different vantage point.
VIALS 1-5 In Greek the word is phiale. This is a wine bowl. Wine or any beverage, was traditionally drunk from a broad shallow bowl or a deep saucer. Phiale are small pottery vessels, they are easily manageable with 1 hand, sort of like our soup/cereal bowl. In the Greco-Roman world people used these shallow bowls as we would a glass for drinking wine or water.
Immediately before the vials are poured out in Rev 15:8 the Temple in heaven as seen in John's vision is completely filled with smoke, so that no one could enter the Temple "until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed." This occurs before the first 1st vial is dumped out. Reentry to the temple will not be possible until the 7th angel has poured his potion. By comparing parallel verses in the trumpet section we can deduce that the time frame of trumpets and vials is synchronous. In 8:3 before the trumpets start an angel is seen at the golden incense altar which is located inside the temple building. In 9:13 at the 6th Trumpet, a voice is heard from the same golden incense altar, but no mention of seeing anyone, only a voice. Then finally in 11:19 after the 7th Trumpet, when it is all over, the ark is again seen inside the Temple.
What does it mean, what does it symbolize for the temple in heaven to be filled with smoke so that no one could enter? In Israel, the priests would daily enter the temple to maintain the incense at the golden altar. The incense represents the prayers of the saints ascending to God for intercession. No one being allowed to enter the temple means that intercession will no longer be possible. During the Vials (and Trumpets by parallel) it will not be possible to divert God's wrath. It will not be possible to change God's mind and His intent to destroy the beast and its followers.
As well as being circumstantial evidence that Trumpets and Vials are contaminant due to the lack of vision inside the temple during each, this is also excellent and powerful evidence that the Trumps and Vials have not yet started. Today, in our current world, God is longsuffering and willing to relent even for the worst of blasphemers. Muslims are freely and openly welcome into the fold of belief. James tells us that prayer is effective. You can actually change God's intent for the future by earnest and righteous prayer. He wants to perform goodness for us. He wants us to repent. But someday, enough will be enough. God will harden the hearts of unbelievers. His decision to precipitate the End will be immutable. The Vials and Trumpets have not yet started, take time Today, to make a decision for Christ, before the altar is off limits.
Notice that the 1st vial is upon the earth, the 2nd is upon the sea, the 3rd is upon rivers, 4th upon sun, and 5th upon the Beast. This is a direct parallel to the trumpets which had been directed toward the earth, sea, rivers, sun and fifthly, those that have not the seal of God. I have underlined the pertinent words in each Scripture verse to display the direct parallel. In the chart I have lined them up neatly in a column. I understand this similarity to be a strong exegetical evidence for the synomomy of the trumpets and vials. They are not different sets of plagues, but the same plague seen twice.
FIRST VIAL - Boils (see also Exodus 9:9-12, Deut 28:27,35)
Rev 16:1-2 And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth. And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.
This is a bowl full of boils or carbuncles. They are pussy and noisome, which means nasty and really bad. The vial judgment is similar to Pharaoh's plague. Tribulation saints will not be affected by this wrath. Notice it only befalls those who had the mark of the beast. (See my Islamic study for what the mark of the beast really means.) It specifically says in several places that those who have the seal of God in their forehead will be protected. Just as in the days of Moses, when there were no flies, no dead cows, no hail in land of Goshen, I don't think a Christian saint will be hurt by any of these plagues. They specifically are directed toward the enemies of God. God has really good aim and none of his team will suffer from friendly fire.
For further evidence of the protection of true believers from God's wrath see: Eph 4:30 says that believers are sealed with the Holy spirit unto the day of redemption. Compared with Rev 7:3 angelic command not to hurt anything until we have sealed the righteous on the forehead. Cf Isa 33:15 The righteous man will be delivered during the time of God's wrath.
First, let's observe that the 1st Vial is directed upon those that have the mark of the beast. This is evidence, if you accept the Islamic beast schema, that the vials did not occur during the 1st century (70AD) as proposed by preterits. The Vials can not start to be poured until the beastly empire and its marking system has been initiated into existence.
Besides the Exodus plague, another literary source that the vision draws from is the Mosaic curses of Deut 28:27,35. God sternly warns Israel that if they disobey Him, they will be kicked out of the land and suffer many maladies. Boils, scab and itch are specifically mentioned. The Jews did in fact disobey and they were historically evicted from the land. But did the Jewry of Diaspora suffer form literal skin infections to a greater degree then the average? Today, most Jews are still living in rebellion to God. As such the Mosaic curses are still in effect today and remain so until close to the Parousia when a spirit of supplication is given to them and "All Israel is saved." Today, do Jews suffer from dermal lesions more than the national average? No, of course not. This is symbolic language for hardening. Boils and blisters cause the skin to tighten and become impermeable. In very close synchronous parallel to the first Trumpet, this Vial means that those who accept Islam as a creed (mark of the beast) will become impermeable to God's love. They will be hardened like a rockhard carbuncle on the arm and calluses on the foot. Covering the same ground as the Trumpet, the first Vial is the radicalization of Islam. This is the growth of the jihad Madhist school which will become extremely zealous for Allah with hatred for Christians and Jesus.
SECOND VIAL - Salt Water to Blood - Advent and Power Rise of Antichrist
Rev 16:3 And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man; and every living soul died in the sea.
In the 2nd Trumpet, we witnessed a volcano (representing the government of Antichrist) being cast into the sea (representing surrounding Arab nations). This upheaval resulted in 1/3 of the polity leadership dying in the revolution of the Mahdi. The Vials are viewing the same event, but with a different perspective and with progressive additional results.
Everything in the sea dies. This means that all government officials, army generals, imans and religious leaders will follow the leadership of the new caliph. All dignitaries and leadership from Morrocco in the West to Pakistan in the East, from Uzbekistan in the North to Somalia in the South, spanning a massive territory of the pan-Islamic caliphate, will support the Antichristic Caliph.
In the 1st Vial, people had boils representing radicalization of the population masses. Now the the sea itself turns to blood, likely representing the leadership infrastructure of Middle Eastern society. Mosque leaders, mullah, are extremely influential. Turning them all into dead blood of a rotting corpse with putrid odor and coagulated lumps of festering blood.
This is most likely entirely symbolic and has absolutely nothing to do with oceans and fish. Several verses speak of the oceans and fishing still existing in the Messianic Kingdom: Ps 72:8 "He shall have dominion from sea to sea." In Ezk 47:10 Fishermen will stand along the shore of the sea spreading their nets, so apparently fish still exist and have not all died out. Even during the Great Tribulation the sea is still navigable. In Dan 11:30 during the height of the Great Tribulation, ships from Kittim, a western nation, will advance against the Antichrist, also known as the King of the North. (By the way, this is evidence that the Antichrist's reign is regional and not truly global. See my study on a Regional Beast.) Moving war ships would not be possible if the dead blood Vial is literal. Dead blood is coagulated blood, not liquid. The surface of the bloody sea where it is exposed to air would be hard and scabby. Underneath it would be gelatinous, as dead bodies do not bleed. Sailing a ship over Jell-O with a crusty lid is a nautical impossibility, compelling us to consider a symbolic interpretation.
Again it is impoortant to notice, how I have underlined the words upon the Earth, upon the Sea, upon the Rivers. The angels have good aim when they pour out the bowls. The first 5 vials directly correlate to the first 5 trumpets. Look at the chart. I think these are going on concurrently with the trumpets. The vials and trumpets are actually the exact same event from a different perspective.
THIRD VIAL - Fresh Water to Blood - 100% dead (see also Exodus 7:19)
Rev 16:4-7 And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.
Now all the freshwater is destroyed. If this were literal all humans and all animals would be dead within a week. Life is not possible without freshwater for more than 3-4 days. This plague is also reminiscent to of what Moses did in Egypt.
Following my interpretation of the 3rd trumpet, I think rivers and fountains of freshwater is best symbolically understood as Christian churches. They all turn to vile putrid Chrislam under the swordtip pressure of the mutaween religious police. It is their Allah commissioned objective to propagate Islamic virtue and to prevent Jesus centered vice among the society. The churches and institutions of the gospel's sweet and refreshing water turn to a thick brown putrid discharge reeking with disease and death. Of course, I am not meaning true Christians. God will protect his faithful. Believers will not be touched by this or any plague. These vials are cast upon the evil unsaved people in the world. Unfortunately, our churches are full of them. Today with the presence and spillover of Spirit filled Christians, these non-believers in our midst coast along with the tide. But during the Great Tribulation the beast will effectively drive the church underground, as it had been in the first century. Those buildings that we call churches and those denominational institutions will become a hollow shell without spiritual life. Everything and everybody that is not protected by God will be inundated by this vial and convert to Islam or at least accept a Chrislam compromise wherein Jesus is not exclusive Lord and Master.
With a regional beast understanding, I do not think Islam will conquer the world. Only Jesus will have that honor. Islam will conquer the Middle East. Currently, they are about 93% there. 7% of the population is Coptic, Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant. Like every church, even in your neighborhood, they have members who know their God personally and they have members who just show up for looks. How appropriate that the bogus Christians are symbolically the river and they become the dead blood. God is just.
Notice in verse 7, someone from "out of the altar" speaks. This maybe one of the martyrs whom we had seen in the 5th seal.
FOURTH VIAL - Sunburn
Rev 16:8-9 And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.
Correlating to the 4th Trumpet, I recommend viewing my guest scholar study about AMPUTATED DAYS. Sunburn is the result of the fourth vial. This would make perfect sense if the cut off days theory is correct. In order for the days to be shorter the earth must spin on its axis faster. In order to keep the same amount of days in a year so that 42 months still equals 3.5 years the orbit of the planet around the sun must become tighter. Centrifugal dynamics requires that a faster revolution will create a faster orbit, as a ice skater pulling in her arms spins faster. So shortened days goes in hand with a closer position to the sun by a shorter orbit. Of course this means increased radiation and sunburn. This is serious global warming. If environmentalists think we have problems now, just wait till this happens.
Fear not believers the sunburn will not adversely affect us. Verse 9 reassures us that God has power over these plagues. Only those who blaspheme his name will be scorched. Even as they witness unbelievable astronomical events, hear the prophecy of the witnesses in Jerusalem, unrepentant men will absorb the injury with defiance and arrogantly spurn the Creator.
FIFTH VIAL -Darkness on Beast /Gnaw Tongues (see also Exodus 10:21)
Rev 16:10-11 And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.
Moving right along, we see this plague is upon the seat of the Beast and it causes darkness. The Mosaic similarities with the plagues of Exodus are obvious. In Ex 10:21 Moses creates a darkness that "could be felt." Darkness doesn't cause pain and sores (both specifically mentioned), which lends credence to my theory that these vials are related to the trumpets and seals, not lineally separated as individual events. The vials are synchronous with the trumpets. Notice that this vial does not cause death, just painful darkness. The fifth trumpet did not cause death either. The victims wished for death, but instead the locust sting caused misery. The worshippers of the beast gnaw upon their own tongue from the pain caused by the 5th trumpet demonic locust sting. Perhaps the sting also causes temporary blindness for five months, so that they grope in the dark both physically and spiritually.
The 6th Generation is the culmination of the plagues. The 6th seal is most dramatic, so let's save it for last. The 6th Trumpet and 6th Vial are both directed toward the Great River Euphrates. I think this 6th generation of plagues in at the final hour toward Armageddon. This is now growing closer to the glorious 2nd Coming of our Lord Jesus.
SIXTH TRUMPET -Demon Army of 200 million kills 1/3 All Muslims/ alternately All Humans
Rev 9:13-21 And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. 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. And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them. 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. 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. 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. 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: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
John overhears a command coming from the four horns of the golden altar. Notice that he only heard a voice, he cannot yet see into the sanctuary till God's wrath is done. The voice gives an order to untie four demons from the Euphrates River. Good angels are not bound, so these are certainly evil fallen angels. 200million demonic horsemen issue out. These are not human soldiers, notice they have biting tails, fire breathing lion headed horses and other freaky features. This is another blitzkrieg of demons. Again it is directed toward the unredeemed beastly wicked.
Some bible teachers have proposed that this represents human armies from China with symbolic language. However the numbering of 200million if even close to literal is impossible. The largest army in the world, as you might expect, is China, with about 1.6million soldiers. India with 1million is second and surprisingly tiny North Korea is third with 950,000 men in uniform. All of the armies in the entire world could not muster 20million. 200 million is a phenomenal number, but if it is spiritual demons then it is quite realistic, after all there are billions of people, why not hundreds of millions of demons?
Of course, it is also entirely possible that the 200 myriad myriad is not intended to be literal. Instead of a reduction of arithmetic of the double myriad, perhaps the point is that this is an indefinite number of incalculable immensity of God's wrath poured out on followers of the beast.
The demons "were prepared for...a month, and a year." It appears that this demonic festival endures for about 13 months. In contrast, the 5th Trumpet locust demons only caused pain/ did not kill and only endured for 5months.
Once again, we are told in v20 that they did not repent. Punishment by itself does not lead to repentance, evidencing for our society that prison as a means of reform is wasted on criminals. Punishment is punitive not reformative.
SIXTH VIAL - Euphrates Dried Up- Kings army of the East Advance
Rev 16:12-16 And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
penultimate, 2nd to last, vial again is focused upon the historic river of
the fertile crescent. The Euphrates dries up, making way for the "Kings of the
East." Some people believe that this is a literal event. The
actual river Euphrates in Iraq is dried up creating passage for literal kings
from China/Mongolia. They march toward Armageddon to assist the
Anti-Christ. The problem with that interpretation is that the plague of
God's judgment becomes an assist for the Anti-Christ.
God's vials of wrath are specifically directed toward the evil inhabitants
In Rev 16:1 we are told by a loud voice from the
Temple, I suppose it is God himself speaking, saying "Go and pour out the
bowls of the wrath of God on the earth."
The vials do not help and assist the wicked kings in their Satanic endeavors. They cannot create passage for Chinese and Mongolian kings to attack Israel. That would be counter productive to the directive of these plagues.
Others connect Vial 6 "kings of East" with Trumpet 6 demonic horsemen. They claim that 200 million Chinese will attack. However, remember the demon horsemen were hurting the wicked, NOT attacking/marching on Israel.
My preference is that this is figurative language for the imminence of the 2nd Coming. To properly understand this verse let's review some actual history of Israel that all Jews would know just as all Americans know the story of George Washington cutting down a cherry tree.
Cyrus the Mede diverted the waters of the Euphrates River which surrounded the mighty city of Babylon into an irrigation canal in the year in 540BC. This allowed the invading Persian forces to march directly through the river bed/flood gates to capture the city of Babylon. Cyrus was a "king from the east." He immediately made a decree allowing Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. Cyrus was a type of Christ; just like Christ, he is referred to as the LORD's anointed, the messiah (Isa 45:1).
I believe Rev 16:12 is a figurative analogy. Just as Cyrus dried up the literal Euphrates and conquered the literal Babylon, so Jesus Christ and his accompanying saints ("kings [plural] of the east") are enroute, will part the skies of heaven (figurative Euphrates) and surly will conquer the evil power of Mystical Babylon.
Elsewhere in the Bible, we see the power of God coming from the east to deliver His people. In Ex 10:13 the East wind brought a plague of locust upon Egypt; Ex 14:21 the east wind parted the Reed Sea; Ps 48:7 the ships of Tarshish are destroyed by an East wind; Hosea 13:15 calls the East wind the LORD's wind; Math 2:1 wise men come from the east to acknowledge messiah; Rev 7:2 an angel with the seal of God comes from the east.
My main reason for rejecting a literal meaning with Rev16:12 is that it would be contradictory to the stated purpose of these vials- to pour out God's wrath upon the earth (Rev 16:1). The effect of the vials should hinder and punish the wicked, not provide opportunities.
The 6th vial continues with more action. Demons come out of the Beast and his friends to stir up trouble with kings of the earth. This simply means what it says: kings of the earth will gather with Anti-Christ at Armageddon. The kings are those mentioned in Ezk 38 battle of Gog and Ps83 enemies of Israel. These nations, all Middle Eastern Islamic countries, will follow at the heels of the Antichrist beast to attack Jerusalem. Armageddon is only a staging ground. It does not say that a battle occurs here. I have found that last great battle to be in Edom (Isa 63- I have a whole different study on this) and also at Jerusalem (Zech 14:2-3).
It is valid and interesting to note the contrasting symmetry between the T6 and V6. The 6th trumpet calls forth armies of demons to inflict pain and murder followers of the beast. The 6th Vial calls forth armies of heaven to ultimately destroy the beast.
SIXTH SEAL - Earthquake/Stars Fall/ Sky Rolls up (see also Zech 14:4-5, Isa 34:4, Joel 3:1-2)
Rev 6:12-17 And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
This is the culmination of all God's wrath. This probably occurs immediately before the appearance of Christ. We are just an hour or two before the glorious Parousia of the king. Armies of the world have surrounded Jerusalem and Bosrah. The Anti-Christ is self confidently thinking that he is actually going to win. There very well may be dozens of thermonuclear missiles in the air. Numerous star like objects fall out of their orbits; this is also prophesied by Isaiah 34. There is a massive earthquake, the biggest the world has ever seen. I think this is the same earthquake as was prophesied by Zech 14. It splits the Mt Olives in half.
When all this stuff happens, it says that all humans of the earth (wicked only-not surviving saints) hide in caves and wish to commit suicide in order to avoid the coming wrath. It is foolish to think that physical bodily death can separate you from God's Last Judgment, for he will raise the unsaved in front of the Great White Throne.
Then finally, the sky rolls up like a scroll, How can you roll the sky up like a scroll? Like a roll of paper towels? What would be in that part of the heavens where the sky used to be?
I think this creates a passage way (wormhole) in the heavens for the second coming of Messiah and procession of saints.
The 7th and final generation of measures, again I believe go together. Many of these things, I believe, are happening concurrently. With the 7th Generation Christ's Kingdom has arrived- Hallejuiah! Again we are going to start with the Trumpet, Shofar.
SEVENTH TRUMPET - Earthquake, Hail, then Singing
Rev 11:15-19 And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.
This is the passage that first made me think it cannot be a simple straight lineal chronology. The 7 trumpet is found in chapter 11, v15, is before any of the vials come out in chapter 16.
Yet with the 7th trumpet the kingdom has come; Christ shall reign; elders worship; resurrection is neigh; temple is opened. It's over, yet we are only in chapter 11.
SEVENTH VIAL - Earthquake, Hail, "It Is Done"
Rev 16:17-21 And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done. And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great. And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.
Mountains and Islands are tumbled and tossed. Doesn't that sound like the 6th seal? I believe the 7th trump and vial are connected to each other. Notice both show an earthquake, voices, thunder, and hail. I think this is the same earthquake as in the 6th Seal. We have a bit of overlap. John is viewing multiple fast forward film clips in the heavenly IMAX theater. Some are repeats of what he had seen earlier.
The great city, frequently assumed to be Jerusalem, is most likely Babylon , the seat of the beast. Several bible passages in the book of Revelation refer to the 'great city', always pointing toward Babylon. See Rev 17:18; Rev 18:10, 16,18,19, 21.
Alternately, 'the great city' could possibly be Nineveh, the hometown of Nimrod, the mighty hunter. For example: Gen 10:12; Jonah 1:2, 3:2, 4:11.
In verse 21 we see "hailstones" weighing a talent each. In modern measure that equals about 100lbs. This is problematic if to be interpreted literally. According to National Geographic the largest recorded hailstone was in a Nebraska storm of 2003. It had an estimated diameter of 7" and is thought to have weighed about 5lbs (before it melted). Megacryometeors are hypothetically considered possible by some scientists within this 100# size range, but have never been documented.
Under the 6th seal Rev 6:13 there were stars falling to earth. Here with the 7th vial, there are 100 pound hailstones falling to earth. I believe these are related and reflect a meteorite shower. Stars, of course, are huge. Stars are suns, most are larger then our own sun. Even the smallest stars are massive balls of gas and fire many thousands of times the size of the planet earth. Stars cannot fall to earth. Cosmic gravity prevents them from "falling" out of orbit. If even one sun-star actually smashed into the earth, then the earth wouldn't exist anymore. It would be vaporized. We are promised eternal life on earth in a resurrected body, so that can't happen. Likewise, hailstones don't grow to be 100 pounds. There are gravitational limits to the size of an object falling from a cloud. It appears more likely that both of these are parallel describing an asteroid or meteorite shower that plague the worshippers of the beast.
As this final plague climaxes, Jesus and party are now visible in the eastern skies descending toward the earth. They part, or roll back, the figurative Euphrates of the heavens as they descend. The voice cries out loudly, "It is done." In Greek this is ghinomahee meaning completed or finished. On the cross Jesus said teleo meaning fulfilled or paid. The two words although similar in English are not related.
SEVENTH SEAL - Silence
Rev 8:1 And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.
Silence is an indication of peace. The shalom of God has appeared. The OT frequently speaks of maintaining silence in the PRESENCE of the Lord (see Ex 14:14; Neh 8:11; Hab. 2:20; Zech. 2:13; Zeph. 1:7; Ps. 46:10; et. al.). The literal physical presence of God occurs at the glorious 2nd coming. When Christ is upon the earth, standing at the Mount of Olives, then all the world's inhabitants will be hushed.
The "shhhh"ing of all humanity does not happen in the midst of malee. The Great Tribulation will be a time of havoc, chaos, strife and groaning. It will be loud and disorderly. To suggest that the 7th seal occurs in the straight lineal progression somewhere in the middle of the clamor is poor logical reasoning.
Finally, here we are way back at chapter 8, but we close with silence and rest. A time of peace has finally come to the world. Gloria Alleluia.
The Scrolls, Trumps, and Vials of the Revelation are not in chronological or numerical order. They are not entirely future. They are certainly not literal. Within each category (trumps 1-7, for instance) they are chronologically referenced to themselves only (1 comes before 2, 2 comes before 3, etc). The first 5 scrolls span the period from the ascension of Christ till the return of Christ. 5 of the 7 seals of the great scroll have already been revealed. We are living in the period of the revelation, for the gospel of Jesus has already been uncovered and revealed. The Trumpets and Vials each span the entire entimes. This time is still future and has not yet happened The visions are somewhat disassociated chronologically from the balance of the text. [For example the 7th Trumpet is at the end of chapter 11. The very next verse in chapter 12 opens with the woman of Israel giving birth to a male child who ascends into heaven. This is clearly the birth and ascension of Jesus, it happened long ago before the 7th Trumpet is blown.] The trumps and vials are likely the very same event seen from a different snapshot. By snapshot, I mean the same topic and same subject, but viewed from a slightly different angle, which yields a different picture.
My opinion is that these plagues are highly symbolic for the judgments of God, although those judgments will be wrought out in literal occurrences here on earth in real time and space. Symbolic does not mean allegorical. They are directed toward a particularly blasphemous and idolatrous world view that prevails in the Middle East, yet they entirely spare the saints. Other people living in other parts of the world will be effected but are not the prime targets.
The Scrolls, Trumps and Vials overlap each other as an ancient mosaic from Madaba. They are full of prophetic truth of the real wrath coming upon the wicked, but should not be viewed as hyper-literal and totally sequential. Remember this is Hebrew apocalyptic poetry, not a bus schedule.
For thoughts and comments, please contact me at jay "at" deadsoulsyndrome "dot" com.