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REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 9 - Verse 20

Verse 20. And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues, etc. One third part is represented as swept off, and it might have been expected that a salutary effect would have been produced on the remainder, in reforming them, and restraining them from error and sin. The writer proceeds to state, however, that these judgments did not have the effect which might reasonably have been anticipated. No reformation followed; there was no abandonment of the prevailing forms of iniquity; there was no change in their idolatry and superstition. In regard to the exact meaning of what is here stated, (Re 9:20-21,) it will be a more convenient arrangement to consider it after we have ascertained the proper application of the passage relating to the sixth trumpet. What is here stated (Re 9:20-21) pertains to the state of the world after the desolations which would occur under this woe-trumpet; and the explanation of the words may be reserved therefore, with propriety, until the inquiry shall have been instituted as to the general design of the whole.

With respect to the fulfilment of this symbol—the sixth trumpet— it will be necessary to inquire whether there has been any event, or class of events, occurring at such a time, and in such a manner, as would be properly denoted by such a symbol. The examination of this question will make it necessary to go over the leading points in the symbol, and to endeavour to apply them. In doing this, I shall simply state, with such illustrations as may occur, what seems to me to have been the design of the symbol. It would be an endless task to examine all the explanations which have been proposed, and it would be useless to do so.

The reference, then, seems to me to be to the Turkish power, extending from the time of the first appearance of the Turks in the neighbourhood of the Euphrates, to the final conquest of Constantinople in 1453. The general reasons for this opinion are such as the following:

(a) If the previous trumpet referred to the Saracens, or to the rise of the Mohammedan power among the Arabs, then the Turkish dominion, being the next in succession, would be that which would most naturally be symbolized.

(b) The Turkish power rose on the decline of the Arabic, and was the next important power in affecting the destinies of the world.

(c) This power, like the former, had its seat in the East, and would be properly classified under the events occurring there as affecting the destiny of the world.

(d) The introduction of this power was necessary, in order to complete the survey of the downfall of the Roman empire—the great object kept in view all along in these symbols. In the first four of these trumpets, under the seventh seal, we found the decline and fall of the Western empire; in the first of the remaining three—the fifth in order—we found the rise of the Saracens, materially affecting the condition of the Eastern portion of the Roman world; and the notice of the Turks, under whom the empire at last fell to rise no more, seemed to be demanded in order to the completion of the picture. As a leading design of the whole vision was to describe the ultimate destiny of that formidable power—the Roman—which, in the time when the Revelation was given to John, ruled over the whole world; under which the church was then oppressed; and which, either as a civil or ecclesiastical power, was to exert so important an influence on the destiny of the church, it was proper that its history should be sketched until it ceased—that is, until the conquest of the capital of the Eastern empire by the Turks. Here the termination of the empire, as traced by Mr. Gibbon, closes; and these events it was important to incorporate in this series of visions.

The rise and character of the Turkish people may be seen stated in full in Gibbon, Dec. and Fall, iii. 101—103, 105, 486; iv. 41, 42, 87, 90, 91, 93, 100, 127, 143, 151,258, 260, 289, 350. The leading facts in regard to the history of the Turks, so far as they are necessary to be known before we proceed to apply the symbols, are the following:

(1.) The Turks, or Turkroans, had their origin in the vicinity of the Caspian Sea, and were divided into two branches, one on the east, and the other on the west. The latter colony, in the tenth century, could muster forty thousand soldiers; the other numbered a hundred thousand families.—Gibbon, iv. 90. By the latter of these, Persia was invaded and subdued, and soon Baghdad also came into their possession, and the seat of the caliph was occupied by a Turkish prince. The various details respecting this, and respecting their conversion to the faith of the Koran, may be seen in Gibbon, iv. 90-93. A mighty Turkish and Moslem power was thus concentrated under Togrul, who had subdued the caliph, in the vicinity of the Tigris and the Euphrates, extending east over Persia and the countries adjacent to the Caspian Sea, but it had not yet crossed the Euphrates to carry its conquests to the west. The conquest of Bagdad by Togrul, the first prince of the Seljuk race, was an important event, not only in itself, but as it was by this event that the Turk was constituted temporal lieutenant of the prophet's vicar, and so the head of the temporal power of the religion of Islam. "The conqueror of the East kissed the ground, stood some time in a modest posture, and was led toward the throne by the vizier and an interpreter. After Togrul had seated himself on another throne, his commission was publicly read, which declared him the temporal lieutenant of the prophet. He was successively invested with seven robes of honour, and presented with seven slaves the natives of the seven climates of the Arabian empire, etc. Their alliance [of the sultan and the caliph] was cemented by the marriage of Togrul's sister with the successor of the prophet," etc.—Gibbon, iv. 93. The conquest of Persia, the subjugation of Bagdad, the union of the Turkish power with that of the caliph, the successor of Mohammed, and the foundation of this powerful kingdom in the neighbourhood of the Euphrates, is all that is necessary to explain the sense of the phrase "which were prepared for an hour," etc., Re 9:15. The arrangements were then made for the important series of events which were to occur when that formidable power should be summoned from the East, to spread the predicted desolation over so large a part of the world. A mighty dominion had been forming in the East, that had subdued Persia, and that, by union with the Caliphs, by the subjugation of Bagdad, and by embracing the Mohammedan faith, had become "prepared" to play its subsequent important part in the affairs of the world.

(2.) The next important event in their history was the crossing of the Euphrates, and the invasion of Asia Minor. The account of this invasion can be best given in the words of Mr. Gibbon: "Twenty-five years after the death of Basil, [the Greek emperor,] his successors were suddenly assaulted by an unknown race of barbarians, who united the Scythian valour with the fanaticism of new proselytes, and the art and riches of a powerful monarchy. The myriads of Turkish horse overspread a frontier of six hundred miles from Taurus to Arzeroum, and the blood of one hundred and thirty thousand Christians was a grateful sacrifice to the Arabian prophet. Yet the arms of Togrul did not make any deep or lasting impression on the Greek empire. The torrent rolled away from the open country; the Sultan retired without glory or success from the siege of an Armenian city; the obscure hostilities were continued or suspended with a vicissitude of events; and the bravery of the Macedonian legions renewed the fame of the conqueror of Asia. The name of Alp Arslan, the valiant lion, is expressive of the popular idea of the perfection of man; and the successor of Togrul displayed the fierceness and generosity of the royal animal. ['The heads of the horses were as the heads of lions.'] He passed the Euphrates at the head of the Turkish cavalry, and entered Ceasarea, the metropolis of Cappadocia, to which he had been attracted by the fame and the wealth of the temple of St. Basil."—Vol. iv. 93; 94: compare also p. 95.

(3.) The next important event was the establishing of the kingdom of Roum in Asia Minor. After a succession of victories and defeats; after being driven once and again from Asia Minor, and compelled to retire beyond its limits; and after subjecting the East to their arms (Gibbon, iv. 95—100) in the various contests for the crown of the Eastern empire, the aid of the Turks was invoked by one party or the other, until they secured for themselves a firm foothold in Asia Minor, and established themselves there in a permanent kingdom—evidently with the purpose of seizing upon Constantinople itself when an opportunity should be presented. —Gibbon, iv. 100, 101. Of this kingdom of Roum, Mr. Gibbon (iv. 101) gives the following description, and speaks thus of the effect of its establishment on the destiny of the Eastern empire: "Since the first conquests of the Caliphs, the establishment of the Turks in Anatolia, or Asia Minor, was the most deplorable loss which the church and empire had sustained. By the propagation of the Moslem faith, Soliman deserved the name of Gazi, a holy champion; and his new kingdom of the Romans, or of Roum, was added to the table of Oriental geography. It is described as extending from the Euphrates to Constantinople, from the Black Sea to the confines of Syria; pregnant with mines of silver and iron, of alum and copper, fruitful in corn and wine, and productive of cattle and excellent horses. The wealth of Lydia, the arts of the Greeks, the splendour of the Augustine age existed only in books and ruins, which were equally obscure in the eyes of the Scythian conquerors. By the choice of the Sultan, Nice, the metropolis of Bithynia, was preferred for his palace and fortress, the seat of the Seljukian dynasty of Roum was planted one hundred miles from Constantinople; and the divinity of Christ was denied and derided in the same temple in which it had been pronounced in the first general synod of the Catholics. The unity of God, and the mission of Mohammed, were preached in the mosques; the Arabian learning was taught in the schools; the Cadis judged according to the law of the Koran; the Turkish manners and language prevailed in the cities; and Turkman camps were scattered over the plains and mountains of Anatolia," etc.

(4.) The next material event in the history of the Turkish power was the conquest of Jerusalem. See this described in Gibbon, iv. 102-106. By this, the attention of the Turks was turned for a time from the conquest of Constantinople—an event at which the Turkish power all along aimed, and in which they doubtless expected to be ultimately successful. Had they not been diverted from it, by the wars connected with the Crusades, Constantinople would have fallen long before it did fall, for it was too feeble to defend itself if it had been attacked.

(5.) The conquest of Jerusalem by the Turks, and the oppressions which Christians experienced there, gave rise to the Crusades, by which the destiny of Constantinople was still longer delayed. The war of the Crusades was made on the Turks, and as the crusaders mostly passed through Constantinople and Anatolia, all the power of the Turks in Asia Minor was requisite to defend themselves, and they were incapable of making an attack on Constantinople, until after the final defeat of the crusaders, and restoration of peace. See Gibbon, iv. 106-210.

(6.) The next material event in the history of the Turks was the conquest of Constantinople in A. D. 1453—an event which established the Turkish power in Europe, and which completed the downfall of the Roman empire.—Gibbon, iv. 333-359.

After this brief reference to the general history of the Turkish power, we are prepared to inquire more particularly whether the symbol in the passage before us is applicable to this series of events. This may be considered in several particulars.

(1.) The time. If the first woe-trumpet referred to the Saracens, then it would be natural that the rise and progress of the Turkish power should be symbolized as the next great fact in history, and as that under which the empire fell. As we have seen, the Turkish power rose immediately after the power of the Saracens had reached its height, and identified itself with the Mohammedan religion, and was, in fact, the next great power that affected the Roman empire, the welfare of the church, and the history of the world. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the time is such as is demanded in the proper interpretation of the symbol.

(2.) The place. We have seen (Barnes on "Re 9:14") that this was on or near the river Euphrates, and that this power was long forming and consolidating itself on the east of that river before it crossed it in the invasion of Asia Minor. It had spread over Persia, and had even invaded the region of the East as far as the Indies; it had secured, under Togrul, the conquest of Bagdad, and had united itself with the Caliphate, and was, in fact, a mighty power "prepared" for conquest before it moved to the West. Thus Mr. Gibbon (iv. 92) says, "The more rustic, perhaps the wisest, portion of the Turkroans continued to dwell in the tents of their ancestors; and from the Oxus to the Euphrates these military colonies were protected and propagated by their native princes.'- So again, speaking of Alp Arslan, the son and successor of Togrul, he says, (iv. 94,) "He passed the Euphrates at the head of the Turkish cavalry, and entered Caesarea, the metropolis of Cappadocia, to which he was attracted by the fame and the wealth of the temple of St. Basil." If it be admitted that it was intended by John to refer to the Turkish power, it could not have been better represented than as a power that had been forming in the vicinity of that great river, and that was prepared to precipitate itself on the Eastern empire. To one contemplating it in the time of Togrul or Alp Arslan, it would have appeared as a mighty power growing up in the neighbourhood of the Euphrates.

(3.) The four angels: "Loose the four angels which are bound." That is, loose the powers which are in the vicinity of the Euphrates, as if they were under the control of four angels. The most natural construction of this would be, that under the mighty power that was to sweep over the world, there were four subordinate powers, or that there were such subdivisions that it might be supposed they were ranged under four angelic powers or leaders. The question is, whether there was any such division or arrangement of the Turkish power, that, to one looking on it at a distance, there would seem to be such a division. In the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, (iv. 100;) we find the following statement: "The greatness and unity of the Persian empire expired in the person of Malek Shah. The Vacant throne was disputed by his brother and his four sons; and, after a series of civil wars, the treaty which reconciled the surviving candidates confirmed a lasting separation in the Persian dynasty, the oldest and principal branch of the house of Seljuk. The three younger dynasties were those of Kerman, of Syria, and of Roum; the first of these commanded an extensive, though obscure, dominion on the shores of the Indian Ocean; the second expelled the Arabian princes of Aleppo and Damascus; and the third [our peculiar case] invaded the Roman provinces of Asia Minor. The generous policy of Malek contributed to their elevation: he allowed the princes of his blood, even those whom he had vanquished in the field, to seek new kingdoms worthy of their ambition; nor was he displeased that they should draw away the more ardent spirits who might have disturbed the tranquillity of his reign. As the supreme head of his family and nation, the great Sultan of Persia commanded the obedience and tribute of his royal brethren: the thrones of Kerrnan and Nice, of Aleppo and Damascus; the Atabeks and emirs of Syria and Mesopotamia erected their standards under the shadow of his sceptre, and the hordes of Turkroans overspread the plains of Western Asia. After the death of Malek, the bands of union and subordination were gradually relaxed and dissolved; the indulgence of the house of Seljuk invested their slaves with the inheritance of kingdoms; and, in the Oriental style, a crowd of princes arose from the dust of their feet." Here it is observable, that, at the period when the Turkman hordes were about to precipitate themselves on Europe, and to advance to the destruction of the Eastern empire, we have distinct mention of four great departments of the Turkish power: the original power that had established itself in Persia, under Malek Shah, and the three subordinate powers that sprung out of that of Kerman, Syria, and Roum, It is observable

(a) that this occurs at the period when that power would appear in the East as advancing in its conquests to the West;

(b) that it was in the vicinity of the great river Euphrates;

(c) that it had never before occurred—the Turkish power having been before united as one; and

(d) that it never afterwards occurred—for, in the words of Mr. Gibbon, "after the death of Malek, the bands of union and subordination were relaxed and finally dissolved." It would not be improper, then, to look upon this one mighty power as under the control of four spirits that were held in check in the East, and that were "prepared" to pour their energies on the Roman empire.

(4.) The preparation: "Prepared for an hour," etc. That is, arranged; made ready—as if by previous discipline—for some mighty enterprise. Applied to the Turkmans, this would mean that the preparation for the ultimate work which they executed had been making as that power increased and became consolidated under Togrul, Alp Arslan, and Malek Shah. In its successful strides, Persia and the East had been subdued; the Caliph at Bagdad had been brought under the control of the Sultan; a union had been formed between the Turks and the Saracens; and the Sultanies of Kerman, Syria, and Roum had been established—embracing together all the countries of the East, and constituting this by far the most mighty nation on the globe. All this would seem to be a work of preparation to do what was afterwards done as seen in the visions of John.

(5.) The fact that they were bound: "Which are bound in the great river Euphrates." That is, they were, as it were, restrained and kept back for a long time in that vicinity. It would have been natural to suppose that that vast power would at once move on toward the West to the conquest of the capital of the Eastern empire. Such had been the case with the Huns, the Goths, and the Vandals. But these Turkish hordes had been long restrained in the East. They had subdued Persia. They had then achieved the conquest of India. They had conquered Bagdad, and the entire East was under their control. Yet for a long time they had now been inactive, and it would seem as if they had been bound or restrained by some mighty power from moving in their conquests to the West.

——————————————————————————————————— Part 2 of this 4 Part note See Barnes "Re 9:21"

Part 3 of this 4 Part note See Barnes "Re 10:5"

Part 4 of this 4 Part note See Barnes "Re 10:10

 

{c} "yet repented" Jer 5:3; 8:6 {d} "devils" Le 17:7; 1 Co 10:20 {e} "idols" Ps 135:15; Isa 40:19,20

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