T. Peterson, Ph.D.
(the following text is taken from:
The Creator's Window -Viewing Global Change,
Universal timelines, & The Promise, © 2000)
There is little doubt, today’s global changes are signs of the times. Whether you see them as the same signs referred to by Jesus is initially a matter of opinion. However, the world’s virtual non-response to pressing issues is much like hearing of the Creator’s covenants without active listening. The broader window perspective strongly suggests the crises on Earth are in lockstep with crises viewed from heaven. This chapter is a study of environmental types, which are defined as present day situations that coincidentally parallel end time events described in biblical prophecy. Here, the gap between the natural world and the God-natural begins to narrow.
To be clear, types in the physical realm are not the same as Revelation’s apocalyptic events. Prophecy describes God’s judgments which cause 'end-time’ people to consider the full meaning of their existence on Earth. What John recorded in the book of Revelation serves as an announcement signaling this age—in present time—is coming to a close. There, God’s judgments appear within Daniel’s time frame of seven years. These events demand attention because they relate to the Earth’s environment. Present global change forecasts secular consequences for all humanity. But, those who put their trust in the Creator’s hands are assured they will not endure his wrath. How that assurance is fulfilled is revealed later. For now, read the sequence of tribulation events like a gut wrenching roller coaster ride. Just when the ride slows, or seems to be ending, there is another terrible twist or sharp bend ahead. Hold on for your life, your soul, and spirit, for this is the very nature of the tribulation’s ride to eternity future. If environmental types tell us anything at all, there may be a responsible way to avoid the roller coaster and understand the underlying nature of today’s signs.
Exploring prophecy opens the window to potentially strange images. My approach looks along one sight line dissecting and selectively collecting parts of the bigger biblical picture. The time-ordered nature of the environmental themes makes them part of a timeline. Comparing prophesies recorded nearly two-thousand years ago with present day types risks misunderstanding the Creator’s ultimate plan. We keep speculation to a minimum because this timeline relies on information in science and Scripture. However, there is certainly more to all this than one can address here, so additional outside study is encouraged. Interpretations of prophecy require good judgment without undo sensationalism, as Dr. Fruchtenbaum puts it:
'Prophecy must first be determined from the Scriptures, then applied to current events; rather than current events being taken and forced into some kind of scriptural passage. Only after one’s eschatology (1) has been developed exegetically (2) from the Scriptures should current events be taken into account to see if there are any that are fulfilling prophecy. Only if the current events fit the demands of Scripture perfectly are these events to be identified as a fulfillment of prophecy. But to go to current events first and then, because of possible similarities, begin to identify these as partial fulfillments or as indications of future fulfillments is to engage in "newspaper exegesis" rather than biblical exegesis.’
Take caution to consider the unique nature of coincidences described by environmental types. Remember the types are foreshadows or signs and not intended as the fulfillment of a given prophecy. The presence of each sign is shocking enough. ( 3)
I am troubled when television evangelists frantically describe the end times, Tribulation, and apocalypse in grandiose terms. Their voices carry excitement, urgency abounds, while they repeatedly cite Scripture—chapter and verse. The whole affair soon becomes busy disorientation. Even worse, in their frenzy Scriptures are misquoted undermining their intended message. References to nuclear wars, ozone holes, etc., are at times used as examples for specific judgment events. In sharp contrast, a practical timeline approach describes each element in context, putting ordered information in place of sensational chaos. Careful study recognizes signs—such as environmental types—but turning signs into judgments misrepresents God’s will and the exact nature of each prophecy’s fulfillment. True enough, academicians do see signs in global change! They are fearful of what the future has in store for Earth. The uncertainties and implications are indeed awesome, but their interpretations are typically earthly and anthropocentric. Thus they are unable to read the signs!
Prophecies demonstrate themselves numerous times in past fulfillments. Here the window view challenges us to see events with a real-time perspective. So, let us make no assumptions concerning the initiation of future prophetic events. The Bible says "soon," but it also states clearly: "But when that day and hour will come, no one knows—not the angels in heaven, not the Son, only the Father" (Mattityahu 24:36; JNT). In the meantime, recognition of humanity’s sins and active stewardship are needed now. Fatalism is an inappropriate response. Unlike evangelists who concentrate solely on dramatic implications—hellfire and brimstone—I walk the timeline lifting my eyes to the distant horizon. While passing through tribulations, if I indeed must trudge through them, I ask: Where am I ultimately going? In the next chapter, I will trudge a bit and, as best I can, describe pertinent features of eternity’s horizon. But here, I focus on specific components that make one portion of the greater Universal timeline. Examining environmental types takes us back to the very words of the last biblical prophet, John, who recorded what he saw in his futuristic vision.
What Did John See?
In a typical study of eschatology, one steps, from point to point, with a detailed reading of the Scripture, verse to verse. This is helpful because many of Revelation’s descriptions come as symbols or word pictures. This seems to make interpretation an open ended process. One must remember John incorporated images into these Scriptures in terms familiar to the first century CE. As Hal Lindsey states:
'God’s revelations to John spanned twenty centuries, reaching past even our own sophisticated age of technology.’ (4)
One must be a literalist, a detective, and willing to put modern pieces into an ancient symbolic puzzle. For example, a prophetic reference to soldiers on horses gives two possibilities: 1) men advance to war on horses, or 2) men on horses is a symbolic representation for modern mechanized units. Most commentators assume the symbols and images are figurative. Ironically, in an era when oil supplies may rapidly dwindle to a trickle, horses may yet find their way back into military service. Remember, no one knows the exact date of the prophetic events. Again, global change implies no guarantee concerning the availability or extended future use of fossil fuels.
Concerning the more exact meaning of biblical imagery, Lindsey also notes:
'I’m sure the imagery and symbolism of the book are what scare people away. However, I believe we need to see that the Book of Revelation is the "Grand Central Station" of the whole Bible. (5) Nearly every symbol in it is used somewhere else in the Bible, but finds its ultimate fulfillment and explanation in this final prophetic book of the Bible.’ (6)
Revelation describes many of God’s judgments that fall upon the Earth as a result of human disobedience and disbelief. Environmental types exist, in part or whole, because humans have not upheld the principles of secular and biblical stewardship. Furthermore, present changes precede the prophetic events by serving as remarkable parallels to the judgments foretold in prophecy. In many respects humanity grapples with current change by denial, complacency, or bureaucratic inefficiency. As if to disbelieve such things could come to us in this life time, vital responses are delayed only to lead us to a fate that science predicts with increasing confidence. Something, sometime, has to give.
Revelation’s Content & The Judgments: A Quick Review
The Book of Revelation has a two-fold structure. First, John recorded a series of time-ordered descriptions. Within these are parenthetic views that fit elsewhere along, or generally throughout, Revelation’s timeline. For the moment, I review Revelation’s major themes, which are grouped into the following categories:
• Churches: John records seven letters intended for seven Asian Messianic communities of his time. Commentators also describe these letters as cameo descriptions for seven historical church ages. The letters therefore reveal time-ordered characteristics or developments that begin with the first century and end in present time. Only two communities, Smyrna and Philadelphia, are distinguished for their high character. The last community, Laodicea, characterizes the present church age as an apostate period when secularism infiltrates the thinking of weakly committed believers. An outline of the seven church periods appears in the Universal timeline (Chapter XXIII).
• Seal judgments: Attention next turns to Messiah in Heaven and the first in a series of seven judgments.
• Trumpet judgments: Seven angels in sequence blow seven trumpets representing severe judgments, many cause environmental damage on Earth.
• Thunders: After the sixth trumpet is heard there is a pause when John hears seven thunders. One assumes these are additional warnings or judgments, but John is told not to describe these! Only time will tell what the seven thunders have in store for humanity.
• Bowl judgments: The mood turns, the plagues dispensed from each bowl represent final judgments and damage to the Earth is clearly irreversible.
• Prophetic characters: You have been introduced to a number of these characters. They include: Dragon (the Adversary or Satan), Antichrist (False Messiah, First Beast), False Prophet (false Holy Spirit, Second Beast), the red beast (nations), Harlot (false religion), Woman (Israel). These characters appear in the Universal timeline (Chapter XXIII).
• Judgment and the Millennial Kingdom: The birth pains end with the last of the bowl judgments. The next two steps include judgment and the initiation of a 1000 year period where believers live on a regenerated Earth with Messiah as King. Details concerning the Millennial Kingdom and Eternity are given at the conclusion of the Universal timeline.
• Eternity: After the 1000 year kingdom there is a fundamental change in the Universe—perhaps best described as the physics of recreation. This is a critical component of John’s vision because his is the only biblical text to offer a glimpse at what follows Messiah’s Millennial Kingdom.
Global Change and Environmental Types
The following section describes biblical judgments in three sequences of seven events, as illustrated in Plate X, parts a, b and c, and in parallel—where appropriate—this presentation includes present day environmental types. I hypothesize, in many cases science will one day provide humanity evidence identifying the exact time specific futuristic prophecies are fulfilled. Then, science may attempt to fit natural causes to events that in fact surpass practical explanation. Even then, I suspect, satellites in space will monitor each event on land, in the sea, or in lakes and rivers. Biblical proportions, specified in the prophecies, will then match available data. I wonder if biblical comparisons will make the nightly news!
The Four Horses
The book of Revelation, starting in chapter 6, presents the well known four horsemen of the apocalypse. Each horse and rider are released as the Lamb (Revelation 6:1, the Messiah) opens the first four, of seven, seals. The seals bind a scroll. Breaking a seal presumably opens the scroll revealing its information concerning the Tribulation period. The White Horse is released first, with the command 'Go,’ thus enters the one known as: Lawless One, Exploiter, and Antichrist. Now unrestrained, this dictator conquers by military and political action. To this point in time, the world’s environmental woes continually head toward a critical uncertainty. Among other concurrent activities, the Antichrist easily conquers nations who consider global survival as the pivotal issue requiring singular leadership and immediate attention. I highlight the environmental aspect of a complex scenario because this is already a globally unifying theme. The UN generally fails, summits bring mediocre results, but this charismatic leader promises solutions, for the first time, on a world-wide basis. Simultaneously, promises for global progress in economics, political policy, religious conflict, etc., seem to materialize in this man’s presence.
Pseudo-peace reigns over the Earth as the White Horse rides free. Further manipulation by the Antichrist leads to new political and economic consequences following his conquest—and next enters the Red Horse. The former promises are replaced by death which wrests peace from the planet. Then comes the Black Horse, and the world’s economy and agricultural base are disrupted by collapse leading to global imbalance, and further separation of rich and poor.
'Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, "A quart of wheat for a day's wages, and three quarts of barley for a day's wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!’ (Revelation 6:6, NIV)
The first type is Economic Imbalance. Notice that one day’s food, the wheat and barley, are costly to those who must spend an entire day’s earnings—some biblical translations refer to this as a single shilling or denarius—to feed oneself or a family. In that time, as now, a paltry sum represents a day’s pay for a majority of the world’s population. Here, advancing global poverty deepens the former division produced by change. This type arises from a historical separation forcing people into distinct economic classes—the North and South. Inflation in times of economic imbalance are common, but during the Tribulation the Antichrist’s influence drives the inflationary process. The reference to oil and wine indicates, once again, the world’s rich do not suffer. Remember the Harlot and her businessmen! The rich continue to get richer. Economic hardship is easily dismissed, for again, one can rationalize there is nothing unusual in poorer people living a subsistence lifestyle. The real sign for trouble here is the global, unprecedented, increase in poverty. But, complacency within the ranks of the advantaged, those associated with money and power, is again status quo behavior and the Tribulation period advances onward.
'I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth. ’ (Revelation 6:8, NIV)
The second type is Famine. This scarcity of food appears similar to that realized throughout world history. Somalia and Rwanda, in the early 90s, represent examples of this type because killing and famine coexist in geographically limited areas. Some translations and interpretations of verse 6:8 suppose that one-quarter of the Earth’s population dies. But, literally, the Greek specifies that a quarter of the earth, or globe, experiences conflict and hunger associated with the Pale Horse. (7) Furthermore, Jesus refers to end time events occurring in 'various places’ (Matthew 24:7, NIV). Famine in this case, as in prior history, is not wholly limited to one place nor based on global shortage. Where crisis hits, the beasts of creation hunger to the point of killing humans for their survival. Human immune systems weaken from hunger and disease spreading death through the population.
As with previous famines the consequence of the Pale Horse appears as nothing unusual. Again, think about the geographic area involved. It is either contiguous or fragmented. I recognize the primary focus of Scripture is on the Middle East, yet a global framework is also implied for the Tribulation period. Either way a significant number of people are affected. Perhaps a quarter or more of the earth’s population dies, but this is not the main point. The human challenge and response are key issues. Sadly, many who have the ability to exercise stewardship for the welfare of impoverished people just don’t do it! The oil and wine remain under lock and key. Meanwhile, in Heaven, he who is in a position to judge, takes notes and blots names out of his book.
Persecution of Believers
The fifth seal reveals believers—in Heaven—who gave their lives, as martyrs, in Messiah’s name. Present day Jewish and Gentile Believers are a type for these saints. Daniel and Revelation both foretell the persecution of believers during tribulation. This theme runs throughout the entire seven year period, with a climax focusing on the Jewish (i.e. Messianic) remnant which must flee to the wilderness to escape the Antichrist's wrath. (8) Deaths of believers are unfortunately a given fact—a priori their number is known—and the killing goes on until their numbers are fulfilled (Revelation 6:11, also review Daniel 8:23-24).
There are various sources for interpretations of prophecy, but sometimes current events, changing circumstances, and the literal wording of the Scriptures require reconsideration of previous explications. For example, in 1973, Hal Lindsey suggested that the sixth seal judgment describes an earthquake resulting from a nuclear holocaust. To be fair, anything is possible, especially where prophecy is concerned. The most any honest commentator can offer is the best available information. Given the political environment of the early 70s, Lindsey’s former suggestions sound reasonable. But, after viewing creation of the Universe, as in Part Two, and looking at the diminishing threat of nuclear weapons starting in the 90s, another explanation comes to mind. The earthquake described below is real and well beyond human origin:
'I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.’ (Revelation 6:12-14, NIV)
The environmental type here is: Natural Earthquake. Remember, what makes all of the judgments different is the Creator’s involvement. On the God-natural level, Earth is cosmically taken in hand and shaken, even spun, such that stars appear to fall to the horizon, there is a change in planetary inertia creating a tremendous atmospheric anomaly, and the violent quake affects every mountain and every island. This agitation shifts the entire crust of the earth, even to the extent of moving continental plates. Further, every earthquake raises dust into the air. The sackcloth made of hair refers to a very fine weave that blocks light. Fine dust particles billowing into the atmosphere from the globe’s entire land mass thus fill the sky and quickly darken the sun and moon. Imagine if you can, on a planetary scale, an alarm clock’s bell repeatedly struck by the bell’s clapper. This quake is like a huge alarm. The results are deafening, stunning, and unavoidable! John writes of the human fear and reaction with no mention of injuries or deaths. The supernatural nature of this event is more a warning than a punishment.
To this point all the seals primarily focus on humans. Each step conveys alarming consequences for economics, political cooperation, and survival. The initial types present situations that can be rationalized or explained away. One might say: 'Sure, things are worse than ever before, but the problems are still logical.’ This is the common reaction for a planet full of confused, self-centered, materialists. The cosmic quake is a change in venue, the ordinary has been turned on its head, here the naturalist’s explanations fold under God-natural circumstances. The true origin of the quake is recognized, but apart from communication with God, humanity in tribulation speaks to stone:
'They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’ (Revelation 6:16,17, NIV)
There is a pause in the sequence before the seventh seal is opened. We will reserve discussion of the events associated with this break, including a description of the 144,000 Jewish believers—shown on Plate X-a and spoken of in Revelation 7:4—to the chronology presented in Chapter XXII.
Breaking the last seal opens the scroll fully revealing the next series of judgments—the Seven Trumpets. As a transition is made from seals to trumpets an angel casts a golden censer to the earth. The censer initially contains incense and fragrance representing prayers of the saints. As the vessel is thrown upon the earth it spills fire below, representing God’s judgment on the earth. Further warnings, as voices, thunder, lightening and earthquakes, accompany the censer’s descent to earth.
The first four trumpets sound and the Earth’s ecology suffers. The environmental consequences affect both humans and creation. Perhaps some see this as the final culmination of denial, delay, and inactivity throughout the former stages of global change. The types are the natural parallel to events that are anything but natural.
The First Trumpet
The first type associated with the trumpet judgments is Deforestation:
'The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.’ (Revelation 8:7, NIV)
'The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.’ (Revelation 8:7, NKJV)
Some biblical translations (e.g. NIV) state one-third of the earth is burned. There are actually several Greek texts to examine. (9) One other Greek text, as translated in the NKJV, does not include the reference to one third of the earth (see quote above). Either way, we are looking at first century writings that now have global implications. The relevant type is easily identified in human activities that burn rain forests. But the affected area is of some importance, because a third of the trees on a third of the earth is far different from a third of the trees over the entire globe. There is room in both of the Greek texts to imply one-third of all the planet’s trees burn—assuming if only a third of the planet burns, it burns completely. This raises a critical scientific question concerning the burning of massive quantities of biomass. If a third of the trees and all the green grass do burn, what happens to the environment, especially the atmosphere?
In an age of global change, I thought it would be fun to ask my question of scientists who do global modeling. The first individual I contacted, a scientist with NASA, thought the question of global burning, in this biblical context, was absurd. Scientists can be so conservative and restrained, I sometimes wonder what they use for imagination! To find an answer, I needed someone who thinks globally, a person who understood models and the environment. I next wrote a letter to Dr. Lovelock, the scientist who proposed the Gaia model for planet Earth. My inquiry offered a detailed description of my concern, both scientific and biblical, and I put the question forward as a scientifically hypothetical situation. Dr. Lovelock answered with a scientific, to the point, response (see Window Pane Fourteen). After reading the letter, I see nothing of immediate consequence impacts the Earth once a third of the trees burn. Although, the human psychological response should be immediate and dramatic! In a nutshell, oxygen levels remain more than adequate for life. The real impact, as Lovelock sees it, is long-term when integrated life systems begin to miss the environmental mechanisms and natural resources represented by trees and grass. Release of ash and CO2 present long-term problems, again, posing no immediate threat. Here, as discussed in Part One, global temperature is likely to show change over time. Climate variations, here and there, produce regional shifts in agriculture, biodiversity, etc.
Window Pane Fourteen
A Disturbance to Gaia
The following is a reproduction of Dr. Lovelock’s answer to my questions concerning the consequence of one-third of all trees and all green grasses burning. I simply asked about a biological scenario without regard to possible biblical implications. Either way, the answer is interesting and gives cause to put biblical judgments in line with a wake-up call analogy as opposed to darker descriptions that always seem to be the sensational aspects of Revelation prophesy. I am not saying the consequences are not dire, especially in environmental terms, but humanity, and all breathing creatures for that matter, will not simply suffocate for a lack of oxygen. This, in fact, leaves mankind to think.
2 June 1993
This trumpet judgment leaves humans to think about their experience. This is foremost a Divine challenge to faith. Air quality is a secondary issue! Apocalyptic stories often focus on death and not decision making. The trees are gone but humans are still standing! But what are they thinking? How many recognize God’s hand in this judgment? Once the ash clears, the individuals who monitor satellite data will assess the extent of the global loss. If they have knowledge of the Scriptures, the message should be obvious.
Thinking this scenario through, other considerations come to mind. Deforestation continues today—as you read! If this process is not halted, the relative number of trees left on the planet, a decade or two from now, will be critically reduced. Also, keep in mind the ongoing trade in valuable wood (Revelation 18) which serves to further reduce the global tree population over future time. A third of the remaining trees becomes increasingly significant with every act of deforestation prior to the sounding of the trumpet. Second, the first trumpet produces a rapid burn with an immediate boost in atmospheric CO2 which potentially raises this gas level over some threshold level—triggering still unforeseen consequences. I offer this perspective because current CO2 levels now approach an upper limit. Historically, the Earth’s life forms tolerated conditions associated with high CO2 but beyond this level is great uncertainty. Samples of gases locked in ice cores from the Earth’s poles have conveniently kept a climate record for modern science. Thus, to deforestation I add another type: Climate Change, which takes us back to Part One. I will not speculate further, other than to say the trumpet judgments result in atypical situations with multiple implications. The cascade of secondary and tertiary effects serve to further test the beliefs of those alive during the Tribulation.
Dr. Lovelock’s letter did not cover implications for all green grasses burning. I suggest these grasses represent the grain crops of the world—barley, corn, rice, rye, oats, sorghum, wheat, etc. Both northern and southern hemispheres produce large quantities of grains. As you may recall from Part One, present world grain production barely exceeds annual needs. So a combined challenge is put before humanity, both economically and agriculturally. Scientific analysis of crop failure is hardly necessary for a type called: Agriculture. Rain or drought historically cause periodic crop failures. But, sudden global loss of all standing grains, North or South, spells panic, economic chaos, and empty store shelves. Price is the problem when wheat and barley are mentioned previously. In the former scenario—the third seal—food was costly but obtainable. Here, a full harvest cycle vanishes! This gut wrenching event is virtually instantaneous. Food becomes scarce to absolutely unobtainable. Concerns for survival further fuel the chaotic response to this judgment.
The Second Trumpet: Space Mountain
'The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.’ (Revelation 8:8,9, NIV)
The second trumpet judgment, as Hal Lindsey suggested in 1973, might be a nuclear event. I offer no present day type here. Devastation is clearly limited, geographically, to a third of the world’s oceans. Mud from the ocean bottom and blood of creatures discolors the sea. Death to creatures on and below the water’s surface is significant. Shipping, commerce on the ocean, is dealt a blow as this burning, mountain-like, entity is cast into the sea. The object is immense and it is thrown by purpose. In terms of environmental types, this event may have an apparently natural explanation. The only possibility I offer, which is at best speculative, draws a comparison to the known impact of asteroids or meteors on planet Earth. The K-T Impact, resulting from an asteroid hitting Earth c. 65 million years ago, and meteorites believed to cause mass biological extinctions c. 365 million years ago, offer possible explanations for a mountain thrown into the sea. (10)
A critical secondary consequence, beyond the third of the sea directly affected by the mountain’s impact, follows with the disruption of the ocean’s unified system of deep currents. The sub-oceanic flow is described as a:
'global "conveyer belt" of heat and salt and is considered a potentially critical link in the global climate machine.’ (11)
Significant ecological damage to one part of this continuity logically spreads chaos throughout the other two-thirds of the world’s oceans. This must be added to the long-term prognosis following the first trumpet judgment. The cumulative effects, like the slow action of a Boa constrictor, put an environmental squeeze about the Earth. Losses of algae, zooplankton, and higher life forms decimate food chains and disrupt the balance of global chemical cycles. The cascade of complications from any single judgment is enough to boggle the mind.
What are the immediate chances for an asteroid hitting the Earth? Probably very slim. Perhaps that is why the 'mountain’ is thrown! A July 1993 article in Science magazine describes potential problems associated with the July 1994 impact of a shattered comet on Jupiter. (12) So, extraterrestrial impacts occurred on Earth in the past, and scientists expect to see future events in this solar system’s neighborhood. But you should not be too alarmed by strikes to Jupiter. This massive planet actually serves as the main attractor for cosmic missiles—a gravitational magnet for space junk—historically sparing the Earth of greater numbers from catastrophic impacts. (13) In fact, when the Shoemaker-Levy comet finally struck Jupiter—in mid-July 1994—the photos and news reports described an awesome event. (14) Humanity watched it all from the safety of planet Earth.
The Third Trumpet: Wormwood
'The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water--the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.’ (Revelation 8:10,11, NIV)
Call this one the Chernobyl type. The Ukrainian word Chernobyl is wormwood. The Random House dictionary defines wormwood in relation to: 'any plant of genus Artemisia, especially the bitter, aromatic plant, A. absinthium, of Eurasia, used as a vermifuge and a tonic, and as an ingredient in absinthe.’ I need not speculate extensively about the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. However, as the reactor exploded radioactive dust spread across the northern latitudes from Russia to Europe and Scandinavia. The blazing star, in the biblical case, could be a missile of human origin causing a nuclear event contaminating soil and fresh water. Might a meteor hit Chernobyl? Late 1992 reports indicate a collapse of the protective building—the 'Sarcophagus’ constructed shortly after the Soviet accident—could, even today, release significantly more radioactive contamination than the original incident. The Scripture does not identify exactly where the judgment occurs, but Eurasia seems implied. Again, the damage is apparently localized to a single geographic area, serving as a demonstration to all those who live outside the affected area. Bitter waters result in death, but the number of fatalities is unspecified. Again, many humans are left to witness and think about this trumpet judgment.
The Fourth Trumpet: The Lights Dim
'The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.’ (Revelation 8:12, NIV)
Supernatural events may defy all forms of explanation. I offer no type for the fifth trumpet. However, some interesting thoughts come to mind. Here, light for agricultural crops and for photovoltaic electricity is limited. Sustaining the planet’s carrying capacity requires solar energy. Explore with your mind—think of human activity throughout this time of trial. How would all forms of resources hold up under these conditions? With few trees and limited food the use of fossil fuels must increase, both for heat and food production. Present day emergency measures often result in depletion of local carbon-fuel reserves. In decades to come, when global crude oil depletion becomes increasingly significant, solar and wind generated electric power are correspondingly critical. Limiting light knocks out these alternate life support technologies. Furthermore, as suggested later, persistent dependence on fossil fuels may be a source for conflict during the tribulation period.
Every trumpet judgment reduces the planet’s carrying capacity. The true force of convergence, as suggested in Part One, brings the world to a state of diminishing choice. Now, environmental resources, personal choices, and beliefs are stretched to the absolute maximum. To this point, contrary to the darker interpretations of prophecy, it appears the Creator wants people alive. Only a living soul can make a choice. A dead man’s fate, one way or the other, is sealed for eternity. This is reinforced by the fifth trumpet judgment which pesters unbelievers repeatedly without death. However, the tide turns, and the sixth trumpet clearly takes a death toll in the millions.
The Fifth Trumpet: Five Month Cycle (15)
'And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man. During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.’ (Revelation 9:3-6, NIV)
The locusts represent what I call the Life Cycle type. A type parallels something natural, yet is atypical in supernatural ways. The locusts live for a five month period which is a common biological life span, or life cycle time frame, for one locust generation. The description of their features (Revelation 9:7-10) makes them unusual creatures, perhaps supernatural. These atypical locusts do not harm vegetation, their sole purpose is to sting unbelieving persons into extreme agony. Death might represent escape, but none who are stung by the scorpion-like bite is able to terminate their own life. Verse 4 implies that once a person repents he is given a protective seal and the locusts pass by. Believers do not suffer the wrath of God.
The Sixth Trumpet: The Battle for Leftovers
As the sixth trumpet is sounded there is a great battle in the vicinity of the Euphrates River. The battle may be a literal human conflict or the 200 million biblical horsemen may represent demonic forces released to kill a third of mankind. One might consider this the Desert Storm type. The location certainly parallels the conflict of the early 90s. The Scripture (Revelation 9:15) refers to a period of about 396 days for battle preparation preceding this conflict. Prior to Desert Storm, the US and allies prepared to meet Iraqi forces over a half year’s time. The reason for Desert Storm, in a word, is: Oil. The Tribulation battle may also follow a similar scenario. The strategic importance of this resource sky-rockets as global reserves are depleted. Because John uses symbolic language, descriptions of the horsemen and their weapons are open to interpretation. If the battle takes place in the desert, the reference to the horses’ serpent-like tails may refer to tank-tread markings left in the sand. The plagues, fire smoke, and brimstone, could be poisonous gas, flame throwers, and artillery shells. I also find it unusual that flying machines are never clearly described by the prophets. Either they lack words to explain twenty-first century jet fighters and helicopters or diminished supplies of highly refined aviation fuel eliminate their use. (16)
Like Desert Storm the battle becomes a focal point for the world. In spite of the bloodshed and carnage of this battle, the survivors refuse to repent (Revelation 9:21). The stress and psychological toll of the Tribulation produces indifference and insensitivity in the form of: murder, sorcery, sexual immorality, and theft. Again, as after the sixth seal, there is a pause for descriptions of events aside from the trumpets. The role of the Two Witnesses (Plate X-b) is considered later. The Little Scroll is the source of another set of warnings or judgments: the Seven Thunders. John is told not to record their meaning. Thus, no matter who has access to these Scriptures, some events remain a mystery. One thing is certain, the thunders provide seven additional chances for repentance. Compared to the bowl judgments, just ahead, the thunders are seven last chances for a person to accept God.
The seventh trumpet introduces a series of plagues associated with seven bowl judgments (Plate X-c). Sounding the last trumpet is justified, because the time has come to reward believers as well as: '... time for destroying those who destroy the earth.’ This verse (part of Revelation 11:18, JNT), turns the focus from any hope of stewardship to the elimination of those who oppose the earth. The Bowl judgments represent, in a few words, 'all hell breaks loose.’ Redemption, at this point, for the living unbeliever is an impossible option. But the Tribulation is not over yet.
Several environmental types can be identified for specific bowl judgments. Interesting parallel constructions, in some cases, also align bowls with previous trumpet judgments and elsewhere with plagues which precede Israel’s exodus from Egypt. The reappearance of the former Egyptian judgments suggests that God’s Chosen People—the focus now on Messianic believers—enter a second and final exodus experience. References to the Egyptian plagues appear in footnotes attached to section titles.
The First Bowl: Sores (17)
'The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image.’ (Revelation 16:2, NIV)
The painful sores are reminiscent of present day types including: pollution, effects of sexually transmitted disease, or gross malnutrition. In reviewing the previous events there are several insults to human health that might facilitate formation of sores. The first trumpet judgment released gas and ash pollution into the atmosphere and is certainly cause for food shortages. The sixth Egyptian plague was produced by fine furnace ash and fine dust disseminated in the air. These agents caused boils and sores to form on man and beast. There is thus some resemblance between the prior plague, trumpet judgment, and first bowl. Also, biological complications are likely to result from cumulative effects following the seals, trumpets, and thunders. The first bowl plague is the can opener for numerous problems that result in sores. Stronger parallels for trumpets and bowls follow. This is coincidental and interesting, but where trumpet judgments kept humanity thinking, the bowls bring unbelievers to ruin. By comparison to locusts that left believers untouched, the bowl’s plague specifically affects those who now bear the 666—Mark of the Beast—and nowhere is there any indication the mark is removable!
The sores disfigure those who worshipped a materialistic, vain, and worldly religious figure. The physical being is marred. One’s spiritual being is the only haven for inner beauty. Superficially the judgment is physical, but in a God-natural sense the implications are much more than skin deep. Like many cancerous or AIDS related diseases, there is no cure for this spiritually-based affliction. Death is not mentioned here, so this is a condition that lingers. In this wretched condition, the unbelieving must face the consequence of unbelief, endure additional judgments, and live to witness the sustained unblemished condition of believers.
The Second Bowl: The Seas (18)
'The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died.’ (Revelation 16:3, NIV)
The second and third bowl judgments in Revelation carry a similar theme. As with the second and third trumpets, the sea and then inland waters experience God’s wrath. I will use Red Tides for this bowl’s type. First, to be clear, this bowl judgment goes beyond all conceivable consequences stemming from blooms of microscopic organisms in the oceans. This parallel fits where recent massive oceanic blooms of phytoplankton impart a reddish color to the sea water. Red tide organisms produce neurotoxins that accumulate in shell fish making them poisonous to other organisms. The toxins are known to cause massive fish kills, and affect birds, marine animals, and humans. The global blooms alter nutrient cycles disrupting life routines of many species living in coastal waters. This type starts a Science magazine report with the following:
'The Bible reports that the first plague Moses visited upon the Egyptians was a blood-red tide that killed fish and fouled water. Indeed, the Red Sea is probably named after these noxious algal blooms, some of which pack a poison that can kill a human in hours. Now some—but not all—scientists fear that this ancient menace is growing, and a few believe that increased pollution in coastal waters is the culprit. New types of toxins are appearing and known algal killers are extending their reach to new regions of the world. "Previously unknown organisms, and organisms thought to be harmless, have just exploded," says plankton ecologist Don Anderson, senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, one of the few who have been studying red tides for decades.’ (19)
Imbalance in ocean chemistry, release of nutrients from other organisms—presumably carried throughout the ocean system after the second trumpet—provides a natural parallel for this supernatural event. Today’s red tides are more extensive and worrisome than in the past. While they don’t threaten to turn all waters to blood and death, they are a global sign for present time and for a biologically troubled Earth. (20)
The Third Bowl: Fresh Waters (21)
'The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say: "You are just in these judgments, you who are and who were, the Holy One, because you have so judged; for they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve." (Revelation 16:4-6, NIV)
I call this the Carrying Capacity type. As you may recall, I previously cited how little of the Earth’s waters are fresh. All forms of life are sustained by water and water is in all life. In the prior bowl judgment the salty waters are affected, leaving life on land encircled by death. The absolute limiting factor for terrestrial life, besides food, is that minute fraction of the water that is fresh. Not only surface water, but springs, or below ground aquifers, and water tables are affected. Panic and hysteria certainly accompany the realization that there is no safe source of water. Meanwhile safe passage is assured to every believer, so you may assume fresh water flows from their taps. Elsewhere, the only greater insult to the thirst of the unbeliever would be intense heat—which indeed is implied in the next judgment!
The Fourth Bowl: Solar Scorch
'The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.’ (Revelation 16:8,9, NIV)
The present day type for this judgment is the Ozone Hole type. The consequence of the ozone depletion was previously described in Part One. Technically speaking this is a Solar Amplification type, because, (1) the bowl affects the sun and not Earth’s atmosphere, and (2) for the public at large, a lesser known set of scientific observations now implicate solar intensity in climate change. Observations, in the 90s, indicate variations in solar output contribute to the unpredictable nature of changes on Earth. (22) For either type, one can expect increasing intensity of UV light producing sun burn—the intense scorch—immune system breakdown and cancerous sores. If the human population continues to accumulate increased numbers of HIV carriers, then the scorch represents a promoter of full-blown AIDS. This secondary effect resulting from this bowl translates into thousands upon millions who simultaneously succumb to impaired-immune system diseases. Secondary effects are not directly implied in this Scripture but, following through to the next judgment, many earthlings obviously enter a period of darkness when victims suffer the consequence of sores and disease related pain. I mention HIV here because similar to AIDS all these judgments become absolutely one-way avenues to death and destruction. If you have ever watched an acquaintance, a friend, or family member pass away from AIDS, you have encountered something of the cold, futile, nature this bowl judgment brings. During the Tribulation, knowing in absolute terms that death is imminent, these humans endure a last agonizing moment of life utterly refusing God’s presence.
Does ozone depletion become the agent or cause of the fourth bowl judgment? Perhaps not, but two points need review here. First, the nature of the prophecies in Revelation are open to the entire world. Too many commentaries simply focus on the Middle East or Europe as theaters of activity. Remember, the Antichrist’s reign affects all people on the entire Earth. Second, if ozone depletion is the primary cause of judgment, then it is atypical—global—something beyond natural trends. Recent efforts to abate ozone loss may minimize this type’s application in decades to come. Furthermore, each judgment comes by Divine intervention causing specific conditions to affect the entire globe at a specific time.
The Fifth Bowl: Darkness (23)
'The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.’ (Revelation 16:10,11, NIV)
There is no environmental type that applies here. The darkness is poured onto a specific place representing a false belief system and thus is foremost a spiritual darkening as opposed to a physical phenomenon.
The Sixth Bowl: Euphrates Dries (24)
'The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.’ (Revelation 16:10-14, NIV)
There are two possible types here—the first is Human Environmental Intervention and the second is Environmental Drought. The first case reminds me of stories from the early 90s conflict between the allies and Iraq. Radio and television reports suggested the allies could cut off water to Iraq by diverting or holding the head waters of the Euphrates River. This is indeed physically possible, even today. Later, in 1993, news from the marsh lands and Euphrates River delta tell of the following Iraqi activity:
'In a brutal epilogue to Iraq’s military adventures in Iran and Kuwait, the Baghdad government is waging an aggressive campaign to crush the "Marsh Arab" people of southern Iraq and destroy their habitat ... to gain control over the inhabitants of the watery region at the junction of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the latest campaign appears to be a systematic attempt to force their submission by turning the region into desert...’ (25)
The second type suggests the sixth angel’s action is paralleled by a simple drought brought on by climate change. But as with each judgment, the supernatural is at work. The dry river bed permits military movements from Asia to penetrate into the Middle East. Troops from all nations are attracted to a major conflict by three evil spirits, appearing as frogs, that work their miraculous and enticing wonders before national leaders who then commit their forces to battle. The popular conflict known as Armageddon is truly a moment when East meets West. This battle campaign is described later as part of the Universal timeline.
The Seventh Bowl: 'It Is Done’ & The Curtain Drops (26)
'The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, "It is done!" Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake.’ (Revelation 16:17,18, NIV)
Just before the final curtain, one last announcement is heard with special effects in the sky and one last incredible earthquake. Previously the power of a quake moved mountains and islands off their base. This time the magnitude is like none ever seen on Earth:
'Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found.’ (Revelation 16:20, NIV)
The picture is one of a complete work, but instead of building, the parts are now dismantled concluding one phase in preparation for the next. A final environmental rebellion against the unbeliever comes in a storm of hail:
'From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.’ (Revelation 16:21, NIV)
This unimaginable hail storm is the final death stroke to remaining unbelievers. The environmental types help to relate the physical world to the God-natural realm. The apocalypse’s primary function is not doom but revelation of the Messiah. From this point on, the natural world is visited by the God-natural presence of a resurrected Messiah. New life and regeneration are important themes following the seventh bowl and final judgment. These latter events fall into a logical sequence considered in the next chapter.
Judgments, Chaos, and Purpose
Why the absolute nature of the bowl judgments? Understanding the reasons behind events that seem so futile, or purposeless, requires looking back to a holistic level describing God’s will and purpose for the Universe. Ultimately, the Creator is steward over the entire Universe. His judgments are a purifying process, like the action of a steward who tends the vineyard by pulling weeds from between the vines. To stop the analysis here would be to say the Creator has toyed with our being and eventually trashes the whole scenario. This is not the case.
The window offers a retrospective view reminding me the judgments make chaos with a purpose. In fact, the Creator’s first biblically recorded actions brought cosmic order out of chaos. Ezekiel used the Babylonian mythology of universal creation to describe order out of chaos. One might see creation’s chaos as a type that depicts a path to eternal order. In his commentary on Ezekiel, Peter Craigie notes:
'The Babylonian creation story, Enuma Elish, describes the emergence of an ordered world from primeval chaos in terms of a great battle. The most powerful of the forces of chaos was a great marine monster, the goddess Tiamat. While Tiamat flourished, order and peace could not develop in the world. But a young champion among the gods of order, Marduk of Babylon, challenged the chaotic monster and slew it; from the carcase of Tiamat, in the language of the myth, the ordered and structured world gradually emerged. The adaptation of the language in the prophecy portrays Egypt in the role of the monster Tiamat and the Babylonian king appropriately playing the role of Marduk. Such an adaptation of the mythological language of creation must have had a striking effect on the captives who lived in the land of Marduk. Yet the adaptation of language is significant; whereas in the Babylonian myth, Tiamat and Marduk were independent deities, in Ezekiel’s oracle, Babylon and Egypt were but pawns in the hands of a universal God.
'It is only when the mythological background of this oracle of judgment has been identified that one begins to grasp its deeper theological message. It concerns not merely judgment, but the gradual emergence of the divine order from a world still gripped in primeval chaos. The ancient creation stories were not concerned with the origin of matter; rather, they were concerned with the origin of order and the subjugation of chaos. And the judgment against Egypt, portrayed here as the conquest of chaos, depicts a further stage in the emergence of world order from world chaos.
'Seen in this light, and from this larger perspective, all the prophet’s oracles of judgment take a more positive purpose. They reflect not simply acts of divine punishment for particular evils, but are episodes in a cosmic history in which gradually the powers of evil and chaos are being conquered.’ (27)
God, who oversees every creation myth known to man, ultimately knows the nature of the timeline events that start at t=0 and go to eternity. The properties of multi-dimensionality at the beginning may yet be realized in the eternal order. Chaos to order is the evolution of events that appear next as a universal timeline story.
------------------- Footnotes -----------------------
(1) The study of end times—the period of time just before the return of the Messiah.
(2) exegesis—relating to a critical explanation or interpretation, especially of Scripture.
(3) Ibid., A. Fruchtenbaum, page 61.
(4) Ibid., H. Lindsey, page 1.
(5) A. G. Fruchtenbaum states that while no Old Covenant Scripture is directly quoted in the Book of Revelation, however, there are approximately 550 references to Old Covenant Scriptures found throughout Revelation. These references are instrumental to defining and clarifying the meanings of symbols, images, and visions.
(6) Ibid., H. Lindsey, page xiv.
(7) J. P. Green, Pocket Interlinear — New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988), page 667. The translation from the Greek appears as follows: 'And behold, a horse pale green, and (one) sitting upon it, name to him death, and Hades followed with him, and was given to them authority to kill over the fourth of the earth with sword and with famine and with death, and by the wild beasts of the earth.’
(8) The point of escape is noted on Plate XI, in Chapter XXII, and described as part of the Universal timeline.
(9) The three Greek texts I have in mind are available as the Online Bible Greek files which are distributed in a combined format containing the: 1) Stephens 1550/Scrivener 1894 (Textus Receptus—as in KJV), 2) Byzantine/Majority (Byzantine/Majority Textform), and 3) Nestle 26/UBS 3 (Nestle-Aland 26th edition and the UBS Greek New Testament, 3rd edition; these are the "Alexandrian" text type). Information and disk copies (Macintosh or IBM compatible) of the Online Bible are available through : Ken Hamel, Box 168, Oakhurst, NJ 07755
are various views on the cause of previous biological extinctions, but one
thing is certain, the Earth has been hit by large meteorites or relatively
small asteroids; for further reference see:
W. Glen, "What Killed the Dinosaurs," American Scientist 78 (1990), pages 354-370; V. Morell, "How Lethal Was the K-T Impact?" Science 261 (1993) , pages 1518-1519; W. Alvarez and F. Asaro. "An Extraterrestrial Impact," Scientific American (October 1990) , pages 78-84.
(11) R. A. Kerr, "Ocean-in-a-Machine Starts Looking Like the Real Thing." Science 260 (1993), pages 32-33.
(12) R. A. Kerr, "Jupiter Bombardment Now Certain, but How Big a Show?" Science 261 (1993), page 552.
(13) H. Ross, "Computer Models Reveal New Evidence of God’s Care," Facts & Faith 7 (1993), pages 1-2. Dr. Ross starts this article by saying: 'The Biblical psalmists often spoke of God metaphorically as a shield. I suspect we possess only the minutest inkling of His spiritual and physical guardianship of our lives. Two new discoveries, one about Jupiter and one about the early earth, underline my point.’
(14) Kerr, R. A. "Shoemaker-Levy Dazzles, Bewilders" Science 265 (1994), pages 601-602.
(15) Eighth Egyptian plague: Locusts, see Exodus 10: 3-6.
(16) see Daniel 11, Ezekiel 38, or Revelation 19.
(17) Egyptian plague: Boils and sores, Exodus 9: 8-11.
(18) Egyptian plague: Exodus 7: 17-24.
(19) E. Culotta, "Red Menace in the World’s Oceans," Science 257 (1992), pages 1476-1477.
(20) Other signs of trouble in the oceans appear with the massive loss of coral. Here again, variation in water temperature or other factor may be related to change throughout the Earth’s ecological systems. Several reports of damage to the world’s coral reefs and probable cause appears as follows: 1) L. Roberts, "Warm Waters, Bleached Corals," Science 250 (1990) page 213; 2) L. Roberts, "Greenhouse Role in Reef Stress Unproven. " Science 253 (1991), pages 258-259; and 3) "Congress Ponders Aid for Coral Reef Research." Science 256 (1992), page 1127.
(21) Egyptian plague: Exodus 7: 17-24.
(22) P. V. Foukal, "The Variable Sun," Scientific American (February
1990), pages 34-41.
R. A. Kerr, "Could the Sun Be Warming the Climate," Science 254 (1991), pages 652-653.
(23) Egyptian plague: Exodus 10: 21-23.
(24) Egyptian plague: Exodus 8: 2-11. The similarity is entirely symbolic. The original plague was literally frogs, the latter uses frogs to represent evil spirits.
(25) T. W. Lippman, "Iraq’s War on 'Marsh Arabs,’" Washington Post 18 October 1993.
(26) Egyptian plague: Exodus 9: 16-19.
(27) P. C. Craigie, Ezekiel. The Daily Study Bible Series (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1983), pages 228-229. Quotation used by permission.