Trumpet #3: The Spread of Idolatry
Revelation Time Period #3:
486 AD - 752 AD
Revelation 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; 11 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."
The wormwood and poison in the water resulted when there was a departure from God, which then spread throughout Israel as they copied the idolatrous ways of surrounding nations. We can expect a similar spread of idolatry to occur during this Trumpet time period, as aptly revealed by the same symbols. A departure from God would occur, which would then be spread to a significant portion of Christianity through a copying of the idolatrous ways of the nations surrounding it. The idolatry would be incorporated into their religion and the false doctrines spread through the land.
The symbolism of wormwood representing idolatry in this Trumpet has special significance during this time period, for it was the time when the use of icons and images was largely debated and battled, and largely accepted as the norm in much of the realm. The use of images as promoted in Rome in worship was one of the most controversial religious issues of the time. Though the use of images was firmly established in Rome prior to the end of the 6th century,1 agitation on the issue in the rest of the realm grew, especially during the 6th and 7th centuries.
Those who endorsed the use of images, did not necessarily view themselves as worshipping the images or icons. There was reason put forth that they were showing honor or respect for the images, and worshipping the one represented by the image. However, this in no way appeased the critics who accused them of practicing idolatry. The Bible forbids bowing before an image in the second commandment. There was concern that even the good intentions of a devout Christian could gradually turn into idolatry if one repeatedly prays before an image. Many Christians, including the churches of the Eastern Roman Empire, along with other religions, such as Islam, were very disturbed over the veneration of images.
The controversy raged for hundreds of years. Ultimately, the Franks accepted the use of images, along with other polluted doctrines, and the spread of a paganized version of Christianity was a success. The use of images was integrated into the churches throughout the land and it became firmly implanted in the religion and culture of the nations.
Rivers = Armies. In Ezekiel, Pharaoh is pictured as a dragon lying in the midst of his rivers and he comes forth with his rivers to foul up other rivers (Ezekiel 29:3, 32:2). "Egypt riseth up like a flood, and his waters are moved like the rivers; and he saith, I will go up, and will cover the earth; I will destroy the city and the inhabitants thereof" (Jeremiah 46:8). The conquests of Assyria are also likened to a river. "Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks" (Isaiah 8:7).
Waters represent multitudes of people or nations (Rev. 17:15). When people (waters) are organized to support or enforce the will of a political power, they become an army (river). When the army overwhelms their opponents, they conquer them (the river floods/overflows its banks) (Dan. 9:26, 11:22, Is. 59:19, Nahum 1:8).
"Thus saith the LORD; Behold, waters rise up out of the north, and shall be an overflowing flood, and shall overflow the land, and all that is therein; the city, and them that dwell therein: then the men shall cry, and all the inhabitants of the land shall howl. At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his strong horses, at the rushing of his chariots, and at the rumbling of his wheels, the fathers shall not look back to their children for feebleness of hands" (Jeremiah 47:2-3).
"Who is this that cometh up as a flood, whose waters are moved as the rivers? Egypt riseth up like a flood, and his waters are moved like the rivers; and he saith, I will go up, and will cover the earth; I will destroy the city and the inhabitants thereof. Come up, ye horses; and rage, ye chariots; and let the mighty men come forth; the Ethiopians and the Libyans, that handle the shield; and the Lydians, that handle and bend the bow" (Jeremiah 46:7-9).The rivers are the masses of people within a realm that take the form of armies that flow out to overwhelm or flood other people groups. They are the tribes and nations that make a realm powerful. There are several examples within Revelation of this usage:
- In the Sixth Trumpet, four angels are loosed in the Euphrates river, which releases a great army of two hundred thousand thousand horsemen (Rev. 9:14-16).
- In ancient Babylon, the Euphrates river protected it, until its waters were diverted by the armies of Cyrus. In Revelation, the prophetic Euphrates river dries up as part of the process of overthrowing spiritual Babylon (Rev. 16:12). The river is the same as the waters upon which Babylon sits (Rev. 17:1, 5), which are also described as mountains/kings (kingdoms/nations/political powers) (Rev. 17:9-10) and peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues (Rev. 17:15). This support for Babylon "dries up", or in other words, the armies or political powers that enforce the will of Babylon (the woman and her daughters symbolizing apostate churches) cease to do so during the 6th plague.
- In Revelation 12:15-16, the dragon spews out a flood of water (the same Greek word translated here to "water" is translated to "river" in Rev. 8:10) from its mouth in an attempt to overwhelm the woman (God's faithful church). The woman flees to the wilderness for 1260 years (time, times and 1/2 time) and is helped by the earth (sparsely populated area), which swallows the flood (absorbs or diverts those sent out to kill and overwhelm God's people). Note: In Revelation 13, the first beast rises out of the sea, but the second beast rises out of the earth; one representing a kingdom/nation that rises out of the masses of people (sea), and the second representing a kingdom/nation that rises from a relatively unpopulated area.
Fallen Star In Revelation 1:20, stars are explained to symbolize the messengers of God's churches. The star in this Trumpet has fallen. This symbolizes a messenger that has fallen away from God's truth and thus the message preached is corrupted. In this third Trumpet, the star that was from heaven, but fell to earth, represents the messenger of a church that fell into apostacy.
In its early years, the church in Rome had been a great messenger for Christ as it helped spread a pure gospel with much success. But, it lost its way by compromising with the nations around it, which allowed a paganized form of Christianity to emerge. Then, during this Trumpet time period, the star fell upon the rivers, polluting them. In other words, the church in Rome converted kings (Franks) and their armies to an idolatrous form of religion. The armies then helped to defend and spread that polluted religion throughout the realm.
The corruption of the church in Rome began in large measure with the conversion of emperor Constantine (306 - 337 AD). Perhaps for the sake of unity and political stability, he combined Christianity and paganism in ways that made it more comfortable for pagans to convert. He continued using symbols of sun worship, which had for centuries been used in the worship of the Sol Invictus ("Unconquered Sun") by the Roman emperors who were also the official high priests of the cult of Sol. Christianity continued to be promoted by subsequent emperors, although not without interruption until 380 AD when it became the state religion. For those rulers not truly converted, there was still good reason to embrace Christianty in order to encourage unity in the empire. Unfortunately, many of the existing pagan rituals and festivals were continued, but in a modified, "Christianized" form. This appealed to more people and brought astounding growth to Christianity during the fourth century, though this was not truly a benefit for the church. Previously associated with earnest believers who would even joyfully give their lives for their religion, it now attracted the indifferent, the self-seeking, those who were just going along with the general trends and many who experienced no change of heart. This latter class "clung stubbornly to ancient superstitions" and the "cult of a host of saints and martyrs sprang up to take the place of the many local gods of pagan mythology".2
The corruption of the church of Rome and its messengers and message (fallen star), occurred through the integration of pagan rituals and symbols into its beliefs. The corresponding rise of its influence enabled it to powerfully promote this corrupted theology to others as authoritative. Its influence was able to rise because of the support of various state powers, including the Byzantines. But, within the Roman realm (formerly the western portion of the Roman Empire), the Franks were the primary force that adopted and spread the religion of the Roman Church during this time period.
Britain, which was instrumental in sending missionaries to the continent, joined, along with Germany and others, with the politico-ecclesaistical organization. By the end of this time period, most of the opposition to papal authority in the west had been overcome and an ecclesiastical system was confirmed that was obedient to the pope and supported by Frankish rulers.3
Summary:One of the great centers of the Christian religion, the christian Church in Rome, through which God had previously used to spread His messages, apostasized and could no longer be God's messenger (star fell from heaven). It fell because of the pagan practices, unbiblical teachings and idolatry (wormwood) that had been incorporated into the church, especially since the time of Constantine.
When state powers began to unite with the church, the armies (rivers) were corrupted by the false religion. As the influence of the church grew and especially the power of the Franks grew, the poison was spread and a large portion of the Roman realm (third part of the waters) died physically and spiritually because of the idolatry (waters became wormwood).
This time period (486-752 AD) became, unfortunately, characterized by widespread spiritual corruption as the kings, armies and people in the Roman realm took on the compromised Church in Rome's form of Christianity, including the use of images. This spread of Catholicism was so successful, that by the end of the 8th century, "Western Europe was ruled entirely by Christian kings."4 In the next period, by the 9th and 10th centuries, not only the western, but the central and northern parts of Europe were mostly converted to Roman Catholicism.5
Linking the 3rd Trumpet and 3rd HeadWhen the papacy (4th Head) became the dominant political power in 752 as it legitimatized the crowing of Pepin in place of the Merovingians Franks (Head #3), this also signalled the end of the 3rd Trumpet process of spreading a corrupted gospel by the state powers in the Roman realm to a third of the realm (Frankish lands) (it fell upon the third part of the rivers - v. 10). By 752, such a staunch church-state alliance was formed that it would dominate for centuries. Learn more about "Linking the 7 Trumpets to the 7 Heads".
SummaryTrumpet #3 = The spread of idolatry (486 to 752). The messengers of the church in Rome ("star" that fell - Rev. 1:20) had fallen because of pagan practices, unbiblical teachings and idolatry ("wormwood" - Deut. 29:16-18, Jer. 8:14, 9:13-15, 23:13-16). As the Franks united with the church, its armies ("rivers" - Jer. 46:8, Ez. 29:3, 32:2, Is. 8:7) were corrupted by the false religion and spread it to a portion ("third") of the realm. This was when the use of icons and images was intensely debated and finally accepted as the norm. By the end of this period, the western part of Europe was ruled entirely by kings converted to the papal version of Christianity. This coincides with the 3rd Church, Pergamum, that brought in idolatry through the doctrine of Balaam, and the 3rd Seal with its scarcity of God's Word.
Continue to: Trumpet #4
- 1. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, page 871.
- 2. A Survey of European Civilization, page 112.
- 3. Albert Henry Newman, A Manual of Church History, (Philadelphia: The American Baptist Publication Society, 1899), page 421.
- 4. Wikipedia, accessed 7 Feb 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Christianity.
- 5. Wikipedia, accessed 11-27-12, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Roman_Empire#Byzantine_Reconquest.
Millennium (Rev. 20:1 - 20:15)
New Earth (Rev. 21:1 to 22:21)
Epilogue (Rev. 22:6 to 22:21)