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Trumpet #5: The Turks Torment the Byzantines

Revelation Time Period #5:
1299 AD - 1449 AD

Revelation 9:1-12 "1 And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. 2 And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. 3 And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4 And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. 5 And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. 6 And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them. 7 And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. 8 And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. 9 And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. 10 And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months. 11 And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon. 12 One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter."

Sun = Jesus' righteousness. The sun is obscured in this prophecy. As seen in the previous Trumpet, the sun represents Christ's righteousness. The power from the bottomless pit obscures Christ and the truth of His character.

Smoke = False beliefs. This prophecy depicts a place that contains a great furnace that issues smoke, which darkens, or obscures, the sun. False beliefs obscure the truth about Christ. During this time period, a new set of ideas or belief system (furnace) was created that spread beliefs (smoke) that obscured the knowledge of Christ's character (sun).

Locusts = Army. Locusts are known to do their devouring work quickly and arrive in large quantities (Nahum 3:15). During the plagues in Egypt, the locusts are described as "very grievous", covering the face of the whole earth and eating everything (Ex. 10:12-15). In the Old Testament, similar imagery to this Trumpet prophecy is used by Joel, who uses locusts to symbolize a great army. He writes that the army's appearance is like horses and horsemen and they sound like chariots, just like in this Trumpet description. "The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array. ... And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you" (Joel 2:4-5, 25). The army (locusts) that rises during this Trumpet time period, is ready for battle and moves fast to cover vast territory.

Bottomless Pit = A place of the earth that is lifeless, sparsely populated and/or undeveloped. (See more information on the Bottomless Pit.) Thus, we would look in history for an army (locusts) to rise around 1299 AD, from a relatively isolated, undeveloped or sparsely populated area (bottomless pit). The army would arise based on a belief system (smoke) that obscurred the truth about Christ (sun). This symbolism, time frame and characteristics are fulfilled in the rise of the Ottomans, who first established the Ottoman State in 1299.

Fallen Star = Fallen messenger, Islam. As we saw in the 3rd Trumpet, stars represent the messengers (angels) of the churches (Rev. 1:20). Just like the star (Roman church) in the 3rd Trumpet, the star in this Trumpet has fallen. This symbolizes a church that has fallen away from God's truth and thus the message they preach becomes corrupt. The Ottomans became known as the protectors of the Islamic faith. Their embrace and promotion of the teachings (smoke) of Islam (star) greatly obscurred the message of Jesus' righteousness (sun).

Seal of God = God's mark of ownership. Those with the seal of God were not to be hurt during this Trumpet time period. See more information on the Seal of God.

Trees & Grass = People in the Roman realm and their homeland. This 5th Trumpet, in Rev. 9:4, associates those who have the seal of God with the trees and grass (see a previous section on the 1st Trumpet for more on the symbolism of trees and grass). In the 1st Trumpet, a third of the trees were burned and all of the grass was burned up, representing the many Jews (trees) killed during the Roman-Jewish wars and the desolation of and complete loss of their homeland (grass - the place where the trees dwell). In the 5th Trumpet, the trees and grass are not hurt at all. This time period describes a growing threat to God's people, but neither they nor their dwelling place (within the Roman realm, which doesn't include Byzantine lands) were directly harmed by it, even though others (Byzantines) were tortured and vexed grieviously ("tormented") by the locusts.

Hungary was seen as a gateway to Europe from Asia. It was considered as part of the western Christian nations by the 13th century and was well integrated into the realm by the 14th century. The eastern frontiers of Poland and Hungary "marked the frontiers of Europe."1 It was only after this trumpet time period ended, that the Ottomans were able to conquer land within the Roman realm. Finally, in 1526, a large portion of Hungary became ruled by the Ottomans.

5 months = 150 years. When using the day for a year principle in interpreting Bible prophecy, the five months are calculated as follows:

1 month = 30 days
5 months = 150 days
150 days = 150 years

The Ottoman army (locusts) of the 5th Trumpet would NOT be allowed to harm God's people (trees) or their dwelling place (grass), during the 150 years. However, they would be allowed to torment and hurt others, though not kill them (the Byzantine Empire), for the 150 years.

The Ottoman State began in Anatolia (in present day Turkey) when Osman I declared himself Sultan and announced the independence of his own small kingdom from the Seljuk Turks.2 He first invaded the territory of Nicomedia on the 27th of July, 1299.3 For the next 150 years (5 months) the Ottoman rule began to extend over the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans, controlling nearly all former Byzantine lands surrounding the city of, but not overtaking, Constantinople (the Byzantine capitol).

During this time period, the Ottomans did not take over areas within the Roman realm, where the large part of the people (any tree, those with the seal of God) of God's church dwelt ("commanded them that they should not hurt the grass"). But, they were a cause of great hurt and terror (torment) to the neighboring Byzantine Empire. Note that the same entity cannot be "not hurt" (v. 4) and "hurt" (v. 10) at the same time, so there are different entities being affected by this Trumpet. The Roman realm was not yet directly hurt, but were definitely negatively affected and perplexed by this increasing threat.

Western Europeans were fearful. They periodically sent armies to attack the Ottomans (including crusades in 1366, 1396 and 1444), but they seemed incapable of coming to agreements among themselves that would unite Europe enough to launch the type of offensive needed. Some blamed the West for the Ottoman threat because of its seeming indifference.4 Though capable, the West was not successful in saving the east, and the Ottomans continued to expand their territory, greatly tormenting the Byzantine Empire. The last major effort to free the Balkans and Constantinople failed at the Battle of Kosovo in 1448 as a Hungarian-Walachian coalition was decisively defeated by the Ottomans.

Kill them = Put an end to the Byzantine Empire. Even though attacking Byzantium with great success, the Ottomans were restricted from completely conquering it ("they should not kill them" - v. 5), not being released to overcome its powerbase, the capital of Constantinople, until the end of the 150 years of the Trumpet time period (5 months).

The Turks had been assaulting Byzantine lands throughout the 14th and 15th centuries, and it was well-known, especially to the Byzantine Emperor, that the rising tide of militant Islam threatened the very existence of the Byzantine empire. The Byzantine Empire came to be on the brink of ruin. The Turks had taken most of the land, leaving only a few small ruins along with Constantinople. Even then, the Byzantine Emperor was nearly powerless within his own domains. Without a united Christendom, they were too weak against such a rising force. And without the Byzantine Empire, the West would have no buffer, leaving Hungary and the Holy Roman Empire exposed. Thus, there was a great push for reunion within Christian nations. When the Turks took Thessalonica in 1430, the emperor, John Palaeologus, turned to the West for assistance with renewed vigor.

The key to obtaining help from the western rulers, depended on reuniting the eastern and western churches, which had been separated by a schism for hundreds of years. This union was hoped to be achieved by means of an Ecumenical Council, which would solve the points of differences and bring East and West together again. In proposing a union of the churches to the pope, the real purpose of the Byzantine Emperor was not a secret. Even the Turks knew that the real motive was to obtain military assistance from the West against the Turks. The Turks dreaded the alliance.5

This threat of a united Christendom (East and West) had been lurking for centuries. In the 13th century, Pope Clement IV wrote to emperor Michael Palaeologus: "The Turks will fear to attack you if they know you are united to the rest of Christendom, and Christians will come to your help with more eagerness if they know that you are in full agreement with them."6 Pope Martin V wrote similar words to the Emperor in 1422, saying in essence: "These were the terms: submit or be destroyed."7

The Council of Basel was called to address these and other issues. The Council of Ferrara/Florence, which developed later as a rival council against Basel, was also focused on achieving the reunion. It was apparent to many that Orthodoxy and the Latin doctrine could not be reconciled. But, due to the desparate situation of the Byzantines, more and more concessions were achieved from them. Months passed in futile disputes. In spite of this, an agreement of union was signed on 6 July 1439.

The union, however, was not accepted or fully enacted when taken back to the Byzantine Empire. There was much displeasure at the union by clergy and the public, and even the Emperor himself seemed to only reluctantly give his approval. An agreement signed by the Patriarch was not binding over the whole church, and it was never accepted by the Eastern Churches. Nonetheless, the Emperor did implement some of the popes wishes and there was finally some hope of military aid, as the King of Hungary and the pope worked out a joint force against the Ottomans. Ominously, the joint force was defeated, in 1444, at Varna. Emperor John died on October 31, 1448, never seeing his hopes of western aid realized. The next emperor, Constantine, was also unable to implement the union.

The Council of Basel, which continued its attempts to reform the church and solve the crises of the realm, was the last and greatest effort to reunite the western and eastern churches. With its disbanding in 1449, the last hope of an east-west union dissolved. From the Ottoman perspective, the threat of an east-west union dissolved. They were released from the dreaded possibility that the princes of western Europe would band together to defend Constantinople. They were now unleashed to pursue conquest of the capital of Byzantium ("kill them" - v. 5).

Linking the 5th Trumpet and 5th Head

The failure of the council of Basel (disbanded in 1449), brought about the victory for pope/monarchy and the House of Habsburg (6th Head) over counciliarism and the Elector princes (5th Head). At the same time, it signalled the last effort at an east-west union with military aid from western princes for the Byzantine Empire, thus ending the time of tormenting without killing by the Ottomans over the Byzantine Empire (5th Trumpet). Learn more about "Linking the 7 Trumpets to the 7 Heads".

5th Trumpet Summary:

Trumpet #5 = Turks torment the Byzantines (1299 to 1449). Messengers of Islam ("star" that fell) obscured the gospel and Christ's character ("sun") with false doctrines ("smoke"). These beliefs originated from the desolate and sparsely inhabited Arabian desert ("bottomless pit" - Lk. 8:30-33, Mk. 5:9-13). Those who accepted these false doctrines eventually emerged as the coordinated fighting force of the Ottoman Turks ("locusts" - Ex. 10:12-15, Joel 2:4-5,25) to conquer and spread their message. They began attacking Byzantine lands in 1299. For the next 150 years ("five months") Ottoman rule extended over the Eastern Mediterranean and Balkans, controlling nearly all former Byzantine lands surrounding the city of, but not overtaking, Constantinople ("should not kill them"). They did not attack within the Roman realm during this time, where God's people ("tree") dwelt ("grass," court/garden), but inflicted great hurt and terror ("torment") right outside their borders (note the eastern half of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, had long ago ceased to be part of the Roman realm). When the Council of Basel failed in a last effort to form an east-west union (it disbanded in 1449), which could have provided military aid to Byzantium from western princes, all hope ended for the Byzantines. This ended the time of tormenting without killing as the Ottomans were released from the threat of an east-west union and free to pursue conquest of the Byzantine capitol.

Continue to: Trumpet #6
  • 1. Piotr S. Wandycz, The Price of Freedom: A History of East Central Europe from the Middle Ages to the Present, New York: Routledge, page 3.
  • 2. "Osman I", Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osman_I.
  • 3. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, New York: The Modern Library, page 1145.
  • 4. Piotr S. Wandycz, The Price of Freedom: A History of East Central Europe from the Middle Ages to the Present, New York: Routledge, page 46.
  • 5. The Council of Florence, Ivan N. Ostroumov, page 10.
  • 6. R. W. Southern, Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages, page 87.
  • 7. R. W. Southern, Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages, page 87.