The book given Christ is the Book of Revelation
And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals….And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.
I rather assent to the commentators who understand by ‘book’ in the literal, in which the things concerning the last times which Christ revealed to John, who then revealed them to the churches, were contained therein. This book, I say, is the Revelation itself, but not as if He saw a material book, but a visual book, so to speak, wherein was written God’s secret decree touching the future event of the Church and her enemies. Thus, also does Ribera expound it.
This book is written within respecting the spiritual sense, and without respecting the literal sense.
There is a two-fold use of seals: first, to keep things secret from the view of others, as seals on letters, doors, cabinets, chests, etc., and secondly, for the confirmation of writings, as, for example, to authorize the edicts of princes, sentences of magistrates, and wills of the dead; the seals of seven witnesses prove authenticity of the document. Now this book was not sealed in the latter respect, but of the former, being shut or kept closed from the understanding of men. And therefore it could not be opened or read before the seals were taken away. This was not done until the seventh seal was removed. Thus, the contents of this sealed book were most obscure and hidden until the seals were opened by Christ and its contents revealed to John.
To open the book is to make known the secret counsels of God about things to come.
It is the same book given John to eat
And I went unto the angel and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it and eat it up….
This is the same book which John, after Christ opened it, is commanded to eat up, that is, to fully and clearly take the knowledge thereof. It was sweet in his mouth like honey, that is, he was much delighted with the knowledge of so high mysteries, but by and by it became bitter in his belly as gall, that is, he was much grieved in foreseeing the great calamities of the Church…for this book contains the secret counsels of God concerning the last times, which include the good of the Church, the salvation of the elect, the destruction of the adversaries unto the end of the world. The Church in this life is to expect nothing but tribulation.
The Four Horsemen – first 600 years of the Church age
White Horse = early Church shining in pure doctrine and innocence.
Rider = Christ
Bow = Word of God
Red Horse = early Church made red by martyrdom.
Rider = Christ, who came not to send peace on the earth, but a sword and fire, is present with His Church even during their greatest trials.
Sword = the means by which Christ takes peace from the earth, for there is no peace for the wicked.
Black Horse = heresies which plague the Church, polluting its purity of doctrine.
Rider = Christ, whom the heretics claim for their own, perverting Scripture to prove their errors. Christ is with His Church even during the darkest heretical periods, for there must be heresies that they which be approved may be made manifest.
Balance = holy Scripture which determines the rule of doctrine, weighing it, whether true or false.
A measure of wheat for a penny, etc. = prophecy of a spiritual famine of the Word of God sent by God as a judgment upon the corrupters of the Church.
Wheat = Elect teachers, rare and precious, who preach sound and orthodox doctrine concerning God and Christ, of which there should be, as it were, a famine in the earth. Nevertheless, with this wheat God would feed His elect, no matter the difficulty of labor.
Wine and Oil = the orthodox, true faith. Ribera interprets this of their seven sacraments, and hence, promises the Pope a great victory against the Lutherans, vainly seeking a garland and comfort in the idle fictions of his own brain.
Pale Horse = the Church sick unto death through the rise of Antichrist by means of the hypocrisies of superstitious monks, with the pomp, luxury and avarice of ambitious prelates. Moreover, the loose living of the bishops and clergy mightily increased this pale disease. For now infinite ceremonies and human traditions are established, such as worshipping the dead, images, the observation of holy days, orders, rites and solemnities forged by the devil himself, (only the names were altered), were forced upon the Church to the utter abolishing of the doctrine of free grace, and the merits of Christ. This apostate pale horse began to go forth in A. D. 606 with the pontificate of Boniface III.
The souls under the altar = the martyrs of Christ who suffered under the Roman Caesar Nero until Pope Boniface III.
The altar = in Heaven before the throne of God, Rev. 8:3. Ribera here is to be hissed at. He affirms that in this speech John has respect to the ancient custom of Christians laying up the relics of saints under the altar. He says, ‘For when an altar is built, a sepulcher is made under it in which relics are kept, and the priest, dipping his finger in the Chrism, makes the sign of the cross upon the four corners of the sepulcher, saying, This sepulcher is consecrated and sanctified in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, peace be unto this house, etc.’
Altar = Christ, under whom the souls are safeguarded and protected. However tyrants may kill their bodies, the martyrs souls are immediately received by Christ, according to the prayer of Stephen, the first martyr, Lord Jesus receive my spirit, and as Christ promised the thief, This day shalt thou be with me in paradise. Moreover, here we are plainly taught that the souls of the martyrs and other departed saints are not in the pains of Purgatory, but enjoy the presence of Christ, their Saviour, in the heavens.
The sixth seal = the very last persecution under Antichrist, though those who hold the common opinion that it is tribulation under one single Antichrist in the last four years of the world do err. Ribera and others interpret it properly of the signs going before Christ’s last coming, spoken of in Mat. 24 and Luke 21. But most apply it to the horrible confusions and calamities which by Antichrist shall be brought upon the whole earth. But for my own part, I understand this vision to foreshadow the many and sore trials wherewith for a thousand years or more the Church of Christ has been exercised under Antichrist, as Church histories testify.
Great earthquake = Antichrist overthrowing the biblical order and discipline of Christ for an ecclesiastical monarchy.
The sun became black as sackcloth = Christ, the Sun of righteousness shall be horribly eclipsed, that is, the doctrine touching His offices and benefits darkened and utterly defaced.
Sackcloth = the hair of sackcloth is made of the black hair of goats or horses, whereof in former times they made mourning garments. These garments did prick the flesh, causing much pain to those who wore them. Hence, the hypocritical monks, as the Carthusians and Capuchins, and other Antichristian frogs (who glory of perfection) wear such garments for the beating down of their flesh.
But the Papists argue that they do not darken Christ the Sun of righteousness because the Pope professes Christ to be both God and man, opposing the heretics who deny this. I answer: If the Pope should openly cast off the name of Christ, then it would be impossible for him to bring the Christian Church under his bondage, or to suppress the truth as he now does. But his coming, as the Apostle witnesses, is with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish. So that by the cunning pretence of Christian profession, he hath fraudulently overthrown the Church; yet herein he hath mainly opposed Christ, in that he was looked upon to be a preacher of His name, as both Hilary and Augustine write concerning him. The profession of Christ’s person and of the Trinity was indeed the mask under which he deceived the Church, for otherwise Christians would have shunned him as the devil. But of what use, I pray you, is Christ without His offices & benefits, which in Popery are trodden under foot?
‘Yea,’ say they, ‘we also profess Christ to be the Mediator, Redeemer and only Saviour, and by believing in whose merits we must be saved.’ But I have often showed that their profession is nothing but as black sackcloth, if they would but see it. For if, indeed, they did believe Christ to be the only Mediator, they would not have invented the thousands of other mediators to whom they pray. Do they not cry to Mary, St. Peter, St. Nicholas, etc., to pray for them? If they truly did believe they were saved by the merits of Christ alone, then they would not have forged the merits of saints; nor would they have accounted their own works righteous in their justification, nor of supererogation, nor of Purgatory fire, and so attribute salvation, which is obtained by Christ alone, unto their own inventions.
Thus, therefore, the Sun is made black as sackcloth of hair in Popery. The Apostolic doctrine of faith and salvation is darkened and turned into a theatrical stage show of pomp. The invocation and worship of God is darkened and turned into adoration of idols and the creature. To summarize, the Church itself is darkened, scarcely retaining anything of Christianity except the bare name.
Now the black sackcloth of hair doth signify human traditions, their heathenish and Jewish ceremonies mingled with Christianity. It signifies the decrees and canons of Synods and Popes by which the Church was turned into a secular kingdom, the presbytery into a civil court, and their temples into brothels.
And the moon became as blood = By the ‘moon’ is meant the Church. The Sun is Christ as we explained before. When the sun is darkened by an eclipse, the moon appears black and reddish, sometimes the color of blood, having little light. But just as the moon receives its light from the sun, so do all the things which the Church enjoys, light, purity, righteousness and salvation, she receives from Christ, the Sun of righteousness. The sense, therefore, is that the Church shall be turned into blood by the commotion of Antichrist, cf. Joel 2:31. The blood of the moon speaks of the cruel tyranny of Antichrist, making the Church red with the blood of the nations and saints. For this blood was poured upon the Church partly because of wars, and partly because of martyrdoms. For the Pope, not being content to usurp the title of Peter, Prince of the Apostles, under which pretense he terrifies the world with his spiritual lightenings, he also draws the temporal sword against Emperors, Kings, Princes, and Christian nations, filling all places with bloody wars. This we have shown by the doctrine of the Two Swords decreed by Boniface 8th. Is it not then the Pope who causes the moon to become blood? And is it not the Popes who condemn all those who oppose their tyranny and idolatry to be heretics worthy of death, under which pretense a multitude of Christians have been most cruelly murdered, the books of martyrs testifying. Yea, whosoever reads those histories shall clearly see clearly enough that by the Popes the moon was turned completely into blood. The massacre at Paris committed on St. Bartholomew’s Day, 1572, still fresh in memory, was a time which, within the space of eight days, more than 100,000 were most barbarously put to death by means of Pope Gregory 13th, making all the streets, rivers and prisons in the land red with the blood of martyrs.
And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth = In Rev. 1:20, we learned that the 7 stars signify the 7 angels or bishops of the Churches. In Rev. 12: 1, the Woman signifies the Church, having 12 stars on her crown, signifying the pastors and teachers of the Churches. These stars which fell are apostates who forsook Christ, for the fear of Antichrist’s cruel persecution. They are, I say, principle bishops and teachers who, by embracing the kingdom of Antichrist, fall from heaven unto the earth, among whom the Bishop of Rome was chief. With him are all others who acknowledge him for their head. They fell unto the earth by forsaking their pastoral charge of preaching the word, becoming earthly princes, imitating the pomp of courtiers, and giving themselves over to worldly affairs, such as wars, the sport of hawking, hunting and all other vanities and pleasures in princes’ courts; yea, even far exceeding them in pride, pomp and luxury. This fall of the stars is amplified by the similitude of a strong wind blowing untimely figs from the tree. By these figs are meant carnal bishops, and by the mighty wind, the Papal authority, under which all of them readily submit, either by fear of excommunication or for promotion sake.
And the heaven departed as a scroll = By heaven is understood the Church spread over the face of the entire earth, which to John did seem to depart like a scroll, not that she ceased to exist, but rather ceasing to be visible. This is true of the Church of the Elect. For no matter how Antichrist attempts to call his kingdom by the name of the Christian Church, taking those things which are peculiar to Christianity, causing the Word and Sacraments (though horribly depraved) to be administered by his clergy, nevertheless they shall not be Christ’s Church, but a Synagogue of Satan. The true Church of Christ shall depart, hidden and not seen by the world, to whom belonged all the martyrs and professors witnessing against Antichrist. But you, the reader, respond, ‘These witnesses were not hidden.’ It is true, indeed, these were seen as men are seen in the flesh, their martyrdoms not being hidden, but as the true Church and members thereof, they were hidden, for they were condemned and accounted by Antichrist, not as Christ’s faithful, but as wicked heretics.
This heaven may also be understood to symbolize the opened book of Holy Scripture, which by Antichrist and his instruments was shut or rolled up, yea, and cast under foot.
And all the mountains were moved = By mountains are understood those who excel others in worldly power. For in Rev. 17:10, Kings are symbolized by mountains. Thus, the Kings are moved by the greater, the Antichrist. The histories declare the many ways in which the Popes have accomplished this.
(1) First, by their ecclesiastical authority, fraud and threatenings, constraining Emperors and Kings not only to maintain their ordinances and decrees by fire and sword, but to stoop down and kiss the feet of their Holiness.
(2) Secondly, civilly, for Antichrist spared not King nor Kaiser, for he oppressed, deposed and thrust out of office and power all who would not do his good pleasure.
Gregory 2nd excommunicated Leo the Emperor, depriving him of his revenues.
Pope Zachary deposed Childeric, King of France.
Leo 3rd deprived the Greek Emperors of the Western Empire.
Alexander 3rd at first proudly trampled his feet upon Frederick 1st before he received him into his favor.
Gregory 7th displaced Henry 4th.
Innocent 3rd thrust out Otto 4th.
Innocent 4th took the Empire from Frederick 2nd.
Clement 6th excommunicated Ludwig 4th.
Julius 2nd deprived the great-grandfather of Henry 4th of his Kingdom of Navarre.
Sixtus 5th sought to depose Charles 9th, King of France, and Elizabeth, Queen of England.
In summary, Antichrist powerfully moved the mountains, the Emperors, Kings, & Christian princes through his Sophisters & councils, usurping to himself authority over whole councils, boasting that by him kings do reign, and that it is in his power to cast them down when he pleaseth. Lastly, Antichrist declares no council authentic without his approbation.
And the islands were moved out of their places = Islands are surrounded by waters; waters are people, Rev. 17:15. Therefore, by islands are meant nations or the subjects of Princes. These are ‘moved,’ meaning they are all to subject themselves unto the Bishop of Rome, necessitated upon pain of salvation; neither can any buy or sell, nor barter, but according to the pleasure of the Pope. This is seen in the Extravagant of Boniface 8th. Thus, the islands, peoples, and commonwealths, being deprived of their Christian liberty which they enjoyed under the Apostles, were brought under Antichrist’s yoke, under which they serve and groan even unto this day.
Four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, etc. = Satan and his angels, which also encompass his agents on earth, worldwide, both ecclesiastical and secular, who hinder the wind, which is the preaching of God’s Word, the Gospel, throughout the earth by forbidding the reading and use of Scriptures unto all men, least the deceits and lies of Antichrist should be made manifest. Ribera views the angels as good, so as to free Antichrist’s ministers from any suspicion. He interprets this verse literally, which is absurd.
By the winds therefore, I understand all the sincere teachers of the Gospel, which together for a thousand years have opposed Antichrist’s idols, corruptions and tyranny; such, I say, whom the Roman Bishops have, by their decrees and bulls, condemned as heretics, whose names are recorded among the witnesses of the truth in the books of Martyrs. Among these protestors I number many bishops, priests and theologians who, by opposing the popes, have caused the winds to blow. Men such as Berengarius, John Scotus, Bertramus, etc., who, more than 600 years ago, have strongly blown against the idol of the Mass and transubstantiation, the chief prop of Antichrist’s kingdom, by defending the truth in their sermons and writings. Other defenders of truth include Bernard, Peter Waldo, Wycliffe, Huss, Jerome of Prague, Clemanges and others, who, by the wind of God’s Spirit, have maintained the faith of Christ against the Pope, partly by word and writings, and partly by sealing the same with their blood. But chiefly among these are to be reckoned Luther, Melanchthon, Oecolampadius, Zwingli, Farel, Bucer, Hegio, Martyr, Viret, Bullinger, Calvin, and as many as in Germany, France, and the neighboring kingdoms have, in this last age, begun so to blow the Gospel of Christ, as thereby the a great part of the Christian world hath been restored into the precious liberty of the faith.
Earth, sea and trees = churches located in various parts of the Western European continent.
Hurting the earth, sea and trees = introducing errors through seducing spirits and lying prophets, who brought all under the yoke of Antichrist, to the destruction of the greater part of Christianity.
We must now observe two things about this particular vision. First, though by violence and deceit Antichrist has horribly shaken the Christian world, doing much harm unto the earth and sea, yet God at all times raised up some good winds, that is, faithful teachers who taught the wholesome doctrine of Christ to the salvation of the elect, as the history of Popes and martyrs testify. Yea, the Lord did preserve unto himself a Church in the midst of Popery which Antichrist could never altogether suppress, however cruelly by fire and sword he did continually rage against the same. And therefore it is false that God had no Church, nor Christ any spouse, because the Pope and his synagogue were not the spouse of Christ.
Secondly, we see by what ways Antichrist did invade Christ’s kingdom, establishing his own tyranny: to wit, by holding the blowing of the winds, in condemning as heretics, and violently oppressing the witnesses of the truth, as well as hurting the Churches by seducing them with false miracles, miracles with all deceit of unrighteousness, overthrowing them by his impious doctrines and superstitious worship, of which the Apostle foretold, 2 Thess. 2:9.
Angel having the seal of the living God = Christ, who, as the Sun of righteousness, rises from the East, sealing the elect through regeneration, faith, justification, sanctification, sealing in their hearts the witness of the Spirit, that they may not be seduced by the guile of Antichrist.
The servants of God = the elect in Christ, who worship not idols, or Antichrist, but God, in faith and true obedience.
The sealing = partly eternal and partly accomplished in time. From eternity God hath sealed all them that shall be saved in the council of predestination, which is made and founded on Christ, Eph. 1:3. In time, He sealed His, for one thousand years has passed since He stirred up many witnesses of His truth and faith, whom He endued with true knowledge, excellent gifts and heroic boldness, who stoutly opposed the impostures of Antichrist by their preaching and writing, preserving many faithful ones from his idol worship. But primarily He seals in these last times by restoring the lost truth of the heavenly doctrine by His servants and excellent divines, who have dissipated the mist of Popery by the light of the Gospel. I confess, however, that not all members of our churches are elect, nevertheless they are separated from Antichrist.
Ribera would have the sealing of God done by the sign of the cross. Now we know that many who are signed by the popish cross are the bondslaves of Satan: but none of these which are sealed shall perish, which is contrary to the destiny foreordained for the Pope’s adherents.
Seal on the 144,000 = this seal imprinted on the elect is God’s eternal purpose to save them. This seal is not seen by the eye of man, yet the elect both discern and feel it in their hearts. It is a true conversion unto the Lord, constancy and perseverance in the faith of Christ. Why is this seal imprinted upon them? I answer: to the end that they may not be hurt by the evil Angels, nor seduced by Antichrist, and led into error, being made partakers of his plagues. Their salvation is certain, the Lord caring for them. In Rev. 9:4, the locusts only hurt those who have not the seal of God in their forehead. For Antichrist doth also mark his servants with his character, as we shall see in Chapter 13, but not to the end that they should be preserved, but to have power to buy and sell his holy wares, make merchandise of men’s souls, and trade in his kingdom. Now this character shall not secure them that are marked from destruction, but rather draw down God’s judgment upon them.
The Papists inquire who and where the Church was before Luther’s time. Let them receive here an answer from John: that when Antichrist thought he had brought all to stoop under him, the Lord had 144,000 sealed ones. We affirm, therefore, that a Church of sealed ones was hid in the midst of popery.
Pareus Views 144,000 as
Out of all the tribes of Israel = Ribera understands this literally of the conversion of so many Jews out of every tribe, during the end times under [a future] Antichrist. He proves this by arguing from Romans 11:26, and so all Israel shall be saved. But in this interpretation he contradicts himself and Paul. For if it is true that all the Jews will receive and follow Antichrist as the Messiah, as the Papists themselves imagine, how then shall so many cleave unto the true Christ? Also, if literally all Israel shall be converted how then shall there be only 144,000 sealed ones?
I, on the other hand, hold the 144,000 to be those Christians from all nations who imitate the faith of true Israel because God hath elected some to salvation out of every part of the world. Christ will also have His sealed ones in all places where Antichrist reigns. Besides, Gentile-believers are often called by the name of Israel, as following Israel and Abraham’s faith, Romans 4 & 9:6, For they are not all Israel which are of Israel, etc.
The 144,000 are composed of spiritual Israel, Jew and Gentile, who have succeeded carnal Israel
Now these are compared to the twelve tribes of Israel because they succeeded in their place, and therefore it is said they shall sit on the twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel, who were apostatized from God and Christ.
Further proof of this is the Dispersion, from which it is impossible to determine genealogies
The distribution of these sealed ones according to their tribes is not to be taken literally, but only by a similitude because God hath substituted other special nations in the stead of those apostatized tribes, in which He has a certain number of sealed ones, that is, ordained to eternal life. And the reason for this is apparent: the twelve carnal tribes of Israel before the manifestation of this Revelation were lost by the destruction of Judea and Jerusalem, much less do they remain 1540 years later. For touching the small remainder of Jews now in their dispersion, it is altogether uncertain of what tribes they are.…..Twelve thousand are sealed of every tribe, for many are chosen by Christ out of all peoples and nations under Antichrist.
Early Church Fathers erroneously viewed Antichrist a Jew to come from the literal tribe of Dan
Dan is not mentioned in the list of tribes, wherefore most of the fathers, and even some contemporary theologians, believed it is due to the fact that Antichrist will come from this tribe. They ground their opinion on Genesis 49:17: Dan is a serpent in the way; and also Jeremiah 8:16: the snorting of horses was heard from Dan. And hence arose another erroneous opinion: that Antichrist should be a Jew. By this fiction the devil so deceived the world that they take no notice of nor avoid the actual Antichrist who sits and reigns in the Church. We do not blame the ancient fathers for their erroneous interpretation because they did not have the means and knowledge of histories touching Antichrist which we now enjoy, and see with our eyes – even which the Papists themselves cannot help but see, if they would confess it. Even Bellarmine admits the foolishness of such vain and ridiculous speculation.
Others affirm that Dan is omitted because of old they forsook the worship of God, and leaving the fellowship of their brethren became like unto Gentiles, as we read in Judges 18. This seems to also be the reason they are not mentioned with the other tribes in 1 Chronicles 7.
But let us suppose that Antichrist shall come from Dan. What tribe better suits the Pope than this one? For the name ‘Dan’ signifies ‘to judge.’ Now who, but the Pope alone, judges all men, himself judged of none? Do not the Pope’s parasites make him to be this Antichristian Dan or judge? See Gratian Distinct. 40. Cap. Si Papa.
Rev. 7:9 ff. shows saints in Heaven do not pray for us on earth
This is a most sweet harmony of the Saints in Heaven, always praising the Lord. Now we, who for the present do remain here on earth, are here stirred up to the like affections. Moreover, we are taught after what manner the Saints in Heaven pray before God and the Lamb; namely, by perpetual praising of them. But we do not hear them making supplications for us to God, neither interceding for us before Christ, not for the whole Church on earth or for particular individuals. For this honor is due Christ alone. Therefore, to affirm either that they pray for us or that we ought to pray for them is a hypocritical invention contrary to Scripture and true religion. It greatly derogates from the glory of God and the Lamb, making the glorified saints to be tutelary idols.
The white robes of the saints signify the righteousness of Christ imputed to them
Their white robes set forth their righteousness and purity, see Rev. 6:11. This is not due to their own blood, that is, by the merit of their martyrdom or sufferings, but by the blood of the Lamb, that is, by the alone merit of Christ. For this whiteness comes by faith, by which the godly apply the merits of Christ’s blood unto themselves, as is taught in Romans 3:25: God hath set forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past. Whosoever, therefore, seeks to wash their robes in their own merits, satisfactions, popish Masses, Purgatory, or indulgences, they are not found in this multitude, for these cast off the blood of the Lamb. He writes in the preterperfect tense, ‘they have washed,’ and not in the present tense, ‘they wash,’ to signify that, if by faith we are not washed in this life, there is no possibility of purging from sin afterward.
All other blood makes red and stains, but the blood of Christ purgeth us from all sin, 1 John 1:7, and makes white as snow, Isaiah 1:18. Therefore, this is not a literal washing, but spiritual, of grace.
The Angel offering incense and the Seven Trumpets
The Angel with the golden censer: Christ, our faithful High Priest doth always appear in Heaven before God for His Church, and by the golden censer, that is, by the eternal efficacy of His oblation, intercedes for us to the Father, making our prayers acceptable unto Him; so that neither Satan, nor Antichrist shall ever be able to destroy the Church, despite whatever they imagine against her.
Incense: The prayers and sighs of the Church Militant. They are given to Christ, for the prayers and groans of the Saints ascend up unto God in the name of Jesus Christ. By Him only are they made acceptable to God. Therefore, it is great impiety to direct our prayers to the Saints with the intent that by them they may be offered to God.
The smoke of the incense: The effect of the former oblation here follows, in that the prayers of the Saints are sprinkled with the sweet perfume of Christ’s merits.
Censer filled with fire of the altar cast to the earth: The shedding forth of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles in the likeness of fiery tongues. Some teach that it is the fire of division which should follow the preaching of the Gospel, whereof Christ speaks, I am come to send fire on the earth, and what will I, if it were already kindled? The casting of the censer upon the earth symbolizes the worldwide preaching of the precious death and passion of Christ, which is also seen earlier in Chapter 6, when Christ rides as conqueror on the white horse.
The first six Angel trumpeters: The Apostles and all other faithful teachers in the ages which follow.
The seventh Angel trumpeter: The Archangel himself.
First trumpet: began to sound when the Apostles began to preach on the Day of Pentecost.
Hail, fire and blood: Contradictions, persecutions, banishments and slaughters of Christians by the obstinate Jews, as the book of Acts and the Epistles of the Apostles and other histories do plainly prove.
One third part of the trees and all the green grass burnt up: By the trees I understand the calamities befalling the godly Apostles and chief teachers, and not of the punishments of the wicked. By all the green grass I understand to be meant the sufferings of the Saints of the primitive Churches.
Second trumpet sounds and a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: The sounding is from Domitian’s reign to that of Constantine. The greater part of Papist and Protestant interpreters understand this mountain to be Satan, the prince of the world, who, burning with the fire of envy at the preaching of the Gospel is cast into the sea of this world, causing the peoples to rage against Christ and His Churches. I differ from them in that I compare the sounding of the second trumpet with the opening of the second seal, understanding it to symbolize the cruel persecutions of Roman tyrants and the remnant of the Church which was preserved from utter destruction. The great mountain is that powerful kingdom which has other kingdoms and kings in subjection. This description fits the Roman Empire.
The third part of the sea became blood: The Church was made red with the blood of the martyrs, oppressing many thousands of Saints.
The third part of the creatures which had life, died: These are the martyrdoms and slaughters of infinite Christians, put to death by the Roman tyrants for confessing the name of Christ.
The third part of the ships were destroyed: By ships we understand the Churches with their pilots, their teachers. For like ships, Churches were lost and destroyed, not eternally, but temporarily.
The third trumpet sounds and there fell a great star from heaven = Ribera interprets the signs which accompany the trumpets as literal, perhaps so that he may avoid applying them to the apostasy of the Roman Antichrist. All other interpreters for the most part understand this falling star to be some certain heretic. I understand this third trumpet to answer to the third seal and black horse. Thus, in a general way, it denotes all apostate arch-heretics spoken of in Chapter 6. By stars are meant teachers of the Church, and by the expression falling from heaven is undoubtedly signifying the apostasy of the Bishop of Rome, though not his full apostasy. The time period would extend from Constantine to Phocas. Here he is seen falling by degrees, while in Rev. 9, he is fully fallen. Pope Sylvester, for example, was responsible, if the Church historians can be believed, for instituting the Mass-priests, holy orders, ornaments, temples, singing-men, sacrifices, sanctuaries, vestments, ointments, surplices, miters, embroidered garments, and other similar Babylonish stuff, bringing all these idle rites into the Church for the purpose of appealing to the Heathens’ fleshly desire for pomp by imitating their rites, thereby more easily drawing them to Christianity.
Burning as it were a lamp = By an outward show of Christian holiness and learning deceives many.
Third part of the rivers = Rivers denote teachers in the Church from whom flow divine doctrines.
Fountains = Holy Scriptures.
Waters = The doctrines and comforts contained in them.
The name of the star is Wormwood = By pestilent institutions he did make bitter the third part of the waters, that is, of the doctrines and comforts of the Scriptures, turning it into deadly Wormwood, theologically speaking. Wormwood is a vile depravation of justice and equity, Amos 5:7.
Many men died of the waters because they were made bitter = Whosoever drinketh thereof hazards their eternal salvation.
A third part of the waters became wormwood = Here we find the Church comforted in the fact that not all the waters, not all the rivers were made bitter; neither were all men killed with wormwood. For Christ, even in the midst of all this bitterness and ruin of Bishops did still preserve a Church unto Himself.
trumpet sounds and a third part of the sun, moon and stars is darkened = Francis
Lambert expounds this in a general
way: ‘Christ, the Sun, shall be smitten when the light of truth shall
be hid; then also the Moon, the Church, the Stars, the teachers, shall
fail. But Lambert does not explain when and how this was accomplished.
For my part, I understand this trumpet to agree with the opening of the
fourth seal, though it seems to also agree with the sixth seal. This trump,
therefore, appertains unto the darkness and corruptions brought into the
Christian Churches during the space of 300 years – from Sylvester until
the rising of Antichrist, Boniface III. Only a third part were darkened, meaning many Bishops
in both the East and West did still uphold the light in the Church.
 2 Thess. 2:10.
 In addition, there is the problem of inter-marriage between the Jews and Gentiles, resulting in a further loss of their bloodline from their once pure lineage.