Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, Australia)

Home > Church Family > Sermon Summaries > 25 Apr 2009, Dr Barry Wright - Trumpets of War

Trumpets of War

25 Apr 2009, Dr Barry Wright

(Barry is Thornleigh's Church Pastor - this was a special ANZAC Day service)


.The use of trumpets has a rich background in biblical history. We see them not only being used in the context of worship, but to rally the troops on the battlefield and warn of an impending enemy approach. They were also used to sound retreat or to sound an attack.

Made of metal or bones, the trumpet featured a sounding air column not quite two feet long. While the short length gave this instrument a high, shrill sound, the tone could also be regulated when used by the musicians in the worship service (Lockyer, 1986: 737).

Some trumpets were made from the horns of animals and this is where the word 'horn' is used for this instrument in the English language. Other words used as descriptors include both the 'cornet' and the 'bugle' (Ibid).

Whether used in worship or battle, trumpets in Old Testament times were seen to be sacred instruments. They called on God to not only remember His covenant, but on hearing the trumpet call, He would protect and defend His people in battle (Paulien, 2007: 163).

Numbers 10: 9 says: 'When you go into battle in your own land against an enemy who is oppressing you, sound a blast on the trumpets. Then you will be remembered by the Lord your God and rescued from your enemies.' 

Further, when the priests blew the trumpets over the sacrifices of Hebrew worship, Numbers 10: 10 tells us that God 'remembered' His people and forgave them their sins. Thus, it would seem that whenever the priests sounded the trumpets, God acted, and this became a symbol of covenant prayer (Ibid).

The trumpet was also to play a very important part in the Roman Empire where we see it being used in both pageantry and warfare. A victorious army would be welcomed home with the fanfare of trumpets and the showering of incense that would, in turn, be sweet savour to the soldiers, but for their captives it meant slavery or death.

The custom that still continues today of waking soldiers to a bugle call dates back to the Roman Legions when the rank and file were raised by horns that played the hymn written for the goddess, Diana. Even to this day the French term for Reveille is 'La Diana'.

When bugle calls were officially introduced into the British system by George III, a special call was written for the waking of the troops by composer Joseph Haydn. This was known as Reveille meaning 'to wake again'. As we have already noted it was taken from the old French, and it is this bugle call that exists substantially unchanged today in remembrance services.

On ANZAC Day, Reveille breaks the silence that follows the playing of the Last Post, symbolizing the awakening of the dead in the next and better world.

The bugle call involving the Last Post is inextricably woven into the end of day traditions and has been passed down through the centuries in most countries as an accompaniment to the impressive rites of a soldier's farewell. The closing bars wail out their sad valediction to those who sacrificed their lives for freedom.

Australians, like many in other countries have set aside a memorial day of reflection to encourage the present generation to work towards finding alternatives to war in order to make the world a better place to live.

Each year we take time to remember the men and women of those wars. Anzac Day is an Australian Day of Remembrance. It is a day to pause and reflect on the tremendous sacrifices made by those thousands of Australian men and women who served Australia in wartime. Anzac Day is not to be seen as a day to glorify war, but a day to remember those who die so that we might all live in freedom.

This morning I want you to listen as I read the Ode of Remembrance and then let's remain silent while the Bugler plays the Last Post.

They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn;
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.


At the end of the Second World War as people were longing for peace, a new threat was to loom on the horizon, which was to split the nations of the earth into two camps. This was the beginning of what became known as the 'Cold War'.

With the threat of nuclear annihilation uppermost in the minds of the people, an arms race was to begin that would overshadow the race for peaceful co-existence.

Under this dark cloud of fear during the 1970s and 1980s, many Americans were taking no chances. Many began the construction of special shelters in the basements of their homes, so in the event that a Nuclear War took place they would be able to survive the holocaust. Food stocks were usually sufficient to last one year for an entire family.

This eventually gave rise to a number of controversial religious groups, one of whom was to call themselves 'the Church Universal and Triumphant' led by a woman by the name of Elizabeth Clare Prophet.

This New Age apocalyptic movement moved into a place called Paradise Valley just north of Yellowstone National Park in the State of Montana, USA. Among the beautiful scenery of this valley are found approximately 30 large underground shelters with ventilation shafts, watchtowers and vault-like doors that dot the hillsides.

One of the shelters known as 'Mark's Ark' is to be found about twenty feet under the ground. The first ninety feet of walking gets you through the entryway that is cluttered with spare parts that might be useful in a long-term disaster. This then takes you through a decontamination room and an engine room with a large amount of stored fuel. The main shelter is 32 feet across and 132 feet long. It has three floors and 40 bedrooms furnished by those who plan to occupy them if needed. It even has an auxiliary room for pets. The shelter has a well set-up clinic and a big community kitchen catering for 150 people. It is stocked with dehydrated food, lentils, beans and oatmeal, all found along the length of its long corridor (Paulien, 2007: 168).

While their initial reason for these shelters in the 1970s and 80s was the fear of nuclear war, today, this has now moved to a greater concern about natural catastrophes (Ibid).

In their reading of the Book of Revelation chapter 8 this group sees the seven trumpets spoken about by the apostle John as disasters or plagues that will fall on all people and they want to be prepared.

While we need to recognize that there are many strange things that are yet to occur in this world before Jesus returns, Bible scholars don't have a full understanding of them all. However, the seven trumpets of Rev Ch. 8, often referred to as the trumpets of war, don't hide the premonition of disaster (Ibid: 167). It is important to note that these things were not written to make us fearful, but to assure us that regardless of the events that happen, it will turn out positive in the end and victory will be given to God's people.

According to the Apostle John's words, these trumpets are judgments of God that fall on all unbelievers. Let's read Revelation 8: 3-5 and Revelation 9: 4 (NIV).

Rev 8: 3-5 says: 'Another angel, who had a golden censor, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense together with the prayers of the Saints went up before God from the angel's hand. Then the angel took the censor, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.'

Rev 9: 4 then tells us that '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.'

It would seem from this verse that the best safety against the judgments of God are not to be found in an underground shelter in Montana, but rather in our acceptance and obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ (Ibid: 168).

God's people have no reason to be fearful of what lies ahead because those who belong to God will be under His care and protection.

Psalm 91 assures us that 'He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty…He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart…If you make the Most High your dwelling-even the Lord, who is my refuge-then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone…'Because he loves Me,' says the Lord, 'I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.'

John's vision of the trumpets, like that of the seven seals was understood to begin in the heavenly sanctuary. He sees an angel offering incense 'with all the prayers of the saints' on the golden altar in God's presence. This description has been viewed by Bible Scholars to be a symbol of God's intercessory ministry for those throughout the whole of the Christian era who have chosen to place their lives in His hands (Nichol, 1957: 787).

This view emphasizes the fact that the ascending prayers of the saints are to be seen in terms of the prayers of the martyrs under the altar revealed in the fifth seal as outlined in Rev 6: 9-11. Their words, 'How long O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth', could also be considered as the theme of the prayers of all God's children who were to suffer under the horrors portrayed when the seals were opened (Ibid: 788). The martyrs are calling out for justice and when those prayers reach heaven mingled with incense, judgments are then hurled down to the earth (Paulien, 2007: 174).

Within this setting, the action of the angel in throwing the censer of fire unmixed with incense to the earth could be seen as symbolic that the martyrs' prayers were now going to be answered. We need to remember that God's wrath against the persecutors of His people would not be withheld forever and when it does come it will be poured out without the benefit of the intercession of Christ. (Nichol, 1957: 788).

Christians suffering at the hand of evil men should never envy the position that they have taken because those who have hurt or killed God's people throughout the ages are marked in the 'books'. If they do not repent, they will suffer as much, if not more, than those they attacked (Paulien, 2007: 175).

The seven trumpets, like the seven letters to the churches and the seven seals, would also seem to indicate to students of the Bible that, they too, were intended to reveal earth's history through to the end of time (Moore, 1982: 16).

Because the central symbol of this vision is the trumpet we may gain some understanding from the Old Testament book of Joel as to why it is used.

Joel 2 begins with these words:

He says: "Blow the trumpet in Zion,
And sound an alarm in My holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble;
For the day of the Lord is coming,
For it is at hand.

He then goes on to show them in verses 12 and 13 how they should respond to this trumpeted alarm by saying:

'Now, therefore, says the Lord,
Turn to me with all your heart,…
Return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and merciful.'

In the book of Revelation, just as it is in the book of Joel, the sounding of the trumpet takes place to call God's people not only to repentance, but also to a renewal of their relationship with Him. This call is given as a consequence of the judgments that are about to fall on the earth (Ibid: 16).

The Scriptures make clear that when God's Old Testament people reneged on their spiritual commitments, God, as a last resort, always sent them warnings to repent. This was usually in some form of harassment that was to come from their enemies in Assyria and Babylon. It is believed that the picture shown here is the same as that being portrayed in the vision of the trumpets regarding God's New Testament church and its oppressors. This vision was to show what God would do to call His wandering people back to Him (Moore, 1997: 17).

It needs to be understood that the highly symbolic language used in Revelation 8: 7- 9: 21 has been of great perplexity to Bible scholars over the years and as such it has produced a variety of interpretations.

Some see the events portrayed as representing God's judgments after the close of probation paralleling the seven last plagues, while others see the seven trumpets as symbolic of the divine answer to the prayers of God's suffering people of all ages. As such, in this view they see the trumpets as God's assurance to His persecuted saints that, in spite of wars, plagues famines and death through which they must pass, He is still in control (Nichol, 1957: 788).

However, the view mainly favored by Adventist scholars throughout most of its history was that the trumpets retrace, to a very large extent, the period of Christian history already covered by the seven churches and the seven seals. As such, according to this view, they see depicted under the symbol of the first four trumpets the major incursions that led to the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West. The next two trumpets were then to show the main forces involved in the overthrow of the eastern sector of the empire while the seventh, and last trumpet was to signal the overthrow of all earthly powers and the establishment of God's eternal empire of peace (Ibid).

However, as in the vision of the seven seals, the sequence is interrupted between its sixth and seventh parts by an interlude that sees a vision similar to that given to the prophet Ezekiel in the Old Testament. Both prophets were handed scrolls or, in the case of John, 'a little book', and were told to eat them. However, while Ezekiel in Ezekiel 3: 1- 4 was simply told that his scroll would taste as sweet as honey, John in Revelation 10: 8-11 was told by his angel that the initial taste would be as sweet as honey, but would make his stomach bitter (Moore, 1997: 18).

The experience of John in eating the sweet-tasting book and then being disappointed was believed to foretell the experience of many Christians in the 1840s. This was the period known as the great Second Advent Awakening that came about as a result of a renewed interest in the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. It also reflected the great disappointment that followed after expecting the return of Jesus in their day and he didn't come (Holland, 1979: 48).

These sincere seekers of truth needed a deeper understanding of the apostasy that took place during the 1260-year period that saw the Gentiles, who did not worship within the temple, treading down God's people (ibid). This period was described in Daniel 7: 7-28.

This era now described in Rev 11 saw God's two witnesses represented by the Old and New Testament thrown to the ground with the people's knowledge of God's word almost completely obliterated by the Medieval Church. Yet, we are told that the Scriptures, though clothed in garments of grief and mourning, would still continue to prophecy and witness (Ibid).

God promised Daniel that at the end of this period, he would then unseal His writings and bring about an increase in the knowledge of His prophecies among mankind. In one last attempt to destroy God's word, it was believed that Satan, through the events of the French Revolution, was to bring about the abolition of religion with the Bible being banned by law (Ibid). This atheistic defiance is likened to the ruler of Egypt who declared to Moses In Exodus 5: 2 'Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice?'

However, in 1797, history records that the French Assembly, after three and a half years, was to pass a decree to again grant tolerance towards the Scriptures. This was to see God's Word exalted before the world and the day of modern missions was effectively to be born.

While the French Revolution presents a lesson of what can take place if God's Word is rejected, we know that history is going to repeat itself. That same spirit that produced the French Revolution and the reign of terror will soon involve the whole world in a struggle similar to that which brought France to its knees. This struggle is outlined in graphic detail by the apostle John in Rev 13.

With the sounding of the seventh trumpet in Rev 11: 15 the mystery of God is said to be finished and 'the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever'

This trumpet brings about the final judgment of mankind through the cleansing of the sanctuary as foretold by the prophet Daniel. While it is understood that the first six judgments mentioned in Rev 8 and 9 were to affect only a portion of mankind, the seventh judgment is now seen to be universal.

When the elders seated on their thrones hear that the mystery of God is finished they fall on their faces and worship Him. The mystery spoken about here is the gospel of Jesus Christ and is referred to by Paul in Ephesians 1: 9 as the 'mystery of His will.'

Let's read Rev 11: 16-18 (NIV)

And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying:

'We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
The one who is and was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.
The nations were angry; and your wrath has come.
The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great-and for destroying those who destroy the earth.'

What kind of peace has the community of nations enjoyed since the end of the Second Great War?

The memories of the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Middle East Wars are still fresh in the minds of those who have lived through them. We have seen the anger of those nations in their blood-soaked cities where their ruins have marked the march of war that has taken place throughout this past century. Jesus' words certainly ring true where He says in Luke 21: 26 that men's hearts would fail them for fear of what is about to take place on the earth.

In order for John to understand the seventh trumpet, God now directs his attention to the most holy place in the heavenly sanctuary. This is where the Ark of the Covenant or the Ark of the Testament is to be found.

We know that in the services of the earthly sanctuary this room was only opened on the great Day of Atonement. This was for the cleansing of the sanctuary and the judging of God's people. This yearly service was to represent the work of Jesus in the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary at the end of time and according to Daniel 8: 14 this work commenced in 1844 (Holland, 1979: 49).

This work of judgment was inaugurated with the view to establishing God's everlasting kingdom. As such, attention is now drawn to the Ark of the Covenant containing the eternal law of love written by God himself. God's covenant is believed by many Bible scholars to be the key to Revelation 12 through to Revelation 22. The law upon which it is based, symbolizing God's character, is seen as the focal point in the final drama of the great controversy between Christ and Satan (Ibid).

The mighty panorama outlined by the seven trumpets is to show us where we are - that we are almost home. All the things we are now seeing are but omens of the coming day of God's victory and triumph. The work of the gospel will soon be finished and someday, not far distant, the last sermon will be preached and the last invitation given. Beyond that it will be too late to accept salvation (Anderson, 1974: 96).

In Jeremiah 8: 20 we hear the saddest words in the entire Bible where it is recorded that: 'The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.'

However, while Satan's attacks will become more and more pronounced in the period before Jesus comes we need not fear the tragedies of our times. The good news is that those who have their character solidly built on the foundation of Jesus Christ will not be harmed. In our own human strength we would have no chance against Satan, but those who are found in a living relationship with Jesus will be shielded from the worst of the Devil's devices (Paulien, 2007: 178).

If the peace of God that passes all understanding fills our hearts and we are walking with the Lord in sacrifice and in service, then we can confidently look to His appearing, knowing that we shall be received of Him when He appears in glory.

As we have discovered, the sounding of the 'Trumpets of War' are to call God's people to repentance and to a renewal of their relationship with Him in view of the judgments that are about to fall on the earth.

It is my prayer this morning that we all renew our allegiance to the God of Heaven and be able to repeat the words of the apostle John where he says: 'Even so, come, Lord Jesus.'



Anderson, R. A.  (1974)  Unfolding the Revelation. Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association

Holland, K. (ed)  (1979)  The Amazing Prophecies of Daniel & Revelation (These Times) Nashville, Tennessee: Southern Publishing Association

Moore, M. (ed)  (1997)  Seven Angels and Seven Trumpets in The Bible's Book of Revelation. USA: Pacific Press Publishing Association.

Nichol, F. D. (ed)  (1957)  The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary Vol. 7. Washington DC: Review & Herald Publishing Association

Paulien, J.  (2007)  The Gospel from Patmos. Hagerstown MD: Review & Herald Publishing Association

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