Case by Casebolt: Revelation 9's 6th Trumpet & the Collapse of the Ottoman Empire

“Case by Casebolt” is a recurring series examining the prophetic interpretations that Ellen White appropriated from William Miller.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11784
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My dissertation, in history and sociology at the University of Queensland in Australia, which was completed at the beginning of of 1970, was entitled “Brisbane in the 1890s.” As part of my research, I read my way through every issue of The Brisbane Courier from 1890-1902. Much to my surprise, I found some material that was very interesting to me as an Adventist. In 1898 Adventists held their first camp meeting there. It lasted for three weeks, and was really an evangelistic series, for there were almost no Adventists in the city at that time. It was held in a tent on a tram (street car) line that had just been electrified, so that people were taking joy-rides on the trams, and the tent was also lighted by electricity, which had just arrived in the City and was a great curiosity to the populace, who were mostly still dependent on oil lamps and candles. Consequently, large numbers turned out for the meetings, and the newspaper found these events so intriguing that the night meetings were reported in detail the following day for the entire period of the camp meeting. The speakers were major Adventist luminaries: Daniells and Haskell. Ellen White was present also, but since she spoke only in the afternoons on such topics as child-raising, her topics were listed, but there were no detailed accounts of what she said.

The reason why I am motivated to tell this story here is that the main theme of the sermons given by Daniells and Haskell surrounded what they called “The Eastern Question.” To translate: they were using their interpretation of several prophecies to preach that the Ottoman Empire, “the Sick Man of Europe,” was about to collapse and usher in the Second Coming of Christ. They elaborated on this night after night. Their preaching was successful, for this campmeeting led to the formation of the first Adventist churches in the Brisbane area. We now know that nothing particularly significant happened to the Ottomans at that time, and the Empire was still there to be a major subject for Daniells’ evangelistic preaching during World War I. At that time, if I recall correctly, Adventists were preaching not the fall of the Empire, but that the Turks would capture Jerusalem. At that time it became abundantly clear that their preaching was wrong when it was the British who were installed in Jerusalem, and this time the Turks were defeated and the Ottoman Empire broken. That is, the Turks and the Ottoman Empire were the subject of Adventist sermons for 80 years in different guises and with various outcomes.

A short account of the Adventist camp meeting and the preaching of Daniells and Haskell appears in the book that my dissertation became: Brisbane in the 1890s: An Australian Urban Society (University of Queensland Press, 1974).

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Some may want to watch this video on the topic – the August 11, 1840 date was fulfilled prophecy. Recently newspaper articles have been found (in the Library of Congress) corroborating the August 11, 1840 date. White was right.

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Dear Speculative, could you address any of the specifics of my original article?. If the Ottoman Empire collapsed in 1840, why were Daniells and SN Haskel predicting it would collapse in WWI?

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I see your book is about $50 on amazon. The specificity of your anecdote is fascinating. I got the general idea from Ben McArthur’s bio on AG Daniells. How the Ottomans can die twice, in 1840 and again in WWI, is curious.

Did you watch the video?

Thanks for giving me the idea–I had never thought to check to see if Amazon was aware of it. They have a used copy at the moment for under $25.

I anticipated Dupreez’s talk that he would speak to the legitimacy of the fulfillment because others saw and believed the same at that time. This is a common argument to support EGW’s support of Litch’s prediction. This only confirms what the people felt at the time, it doesn’t do anything to prove the fulfillment itself. WW Prescott, a strong supporter of the Spirit of Prophecy manifested in EGW, lobbied to have the statement in GC corrected long before WWI (where it could be rightly posited that the Ottoman Empire collapsed or was broken). The brethren were convinced of Prescott’s research and conclusions and the need to adjust the statement, but the adjustment never came. We didn’t admit this historical error until 1981. While it is true the view by many at the time of Litch’s prediction saw the delivering of the Treaty signed in July 1840 to the rival power in Egypt as the fulfillment, it was really far from the Ottoman Empire falling or being broken. What essentially happened was the Ottoman Empire joined with Western powers to retain its power over the region doing the Western powers a favor (but that is another story left of another time).

The reality, too, is the treaty delivered to the rival power in Egypt found that leader not agreeing to the treaty until several months later, and this bolstered the Ottoman’s hold on power in the process. It didn’t diminish it. Thus, the whole notion that August 11, 1840 as the “death knell” of the empire didn’t happen on that date, despite the 1960’s quote made in the video. Some historians may see that as so (even those in Oxford), but that doesn’t make it so. Many other scholars see it differently, but we will be quick to use the sources that agree with us rather than be fair with looking at the sources that don’t. Prescott advocated for a rephrasing of EGW’s point about Josiah Litch’s prediction revealing that Litch’s prediction did indeed add fuel to the idea of the year-day principle without leaving the notion that it was a fulfillment of prophecy which aligns with the historical record. In this adjustment of language Prescott saw no attack on EGW’s prophetic gift because the GC was not a book on history as it was one outlining and exposing the spiritual issues arising from the conflict out of heaven between Christ and Satan.

My contribution to this discussion in light of Donald’s thesis for this installment is centering around the “fulfillment” of Revelation 9’s time frame contained in the sixth trumpet. What I want to share is what I think is missing from the overall discussion on this point. I am very happy for historians the correct my views which come from me being an amateur historian.

If I am not mistaken the Ottomans took over Syria and the Egyptian territories in the late 1600’s and had always had trouble keeping the region under a vassalship to the Empire (not uncommon with any empire). In the early 1800’s a leader in Egypt, a Mohammed Ali, proved himself a capable leader willing to push against the Ottomans, and bring modernity to his region of oversight. Eventually, Mr. Ali had a fight with the Sultan winning key territories and having the entire Ottoman navy defect to himself. It was a severe blow to the Ottomans and it raised an alarm with Wester Powers of the likes of Britan, the Ostro Hungarian empire, and Russia in which trade routes to India were in danger. So they got their heads together with the Ottomans and made a Treaty signed by them on July 15, 1840 (a treaty these powers anticipated Mr. Ali would not agree to) promising certain land holdings to remain in Mr. Ali’s control if he signed the Treaty with a short space of time. As anticipated, Mr. Ali refused. He refused in part because he felt the French, who had interests in Egyptian region, would come to his aid. But as it would happen the other Western powers isolated France, and the French flipped and supported the Sultan instead of Ali. Thus, Ali had not choice but accept the terms of the Treaty.

As it was the Treaty was drawn up and signed by the Wester Powers and the Ottomans on July 15, 1840. Mr. Ali didn’t agree to the Treaty until November 27, 1840. In between that time couriers delivered the treaty to Mr. Ali on 11 August 1840. It is here that Mr. Josiah Litch predicted that this would be the “breaking” of the power of the Ottomans over Constantinople. It is this 11 August delivery that EGW says fulfills the prophecy in that the Ottomans placed themselves under the control of “Christian” powers. This apparently, by then contemporary views, caused the breaking of the Ottoman Empire widely held by many Christians at the time.

But decades of reflection on that date and event produces another conclusion. How does the delivery of a treaty to a person that refuses to sign for another two and a half months, break the power of the Ottomans over Constantinople? Did that delivery place the Ottomans under the control of Western “Christian nations?” Was the delivery of the treaty in the minds of those souls in the 1840’s and subsequent decades near that point in time seen as a sort of “ratification” of the Treaty already in place by one half of the signatories?

What seems clear is that on its face the delivery of the treaty itself does not constitute either a breaking of Ottoman power over Constantinople or placing Ottoman power under the control of Western nations. Hence, the problem with August 11, 1840, and the supportive statement given by EGW in the Great Controversy. The statement that Mr. Casebolt points out was under question by Mr. WW Prescott who wanted to address the phrasing and the accuracy of. The brethren even accepted Mr. Prescott’s studious research results, but could not find a way through to addressing the phrasing found in the Great Controversy.

I am wondering if this is the crux of the problem in discussion now.

In all the minute historical detail don’t lose track of the GIANT discrepancy: Namely, that Millerites predicted that the Ottoman Empire would crumble in a Armageddon battle simultaneously with immediately following Second Coming and First Resurrection. The post-hoc reinterpretation was missing these COSMIC events.

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Jesus reportedly said he’d be back before some of his followers died.

That didn’t happen.

William Miller said Jesus would return in 1844.

That didn’t happen.

EGW predicted that the IJ would not take long. After all, heaven must work at the speed of light so how much more than a split second could the divine judicial review possibly require? Then, after quickly completing the chore, Jesus would be freed up to make his earthly reappearance within months or, worst case, perhaps a few years after 1844, but certainly he’d be back well before she died in 1915.

That didn’t happen.

All of this while many other religions have been eagerly anticipating the advent of their particular messianic figure.

That didn’t happen.

So one is left wondering how many failed prophecies it will take for people to realize that they’ve been “Waiting for Godot”, while the creator’s spirit has been here with us all along, just as promised?

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Thank you for the article. My background is academic history and I did my research on WWI in the Middle East, so the demise of the Ottoman Empire is a topic I have an inordinate familiarity with. Early on in my reserach, I realized how patently ridiculos the EGW claim about its end was. It’s nice to know I’m not some loner screaming into the void here and that other Adventists and other disciplines are on the same trail. Having opened with that, I think the attempt to fit the Ottoman Empire into Adventist eschatology highlights a couple of problematic issues that warrant some more discussion…

First is the question of our creation of eschatological timelines. With the Ottomans, post-EGW Adventist (all the way down to today) attempt to weave the Empire’s collapse into their prophetic narrative. Typically, it is placed it at the end of WWI. But even then, pinning a precise date is a murky endeavor. I can make the case for any one of at least a half dozen distinct events between 1908-1924. Average prophetic interpretations are completely oblivious to this nuance and are incapable of articulating why they chose that date. On the rare occaision a specific date is articulated for a specific reason, that reasoning tends to look very weak in broader historical context and reeks of cherry-picking. To generalize, people tend to try and make history fit the prophecy instead of vice versa. The results tend to look pathetic to an educated, non-Adventist perpsective. All of this to say, trying to set dates here is a fool’s errand. I think, at least in this case, we should probably move past dates if we wish to be taken seriously by anyone versed in the subject. Unfortunately, I would argue that this shoddy historical tradecraft permeates most of the the rest of Adventist eschatology. Without litigating the details of individual cases, I am of the opinion that moving of traditional Adventist prophetic dating in these cases is also a wise move. However, I am aware that in so doing, we would have completely deconstructed the majority of Adventist prophetic understanding. Only scant barebones would remain. In turn, much of our doctrine is underpinned by our prophetic understanding and would also be undermined. So, how do we work towards an eschatology with a more robust historical basis without completely losing our theological identity? Is that even possibly?

Secondly, the Adventist prophetic treatment of the Ottomans highlights just how little we think about anything besides Catholocism. In the traditional EGW interpretation of the fall of the Ottomans, she treats them as the monolithic representation of Islamic religious and politcal power. This is at best a gross oversimplification. The Ottomans were neither the first nor the last great Islamic state. Many of these empires lacked any real linkages and should not be connected as part some prophetic timeline. Neither should we treat Islam as a unified whole. The Shia-Sunni divide commonly reported on today is nothing new. And this merely scratches the surface of the complexity of Islamic history. None of that complexity makes it into Adventist eschatology. Yet The Great Controversy gives us a relatively detailed account of the evolution of Protestant thought and ties much of that history directly into Biblical prophecy. Perhaps this can be chalked up to the fact Biblical prophecy is really only concerned with the followers of its own teaching, i.e. Christianity. But this raises other question. For instance, why is Orthodox Christianity never even considered? That’s half of all Christendom, which seems like a pretty glaring ommission. In short, when we pull the thread on the Adventist (mis)understanding of the Ottoman Empire, it exposes an Adventist prophetic understanding that appears stunted in its scope. Is there a good reason for our prophetic navel gazing? Is there something I’m missing here.

At any rate, food for thought. I’ll get off my soap box now. Thank you again to the author for the article! I now turn it back over to you, the scholars of the forum, for lively discussion…

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Samuel Brown’s analysis and facts are exactly correct. Actually, demonstrating the failings of Miller’s Muslim interpretations is child’s play to the serious historian. Then when one puts this in the context of Miller’s treatment of his multiple other proofs, one is forced to conclude that they are untenable. Given they are untenable when Miller asserts them, they are still untenable when EGW asserts them. Again, consider the cumulative evidence of the multiple Millerite “prophetic periods.”

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I assure you I have not missed the point you have brought out. The brethren not addressing the glaring problem of Aug 11 in GC back in Prescott’s day has left a lot of egg on their faces and that of the ministry of White and the church. It is an embarrassment.

Rev 9 is a prophecy, the fulfillment of which is yet future.
The most straightforward way to interpret Rev 9 is to assume that St John saw actual events that were still in the future when he saw them in AD 95. I think they are still in the future for us here in 2022. Rev 9 will most likely be fulfilled during the Tribulation.

Rev 9:1-11 summary:
A powerful Angel from Heaven will unlock the bottomless pit (hell) and release vast hoards of demons which appeared to St John as weird locusts. These nasty spiritual creatures will torment people, but not kill them. Their king’s name is Abbadon, which I believe is probably another name for Satan. I don’t know how they will appear to us who hope to be “alive and remain” till Christ’s coming, but I expect they will be able to assume many shapes.
Rev 9:13-21 summary:
The 6th angel will blow his horn and release 4 demons confined in Euphrates River. These 4 demons will go forth with a vast herd of horsemen, somewhat similar to the first bunch of locusts and kill people instead of merely tormenting. This will continue for 13 months.
Will these “locusts” and “horsemen” of Rev 9 retain the form that John saw? I doubt it.
Rev 9:20,21 tells us that the survivors of these plagues will not repent. Sounds like their “close of probation”. Also sounds like the end of time to me. I think it is a prophecy of the tribulation, during which time probation will close for many people.

The problem with SDA interpretation of Rev 9 and the 6th trumpet is not because of being sidetracked by the Ottomans. Adventist interpretation of prophecy was sidetracked long before chapter 9 by the Church’s over reliance on the “historicist” theory of prophetic interpretation which apparently calls for a historical fulfillment of any prophecy that can’t be proven to be future.
What about the Ottomans is suggested by supernatural apparitions that combine horses and scorpions and tails with snakeheads? Is it not more straightforward to think that these demonic appearing monsters really are demons instead of Turks? Have Adventists stopped believing in Satan and demons?
Adventist historicism tells us that the falling of the stars occurred in 1833. See Great Controversy p333. The falling of the stars was predicted by Christ as a sign of his imminent coming, and He said “the generation that sees these things shall not pass away till all these things are fulfilled.” But the generation that saw 1833 is long gone. I know that people have lost their faith in Christ because of this historicist teaching that has failed, making Christ look like a false prophet. Christ’s prophecy has not failed. But SDA historicism has failed and caused people of little faith to become nonbelievers in Jesus. Historicists have led people away from Mat 24:3 which has the disciples asking “what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the END OF THE WORLD?” (Mat 24:3) That is the question Jesus was answering when He told about the falling stars, dark sun and moon, and great earthquake. These things will happen just before the Second Coming, during the Tribulation; and the generation that sees them will NOT pass away before Christ returns.
All this navel gazing for Ottomans in the trumpets should stop. It is false doctrine.

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