Understanding The Apocalypse

Revelation 8:7-13
Chapter 14

The Trumpet Judgments are the answer to the prayers of the martyred saints in Revelation 6:10, and the outpouring of God's wrath upon unrepentant humanity. But before we look at the judgments, some comments concerning the interpretation of the events are worthwhile.

Many learned and respected Bible scholars consider the events in the Revelation to be allegory, that is, they do not consider them to be literal happenings. Rather, they believe the events are symbolic word pictures from which we must glean hidden meanings. While there is symbolism used in the Revelation, as well as in all the Scriptures, it is preferable to interpret the Word of God literally.

Most often, the symbolism in Scripture takes the form of types or anti-types. For example, the Ark that protected Noah and his family from the destruction of the flood may be viewed as a type of our Lord Jesus Christ, who protects those who trust Him from the destruction of death. Though there is typology, symbolism and allegory concerning the Ark, still, the Ark literally existed and performed just as God described in His Word.

It is from the literal point of view that we will explore the Trumpet Judgments. While there are many applications that may be drawn, we want to look at these judgments, first, as literal happenings. Remember, these are God's supernatural judgments on a defiant and unbelieving world system. So it is not surprising they would be difficult to comprehend, understand or even believe.

We begin by looking at,

I. The First Trumpet

"The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mixed with blood, and they were cast upon the earth; and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up" (Revelation 8:7).

This is not the first time God brings this judgment upon humanity. In Exodus 9:24, hail and fire rained on Egypt because Pharaoh would not release Israel from bondage. Egyptian men and beasts in the fields were killed, trees and vegetation were destroyed, but Israel was not touched, proving this was a discretionary judgment brought by the Lord, not a natural calamity. So too, when the first trumpet blows. The resulting hailstorm will not be a natural weather happening. It will be a supernatural judgment from God.

In Exodus, there is the mention of thunder during the hailstorm. Since thunder is the result of lightning, many believe the fire mentioned is lightning striking the earth and starting fires, adding to the destruction of the storm. Perhaps, this will be the case when the first trumpet is sounded, but if this is true it leaves room for assuming a disaster of natural order. However, this viewpoint ignores this as God's supernatural judgment and that only a supernatural act of our Lord could mix literal fire with hail, thereby leaving no doubt as to the source of the judgment.

But what about the blood mingled with the hail and fire? Perhaps, this is the blood of the martyred Saints in Revelation 6:10, symbolically upon the heads of those who killed them. Or, perhaps it speaks of the death and bloodshed that will occur as a result of this first trumpet judgment.

Whichever viewpoint you take, keep in mind the text says "a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up." Some manuscripts add that a third of the earth will be burned. This widespread destruction will most certainly result in the deaths and bloodshed of many. Surely, the destruction of a third of the earth will result in the deaths of so many that their blood will literally mingle with the hail and fire.

II. The Second Trumpet

"And the second angel sounded, and, as it were, a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea; and the third part of the sea became blood; And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed" (Revelation 8:8-9).
For years, expositors have said the mountain a form of human government, the sea the Roman Empire, and the destroyed ships the Church or organized religion. Some believe the sea becoming blood is the language of appearance, that is, the sea through some chemical change becomes blood red in color.

However, a literal interpretation of the text indicates some sort of volcanic eruption and for this great explosion to destroy a third of the earth's ships, it seems likely to occur near a crowded seaport.

In Revelation 7:1, four angels were given power over the winds of the sea. It is quite possible these interrupted and uncertain weather patterns will curtail or stop shipping on the high seas. This explains a third of the ships being in port.

When the explosion or eruption occurs, the resulting deaths will leave decomposing bodies and possibly, toxic ship's cargoes to pollute the sea. This pollution will continue to kill marine life in an ever increasing radius until a third of all sea life is dead and the ocean's waters literally become saturated with blood in this death zone.

The sheer magnitude of a volcanic explosion large enough to remove a mountain, along with the results described, can leave no doubts this is God's supernatural judgment of the wicked and idolatrous world system.

III. The Third Trumpet

"And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as though it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters. 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" (Revelation 8:10-11).
Again, may I say commentators have had a field day with this verse. Some believe the third trumpet speaks of a nuclear catastrophe. Many assign a personage to the star such as Satan or the Antichrist, and the waters are then regarded as the peoples of the earth.

Perhaps, because of C. S. Lewis's appropriation of "Wormwood" as the name of the young demon and nephew of Screwtape in his famous Screwtape Letters, many believe "wormwood" is a reference to a being.

Although this opinion is popular, the etymology of the word reveals something different. "Wormwood" is translated from the Greek word "apsinthos" and means "absinthe" in English, which is a green bitter liqueur made from the Wormwood or Absinthe Tree. This drink causes disease and death if habitually consumed.

Considering this definition, the reference to "wormwood" draws a contrasting parallel with the experience of the children of Israel, at the waters of Marah in Exodus 15:23-25. There, the bitter waters were made sweet when the tree was cast into them. Whereas here, the wormwood cast into the sweet waters makes them bitter.

So also is the contrast between Christ on the cross remitting our sins, making that which is bitter, sweet and Christ bringing judgments upon the earth turning the vain hopes and ambitions of men into bitterness and despair.

While parallels may be drawn, and interpretations offered concerning the meaning of "Wormwood," the important thing is to focus on what the text says will happen. A great star will fall from heaven polluting a third of the fresh waters of the earth and many men will die from drinking the water. This is a third supernatural judgment of the unrepentant and ungodly world system.

IV. The Fourth Trumpet

"And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars, so that the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise" (Revelation 8:12).
The symbolic interpretation of Revelation 8:12, usually regards this as prophecy portending a disruption of human government and society, extending to a third part of the earth. However, a more literal understanding of v:12, is demanded when one considers the words of Amos 8:9. "And it shall come to pass in that day, says the Lord God, that I will make the sun go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in broad daylight."

Couple this with the prophecy of Joel 2:10, which says, "The earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble; The sun and moon grow dark, and the stars diminish their brightness." No doubt, John is talking about a great eclipse of the light from heaven, in Revelation 8:12.

You may remember it was the intensity of the light that was affected by the opening of the sixth seal, in Revelation 6:12. Then, the sun was darkened and the moon's reflection of that light became red like blood, indicating the depletion of the sun's energy.

Here, in Revelation 8:12, John is not talking about a diminished intensity of light. Rather, he is talking about a time element when he refers to a third of the light being darkened. In other words, there will be no light for a third of the normal daylight time. Certainly, this is the judgment of God for only He can control the heavens.

V. The Announcement of Woe

"And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound" (Revelation 8:13)!
We need to notice at this point, the first four trumpets deal with aspects of the physical world often taken for granted:
The beauty and benefit of the trees;
The luxury and growth of the green grass;
The blessings of water, whether it be the beauty of the sea, the majestic flow of great rivers, or the pure fountains and springs that abound in the world;
And the light of the sun, moon and stars that are the handiwork of God in the heavens, mentioned frequently in Scriptures as a reminder of God's power, wisdom, and sovereignty.
All these are gifts from a loving God to an undeserving world, but they all come under the blight of the first four trumpet judgments. So dramatic are the judgments and so unmistakably evident the power and sovereignty of God that blaspheming men on earth can no longer ignore that God is dealing with them.

But fearful as these judgments are, they are only the beginning of God's dealing with the earth. What we have read so far is mild compared to the judgments still to come, when the remaining three angels sound their trumpets. And beginning in Revelation 9, we will see why the angel said, "Woe to the inhabitants of the earth."

As the Old Testament prophets and our Lord Jesus Christ predicted, there will be tribulation on the earth, far more terrible than anything the human race has ever experienced. Surely, it is difficult in this Age of Grace to imagine such catastrophic judgments. But we must remember that the Word of God is truth and is very clear concerning this tragic time.

To understand the things that will happen on the earth during this Great Tribulation should motivate us to invite people everywhere, to avail themselves of the Grace of God before it is too late.

From "Understanding The Apocalypse"
A book of sermons by Pastor Jim McColloch, Th.M., Th.D.
© Copyright 1994, 1999, 2006