Today we’re going to be looking at the first four trumpets in Revelation 8. Instead of putting the whole text at the beginning like I have been doing, I’m going to write out trumpet by trumpet and add comment per passage. Before diving into the individual texts, notice the similarity that the trumpets hold with the bowls of wrath. Other than the first trumpet and bowl, all of the judgments seem to parallel in some sense. Now, I don’t want you to think that because there is parallel that these are the same things. The trumpets are judgment upon the whole world, but they still revolve around Jerusalem being the center of all nations (Ezekiel 5:5). The bowls and trumpets both have a lot of similarity between the plagues of Exodus.
What is happening, the reason why John would be putting such similar judgments upon they who the Antichrist is attacking and the Antichrist kingdom itself, goes back to Jeremiah 25:29, where God asks quite an astounding question. To paraphrase, “If I judge my own people, will I not also judge the nations?” We can think of in history how there was the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century, but there was also the destruction of Pompeii. If God will bring judgment upon the very city that bears his name, will he not also judge the city opposed to his name?
So, we see in the prophets that Babylon is often a symbol of God’s judgment upon Israel, and Nebuchadnezzar is even called a tool in His hand, but this in no manner excludes the judgment to come before him. Thus, almost exactly the same judgments befall Babylon that come upon Jerusalem. The same judgments that God’s people endure, as chastisement, they who follow the Antichrist will receive in condemnation.
“And the seven angels, having the seven trumpets, prepared themselves that they might sound their trumpets. And the first sounded his trumpet. And there was hail and fire having been mixed with blood and it was cast upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all greed grass was burned up.”
This “hail and fire mixed with blood” comes from Exodus 9:24. It almost sounds like a volcano explosion. Joel 2:30 also speaks of blood and fire together: “I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke.” The “third” is found in texts like Ezekiel 5:2, Zechariah 13:8-9. For “trees and green grass”, see 7:1-2.
“And the second angel sounded his trumpet. And something like a great mountain with burning fire was cast into the sea. And a third of the sea became blood, and a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.”
This second trumpet seems to be an allusion to the first Egyptian plague. Psalm 78:44 speaks of the rivers becoming blood. This also very much sounds like a volcano – or at least the effects of one. A “mountain of fire” certainly would be a proper expression of volcanic activity. However, the truth is that this is mere speculation, and is not directly a translation or interpretation of what the Bible actually predicts.
Now, we looked at last time how in 8:3 there is the prayers of the saints offered. Then, in 9:13, we read of the answer to those prayers. At the end of 11:19, we see the opening of the Holy of Holies. There is a progression here. First, the offering of the prayers upon the altar of incense. Then, the consummation of those prayers in the final judgment before Christ returns. Finally, when Christ returns, heaven is married to the earth. This is our prayer: on earth as in heaven. So, when we see the first trumpet like a mountain of fire being cast into the sea, we can think of the words of Jesus that if we say to this mountain, “Be cast into the sea” it will be done for us. There is a connection here between the heavenly beings blowing the trumpets, the earth reacting, and the prayers of the saints in travail until Jerusalem be made a praise in all the earth.
For verse 9, we can compare Exodus 7:21 and Zephaniah 1:3. “The fish of the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt.” “I will sweep away both men and animals; I will sweep away the birds of the air and fish of the sea. The wicked will have only heaps of rubble when I cut off man from the face of the earth.”
“And the third angel sounded his trumpet. And a great star fell out of heaven burning like a torch, and it fell upon a third of the rivers and upon the springs of waters. And the name of the star is called Wormwood. And a third of the waters became into wormwood, and many men died from the waters because they were made bitter.”
Jeremiah prophesies in 8:14, “Let us flee to the fortified cities and perish there! For the Lord our God has doomed us to perish and given us poisoned water to drink, because we have sinned against him.” Again, in 9:15, “Therefore, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel says: See, I will make this people eat bitter food and drink poisoned water.” And again in Jeremiah 23:15, “I will make them eat bitter food and drink poisoned water, because from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has spread throughout the land.”
Here we see in Jeremiah la’nah (wormwood) and ro’sh (gall) to drink. Ro’sh is a poisonous herb. In Lamentations 3:19, Amos 5:7, 6:12, as well as Jeremiah 9:15 and 23:15, wormwood is a parallel of gall. It is thus conceived as having poisonous effects. Its bitter taste is referred to in Proverbs 5:4. Notice in Proverbs 5:4 that the word for bitter is marah (see Exodus 15:23 for significance). Here it says “many people died” instead of a third of mankind. Where the other three trumpets in 8:7-12 have their effects in one third of the world, this one says “many people”. The reason is found in 9:18 where at that time a third of humanity die.
“And the fourth angel sounded his trumpet. And a third of the sun was struck and a third of the moon and a third of the stars, that a third of them should be darkened and the day should not appear for a third of it, and the night likewise.”
As someone who used to be a partial preterist, I have to kick this dog as I’m passing. When in history did this event take place? We are left with three options. Either 1) the Bible is not to be taken literally at all, 2) the words in apocalyptic need to be spiritualized because there is very little that is to be understood literally, or 3) this has never happened. This is a powerful argument against the historical position as well. For they who claim that the book of Revelations is either partially fulfilled (historic and partial preterist), or fully fulfilled (full preterist), you need to explain to me how we have a third of the sun, moon, and stars going dark in history. Either it hasn’t happened, and therefore preterism is a lie, or it is spiritualized, in which we then need to ask the question of how we know what to spiritualize and what to take seriously. This is why when you read multiple preterist interpretations, you will find that none of them agree with one another. They all put different events with different places in history. The truth is, it doesn’t fit, and therefore we need to have enough intellectual integrity to admit that it doesn’t fit.
We can see the parallel drawn from Amos 8:9. “In that day, declares the Sovereign Lord, I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.” When did this happen? Did it happen in the days of Amos? And why is John quoting this? Is he making reference to it because he sees a parallel and a parallel alone? Or is there something else happening here (like Ezekiel calling Gog the one that the prophets of Israel spoke of, even though each prophet had their own context and completely different invading army to prophesy about/against)?
This trumpet corresponds, at least in a modified sort of way, to the ninth Egyptian plague – the plague of darkness (Exodus 10:21-23).
“And I looked, and I heard one eagle flying in mid-heaven saying with a loud voice, ‘Woe! Woe! Woe to those dwelling on the earth because of the remaining voices of the trumpets of the three angels being about to sound their trumpets!’”
This final verse speaks of three woes, and indeed the last three trumpets are called woes. In 9:12 we read “the first woe is past”, and in 11:14 “the second woe is past”. The final woe is said to be the seventh trumpet. This is why the eagle cries out “woe” three times. In Revelation 12:12, we find a “woe” to the earth because Satan has been cast down to it. That expulsion of Satan is the halfway mark through the Tribulation. Compare 11:2 and 12:6 with Daniel 12:11. Thus, we place the fifth trumpet at the halfway point. This would also be why the fifth trumpet begins with a falling star – Satan being cast down.
In the next post, we’ll examine the first woe and what John might be trying to communicate with it. There are a lot of little details that typically get tossed to the side in a sort of “hopeless” pile. We can’t truly know what these details mean, and yet the question is never even considered: “Why not?” I will admit that I don’t have all of this figured out either, but I sure believe that God has given us this detail for a reason. So, we’ll take these woes one at a time, and we’ll sift through the details in search of understanding what God is trying to communicate.