Greetings! This is the fourth post in our series of Revelation chapters 8 and 9. In this post, we’re going to study the first four trumpet judgments. The first four trumpet judgments have to do with destruction to the earth by things falling out of the sky. The last three trumpet judgments are something else. And if you’ve ever studied the trumpet judgments, you’ll notice the amount of damage the trumpet brought was always 1/3rd of whatever was on the receiving end of the judgment. Aren’t you curious as to why the damage was always limited to just 1/3rd destruction? I know I was. Well, in this post, you’ll find out why!
Revelation Chapters 8 and 9
Fourth in an Eight-Part Series
By Karen Thompson
The First Four Trumpet Judgments
Rev. 8:7 The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled 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.
The first trumpet judgment has to do with the earth. John said when the angel sounded his trumpet, “there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth.” As a result, a third part of the trees were burned up and all the grass was burned up. The phrase “hail and fire” is referring to hail and lightning. It might seem puzzling that John used the word “fire” to describe lightning, because there are four other places in revelation where he does use the word “lightnings.” So when he uses the word fire to describe lightning, it makes one think he’s talking about something other than lightning. I believe I know the reason why John used the word fire to describe lightning. Lightning is just an electrical flash during a storm, but it becomes destructive when it strikes something and sets it on fire.
There is another instance in the Bible when the words “hail and fire” are used to describe a lightning storm. Interestingly enough, this very first trumpet judgment in Revelation is nearly identical to Egypt’s sixth plague. The sixth Egyptian plague was also described as hail and fire, and its purpose was also to destroy the crops in the field. There are those that have suggested the fire in the sixth Egyptian plague and the fire in the first trumpet judgment are something other than lightning. Let’s look at the sixth plague: “And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the Lord rained hail upon the land of Egypt” (Exo. 9:23). Because the fire is described as fire that ran along the ground, some say that it’s not lightning. But lightning can and has actually run along the ground.5
I am confident that the hail and fire described in the Egyptian plague and the first trumpet judgment are both severe lighting storms that include hail. In fact, the Bible tells us that the fire described in Egypt’s sixth plague was, indeed, lightning. Psalm 78 is a psalm giving God praise for delivering the Israelites from the Egyptians. It lists the various plagues of turning water into blood, and sending the flies, frogs and locusts. Then verses 47–48 describe the damage done by the hail and fire, with the fire being described as “hot thunderbolts”: “How he had wrought his signs in Egypt, and his wonders in the field of Zoan. And had turned their rivers into blood; and their floods, that they could not drink. He sent divers sorts of flies among them, which devoured them; and frogs, which destroyed them. He gave also their increase unto the caterpiller, and their labour unto the locust. He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycomore trees with frost. He gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts” (Ps. 78:43–48).
As you can see, this portion of scripture confirms to us that the fire in the phrase “hail and fire” is thunderbolts which, of course, is lightning. Just like the words “hail and fire” were used to describe a lightning storm in the sixth Egyptian plague, the words “hail and fire” in the first trumpet judgment will most likely be a lightning storm that sets the vegetation on fire.
In describing the first trumpet judgment, John said this hail and fire was “mingled with blood.” The Greek word for blood is haima, and it can be interpreted to mean blood of both man and animals, or the seat of life, or things that resemble blood.6 It’s hard to tell what John was seeing, but it might not have been literal blood, just something that looks like blood.
Let’s talk about repeating elements for a moment. In the judgments throughout Revelation, the element of blood is often repeated. Whether something simply looks like blood or causes blood to be shed, blood is a factor that’s repeated over and over.
Another repeating element peculiar to the trumpet judgments is that the damage done by the trumpet judgments is one third. Whether it is fish in the ocean, trees, or water being poisoned, the damage being done is one third. Confirmed in a later chapter, the reason the trumpet judgments create only one-third damage is because these judgments are diluted and are not the full strength of God’s wrath. The bowl judgments are God’s wrath poured out in undiluted strength.
The Second Trumpet Judgment Affects the Sea
Rev. 8:8 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; 9 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.
The second trumpet judgment has to do with the sea. When the second angel sounded his trumpet, John described seeing a mountain on fire falling: “and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea…” (v. 8). The sea being referred to is most likely the Mediterranean Sea. John obviously saw something very large because when it fell into the sea, one third of the sea became blood. Verse nine describes to us the damage it created: “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.” One third of the sea became blood, one third of the creatures that were in the sea died, and a third part of the ships were destroyed—one third, one third, one third.
The late Eugene Shoemaker of the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that cosmic impacts equivalent to the nuclear weapon that destroyed Hiroshima actually hit earth about once a year. An event this size would be very obvious, but these events go unnoticed because 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered in water and much of the earth’s land surface is uninhabited. When the impact happens, no one is around to see it. The explosion would take place at a high altitude, accompanied by a blast of light and a loud thunderclap. Two examples of this type of meteoroid impact that people actually observed are the Sikhote-Alin meteoroid which fell in eastern Russia in 1947 and the Revelstoke fireball which fell over British Columbia in Canada in 1965.7 What John saw was something so large that it didn’t explode before it hit earth. For John to describe it as a mountain, it will have the appearance of being quite large.
The Third Trumpet Affects the Rivers and Fountains of Water
Rev. 8:10 And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; 11 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.
The third trumpet judgment has to do with the water sources like rivers and springs. When the third angel sounded his trumpet, John described seeing a great star falling to earth from heaven: “and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp…” (v. 10). Like the mountain, this star is on fire. The damage it will cause when it falls upon one third of the rivers and water sources will be to cause the water to become bitter, or poisonous, resulting in many deaths.
As stated before, John obviously wasn’t seeing an actual star fall to earth, just something that looked like a star. Thanks to technology, anybody who has access to the Internet can see a clip of something similar to what John might have seen. On April 14, 2010, a gigantic fireball fell near Sullivan, Wisconsin, and it was caught on tape.8 When I saw the clip, I was in awe by its appearance and thought how easily it could be described as a flaming star falling to earth.
It’s interesting that John described the second trumpet judgment as a mountain on fire and the third trumpet judgment as a great star on fire. Obviously, he saw a difference between the two. Perhaps the difference had to do with the amount of fire on each object.
Wormwood, a Bitter Judgment
The star John saw in his vision had a name. It was called Wormwood. Wormwood is a bitter herb. There are seven verses in the Old Testament that refer to wormwood. Every one of the verses uses the word wormwood to express bitterness or a judgment that is bitter. For example, the prophet Jeremiah prophesied, “Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will feed them, even this people, with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink” (Jer. 9:15). Wormwood is one of the herbs the Jewish people use during Passover supper to remind them of their bitter experience in Egypt.9 Wormwood is a bitter judgment one is forced to consume. So it makes sense that the star that poisons the water is called wormwood. It’s a judgment!
There are those that surmise this star that poisons one third of the rivers and water sources is a meteoroid impact that changes the atmosphere due to heat shock during entry and thereby causes the oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere to produce nitric acid rain. There is a recorded incident that gives credence to meteoroids having poisonous effects. On September 15, 2007, a meteoroid impacted the nation of Peru near a lake called Lake Titicaca. When it impacted, it left a water-filled hole that spewed gases, causing the residents in the nearby village of Carancas to become ill.7
The Fourth Trumpet Judgment Affects the Light Sources
Rev. 8:12 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 as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.
The fourth trumpet judgment has to do with the light sources: the sun, the moon, and the stars. When the fourth angel sounded his trumpet, John said, “and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars….” Being smitten meant “the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise…” (v. 12). A third part of the sun, the moon, and the stars were smitten so that a third part of them did not shine. It’s difficult to ascertain exactly what this trumpet judgment means. Few people even try to interpret it. Some interpret it to mean time standing still. I think the Amplified Bible translated this verse correctly: “Then the fourth angel blew [his] trumpet, and a third of the sun was smitten, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that [the light of] a third of them was darkened, and a third of the daylight [itself] was withdrawn, and likewise a third [of the light] of the night was kept from shining”(Amp.).
Something will prevent the sun, moon, and stars from shining to their fullest intensity. Something blocks out the light of day and the light of night, causing their light to dim. The most logical conclusion might be smoke and debris in the air, preventing light from coming through.
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