This is the fifth post in our series about Revelation chapters 8 and 9. We’ve been talking about the great day of the Lord, when the Lord pours out His wrath on angry and rebellious nations. For decades, I have been praying about and studying the prophetic books about the last days, and volcanos and earthquakes are a prominent part of God’s wrath. And that’s what we’re going to talk about in this blog.
As a side note, I thought I would share an interesting end time prayer experience. Throughout the years, there have been several times when I was praying in the spirit about end times and I would hear the words “ring of fire.” I didn’t know what it meant. It happened enough times that it made me curious enough to look it up on the Internet. I was fascinated to learn “ring of fire” has to do with volcanoes and earthquakes. The National Geographic website said this: “The Ring of Fire, also referred to as the Circum-Pacific Belt, is a path along the Pacific Ocean characterized by active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes. The majority of Earth’s volcanoes and earthquakes take place along the Ring of Fire.” Is your interest piqued? Then keep reading!
Revelation Chapters 8 and 9
Fifth in an Eight-Part Series
by Karen Thompson
The Worst Year Ever—536 A.D.
Interestingly enough, we have an example from history of what would happen if the sun, all of a sudden, stopped shining for an extended period of time. There is a year in earth’s history when a thick fog blocked out the sun’s rays, creating a global catastrophe. The aftereffects of this catastrophe matches perfectly with what we see described in the book of Revelation. The year it happened is 536 A.D., dubbed as “the worst year ever.” It’s the year when the sun, the moon, and stars stopped shining.
The discovery of the year 536 being the worst year ever was a serendipitous find, made by a committee doing research on the history of coinage. In their research, committee members kept coming across anecdotal accounts that indicated something catastrophic happened that year. Historical records from all over the world spoke about the same event—the sun stopped shining.
In the year 536, a mysterious fog rolled in overnight that prevented the sun’s rays from shining through. For 18 months, the fog swept the globe—from Europe, to the Middle East, and throughout Asia. Notations of this cataclysmic event were preserved in various records. It even made its way into a Norse poem written by Voluspa in 536 where he spoke of the “sun turning black.”
Byzantine historian Procopius wrote that “the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year.”
Cassiodorus, a Roman politician, said the sun’s light was so dim that people couldn’t see their shadows. He described the sun as having a bluish tint to it and the moon had lost its luster. Also, a common lament heard from all over the world is that the seasons had gone off track—like snow in the summer.
Another quote came from a Byzantine scribe by the name of Michael the Syrian. He wrote that in the year 536, “The sun became dark and its darkness lasted for 18 months. Each day it shone for about four hours and still this light was only a feeble shadow. Everyone declared that the sun would never recover its full light. The fruits did not ripen, and the wine tasted like sour grapes.”
Ice Core Evidence
In addition to the anecdotal quotes from the historical record, evidence of the 536 catastrophe was recorded in an ice core that was pulled from the Swiss Alps. For those not aware, ice cores have long been studied for the historical information that has been frozen inside the ice. Ice cores are drilled out of glaciers because when it snows on a glacier, it’s too cold for the snow to melt. That means the snowfalls of every year are compressed into layers on top of layers. Each layer of ice contains the elements that were in the atmosphere that year. In this way, ice cores create a perfect time capsule of earth’s geological past. Some ice cores are so long that the layers of ice go back as far as 2,000 years. That being said, when the committee studied the ice cores, it was confirmed that earth, indeed, experienced a cataclysmic event in the year 536 A.D.
Yet none of the quotes taken from the historical records nor the ice core evidence was enough to persuade anyone that a global catastrophe took place in 536. It wasn’t until the 1990s when a new study convinced researchers to reconsider. What caused them to reconsider? Tree rings. The rings in very old trees all around the world revealed a great decline in tree growth around the year 536 A.D. Thus confirming there was, indeed, a global catastrophe at that time.
Consequences of the Light Not Shining
It doesn’t take a scientist to know what the result would be around the world should the sun stop shining for 18 months. Without the full strength of the sun’s rays, the temperature dropped. The cooler weather resulted in crop failures all over the world. Ireland’s food supplies were exhausted, bringing forth a period that came to be known as “bread failure.” Great numbers of people began to starve to death.
Mass migration took place; people began to flee their homes in search of a better life, trying to escape hunger and cold. During that time, Sweden lost half of its population to migration. All of this instability brought on severe economic turmoil.
In addition, strange things happened all around the globe. One such phenomenon happened in China when it was hit with a strange kind of dust storm. A sixth century Chinese chronicle reported a yellow ash-like substance began to fall from the sky. The ash that fell wasn’t simply a matter of a light coating of dust on everything. There was so much yellow dust that they had to dispose of it not with a dust cloth but with scoops.
And it just kept getting worse. In a few years, the ramifications of a lack of sunshine brought forth a new horror. All these sun-deprived people with vitamin D deficiencies became susceptible to disease. In 541, the bubonic plague appeared in Europe and spread throughout the world. Bubonic plague is known for terribly painful open sores, known as buboes. The sores would swell until they finally burst open with puss flowing out. Because it started in Europe, the plague was called the “Justinian plague,” after the Roman Emperor Justinian. It was estimated that more than half of the world’s population, close to a hundred million people, died between 536 and 542 from starvation, cold, or disease.
What Caused the Fog?
Researchers began to theorize what caused the fog that blocked out the sun’s light. They considered the fog had to be the result of either a volcano or a large meteorite falling to earth. They ruled out the meteorite, because the ice cores taken from both the north and south poles had high levels of sulfur indicating a volcanic eruption. Their research turned up evidence that a volcano in Iceland did, indeed, erupt in 536. But could just one volcanic eruption create enough fog to block out the sun for 18 months? They began to look for another volcanic eruption but have so far been unable to find it. They surmised it might be a combination of both a meteorite strike and volcano eruption, but there is no evidence for it. Ultimately, it might never be known what caused the sunlight to be blocked for such a long period of time.
There is another more recent volcanic eruption that can provide us with more information. The worst volcanic eruption in modern history is Mount Tambora, a volcanic mountain on Sumbawa Island, Indonesia, that exploded in April 1815. Its devastating effect on the earth was much like 536. It was so massive that it ejected over 100 times more debris than Mount St. Helen’s eruption in 1980. When it blew, ten thousand people were instantly killed; their flesh melting off. In the immediate aftermath, the death toll increased by 90,000.
When it first erupted on April 5, Tambora blew ash into the stratosphere for three hours before it subsided. Then five days later, the big one hit. The explosion was so violent that Tambora blew its top off; 1,200 meters of the mountain was blown off. It left a crater 6.5 kilometers across (one mile = 1.609 km). Enormous amounts of debris blasted out. Included with the volcanic ash were gigantic boulders hurling through the air, hitting and destroying homes.
Tambora continued to spew out material for three months. Heavy ash blanketed the island for weeks, suffocating people and poisoning the water. It was picked up by the wind and blew to neighboring countries. In some places like Great Britain, the ash that covered the country was knee-deep high. Tambora spewed so much sulfur into the atmosphere that it cooled the entire planet. On certain days, the sun barely seemed to rise at all. That year, no one had summer. Snow fell in July. The rivers froze in August. And just like 536, the crops failed all over. People starved.
And just like 536, it was only a matter of time that pestilence arrived. Dysentery hit Sumbawa Island. Then a typhus epidemic arrived in Ireland. Lastly, a new strain of cholera came forth. By the time the effects of Tambora had run their course, there would be tens of millions of people that died as a result of the Mount Tambora eruption!
Comparison to the Trumpet and Bowl Judgments
If you were paying careful attention, you will have noticed many of the things that happened in the past describe what will happen during the trumpet and bowl judgments. Let’s compare the events of 536 and 1815 with the trumpet and bowl judgments in Revelation.
Diming of the Sun, Moon, and Stars
Obviously, the first thing that stood out to me when I was reading about the year 536 was the light of the sun, moon, and stars being dimmed, just like Revelation 8:12: “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.).
Painful Sores From the Plague
The next thing I saw that was similar to events in Revelation is that a few years after the sun stopped shining, the bubonic plague afflicted people, giving them very painful sores on their bodies. The first bowl judgment also involves painful sores: “And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth. And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image” (Rev. 16:1–2). They will have “noisome and grievous sores.” The definition of the word noisome means something that is “offensive or disgusting, as an odor; harmful or injurious to health; noxious.” The sores described in Revelation sound very much like the puss-filled buboes sores you get from the bubonic plague. Also, in the same way the bubonic plague showed up a few years after the sun stopped shining in 536, the sores in Revelation will also show up at the end of Daniel’s 70th week, 3 ½ years after the trumpet judgments.
Boulders Being Hurled Like Hail
The Mount Tambora volcanic eruption hurled boulders into the air that were so large they destroyed homes. This is similar to the seventh bowl judgment when a mighty earthquake happened. It was so great that it caused a lot of damage to the cities of the nations. But what caught my attention is that it describes a “great hail” out of heaven: “…and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great. … and the cities of the nations fell … And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great” (Rev. 16:18–21). The great hail in Revelation consisted of stones that were about the weight of a talent. In the Bible, the talent is the largest or heaviest unit of measurement. One talent was equal to about 75 pounds. This end time earthquake will spew out boulders that weigh 75 pounds!
Water Being Poisoned
Here’s another comparison. The ash from Mount Tambora poisoned the various water supplies, making it undrinkable. The third trumpet judgment has a great burning star that poisons the water supplies when it hits the rivers and fountains of water.
Revelation 8:10 says, “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; 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.’”
When Mount Tambora blew, ten thousand people were instantly killed, because the heat was so intense from the blast that their flesh literally melted off. That sounds exactly like an end time scripture in Zechariah: “And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, and their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths” (Zec. 14:12). I can only think of one thing that would cause flesh to dissolve while someone was standing on their feet—intense heat from a volcanic blast.
Hail Mingled With Blood
And lastly, let’s look at the first trumpet judgment again: “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” (Rev. 8:7). The “hail and fire mingled with blood” could very possibly be bits of red molten lava being spewed out via a volcanic blast.
To summarize, I think we can conclude that the past happenings of the years 536 and 1815 give us a very good idea of what will take place in the earth when the trumpet and bowl judgments are executed. I do, however, think the aftereffects will be much, much worse than the years 536 and 1815. If you’re a believer, be thankful you are “not appointed unto wrath,” and that you will be in heaven with the Lord Jesus when His wrath is poured out upon the earth. And for those who are still on the earth when the Lord pours out His wrath, I would rethink solar energy. Invest in generators.
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