In this study, we take up the first six trumpet soundings, starting in Revelation 8:7 and continuing through the end of chapter 9. This is a continuing time of judgment upon those left on the earth due to not being ready when Christ raptures His church.
There has been much argument over the years over whether to interpret these as literal or symbolic. I'm of the camp that says to interpret all scripture literally unless symbolic language is specifically implied. There are times when certain events can be prophesied literally, and a slightly different but consistent literal set of events can be construed as a possible way the prophecy could come to pass to satisfy the literal imagery described.
An example was seen in the seal unbinding events described last week. In those, we examined how it might be possible that a large amount of atmospheric dust, dirt, pollution, smoke, et cetera, could cause the sun to become 1/3 dimmer, the moon to appear red, and the stars to appear to recede like a scroll. Meteor showers could also appear as stars falling to earth. Although the language is literal - the sun became black like sackcloth, the moon looking as blood, stars falling to earth, the heavens departing as a scroll, these other literal events could be described that way by someone 2,000 years ago without causing any inconsistencies in scripture.
So I generally take all of these events as literal, and where possible, attempt to give a literal way they could occur if there is any doubt about the language. The big debate is how much of the earth is involved in some of these events. Many make the case for them being worldwide. Many make the case for most of them being more localized. I think there is some of both personally. There is, in fact, no scripture that says all the world will be affected. Some are specifically limited in extent by Scripture.
Regardless of the extent of their reach, the bottom line is you don't want to be in the direct line of God's anger. That is just as true today as it will be in the Tribulation period. The message then, as well as now, is that you can't escape an angry God. God wants to be your King as well as your friend. But Kingship comes first. Do right in His sight, starting with accepting Jesus as your Savior. Do what the King commands. Don't let yourself be found on the wrong side of an angry God.
I don't think the arguments about the extent of some of these judgments will ever be settled before they are executed by God and His forces, and Satan and his forces. But what is described will happen and will affect some or all of the earth. As we discussed last week, even if all of the judgments don't affect the entire earth, the earth will still be a pretty miserable place to live post-rapture.
The First Trumpet
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 blast heralds hail and fire mingled with blood hitting the earth. I'm not sure what the mingled with blood reference includes. Hail is clear. Fire falling to earth could be lightning. The with blood reference may simply mean that the hail and lightning cause deaths directly. The mingling with blood could be the blood of those who are struck, both man and beast, by the hailstones.
The lightning causes forest fires, destroying 1/3 of the forest regions and massive destruction in the grasslands. With as many problems as mankind will be fighting just to survive, it is likely that forest fire fighting and range land fire fighting will have a low priority. The fires will cause a lot more atmospheric pollution, which will further dim the skies as seen later.
The Second Trumpet
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;
8:9 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.
When the second angel sounds, a great mountain burning with fire is cast into the sea. I believe that the sea, in this case, will be the Mediterranean Sea, as opposed to some other sea. Dake believes that the mountain might be a meteor hitting the earth. This is possible, but I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that a major Mediterranean volcano will go active at this point in time. The eruption will cause some sort of major fault that causes the volcano's side to blow out or otherwise lose its physical integrity (or that of the surrounding landscape) and cause a huge chunk of land to slide into the Mediterranean Sea. This will cause a devastating tsunami. The reason that I picked the Mediterranean is that it would be significant for the region of earth that the book of Revelation is primarily concerned with. It could certainly be any of a number of other seas and would bring catastrophe over a much wider area.
There are many active volcanoes in the Mediterranean region, especially in Italy, Greece, and Turkey. There are also several in the Middle East. Some are inland, but many are on islands where they could do damage very easily. Most are not erupting every year, although Mt. Etna erupted in 2006.
All volcanoes vary in the amount of destruction they cause. Since we don't have the massive explosions as often as smaller activity, we tend to forget just how much damage they can cause, even without a tsunami. The volcanoes like Krakatoa (killed 36,000+, mostly by tsunamis and reduced the size of the island from 18 sq.mi. to 6 sq.mi.), Tambora (killed 76,000, most from starvation and disease), Unzen Jp (killed 14,500), and others like Vesuvius and Etna, have killed many more over the years.
A major eruption of a volcanic island in the Mediterranean with Krakatoa like explosions and land displacement could create a tsunami that would easily destroy 1/3 of the ships in that sea and kill 1/3 of the sea life. It could cause a distinct reddish tint to the water in certain parts due to death, destruction, and stirred up sediment. It is estimated, for example that an avalanche in Sicily fed by a volcano about 8,000 years ago caused a tsunami like wave as tall as a ten story building in the Mediterranean. The landslide crashed into the water going 200 MPH, causing the waves to race ahead at a 450 MPH rate. (msnbc/livescience.com)
The real biggies (like the Yellowstone National Park caldera) are cataclysmic, but don't erupt as often. Of course YNP is overdue. One of the next times the Canary Islands Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma erupts, it is likely to finish the splitting off of a good chunk of the island that has already started to fracture and cause a great big bunch of rock (500 thousand million tonnes) to plunge into the ocean (4 miles deep at that point). Some scientists estimate that the western Sahara could be hit with 330 foot waves, Lisbon with 33 foot waves, London with 40 foot high waves, and the Eastern U.S. with 200+ feet waves traveling at 500 mph and reaching up to 20 miles inland.
One of the big island volcanoes on Hawaii (Kilauea) shows a similar possibility of a massive collapse at some point in the future which would affect everything on the Pacific rim. If the collapse is slow, we get lucky. If it happens quickly, not so much. Many scientists predict a slower series of landslides that won't produce a big ocean wide tsunami. Only time will tell who is right. (BBC and sthjournal.org)
Nobody can say when events like this are due to occur, but don't discount the 'mountain burning with fire being cast into the sea' as just some words written by a prophet a long time ago. The sort of event John prophesied does happen with some frequency causing at least localized destruction. All John is saying is that during this time in the world's history, there will be another biggie. There are lots of places it could happen. Let's hope is is contained in the Mediterranean and that God doesn't decide to let three go at once and wipe all the world's seacoasts out in one fell swoop. John was forecasting a singular mountain collapse after all.
The Third Trumpet
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;
8:11 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.
While the last trumpet was probably a volcano, this trumpet does forecast a meteor or comet strike that will hit the mountains and other fresh water bodies in some part of the earth. In this case, it is likely that the meteor or comet will strike just one mountain range and affect that water table, since it does say only 1/3 part of rivers are affected and this is probably localized.
It is, of course, possible that the comet or meteor could break up on its own accord (perhaps due to its basic structure being flawed) in the upper atmosphere and have its affect spread over a much larger area. Perhaps we'll even have meteor busting technology by the time that happens, and this will be the first attempt to use it which fails badly, breaking up a meteor into several larger chunks that still end up hitting large portions of the earth. Who knows?
At any rate, the Wormwood meteor or comet (sounds like the code name for a meteor destruction project gone wrong doesn't it?) ends up polluting 1/3 of the water with something probably from the meteor (but possibly from the device that is used to try to deflect or destroy the meteor?) that makes the water bitter and ends up killing many people who drink the water. The Bible only says that many die, not 1/3 or some other large number.
Certainly, the science fiction writers have had a field day with this topic over the years. I haven't actually watched any of their attempts at scaring us crooked, but suffice it to say that there are all sorts of ways that this could happen.
The Fourth Trumpet
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.
8:13 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!
The classical interpretation for this fourth trumpet judgment is that the sun becomes 1/3 as bright. The sun naturally varies in brightness over an 11 year cycle. God intervenes in this natural cycle to darken the sun supernaturally. This is in addition to any dimness that is already there due to pollution as seen in previous verses. Since the moon is reflected light, it would naturally become 1/3 less bright as well. It states here that 1/3 part of all stars in fact are dimmed as if God turned down a giant dimmer. The sun is not bright enough to be visible for 1/3 of a day.
An alternative and more drastic effect could be that the huge meteor or comet alters the earth's rotation on its axis (or that God does this himself so that the effect seen in the polar regions now occurs in a new region of interest in the earth (perhaps the center of the Antichrist's kingdom.) This couldn't happen without God's help - the energy values are just too high for life on earth to survive during such an event without God doing some miraculous work on his own. It is thought, for example, that the dying out of the dinosaurs might have been caused by a strike by a large object in the Gulf of Mexico.
An axis rotation could explain why the day didn't shine for as long as it usually did, while at the other end of the globe the night went on longer, similar to the effect at the poles today due to the earth's wobble. Just my 2 cents on very little sleep, but it does give you something to think about - and that's the purpose of this series - to think about just how Revelation could come about.
Regardless, just as the seals progressed in magnitude until people finally said - hey, God must be behind this, the trumpets progress in a similar fashion. You can make scientific hypothesis for the first three judgments. And you can be sure the Antichrist's forces will be out there promulgating just such a reason behind the catastrophes and downplaying the deity behind them. The fourth trumpet will leave the scientists scratching their heads. There will be no scientific explanation possible to explain this fourth trumpet without divine intervention. Even the scientists today are saying that the sun is in a very stable phase, compared to other similar sized stars, so large swings in its brightness aren't naturally expected. As mentioned, surviving an axis shift without God's help isn't likely. When God does whatever He does, they won't have a scientific explanation.
To accentuate this fact, after the fourth trumpet sounds and the work is done, an angel flies through the heavens calling out with a loud voice for the people left on earth to hear "Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of earth due to the three trumpets which are yet to come!". I'm sure the trumpets themselves will be a curiosity, up to this point, preceding each new cataclysmic event. I'm not sure how the Antichrist will go about explaining them. But now, even the people who have never read Revelation or who have had to listen to the propaganda of the Antichrist will be forced to acknowledge that they have heard a shout in the heavens forecasting three more trumpets full of woe, woe, and more woe!
I was asked in class about the significance of all of the thirds in the portion of Revelation. The thought that came to mind was simply this. God is a Trinity. Jesus, one third of the Trinity, came to earth to be a sin offering for us. Earth, by and large, rejected Him. Many of the same people who were praising His name and strewing branches in front of His donkey as He entered Jerusalem on what has come to be known as Palm Sunday, called out to crucify Him days later. One third of the Trinity paid the price for our sins.
One third of earth pays the price for what was done. Those who were ready have already been raptured. Those who were left were those who rejected Him again. One third wouldn't seem like too big a price to expect in reimbursement for such a loss as happened 2,000+ years ago. Be ready for His coming in the air. Don't be left behind.
The Fifth Trumpet
The fifth trumpet marks a turning point as well in the judgments. As noted in the first part of chapter 7, the four angels that were ready to do this were commanded to wait until the 144,000 members of the various tribes of Israel were marked so that the judgments wouldn't affect them. So we know that there was a delay before they began their execution of God's plan till this was accomplished. We also know that there are a core of Israelis who won't be affected by these four judgments.
With the fifth judgment, torments and woes are poured out on mankind specifically, instead of the earth.
9:1 And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.
9:2 And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.
9:3 And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
9:4 And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.
9:5 And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.
9:6 And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.
9:7 And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men.
9:8 And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions.
9:9 And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.
9:10 And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.
9:11 And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.
9:12 One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.
In this fifth trumpet judgment, the first woe is poured out on the earth. An angel comes down from heaven, having been given the key to the bottomless pit. When it is opened, the sky gets even darker due to its smoke rising. Demon locusts will come with the smoke. They receive specific commands. They cannot hurt the grass or any green thing, nor any tree. They can only torment the men that weren't sealed with the 144,000. They don't get to kill them, but will sting them like a scorpion stings man for a period of five months.
The description in verses 7 through 10 clearly makes them something other than the locusts we know today, being demonic in nature. They are lead by a king, the angel of the bottomless pit, called Abaddon or in the Greek Apollyon. It says that men will seek to die, but will not be able to die, regardless of what they try to do.
What is the bottomless pit or abyss? Well, Jude declares that it is a place where the angels that Satan led that didn't keep their place and went in to the daughters of men in the time of Noah to create the giant races have been confined by God for their rebellion. So these angels have been out of circulation for several thousand years and have quite a grudge against humanity in general. They won't be merciful, and in relieving their anger and frustration on mankind will be directly fulfilling the prophecy of God.
The Sixth Trumpet
9:13 And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,
9:14 Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.
9:15 And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.
9:16 And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.
9:17 And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone.
9:18 By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.
9:19 For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt.
The sixth trumpet, like the fifth, is an attack upon mankind who were not protected by God's seal. Four fallen angels who are currently bound in the river Euphrates are loosed and at an appointed time, to do this. They will lead an army of 200,000,000 demon horsemen which go forth on beasts like horses to kill 1/3 of the remaining men by fire, smoke, and brimstone issuing out of their mouths or via serpent strikes from their tails.
Dake notes that these demon horsemen are also bound up in the abyss at this point in time, although I don't find a direct supporting scripture reference for this. These four angels which the Bible says are now bound, may simply martial the demonic forces that are currently causing problems on the earth to execute this judgment.
With this, the second woe is past, and a third woe remains which will be discussed with the 7th trumpet.
The State of Mankind
9:20 And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:
9:21 Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
It would be nice to say that mankind could learn something from all this, but sadly, such is not to be. Even with the seal and trumpet judgments, and angels announcing that more is to come, there is no repentance. Here it says that the five primary sins of the times will be idolatry, murder, sorcery, fornication, and stealing. We see more and more of this every day in our own times, and it will increase and become the norm once the church is taken out of the way.
They will justify themselves by the conditions they are living in post rapture, but they will receive no justification from God. He has His own black and white laws which don't change depending on the circumstances you find yourselves in. Don't be fooled. God is not mocked. When you sin, you cut yourself off from God. All are born in sin and must accept Christ as their only Savior. Here, we see that man's stubbornness has no bounds.
Even with all that is happening, they will not repent and turn to God. Turn to God now before your heart is similarly hardened. If you've just been playing around with Christianity, believe me that today is the day you need to correct that situation and restore God to the place of King in your life as well as just having Jesus be your Savior.
To whom much is given, much is expected. Christianity today has been given much. Don't let the Father down.
In the next study, we'll take up chapters 10 through 11:14, a parenthetical passage, followed by the 7th trumpet closing out chapter 11.
If you aren't ready to face the wrath of God, there's still time to get right with God through accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior. There is guaranteed salvation through no other means. If you don't believe that, then you should click on the link and read the scripture references I've included as answers to some common questions...