The First Four Trumpets (Rev 8:6-13)

March 6, 2017 — Leave a comment

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Review of Past Blog Posts

B. Text of Revelation 8:6-13

“6Then the seven angels who were holding the seven trumpets prepared themselves so that they could blow their trumpets. 7The first angel blew his trumpet and there was hail mixed with fire and blood thrown down on the earth. One-third of the earth was burned up, one-third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned. 8The second angel blew his trumpet and something like a great mountain engulfed in flames was thrown into the sea. As a result, one-third of the sea was blood, 9one-third of the creatures living in the sea died, and one-third of the ships were destroyed. 10The third angel blew his trumpet and a great star engulfed in flames like a lamp fell from heaven on one-third of the rivers and springs of water, 11The name of the star was ‘Wormwood.’ As a result one-third of the waters became wormwood/bitter and many people died from the water because it was bitter. 12Then the fourth angel blew his trumpet and one-third of the sun was struck, one-third of the moon was struck, and one-third of the stars were struck. Therefore one-third of them were darkened. One-third of the day did not shine and the night was the same way. 13Then I looked and I saw one eagle which was flying in the midheaven saying in a loud voice, ‘Woe, woe, woe to those who live on the earth who are left after the noise of the trumpets. Three angels are still about to blow their trumpets.’” (Rev 8:6-13)[Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own.[/ref]

The First Four Trumpets in Rev 8.6 to 8.13

Matthias Gerung: “The Opening of the Seventh Seal and the First Four Sounding Trumpets, Revelation 8:1-13”

C. General Remarks

“These four [trumpets] set in motion forces of nature to achieve their destructive effects on natural objects.” (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 13).

“However great the contrary evidence, this modern myth of the eradication of evil through ‘enlightenment’, leaving only a few minor mopping-up operation (preferably in far-away places) before Utopia finally arrives, has taken such a hold on popular imagination that any idea of God having to do anything powerful and destructive to address the problem is regarded as far too drastic, far too dramatic.” (Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 81).

“The vision [of Rev 8:6-12] reminds us that we live in a seriously flawed creation. Humanity attempts valiantly to bring the adverse powers of the created order under its control, but to no avail. El Nino and La Nina events continue to spread disruption and destruction, hurricanes and tornadoes continue to lay waste, earthquakes continue to uncreate human creations, floods continue to wash away human structures and livelihoods, and droughts continue to devastate and wild fires ravage. We live in a creation that has been infected by the rebellion and manifests the inherent destructiveness that is the corollary of turning away from God. John’s vision provides this glimpse of a fallen creation as a point of reference for the vision of a new creation (21:1), which is part of the ultimate consummation of God’s restoration of the kingdom and the fulfillment of the covenant” (Mulholland, Revelation [2011], 487).

II. THE SEVEN ANGELS PREPARE TO BLOW THEIR TRUMPETS (8:6)

“Then the seven angels who were holding the seven trumpets prepared themselves so that they could blow their trumpets.” (Rev 8:6)

III. THE FIRST TRUMPET (8:7)

“The first angel blew his trumpet and there was hail mixed with fire and blood thrown down on the earth. One-third of the earth was burned up, one-third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned.” (Rev 8:7)

This first trumpet is similar to the plague of hail that Moses brought down on the Egyptians (Exod 9:13-35).

“So Moses lifted his staff toward the sky, and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and lightning flashed toward the earth. The LORD sent a tremendous hailstorm against all the land of Egypt. Never in all the history of Egypt had there been a storm like that, with such devastating hail and continuous lightning. It left all of Egypt in ruins. The hail struck down everything in the open field—people, animals, and plants alike. Even the trees were destroyed. The only place without hail was the region of Goshen, where the people of Israel lived.” (Exod 9:23–26, NLT)

IV. THE SECOND TRUMPET (8:8-9)

A. A Great Mountain of Fire (v. 8)

“The second angel blew his trumpet and something like a great mountain engulfed in flames was thrown into the sea. As a result, one-third of the sea was blood,” (Rev 8:8)

1. Great Mountain Engulfed in Flames

There are three common views on this “great mountain engulfed in flames.” One view sees it as the nation of Babylon or some other great kingdom that will “fall” and be burned up. A second view connects the mountain with volcanic activity of the area John lived in and was writing to. However, discernment is needed here because Mount Vesuvius is the volcanic activity that commentators cite, yet it was 940 miles away from Asia Minor (Ephesus) and 141 hour travel by foot (according to Google Maps). A third view is that this is a mountain-like mass that falls from space onto the earth (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 18-19).

2. The Sea

The sea becomes “blood” not “like” blood (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 19).

B. One-Third Death and Destruction (v. 9)

“one-third of the creatures living in the sea died, and one-third of the ships were destroyed.” (Rev 8:9)

This seems to be literal ships (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 20).

V. THE THIRD TRUMPET (8:10-11)

A. A Star from the Sky (v. 10)

“The third angel blew his trumpet and a great star engulfed in flames like a lamp fell from heaven on one-third of the rivers and springs of water,” (Rev 8:10)

Views on the star: a false religious leader, a deluding influence given to people, an angel, or a literal star or meteor (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 21). According to one Greek Lexicon, this Greek word used here, λαμπας, was used in ancient times to describe a “meteor” (LSJ, English Greek Lexicon, 1027).

There are two possible references to this star from heaven in the Bible. The first is in Isa 14:12-17 where there is an oracle Babylon with an allusion to Satan’s fall from heaven.

“How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world. For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north. I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.’ Instead, you will be brought down to the place of the dead, down to its lowest depths. Everyone there will stare at you and ask, ‘Can this be the one who shook the earth and made the kingdoms of the world tremble? Is this the one who destroyed the world and made it into a wasteland? Is this the king who demolished the world’s greatest cities and had no mercy on his prisoners?’” (Isaiah 14:12–17, NLT)

The New Testament also has another reference of a star from heaven referring to Satan. “’Yes,’ he told them, ‘I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning!’” (Luke 10:18, NLT)

The apocryphal book of Enoch has the image of one start (Satan) which falls to the earth ( 1 Enoch 86:1)

B. Many People Die (v. 11)

“The name of the star was ‘Wormwood.’ As a result one-third of the waters became bitter and many people died from the water because it was bitter.” (Rev 8:11)

1. Wormwood

The following entry from one lexicon helps to explain the background for the Greek word used to translate “wormwood” here. “ἀψίνθιον, ου, τό . . . a plant of the genus ‘Artemisia’, proverbially bitter to the taste, yielding a dark green oil (the rendering wormwood derives from its association with medicinal use to kill intestinal worms) . . . In imagery, water changed to wormw., i.e. the water became bitter as wormw.” (BDAG, 161).

This is the only place that “wormwood” is found in the Bible. The BDAG lexicon above explains that this was a bitter plant that grows in waste places and was a symbol for calamity. Additionally, the plant has the power to make water bitter and cause people to die.

2. Many, Not All

Many of the people who drank the water died, but not all who drank the water died (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 22).

VI. THE FOURTH TRUMPET (8:12)

“Then the fourth angel blew his trumpet and one-third of the sun was struck, one-third of the moon was struck, and one-third of the stars were struck. Therefore one-third of them were darkened. One-third of the day did not shine and the night was the same way.” (Rev 8:12)

A. Darkness in Old Testament Prophecy

The Day of the Lord, which are the end times when God takes back his earth, was often described to be a time of “darkness.”

  • “The heavens will be black above them; the stars will give no light. The sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will provide no light.” (Isa 13:10, NLT)
  • “After this period of sixty-two sets of seven, the Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing, and a ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple. The end will come with a flood, and war and its miseries are decreed from that time to the very end. The ruler will make a treaty with the people for a period of one set of seven, but after half this time, he will put an end to the sacrifices and offerings. And as a climax to all his terrible deeds, he will set up a sacrilegious object that causes desecration, until the fate decreed for this defiler is finally poured out on him.” (Dan 9:26–27, NLT)
  • “Sound the trumpet in Jerusalem! Raise the alarm on my holy mountain! Let everyone tremble in fear because the day of the LORD is upon us. It is a day of darkness and gloom, a day of thick clouds and deep blackness. Suddenly, like dawn spreading across the mountains, a great and mighty army appears. Nothing like it has been seen before or will ever be seen again.” (Joel 2:1–2, NLT)
  • “It is the LORD who created the stars, the Pleiades and Orion. He turns darkness into morning and day into night. He draws up water from the oceans and pours it down as rain on the land. The LORD is his name!” (Amos 5:8, NLT)
  • “At that time, after the anguish of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light,” (Mark 13:24, NLT, emphasis added)
  • “In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive. But it will be shortened for the sake of God’s chosen ones.” (Matt 24:22, NLT)

The fourth trumpet fulfills the Old Testament anticipations.

B. Why “One-Third”

The idea of “one-third” of things being judged does not have an Old Testament background. Most people believe that this one-third judgment shows that the final and ultimate judgement of the world has not occurred. Instead, there is a partial judgment first: one-third.

VII. THE TERROR OF THE FINAL THREE TRUMPETS (8:13)

“Then I looked and I saw one eagle which was flying in the midheaven saying in a loud voice, ‘Woe, woe, woe to those who live on the earth who are left after the noise of the trumpets. Three angels are still about to blow their trumpets.’” (Rev 8:13)

Throughout the Bible there are two other times that animals are given ability to speak. Gen 3:1-5; Num 22:28-30.

C. Earth Dweller

The people who live on the earth are a way that John often references those who are evil and fail to recognize God. As N. T. Wright explains, “There is nothing wrong with being an earth-dweller. But the point John is making, again and again, is that there are many who have lived on earth as though there were no heaven, or as though, if heaven exists, it is irrelevant. His whole book is about the re-establishment of the rule of heaven on earth itself. As with all radical regime change, those who profit from the present one will need dire warnings if they are to realize the seriousness of their plight” (Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 84).

VII. PURPOSE OR INCIDENTAL CONNECTION TO THE TEN PLAGUES

Some people see a close connection between the judgements of the trumpets and the ten plagues that God sent on Egypt. However, my view is that these are simply similar earthly judgments. Just as God used ways to judge the Egyptians thousands of years ago, he plans to use some of the same methods to judge his earth and take it back.

Yet, there are Old Testament prophecies that indicated the miracles of Egypt were going to be repeated in the future:

  • “But though the people of Israel are as numerous as the sand of the seashore, only a remnant of them will return. The LORD has rightly decided to destroy his people. Yes, the Lord, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, has already decided to destroy the entire land. So this is what the Lord, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, says: ‘O my people in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrians when they oppress you with rod and club as the Egyptians did long ago. In a little while my anger against you will end, and then my anger will rise up to destroy them.’” (Isa 10:22–25, NLT)
  • “He will raise a flag among the nations and assemble the exiles of Israel. He will gather the scattered people of Judah from the ends of the earth. Then at last the jealousy between Israel and Judah will end. They will not be rivals anymore. They will join forces to swoop down on Philistia to the west. Together they will attack and plunder the nations to the east. They will occupy the lands of Edom and Moab, and Ammon will obey them. The LORD will make a dry path through the gulf of the Red Sea. He will wave his hand over the Euphrates River, sending a mighty wind to divide it into seven streams so it can easily be crossed on foot. He will make a highway for the remnant of his people, the remnant coming from Assyria, just as he did for Israel long ago when they returned from Egypt.” (Isa 11:12–16, NLT)
  • “And the LORD will make his majestic voice heard. He will display the strength of his mighty arm. It will descend with devouring flames, with cloudbursts, thunderstorms, and huge hailstones.” (Isa 30:30, NLT)
  • “’But the time is coming,’ says the LORD, ‘when people who are taking an oath will no longer say, “As surely as the LORD lives, who rescued the people of Israel from the land of Egypt.” Instead, they will say, “As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the people of Israel back to their own land from the land of the north and from all the countries to which he had exiled them.”’ For I will bring them back to this land that I gave their ancestors.” (Jer 16:14–15, NLT)
  • “’In that day,’ says the LORD, ‘when people are taking an oath, they will no longer say, “As surely as the LORD lives, who rescued the people of Israel from the land of Egypt.” Instead, they will say, “As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the people of Israel back to their own land from the land of the north and from all the countries to which he had exiled them.” Then they will live in their own land.’” (Jer 23:7–8, NLT)
  • “I will punish you and your armies with disease and bloodshed; I will send torrential rain, hailstones, fire, and burning sulfur!” (Ezek38:22, NLT)
  • “’Yes,’ says the LORD, ‘I will do mighty miracles for you, like those I did when I rescued you from slavery in Egypt.’” (Micah 7:15, NLT)

VIII. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION

God has not forgotten about this people.

These judgments which appear to be getting more and more severe show that God has not forgotten about his people. God is not pleased with fallen humanity which rejects him and turns farther and farther away from him even after the seven seals were opened. These four trumpets show that God will continue to judge the earth until he ushers in his new kingdom and new earth.

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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