Monday, September 6, 2021

35. The Revelation: The First and Second Trumpet Judgments (Revelation 8:7-9)


People today are very concerned about saving the environment. Fears about the depletion of the ozone layer, pollution, the destruction of the rain forests, and global warming are constantly in the news. There is a passionate concern to save endangered species, everything from whales to spotted owls to California condors, and a host of lesser-known species. For many, protecting the environment has become far more than a concern for health and safety; it has become an issue of idolatry, as they worship “Mother Nature” by trying to protect and perpetuate the earth.

There is no question that fallen man has failed in his responsibility to properly care for God’s creation (cf. Gen. 2:15). But the damage man has done to the earth pales in comparison to what God will one day do to it. The powerful judgments of the future time of tribulation will utterly devastate the earth, causing wholesale, unimaginable destruction of the environment. Eventually, after the Millennium, God will completely destroy (or uncreate) the present heaven and earth (2 Pet. 3:10), and, after the whole universe has gone completely out of existence, He will replace it with a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21:1ff.).

There is a sense in which the present age is man’s day; he is free to do what he wants within certain limitations. It is also Satan’s day, during which the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4) has been granted certain liberties within the parameters of God’s purposeful, sovereign tolerance. But God will not permit the present state of affairs to continue forever. He will end man’s day, overthrow the usurper, Satan, destroy the present evil world system, and establish the earthly kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. That future time of judgment is known, appropriately, as the Day of the Lord (see the discussion in chapter 15 of this volume). That Day involves a complete renovation of the universe and the earth by judgment and restoration.

As the time for the trumpet judgments to begin approaches, the world will have already experienced for years the frightening and relentless reality of God’s wrath. As that seven-year tribulation period unfolds there will be wars, famines, plagues, devastating earthquakes, fiery celestial objects smashing into the earth, and a worldwide reign of terror by Antichrist. But the trumpet judgments will be even worse.

As noted in the previous blog post, Rev. 8:1 depicts a brief, half-hour interlude in heaven in response to the opening of the seventh and final seal. So horrifying are the trumpet and bowl judgments contained within the seventh seal that its opening stuns the heavenly host of angels and redeemed people into silence.

That half hour of silence came to an abrupt end when the angel who stood before the altar flung his censer to the earth. The resulting powerful earthquake (8:5) was the signal for the seven angels who had the seven trumpets, and they prepared themselves to sound them. The serial judgments the trumpets unleash will hit the earth and its wicked people just as they are crawling out of the caves and rocks where they futilely attempted to hide from the fury of God’s wrath during the sixth seal (6:15–17). Thinking that things are returning to normal, they will be hit with the terrifying, rapid-paced trumpet terrors, followed by the bowl judgments. These final judgments are likely the ones held back until the sealing of the 144,000 (7:3).

The first four trumpets are described in a brief and straightforward manner; far more detail is given about the last three. The first four trumpets all deal directly with the earth. They do not symbolize political, social, or economic judgment; those types of judgment come later in Revelation. Nor do they describe any judgment that has ever happened in history in some locale or region. The trumpet judgments are actual, literal, physical events that will affect the whole earth. God will use nature to punish sinners in that day. The partial destruction described by the repeated use of the word “third” in each of the first four trumpet judgments indicates that these are not the final judgments. We will look at the first and second trumpets today, and cover trumpets three and four in my next blog post.


"The first sounded, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up." (Revelation 8:7)

Hail is frequently associated in Scripture with divine judgment (e.g., Exodus 9:13–25; Job 38:22–23), as is fire (Genesis 19:24; Psalm 11:6; Ezekiel 38:22). The combination of fire mixed with blood is reminiscent of Joel 2:30, which also describes the day of the Lord. The specific cause of the hail and fire is not revealed, but from a scientific standpoint an earthquake of the magnitude and extent of the one in verse 5 would likely trigger worldwide volcanic eruptions. Besides spewing vast quantities of flaming lava (which could be bloodred in appearance) into the atmosphere, the atmospheric disturbances caused by those eruptions could trigger violent thunderstorms that would produce large hail. Such thunderstorms would be in keeping with the imagery of verse 5. The blood may be actual blood, or John may be using descriptive language. Regardless, this deluge of death was thrown to the earth by God with devastating effects. The shocking result was that a third of the earth was burned up, making the soil unusable. Then a third of the trees were burned up, destroying fruit all over the earth. Finally all the green grass was burned up. The effects of such catastrophic fires would be widespread and devastating, including destruction of crops, death of animals on a massive scale, loss of wood for construction, and the destruction of watersheds.


"The second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood, and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed." (Revelation 8:8–9)

The judgment of the first trumpet fell on the land, that of the second trumpet on the sea. God created the sea to be a blessing to humanity, but people have repaid God’s gracious provision with ingratitude and idolatry, revering the sea as the supposed source of their remotest evolutionary ancestors. As He had devastated the land environment, the true God judges the sea.

The massive object plunging through the sky looked to the terrified observers on earth “like a great mountain burning with fire.” This is evidently a giant meteorite or asteroid, surrounded by flaming gases set ablaze by the friction of the earth’s atmosphere. The current doomsday scenarios about an asteroid hitting the earth will come true with a vengeance. Everyone will see it, either live or on television. As the world’s telescopes see it coming, many predictions will no doubt be made about whether it will hit the earth or not. It will strike somewhere in the world’s oceans with an explosive power far greater than that of an atomic bomb. Because all the world’s oceans are connected, the devastation will spread across one-third of the ocean waters, causing a third of the sea to become blood.

Three catastrophic, supernaturally designed effects result from the collision: (1) one-third of the sea became blood; (2) as a result of that effect one-third of the creatures which were in the sea died; and (3) giant waves will destroy a third of the ships on the world’s oceans, capsizing huge vessels and completely swamping ports. The resulting disruption of commerce and transportation will cause economic chaos.

So the first two trumpets will bring devastating judgment on both the land and the sea, which are the beginning of the final catastrophes God will unleash on a rebellious world.