Revelation 8

The Great Tribulation: The Trumpet Judgments
Revelation 8 – 11
Timing of the trumpet series. When do the trumpet-judgments occur? If you look at Matt. 24:6-8 you see events that correspond to the seal judgments, and they are called “beginning of sorrows”. Then the abomination of desolation is set up, which Rev. 13 tells us will take place at the middle of the week. Therefore, the first six seals are up to the middle of the week, and the trumpets follow after, covering the “great tribulation”, the last half of the week. The trumpets may be less extensive in their range than the seals (third part vs. fourth part of the earth), but they are more intensely judicial than the seals. The first four trumpets are primarily to do with the apostatizing of the western nations, preparing them to receive Antichrist. Therefore, it seems the first four will happen in rapid succession at the middle of the week. The fifth trumpet corresponds to Antichrist coming forward, and the delusion of apostate Israel, also at the middle of the week, but spanning a longer duration (“five months”). The sixth trumpet is at 1260 days (nearly the end), and the seventh trumpet is at the appearing, the end of the week.
The third part and the fourth part of the earth. The terms “third part” and “fourth part” are not merely fractions. In keeping with the symbolic nature of Revelation, these terms refer to specific parts of the earth. How are we to understand these terms? First, start by understanding the numerals three and four. The numeral three in scripture is completeness is testimony. Four is universality in creation. Both fractions represent limited portions of the earth, but in different aspects. The third part is a division of the prophetic earth that forms a completion in the mind of God; e.g. the isles of the Gentiles (Gen. 10:5), the sphere of the old Roman Empire including Israel. How do we come to this conclusion?

If we look at Revelation 12:3-4 we see that the dragon (Satan) drew with his tail the "third part" of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the ground, then stood before the pregnant woman (Israel) ready to devour her child (Christ). This speaks of the time when Herod the Great, the instrument of Rome, was seeking to kill the Lord Jesus as a young boy. If we are familiar with the symbology of Revelation we will know that stars represent those who are set in a position of authority. The dragon's tail drawing the third part of the stars corresponds to his efforts to bring the leaders of a great political power (fill in the blank) under demonic control. His purpose was to mobilize them to kill the man-child and thus thwart God’s purpose (Matt. 2). What political power was behind Herod? Rome. This passage gives us the key that “the third part” refers to the Roman earth.

Read more… Although we cannot be exactly sure of the meaning of “the fourth part”, it would seem to be a division of the earth according to the lines of creation. The fourth part is a division according to physical creation (natural boundaries) and within but less than the third part.

In what way has God divided the earth according to creation? A few possibilities are; geologically the earth is divided into continents, or linguistically the earth is divided into languages. With confessedly little evidence to support my view, it could be that the "fourth part of the earth" is contained within one continent. If that is so, I suggest that this refers to the continent of Europe. This is based on the role of the seal-judgments leading to the rise of “the Beast”. Presumably the conditions created by the seal-judgments open the way for the Personal Beast to take control, it would follow that the epicenter of the fourth seal might be in Europe.

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The First Four Trumpets
Revelation 8

7th Seal: Leading into Trumpets (8:1-6)

And when it opened the seventh seal, there was silence in the heaven about half an hour. v.1 Silence in Heaven. The silence for “half an hour” expresses the solemnity of the crisis about to fall. Also, it may be a suspension in judgement so that the remnant can flee to the mountains (Matt. 24:15-20) to take cover. I don’t think the half hour is necessarily literal. If an ‘hour’ is a full period, this is something less. It is a meaningful calm before the storm.
2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. v.2 Seven Trumpets. Here we have a special group of seven angels, different from those in Rev. 15:1. These angels are given seven trumpets, which are symbolic of the next series of judgments. A trumpet symbolizes a warning or announcement. When you hear a trumpet you are getting a message (1 Cor. 14:8). The seal-judgments were more providential (especially the first four seals), but these trumpet-judgments are direct.
3 And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, that he might give efficacy to the prayers of all saints at the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense went up with the prayers of the saints, out of the hand of the angel before God. vv.3-4 Christ gives Efficacy to the Prayers of Saints. It would seem that the angel-priest is Christ in angelic form as in the Old Testament (Josh. 5:13). Often in Revelation when you get the expression “another angel” it is referring to Christ himself acting behind the scenes (Rev. 8:3, 10:1, 18:1). Christ is not found as the Lamb in the trumpet series. He is retreating from His manhood and His character as a holy sufferer. He is still a man, but His power is more in view. The “golden censer” (Heb. 9:4) was used on the Day of Atonement to carry the ever-burning fire from the brazen altar (the work of Christ) to the altar of Incense (the Person of Christ). It takes the full Person and Work of Christ to make the prayers efficacious. Is it correct to say that “the prayers” here are the imprecatory prayers of the tribulation saints who are suffering on earth? It probably includes their prayers. Note that it says of “all saints”, which would include the heavenly saints also. In a sense, the prayers of all saints from all dispensations for evil to be put down and Christ to have His rightful place will begin to be answered with the trumpet-judgments. Also, note that there are two different altars. “The altar” always refers to the brazen altar. The “golden altar” which was “before the throne” refers to the altar of incense. This ‘angel’ must be Christ, because no mere angel could function as a priest (see Heb. 2:16-17). In ch.5 the prayers ARE the incense, here incense is ADDED to the prayers. Our prayers have efficacy before the throne of God because of the value of the Person and work of Christ, which are added to our prayers. Through the priesthood of Christ, the prayers are brought up before God.
5 And the angel took the censer, and filled it from the fire of the altar, and cast it on the earth: and there were (1) voices, and (2) thunders and (3) lightnings, and (4) an earthquake. v.5 Response to the Prayers. In response to these prayers, the angel goes back to the brazen altar and refills the censer with fire and casts it on the earth. This is a type of the wrath of God against sin being directed down on the prophetic earth. The prayers are answered. What proceeds are four harbingers of the coming wrath. A four-part FORMULA of universal catastrophe on the earth. (See Rev. 4:5; Rev. 8:5; Rev. 11:19; Rev. 16:18.)
¶ 6 And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves that they might sound with their trumpets. v.6 Preparation for judgment. Special time taken to prepare for the trumpets to sound. This shows that the trumpet-judgments are ordered and deliberate. It indicates great seriousness.
A Pattern. With the first three trumpets, a repeating pattern can be seen. First the judgment is described in symbolic terms. Then three results are given, also in symbolic terms. With the last three trumpets, the judgment is expanded on greatly, and they are referred to as three woes.

1st Trumpet: Prosperity Dries Up (8:7)

¶ 7 And the first sounded his trumpet: and there was hail and fire, mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth; and (1) the third part of the earth was burnt up, and (2) the third part of the trees was burnt up, and (3) all green grass was burnt up. v.7 In the first trumpet, all the comforts that men enjoy will be taken away. “Hail” represents rapid, sudden judgment from above. “Fire” speaks of the wrath of God against sin. “Blood” represents moral and physical death. These things fall on the “the earth”, which includes a broad sphere. However, the results have their primary effect on “the third part of the earth”. The results are three-fold. The first result is that “the third part of the earth was burnt up”, figuring the complete devastation of western Europe. Second, “the third part of the trees was burnt up”, representing all the great men in the West being cut down. For the use of trees as a symbol of great men, see Isa. 2:13 and Dan. 4:20-22. Third, “all green grass was burnt up”. If green grass pictures prosperity, then this means that all human prosperity will be dried up, not just in the West, but everywhere.

2nd Trumpet: A Great Western Political Power Falls (8:8-9)

¶ 8 And the second angel sounded his trumpet: and as a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea, and (1) the third part of the sea became blood; 9 and (2) the third part of the creatures which were in the sea which had life died; and (3) the third part of the ships were destroyed. vv.8-9 The second trumpet is described symbolically by a volcano, which explodes from within. Mountains in scripture often represent long established political powers (Dan. 2:35). The picture of an exploding mountain on fire symbolizes a great political power (likely in the west) which, having formally given up the knowledge of God, becomes afflicted terribly with the judgment of God, and is violently removed from its place as a leader. Where does the mountain land when it topples over? Its place of impact is the Gentile nations in a state of turmoil (pictured by the sea). We are not told which great established power will fall. Some feel that it could be the United States of America. This is possible, because the mountain appears to be a great western nation, but not one of the ten nations composing the political beast. The second trumpet may be what God uses to take the last great political impediment out of the way for the Personal Beast to take control in the West. We can see how the USA would be a political impediment for a world leader to rise out of Europe. The results again are three-fold. First, “the third part of the sea became blood”, representing the moral and physical death that will engulf the tumultuous Western nations. Second, “the third part of the creatures which were in the sea which had life died”, which perhaps indicates that any person that was a moral light (“had life”) to the masses in the West will apostatize and give up what moral light they had. Third, “the third part of the ships were destroyed”, representing the destruction of commerce, and the collapse of the western economy, as a result of the upheaval and corruption that preceded.

3rd Trumpet: An Influential Western Person Falls

¶ 10 And the third angel sounded his trumpet: and there fell out of the heaven a great star, burning as a torch, and (1) 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 [‘bitterness’]; and (2) the third part of the waters became wormwood, and (3) many of the men died of the waters because they were made bitter. vv.10-11 The third trumpet is described symbolically by a falling star or an asteroid striking earth. Stars in scripture often speak of individuals in a place of authority. The heavenly bodies are said in Gen. 1:16-18 to “rule” the day and night. The stars are employed in Rev. 1:20 to picture the responsible element in the local assembly. A “great star” here is a person of great moral leadership in the west, who “falls” in a moral sense, “burning as a torch”, or afflicted by the judgement of God, from his place in the heavens as a light. I think the third trumpet is a great example to show that the language used in Revelation must be symbolic, although they do represent literal events. If a star literally fell to earth, earth would be sucked into its gravity and burned up. Once again, the results are three-fold. First, the star “fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters.” When this person falls, it poisons the system of the world’s refreshment; e.g. entertainment and media. “Rivers” represent the daily course of this world. “Fountains” are the sources of refreshment for the natural man. The star is called “Wormwood”, which means “bitterness”. Although do not know the identity of this individual today, perhaps this word will be a clue to the faithful remnant who will no doubt read the prophecies of Revelation. This one appears to be distinct from Antichrist, who is also pictured as star, though already fallen (Rev. 9:1). And yet, the name has a moral significance. It speaks of the bitterness of apostasy. Often when people reject the light they once professed to love, they descend to hating it! The second result is that “the third part of the waters became wormwood”. The effect of the falling star has its effect on the daily course of life in the West; it becomes morally corrupt. Contrast the effect of this falling star with the tree cast into the waters of Marah, which were made sweet (Ex. 15)! Third, “many of the men died of the waters because they were made bitter”. When the sources of entertainment and information become corrupt, it results in the moral death of the general populous in the West.

4th Trumpet: All Leadership in the West Falls

¶ 12 And the fourth angel sounded his trumpet: and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so that the third part of them should be darkened, and that the day should not appear for the third part of it, and the night the same. v.12 The fourth trumpet is described symbolically by the darkening of the heavenly bodies. As we already showed, the heavenly bodies represent entities in authority. The sun, moon, and stars are the whole governing body in the west (the “third part”) — a complete system of government in all its parts. This system is plunged into moral darkness. Note that under the sixth seal (Rev. 6:12, 13) the same symbols are used, but restricted to the fourth part of the earth, and the heavenly bodies are merely “shaken”. Here it is the third part (an enlarged sphere), and they are morally darkened. The result is that day and night become indiscernible; predicting a time when the West becomes unable to discern moral light from moral darkness.

¶ 13 And I saw, and I heard an eagle flying in mid-heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to them that dwell upon the earth, for the remaining voices of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound. v.13 Three Woe-trumpets Introduced. The fourth trumpet is preceded by a dark warning to the earth-dwellers, stating that the last three woe-trumpets will be especially bad. The voice is from a flying eagle; a symbol of swiftness and sureness of victory. The first four trumpets are really preparatory. In the fifth trumpet, Antichrist comes forward. It has been noted that the three woe-trumpers are connected with three great armies:
  1. Fifth trumpet – an army of demons (that delude apostate Israel)
  2. Sixth trumpet – an army of men (the Arab confederacy)
  3. Seventh trumpet – the armies of Christ (at His appearing)