The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2

Page 59

The Trumpet Judgments

     The brief and foreboding silence in heaven was now broken.  The prayers of the saints had all been presented to God, and they must now be answered.  The inhabitants of earth had been warned anew that terrible judgments were about to break, both by the testimony of a multitude of new believers and by the sudden strange storm and earthquake, but they repented not. 

Revelation 8:6.     And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.

     The angels had apparently been waiting in readiness with their trumpets for half an hour, as John had watched.  But suddenly there was activity.  They “prepared themselves.”  The sound of their trumpets would not be an uncertain sound.

     No doubt, these angels had been waiting for this particular ministry for a long time.  As “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Hebrews 1:14), all of Christ’s mighty angels (2 Thessalonians 1:7) are intensely occupied with the progress of His work of salvation on earth, “which things the angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:12).  The seven “presence angels” were surely the most concerned of all, and they were fully prepared.  The sounding of their trumpets would signal into action a vast host of heaven to set about the task of purging and purifying the earth.  The angelic hosts have far greater understanding of nature’s systems and processes than the most advanced scientists on earth and are able to exercise much control over their times and places and rates of operation, in response to God’s commands (Psalm 103:19-21).  The archangels, signaling, as it were, a great military advance by the armies of heaven when the trumpets blow, will thereby trigger the most tremendous physical upheavals experienced by the earth since the great Flood.

Revelation 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 inhabitants of earth had just experienced an amazing electrical storm plus a violent earthquake, and now followed a mighty storm of hail.  Accompanying the pelting hailstones were balls of fire and drops of blood (possibly blood-colored water – blood itself is over 90 percent water).  Such a phenomenon had never been seen by them before, and it will be terrifying.

     Once before in history a somewhat similar calamity had overtaken one particular land.  “And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along the ground; and the Lord rained hail upon the land of Egypt.  So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation” (Exodus 9:23, 24).

     Men have attempted various naturalistic explanations for this unique event in ancient Egypt.  Immanuel Velikovsky attributed it to discharges from an encroaching comet; others have suggested the fire running along the ground was the rare phenomenon known as “St. Elmo’s fire.”  None of these suggestions has been fully satisfactory, and the record of Moses himself describes it as a miracle from the Lord sent in response to Moses’ prayer when he stretched his rod upward.  It did involve existing natural phenomena (thunder, hail, fire, rain) and so presumably was a providential miracle (special organizing of factors influencing natural phenomena, possibly through angelic agencies) rather than a creative miracle (direct creation of matter or energy or organization, requiring the personal power of the Creator Himself).

     Whatever the exact nature of this Egyptian plague may have been, it could not have been the same as the coming judgment when the first trumpet blows.  The latter will be worldwide rather than local and, further, will be “mingled with blood.”  It is even more unlikely that we can find a naturalistic parallel in this case than in the former case.  It will certainly be so unusual – even unique – that men will have to recognize it as a divine judgment.

     It may be possible that angelic hosts will divert the path of one of the many comets with which the solar system abounds so that the earth will pass through its tail.  The most spectacular comet with which we are familiar – Hailey’s Comet – would not need to stray too far from its normal orbit to envelop Earth in its fiery train.  Whether such an experience would produce the phenomena described in this passage we do not know, since our scientists have no experimental data to go on yet.

     Another possibility might be that of worldwide volcanic explosions, a normal consequence of a worldwide violent earthquake.  The masses of water vapor blown skyward might well condense in the intense updrafts as hailstones, and showers of burning lava might well be “cast upon the earth with them.”  The blood of entrapped men and animals might be mingled with them, or possibly showers of liquid water drops might be so contaminated with dust and gases as to appear blood red.

     This is all obviously highly speculative.  There are little observational data with which to compare such a catastrophe, and it is likely that the avenging angels will so reorder natural processes as to produce an event entirely new in natural history, the better thereby to impress men that God Himself is speaking to them.

     The fires so generated will ignite the trees and grasses of the world, already parched from the prolonged drought, and will leave the ground scorched, with fully a third of the world’s forests burned to the ground.  Whether or not any loss of human life is occasioned by this particular judgment is not revealed, but at least it must create great alarm among men everywhere and tremendous property damage.

Revelation 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.

     Scarcely had the hail ceased falling and the fires stopped burning when an even greater shock was felt on the earth.  A fiery mass like a great mountain crashed into the sea – probably the Mediterranean Sea.

     Again it is impossible to determine with certainty what this “mountain” is since the earth has not hitherto experienced any such catastrophe.  It is probably not an actual terrestrial mountain – say, the crest of an exploding volcano – or John would have recognized it as such.  He said, instead, that it was like a great mountain.  A mighty mass of rock hurtling toward the earth, surrounded by combustible gases which ignite as they enter the atmosphere, steered earthward by the angelic host of heaven, seems the most likely physical explanation accessible to us at this time.  Maybe a giant meteorite, or asteroid, or even a satellite orbiting one of the other planets, could conceivably be propelled earthward by cosmic forces of which we have little knowledge as yet.

     Although its actual collision with the sea will be in only one impact location, it is evident that the entire world will know about it.  People will observe it for some time approaching from space, then entering the earth’s gravitational field and spiraling inexorably to the surface itself.  Most likely television cameras will be focused on it and the actual splashdown will be seen on TV screens all over the world.

     The mighty explosion on impact will dwarf that of an atomic bomb and will be terrifying beyond imagination.  The destruction of life in the sea will be tremendous, and the poisoned waters, like a great “red tide,” will spread out soon to the waters of all other oceans so that a third part of the sea “became blood.”

     Again there had been a somewhat similar phenomenon experienced long before in Egypt, when “all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood” (Exodus 7:20).  The cause of that former limited plague, however, was not indicated, except as due to Moses’ rod, and it had been imitated by the magicians of Egypt as well.  By analogy, perhaps that local poisoning may have been produced similarly by meteorites or cometary ices being directed into the Nile and the other waters of Egypt, not only by God’s angels in response to Moses’ prayer, but also by demonic angels responding to the magicians’ desperate pleas to their master.

     The ability to turn water into blood, either by filling it with the actual blood of dead animals or, more likely, by transforming it chemically or biochemically into blood-red water, poisoned by multitudes of dead microorganisms (as in the well-known “red tides” which occur infrequently in modern oceans), made such an impression upon ancient Israel that it was recounted in their songs (Psalm 78:44; 105:29).  The impression made upon the world’s inhabitants in this great future day when, suddenly, fully a third of the world’s oceans became as blood, can well be imagined.

     Furthermore, the psychological effect will be all the greater in view of the fact that God’s “two witnesses” – the same ones who had called for the worldwide drought which was already plaguing the world – were also known to have forecast and prayed for this very thing.  “These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will” (Revelation 11:6).

     There can be no doubt that the earth dwellers will be well aware of the claim that all these great plagues are being sent by God in judgment on their wickedness, but most will merely stiffen their self-righteous and rebellious necks and continue on their collision course with hell.

Revelation 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.

     If a third of the waters were poisoned, it is not surprising that a third of the fishes and other marine organisms died, thus adding to the poisoning and the stench and horror.  Though no mention is made of land animal life, there is no doubt that this also will be grievously injured.  The grass was scorched and a third of the trees burned up under the first trumpet, and a third of the marine organisms die under the second trumpet.  These constitute the lowest and most basic components of many of the world’s food chains, so their destruction must produce a domino effect on many higher forms of life.

     But how could all this destroy “a third part of the ships?”  The answer probably is that the same gigantic impact which poisoned the waters would also have generated mighty tsunami waves which would batter to pieces great numbers of ships anchored on shore, even though producing little effect (except in the immediate vicinity of the impact) on ships in the open ocean.  The loss of human life still will be minimal in spite of the vast destruction in the biosphere and hydrosphere.  Economic losses will be great, of course, and these events surely give a tremendous warning to mankind of great tragedy imminent for those who persist in rebellion against God and His Christ.

Revelation 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.

     Then, before the people of the earth can recover from the shock of the last bombardment from the skies, astronomers identify still another of the “fearful sights and great signs from heaven” (Luke 21:11).  Under the second trumpet, a great mountain fell to the sea; under the third trumpet, a great star falls from heaven.  Both seem to be heavenly intruders, but one is mostly solid (a mountain), the other is mostly fluid, burning like a lamp.  One was a solid mass, crashing into the sea; the other falls apart as it nears the earth, scattering its burning blobs over land and sea, everywhere over the earth.

     As noted before, the term “star” in the Bible can refer to any heavenly body.  There are other references to stars falling from heaven in the last days (Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:25; Revelation 6:13), but this is the most detailed and specific, even giving the name of the star.

     In this case, the fragments of the star fall not only on the waters of the sea, but also on the rivers, poisoning a third of them as well.  The deadly chemicals penetrate even to “the fountains of waters.”  The Greek word for “fountain” also means “well” and is so translated in John 4:6, 14.  It thus refers to the subterranean sources of water, received through springs and wells.  Even these are contaminated by the effusions of this deadly projectile from outer space.

Revelation 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.

     The poisoning of the waters of the sea by the previous judgment had produced lethal results on the animals of the sea, but little direct effect on human beings.  This new judgment will poison the drinking waters of men as well, and many people will die.

     The “wormwood” is, literally, the deadly liquor ingredient known as absinthe, from the Greek absinthos.  The word is used in the New Testament only in this one verse, so that its derivation and precise meaning are uncertain.  The term “wormwood” is also used several times in the Old Testament where it is the translation of the Hebrew laanah (once translated in the King James as “hemlock”).  There it is suggested that it is a poison derived from a root of some kind (Deuteronomy 29:18), that it is very bitter (Proverbs 5:4), and that it produces drunkenness (Lamentations 3:15) and eventual death.  It is associated with another poison known as “gall” (Deuteronomy 29:18; Lamentations 3:19).  This substance was used to produce a stupefying drink for Christ on the cross (Psalm 69:21; Matthew 27:34) which, however, He refused to drink.

     Whatever the exact nature of the substance of this deadly star may be, it is obviously lethal to drink, and many men will die as a result of drinking water from the rivers and wells contaminated by it.  As a result, the star is actually given the official astronomic (or popular) name of “Wormwood,” probably in retrospect and in commemoration of its death-dealing nature.  It is barely possible that spectrographic analysis of its light while approaching the earth will give astronomers sufficient knowledge of its composition to enable them to christen it with this appropriate name and to warn people about it even before it strikes the earth.  If this is the case, however, their warnings do not suffice, for many will die from the poisoned waters anyway.

     Note also the “coincidence” that a third part of the rivers and their waters were poisoned.  This recurring one-third proportion, experienced through several of the phenomena already, should also have given earth’s inhabitants still further proof that the various calamities were not random events of nature, but controlled divine judgments.

Revelation 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.

     While the earth and its inhabitants were still reeling from the effects of the judgments under the first three trumpets, with scientists and politicians trying desperately to find naturalistic explanations for their causes and emergency remedies for their effects, yet another blast from the heavenly trumpets was sounded.  This time the physical phenomena produced are so extraordinary as to defy all scientific understanding.

     As the trumpet sounds, the vast heavenly host of angels responds by “smiting” (this word is used only this once in the New Testament, and its etymology and meaning are somewhat uncertain) the sun and the moon and the stars.  The light of the sun in the daytime is reduced by one third, as are the light of the moon and stars at night.  This phenomenon cannot be explained merely by clouds or haze in the sky, however, since it is specifically said to be caused by a smiting of the heavenly bodies in such a way as to reduce their light output by one-third.

     The moon and the planets shine by reflected light, of course, so that their light would be reduced if the sun’s light were reduced.  But how could the burning reactions of the sun and stars possibly be affected in this strange way?

     Furthermore, the effect is only temporary, since some time later the sun’s burning is actually intensified (Revelation 16:8, 9), far beyond its normal energy output.  Incidentally the repeated phrase “the third part” is only one word in the original and could better be rendered simply “a third.”

     The simplest explanation of all this (“simplest” in the sense of economy of explanation, not of scientific understanding, of which we have none at this time) is that, somehow, the visible luminaries in the heavens for a time, maybe a day, maybe several days, slow down their internal reactions in such a way as to reduce their power output by a factor of one-third.  The day and night, as a result are only two-thirds as bright as normal, even though the skies are completely clear of haze or anything else to obscure the light.

     A naturalistic scientist might object that such a thing is impossible.  This, however, would be to say more than he knows.  The nature of both the internal reactions in the sun and the external reactions on the sun’s surface are still unknown.  Solar physicists, until recently, were confident that the sun’s output of radiant energy resulted mainly from thermonuclear fusion processes in the sun’s interior.  Now, however, the absence of the flux of solar neutrinos from the sun, which should be generated by such reactions, is causing a complete rethinking of the whole problem.  Recent evidence that the sun is measurably shrinking in size apparently means that much of the sun’s energy output results from gravitational collapse.  Presumably this would be true of other stars as well.

     Thus, if the gravitational shrinking of the sun could be slowed down for a time, possibly its light output would also be slowed down.  Can angels somehow reduce the gravitational forces in the sun’s mass?  Since no one knows exactly what gravity is anyhow, who is to say they can’t?

     Since solar physicists even yet do not really comprehend either the full nature of gravitational processes or of solar radiation processes, and since it is at least plausible that God’s mighty angels do understand such things (or at least God does, and He can instruct them), we are safe in assuming God’s hosts are quite capable of accomplishing this tremendous hiatus in the normal operation of all the heavenly bodies.

     By the same token, the amazing nature of the phenomenon can hardly be overlooked by the skeptical scientific naturalists on earth.  Furthermore, the sudden loss of solar heat will surely cause a severe drop in world temperatures and a vast upset in all the earth’s meteorology and climatology.  Unpredictable and violent atmospheric storms may follow, as well as interruptions in botanical and biological cycles.  More than ever will Jesus’ prophecy be fulfilled: “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken” (Luke 21:25, 26).

Revelation 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!

     Four of the seven trumpets had blown, and great and amazing calamities had been imposed on the earth as a result.  But now there is another brief interruption.  John reminds us that he is an actual spectator of all these great future events, as well as an auditor (“I beheld, and heard”).

     And what he sees and hears is still another angel, with another special ministry.  This angel is flying through the sky, crying out to the “inhabiters of the earth” (literally, “earth dwellers”), warning them of even greater woes to come.  The scene itself is frightening.  The inhabitants of earth, after all the fearful events of recent days, are suddenly confronted with the unbelievable sight of an angel of God flying to and fro across the midst of heaven, from one place to another, crying in such a tremendous voice that all below can hear.  The news spreads rapidly and, no doubt, the scene quickly appears on television screens all over the world.

     Any remaining humanistic skeptics in the world are bound to be convinced by this amazing sight that the unseen, supernatural world, which they have denied so long, is very real after all.  There, before their eyes, flying through the heavens, they see and hear an actual angel!

     And the message of the angel is one of threefold woe.  He informs the inhabitants of the earth that the four fearsome physical upheavals through which they had passed recently had been sent directly from God, through the four archangels at the sounding of their trumpets.

     Furthermore there were three more angels and three more trumpets, each ready to signal an even greater woe than any yet experienced, and this was the warning sounded by the flying angel.  God is “longsuffering . . . not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), and He is still graciously warning and calling them, but at this stage, there are few who will hear.

     It is possible that this angel may actually be a flying eagle, as some of the older manuscripts have it and as most of the modern versions render it.  However, eagles don’t speak in human language, and the account becomes almost juvenile if this flying messenger is nothing but a bird.  It is more probable that the King James text is correct, and the messenger is indeed an angel.

     There is one other possibility.  Maybe, both texts are correct – he is both angel and eagle.  The four mighty cherubim, the “living creatures” of Revelation 4, are indeed high in the angelic hierarchy, even ranking above the archangels, in all probability (Satan himself had been the highest of all cherubim before his fall).  The fourth of these is said to have an appearance “like a flying eagle” (Revelation 4:7).  It may be that this mighty angelic cherub is the “eagle flying” through the midst of heaven with the warning message of the three woes.  Whether angel or cherub or eagle, of course, it is the unique form and substance of the warning that arrests the attention of the earth, as its inhabitants fearfully await the sound of the next trumpet.

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