Four Trumpets and Destruction

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The first four trumpets in Cycle 3 of Revelation

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Tonight we will continue our series by finishing up chapter 8. We will be looking at the first four of the seven trumpets.
This is the third of seven cycles in Revelation.
In Cycle 1, we got a picture of the history between the first and second coming of Christ by seeing Jesus standing in the midst of His churches. He is in control and governing them.
They are suffering and dealing with a host of problems, but if they are repentant and enduring, they will receive great reward from Him as His faithful servants in the end.
In Cycle 2, we saw a picture of the history between the first and second coming in the Seven Seals.
The seals showed us what life is like in the world until Jesus returns:
Conquest, War, Famine and Death will be in the world.
Believers will lose their lives for their faith
But God will make things right in the end when His Son returns and saves His people forever and judges His enemies, vanquishing them for good—including sin and death
And now we are in Cycle 3
We have seen the prayers of the saints rise up to God and now, God will respond in the judgment of the Trumpets.
Let’s read the passage and get into it. We will handle the first four trumpets tonight and then take a nice, long break and blow the 5th trumpet on January 4th.
READ Revelation 8:6-13
Revelation 8:6–13 ESV
Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them. The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up. The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed. The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter. The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night. Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!”


I think there are three observations we can make from this passage tonight. The first one is this:
1. The first four trumpets show us that judgment is near.
If you are wondering why we are only dealing with four trumpets tonight, it isn’t just for the sake of time.
In the text, we can see that the first four trumpets are grouped together in similar fashion as the first four seals.
Back in chapter 6, the opening of each of the first four seals resulted in one of the four living creatures summoning a rider on a horse.
The white horse represented conquest
The red horse represented bloodshed in war
The black horse represented famine
And the pale horse represented death
When the fifth seal is opened, there is no rider. Things are different. Clearly the first four are to be grouped together.
Here in chapter 8, we see a similar thing. The first four trumpets occur and all bring about similar results in the different aspects of creation.
But then in verse 13, this eagle flies overhead, crying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe.”
As if to say, “The worst is yet to come.”
Then we go forward with the blowing of the fifth trumpet in chapter 9 and much like the seals, it feels different.
But I want to be clear from the outset that when we look at the first four trumpets, we are not looking at the end times yet. We are not looking at the return of Christ.
Just like the first four seals showed us how things would be in the world until Christ returns—it will be filled with conquest, war, famine and death—the first four trumpets show us how God will judge the world in the build up to the 2nd Coming of Christ.
Because though Final Judgment is yet to come, God is already judging the world through the events the occur in the nations.
Psalm 105:7 “He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth.”
As we covered two weeks ago, the trumpet was used in multiple ways in the Old Testament.
It was used to gather the people together. It was used as a sound of victory.
But it was also an alarm for imminent judgment.
Joel 2:1 “Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near,”
In fact, that Joel passage includes locusts that John will draw on for imagery when the fifth trumpet sounds and demons come out of the abyss like locusts.
That sentence probably got you all very excited for January 4th. That’s the dangling carrot to get everyone back after the holidays. Demon locusts rising from the bowels of the abyss.
But getting into the trumpets, let’s remember the scene established for us in the beginning of the chapter.
There are seven angels who have been given seven trumpets and they stand before God.
Then another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer and offered incense with the prayers of the saints
The prayers of the saints rise up and are accepted by the Father
God responds to the prayers of the saints by the 8th angel take the censer and fill it with fire and he threw it down on the earth
This is a sign of judgment
Fire represents judgment and storm elements regularly accompany judgment in Revelation
So judgment is coming on the earth—not just in the 2nd coming, but throughout history
And the history of God’s judgment in the world is explained to us through the images of the seven angels blowing the seven trumpets
So in verse 6, the angels are ready to blow the trumpets. It is time to for us to learn about God’s fair and wise judgments in the nations that are building toward the Final Judgment in the return of His Son.
When we look at these first four trumpets, we see that each trumpet brings about an event of judgment that we can relate back to God’s judgment on Egypt in Exodus. And we can see that they impact the whole earth—land, sea, springs and rivers and the heavens.
I don’t think we should lose our heads about what all the symbols might mean and the significance of the fractions.
Instead, I think the imagery is simply supposed to remind us of Exodus so that we know judgment is taking place and we are to know that this judgment is impacting the entire arena of the earth, but it is limited and the earth is not yet destroyed.
That being said, I do think the results of the judgments can lead us to make some conclusions about the sort of things we will see in the world until Christ comes back.
We start with the first trumpet in verse 7.
Hail and fire, mixed with blood is thrown on the earth.
1/3 of the earth is burnt up. 1/3 of the trees. All of the green grass.
This is meant to conjure up images of hail in Exodus 9:23-25
Exodus 9:23–25 ESV
Then Moses stretched out his staff toward heaven, and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the Lord rained hail upon the land of Egypt. There was hail and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very heavy hail, such as had never been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. The hail struck down everything that was in the field in all the land of Egypt, both man and beast. And the hail struck down every plant of the field and broke every tree of the field.
The blood mixed in is different from Exodus, but maybe it is drawing on Ezekiel 38:22 as well
Ezekiel 38:22 ESV
With pestilence and bloodshed I will enter into judgment with him, and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples who are with him torrential rains and hailstones, fire and sulfur.
The Old Testament allusions let us know we are dealing with judgment here.
We don’t need to try to think of specific instances. That isn’t the point. Instead, John is showing us that until Jesus returns and Final Judgment comes, God will judge the earth in a limited way for its sin.
And this judgment will impact the earth’s resources.
A third of the land is gone. A third of the trees are gone.
You can imagine the agricultural impact of calamity like that.
Not just agricultural, but ecological and economic
All of the green grass is gone
A sign of famine
But we aren’t talking about the apocalypse yet.
We know that because the judgments are impacting only 1/3 of the earth and 1/3 of the trees
The judgment is restrained because God is merciful
The second trumpet is blown in verse 8 and its impact carries into verse 9.
The second angel blows the trumpet and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, is thrown into the sea and 1/3 of the sea turns to blood.
Certainly this is meant to conjure up the images of Exodus 7:20
Exodus 7:20 ESV
Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood.
The mountain burning with fire that is thrown into the sea sounds a lot like a volcano.
The ancient near-Eastern world was thrown into fear when Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.
It buried Pompeii in ash and ruined the life in the Bay of Naples
It is possible that event is being pointed to here as an example of God’s judgment in the world, but we can’t be sure about that
Regardless, if the first trumpet was supposed to make us think of the distress that comes about as a result of God’s judgment on the earth , the second trumpet points us toward the impact of God’s judgment on the seas.
1/3 of the sea life dies
1/3 of the ships are destroyed
The fish are being killed—a major source of food and economic flourishing for the ancient world
The ships are destroyed—meaning the trade system is struggling
So much like the judgment on the earth with the first trumpet, there is ecological and economic consequences to God’s justice. The judgment is limited, but it is still clearly felt by those who dwell on the earth.
We have seen God’s judgment on the earth and the ocean. The third trumpet sees judgment impacts the rivers and springs in verses 10 and 11.
The third angel blows the trumpet and a great star falls from heaven, blazing like a torch and it falls on a third of the rivers and springs of water.
The star’s name is Wormwood and it poisons a third of the water, which kills those who drink it.
It echoes Exodus 7:21-25, when God’s judgment made the water of Egypt undrinkable.
Exodus 7:21–25 ESV
And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts. So Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile. Seven full days passed after the Lord had struck the Nile.
Jeremiah 9:15-16 Jeremiah 9:15-16, where God warns of the judgment that is about to come upon the Southern Kingdom
Jeremiah 9:15–16 ESV
Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will feed this people with bitter food, and give them poisonous water to drink. I will scatter them among the nations whom neither they nor their fathers have known, and I will send the sword after them, until I have consumed them.”
Wormwood is an intensely bitter herb and you would have to eat a ton of it for it to kill you.
But here, it is symbolic for poison
As a result of God’s judgment, the drinking waters are poisoned and many die from drinking the water.
We are probably meant to think of the ancient military strategy to besiege a city and cut off the drinking supply.
As modern readers we think of pollution ruining drinking water, but that is not where the first-century mind would have gone. They would have thought of water being ruined by military conquest for purpose of dehydrating a population of people until they surrender.
The poison of wormwood probably represents the violence of humanity. The way nations will come and take the most basic things from those they invade.
And we know that like the Assyrians in 722 BC and the Babylonians in 586 BC and the Romans in 70 AD, God will use the sinful violence of man to judge other nations for their own sin.
And that sort of conquest and war brings about a lack of the things humans need to live.
But once again, it is limited to a third of the rivers and springs, so we know that we are still not dealing with Final Judgment.
And then finally, we get the fourth trumpet. Now we see that every sphere of creation is impacted:
Trumpet 1 = Earth
Trumpet 2 = Sea
Trumpet 3 = Rivers and springs
Now Trumpet 4 = the Heavens
In verse 12, a 1/3 of the sun, the moon and the stars are darkened.
This is not literal, but just imagine what that would be like—the darkness it would produce.
That darkness recalls Exodus 10:21-23
Exodus 10:21–23 ESV
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived.
We also saw darkness on the landscape when God poured out His wrath and judgment on His own Son when He died in our place at Calvary.
Luke 23:44 “It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour,”
The darkness is a sign of judgment.
When we put all of this together, we see God’s judgment coming down throughout history.
All the fears of human existence on the earth are touched as a result of this judgment.
These judgments are limited—the fractions make that clear—but they are impact every level of creation to the point that they cannot be denied.
And they are building to the Final Judgment, which we will see when the 7th trumpet is blown.
And this promise of judgment would have been so important to the Asia Minor believers who heard this read for the first time.
They were suffering under the oppressive fist of the Roman government.
It would have been a comfort to know that even as Rome is acting as an oppressor, God is judging them in history.
And more than that, it would have been comforting to know that one day, God will bring down Rome and every other throne that opposes Him.
And in the meantime, when we see the sinful kingdoms of the world short on bread, land, fish, trade, water and even light—know that God is in the heavens, wisely judging the nations on His perfect scales.
Nothing goes unseen. Nothing goes unpunished—whether it is in this life or the next.


Our first observation tonight was:
1. The first four trumpets show us that judgment is near.
Let’s move on to our second observation:
2. The first four trumpets show us that the world is not secure.
All around us, we see people that see to put their hope in this world. They are putting their hopes in created things. They are hoping in the earth, the sea, the rivers and the springs and the sky. They are hoping in creation and man-made idols.
As the created order is subject to God’s judgment on every level—earth, sea, rivers and sky—that which the people on the earth are hoping in is failing. Their idols are crumbling under the weight of God’s judgment.
The world is not safe.
It is like a building that has its foundation on a fault line as the earth starts to tremble.
We see the lack of security in the world in two main areas in these judgments.
First of all, there are these economic ramifications on the earth. We especially see this in the first two trumpets.
The first trumpet is blown and we have 1/3 of the earth and trees burned up. We have all the green grass burned up.
That is an agricultural nightmare that would have massive economic consequences.
The second trumpet brings about the judgment on the sea.
1/3 of the fish and 1/3 of the trade ships are destroyed.
Again—economic nightmare. That is like the housing bubble collapsing fifteen years ago, but much, much worse.
A total nightmare in terms of economic profit
This should remind us that we cannot put our hope in money and stocks and banks and markets.
Because inevitably, when God’s active judgment in the nations impacts those things—when the fish die and ships are destroyed and there is no good soil for growing crops—those things will fail.
And if our hope is in economic flourishing and our joy is tied to the health of the local and national and global markets, then our hope will fail when the economy falters.
As we looked at these verses, we also saw that there was an ecological impact as God’s judgment came down on the earth, the ocean, the rivers and the heavens.
The hail, fire and blood on the land after the first trumpet burnt up a 1/3 of the earth
The events surrounding the second trumpet ruin 1/3 of the sea
The burning star falling after the blowing of the third trumpet destroys 1/3 of the rivers and springs
And the darkness that comes with the fourth trumpet takes 1/3 of the light coming from the sun, moon and stars
As God judges sin in the nations in history, the earth itself feels the effects of that judgment. It is part of the reason that Paul says creation itself is groaning for redemption.
Romans 8:20–22 ESV
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
Pantheism is the belief that the universe itself is God.
It is becoming more and more popular in Western culture and it has invaded the way we talk.
People now say things like, “I guess the Universe just doesn’t want me to do that.”
They are giving governing authority to creation and taking it away from the Creator.
This is utter foolishness.
Creation is subject to the judgment of God. To attribute authority to it that belongs solely to the Judge make no sense. And beyond that—it is a major offense to the actual Judge—the Triune God who made the Universe.
The judgments of God in the world remind us that we cannot hope in creation.
We look to the earth to provide things for us like food and drinking water, but ultimately, it can only provide those things insomuch as God ordains it.
He is the Provider. He is the One that should be looked to. All authority should be attributed to Him and Him alone
Understanding that God is at work in this world and that everything we see unfolding has divine purpose behind it, changes the way we view history and current events and the future.
We do not see the events that take place in the world as random chaos.
We see them as events taking place within the governing of God and that includes His judgment on the earth.
And what that should do is give us the ability not only avoid panicking, but to be able to continue on in obedience until Christ returns.
ILLUSTRATION: I will illustrate it this way. I have spent some time over the last few months seeing old friends and couple of them are not believers.
On multiple occasions, I have talked to friends of mine who don’t know the Lord and they legitimately feel like civilization, as we know it, is going to end very soon because there is going to be a climate apocalypse.
That by the 2050’s the American South will be almost unlivable
Within three decades 5 billion people will not be able to get an adequate amount of water
By the 2050’s there will be wildfires all across the continental United States
Those are just a few of the scary predictions
And you know I am not here to make fun. That isn’t helpful. Even if I might point to some smart people who disagree, we don’t need to be abrasive.
But what has broken my heart is hearing my friends saying things like, “I don’t want to bring kids into this world.”
Their hope has failed because they look at creation and go, “It isn’t stable.”
As believers, whatever may or may not happen with the climate does not impact our hope because our hope is not in creation.
When we see the world groaning for redemption...
When we see nations at war...
When we see economies collapsing...
We do not shrink back in terror.
No—we marvel at the nations and wonder what our God is doing. What is He up to? How does this tie into Him bringing history to its close with the return of His glorious Son?
And more than that, we remain obedient because we have counted God as our refuge—not the world we live in.
Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
So we don’t respond to God’s judgments in history by retreating.
No—we do what He told us to do. We fill the earth and multiply.
We fulfill the Great Commission by making disciples of all nations through the ministry of the local church
And you know what—if you are worried about the environment along the way, then plant some trees and adopt some animals and donate some money and recycle as you obey God’s commands.
There is nothing wrong with caring for this earth as it groans.
As my friend Chuck Hedden says—you don’t use the bathroom in the living room for a reason. We should take care of this place God has given us.
Just don’t put your hope in it.


Let’s bring it home for our final observation tonight. We have see how the Four Trumpets Show Us:
God’s judgment is near
The world is not secure
And now, our final observation for the night:
3. The Four Trumpets show us that God is patient.
To understand this, we just need to look at the numbers.
Trumpet 1—1/3 of the earth
Trumpet 2—1/3 of the sea
Trumpet 3—1/3 of the rivers and springs
Trumpet 4—1/3 of the lights in the sky
1/3. 1/3. 1/3. 1/3.
The judgment is not whole. It is not in totality. It is limited.
This is how God’s judgment is in the time between the first coming of Christ and the second coming of Christ.
Why is this the case? Why isn’t God just pouring out His full wrath from heaven right now? Why not send His Son to tread the winepress of the wrath of fury tomorrow?
Well it is not because God is slack concerning His promise to redeem His people and judge the earth.
It is because God is longsuffering and patient.
2 Peter 3:3–5 ESV
knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God,
So in the last days, which is the time in between Jesus’ ascension and Jesus’ return, people will scoff and say, “Look—God isn’t going to judge. The world is just going on as it always has.”
They will think God is slack.
2 Peter 3:7–10 ESV
But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
God is not slack. The world will be consumed with fire in His judgment. On the Final Day, this will happen.
That Final Day is coming.
In verse 13, this eagle flies over. It could be a vulture. The Greek translates to eagle or vulture. I am going to opt for eagle because that Greek word translates to eagle throughout the rest of Revelation as well.
In Scripture, eagles tend to represent God’s loving care of His people.
So maybe the eagle is a symbol of how God’s judgment on the nations is a comfort to His people.
Eagles were also unclean birds that the Jewish people could not eat.
I think that is what is most important here.
This unclean eagle flies over—a lawless bird—pronouncing three woes upon the earth.
For something to be elevated to the third degree is the highest level of emphasis it could receive in Jewish writing.
As bad as things are in these limited judgments, it is going to get a lot worse when the next three trumpets blow.
Because with each blowing of the next three, the three woes of the eagle are unleashed on the earth.
And THAT is when we will see Final Judgment.
The eagle reminds us that God is not slack concerning his judgments.
So why hasn’t He brought about Final Judgment yet with the return of His Son? Well according to Peter, it is because God is patient toward us. Toward His people.
And He will not let a single one of His people perish.
He will bring every name written in the Book of Life to repentance. He will gather them from the four winds.
And then His Son will return and judge the world in righteousness.
It might seem like it is taking forever, but God does not feel the constraints of time like we do. He created time. He exists outside of it. As Peter says, a day is a thousand years to Him and a thousand years is a day.
His plan is perfect. His patience is mercifully glorious.
And He will return at the moment that He has marked for the full redemption of His church and judgment of this world.


And for anyone listening tonight, if you hear this and you are not a believer yourself, you should not count God’s patience as slackness.
We do not know how long it is until Jesus comes back.
We do not know how long we have on this earth.
Judgment is near.
The world is not secure.
God is patient.
But one day, His full wrath will be unleashed.
It will be a woeful day for anyone who is not on God’s side through faith in the life, death and resurrection of His Son.
We should repent now, while God’s patience is giving us the opportunity.
We should trust in His Son now—for today is the day of salvation.

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