Meditation Mondays: Revelation 8:7-13: The First Four Trumpets an Introduction
7 The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up. 8 Then 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. 9 And a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed. 10 Then the third angel sounded: And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. 11 The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter.
12 Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night. 13 And I looked, and I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!” (Revelation 8:7-13 NKJV)
The first four trumpets are sounded here in verses 7-13. Upon the blowing of these trumpets, we see hail, fire, and blood cast upon the earth. We see 1/3 of trees burn up and all the green grass along with it. We see something like a great mountain on fire being cast into the sea and the sea turning to blood. All the creatures in the sea die, 1/3 of ships destroyed. Then we see a star from heaven fall that burned like a torch that ends up polluting 1/3 of the drinkable springs and rivers. Then, upon the blowing of the fourth trumpet, a 1/3 of the sun, moon, and stars were struck and darkened. And these first four trumpets being blown are concluded by an angel warning the inhabitants of the earth regarding the next three trumpets. This is again very apocalyptic- I am inclined to read this as the end of the world. Arguably it sounds like the end of the world.
Now, again in the passage today we see Old Testament language being used, and below is the corresponding Old Testament passages next to each trumpet
First Trumpet Old Testament Language: Ex. 9:23; Isa. 28:2; Ezek. 38:22; Joel 3:20
Second Trumpet Old Testament Language: Jer. 51:25
Third Trumpet Old Testament Language: Is. 14:12; Ex. 15:23
Fourth Trumpet Old Testament Language: Is. 13:10; Joel 2:31; Amos 8:9
So, we know that John is borrowing extensively from the Old Testament, and these words in the OT were used to describe God's judgment on particular nations. And specifically, as we continue to look at the trumpets (especially the latter 3)- we see these judgments mirror that of the plagues of Egypt. The final three trumpets are described as the three 'woes' declared by the angel in verse 13 (Rev. 9:12)
So, what exactly is going on in this passage? How shall we interpret it? First, as I've stated in a previous article, I am a partial preterist- meaning, I believe that most of what John has written found its fulfillment in the 1st century in which it was written. Remember, John is writing about those 'things which much soon take place' (Rev 1:1; 3). That is not to say that Revelation is not relevant to us- it is very relevant to us, but it means that I am not looking for future fulfillment of these things (although sufferings, persecutions, etc. are of course cyclical) which John has written about. Furthermore, this book is highly symbolic and it should be interpreted that way. John uses apocalyptic imagery. Now, we've seen seven seals. Today we are just getting an introduction of the first four of seven trumpets and we still have seven bowls of God's wrath. We shouldn't add them up and say we have all these different events taking place (although there is significance to the number 7 in Revelation). Rather, we should see these things as giving us a fuller picture of the judgment of God on Jerusalem. Next week, we will begin to dive into the language of each of these first four trumpets.