Revelation 8:8-9: The Second Trumpet
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.
Now, while what we are reading about can be cyclical in nature, I think primarily and of first importance this is referring (as you know by now) to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70. In this section we see the second trumpet blown (remember we can categorize the first four together) and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea. Because Revelation is highly symbolic we need to ask what is 'like a great mountain' biblically? Why is it on fire and what is the sea?
James Ramsey (presbyterian minister in the 1800s) says '... the symbol of the burning mountain cast into the sea has had its verification in every age, in the overturning of thrones and governments. (The Book of Revelation, 378). Ramsey, who insists that these sorts of judgments are cyclical in every age (and I agree) identifies the burning mountain as the overturning of thrones and governments. I think he is right. For instance, we see in the Old Testament the word 'mountain' being used to describe various empires (Is. 2:2; Zech. 4:7; Jer. 51:25).
Furthermore, we see Jesus speaking of what I think is the coming judgment of Jerusalem in Matthew 21:21 when he says,
21 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. 22 And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
Furthermore, Jerusalem was on an actual mountain. In these Jewish Wars, we have the mountain that is Jerusalem being judged by God through a devastating war. The mountain is 'on fire' under the wrath of God. Now the sea could refer to violence and death. Many Jews literally died. The death was vast. The historian Josephus speaks of how violent by describing bloody lakes (Jewish Wars III.10.9. I tend to agree with Douglas Wilson's commentary on the interpretation of "sea". Wilson says, "The sea probably represents the Gentile nations, as it does throughout Scripture... the sea is symbolic of the Gentile world, into which the Jews who survived the war would be dispersed" (When the Man Comes Around, 97). In other words, the Jews who were centerstage in redemptive history were scattered amongst the Gentiles in God's judgment of Jerusalem in the year 70.