In this article we will look at the seven trumpet judgments. But before we get to that, we most take a moment to understand heavens dramatic silence. Revelation 8:1 “When He opened the seventh seal there was silence in heaven.” Just reading that should quiet you as this is such a sobering thing. I know there’s an old joke that this is a verse that means there’s no women in heaven. I know the old joke. It is kind of funny but I don’t believe this is really something to joke about because this verse isn’t about humor.
This verse is about silence in heaven. Sometimes the most dramatic thing in the entire universe is silence. We’ve read up to this point in Revelation what’s been going on in heaven. There’s a multitude that no one can count singing to God. There are angels around the throne singing to God. There’s this incredible roar of praise that continues in heaven and now, right before the opening of this seventh seal, which is going to contain the seven trumpet judgments, there is no sound to be heard. When the Lamb opens the seventh seal… silence.
It’s dramatic. Something like when you’re in nature and all of a sudden everything gets quiet and you look around wondering what’s about to happen. Or you are in a room full of people and the Holy Spirit’s working and everyone gets quiet. But this is even more dramatic. In heaven… silence. This silence is an incredible display of the greatness of God. It’s as if all of heaven gets silent to dramatically express the full and awesome authority that God has. It’s as if everyone stops and waits for His next move. Everything just stops and waits. Is this the lull before the storm? I think so.
THE ANGEL AT THE ALTAR OF PRAYER
Revelation 8:2 “And I saw the seven angels who stand before God and to them were given seven trumpets.” By the way, these angels that stand before God, we may very know the name of one of them. Is this Gabriel? Luke 1:19 says, “And the angel answered and said to him, ‘I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God; and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring to you this good news.” The same kind of phrase is used. This leads many to believe that this could be Gabriel, this angel that came and made the announcement of Jesus birth. He is also called an archangel, in other words, one of the leading angels.
These angels that stand in the presence of God, one of them is Gabriel and another is probably Michael who’s mentioned in the book of Daniel. These angels are there to give Him praise but also to carry out His orders. These angels standing in the presence of God are given the responsibility of blowing these seven trumpets. But before they begin something else happens. Revelation 8:3 “Another angel who had a golden censor came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer with the prayers of the saints on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense together with the prayers of the saints went up before God from this angel’s hand and the angel took this censor and he filled it with fire from the altar and he hurled it to the earth and there came peals of thunder and rumbling and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.”
So many times, we as humans feel as though our prayers go toward heaven and that they don’t get answered. But we can be assured from the Word of God that all of our prayers are going to be answered. While I don’t fully understand why there is incense and smoke, I do believe that the idea behind this is that as our prayers go before God and are taken to this altar, there is a sweet aroma that goes up into God’s presence. Our prayers are sweeter to God, they are more precious to God, than maybe you or I will ever realize. So, this angel comes with a censer filled with incense and at this time the prayers are released.
How does God store prayers in heaven? I don’t know. But I do know that for hundreds of years, God’s people have been praying that God would avenge himself against those who would blaspheme his name, and those who persecute and abuse the people of God. This all means that when you and I talk to God, those prayers will go into His presence.
The Bible then says that some coals were then taken from that altar and were thrown to the earth. The obvious signs of judgment are mentioned: “peals of thunder and rumbling and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.” God’s judgment begins to come upon the earth to answer the prayers of the saints so that the evil will be taken out of this world and God will reign forever. There is a prayer that has been prayed by every Christian since the time of Jesus Christ. I say this because Jesus taught us to pray this prayer. It’s a prayer that has not yet been answered fully. You’ve prayed this prayer. You may have prayed it by memory when you were a child, or you’ve prayed it from your heart, maybe not using these exact words but it’s been the cry of your heart. That prayer is, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Is that happening yet? No! Is God’s will always done on earth? Of course not. In heaven, we’ve seen it. When God says something. it happens immediately. However, on earth, God’s will is not done immediately. God has allowed humans freedom of choice and that’s brought evil into the world and sin into the world. Think of how many times people have prayed the Lord’s prayer. There will come a day when that prayer is going to be answered. Revelation is telling us how God’s going to answer the prayer, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The book of Revelation ends when God creates a new heaven and a new earth where His will is done every moment all the time. And before we look at some of the judgments that are to come upon the earth, we are reminded that God is answering the prayers of His people. God has a plan even when we miss it sometimes.
Before we look at the next set of judgments that happen as the trumpets sound, let me remind you in a little different way of what we talked about last week.
Remember these events occur during the time of tribulation, that time of trouble and anguish, that time of destruction that comes as God brings about the end of this age. What powerful imagery we have as God shows us that from the very holiness of his presence comes judgment toward the earth.
THE SEVEN TRUMPET JUDGMENTS
Before we read about these horrific events, I want to remind you that plagues have come upon the earth before. As you read these verses, you can’t help but be reminded of another time of judgment in the world. We will read of hail falling and the sea being turned to blood. It immediately reminds us of the Exodus from Egypt and the plagues that came upon Egypt. If we are to properly interpret the book of Revelation it is vital we understand the Old Testament. Most of the judgments that are described here are similar to the plagues of Egypt. And as we read through these judgments we’re going to find out that God has done this before. It’s the same story. In the book of Exodus, it was local. Localized plagues came and they also had the effect of the hearts of those who weren’t God’s people. As we look at this, this is the exact same thing that happens at the end of time. But now it’s not just in Egypt, it’s all around the world.
Let’s walk through some of these trumpet judgments. I encourage you to realize these are real events. How could you believe that the plagues of Egypt were real events and not believe that these are real events? It’s pretty obvious as you look at them these are real events that God is describing that are going to happen. But don’t get too caught up in trying to figure out how all of the events fit together, and don’t try figure out how exactly one is going to follow after the one preceding it. This is chaos. The apocalypse by definition isn’t logical. Don’t try to link these things together. It shouldn’t be logical. It’s chaos. It’s terrible. That’s what God is trying to picture for us here and help us to understand.
- The first trumpet releases Hail, Fire, Blood.
Revelation 8:6-7 says, “Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them. The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.”
There was a similar plague on Egypt in Exodus 9:23-26. Hail falling upon the earth can be frightening. Modern TV and horror movies have often shown the appearance of blood as a frightening thing. I believe that literally blood will fall from the heavens. The fire could well be the result of lightning strikes or maybe God will just rain down fire like He did on Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember this a different day. It is the day of the Lord. God is sending His righteous judgment, this will not be something that can be explained away by natural causes. God wants the earth to know that these plagues come from a Holy God. Here is the result:
1/3 of the earth will be burned up.
1/3 of the trees destroyed.
1/3 of the grass will be burned up.
I am assuming that this touches at least 1/3 of the earth because we see the effect of it in 1/3 of the earth.
- The second trumpet reveals a Burning Mountain being cat into the sea.
Some believe this mountain is an asteroid striking the earth. At any rate, something that is very large, the size of a mountain will be thrown into the sea. Revelation 8: 8-9 “The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.” Usually, a biblical reference to “the sea” has to do with the Mediterranean Sea that is very close to the land of Palestine. We cannot replace the word ocean for the word sea. You can see what’s happening. He is trying to wake people up. John probably saw a meteorite crashing into the Mediterranean Sea. One third of the sea turns to blood. One third of the ships perish. Even though this is not on a worldwide scale. It is still a very frightening event.
Joel 2:30 talks about the same kinds of signs happening at the end of the age. The Jewish people who originally read this would have remembered the prophesies of Joel. They read the Old Testament. They knew it. “I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke.”
Some have said this is not literal blood that this is some type of algae plague that will turn the sea red. Others surmise that it could be a result of the chemicals in the meteorite. I guess it could be. However, I believe that the same God who turned the waters of Egypt to Blood in the Old Testament will show his power once again. Imagine the terror that this will release upon the world. Men today have lost the fear of God, because God in His mercy has not acted. Unfortunately, multiplied millions will harden their hearts against God.
- The third trumpet releases the Star Wormwood which will destroy 1/3 of the fresh water.
Revelation 8:10-11 “The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water–the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.” What will this star be? I don’t know. It could be a meteorite or even a comet. But the end result is that 1/3 of the waters turned bitter. How widespread is this event? I don’t know.
What we do know is what Wormwood means. It means bitterness. Everyone who knows the Old Testament will recall an event that was just the opposite of what happens here. Exodus 15:23-25 gives the account when Moses and the people of Israel came to a place called Marah they couldn’t drink the waters there because they were bitter. So the people grumbled against Moses – like they usually did. They grumbled, “What are we going to drink? The scripture says, “Then he cried out to the Lord and the Lord showed him a tree. And he threw the tree into the waters and the waters became sweet.” In Exodus you have the bitter waters becoming sweet and during the Tribulation the sweet waters are becoming bitter.
It’s a picture of what God does for believers. For you and I as believers, as we think of Christ on the cross and what He’s done for us, we remember that he has made the bitter places of our lives sweet, even the trials and struggles. God brings the sweetness of His grace and His plan and His healing into our lives. He doesn’t keep problems from happening in our lives but He uses them to grow us and we know someday we’re going to be with Him in heaven where there will be no more tears. The bitter has become sweet because of Christ.
But the opposite can become true. If you’re a person who says, “I’m going to have my own plan. I’m going to live my own way and you reject God and you choose a lifestyle of sin. There will come a day when Christ comes as the judge and He’ll turn what was sweet to us – the plans we had, the way we thought we were going to live – they’ll become bitter when we realize the final effect our plans had. The sin we thought was sweet will end in bitterness. So the question spiritually in this passage is, Do I trust Christ to make the bitter things in my life the sweet things in my life?
These bitter waters also reflect the very attitude that many will have during the Tribulation, they will be bitter against God for bringing his judgment to the earth. Imagine on any continent that 1/3 of the freshwater becomes undrinkable. Many will die as a result. That is what the scripture says.
- The fourth trumpet releases darkness.
Revelation 8:12 “The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, 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 turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.”
As you walk through these things that God’s going to do, you notice that these first four judgments have to do with nature. As we progress, we will discover that the last three focus more on man. What is meant by this darkness? It will be a physical literal darkness that comes upon the face of the earth. This corresponds with the ninth plague in Egypt. Hear me today. The same God who created light in the first place is able in a moment to diminish it to one third. Imagine: there will be sixteen hours of night and just eight hours of daylight. Why? Because God wants the world to know who he is. That he is the God of heaven.
Are you sure these things are literal? Why wouldn’t they be? Listen. Jesus himself said the very same thing in Luke 21:25-26 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” How plain do you want to hear it? Signs in the Sun, Moon and Stars. Darkness will happen.
An interesting side note is the fact that just like the silence introduces these four plagues on the earth. There are three plagues that are introduced by the giving of a woe. Revelation 8:13 “As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!” In other words, God is saying that that happens next is going to be very severe.
- The fifth trumpet releases a Plague of Demonic Locust
Everything has affected man but in the fifth trumpet judgment mankind is actually tortured by what happens. I want to warn you that these are some very powerful verses. Revelation 9:1 “The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss.”
The first question we must attempt to answer is who or what is this star? The star has fallen from the sky to the earth, and the star is given the key to the shaft of the abyss. Let me say that whenever possible we interpret Revelation literally. This is a case where it obvious from the context it is impossible to do. This cannot be a literal star. You can’t give a key to a thing or an object. So, it is very doubtful this is referring to a star like in the heavens. We can interpret one scripture by comparing it to another. I believe that the star is an angel because later on in Revelation 20:1 it says. “And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the abyss and holding in his hand a great chain.” This verse shows that angels are given keys so I can assume that this star is an angel. I want you to notice the star has personality and has a will of his own. The star is also referred to as masculine. The star is a he because the next verse says, Revelation 9:2-3 “When he opened the Abyss, (The Abyss is another world for bottomless pit. The abyss is where Satan will be bound for 1000 years.) smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth.”
Are these real locusts? What does the Bible say? Let’s read on in Revelation 9:4-6 “They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their forehead. They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man. During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.”
Remember a couple chapters back the 144,000 who received God’s seal? In this case they are not harmed by these locusts. They were given power to torture mankind and their sting lasted up to five months. I don’t know of any actual insect that has such ability. In fact, I don’t believe these are insects. I believe that these are demon spirits that are let loose upon mankind.
Revelation 8:7-11 “The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces.” These aren’t insects, are they? It’s pretty clear as you start to read that these aren’t insects attacking the earth. As you continue to read in this passage and it says “Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, (Let me state that this another angel – a fallen angel – one of Satan stronger beings) whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon.”
You start to read that and you see something spiritual happening here. You see the demonic powers of hell or Hades coming forth to attack the earth. These locusts like so often in the Old Testament are signs and symbols of divine wrath and judgment.
Exodus 10:12-20 talk about how God often used locusts. But in this case, they’re a very different kind of locust. It’s a spiritual event that’s happening. But notice even here everything is still limited and controlled by God. God says essentially in Revelation 9:5 “Here’s who and what you can strike. Don’t harm the grass of the field or the trees. You can’t touch those with the seal. Here’s how far you can go. You can’t kill the people. Here’s how long it can last –five months.” It’s a sign again, even here, that God is in control.
What is this abyss that all of these angels come out of? It is my belief from the Word of God that these are demonic Spirits that are imprisoned in the same abyss – the same place as Satan will be kept for 1000 years. Let me give you a couple of interesting verses that kind of back that up. In Luke 8:31 we read about Jesus casting some demons out of some pigs. “And they begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss.” They don’t want to be locked up there again. Apparent God has locked up demons, and has chained them as punishment for various evil things that they have done.
Jude 6 says “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home–these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.”
Also 2 Peter 2:4 “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment;”
What we do know from these scriptures that there are demon powers – fallen angels that have been held in prison, bound. It could be these or others, but we do know that they will be released upon mankind in the first woe, at the sounding of the fifth trumpet. What a terrible thought, the torment of their sting lasting for five months.
During the Tribulation, they are let out and as we will read a couple chapters later, they’re going to be put back in permanently into a place called hell. That’s a permanent place where they’re locked away from the presence of God. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to be on earth at this terrible time.
As we bring this message to a conclusion today, let us remember that these plagues are sent upon man because man is rebellious and sinful and away from God. We serve a God who is just. The wrath of God being poured out upon humanity is just. Some have read these things and think, “How could a God who is merciful allow such things to take place?”
The first thing I have to say about that is these things have been written in God’s Word for almost 2000 years. These prophecies have been here for man to read. What a loving God. You see, God wants all of us to get right. God wants all of us to be born from above. God wants you to accept him now. That is why he says, Today is the day of salvation. That is why he says, do not harden your hearts. That is why he says, do not allow your heart to be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. But rather we are to turn to God and submit our lives to Him.
Jesus said, Matthew 10:28 “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Understand in that day that there may still be people undecided. It is an incredible act of mercy on Gods part to allow someone five months of torment. To allow someone five months of pain…in order to avoid an eternity of torment in hell. In this great time of judgment, Revelation 9:20-21, God tells us how people are going to respond. I wish I could tell you that all men will be responding by turning to God. One of the saddest verses in God’s word says, “The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands. They did not stop worshipping demons, the idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood, idols that cannot see, hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.”
God is commanding all men to repent – to turn to God. Let me give you two quick applications.
First of all, we want to pray for the salvation of those who don’t know God that they’ll come to know Him that they’ll find in Him the hope that they need. It’s God’s desire that none should perish, God’s desire that all should come to Him. We can pray for that. And those prayers go straight to heaven to be in His presence, a sweet aroma before God.
Secondly, there’s a personal application here. We’re caught up in this world. We happen to live in a country where we’re not persecuted a lot so it’s pretty easy to get caught up in worldly things. We’re believers in Christ and we know we are going with Jesus. We will be with Him for eternity. But how about right now?
As you hear these detailed events of what’s going to happen to this world in the end, does it cause worldly things to have a little bit less grip on you? I hope so. That’s one of the things that should happen in our lives as believers. We start to realize, “I’m not a citizen of this earth.” And, by the way, I don’t want to be a citizen of this earth. I want to be a citizen of heaven.
The seven trumpet judgments shows us that this world under God’s judgment is a scary place. God can easily shake our world. But if that’s all you get out of the book of Revelation, you’ve missed the point entirely. That’s only half of the truth, the lesser half. Revelation shows us that this world can be easily shaken, but it also shows us that heaven is an unshakable place. Heaven is an eternal place. Heaven is a place of hope and you and I have our future assured with Him. And anybody who comes to Him can have their future assured with Him in eternity.