The First Four Trumpet Judgments
As we begin our study of God’s word, let’s start off by reviewing what we looked at last week. Last week’s passage talked about a massive throng around the throne of God. We talked about how this throng was a massive group of martyrs, and how it is likely that this group of martyrs is made up of people that will die for Christ during the Tribulation period. And remember, for the past two weeks we have viewed a scene in Heaven that takes place between the sixth seal and the seventh seal. In tonight’s passage, we are going to come back down to planet Earth and see what happens when God’s judgment continues. To see what I’m talking about, please turn in your Bibles to Revelation chapter eight, and we’ll be reading all thirteen verses. Again, Revelation chapter eight.
“And when He had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in Heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. 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 burned up, and all green grass was burned up. 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; 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. 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 rivers, and upon the fountains of water; 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. 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. 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!’”
Well, as I’m sure you saw, there is some pretty serious stuff about to happen to our little planet in tonight’s lesson. But notice what happens in verses one through five of tonight’s chapter. I’m not going to read them again, but please just follow along with me. Verse one says that Jesus is now opening the seventh seal. Remember, these are seven seals on a scroll that only Jesus is allowed to open. Each time He breaks a seal, something huge happens on our planet. The Bible says that after Jesus broke the seventh seal, there was silence in Heaven for half an hour. Think about this silence in contrast to all of the stuff going on in Heaven so far. We’ve heard saints singing songs, angels echoing praises, the four beasts shouting “Amen!”, and John asking questions to the twenty-four elders. Everything we’ve seen about Heaven is that there is almost constantly noise going on in God’s throne room.
But that all changes in verse one. Verse one says that when Christ opened the seventh seal, all of Heaven grew silent. The Bible doesn’t say exactly why Heaven grew silent, but it seems like this silence stems from an awe of Christ and an anticipation of what will happen next. And while this isn’t the theme of tonight’s lesson, do you realize that sometimes our worship is silent, too? I mean, no doubt our God loves it when we sing His praises from the tops of our lungs. No doubt He is pleased when we lead the congregation in prayer. No doubt He is pleased when we talk of His goodness when we are fellowshipping together. But church, did you realize that God is pleased when we are simply in awe of Him. Sometimes, when the Holy Spirit moves in our lives, He does not move us to shout “Amen!” or to flock down to the altar. Sometimes, when the Holy Spirit moves in our midst, we simply fall silent as we are taken aback at what God is doing. So if you are the kind of person that does not like to shout “Amen!” or “Hallelujah!”, that’s okay with me. As you can see in verse one, sometimes even the throne room of God falls silent in worship of Him.
As you can see in verse two, God gives seven trumpets to seven angels. These seven trumpets are going to end up being the next seven judgments that happen on planet Earth. So the way God’s judgments line up is kind of like a telescope. The seventh seal ushers in the seven trumpet judgments, and the seventh trumpet ushers in the seven following bowl judgments. So if you add up the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven bowls, you would think there would be twenty-one unique judgments, but there are actually nineteen, because the seventh seal and the seventh trumpet usher in the next set.
Verse three tells us about an angel that is holding a golden censer. A censer was an object used in Old Testament temple worship. The censer was what held the incense. As you can see, that is its job here, too. In this divine temple scene, the angel is given a large amount of incense, and He is given the prayers of the saints, and He offers them up before God.
This verse made me think about how much God loves our prayers. Do you realize that our prayers please God. It doesn’t matter if your prayer is worshipping God for His goodness, or your prayer is like the psalmist in Psalm 102, and you are just crying out to God in desperation. God hears your prayers, and God loves your prayers.
Notice that after the angel offers up the incense with the prayers, he takes his censer and fills it with fire from the altar, and then he throws this fire down to earth. Remember how God promised the martyrs that He would avenge them soon? It seems that God is doing that right now in this verse. After the saints’ prayers are offered up, God has the angel throw down fire from Heaven. This judgment arrives on earth in the form of lightning and thunder, and an earthquake. The King James has the word “voices” in this verse. This Greek word can also mean “rumblings,” which I think makes more sense in light of the lightning and thunder. But who knows, it could also be literal voices. It doesn’t seem as if this fire from Heaven is meant to do any real harm to Earth. Really, it seems as if this is meant as a kind of warning shot, letting people know that some big stuff is about to happen.
Verse six officially begins what we refer to as the “Trumpet Judgments.” Verse six says that the angels prepared themselves to blow the trumpets and release their judgments. Verse seven tells us what happens in the first trumpet judgment. Look at what verse seven says. “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 burned up, and all green grass was burned up.” Wow! This is a massive hail storm, in which the hail is mixed with fire and with blood. It seems as if the blood is meant to remind people that they are suffering because of the blood of the martyrs, and of the blood of Christ. The fire from this hailstorm is said to burn up one third of the trees on the planet. Even beyond the trees, it says that all of the green grass was burned up. This trumpet judgment doesn’t mention any fatalities, but it seems as if many people would die in a wildfire big enough to do this much material damage.
Something we’re going to notice in these trumpet judgments is that no one in their right mind could deny that this is from God. I mean, a massive hailstorm is one thing. But hail mixed with fire and blood? Clearly only God could pull off something like that. So in the midst of the six seal judgments, it seems as if many non-Christians would probably deny that these things are of God. But how many people are crazy enough to believe that fire falling from the sky is natural? Unfortunately, I’m sure that many, many people will continue to deny God.
The second trumpet is another one that is clearly divine. Look at verses eight and nine again. “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; 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.” Ok, John says that what looks like a burning mountain falls from the sky and lands in the ocean. What does this sound like to you? Yeah, it sounds like a meteor or a comet or something like that. But what you would expect from something like that would be a massive tidal wave, like in the movie “Deep Impact.” But instead, one third of the seas turn to blood. Also, one third of the sea creatures also die. No doubt these are the creatures that lived in the seas that turned to blood, because obviously they couldn’t live in a sea of blood. One third of the ships will also be destroyed. I don’t know how well ships can maneuver through something as thick as blood, but clearly they will not fare well. So once again, there are some fatalities in this judgment, but the focus is not on the deaths, but on the damage done to the material world. The third trumpet is the same way.
Look at what verses ten and eleven say about the third trumpet. “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 rivers, and upon the fountains of water; 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.” While the language is a bit different, this seems like another object that would appear to be a meteor or comet. But while the last one landed in the ocean, this one landed on rivers. It’s impossible to tell how this will all play out, but it is possible that this star called “Wormwood” will break up in the earth’s atmosphere and fall down like a powder on one third of the earth’s rivers. While we don’t know how it will play out, the result is given right here in front of us. Something happens when Wormwood falls, and one third of the world’s fresh water is made poisonous, and many people die from drinking it. First, God attacks one third of trees. Second, God attacks one third of the oceans. Third, God attacks one third of fresh water. Look at what God attacks last in verse twelve.
“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.” You know the way it looks in a room when a couple of the light bulbs have gone out? That’s the way it’s going to look outside when the fourth trumpet blasts. The sun will be one-third blotted out, as well as the stars and the moon. Not only will it be generally darker outside, but daylight hours will be shortened by one-third. So, let’s say on a day like today the sun would normally rise at about seven, and set at about nine. Well, after the fourth trumpet, the sun wouldn’t rise until about 9:15, and would set at about 6:45. Now, imagine how painful it would be if this trumpet would blast during the winter months! One thing that’s hard to tell is whether these judgments will be temporary, or will last until Christ comes back. Hopefully, they will be temporary, because it seems like it would be impossible to live with all of these judgments stacked on top of each other.
The chapter ends with verse thirteen. This verse reads, “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!’” After mankind has gone through all of this, an angel will fly through the sky proclaiming that the next three trumpets will be full of woe. The first four focused on the material world, but numbers five and six are going to focus on pain and death. We’ll look at trumpet number five next week.
And I realize that Revelation chapter eight seems like it is full of doom and gloom, but we have to remember the bigger picture. Will these four trumpets be painful? Yes, most definitely. But they are all a part of the bigger picture of God judging the world so that Christ can begin His reign. And if these things need to happen so that Christ can reign, I say bring it on! Even if the future brings bleak things like this, I say it is all worth it if it means that Jesus will get to take His rightful throne. I pray that you share these sentiments.
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