“And I looked, and I heard an eagle 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 8:13
“In Revelation 7:3, God allowed a pause in His judgments long enough for the 144,000 Israelites to be marked for divine protection. In that vision, the earth, the sea, and the trees could not be affected by judgment until God’s servants were sealed. However, as we arrive at the seven trumpet judgments beginning in chapter 8, that temporary restraint of God’s wrath is removed. The first four trumpets sound in rapid staccato blasts, taking up only six verses. In contrast, the events surrounding the fifth through seventh trumpet judgments will extend from chapter 9 to chapter 11. The first four trumpet blasts will affect the earth’s ecosystem and atmosphere, drastically altering living conditions on the planet. The latter judgments will involve spiritual warfare that affects people directly.” 1
After recording about half an hour of silence in heaven and the giving of seven trumpets to seven angels (8:1-6), the apostle John now records the trumpet judgments proceeding out of the seventh seal. “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.” (Revelation 8:7). “The first angel” blowing the first trumpet, resulted in “hail and fire… mingled with blood” of those injured or killed as fiery hail was “thrown to the earth” destroying “a third of the trees” and “all green grass” with fire (8:7). This first trumpet judgment “depicts a firestorm that dwarfs even the most gigantic contemporary wildfires. While wildfires in the western United States, for example, burn tens of thousands of acres, this firestorm will affect a third of the planet.” 2
“This will no doubt decimate crops and forests, filling the air with smoke and ash. Though this first judgment is not directly aimed at human beings, it will indirectly affect food supplies, the global economy, and health on a massive scale.” 3
There are two explanations of how “all the green grass” is burned up here, but later in Revelation 9:4, “we read that grass exists: First, the grass will have grown again, because some time elapses between these two references. Second, it may only be the ‘green grass’ that perishes now, and what is dormant and brown in 8:7 will be green when the events of 9:4 transpire. These trumpet and bowl judgments appear to be as literal as the plagues on Egypt were. There are many parallels with the Egyptian plagues.” 4
“The OT prophets understood that the miracles of Egypt were to be repeated in the future (e.g., Isaiah 10:22-25; 11:12-16; 30:30; Jeremiah 16:14-15; 23:7-8; Ezekiel 38:22; Micah 7:15) . . . At several points the prophet Amos uses God’s miraculous work of deliverance from Egypt as a reference point for the way He will deal with His people in the future (cf. Amos 2:10; 4:10; 8:8-9; 9:5-7).” 5
Following the first trumpet blast, “8 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.” (Revelation 8:8-9). This second trumpet judgment involves a giant meteorite (or asteroid) being thrown into the sea, causing “a third of the sea” to turn to “blood.” The description of water turning to “blood” is reminiscent of the divine judgment of God on Egypt through Moses that is described in Exodus 7:17-19. 6This judgment results in “a third” of the marine life in the oceans being killed and “a third of the ships were destroyed” by a huge tidal wave from the meteorite’s impact. The loss of human life will be enormous since a large portion of the world’s population lives on the continental coasts. 7
“Those who depend on ocean life for food would suffer hunger and hardship on an unprecedented scale. The destruction of seafaring vessels would cause disruption in global trade as well as a crisis of security when the navies of world powers are significantly reduced.” 8
As if these first two judgments on land and sea were not enough to humble the world before God, the third trumpet judgment will bring another severe blow. “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.” (Revelation 8:10-11). This “great star” that “fell from heaven, burning like a torch” is probably a comet. It will poison “a third of the” earth’s fresh water supplies (“rivers… springs of water”) and “many men” would die “from the water.”
The word, “wormwood” (Apsinthos), refers to “a plant of the genus ‘Artemisia,’ proverbially bitter to the taste, yielding a dark green oil.” 9 Wormwood is “similar to the sagebrush… bitter, aromatic herb . . . with clusters of small, greenish yellow flowers that grows in desert regions and often symbolizes the bitterness of life.” 10 Many people will die from this severely contaminated water that has become bitter like wormwood. 11 Either they drink the water because they are unaware of its contamination or out of desperate dehydration, they consume the water and die. 12
As the first three trumpet judgments strike the vegetation, the oceans, and the bodies of fresh water, people might turn their attentions with hope to the skies. 13 Hence, the fourth trumpet judgment: “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.” (Revelation 8:12). When the fourth trumpet sounded, “a third of the sun …moon and…stars…were darkened” so that there was no light for four hours during “the day” and for four hours during “the night.” God may simply darken “the sun… moon… and… stars” supernaturally as He did in Egypt prior to the Exodus (cf. Exodus 10:21-23), or there may be an atmospheric phenomenon that causes an eclipse, blocking the light for four hours during the day and four hours during the night. Or it may simply refer to the light earth receives from the sun, moon, and stars being dimmed by one-third because of the atmospheric damage and smoke from the previous two trumpet judgments. 14 This means that normal cycles of daylight and darkness will be thrown off, perhaps somewhat like an Alaskan winter, whose lingering darkness has physical, emotional, and psychological effects. 15
“Such a reduction in light or sunlight hours, and consequently a catastrophic drop in temperature, would have a devastating effect on the earth.” 16
“Places in the area hit hardest by these plagues will have already lost power and deteriorated into desperation and despair. Add natural darkness to this situation and the result would be anarchy and chaos. Rioting, looting, and crime would exacerbate the horrors experienced around the globe.
“The judgments announced by the first four trumpets are so shocking and severe that our natural tendency is to doubt their literal meaning. Of course, Revelation uses numerous symbols to communicate the future, but these symbols always point to real events. When we’re tempted to water down this language, soften its severity, or over-spiritualize the interpretations, we must remember Christ’s ominous words: ‘For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will (Matthew 24:21)… The judgments described in Revelation 8 will be so dreadful that no amount of government aid, relief efforts, or advanced preparation will be able to bring recovery.” 17
Then John writes, “And I looked, and I heard an eagle 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 8:13). John looked and “heard an eagle” 18 which is a far-seeing bird of prey, “flying through the” sky warning “the inhabitants of the earth” to beware of the three remaining trumpet blasts. The eagle sees far ahead of what human eyes can see. While “the first four trumpet judgments targeted earth’s environment, …the next three judgments will target earth’s inhabitants (cf. 9:10, 18; 11:18).” 19
This warning “has a twofold purpose. First, it suggests the remaining judgments will be harsh. That is because they are intended to purify and reclaim the earth. Second, it underscores the graciousness of God in offering an opportunity for humanity to repent before judgment falls. God the Father, like an earthly parent, takes two approaches with people—one of grace and another of wrath (cf. Rom 11:22). During the church age, he generally exhibits grace and mercy. He also exhibits a form of passive wrath by allowing people and nations to face the destructive consequences of their actions.
“Romans 1 is a prime example of this, depicting idolatrous people whom ‘God delivered . . . over to degrading passions’ (1:26)—that is, to homosexual passions. As recipients of this passive divine wrath, they ‘received in their own persons the appropriate penalty of their error’ (1:27). As Paul explains, ‘Because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a corrupt mind so that they do what is not right’ (1:28). When the tribulation begins, though, this passive form of God’s wrath that merely declines to hold back the just dessert of human actions will yield to more active wrath. God’s wrath will rain down as it did on Sodom and Gomorrah (cf. Gen 19:23-29).” 20
In conclusion, it is important for us to understand that God’s severe judgments do have a holy purpose behind them. Even when we face God’s most harsh discipline, He wants us to surrender to Him and release our wills as we embrace His perfect plan. It may be tempting to shake our fists toward heaven and doubt the goodness of God during pain and suffering. But God is looking for us to humble ourselves during harsh times. It would be wise for us to work through a biblical perspective on suffering before the catastrophe strikes instead of panicking to think through this issue amid the chaos and confusion. 21
God uses various trials and suffering to help Christians grow and mature (James 1:2-5). If believers are not living the way God wants them to live, the Lord will use harsh times to discipline them and produce “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” in their lives (Hebrews 12:11).
The Lord can also use turbulent times to get the world’s attention. Have you noticed that after disasters like fires, typhoons, or earthquakes, people are much more sensitive to God? Many hearts are more open to spiritual things. I have noticed this during the global pandemic. I am seeing an increase in responsiveness to the gospel during this age of COVID. God often uses tragedy to draw our attention away from ourselves or the world to Him.
We also learn from these verses that God will not stop His judgments until He has fulfilled His plans. Even though the first four trumpet judgments will bring widespread death, devastation, and destruction, God will bring even more severe and excruciating trumpet judgments after them to bring the world to submission.
Swindoll writes, “In our own lives, we can choose to heed the warnings of God’s Word, or we can harden our hearts. Either way, God will eventually work out His plan, which is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Have you been resisting a plan that God has impressed upon you? Stop! Instead, ask the Lord to soften the stubbornness of your heart toward His purposes and to conform you to His will. Only when God’s purpose is accomplished will you receive His peace and experience a reprieve.” 22
Prayer: Holy Father, we are overwhelmed to think of the devastation that will come to the earth during the first four trumpet judgments beginning in the middle of the Tribulation. These are not symbolic representations of tragedies that have already taken place in history. These are literal worldwide judgments that will take place in the future to prepare the inhabitants of the earth for Christ’s Second Coming to earth. Some of us may be very uncomfortable with these judgments, wondering how a God of love could administer such harsh punishments. Yet, we see Your love and mercy expressed to us by the fact that You are warning us ahead of time of such terrible calamities. You have given us the opportunity to get right with You through faith in Jesus Christ so we can escape via the Rapture this future Tribulation period consisting of worldwide judgments unlike the world has ever seen before. Forgive us, O Lord, for resisting Your plan for our lives. Please soften our hearts so we are willing to embrace Your plan and experience the joy and peace You want Your children to have. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray. Amen.
1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 178.
2. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2386.
3. Swindoll, pg. 178.
4. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 107.
5. Ibid., cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8—22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pg. 16.
6. Swindoll, pg. 179.
7. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1529.
8. Swindoll, pg. 179.
9. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 161.
10. Swindoll, pg. 180 cites J. D. Douglas and Merrill C. Tenney, eds., The New International Dictionary of the Bible, s.v. “Plants: Wormwood,” pg. 806.
11. Evans, pg. 2386.
12. Vacendak, pg. 1529.
13. Swindoll, pg. 180.
14. Ibid., pp. 1529-1530.
15. Evans, pg. 2387.
16. Constable, pg. 109.
17. Swindoll, pg. 180.
18. The Majority of Greek manuscripts have “eagle” (aetou) instead of “angel” (angelou) in this verse.
19. Vacendak, pg. 1530.
20. Evans, pg. 2387.
21. Adapted from Swindoll, pg. 182.