The First Four Trumpet Judgments

October 25, 2015 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos



Last week we looked at the opening of the 7th seal. We have learned that from this seal flow the seven trumpet judgments. However, we saw that when the seventh seal was opened, the trumpet judgments did not immediately follow. Several events first occurred according to Rev 8:1-6:  
  • First, there is silence in heaven for about half an hour (8:1)
  • Next, seven trumpets are given to the seven angels who stand before God (8:2)
  • Then another angel comes and is given incense to associate with the prayers of the saints (8:3-4).
  • And after the prayers rose to the throne of God, this same angel fills the censer with fire from the altar and throws it on the earth which resulted in peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lighting, and an earthquake (8:5).
  • Only after these events did the seven angels prepare to blow the trumpets (8:6)
  The important lesson that we learned last time was that the judgment of God upon the world was very much connected with the prayers of the saints.   Let’s trace the connection again of the judgments with the prayers of the saints:  
  • In Rev 6:9-10, we read that when Jesus opened the fifth seal, John saw, under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth.
  • God does not yet answer their prayers. They will have to wait until the number of their fellow servants were killed as they themselves had been.
  • From Revelation 6, jump to Revelation 8. It is here in chapter 8 that we see God beginning to answer the prayers of these martyred saints. Look at the wonderful details of how God answers their prayers.
  • Before God pours His trumpet judgments on earth, we read in Revelation 8:3 about an angel with a golden censer who “was given much incense to offer with the prayers of the saints on the golden altar before the throne." The phrase “much incense” may refer to the merits of Christ and when accompanied with the prayers of the saints would make prayers effective and acceptable to God. I am reminded of 1Jn 2:1-2:
  1Jn 2:1-2 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.   Take note of the two words: “advocate” and “propitiation.” Jesus is an advocate (lit., “one called alongside”). He is our defense attorney. Although Satan accuses believers night and day before the Father due to sin (Rev. 12:10), but Christ’s high- priestly ministry guarantees not only sympathy but also acquittal (Heb. 4:14–16) Propitiation means “a sacrifice that bears God's wrath and turns it to favor.” Without the perfect sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, none of our prayers would be acceptable to God.   I repeat, the purpose of the “much incense” that was given to the angel was in order to offer with the prayers of all the saints to make them acceptable to God and more effective. This is why Rev 8:4 says, “and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God.” The rising before God symbolizes God’s acceptance of the prayers of the saints.   Now look at what happens next:   5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake   The censer (i.e., incense burner or firepan that is used to burn incense) that was first filled with incense to accompany the prayers of the saints is now filled with fire from the altar and thrown to the earth. The casting of fire symbolizes the releasing of God’s judgment upon the earth. The idea here is that God’s judgment comes in answer to the prayers of the saints.   One commentary writes:   The prayers of the saints, therefore, prove to be a significant part in the history of mankind. God does not impose and execute judgment unless and until the supplications of his people have been heard. Think, for instance, of Abraham’s repeated pleas on behalf of Sodom (Gen. 18:16–33). But after these prayers have entered God’s presence, the Almighty acts, sometimes swiftly, on other occasions in his own appointed time. (Simon Kistemaker)   And so the prayers of the saints have a vital part in the pouring of the trumpet and bowl judgments upon the earth. Now let’s turn our attention to the trumpet judgments.  

Today’s Study

  I will first give general observations regarding the seven trumpet judgments and then we’ll focus on the first four Trumpet Judgments that we find in chapter 8.  

General Observations on the Seven Trumpets

  • The trumpet judgments all flow out of the seventh seal.
  • The trumpet judgments are God’s answer to the prayers of the saints.
  • The trumpet judgments are more severe than the seal judgments, but not as destructive as the bowl judgments will be (16:1–21).
  • The seven trumpet judgments are the judgments that were held back by four angels in 7:1-3 until the servants of God were sealed. You will remember that chapter 7 is an interlude between the 6th and the 7th
  7:1-3 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. 2 Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.  
  • The first four trumpet judgments form one group like the first four seals, and they are all found in chapter 8. This group is separated from the last three trumpet judgments by the announcement of the eagle in 8:13.
  • The four trumpet judgments afflict mostly natural objects, i.e., earth, trees, grass, sea, rivers, sun, moon and stars, although they do have consequences for human beings. But generally, they are not yet the direct judgment on mankind.
  • The last three trumpet judgments are direct attacks on mankind and are of a more supernatural nature. These three judgments are also called the last three woes (Rev 9:12; 11:14).
  • Several of the trumpet judgments are similar with the plagues of Egypt during the Exodus period. The hail and fire (Ex 9:23-24), the water turned to blood (Ex 7:19), the darkness (Ex 10:21-23), and the locusts (Ex 10:12).
  • The damage done on nature by the first four judgments is limited only to a third part. This shows that God is still restraining His wrath. He is giving an opportunity for the rest of the people to repent (9:21; 16:9, 11). But He is giving foretastes of total devastation to come if rebels ignore His warnings.

The First Four Trumpets


THE FIRST TRUMPET: burning of a third of vegetation (8:7)

7 The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.   The first angel sounds the trumpet that results in the calamity of hail and fire mixed with blood cast upon the earth. The calamity reminds us of the seventh plague God brought upon Egypt (Ex 9:23-26).   Exodus 9:23-26 Then Moses stretched out his staff toward heaven, and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the Lord rained hail upon the land of Egypt. 24 There was hail and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very heavy hail, such as had never been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. 25 The hail struck down everything that was in the field in all the land of Egypt, both man and beast. And the hail struck down every plant of the field and broke every tree of the field. 26 Only in the land of Goshen, where the people of Israel were, was there no hail.   “Hail” is frequently associated in Scripture with divine judgment. See these passages:  
  • Hag 2.17 I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the Lord.
  • Ps 78:47-49 He destroyed their vines with hail and their sycamores with frost. 48 He gave over their cattle to the hail and their flocks to thunderbolts. 49 He let loose on them his burning anger, wrath, indignation, and distress, a company of destroying angels.
  • Eze 38:22 With pestilence and bloodshed I will enter into judgment with him, and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples who are with him torrential rains and hailstones, fire and sulfur.
  “Fire” is also associated with God’s judgment. Remember what God did to Sodom and Gomorrah? Gen 19:24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.   The combining of “fire and blood” reminds us of Joel 2:30, which describes events that will occur before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. “And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke.”   When John uses the word "blood" here, he may be using descriptive language, meaning bloodred appearance, and not literal blood.   This calamity is from God because the text says "and these were thrown upon the earth." They did not just happen as part of the normal occurrences in nature.   Note: Several passages in Scripture show that calamities are from God:  
  • Isa 45:7 - I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things
  • Amos 3:6b Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?
  • Job 36:24-33 “Remember to extol his work, of which men have sung. 25 All mankind has looked on it; man beholds it from afar. 26 Behold, God is great, and we know him not; the number of his years is unsearchable. 27 For he draws up the drops of water; they distill his mist in rain, 28 which the skies pour down and drop on mankind abundantly. 29 Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds, the thunderings of his pavilion? 30 Behold, he scatters his lightning about him and covers the roots of the sea. 31 For by these he judges peoples; he gives food in abundance. 32 He covers his hands with the lightning and commands it to strike the mark. 33 Its crashing declares his presence; the cattle also declare that he rises.
  • Mt 5:45b …For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
  This casting of the hail and fire mixed with blood has devastating effects. MacArthur has this to say:   The shocking result was that a third of the earth was burned up, making the soil unusable. Then a third of the trees were burned up, destroying fruit all over the earth. Finally all the green grass was burned up. The effects of such catastrophic fires would be widespread and devastating, including destruction of crops, death of animals on a massive scale, loss of wood for construction, and the destruction of watersheds.   Note: Some have problems reconciling 8:7 with 9:4. Rev 8:7 says that "all green grass was burned up," while 9:4 shows that grass still exists when the locusts are released. A solution is that a time lapse between the first and fifth trumpets allows time for grass to regrow after the burning.   Mounce: In our text it is one-third of the land and its vegetation that is devastated by fire. It indicates in a general sense that although God is bringing punishment upon the earth, it is not as yet complete and final. The purpose of the visitation is to warn people of the full wrath of God yet to fall, and in so doing to bring them to repentance.  

THE SECOND TRUMPET: destruction of a third of sea life (8:8-9)

8a The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea,   While the judgment of the first trumpet affected the land; the second judgment affected the sea.   It is best to interpret these events literally. The massive object plunging through the sky looked to the terrified observers on earth “like a great mountain burning with fire." There are some Bible teachers who say that the mountain here represents spiritual Babylon or some great kingdom like Rome or some other heathen nation. Yes, this is a figure of speech but it is used as a simile to identify another real object. Perhaps John is describing what he saw as a mountain-like mass of "meteoric chunk ablaze with fire."   MacArthur: This is evidently a giant meteorite or asteroid, surrounded by flaming gases set ablaze by the friction of the earth’s atmosphere. The current doomsday scenarios about an asteroid hitting the earth will come true with a vengeance. Everyone will see it, either live or on television. As the world’s telescopes see it coming, many predictions will no doubt be made about whether it will hit the earth or not. It will strike somewhere in the world’s oceans with an explosive power far greater than that of an atomic bomb.   Three catastrophic effects result from the collision, vv. 8b-9: and a third of the sea became blood. 9 A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.   (1) “a third of the sea became blood" - Because all the world’s oceans are connected, the devastation will spread across one-third of the ocean waters, causing a third of the sea to become blood. "Blood" may be the language of appearance as in the mention of blood after the sounding of first trumpet.   (2) The effect of the one-third of the sea becoming blood is, "a third of the living creatures in the sea died." Here we are reminded of the first of the 10 plagues that came upon Egypt during the Exodus period in which the rivers were turned to blood, killing the fish and making the water undrinkable (Ex 7:20–21).   Ex 7:20-21 Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. 21 And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.   (3) Not only did creatures of the sea die, but shipping was destroyed as well. Perhaps as a result of the collision between the mountain-like meteor, “giant waves were produced that destroy a third of the ships on the world’s oceans, capsizing huge vessels and completely swamping ports. The resulting disruption of commerce and transportation will cause economic chaos” (MacArthur).   SIMON KISTEMAKER: All along, God’s mercy is evident in the repetitious use of the expression a third. Not all the seas turned to blood, not all the living creatures died, and not all the ships perished. Only a third of each were affected by God’s wrath; the fish not affected by divine punishment continued to multiply and the traffic on the sea unhindered by maritime disaster continued to proceed normally. The catastrophes that God caused to fall on the sea are signs of the end times by which God tells the people to repent and live.  

THE THIRD TRUMPET: poisoning of a third of the fresh water (8:10-11)

10 The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing 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 people died from the water, because it had been made bitter.   The blowing of the third trumpet brings another object falling from heaven. This time the falling object is a "great star... blazing like a torch.” Some Bible interpreters see this star as representing a false religious leader who deceives people. But the most natural way to understand this is to take it literally.   John MacArthur comments:   The Greek word here for “star” can refer to any celestial body other than the sun and moon. The [mountainlike object in the second trumpet] that smashed into the ocean remained intact, but this object disintegrated as it reached Earth’s atmosphere. The fact that it is described as [blazing] like a torch supports that it is likely a meteor or comet, since torches were used in ancient times to describe meteors and comets. Its fiery debris fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters, polluting the fresh water around the globe. Because of its deadly effects, the star will be called Wormwood. Wormwood is mentioned only here in the New Testament. It is a shrub whose leaves are used in the manufacture of absinthe, a liqueur so toxic that its manufacture is banned in many countries. Wormwood is mentioned eight times in the Old Testament, where it is associated with bitterness, poison, and death (Dt 29:18; Pr 5:4; Jer 9:15; 23:15; Lam 3:15, 19; Amos 5:7; 6:12). … With the third trumpet judgment, John records that many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter. The rivers will run with deadly poison. The wells will become springs of death. The lakes and reservoirs will be filled with toxic waters. Yet, the worst is yet to come.   Simon Kistemaker: Again God’s mercy is evident in the last part of this passage. The repetitive “a third” shows divine patience with the unbelievers. Not everyone suffers because of the water, for only a third part is affected by the plague and the rest of it is drinkable. Those people who died were a warning to the survivors to fear God and turn to him, for he will have mercy and freely pardon (Isa. 55:7).  

THE FOURTH TRUMPET: darkening of a third of the heavenly bodies (8:12).

12 The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night.   As the fourth angel blew his trumpet, the focus of divine judgment shifted from the earth to the heavens.   Again, some Bible interpreters do not take this darkening of the heavenly bodies as literal. Some think that the darkness refers to the removal of the light of the truth. Some therefore say that this is a reference to the spiritual darkness of Islam or the fall of heathen governments in the western empire. But it is more satisfactory to regard the judgment described here as literal.   The fourth trumpet judgment recalls the ninth plague in Egypt with its thick darkness that spread over the land for a period of three days (Ex 10:21–23).   Ex 10:21-23  Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. 23 They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived.   The Old Testament prophets associated such darkening of heavenly bodies with the Day of the Lord.  
  • Ezekiel 32:7–8, When I blot you out, I will cover the heavens and make their stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give its light. 8 All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over you, and put darkness on your land, declares the Lord God.
  • Isaiah 13:9–11a, Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. 10 For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light. 11 I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity…
  • Joel 2:10, 31, The earth quakes before them; the heavens tremble. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. 31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.
  Jesus, quoting Isaiah, says that in the day of the Lord “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light” (Mark 13:24). The fourth trumpet-plague is a fulfillment of these prophecies.   John MacArthur: [This darkening of the heavenly bodies] is temporary, as God will later increase the amount of heat coming from the sun (16:8–9). At this point, the loss of heat from the sun will cause temperatures to plunge drastically all over the world. That will severely disrupt the earth’s weather patterns and the seas’ tides, leading to violent, unpredictable storms and tides, the destruction of crops, and further loss of animal and human lives.   As in the previous trumpet judgments, the purpose of God in bring this period of darkness is to bring people to repentance.   Rev 9:20-21 The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, 21 nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts   These signs are expressions of God’s grace and mercy. If God’s adversaries ignore these signs in nature, they will face suffer the consequences. They will face more severe judgments and ultimately, face eternal darkness by being forever cut off from the source of light, namely, God.     Lessons:   Whatever your view is regarding the book of Revelation, these lessons will apply:  
  1. Calamities do come from God. God is sovereign and He can use calamities to accomplish His purposes:
  • Ps 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
  • Isa 45:7 - I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things
  • Amos 3:6b Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?
  1. Calamities are a merciful call from God for people to repent (Amos 4:6-12):
  6 “I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord. 7 “I also withheld the rain from you when there were yet three months to the harvest; I would send rain on one city, and send no rain on another city; one field would have rain, and the field on which it did not rain would wither; 8 so two or three cities would wander to another city to drink water, and would not be satisfied; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord. 9 “I struck you with blight and mildew; your many gardens and your vineyards, your fig trees and your olive trees the locust devoured; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord. 10 “I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, and carried away your horses, and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord. 11 “I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord. 12 “Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel.”    
  1. Those who do not repent will not escape God’s ultimate wrath in the future.
  Luke 13:1-5 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”   Ro 2:5,8 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. … 8 but for those who are self- seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.   Many do not like this idea of a God that is full of wrath. One of the reasons they reject that is because of a misunderstanding of John 10:10 where Jesus declares, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. But this is an unbalanced view of Scripture and of God. There are so many passages that talk about the wrath of God. Ro 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. The OT that talks about the Day of the Lord shows a God of wrath. The book of Revelation is full of God’s fury on the unrepentant. Let us repent while we have opportunity.   The lesson we derive here is not just for the future believers. This is for all of this today. In the words of C.S. Lewis, we could say that calamities are “God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Let us repent while we have time. Some watch T.V. and pity those affected by calamities. They do not realize that the next time a strong earthquake or storm surge hits it is going to be in their city. The day of God’s wrath upon us will come like a thief in the night. Be prepared by receiving Christ. Be prepared by surrendering your life to Jesus and obeying Him.