Woe, Woe, Woe.

The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

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.

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.

13 Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!” Revelation 8:8-13 ESV

It is impossible for us to know exactly how the events in these chapter will unfold. We were not there to see what John saw. His descriptions of the events transpiring before his eyes are fantastic and otherworldly. They are difficult for our senses to comprehend and, as each successive trumpet is blown, the accompanying judgment will be increasingly more intense and devastating. With the sounding of the second trumpet, John sees that “something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea” (Revelation 8:8 ESV). Notice his use of the word, “something.” John is doing the best he can to use well-known, recognizable imagery in an attempt to describe the indescribable and never-before-seen. We cannot be certain of what John saw, but there is no doubt that what transpired before his eyes was shocking and disturbing. When dealing with these judgments of God, the easy route to take is to write them off as nothing more than symbolism. Thus, the mountain becomes nothing more than a physical or natural representation of something more significant. Many have speculated that the mountain symbolizes a government or kingdom. But, other than the unbelievable nature of John’s description, there seems to be no reason for us to allegorize what John is seeing. It is obviously not a mountain but, as John said, something like a mountain. Whatever it was, it came down from heaven, indicating the divine nature of its origin. God had sent it. And this blazing mountain-like object plunged into the sea, turning all the water to blood. Once again, our natural inclination is to write off the literal nature of this description, and simply relegate it to allegory or symbolism. And while there is much symbolism in the book of Revelation, the context in this chapter does not seem to justify taking these fantastic sights as anything less than literal.

God brings judgment on the oceans of the world, turning a third of them to blood, and resulting in the deaths of a third of the creatures living in them. Once again, this is reminiscent of the plagues brought by God upon the land of Egypt. Through Moses His servant, God turned the waters of the Nile into blood. This devastating miracle lasted for a full seven days, turning the Nile, the source of all life for the Egyptians, into a stinking, river of death. So, it should not surprise us that God brings a similar, equally impactful judgment on the nations of the world during the last days. This phenomena will also result in the destruction of a third of the world’s ocean-going vessels. One can only imagine the impact this will have on global commerce. And it doesn’t require much imagination to understand that the death of a third of the sea creatures and the destruction of a third of the ships that sail the seas, is going to have dire consequences on the quality of human life. One of the major food sources for mankind will become a third-less reliable, and the means for transporting goods around the world will be  dramatically reduced.

With the blowing of the third trumpet, John mentions that “a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch” (Revelation 8:10 ESV). As before, John struggles to describe what he is seeing and he finds himself relegated to using human words to help us understand the supernatural events taking place. He describes seeing a star falling from heaven. Was it a comet, a literal star, or simply a symbol for something natural and explainable? It seems best to take John at his word and view this as some kind of literal extraterrestrial object that falls from the sky, another indication that this judgment is from the very throne room of God. It turns a third of the waters of the world bitter, causing great sickness to the earth’s population, and leaving many dead as a result.

With the fourth trumpet, God brings judgment on the world by reducing the intensity of the light produced by the sun, moon and stars by one-third. In other words, the world and all those who live on it, will experience a reduction in light, but also global temperatures. The subsequent results will be dramatic and devastating. And there will be no one who does not witness this particular judgment. All will see the sun, moon and stars decrease in intensity, clearly indicating that this judgment is from the hand of God. The very things mankind takes for granted: Food from the sea, the ability to transport goods across the oceans, fresh water and light, will feel the hand of God upon them. In the end times, these gifts, given to mankind by God, will become unreliable and even harmful. Creation will turn on man. The things we take for granted will be taken from us by God, all in an attempt to remind fallen mankind that God alone is sovereign and worthy to be worshiped.

And as is all this was not enough, John describes seeing an eagle flying through the sky and crying out, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!” (Revelation 8:13 ESV). In other words, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. And the truth is, it’s not going to get better at all. There are three more trumpets to be sounded and three more judgments to fall on the world. And the cumulative effect of these judgments will be devastating. Jesus Himself predicted that the judgment of God will be so great that, if He does bring them to an end, the entire world will be destroyed.

And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. – Matthew 24:22 ESV

The prophet, Joel, provides us with a vivid description of these days.

1 Blow a trumpet in Zion;
    sound an alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
    for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near,
a day of darkness and gloom,
    a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains
    a great and powerful people;
their like has never been before,
    nor will be again after them
    through the years of all generations. – Joel 2:1-2 ESV

The day is coming when the sinfulness of mankind will be dealt with once and for all. God will bring His judgment on the world. He will no longer put up with man’s open rebellion against His leadership. He will no longer tolerate their rejection of His Son and their refusal to accept His gracious gift of salvation. And the visions of John provide us with a powerful and sobering reminder that our God is in control and will one day right all wrongs. The words of John are difficult to read. The images of death and destruction he describes are hard for us to fathom. They even seem to contradict our understanding of the loving nature of our God. But we must never forget that our God is holy, righteous, and just. He has patiently put up with man’s stubborn rebellion against His authority for centuries. But the day is coming when He will put up with it no longer. Justice will reign. Righteousness will be meted out by the hand of our holy God. He will restore the world He created to its original perfection. He will punish the wicked and reward the righteous. He will end the dominion of death and Satan once for all.


English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson


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