The Book of Revelation describes three waves of God’s judgment of earth’s inhabitants, each wave progressively worsening. The judgments begin with the seven seal judgments, continue to the trumpet judgments, and end with the bowl judgments. In a previous post, we discussed the first six judgments:
First seal (Rev 6:1-2) white horse, antichrist comes to conquer
Second Seal (Rev 6:3-4) red horse, open warfare breaks out
Third Seal (Rev 6:5-6) black horse, world famine
Fourth Seal (Rev 6:7-8) death to ¼ of earth
Fifth Seal (Rev 6:9-11) martyrdom, believer call for vengeance
Sixth Seal (Rev 6:12-17) physical disturbances, earthquake, sun blacked out, etc
Here we will discuss the seven judgments of Revelation. These trumpets are sounded by seven angels and warn of the Lord’s judgment of earth during the second half of the Tribulation. The first four announce the divine destruction of the earth’s ecosystem, and the final three involve the demonic devastation of the earth’s inhabitants. Let’s take a look.
When the Lamb breaks the seventh seal, Heaven is silent for about half an hour. This hushed expectancy is in striking contrast to the loud worship described in Revelation 5:9-14 and 7:9-12. We are not told why Heaven is silent, but with the breaking of the seventh seal, God’s plan for His judgment of the wicked is fully revealed for the first time, which invokes awe and anticipation of what God is about to do.
After the seventh seal is broken, John sees that seven trumpets are given to the seven angels who stand before God. In ancient Israel, trumpets were used for many reasons, including to gather God’s people (Numbers 10:2), to announce war (Numbers 10:9), and as a warning of judgment (Ezekiel 33:3). Trumpets are also connected with the Great Day of the Lord, the Great Tribulation (Zephaniah 1:14-16 and Zechariah 9:14).
Recall that at Jericho before the walls fell, “seven blasts on seven trumpets by seven priests after a sevenfold march on the seventh day, signaled judgment. Here, seven blasts on seven trumpets by seven angels during the seven-year tribulation signals judgment (MacArthur Sermon Divine Destruction of Earth’s Ecology).
Next, John sees another angel standing at the altar, holding a golden censer. This angel was given incense to add to the prayers of all of the saints, including the prayers of the martyrs who cried out in Revelation 6:9-11, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” God was about to answer the martyrs’ prayers: they would have to wait no longer. The angel filled the censer with fire from the altar and threw it to the earth, causing thunder, lightning, and an earthquake on the earth. It was time for the trumpet judgments to begin.
First Four Trumpet Judgments
The first four trumpets announce the divine destruction of the earth’s ecosystem. Just as God used the pagan gods to judge Egypt during the time of Moses, God will use the earth, sun, moon, and stars, the created things that people have worshiped from the time of Babylon, to judge the unbelieving inhabitants of the earth.
With the first trumpet come hail and fire, mixed with blood. As a result, one-third of the earth will be burnt, including one-third of the trees and one-third of the green grass (Revelation 8:7-8). This could describe a devastating volcanic eruption resulting from the earthquake that occurs when the angel throws fire to the earth. Hail and fire would mean losing crops and vegetation, which would cause the loss of food for both people and animals. Also, there will be a shortage of wood for construction.
When the second trumpet sounded, “something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea.” One-third of the sea became blood, one-third of the creatures died, and a third of the ships were destroyed (Revelation 8:8-9). Most likely, this will be a meteor or an asteroid. Whatever the natural phenomenon, its plummet into the sea will affect coastal lands, and with the destruction of one-third of the ships, the flow of goods and commerce will be impacted. Also, with the death of one-third of the creatures in the sea, the food chain will be dramatically affected.
When the third trumpet sounds, a great star named Wormwood falls from Heaven, burning like a torch and falling on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters (Revelation 8:10-11). This star may be a comet since it leaves a fiery trail behind it. The waters become wormwood which is a bitter, poisonous substance. In Jeremiah 9:15, speaking of the judgment of Israel, God says, “behold, I will feed them, this people, with wormwood and give them poisoned water to drink.” This is a preview of what will happen with the third trumpet blast during the Tribulation. With the second blast, the seas are affected, but this time the freshwater supply is impacted, leaving the water supply undrinkable and poisoned. People cannot survive long without fresh water.
When the fourth trumpet sounds, there is some celestial event that leaves a third of the sun, moon, and stars darkened so that there would only be natural light one-third of the day and of the night. (Revelation 8:12). This would result in darkness and extreme cold.
Fifth Trumpet Judgment – The First Woe
If it seems like things couldn’t get much worse, the eagle quickly dispels that notion when he says, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the three angels who are about to sound.” (Revelation 8:13) With the following three trumpet judgments, which the eagles call “woes,” God was about to release “hell” on earth, literally.
When the fifth angel sounds the trumpet, John sees a “star from Heaven which had fallen to earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him. He opened the bottomless pit, and smoke went up out of the pit…” (Revelation 9:1-2). From the use of the pronouns “him” and “he” we can see that this is not a star in the sense of an inanimate object. The star is Satan. Satan is described in Isaiah 14:12 as being “fallen from heaven,” and in Revelation 12:7-10 as being “thrown down to the earth, and by Jesus in Luke 10:18 as falling from Heaven like lighting.
Although hell on earth is getting ready to be unleashed, we see that God is still in control. Only through God’s sovereign authority is Satan given the key to the bottomless pit and allowed to open it to release the locust (demons) kept there. They are given the power to torment unbelievers for five months. The torment will make men want to die, but death will escape them.
Sixth Trumpet Judgment – The Second Woe
When the sixth angel sounds the trumpet, John hears a voice say, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” (Revelation 9:13). These angels are not holy angels but a demonic force numbering 200 million. They are riding horses with heads like lions and tails like serpents. Fire, smoke, and brimstone come out of their mouth and kill one-third of mankind.
Despite the preaching of the 144,000, despite other Christian’s sharing their faith, and despite God trying to get their attention with these judgments, those remaining still refuse to repent. Just like the plagues in Egypt hardened the heart of the Pharaoh and Egyptians, the judgments in Revelation do the same.
Seven Thunders – Seventh Trumpet
Revelation 10 is an interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpet. Here John sees an angel come out of Heaven with a little book, open and in his hand, placing his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land. When the angel cries out, there are seven peals of thunder, but as John is about to write down the words coming from the peals, he is told to “seal up the thing which the seven peals of thunder have spoken and do now write them.” (Revelation 10:4). The angel then vows that there will no longer be a delay, God’s judgment is carrying forth.
John is then told to eat the book and warned that it will taste like honey but make his stomach bitter. Isn’t that how believers feel when reading God’s Word about his judgment? We anticipate the sweetness of the victory, but we are sick to our stomachs over the fate of those who won’t repent and accept Christ. After eating the scroll, John is told to go prophesy again, meaning John is to go and warn people again about God’s bitter judgment.
Next, the seventh angel sounds the seventh trumpet, and John hears loud voices in Heaven proclaiming that the Kingdom of the world is now the Kingdom of Christ. The 24 elders proclaim Christ’s reign and speak of the coming rebellion of man, the judgment of the wicked, and the resurrection and reward of the Old Testament and Tribulation saints (Revelation 11:18). With the opening of the seventh seal, God is about to release the final seven bowl judgments.
As we proceed through the final judgments, anticipating the sweetness of victory, we are also reminded that all of this could be the reality for many. What we are learning should encourage us to get busier sharing our faith and spreading the Gospel so the Truth can be known and souls can be spared.